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June 11, 2007 -- Guimaraes, Bom Jesus & Samerio

We decided that today we would visit two towns of interest to us, plus the shrine of Bom Jesus.

Guimaraes is the birthplace of the nation of Portugal. So designated because Afonso proclaimed himself king in 1139 and made the town his capital. And here he is.

Afonso.jpg

The Castelo is impressive & we enjoyed wondering around inside its walls and looking out over the Paco dos Duques and the modern town beyond.

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Then we walked the short path over to the Paco dos Duques. This is a Disnesque restoration. A 15th century palace that was in rubble and rebuilt in the 1930s. But instead of restoring it to its 15th century state, they modernized it in a careless way. They then turned it into a museum of 17th & 18th century furniture & tapestries. All very beautiful, but so out of place.

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We had a bit of trouble getting out of Guimaraes. We kept going in circles. It felt like a vortex in the twilight zone.

Finally we broke the gravitational pull of the place and headed to Braga & the Shrine of Bom Jesus. The shrine was as interesting as we had read. The steps were much easier to climb than we expected. Here is that so well known shot that is seen in all the travel brochures and guide books.

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But you don't often see photos of the view from the top looking down.

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The thing that struck me about the outside of the shrine was the beautiful and very, very formal plantings all around the grounds.

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At each landing on steps going up was a grotto with a life size, three dimensional tableau representing one of the Stations of the Cross inside. I regret that none of my pictures were clear enough to post. But I did get a good picture of the inside of the shrine. The tableau behind the alter is representative of the ones that were inside the individual grottos, only bigger of course, and better lighted.

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As we were leaving Bom Jesus, I just happened to glance up at the top of the hill above. some 500 meters above, I was a large white dome. Since this was in none of our internet research, nor in the guidebooks, we were obviously curious. We drove up to an amazing site. A HUGE religious shrine run by the m\Marionists. It is called Samerio. Acres and acres paved in marble and granite. A gigantic cathedral with a vast underground chapel that reminds you of one of those huge charismatic churches that seat thousands. A series of beautiful sculpture monuments, and the most fantastic view!

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It is evidently only on the religious tourism radar, and judging from the fact that the information in the gift shop was printed only in Portuguese, Spanish and a little bit of French. I'd say that it isn't well known to English speaking tourists.

Time to head home. Tomorrow is a lazy day and then to Braga again. This time for dinner with our hospitalityclub.org friend, Luis.

Comments (1)

JA:

One of the most interesting blogs about Spain and Portugal. Portugal is my favorite place --with Lisbon returning my affection (by just being there and changing little) every time I go there.
It is hard to tell why Lisbon touches some people so deeply, but I suspect that the old neighborhoods, the old trams, have something to do with it.
Thanks, JA

Deborah responds: Thanks for the nice post, JA. You're right about Lisbon. I've been in more than a few European large cities and capital cities. I enjoyed visiting and discovering them all. But I am always happy to leave them for the quiet of the smaller towns out in the countryside.
Lisboa is the only exception. It is the only city I could see myself living in.

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