Monday 3 February
Today we drove from Seville to Lisbon (the capital of Portugal). There was not a lot of traffic and the roads were in good condition. A couple of stops in an easy drive.
We arrived in Lisbon about 3pm and found the street we needed but it was totally blocked with traffic. It turned out that a car had parked outside the white line and the tram could not go past, which in turn meant nothing else could pass either. Eventually the offending car was towed away, the traffic cleared and we were able to park near enough to our unit to unpack. The unit was advertised as being wheelchair accessible but was over two floors – kitchen / sitting room were on one level with the bedroom and bathroom downstairs! A phone call to the office proved really unhelpful – not their problem and they had no other accommodation available. In addition, the promised free WIFI did not work
Tuesday 4 February
A sightseeing bus tour of Lisbon filled today; we took the Blue Line Belem Tour around the older part of the city. After lunch, we walked over the bridge to catch the Orange Line – Monumental Belem that covered the notable landmarks. To finish they day we caught the Purple Line – Modern Lisbon, around the newer part of the city – rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake.
On the way back to our unit we passed a kitchen ware store and bought a new teapot; unfortunately, the red (travelling) teapot we bought in NZ 2007 finally had to be replaced (an argument with a marble floor).
Wednesday 5 February
We caught the Purple Line bus again this morning around to Stop 6, The Tile Museum and spent the morning wandering through the three floors of the Museum; this was an amazing presentation of the history of ceramic tiles in Portugal since the 15thC. These ceramic tiles have been used extensively on the outside of buildings in a range of patterns – some subtle while others cover the whole wall.
National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) – Lisbon
“Azulejos are the beautiful hand-painted tiles seen on buildings everywhere in Portugal. Portuguese are very proud of this unique and iconic art form that is unique to their heritage. The National Tile Museum (Museu Nacional do Azulejo) provides a showcase for large murals and small decorative ceramic Portuguese tile.
The museum collects, preserves, studies and displays representative copies depicting the evolution of tiles in Portugal. The permanent collection covers the period from the sixteenth century to present. As the museum actually resides in an ancient monastery, the intricately tiled walls of the church, the choir and the chapels of Saint Anthony and Queen Leonor are all on exhibit. As well, visitors are delighted by a room decorated with beautiful tiles from an old nineteenth-century palace kitchen.
From the Museum we caught a cab to the Jeronimos Monastery and started at the Church – another totally different house of worship, austere yet ornate that houses Vasco da Gama’s tomb. From the church we went to the Cloisters next door and wandered around both floors of this section; the ornate carvings in the church were repeated here, but dazzling white marble was used, similar to the outside of the whole edifice.
“The Jeronimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal’s power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. It was built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama’s voyage and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success.
Vasco da Gama’s tomb was placed inside by the entrance, as was the tomb of poet Luis de Camões, author of the epic The Lusiads in which he glorifies the triumphs of Da Gama and his compatriots. Other great figures in Portuguese history are also entombed here, like King Manuel and King Sebastião, and poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.
The monastery was populated by monks of the Order of Saint Jerome (Hieronymites), whose spiritual job was to give guidance to sailors and pray for the king’s soul. It’s one of the great triumphs of European Gothic (UNESCO has classified it a World Heritage monument), with much of the design characterized by elaborate sculptural details and maritime motifs. This style of architecture became known as “Manueline,” a style that served to glorify the great “discoveries” of the age.
The cloisters are magnificent, with each column differently carved with coils of rope, sea monsters, coral, and other sea motifs, evocative of that time of world exploration at sea. Here is also the entrance to the former refectory that has beautiful reticulated vaulting and tile decoration on the walls, depicting the Biblical story of Joseph.
The church interior is spacious with octagonal piers richly decorated with reliefs, and outside is a garden laid out in 1940 consisting of hedges cut in the shape of various municipal coats of arms of Portugal. In the centre is a large fountain also decorated with coats of arms, often illuminated on special occasions.
