Rumo Norte – An expedition to the north of Portugal, Minho
To be honest, we did not know about the Minho region either before our trip with Rumo Norte in October. We knew of the very famous Vinho Verde from Portuguese people at home (about 50% of the Luxembourgish population has Portuguese roots), but the region was more or less unknown to us.
The Minho region borders the Porto district and the Douro river to the south, and in the north Minho borders Spain and the Minho river. Minho is one of the most pristine and traditional regions in Portugal and it’s most known for the famous Vinho Verde (green wine or young wine), one of Portugal’s finest wines in the world.
You wonder what got us to Minho? Quite simple, we got an undeniable offer from the travel agency Rumo Norte, located in Braga. Together, with 2 other LGBTQ blogger couples, we were invited to explore the Minho region and its culture.
We were accommodated in an excellent 5 star hotel near Vila Verde. First impression: The Torre de Gomariz is a f*ing fairy-tale castle. Surrounded by beautiful vineyards, the hotel immediately gives you a sense of peace and serenity.
The rooms are built like an apartment complex, each room has its own terrace, overlooking the pool and the vineyards are really heavenly.
The hotel offers a spa area with an indoor pool, sauna, steam room, and massage facilities in addition to the outdoor pool.
Highlight of our hotel?
Hard to say … we leaned towards the private tour of the vineyards, the aperitif on the rooftop of the tower or the delicious food.
Or perhaps the XXL bed, or the good in-house Vinho Verde, which is available for about 6 € at the reception… like we already mentioned.. hard to say.
Let the journey begin …
We received the program of the travel agency already a few weeks prior our arrival in Minho so we kinda had an idea what we will do there. We have to admit that we were a little bit nervous to get to know all the other bloggers (they are actually Vloggers) because had never gone on never did an influencer trip with other bloggers.
DAY 1 – LOCAL GEMS
The get-together was surprisingly relaxed and ultimately awesome. We immediately had a connection with the girls and talked about our travel experiences, LGBTQ Travel and other aspects of our lives.
The first day was dedicated to the local stuff of Minho. Our travel guides Marisa and Daniel who both lived in the Minho area, wanted us to get to know the culture of the Minho region from a local perspective.
After a really good burger in the DeGema Braga, we went to the hotel.
As already mentioned, the hotel was simply amazing. The hotel manager arranged a small aperitif at the highest spot of the hotel, the tower (aka rooftop). We were able to enjoy the endless forests and vineyards from up there.
After, we went by car in the direction of Vila Verde.Vila Verde is a small town mainly known for the Alianca Artesanal.
Have you ever heard of self-embroidered fabric handkerchiefs or “table covers”, in English also handkerchief? Well, we had not … But that’s why we were in Artesanal.
Hand embroidery on so-called fabric handkerchiefs are attached here – Lenco dos namarados.
The whole thing has a historical background, formerly these (with spells or poems) provided his / her future / r to seal the engagement. Since many people were formerly the Portuguese spelling not yet master, some mistakes can be found on handkerchiefs – those mistakes were copied by the knitting ladies nowadays as well – in order to make them look more authentic.
We met some of the seamstresses who proudly showed us their work.
Letra craft beer
Our 2nd stop in Vila Verde was more our thing.
Not that we did not like the embroidery, but a brewery is just more of our area of interests, especially when vloggers called Beer4Breakfast are on this trip. Letra is a small brewery that produces different kinds of craft beer.
Each beer starts with a different letter and is brewed differently. Our favorite was definitely the letter F – an India Pale Ale. Of course, we also took a souvenir for home – but we will come to our suitcase story later :P
Festa das Colheitas
We were really looking forward to our evening program. Our guides Marisa and Daniel took us to a traditional Portuguese festival. The Festa das Colheitas is a agriculture fair.
In addition to tractor exhibitors, there were tons of good food as well as a hall with wine / fire water and other spirits exhibitors.
Although the mass of food (and especially the meat) at first took some getting used to, they had us with the delicious desserts. We also tasted a lot of wine and sparkling wines and had interesting conversations with local wine merchants.
A very successful evening. The highlight was the Portuguese firewater – a liquor from Portugal.
DAY 2 – THE BEAUTY OF NATURE
The second day of our trip was dedicated to the nature of Minho. We left early in the morning with our “Hippy Van” aka an ancient Mercedes Vito towards Peneda – Geres National Park.
The drive took over an hour. The drive there was a blast and it was wonderful to finally get to know the other couples better.
Peneda Geres National Park
We were accompanied by a lady who has been working in the national park for over 20 years. The National Park is one of the few national parks in the world inhabited by civilians, and the only national park in Portugal. The park is accessible from Portugal as well as from the Spanish side.
We used the Ambos os Rios entrance. At first we were not sure what to expect, as the area is huge, and we had only about 5 hours to explore.
The first stop was Germil – a “village” in the national park. The location is really a bit remote, since maybe 4 houses were in this area. We got the opportunity to see a typical house from the inside – really cool and totally unexpected decor. The nice owner proudly showed us the premises and the wonderful garden, which can also be rented to tourists.
