Portugal, Fall 2012

Northern Portugal: Guimarães, Douro Valley & Porto

Photos by Walt & Gloria Fogler-Mancini

Guimarães is called the “cradle of Portugal” for many reasons.  Count Henry of Burgundy established it as the administrative seat when it became his dowry in the 11th century.  His son, Afonso I, who became the first king of Portugal in 1128, was born there.  And, the nation-forming battle of São Mamede was fought near there.  The keep was first built in the 10th century and Henry of Burgundy enlarged it and built the Burgundian style castle.

The lower part of the town was a walled city that formed around a convent in the 10th century.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and traffic is controlled.  It is a very popular tourist destination.

The Douro Valley is Portugal’s primary wine growing region. Vineyards, as well as olive and almond trees, grow on the near vertical slopes of the Douro River.  The Port wine growing region, vinhateiro, has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The palace and gardens of the Casa de Mateus are near Vila Real in the Douro Valley.  They are a fine example of 18th century Portuguese Baroque architecture.  The count served the king in Brazil until it became independent.

Rights to the use of the Mateus name and picture on  wine belongs to the Sogrape company and is not associated with the wines grown on the estate.

The heart of the city of Porto is around the Praça da Liberdade and the Estação São Bento.  It is,  like Lisbon, on hills overlooking a river.  However, Porto is a more like northern European city with church towers, narrow streets and baroque treasures. 

The fine entrance hall of the train station has azulejos depicting both historical scenes and tranquil domestic life.

Porto is an energetic commercial city with many cultural attractions.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The oldest part of the city nearer the river has narrow streets.  The cathedral, once a fortress-church, has a rich interior that reflects Portugal’s past.

The Douro River is lively with cafés on both the north and south banks.  There are many river cruises and the traditional rabelo wine boats are docked in front of the restaurants. Over 60 Port wine warehouses and lodges are on the south side of the river. 

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The São Miguel do Castelo church is from the 12th century.