The garden leads to a small park faced by a row of pretty 16th-century houses that are home to a number of traditional restaurants with outdoor seating. There you can see a curious Thai pavillion, which was built in Bangkok and shipped to Portugal in 2011 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Portuguese arrival in Thailand, which led to the first alliance between that country and a European nation.”
Thursday 6 February
Our morning was spent at the Maritime Museum at the Monastery, reading and reflecting on exploits of the early explorers, their achievements and the craft in which they sailed. It was interesting to understand the extent of the Portuguese Empire in 16, 17 and 18thC. Some of the Royal Barges on display were certainly ornate.
From the Museum we caught a cab to the Marina for the 3pm Yellow Boat Tour; sitting on the seawall eating sorbet while we waited. The ferry was half an hour late, but that did not diminish the two hours of enjoyment as we sailed down past the Monastery and back again. This time seeing many of the previous landmarks from a different perspective.
We walked back to the town square and had dinner before returning to the unit – another activity filled day.
Friday 7 February
The drive from Lisbon to Porto was accomplished by 3.30pm with the majority of the trip on toll-roads that had booths at the end of the strip for you to pay the toll; all except one, that was an e-toll. After lots of research, John finally found how he thought he could organise the e-toll payment to save being fined.
We drove off the highway at one point to have a look at a small inlet and township that John had seen on the internet. We parked and walked across to the seawall; the water was so still there was hardly a ripple and the beach was of the finest sand. The bay looked ideal for swimming, but there were no hardy souls in the water, but several people walking in both directions around the bay. Most of the buildings appeared to be late 19th or early 20thC with little added or updated since then; most of the buildings look as though they were for accommodation – probably a very popular spot in summer.
Sao Martino de Porto
We arrived in Porto late afternoon; the low light and rain gave the old city a sombre appearance. After finding our unit, which was down a narrow lane that we were not allowed to drive to because of a bollards at each end. We unpacked and decided that was enough for today and contented ourselves with the view out the balcony doors over the river. As darkness fell and the lights began appearing, the scene changes to a lit building-scape with light reflections dancing on the ripples created by the watercraft back and forth.
Saturday 8 February
An overcast morning for a Red Bus Tour of Porto that took us up and around the streets of the old city – the few wide enough to accommodate large vehicles.
After a complete circuit, we stayed on the bus until it reached the top of the hill again. Our first visit was into the Carmelite Church
“The Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas are two churches in Porto that stand almost side by side; separated by a very narrow (1 metre wide) house that was inhabited until the 1980’s. The house was built so the two churches would not share a common wall, to prevent any relations between the nuns of Igreja dos Carmelitas and the monks of Igreja do Carmo.
The Igreja dos Carmelitas is the earlier of the two churches; built in the mid-17th century with the exterior completed in 1628. The church was part of a convent that no longer exists.
The facade is done in granite with three arched entrances topped with statues. There is a single bell tower on the left, the top of which is covered with blue and white azulejos tiles.
The interior of the Igreja dos Carmelitas has a single nave with six ornately decorated side chapels. The white ceiling adds a special lightness to the interior aided by the many large windows. The organ has been restored thanks in part to contributions from the general public.
The Igreja do Carmo was built between 1756 and 1768 in the rococo or late Baroque, style by a disciple of Nicolau Nasoni, Jose de Figueiredo Seixas. The Igreja do Carmo has an outstanding azulejo-covered exterior with the azulejos added in 1912. The tiles were made locally in Villa Nova de Gaia and designed by the artist Silvestro Silvestri. They depict scenes of the founding of the Carmelite Order and Mount Carmel.
The exterior facade of the church is richly crafted with a rectangular portal, flanked by two religious sculptures of the prophets Elijah and Elisha carved in Italy.
The interior of the church has a single nave with seven lavish gilt altars, the work of sculptor Francisco Pereira Campanha, as well as a number of fine oil paintings.”
During lunch, light rain began which made out walk to the Porto Tower and Church a little damp.
“The Clérigos Church (“Church of the Clergymen”) is a Baroque church with a tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos that can be seen from various points of the city and was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter.
