Thursday, November 24, 2022

Braga and Guimarães a lesson in religious history



The city of Braga is over 2000 years old and after the Moors were reconquered, the first Roman Archbishop Dom Pedro was installed and a new cathedral was built.  Braga is still a religious center of importance in Portugal to this day and many holy days are still celebrated in the city. The University of Minho has brought many students and boasts one of Portugals youngest populations.

Braga Cathedral was built in the 9th century under the first Bishop Dom Pedro and is Portugal's oldest cathedral. The structure is a mixture of Baroque and Gothic architure.

The original Porta Nova Arch in the city square was built in 1512 as a city gate, but this one is from the 18th century.

The Santa Barbara Gardens (Jardim de Santa Barbara) surround the city square and mix the flowers and fountains.

The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte

High above the city is the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, an impressive neoclassical church  surrounded by imposing sculptures of the Passion of Christ. Walk, drive or take the lift to the church in the sky.

View of Braga from Sanctuary

Inside Sanctuary

Passion of Christ sculptures


Known as the “Cradle City,” Guimarães is the home to the first royal king, Dom Alonso Henriques and is now a World Heritage Site.

The castle and chapel of São Miguel was built by Countess Mumadona Dias in the 10th century as a way to keep out the Moors and Normans (protecting the Christians community) and is the birthplace of the first king of Portugal, Dom Alonso Henriques.

Manor House built in 15th century

Castle Chapel

The manor house is now a museum and hosts various events.

View of Guimarães from atop the castle battlements

In the town, Largo da Oliviera square houses the remains of the Oliviera church and cloister and is a museum.

The Church of Santos Passos commands the city centre

The Church of Santos Passos completed in 1785, is baroque style architecture (many cities in Portugal are a mix of Baroque, Gothic and Roman influenced architecture).

In other news...

I spoke with Gail at Relocate to Portugal and got the skinny on what I need to do moving forward for a Visa. She was very helpful and I think I may contract with her now even though I wouldn’t be looking to move right away. Actually I’m looking forward to see Charlotte and not living out of a suitcase for a while.

Reflecting on what I’ve learning about Portugal:

1. It rains a lot in winter and summer is pretty dry and warm

2. Francesinha is not a dessert, but a disgusting meat dish 

3. I love octopus

4. The Portuguese put an egg on top of everything

5. oPorto Tonica is my new favorite drink

6. It was fairly easy to communicate even if someone didn’t speak English. The Portuguese people do try and figure out what you are saying.

7. Wine is not only inexpensive, it is good!

8. The countryside is beautiful

9. The public transport in the cities is exceptional

10. If I do decide to live in Portugal, Porto is the place



Saturday, November 19, 2022

Valencia, City of Strength


The city of Valencia is over 2000 years old and the third largest community in Spain. It was definitely a planned city with a Parisian influence in development and architecture. The city has large boulevards with gardens running through the city accommodating cars, bikes and walkers. 

Starting from the sea with one of the largest ports in Europe, and moving to the city of arts and sciences on to old town with gothic architecture and history with museums and art galleries out to the end of the city bursting with agriculture, Valencia has successfully mixed the past, present and future.

It is easy to see why Valencia is Latin for “strength” or “valor.”

Valencia port, marina, beaches

The Valencia port is the busiest on the Mediterranean Sea outlined with beautiful brown sand beaches.

City of Arts and Sciences

Turia garden walkway

City sculptures line the parkways

Palace de Musica

The city has a massive public transport system with buses and a Metro. I walked from my hotel to the marina and then took a bus down the Paseo de La Alameda to the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias (City of arts and Sciences) which is the most modern architectural part of the city. 

City of Arts and Sciences buildings

Bridge to City of A&S

Old Town

Train station

Rialto Theater next to the Mercantile

Old town square starts with the train station and moves toward the Cathedral (what European city wouldn't have one) with streets lined with restaurants and shops.

Cathedral front

Cathedral side view

Plaza de La Virgen (not Virgin)

Behind the Cathedral is the Plaza de La Virgen completed with a chapel and courtyard area where I happened to see a cultural dance troupe while I was sitting outside enjoying a lunch of paella valenciana.

From there it was a short walk to the Torres de Serranos (Serranos Towers). One of the twelve gates that formed part of the ancient city wall.


Near the Torres de Serranos is Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno (IVAM), the modern and contemporary art museum of the Valencia community. All museums in the city are free and there are several sprinkled throughout the city as Valencia has a large and rich art community.

