Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Guimarães - birthplace of Portugal and home of good food!

With a cool 1000 year old castle, quaint streets, beautiful palace and wonderful food, Guimarães has it all!!

Located about 20 miles from Braga, Guimarães is considered the birthplace of Portugal.  After defeating the Moors in 1139, Afonso Henriques declared himself the first king of Portugal and set up shop in the magnificent castle in his hometown of Guimarães.  I'm guessing that he didn't invite his mom to move in with him, as power-hungry Afonso had defeated her army in a battle for independence several years prior. 

The castle was built in 968 and is a fantastic place to explore!  Zipping past the lone warning sign, we scrambled along the walls and into the towers for great views of the tree tops, the royal palace and the town below.  If this were a site in the U.S., there would be guardrails and plexiglass and crabby looking security guards at every crumbling staircase.  Not here!  We were free to explore at our own risk.  It was exciting and only slightly unnerving for those of us who are afraid of heights.

the sign says it all
no railings, no chain link fence, just people using common sense
The royal palace was neat, the churches were pretty (I've never seen a church with Mary at the center-most, highest focal point and Jesus tucked off to one side - my Protestant husband just shook his head), the streets were narrow and packed with interesting homes and shops, but my second favorite part of the day, after the castle, was LUNCH!

By about 3pm we were pretty hungry.  At the center of the old town there are several great courtyards and squares lined with restaurants, but most of them were done serving lunch for the day.  One of our few options was a place called Cheers.  We were skeptical but happy to find someone who was willing and able to feed us.  Lunch was delicious!  We started with an appetizer of quail eggs and bacon.  We inhaled the 7 tiny, creamy eggs rather quickly.  For a main course, Eric had bacalhau.  He has really warmed up to this Portuguese staple food.  It was nicely prepared with sauteed onions, buttery fried potatoes and a dish of gorgeous greens (rare and special here).  My dish was a gloriously crisp duck leg on top of a bed of roasted chestnuts and raisins.  Sooooo good!  

What's not to like about quail eggs & bacon?
Eric's beloved bacalhau

Yes, the history was interesting, the entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, blah, blah, blah...  Did I mention the duck leg???



  1. i love castles...I love food...maybe you are my long lost daughter. Tell Eric to venture out from Bacalhau although it is prepared 1000 different ways so I guess he can have it nightly. I want to know...WHERE IS THE PICTURE OF THE DUCK LEG??? I love duck!

  2. Not your long lost daughter (unless you had me when you were a toddler), but certainly a long lost friend!

    I do have a photo of the duck leg and the duck looks great, but I don't, so it didn't make the cut.