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louis Braga - A travel report by Rafal
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Braga,  Portugal - flag Portugal -  Braga
3381 readers

louis's travel reports

Green and foggy Minho

  15 votes
When you are travelling in Europe, in winter there is always a possibilty to have a bad wheather. The Minho region welcomed me with clouds and fog. But despite this I felt in love with Minho.


View from Bom Jesus do Monte
View from Bom Jesus do Monte
This is the region where the country was born. Guimaraes is the birthplace of Portugal's first king, Alfonso Henriques. Also here the name Kingdom Portucale was used for the first time. It is place where the Reconqiusta against the Moors was launched. Live goes slower here than in others regions of Portugal, people are more traditionalistic and conservatist. Braga is called the "religious capital" of Portugal.



The Minho region is located in northern Portugal, just above Porto. It's streching from Altlantic Ocean in West to Parque National de Peneda -Geres in East. Main cities are Braga, Guimaraes, Barcelos, Viana do Castelo. Diversity of the region is amazing, from sandy beahces, through green fields up to high mountains. During the stay I rented a car that helped me a lot to visit the remote places such as Sojao, Linodso or Arcos de Valdevez. I have had only few days there so I missed places like Barcleos, which is famous for its porcelain roosters and thursday market and I hadn't time enough to explore Parque National Peneda Geres.



The best way to reach The Minho is from Porto. Main roads between Porto and others cities of the region are good, side roads are also quite good, but not always well marked. To reach Soajo village I lost one hour, because there were no good traffic signs.



Almost all cities have a tourist information. In remote areas people don't speak english, but if you know some spanish words you can manage. People there are very cherful and helpful.



From The Minho is very close to Tras os Montes another interesting region with its capital in Braganca. Other main cities of Tras os Montes are Chaves, Vila Real and Montalegre.

Favourite spots:
Staircase Bom Jesus do Monte
Staircase Bom Jesus do Monte
Bom Jesus do Monte is located 5 kilometers from center of Braga and is the goal of thousands piligrims and tourists every year. Located on the top hill, sober neoclassical church was completed in 1811. But in my opinion the main attraction are "Escadaria do Bom Jesus" - baroque staircase completed in 18th century. The lowest part of the staircase represents Stations of the cross, then is the Stairway of the Five Senses and the highest part is Stairway of the Three Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity). I haven't seen, but heard that some pilgrims ascend by the stairs on their knees. From top of the staircase is fine view accros the countryside. The area close to the sanctuary has become like litlle resort with hotels, tennis court and little lake.

Braga is called religious capital of Portugal. Old town is dominated by the cathedral (Se) the oldest in Portugal (from 11th century). Other interesting places are Paco Episcopal (Archibishop Palace), Praca de Republica with Torre de Menagem.

What's really great:
Soajo Granaries
Soajo Granaries
Beach close the Vila do Conde, Old town in Guimaraes and Soajo Espigueiros (granaries).

Vila do Conde is located at the mouth of Rio Ave and offering the best beaches on the north from Porto. City is also known as handicraft centre. Beside that it offers interesting things to see like

- Mosterio de Santa Clara founded in 1318 by Dom Alfonso Sanchez, enlarged in 18th century now is a reformatory for teenage boys. I didn't have luck because was close during my visit. Close to the Mosterio are remains of massive aquduct which originally had 999 arches.

- Igreja Matriz the manueline parish church dated from the early 16th century with beautiful decorated doorways.

Soajo Espigueiros - huge slatted, granite caskets used in 18th and 19th for storing maize or grain and protecting it from rats. Granaries are topped with little crosses which cause that they looks like minature cathedrals. Those in Soajo are located over the village and offers great view over the mountains. No entr. fee

Sights:
Streets of Guimaraes
Streets of Guimaraes
Guimaraes has well preserved old town. As I wroted earlier city is the cradle of Portugal nation. From that period is the seven-towered hilltop castle (about 1100). Close to the castle there is little Igreja de Sao Miguel do Castelo and Paco do Duques (Ducal Palace). In the old town the most important is Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Oliveira, fabulous convent church. Interior of the church is not so interesting as exterior where are Manueline Tower and Gothic pediment over the dorway. Others intereting buildings are Pacos do Concelho - town hall and Igreja de Sao Francisco beautifully decorated with azulejos. Old part of Guimaraes has been subscribed on UNESCO World Heritage list, so to the best way to soak up the atmosphere is to spend a day just strolling without particular aim.

Close to Guimaraes is Citania de Briteiros an archeological site representing remains of Celtic hill settelment, inhabited during six centuries from 300 BC to 300 AD. The site is open from 9 am to 6pm daily.