On display is Julio González famous Barcelona artist in the 30’s and 40’s which at the time, artists were seen as tyrants. He is credited with saying, “Why demand everything of the artist?” His answer, “Whether the public understands it or not, the artist does not have to give an inch.”

Julio González self portrait

In other news...

It has been raining pretty steadily every day for the last couple of weeks and I have to say it is waring on me a bit. I have about a week and half left and honestly I am looking forward to my next adventure. I have one more post on Braga and Guimarães
but thought I might take a trip to Braga again first so hopefully will have that one up before I leave Portugal on 30 November.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Douro Valley Wine Tour and WOW Workshop


Wine Tour

We started off the wine tour in the Vinho Verde (Green wine) area of Portugal, with a visit to Amarante. Amarante is best known for the Peninsula War battle between Portuguese and French troops and is a lovely little village on the bank of the Rio Tâmega.

Amarante is also on the famous Mass of the Pilgrims stop from Porto to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. You can tell by the shells imbedded on the ground.

Church of São Gonçalo still shows damage from the war. 

As we head from the Vinho Verde region into the Douro Valley region the highway is lined with vineyards and olive trees. We went to three different wineries and tried many different types of port. 

The first winery was the best. Port wine is not my favorite wine, but I will admit that the port we tried at this winery was quite good. This winery is over 100 years old and the owner showed us a bottle of port worth more that $4000 (we didnt taste that one though).

Fun Fact: Not all port is dark or rose colored, white port is quite delicious with tonic water and called Porto Tónico (but can be made with Rose port too).

Many vineyards are separated by olive trees instead of walls. Also, many of the vineyards don't use machinery (they terraces are too narrow) so the grapes are all hand picked. Usually during the late summer when it is really hot in the valley.

Terraced vineyards along the Douro River

Fun Fact: There are three different varieties of olive oil from Portugal and some vineyards will separate their vine varieties with olive trees instead of walls.

World of Wine School (Portuguese wines)

The workshop was over 2 hours and focused on 5 of the 11 wine regions of Portugal. 

My table ready for tasting

By the numbers: Portugal is 11th in the world for wine production (60% of all Port wines come from Portugal), 9th in world export of wine, 4th in Europe and 11th in world wine consumption (inexpensive wine).

Fun Fact: 80% of all cork used in the world comes from Portugal. I’ve not seen one bottle of wine with a screw top, all had corks. And...not just for wine corks, but anything that has cork in it!

Wines in order of the tasting

First region and first taste (after the lovely Rose welcome wine we had), is from Vinho Verde. Green usually means young wine, but not in this instance, it means it comes from a very green area of north Portugal which is colder making the wine more acidic. The taste was dry and aromatic with a long finish.

Climate: Atlantic; Soil, Granitic; #of Vines 24,000

Second taste was from the Baixo region near the border of Spain and Corgo River. This area is completely dependent on rain as it cannot be irrigated due to it being a UNESCO site. It was a red wine blended with 30 varietals, tasted of plum and dark cherry.

Climate: Mediterranean/Continental (hot, hot, hot 45c/113f in the summer); Soil, Black Slate; #of Vines 44,000

The third tasting was from the Dão region, one of the oldest established regions in Portugal. High altitude and sun exposure and very windy area. A white wine that was voted party wine of 2021, smelled to me like a Sauvignon blanc but the finish was more like a Viognier.

Climate: Mediterranean; Soil, Granitic; #of Vines 20,000

Fun fact: The vineyard owners in the Dão region plant roses around the vines so the “critters” will eat the roses first before the vines.

Bairrade is the fourth region with a spicy, blended wine that’s complex. It’s good with meat (especially pork). You really need food with this wine. It was good, but not my favorite. The region is coastal, lower altitude.

Climate: Moderate Atlantic; Soil, Limestone clay; #of Vines 13,000

The fifth region, Alentejo is referred to as “the bread basket of the country”. Very flat area producing mainly full-body red wine with more oxidation and a sour cherry or black fruit finish. The white wine from this area is aged in oak for 12-24 months and bottled for at least 3 years before sold. We had a white Antão Vaz grape wine. It was very, very good.

Climate: Continental (cold winters, hot summers); Soil, Granitic; #of Vines 25,000

How to taste wine

I'm certified!

Here's some street art I thought was interesting in Gaia right near the World of Wine

In other news...

I've rented an apartment in Charlotte, NC for six months starting in December. I should get the paperwork tomorrow so hopefully it will be done soon and I can take a breath. Now I can concentrate on my next adventure to Valencia, Spain this weekend!