24 November 2017

WAYFARING WITH COCO // GUIMARAES + RURAL NORTHERN PORTUGAL



I thought I'd begin the next series of posts featuring my travel escapades to Portugal on an unexpected note. Opting to showcase the road less travelled, followed by the usual fanfare of iconic and recognisable haunts and waterfronts. For it was here, off the beaten track, in which I fell in love with crumbling (though terribly saddening and frustrating) facades and architecture. It was a visual enchantment of traditional aesthetic delights featuring stone work dating back countless decades. Some even centuries. And all alongside splashes of millennial pink; long before this tone was considered stylish and noteworthy on Instagram.

In truth it had been almost an entire decade since I last set foot on the European continent. And after a long twenty something hours in the air I savoured those views from my window seat between Frankfurt and Porto. Irrevocably enraptured by that familiar European landscape. Of lands dappled in light, mountainous and sunburnt in golden hues and shades of olive. Windturbines gracious and grand casting considerable but unobstructed shadows to the ground. Their cadenced waltz as hypnotic and harmonious as the sun repercussing off serpentine rivers and capacious bodies of water. I realised just how dormant my love for this part of the world had become. And yet after so much time between us, its charms did not fail to captivate and sway me.

Both in the air and on the ground.


This trip saw me based and somewhat confined to the North of Portugal in the Trás-os-Montes. And despite fervent eagerness to venture down south towards parts like Lisbon, Sintra and the Algarve my inadequately devised plans fell through catastrophically. To be honest this was trip that remained unorganised until the very end. With poor time constraints and other factors being at play I decided to simply wing it, which is not entirely ideal for a perfectionist. In hindsight I do wish I had hired my own rental vehicle and researched more thoroughly prior to departure, as my internet connection proved too erratic and unreliable. And because of this I was unable to search for more unknown points of interest. But in the end it left room to thoroughly explore a part of this country I once thought I was overly familiar with. Happily discovering and regarding it with a new found affection and appreciation.

Much like the name suggests this is a landscape abundant in elevations and valleys. A vastly green landscape of towering pine trees flecked with quaint white walls or the occasional splash of millennial pink and contrastingly worn terracotta roof tiles. What I once perceived to be deteriorating dwellings, I now saw as shelters dating back countless generations. Shelters that have stood the test of time, despite harsh elements and obvious desertion. Their facades overflowing with an abundance of character and vibrancy; albeit in dire need of several coats of paint. And traditional cobblestones and stonework commingling with perceived Oriental influences and modern renovations. While these villages may appear indifferent to the naked eye, they are in fact swarming with activity and sentience. There is a strong sense of camaraderie, family and community. And a kindliness this Melbournian was ineptly unaccustomed to.


GERES
Portugal's first only national park. Famed for its waters and trails, wild ponies and infinite number of waterfalls. After spending a taxing morning trawling through the isles of Ikea, we happened upon the road to this park by accident. And it was a drive I did not want to cease, regardless of the unwelcome bouts of car sickness. It was labyrinth like narrow roads framed by precipices and a gargantuan sapphire lake captured my heart. Seemingly a playground for young and old and a way to find solace from the scorching summer sun.

I am envisioning returning here again. Returning to peruse its vast grounds more thoroughly. Tour countless untouched villages and granaries and visit its castles and go souvenir shopping in Sao Bento. Best of all hiring a rental nestled within thick undergrowth, sheltered from the sizzling elements. With only a slender pathway leading out to the banks of that very lake. 


GUIMARAES
Also known as the birthplace of Portugal with its namesake castle linked to such origins. Much like a fairytale, this castle is perched atop a steep green hillside overlooking a most whimsical town dotted with vivid azulejos (tiles). Sadly it is somewhat overshadowed by its recent medieval neighbour the Paco Dos Duques. But despite this I still find the presence of this castle far more commanding, especially upon entry into the town itself where its residence is certainly known.

If I am brutally honest I found the Paco Dos Duques to be rather underwhelming. Architecturally there is no denying its grandness and minimalist medieval beauty; even within the newly renovated touches here and there. It truly is rather exceptional. The exterior has a tenacious and assertive presence, one which continues through its walls into the central courtyard which is flanked by rows of decorative aches and wooden features. The letdown for me was that I found the interiors to be uninteresting and stark. After paying a small fee for entry, walking into such a grandiose building I expected to discover walls laden in historic artworks and secretaries adorned with the frivolous of trinkets. And yet all that was presented was a smattering of antique furniture, more often than not a dining table and accompanying chairs, confined tightly to the centre of an incredibly vast room with a sole splay of tapestry along the wall.

