Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ponte de Lima

Ponte de Lima, founded in 1125, is known as Portugal's "oldest town", but it wins that distinction on somewhat of a technicality... it is the oldest town because it has not grown enough to be a city! Plenty of old cities were older towns than Ponte de Lima when they were in fact old towns. But it doesn't really matter; Ponte de Lima is still, in its own right, one of the most beautiful little spots in Portugal. It has a fantastic bridge spanning the Lima river (hence its name: Ponte (bridge) de Lima), and a beautiful church on the opposite bank that really makes for a great view from a little cafe in the waterfront plaza.

According to Wikipedia, Ponte de Lima has a population of only 2,800, although the municipality of Ponte de Lima has more than 44,000 inhabitants. It is located far in the north of Portugal, towards the west, and close to the northern border with Spain.

A view of the town of Ponte de Lima as I walked back across the bridge after visiting the church.

In the main plaza in Ponte de Lima.

Monte da Penha (Guimarães) in winter

Guimarães is a medium-sized city in the North, and it is known as the "birthplace" of Portugal. It was established by the Conde Vímara Peres in the 9th century on top of an even older settlement and it became the first capital of Portugal. The first king of Portugal, Afonso I, was also born here in 1109 (the exact date is disputed) as Afonso Henriques. After winning the battle of São Mamede in 1128 (fought against the kingdom of Leon) and later the (disputed) battle of Ourique in 1139 against the Moors occupying the Iberian peninsula, Afonso Henriques declared Portugal's independence from the king of Castille and León and himself the first king of the Condado Portucalense. Portugal's independence was recognized in 1143 by the king of Castille and León with the signing of the Treaty of Zamora, Alfonso VII, and in 1179 by the Pope.

Guimarães is, in my opinion, one of Portugal's most beautiful cities, but today I am going to post pictures not of Guimarães, but of the Penha mountain that overlooks it. These pictures were taken around January of 2010, when there was an unusual amount of snow on the mountain top (it had even snowed in Oporto that month!).

Personally, I love, love, LOVE Penha. I think that it is a very magical and spiritual place. I highly recommend visiting if you are lucky enough to have the chance.

O Monte da Penha, towering over the city of Guimaraes. You can already see the snow on top!

The hotel that sits at the top of the Penha mountain is on the right. It has stunning views of the city below!

Hotel at the Monte da Penha

The church that sits atop the Monte da Penha.

It was far colder than what I was used to!

A small chapel on top of the Monte da Penha, tucked away behind the large boulders that define the mountaintop landscape.

A view of Guimaraes from behind the church at the top of the Monte da Penha.

Some of the large boulders that cover the Monte da Penha.

*Info* on the Hotel da Penha:

Has 17 rooms and a restaurant that is famous for its fried fish fillets and amazing views of Guimarães.

Phone number: +351 25 341 4245

The port wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia

The famous Port wine is in fact not bottled in Oporto but in the town that sits just opposite of the big city, on the other bank of the Douro river, Vila Nova de Gaia. However, Vila Nova de Gaia still falls within the Porto municipality (there are 20 total municipalities in Portugal; 18 in the mainland, one that covers the whole of the Azores archipelago and another that encompasses the Madeira archipelago).

These are a few pictures from an afternoon visit in March of 2010.

A view of old Porto (Ribeira) from the Vila Nova de Gaia bank of the Douro River.
A view of old Oporto, the Douro River and the Dom Luis bridge from Vila Nova de Gaia.

Signs for the Port wine bottling companies in Vila Nova de Gaia.Port wine bottling companies

Sandeman, one of the most famous bottlers of Port wine. In the summer, the patio is filled with outdoor seating, umbrellas and, of course, happy tourists and Portuguese enjoying the view and the wine!

Sandeman Port wine

In the back alleys of the Port wine cellars.Back alleys

One of Sandeman's facilities.Sandeman facilities

A chuch behind the Port wine cellars, with a typical tile mural.Church Vila Nova de Gaia

An old convent in Vila Nova de Gaia.Convent Vila Nova de Gaia

Football Club of Porto


It just so happens to be the home of the oldest (and BEST, of course) football club in Portugal, the Futebol Clube do Porto (FC PORTO). I am happily on my way to becoming an official PORTISTA. I even went to a game, my first ever professional football (soccer) game, a couple of weeks ago, and it was tons of fun!

My PINK FCPorto scarf!


O Estadio do Dragao, The Dragon's Stadium

Popcorn! (their mascot, by the way, is a dragon)

They played against Sporting, a rival Portuguese team from around Lisbon (their biggest rival, Benfica, is also from around Lisbon).

It was a great game!