Day 26 – Friday, April 6, 2012
We got up really late, had lovely grilled cheese sandwiches for brunch at a bookstore café, then drove out to Guimarães (driving through Pedro’s town, Taipas, on the way).
Guimarães is the 2012 European Capital of Culture – an honor that I had never heard of before we arrived in Portugal – where the chosen city spends a year organizing cultural events with a “European dimension.” We didn’t partake of any of these events, but we will testify that Guimarães is lovely.
We parked in a giant parking lot after driving all around town, a crowded lot “staffed” by enterprising young men who would point out possible parking spaces for a tip. We walked over to the Old Town and visited the church in the town square for Good Friday prayers at 3 pm.
We popped into the Tourist Info office for a map, but they were not very helpful, which we thought was odd, since this whole Capital of Culture thing is meant to increase tourism. Luckily, the shop across the way was worth a visit and a peek at the heart that is the symbol of Guimarães 2012.
Next we walked through the town (past Stations of the Cross built right into the walls) up to the castle.
We soon discovered that this was the Castle of Danger. Check out the stairs: no railings. Check out the parapet walk around the curtain wall (yeah, I googled those terms, but the important thing is…): no railings.
Don’t worry; it’s not as though they don’t have any safety measures. They have this sign to protect you:
The sign very helpfully indicates the direction in which you will fall and the way in which your head will separate from your body. Sadly, this did not deter mobs of people from climbing up there.
David got as far as the top of the steps; Q walked around with me until she had to go around a blind corner with very little clearance, and then she was done.
I gave up when some bozo walked right into me while I was taking a photo, got caught on my bag, and whirled me around. I can trust myself in high places with no railings, but when other people are careless, I draw the line.
After stopping to see where Afonso Henriques – later to become the first King of Portugal – was baptized in 1111, we walked back to the town square to get Q some ice cream. Did I mention the cuteness? Kind of Disneyland-cute.
Just around the corner, we found a hardware store where we purchased – ta-da! – a luggage scale for future Ryanair purposes. Technically, it is a fish scale (not for purposes of trade, incidentally) and comes with a fine measuring tape attached. Exiting the shop, I clicked a couple of photos of a cute side street, then fell over like a sack of potatoes. Why? I am not sure… Distracted by the novelty of the scale? Overwhelmed by the side-street cuteness? Bad leg collapse? Who the heck knows… But a sweet gentleman rushed over and helped me up, and besides incredible embarrassment, I just ended up with a sore leg, hip, and hand, all on the bad side of course.
That pretty much ended our Guimarães afternoon for me, and I limped back to the car. (I know, I know… gratuitous pity-mongering. That was pretty much my attitude then, too. I have no shame.) Our sightseeing travels were not done, however! We headed to Citânia de Briteiros, which was so awesome, I got a second wind! Hooray! Stay tuned…