Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Portugal - Leaving Porto V

And the day arrived that we had to leave Porto. After packing our bags we relaxed for a short while on the terrace watching the trials for that weekend's Red Bull Air Race World championship, which was taking place that weekend of the 2nd and 3rd September.

Red Bull Air Race World championship

I had first seen these races over the Swan River when we arrived in Perth in 2007.
The event was held here in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, but there were safety concerns when a race plane crashed into the Swan River in 2010 and there were no more races here.

The previous days we had seen things being installed in the middle of the Douro river, control towers coming up, etc, etc, so it was actually exciting to finally see some action.

My husband was thrilled he could see the first training session taking place that Friday, and sad I hadn't actually booked the apartment for the weekend....but I had no idea the race was taking place then. 

The Arrabida Bridge, and a place going through those inflatable towers 

Photo taken from our bedroom on the first floor with my husband, daughter and partner on the terrace watching the races
After a short while it was really time to say goodbye to Porto and the wonderful time we had there, and we headed to the city of Braga, about 50km North to meet up with a friend from the time when we lived in South Africa.

Our Porto apartment was just around the corner at the bottom of this road


When we arrived I contacted my friend and arranged to meet in the city centre to have lunch and to catch up on each other's lives.

The town was all decked out in white - flags, balloons, window decor - as "White Night festival" was being held that weekend too.
White Night festival
Braga - old monuments & modern solar panel tree

Me, my friend C, my daughter, my friend's husband M and my husband

After lunch it was time to have a coffee and cake at a pastry shop, and with so many choices it was difficult to choose just one! I went with the delicious "white bean cake".

Plenty of cakes, cheeses and Quince marmelade

And it was again time to leave and drive to Cascais (30km from Lisbon), where my family lives, and where we would stay for the next 15 days.

PS: Don't know if you heard about the terrible fires that affected the center and north of Portugal on Sunday and Monday (15th & 16th Oct) - The city of Braga (at top) was affected, but also the city of Leiria, where we had our first family and friends lunch was surrounded by fire. The town where we used to live in the center of Portugal (Carregal do Sal, between Viseu and Coimbra) and surrounding villages were also badly affected. From family and friends that live there I heard that about 70% of the forested area around it has been burned, some people lost their houses, many lost their crops, farm animals and there were 4 lives lost. In total 36 people died that weekend.
I was also sad to hear that "Quinta da Lontra" where we stayed with our family when attending our grandson's christening and our daughter's engagment, has also burned down.
I had sent the owners Toby and Nina a message as soon as I heard about fires in the area, but haven't yet heard from them. Hope they are safe, even though they lost their beautiful estate and business.

You can read about Leiria and Quinta da Lontra, the christening and my daughter's engagement party via these links:        

Monday, 16 October 2017

Monday Mural - Black or White

This mural painted on the building across from where my parents live, was my favourite of about 14 or so murals I came across in Cascais, Portugal. This was certainly my favourite. 

Painted by Moksha - "Black or White" can be found in Rua Maria Auxiliadora, Cascais.

For other murals from around the world check this link:

Thanks to Mariette who sent me a link about the artist.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Portugal - Porto IV

And finally we got to drive to the Douro wine region of Pinhão, 126km east of Porto.

Through winding roads next to slopes covered with grape vines we reached the picturesque town of Pinhao. On the banks of the Douro River, it's a quiet town, but due to it's location is essential to the transport of Port wine and a starting point for those who exploring the Douro valley by boat. 
It's also known for having one of the prettiest train stations in Portugal and also has a railway bridge that was designed by Gustave Eiffel himself in the 19th century.

Pinhão Train Station

The Douro landscapes are easily identified by the slopes which were built in the 1970's in a way that made it possible to plant terraced vineyards, with each terrace surrounded by shale walls. The area has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2001.

Pinhao Train station, terraced vineyards

Tiled panels at Station

The train station, which opened in 1937 is famous for the 24 gorgeous panels of blue and white tiles (azulejos) depicting scenes from the harvesting of the grapes and daily life in rural areas.
We parked our car near the station, took photos, asked for recommendations for a restaurant for our lunch and then walked down to the river's edge.

