Eloquence of a king, etc, etc, etc!!
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Our drive north took us up and down hills, actually some of Portugal's highest mountains to the area known as the Alto Douro Wine Region. It is mountain after mountain as far as the eye can see of vineyards planted in magnificent rows, barely hanging to the steep sides of the mountains. Some are divided into parcels by olive trees.
Our next stop was in the town of Vila Real, which we drove around for a bit looking for signs directing us to the Palacio de Mateus.
The Palacio is located in the small village of Mateus (who would have thought it!) well hidden behind a small forest and away from peeking neighbors!! As we descended the short path from the entrance gate, we are greeted by a small lake and the Palacio behind it reflecting in the water. The Palacio is totally different from other castles and palaces we have seen over our journey and extremely beautiful. We had a little time before our guided tour (the only way to see the inside) so we toured the gardens.
WOW. WOW. WOW. Yes, that is all I can say. These are probably the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. They are so fine and detailed in their construction. Each bush carefully trimmed, pruned and perfectly planted. This was not all. As we turned the corner, there laid a giant tunnel built entirely of cedar trees. Yes, a 30 foot tall tunnel extending some 50-60 feet long at the end of the gardens. What a sight!!
The visit to the inside of the Palacio was very interesting and our guide was extremely knowledgeable on the family's history and that of the house as well. For me, the most fascinating room was the library. It contains thousands of books, all original editions, on every subject imaginable. Some of them are in Portuguese, French, English, German, Latin, Italian and many other languages. One of the books is the original print of a required reading for all Portuguese children even today with the original illustration copper plates used. These images from the 18th century are still the same today. This book was sent to many kings and other prominent people in its time and letters acknowledging receipt are displayed in the library. Some of them are: Cardinal Richelieu of France, the Star of Russia and King Louis XIV who addressed his letter to The Marquis of Mateus etc, etc, etc.
Our next stop was in the town of Amarante where we did not spend long due to the heat. We did make it to the center of town and parked the car in a very tight spot. I could hardly get out of the car on the driver side and the passenger side was about a half inch from a tree but it WAS in the shade!!! We visited the monastery of San Goncalo with its original painted columns and quaint cloister.
We got back on the road heading for our last stop and home for the night, Guimaraes another World Heritage classified city. Despite the heat and the afternoon sun, I headed out to discover the city. I made it up to the old medieval castle which is very well preserved and walked the short distance to the Palacio dos Duques de Braganca.