With the magnificence presented within its stature, I simply expected to find interiors that harmonised with such impressions.


The Guimaraes Castle on the other hand did not disappoint. Time and history have been far from kind to this structure. It has a sense of dilapidation while predominantly only its outer shell remains. Regardless it is captivating nonetheless. Much like a scene out of Game of Thrones, this fortification is fit for Dany and her dragons. With the occasional stray stone block dappled throughout the inner grounds and resplendently unobstructed views along its walls, it's hard not to let you your imagination soar. Like expecting to find Jon Snow trudging up the ramp at any minute.

I would recommend appropriate footware when calling into this site. The terrain is far from smooth and those countless haphazardly strewn blocks along the ground are ripe for stumbles. As is the far side of the wall with misshapen stairwells in different heights and depths leading towards each tower. Take my word for it. Climbing along centuries worn stone with my Puma Fenty slides with nothing but a sliver of rope to keep me from tumbling down to the ground below was quite the feat. And yes, definitely not a good idea for someone as accident prone as myself.


The town centre of Guimaraes is actually listed as a UNSCO World Heritage Site. Mostly renowned for its "exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town". For obvious reasons this town is a mecca for tourists. But regardless it is still crawling with locals going about their day. This town feels even more beautifully foreign (to an Australian) than its counterparts. That continuous medieval theme feels rather untouched by time, despite one or two soccer paraphernalia adorned on apartment windows and balconies. This town is best seen on foot as it there are countless points of interest between bustling cafes and eateries. Most notably the Lago De Oliveria, a large square framed by picturesque apartments and exemplary Gothic architecture like the Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Oliveria. The first Gothic masterpiece to be built in the North. From here it is also a short, but uphill stroll towards the Guimaraes Castle.

I think what I appreciated most was the narrow streets paved in typical cobblestone fanfare while enclosed by towering medieval apartments clad in lively azulejos. It was truly difficult keeping your eyes from straying above, with decadent planter boxes overflowing with blooms of magenta  and contrasting azulejos desperately vying for your attention. Also, the best Pastei de Nata consumed at the Supremo Gosto Cafe, opposite the Largo Republica do Brasi. Its window display fruitful with sumptuously irresistible flaked delicacies. 


The North and it's less travelled roads truly do not disappoint. There are copious sites to peruse and explore. From ancient ruins to Roman citadels and facades. An array of opulent architecture fitting for fairytales and towns teeming with smiling faces and people wanting to converse. Something which again left this Melbourne girl taken aback on. There truly are countless points of interest in every direction. While this trip certainly did not pan out as intended, in the end such misadventures left for improvised itineraries. Also more quality time with family, who I may or may not have had the opportunity to properly encounter and innocently carouse otherwise. Like late night suppers with my uncle Mario. Those notorious platters of cheese, bread and cold cut meats and me awkwardly trying to explain to him that I don't like presunto, and all between shots of homemade Ginja.
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50 comments

  1. Oh what beautiful photos! I've never been, but I'd love to, it's so different from anything here in Brisbane. Glad you enjoyed your trip even if it wasn't as planned as it could have been, sounds like you made the most of it :)

    Hope you are having a good week :) I had the day off yesterday and after a specialist appointment for the little one I dropped the boys off at their grandmother's and did some Christmas shopping, yey!

    Away From The Blue Blog

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    Replies
    1. It is incredibly different to what we're so accustomed to seeing everyday. xx

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  2. Oh wow those buildings! I had no idea they had such rural parts

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

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  3. Never been to Portugal before but wow, such a beautiful neighborhood, amazing architecture!

    VVEEKEND 101

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  4. I have never visited Portugal but this place looks so beautiful! I would love to go there one day.
    Love this post!
    rampdiary
    fineartandyou

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  5. Great post!

    You have a nice blog!

    Would you like to follow each other? (f4f) Please let me know on my blog with a comment! ;oD

    Have a great day!

    xoxo Jacqueline
    www.hokis1981.com

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  6. Amazing photos of Portugal. Sorry to hear that your trip didn't entirely go according to plan... but you can always go back for more.

