While on the other post I covered a few basics in terms of what to see and do in Gerês now I’ll be letting you in on a few tips about what to buy and what/where to eat. Because, let’s face it: Even if you’re travelling on a very tight budget it doesn’t mean you can’t have any fun. Right? Right!
All the things I’m mentioning here can be bought in Caldas do Gerês, although they’re not always produced there.
Tea and honey are, probably, the most common items you’ll see for sale in the region. It has to do, basically, with two aspects: the fact that this is a natural park, so there are plenty of plants with medicinal uses as well as bees and the fact that drinking herbal tea with a bit of honey is associated with healthy habits adopted by many people who go to Gerês for the thermal baths. That being said, I’d like to highlight a tea and a honey in particular: Hipericão do Gerês (Hypericum androsaemum if you’re curious about these things) and the certified-organic-award-winning honey of Montalegre.
Next on the list: Wine! I know you missed me talking about wine… And this one has a funny name: vinho dos mortos, aka, wine of the dead. Sounds spooky? You’re the one who’ll sound spooky after a glass too many. This wine has its origins in the time of the Napoleonic invasions: People tried to save their wine from being stolen by the French soldiers and they hid it underground. At first they thought the wine had been spoiled but they soon discovered that it was actually better: a nicer bouquet, a graduation of 10º/11º and a bit of gas. Technically, this is not from Gerês, but from Boticas, a bit more to the east.
On the main street of Caldas do Gerês there’s a small B&B with yellow awnings called Central Jardim – that’s where you’ll find pastéis de Sta Eufémia. Apparently, and contrary to most places in Portugal, this area didn’t have its own traditional pastry/sweet so they came up with the idea of creating one and giving it the name of the patron saint of Gerês. They’re sold in packs of six and they’re flaky pastries filled with an egg-coconut mix. Delicious, I tell you!
After a glass of wine and a sweet pastry we’ve got cheese! Orelhudos do Gerês is the name of the cheese being sold at one of the local supermarkets. It’s made with goat milk, being semi-soft (can you say that about a cheese? I just made this up, but you get what I mean), very tasty and with no strong cheesy smell.
But Gerês is not just about food – there’s also handicraft. I’d like to highlight a family-owned wooden handicraft business. They’re simply called Artesanato do Gerês and you’ll find their two shops in Caldas do Gerês. Are you a big spender? Perhaps you’re travelling on a budget. No matter, there’s something here for everyone. The cool wind chime dragon at the beginning of the post? They made it! The wooden hiking pole shown bellow? One of their models that can be found on the shop. Whether you’re looking for old style wooden toys that were common decades ago or even if you’re a fridge magnet fan, fear not: they cater to everyone’s tastes and purses.
Also big in Gerês, when it comes to handicrafts, are linens. More or less elaborate, more or less colourful, more or less expensive, it’s easy to find them just about anywhere.
Last but not least a few quick words about places to eat: Like I mentioned before choices are a bit limited here – but they do exist! Here are my three favourite places:
– Vai…vai – located on the main street of Caldas do Gerês it’s the right place to go for a coffee, a snack, a light meal, or to simply have a beer while you’re watching a game on the telly. They have soup, sandwiches, hamburgers, steaks, a couple of pastas, pizzas, and salads, but they also have crepes and ice cream. If you’d like to buy a sandwich or bread to take with you they also have them. Simple stuff for a reasonable price. They have some tables outside if you’re a fan of people watching while having a cold drink!
– Geresino – close to the center of Caldas do Gerês it’s a good place to go to if you’re in the mood for more traditional home style food, with an emphasis on grilled stuff. Simple, yet delicious, well prepared food. Lots of parking space just in front.
– Lírio do Gerês – a small restaurant/café on the main street. If you think everything in Gerês feels too rough and wild and you miss a prettied-up plate this is where you can go to. Although I wouldn’t call it fancy, the truth is they do pay attention to the décor of the place and of the food on your plate. Everything looks modern and fresh but then there’s the detail of the traditional cotton embroidered bread bag and the small glass container for the vinegar and olive oil, which make up for a cute dining experience. Besides, food is delicious and I highly recommend the desserts, with their mix of traditional and modern. They have good wines at a very good price.
Feeling a bit stuffed after all this talk about food? Don’t worry: You can hike if you want to! There are almost endless hiking possibilities in this part of the country, whether you’re an experienced hiker or a newbie. I’ll be sharing my personal experience regarding the 9 km hike (about 5.6 miles) I did in Gerês. When will that be? Soooon… 😉