Amarante: R&R (Part 1)

Part of the Habitat for Humanity Global Village experience is being able to go off the work site for some cultural exploration. During our trip this year, we will have four days of Rest and Relaxation to offset our nine labour days.

Our first R&R day was also our first day in Portugal. Our host for the day, Miguel, drove us out to a hidden swimming hole that’s really only known to locals. It sounds pretty, and it was, but what he forgot to tell us about was the hour long hike in and out. It was lacking a bit in Rest, but swimming in the shade with the fish and the frogs was definitely heavy in Relaxation.

In the evening, some of us took a paddleboat down the river that runs through the city.

Miguel concluded our evening with a walking tour of Amarante followed by drinks and music at the county fair.

Our second R&R day was today. The idea this time was to see some other portuguese cities. Our final destination, Braga, was the site that we visited in 2009. Before we arrived, we made a short stop in gumares: the birthplace of Portugal.

As the story goes, there was a prince who wanted to be king, but he wasn’t in order down the family line. So, he raised an army, and beat away the competition from the surrounding lands until a new kingdom was created around him. The center of this kingdom was the castle at gumares.

After the visit and a pastry, we drove the last few kilometers to Braga, and it’s famous church, the Bom Jesus.

If it looks small in the picture, keep in mind that it’s one km from the stairs to the front door.

The afternoon was “free time” in the big city. Some people went touristing, some people went shopping, me and the other two guys on our trip went and found a local watering hole, and exposed our young French companion to the Portuguese drink Bagaço. This spirit, made from the leftover grape product after making wine, tastes very much like kerosene mixed with boot leather and moonshine. Definitely a highlight not to be missed.

We took our chasers in a lounge down the way. This was definitely a fond memory from last year. The patio is unmarked, and almost totally hidden from the road. The atmosphere is very nice. Like someones backyard, but with sofas, a bartender, and soothing trance music. without a doubt, this is the best place for a beer and a siesta that I’ve found in western Europe.

To close the evening, the group met up again for dinner. The food that we’ve had in amarante has been gorgeous, but there are a few things that we could only get in a bigger city.

We split our group down the middle, between those that have been complaining that there was too much meat, and those complaining that there wasn’t enough.

For the meatatarians, we took a trip to a rib and bar-b-q restaurant; something that is a true rarity in western Europe. Our French worker, Niko, told me afterwards that this is the first time he had tried this kind of food.

The rest of us went to the only vegetarian restaurant in Braga, and the best veg restaurant that I can remember eating at. Vegetarian lasagna, soy stroganoff, and mushroom paella filled our plates and bellies, but left just enough room for spicy chocolate pie.

My evening capped off with a photo.

As we were walking back, a few of us spotted this old guy.

Somewhere amidst the reams of photos taken today is a picture of me, and one of our team mates riding high and ringing the bell.

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