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Our rented Fiat Punto was a great little car for getting around the far reaches of Portugal. However, on the few occasions when we ventured into the larger towns and cities, we tended to limit its use to the bare minimum because of the traffic and parking issues.
In the case of Guarda, we had our worst experience with traffic and streets of the entire trip. On arrival in the town, we only had the address of our booked accommodations at the Solar de Alarcao, but no map. After circling around various confusing streets for a while, we stopped at a very large and impressive looking hotel and asked the doorman for some help. He was more than helpful, giving us a map of the town and pointing out how to get from 'A to B'. However, even with this we could not find our spot. It seemed that we kept running into 'do not enter' signs that diverted us away from where we were headed.
Finally, for the only time on the trip, we gave up and parked the car on the side of a street that we knew was close to where we were headed. The two of us then walked a few blocks from there and soon found our accommodations!
The young lady that booked us in very kindly returned to the car with me and she navigated me through the streets and into their parking lot! What a relief that was! The photo shows the impressive old private chapel that is attached to our accommodations.
Updated Apr 23, 2005
By about 10 AM, we finally left Guarda, after poring over our map in our car, on the side of the street in front of our Residencial. Since we had accommodations booked northwest of Guarda, in Lamego, we decided to take a scenic cross-country route via the N226, just north of Celorico da Beira. I guess that, by this time, we had been overwhelmed by the number of things to see and do in Portugal, because we had not realized that this would take us through the impressive town of Trancoso.
This small town, given to the wife of Dom Dinis as a wedding gift in 1283, is surrounded by beautiful walls and towers that give it a very appealing air. We stopped here at about 11:30 AM on a Saturday morning to see if we could find some stores to see to our shopping needs! I found this town to be a very pleasant and relaxing spot to stroll around, especially in the bright sunshine and pleasant temperatures! Parking was no problem at all, lots of spots to choose from along the streets outside the walls.
What to buy: In our case, we had a few simple needs. Sue needed film for her camera and we also bought a new pen for our daily diary. Of course, we had to pick up the usual supplies for a lunch on the road - cheese, tomatoes, buns, water bottles and wine! Altogether, a very pleasant break in our drive north to Lamego!
Updated Oct 12, 2004
The main portal of the Se, by which you enter the western end of the cathedral for direct access to its long nave, is a beautiful example of Manuline architecture. This style arose during the reign of Manuel I (1495-1521), a time of great discoveries and world-wide exploration by Portugal.
The style is marked by rounded arches instead of pointed ones and also features pillars and other decorations done in a 'twisted rope' motif to reflect the national pride in their maritime exploits. We saw a number of examples of this type of architecture, a derivative of the Late Gothic style, in our travels around the country. It is a style that really appealed to me!
Updated Sep 5, 2004
All through our trip in Portugal, we kept seeing hillsides covered with beautiful yellow bushes. The Guarda area was no exception, so we stopped to take a photo of one of these clumps near Trancoso as we continued our drive northward.
I am no botanist, but I believe these are known as Yellow Broom plants, a varient of the Scotch Broom species. They actually are a bit of a weed, spreading to cover whole hillsides and shutting out other species.
However, they are not all bad. In Portugal, these 'May plants' hold a special place in the culture. On the night before May 1st, the villagers traditionally place sprigs of this plant on all windows and doors so it can magically ward off the devil for the remainder of the year! In my case, I just happen to think they are very pretty!
Updated Oct 7, 2007