Guimarães - a city where the heart belongs
A week on from Valentine's Day, the yearly day of commercialised romantic love, I hope you have all recovered, be it from celebration, disappointment, joy or sheer dislike of the whole concept.
Personally, I am of the opinion that love happens on any given day of the year and to push a particular celebration on couples is somewhat conceited, serving mainly the greeting card, chocolate and flower industries. It’s a little like foie gras; loved as a delicacy but detested by many for its force-fed approach.
To show that love can happen at any time of the year, I thought I would take a moment to share with you a city obsessed with hearts: Guimarães in the Braga region of Northern Portugal.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this gorgeous medieval town is one residents are quite right to love. The heart motif came to represent the city when it was a European Capital of Culture in 2012 and was a huge success, embraced and reinterpreted to the extent that everywhere you look - there it is.
Guimarães is considered by some to be the place where the Portuguese nationality was born. This is largely due to its deciding role in a battle in 1128 that led to the formation of a unified Portugal. Poignantly, on one of the towers in the old city wall, it says: "Aqui nasceu Portugal" (Portugal was born here).
The city has a vibrant cultural life, museums, art galleries and plenty of festivities. There are gorgeous little squares, crowded with cafés and people milling about, quirky little shops and an excellent atmosphere. All in all an wonderful place to spend the day or indeed longer. No wonder it was ranked the second most livable city in Portugal in 2008 and voted one of 41 places to go in 2011 by the New York Times. Why they chose 41, who knows, but Guimarães was one of them!
I particularly loved how the hearts came in a vast array of colours and textures, but always retained the same shape. It somehow invoked a childish feeling in me of wanting to get out my arts and crafts box and decorate one myself!