After a lazy morning in our Airbnb apartment, we escaped Porto’s rainy day forecast by driving to the sleepy village of Amarante through mist-enshrouded, vineyard-covered hills and valleys. Though it remained gloomy through the day, the rain ended upon our arrival, giving us a chance to wander the town’s zigzagging lanes and to sample its iconic São Gonçalo cakes.
Amarante is a destination for lonely heart pilgrims hoping to sniff out true love. It sits on a bend in the Rio Tâmega, which levels a winding watery path through an otherwise hilly landscape. The willow-lined riverbanks are dominated by a striking church and monastery sitting dramatically at the end of the medieval Ponte de São Gonçalo.
We strolled through this charming hometown of São Gonçalo, a 13th century hermit considered to be Portugal’s St. Valentine, amidst grizzled local men smoking cigarettes outside balconied houses. We dipped into a bakery for a treat of the phallus-shaped traditional São Gonçalo cakes. Legend has it that older unmarried women offered these cakes to the man they desired in hopes of finding reciprocal love.
Of course we had to sample these provocative cakes in an effort to blend in with the locals and pilgrims. 🙂
We crossed the Rio Tâmega on the granite Ponte de São Gonçalo, a bridge completed in 1790 to replace the original 13th century bridge, which collapsed in a flood in 1763. We found letters spelling A M A R A N T E decorated in child-like drawings . Switchback lanes carried us, with breathtaking effort, from the narrow valley floor to a sweeping view over the hills and the arcaded gallery of kings at Igreja de São Gonçalo.
Inside the lofty interior of the Igreja de São Gonçalo, we admired the gilded baroque altar, pulpits, and Gonçalo’s tomb. Here, the dead saint lends hope to pilgrims who are looking for a mate; it is said that if they touch the limestone statue above his tomb, their wish will be granted within a year.
After ambling around the austere cloisters of the church, we made our way down to the cobbled path along the south bank of the Rio Tâmega, admiring the watery reflections of homes and businesses, willow trees, the triple-spanned bridge, and the Casa da Calçada.
By the end of our visit, we grew hungry for lunch. We stopped in at Bar dos Pauzinhos where I had a wonderful Francesinha, a Portuguese sandwich-bread with wet cured ham, linguiça, and fresh sausage-like chipolata, covered with melted cheese and hot thick tomato and beer sauce. Every bite was heavenly. 🙂
After lunch, we hopped into our Clubman MINI Cooper and made our way back to Porto as the sun peeked out in the late afternoon.
Casa da Calçada is a 16th century palace rising above the Ponte de São Gonçalo that is now a boutique hotel.
Interior and cloister of Igreja de São Gonçalo
Amarante south of the Rio Tâmega has winding narrow switchback lanes from which we found marvelous views. Above the Igreja de São Gonçalo’s Italian Renaissance side portal is an arcaded gallery with 17th-century statues of Dom João and other kings who ruled while the monastery was under construction: Sebastião, Henrique and Felipe I.
The bell tower was added in the 18th century.
*Tuesday, October 30, 2018*
Steps: 14,940 (6.33 miles)
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose. In this case, one of my intentions for my trip to Portugal was to pick five random verbs each day and use them in my travel essay: 1)
sniff, 2) level, 3) smoke, 4) loan, 5) end. √
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation. You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, May 27 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, May 28, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired. 🙂
- Maximcartography of cartographysis wrote a marvelous post intermingling his reading of José Saramago’s Blindness and the cod specialty bacalhau with a visit to Lisbon.
Thanks to all of you who wrote prosaic posts following intentions you set for yourself. 🙂