Accommodations:
Ribeira district in Porto
Ribeira district in Porto
In every city you can find residencias, hostels, hotels and pousadas. Everything depends on how much you can spend for the night. Most hostels offers rooms with breakfast (continental). In Porto I stayed in Sao Jose hostel, located close to the main path, subway line and other city attractions. In Ponte de Lima I slept in Residencial Sao Joao, located in the center with view on the famous Roman Bridge. The only problem was during one very cold night because of lack of heating I had to ask for an additional blanket. Also the bathrooms wasn't the tip top. Last place in Minho where I slept was in Guimaraes, Residencia Dom Joao IV. 500 meters from old town with very helpful staff.

I hope that one day I'll have enough money to stay few nights in Pousadas. Those are old castles, monasteries turned into hotels. In most of them it is necessary to make reservation ahead. I had an opportunity to see two and I think that despite they are quite expensive it must be unforgottable experience.

Nightlife:
Porto by night
Porto by night
As in every contry bigger cities are more lively. There is a lot of bars, pubs and discos in Porto. But there, I was concentrated on Porto wine degustations. In Guimaraes old city was quite empty in the evening, but areas close to the Rua de Santa were full of people. Ponte de Lima suprised me in the number of the open bars. Ponte de Barca dissapointed me a lot because was completly empty at 9 pm already.



Generally, in the evening pubs and restaurants are open from 6-7 pm. Discos are full of people from midnight.

Hangouts:
Young Santa Claus
Young Santa Claus
Porto is famous for it fado show. Thank to Globosapiens travel tips I heard the best fado in my life. I highly reccomend the Mal Cozinhado - hidden place but very atmospheric.



Other place that I still remember is "Cervejaria Rampinha". This is a pub in Ponte de Lima where all interior is in posters of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro as well as Cuban flags. Funny addition was a huge portrait of Marylin Monroe. Full of local people and cigaret smoke it had a special atmosphere.

Restaurants:
Grocery in Ponte de Lima
Grocery in Ponte de Lima
Huge range. From small, family run to big international style.



The best restaurant for me during this trip was family run Cozinha Regional "Santiago" in Guimaraes, located in the heart of old town. I ate there the best portuguese food in very familiar atmosphere.



Generally during my trips I am trying to eat in places where there are a lot of local people. Thanks to this I went to Diana Bar in Vila do Conde, where I've tried excellent tripas and fishes. In every city are also excellents cake shops, where you can drink good cofe called bica and tried local cakes. Best of them was in Viana do Castelo, close to the Market Square, but unfortunately I don't remember the name of the place.



The price of the dinner is about 20-25 EUR per person plus vine or other drinks. Tips are not included in the bills.

Other recommendations:
Market in Ponte de Lima
Market in Ponte de Lima
Definitely food. The portions are relative big. If you are not to hungry, you can take "meia-dose" - half portion. My goal was to try a lot dishes. So I tried



- soups: caldo verde - tipical Portuguese soup made with cabbage, soupa de peixe - fish soup - the best soup that I ate in Portugal



- alheiras - special sausage made from chicken, beef and pork



- tripas a la porto - tripe with bean



- arroz de marisco - excellent rice with seafood



- all types of fishes - dorada, salmon, sardines - grilled, stewed all fresh and very tasty. I had a difficulty to get sardines because the season ends in november.



Porto wine is other famous product of northern Portugal. There are 3 main types of this wine: red - tawny and ruby, and withe - Porto lagrima. All of them are excellent for apperitif.



Bica - portuguese strong and sweet coffe.

Published on Tuesday April 1th, 2008


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Fri, Apr 25 2008 - 05:07 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Muito bonito ! Obrigado.

Thu, Apr 03 2008 - 10:19 PM rating by eirekay

Rafal, this i a marvelous report. Between you and David, I am convinced that I need to put Portugal on my short list of places to see next!

Thu, Apr 03 2008 - 05:18 PM rating by mistybleu

Rafal, this is a really enjoyable read. I like your picture 'View from Bom Jesus do Monte' - the way the clouds are settling, it's really nice.

Wed, Apr 02 2008 - 03:49 PM rating by rangutan

A detailed report full of useful information.

Tue, Apr 01 2008 - 11:01 AM rating by carlagama

Good report!

I would like to say that you can find this Granaries not only in Soajo but in almost villages in the north of Portugal. In Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês they are all over.

Next time, try to visit Gerês: this is, definitelly, a great Park. I've been both in Portuguese and Spanish part of the Park and I love it.

About Pousadas de Portugal, I agree with you: maybe one day I'll have enough money to stay there...

Congratulations for your report.

Tue, Apr 01 2008 - 10:07 AM rating by krisek

Well narrated with personal feel and plenty info on the local people. Photographs well picked. I think your profile picture was taken around the Granaries... Many thanks for your contribution.

Tue, Apr 01 2008 - 07:38 AM rating by marianne

A perfect read with lots of useful facts and information. Excellents photos to illustrate the points made, in other words 5*

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