We continued to Brufe, where we had an excellent lunch at Restaurante Oabocanhado.
A small staircase leads from the street to the restaurant, which turned out to be a beautiful piece of jewelry – a modern building with a glass front and a spectacular view over the nature of Portugal. As always, the hosts were more than accommodating and proudly served their Portuguese specialties. The mixture of the amazing architecture in combination with the tradition of the national parks inhabitants is more than successful, we were thrilled.
The last stop was over the old Roman road to the dam.
On the way, we even met some wild cows.
We finally had the opportunity to use the spa area of the hotel in the evening, before we headed to a five course dinner in our hotel. Another adventurous day came to an end and we looked forward to our last day with mixed feelings – since we were so not ready to leave Minho yet.
DAY 3 – THE CULTURE OF MINHO
Our last day was dedicated to the culture of Minho
First stop: The basilica of Sameiro. Sameiro is located west of Braga and offers a breathtaking view of the city – also called Gates to heaven. Here’s one of our coolest snapshots.
Although we are not really interested in churches, this is one is something very special, and people not only come for the church, but for the wonderful view.
This church serves many people as a place of pilgrimage. The most striking feature is the Baroque monumental staircase, which leads to a height difference of 116 meters.
The highlight, however, is not the church itself, but the stalactite cave, which is located right next to it. Our tip: drink something in the bistro next to it, there you have a wonderful view and you can immerse yourself in the culture of this place.
The old town of Braga is a pearl in itself. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to enjoy the city to the fullest, but the sweet cafes and the people there make you feel like you’re in another world. Braga is the oldest city in Portugal and also known as the city of the archbishops.
Portugal’s birthplace, located about 40 minutes from Braga. We visited the castle as well as the old ruins. What was more interesting to us than these tourist spots was the old town.
Now we can finally understand our Portuguese fellow citizens in Luxembourg, sitting and celebrating on the street, talking to neighbors and enjoying life. Guimaraes is exactly this kind of flair, and a big beer on one of the countless terraces costs just € 2.50!
Local Portuguese dinner
Honestly, we were more than skeptical when our guide Marisa told us that we would be having dinner with her family (and if the Portuguese are speaking about family, at least 3 generations are involved).
The evening, however, turned out to be one of the most beautiful and homely evenings ever!
We felt so comfortable with her family that it didn’t feel like they were strangers. There were at least 15 different typical dishes which were prepared by Marisa’s mom and grandma.
You are wondering how we communicated? Well with our hands and legs.
The head of the family, the grandpa spoke a little bit French, which made it easier for us to communicate with him. The spark leaped over, as we (as skilful connoisseurs) tried the portuguese liquor called firewater and the fact that we loved it and knew how to drink. We explained to him that we were very interested in the distillation and the culture of this liquor. At this point, we would like to thank Marisa and Daniel again for this experience.
The last day of our trip was coming to an end, and we spent the night sitting in our room chatting and drinking wine with our fellow blogger / vlogger – we miss them already!
The Minho region hides far away from tourist spots such as Porto, the Algave or Lisbon, reflecting the true flair of Portugal and the culture of the locals.
Whether relaxing in the heart of the Vinho Verde wine-growing area, a leisurely trip through the national park or a quick stroll through the city of Braga, Minho, like its inhabitants, is a diamond in the rough. Through our trip we were allowed to dive deep into the culture of Minhos and the impressions gained will be remembered forever.
The culture in this region, and especially the people, taught us one thing in particular: to enjoy the little things in life and to enjoy life more, without being constantly dissatisfied.
Due to the lack of time, our program was relatively tight planned, otherwise it would not have been possible to visit so many places. Unfortunately, we did not have the time for spontaneous activities and other foolish things that we usually do on our trips.
Nevertheless, it was a successful trip and we would like to once again thank our super guides Marisa and Daniel, who are also head of the travel agency Rumo Norte.
In case we aroused your desire to travel to the Minho region, we advise you to contact Rumo Norte travel agency as they will put together your tailor made trip and even if you are not so much into outdoor activities, they know where the coolest bars and most beautiful places are!
By the way, Rumo Norte is EXTREMELY LGBTQ friendly!
The time in Minho was a lot of things, but certainly not uninteresting. We are immensely grateful for this experience and the cool blogger friendships we made with the girls of Beer4Breakfast and A2Ytravelers and look forward to seeing them again soon.
Minho is definitely an area where LGBTQ couples are welcome.
The area is mainly restricted to outdoor activities, trips to the surrounding towns, villages and wine tours. Minho is a great destination for traveler-seeking queer couples.
We and the other two LGBTQ couples at the Torre De Gomariz Hotel felt 100% comfortable and didn’t have to hide our sexual orientation either from the staff, nor from the other guests.
Portugal and especially the North seems very traditional and conservative at first sight, but we can ensure you that we were everywhere welcomed with open arms and that our sexual orientation did not play any role.