If you’re gonna explore anything, it can sometimes be beneficial to go all the way back to the beginning… just like when you go on an enjoyable first date and subsequently request all their birth records and visit their birth hospital just to make sure everything’s on the up and up before you agree to see them again.
With that in mind, during our wanderings around north Portugal, we made a pit stop in Guimarães, which is known as as the birthplace of Portugal, to see if we should give Portugal a second date.
It didn’t take us long to find the actual birthplace, mostly because they have a big sign that says Aqui Nasceu Portugal: Here Was Bornded Portugal.
(They must have cleaned up all the afterbirth and stuff because we didn’t see anything like that anywhere near the sign, but since the sign wasn’t graffiti we decided to believe them.)
The city was settled in the 9th century, and is believed to be the birthplace of Portugal’s first King, Afonso Henriques. Additionally, the the Battle of São Mamede was fought in the vicinity and is considered the seminal event for the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal. Also, there is evidence that the first ever horse & wagon wreck happened there, which led to future generations of crazy Portuguese drivers.
You might be shocked to learn that other than that, our main interest in the town was the Castle of Guimarães. Who woulda thunk? Next to the castle is a 15th century Ducal Palace. It was a sort of two-for-one deal, so all the pictures are sort of muddled up together.
So hmm hmm, most of our pictures of the town were of the castle and palace. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable 10th century castle, preserved just the right amount, with of course the standard gorgeous views of the countryside. We were castle-sated that day!
As you can see, the rest of Guimarães, with its UNESCO World Heritage Site historic town center, is as charming and beautiful as any Portuguese town.
We interrupt this blog to present the view we had from our apartment rental above Braga. A treasured view every time we returned from our explorations:
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Of course, no visit to northern Portugal would be complete without a stop in Povoa de Lanhoso. We only say that because we did stop there.
But Povoa de Lanhoso is a great example as to the difference between living in Europe casually driving around without a plan, and visiting Europe from overseas and acting like a crazed Portuguese driver just to get to every one of the places on the Top Ten Best Things to See list you found on the internet. Because we live here, we’re able to wander around and find all sorts of treasures; places that wouldn’t otherwise have earned much of a mention. But some of these have become our very favorite spots.
For instance, we found a cute little monastery on a hill with a small castle, just minding its own business and not bothering anybody.
The views it offered were as good as any we’ve seen in even the most major castles in Portugal.
Although as usual we were endlessly fascinated at how little protection they offered between visitors and certain death. They had this little rope fence for part of it, but otherwise a toddler could easily wander out there, start with a small somersault, and not stop rolling until he became a hood ornament for one of those cars.
There was also a nice little restaurant on top of the hill. We decided to have lunch there and very much enjoyed the experience. They even gave Carolyn a rose, and we’re still pretty sure it wasn’t some sort of unusual North Portugal dessert. Didn’t taste like it to me anyway.
As you can tell by these photos, we really did like the food. Everyone always takes photos of their plates before they eat, but here at BaldSasquatch, we prove to you that the food actually tasted great by showing you the aftermath!
Ultimately, this tip of a hill with its tiny castle, monastery, and restaurant provided another great off-the-beaten-path place that we very much enjoyed.
Another excellent example of that is our visit to Citânia de Briteiros.
What is Citânia de Briteiros you ask? Oh, pshaw, who hasn’t heard of Citânia de Briteiros? For you geography luddites, Citânia de Briteiros is an archaeological site that dates back to the Iron Age. The Iron Age dates back about 3,000 years ago, which is the same as if some archeologist in the year 5000 finds this blog. Think about that. The year 5000. You have to go about halfway through the song In The Year 2525 just to get to that date, and they go all the way to 9595!
We honestly didn’t expect much out of Citânia de Briteiros, it simply popped up on Google Maps while we were driving around and we were in the vicinity so we tracked it down, thinking there might be a good fish & chips restaurant there.
Turns out it was an absolute charmer, despite the lack of fish & chips. It is one of the most excavated sites in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula, with evidence of settlements beginning at the Iron Age and extending into the Bronze and the Middle Ages, where it grew a little too much belly fat and died of a heart attack. Yes folks, middle age spread kills!
Essentially, one is able to wander around and imagine what it might be like to live in an Iron Age town. The inhabitants are believed to have been Celtic. One can almost hear the children playing basketball while one walks on the many paths that run through the remains of their village. Oops, Little Fattie Ferdinand just rolled off one of the cliffs… and he hasn’t stopped rolling! That’s pretty much all they had for entertainment back then: watch kids roll off the hills and make new ones.
The town was so extensive we even got lost. “Let’s see, I’m pretty sure we were supposed to take a right at the McDonalds…”
Fortunately, they left up the ancient signs for the toilets. I think it stands for Bowelevium Movium, but my Latin is a little rusty.
Last but not least, we’re happy to officially announce that Waldo has been found! Yep, he was working groceries in northern Portugal this whole time! Sorry you’re gonna have to throw out all those Where’s Waldo books, because the mystery is solved!
And thus completes our trip to the north of Portugal!