    ANOUK

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    1. Yes definitely. Next year actually hehehe xx

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  7. Portugal is such an interesting place to visit! It has a lot of stories to tell. I love the photographs too <3

    xoxo,
    SHAIRA
    www.missdream-girl.blogspot.com

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  8. Wow...absolutely gorgeous pics babe...Portugal is so beautiful...xx, Neha

    http://www.theinstylejournal.com/

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  9. Wonderful photos!

    https://dinamighty.com/

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  10. very beautiful pictures, love Portugal
    NEW REVIEW ON MY BLOG <<< Christmas tree fiber optic >>>
    have an happy day
    kisses

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  11. Portugal is a beautiful country and I’ve never been there – but still want to go there! Amazing pictures and beautiful buildings *_*

    Love
    ♘ www.sugarpopfashion.com ♘

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  12. I have to say that I know very little about Portugal but the way you have presented your adventures in this post makes it look so charming. And it's really cool that you opted for less travelled roads on your trip. I feel like I need to do that the next time I go on vacation.

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  13. Beautiful place *_*

    https://ilmiomondoinunpost.blogspot.fr/

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  14. Hello Sonia! Ah, you made me miss the summer! And also made me want to travel over there, I never visited it but definitely is into my bucket list! xo

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  15. I can't help but stare in awe at these photos! They are gorgeous. ♥ I like that you started off with places that you said were "roads less traveled". There's something in those little nooks and crannies that feel so genuine and mysterious. :)

    annescribblesanddoodles.blogspot.com

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  16. Oh wow! What a great start to your Portugal post, Sonia. I always hear about Lisbon, so it's wonderful to read about this part of Portugal. Looked like you went back in time! Sounds like you definitely had an adventure, and you're a brave girl for just winging it:D Thanks for the tip about the car rental. I mean, I don't think I'll be going soon to this place, but that's still good to know.
    That Guimaraes Castle is breath-taking btw. Reminds me of all those movies set in medieval times.

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  17. Love love love your photos they're absolutely stunning!! Seriously breath taking.

    xo | Cindy Elena
    www.boringclothes.com

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  18. Thanks for doing this post Sonia. I've never seen the landscape of Portugal. I'm glad you took these pictures. I love its old world charm. So many treasures and that castle is amazing. I can't wait for you to go back.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

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  19. This is interesting 💕💟💟

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  20. Portugal is stunning and you've captured its beauty perfectly. I've only been to Lisbon, but would love to visit Guimaraes.

    xo
    http://www.carinavardie.com

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  21. Beautiful shots, Portugal looks so charming! I've always been more interested in visiting the south because that's what I've seen more photos of but you've convinced me to explore all over.

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  22. Very interesting place! Good thing you captured and showcased it well!

    www.busyandfab.com

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  23. Oh my god I wanna be there right now, those pics are amazing
    http://carrieslifestyle.com

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  24. Thanks a lot :D

    Oooohn, Portugal is amazing :D
    You need to visit Lamego :D

    NEW TIPS POST | TOP 10: HIGH COVERAGE CONCEALERS!
    InstagramFacebook Official PageMiguel Gouveia / Blog Pieces Of Me :D

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  25. I love Portugal and these pics are absolutely stunning, great job Sonia!
    Kisses, Paola.

    Expressyourself

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  26. I've never been there (I've just been to Lisboa once), but your photos made me dream! Amazing post!
    xx Elisa
    Francine's Place | DIY & Lifestyle Blog

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  27. Such a great review!! Amazing pics!!
    xx
    Mónica Sors
    MES VOYAGES À PARIS
    NEW POSTS: AUTUMN OUTFITS

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  28. Great post- beautifully written and the shots are stunning...saudades

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  29. Wow! These photos are simply stunning! So inspirational!

    xo Corina
    http://unbouquetdamour.com/dress-for-job-interview/

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  30. Portugal is one of my dreamed travel destination. Awesome pictures!

    jointyicroissanty

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  31. Wow!! Really beautiful photos dear <33 I would like to be there :)
    Blog x Facebook x Instagram x Bloglovin

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  32. Wow, amazing photos xxx
    www.basicallyalice.blogspot.co.uk

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  33. I would love to visit Portugal! These photos kind of remind me of home. So beautiful!

    www.fashionradi.com

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  34. It looks very interesting! Would love to visit one day!


    http://www.thequinoxfashion.com/

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  35. Wow, it sounds wonderful from the wandering ancient streets to the gorgeous flora interspersed throughout the town. I'm curious about pastei de nata now. Portugal has been on my travel list and I would love to truly explore it someday!

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  36. Your photographs are amazing. Nicely done!

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

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