Construction of the church began in 1732 and was finished in 1750, while the bell tower and the monumental divided stairway in front of the church were completed in 1763. The main façade of the church is heavily decorated with baroque motifs (such as garlands and shells) and an indented broken pediment, based on an early 17th-century Roman scheme. The central frieze above the windows, present symbols of worship and an incense boat. The lateral façades reveal the almost elliptic floorplan of the church and nave.
Clérigos Church Facade
The Clérigos Church was one of the first baroque churches in Portugal to adopt a typical baroque elliptic floorplan. The altarpiece of the main chapel is made of polychromed marble and was executed by Manuel dos Santos Porto.
The monumental tower of the church, located at the back of the building, was only built between 1754 and 1763. The baroque decoration here also shows influence from the Roman Baroque, while the whole design was inspired by Tuscan Campaniles.The tower is 75.6 metres high, dominating the city; there are 240 steps to be climbed to reach the top of its six floors and has become the symbol of the city.
In June 2015, the Clérigos Brotherhood announced that after 250 years, the Clérigos Tower and Church would open its doors during night-time hours.”
“In the year 1753, at the request of the Brotherhood of Clerics, the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni presented the project for a bell tower, and in 1754 they would start the works of what would become the most beautiful Tower, dominating the entire urban landscape of Porto. In July 1763, with the placing of the iron cross on the top, and the image of St. Paul in the niche above the door, its construction was finished.
The baroque characteristics that define it are the maximum expression of the baroque spectacular, where the typical motifs of this style give the tower movement and beauty.
At more than 75m high, the view over the city is absolutely stunning. From a 360° perspective, visitors can enjoy a unique moment, whether day or night, when in special times, the tower opens its doors until 11 PM.”
We spent time sitting in the Church amazed at the colours of marble used in the ceiling, floor, walls and columns and the design that was quite different.
The Sacristy also housed a wide range of interesting religious items – particularly the Senior Cleric’s Chair / Throne from an Exhibition of the Best Furniture in the World.
I then sat and reflected while John climbed all those stairs of the Tower as well as wander through the other parts of the Church that his ticket enabled.
The light rain had stopped by the time we left the top of the hill to wander back down to the riverside. We meandered down winding, narrow streets that housed a myriad of souvenir stores and other shops to tempt the tourists to spend their money.
It was amazing to see how many churches there were in amongst the other buildings – by turning and gazing back up the hill, it was hard to see where one building ended and the next one began.
We were tempted by the sorbet on the walk and rested while we enjoyed the treat.
“The Church of São Francisco do Porto, the Monument Church of Saint Francis is the most prominent Gothic monument in Porto, Portugal, also noted for its outstanding Baroque inner decoration. It is located in the historic centre of the city, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This Church started being built in the 13th century but suffered several delays and accidents on the way; 1383 the works actively progressed with the Cathedral finally completed in 1410, under the patronage of King John I.
From the street, it is easy to see the stately south wall of the building, with its Gothic arches, windows and rosettes, as well as the granite staircase that leads up to the main door. Next to the church, there is a picturesque tram station, with connections to other parts of the city.
Outside the main door (17thC) of the church you will see a large statue of St Francis(13thC) while inside, the decor is less sober: the gilded baroque columns and altars show contrast with the sobriety of the exterior. The church is composed of three large naves, all gold-plated; it is estimate that more than 650 pounds of gold where used to cover the whole church.
In the 16th century, several noble families contributed to the Order of St. Francis, the “manuelinas” chapels around the major nave are from that period.
In the 18th century the interior of the church became even more rich in its ornamentation. The sumptuous Baroque style, provided by the arrival of gold from Brazil, became the main decoration of the church.
The most famous altarpiece of the Church of São Francisco is the “Tree of Jesse”, from 1718. The piece represented all generations of Jesse and king David to Jesus Christ.
Through the Church of São Francisco, you can access to the catacombs of the city, a series of underground galleries where some Franciscan friars and some noble personalities of the city are buried.
It was now 5pm; the fading daylight made it quite dark inside the Cathedral; the only light coming from the naves that were gently lit for visitors to see the decorations. The low light helped to emphasise the height within the building, giving an almost ethereal impression.
From the Cathedral we walked across the courtyard to the Museum; “the Treasure Room” is another example of the rich history of faith over the ages. Several exhibits were noteworthy: ordination documents dating from the 1780s, a gold embroidered red damask bedspread as well as several jewel-encrusted, gold chalices.
John visited the crypts in the basement. It was now after closing time and the staff were becoming more pronounced in their efforts to have the last of the visitors leave.
Quite enough for today.
Sunday 9 February
The fog rolled in very early, slowly lifted during the morning and then hung just above Cathedral height for the remainder of the day; light rain set-in late morning.
Our morning was spent on a Bridges River Cruise; heading upstream to start and then down to the mouth of the Douro River before returning to the dock just below our unit.
I had a few things on my list so headed out for a walk in an overcast sky. I walked along to the bridge where there was a funicular railway which took me up a steep bank to the street above, from there I walked up to one of the blue tiled churches for a photo and then on to the main shopping street and although it was Sunday there were a few people wandering up and down, I did note a cylinder shaped shop which contained all the well-known brands of shoes.
Around a few more streets and back to the railway station which had three walls covered in tiles depicting early life in Porto. The station was the end of the line and as the trains left the station they immediately entered a tunnel, so steep is the country around here.
Along the street further to another old church for which I paid an admission of 3.00 Euro, it all helps to keep the doors open these days with dwindling parishioners & lots of tourists. Upstairs to the cloister which had two walls of tiles and up the tower for a view over the city and river, once again an indication of the close living in these old cities.
It started to drizzle lightly but I carried on walking across the rail section of the bridge over the river. A couple of trains passed as I walked across but at a very slow pace in recognition of the tourist taking photos and wandering everywhere. I did note that checker plate had been placed over the whole area and just leaving the four tracks open. The drizzle lightened off to a light mist and enable me to enjoy the crossing and take the necessary photos to remind me of the occasion.
On the other side I walked down a very narrow and steep street to the lower vehicle bridge and returned to our side and along the waterfront past all the restaurants to our unit.
Gae & I took one last look around the riverside before the daylight faded all together.
Monday 10 February
Our drive from Porto to Braganca was along the scenic roads beside the Douro River; mostly high above the river with a sheer drop to the water if you ran off the road. During the summer season, river cruises are a popular tourist activity – we saw many cruise vessels tied-up at several locations along the river. It was surprising how many villages we passed through along the way – most built out of stone, clinging to the steep slopes.
The flowers we have seen in Portugal have been stunning: magnolias, camelias, daffodils, daphne, wattle and blossom trees of glorious shades of dark pink to deep red. Most of the trees looked really old with many of the these growing in the wild, but the blooms were all magnificent.
As we drove toward Pinhao, we could see the miles of tiered vineyards which are UNESCO Heritage sites. The hills are covered with rock walls about 1 metre high and 2 metres wide across the hill to give purchase for the vines which were in various stages of being pruned.
“Pinhão is considered to be the geographical centre of the Douro demarcated wine region, and it is here that many of the Port wine estates are to be found, some of which offer accommodation under the system of rural tourism.
A late lunch in Pinhao was delicious and John bought himself a bottle of Port using the proprietor’s recommendation; this was accompanied by a brief overview of the port wine industry in this region as well as its UNESCO Heritage.
Worthy of particular attention here is the railway station, built at the end of the nineteenth century, the inside of which is entirely lined with panels of azulejos.”
The railway station was a beautiful site – covered in ceramic tiles.
The reminder of the trip to Braganca was on highways – the same distance as this morning and half the time taken – but not nearly as interesting.
Portugal or the EU has spent a lot of money to provide duel carriage roads in the north east to connect with Spain.
The Ibis hotel we stayed at overnight was in a new part of the city with convenient access to the ring road around the city. This is our last night in Portugal as we cross the border about 10km out of town on our 530km journey to San Sebastian.
We say farewell to Portugal and go into the northern part of Spain as we continue our journey.