Views of river from restaurant

We had lunch at Veladouro restaurant across the river beach - it was packed and service was slow, the food was reasonable, fish was fresh, but son in law ordered steak which was quite tough!
After lunch we drove uphill to Quinta do Seixo (Sandeman estate) to join a Port wine tour.

The 19th century bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel

View of village of Pinhao as we climbed to Sandeman estate, bridge designed by Eiffel (top left)

Quinta do Seixo (Sandeman estate)

Sandeman, is a brand of Port wines founded in 1790 by the Englishman George Sandeman. The logo features a caped man - Don - wearing a Portuguese student's black cape and a wide Spanish hat.
The company remained a family business until it was bought out by the drinks company Seagram in 1970 which then sold it to Sogrape in 2001. A descendant of the original Sandeman - George Thomas David Sandeman is a member of the board of Sogrape Vinhos (wines).

The tour guided by the Sandeman Don who explained the production process and the characteristics which make the Douro region so unique.
After the tour you can taste some Port wines  while enjoying the panoramic view of the valley and river.

A boat tour on the Douro

The train going past next to the Douro River

I just can't explain how beautiful the region is, and I don't think the photos convey that beauty and tranquility!
You can also take a train from Porto to this area and travel through some of the most beautiful scenery of Northern Portugal.

And it was time to return to Porto and prepare for dinner with our friends G & J who live there, the same ones with whom my daughter and I had coffee the day before.

While everyone got ready I took some photos from our terrace of the preparations going on on the Douro river for the Red Bull Air Race Championship that would be held there on the weekend (2nd & 3rd September). 

Dinner at Dona Porto/ Drinks at Hard Rock

And guess what?  They asked us to meet them at Dona Porto Restaurant (Rua Campo dos Mártires da Pátria 64) where they eat frequently. 
It was just a short walk for us, and the name sounded familiar, but it was only when we arrived there that we realized it was the same restaurant where we had our first lunch the day after our arrival in Porto.  Great dinner and once again I admired the decor and all the art they had on the walls, and even got an idea for a canvas with Portuguese azulejos ... (will show when I have done it).

Dona Porto restaurant

Image result for hard rock cafe, porto
Hard Rock Cafe - photo from net
After dinner we walked around the area to go and have a drink, but the places my friends knew were full even though it was a Thursday.
We finally settled on the Hard Rock Cafe at Rua do Almada, just off Avenida dos Aliados (Allied avenue) and sat outside. I had a Port Tonic (port wine & tonic water) - just one of the new cocktails made with Port Wine. It was nice, refreshing and not too alcoholic.

And it was after midnight when returned home. The next day we would be leaving Porto.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Portugal - Porto III

Garden of Virtues

Day three started with us having breakfast at a nearby coffee shop - Cafe El Reys, just across from Jardim das Virtudes  (Garden of virtues). 
Situated just behind the Court House, this vertical garden is apparently not a very well known garden with the locals, and even I didn't get to go down the park as I had no idea where the entry was. Next time! 
At the top there were some statues and an old fountain built in 1618, at the end of the street. The supporting wall was around the garden was built in the 18th century. The views over the river were spectacular.
The horses statue is called - The 4 cavaliers of the Apocalipse,1956/ Old fountain/ View over Porto
Carmo & Carmelitas Churches

After breakfast we walked about 600mt to find two churches, which are just across from Porto's university building in Rua do Carmo, and located close to the Clérigos Tower, Cordoaria Gardens and Lello Bookshop.
The two churches are separated by a 1mt wide house which was inhabited until the 1980's. It was built due to a State rule that two churches couldn't share a wall, and also to ensure chastity between the nuns and the monks of either church.
I wonder if they didn't see each other outside church?

Carmo and Carmelitas churches
On the left Igreja dos Carmelitas (Carmelite church) - was built in the mid 17th century, completed in 1628.
With a granite facade, the 3 arched entrances topped with statues, the bell tower is covered with blue and white tiles.The church was used as barracks during the French Invasion of Porto (1808-1814).

On the right, Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church) - was built between 1756 and 1768 in a rococo or baroque style, and has one of it's exterior walls covered in blue and white tiles (azulejos) which were added in 1912, depicting scenes of the founding of the Carmelite order in Israel. They were designed by Silvestro Silvestri and made across the river in Gaia.
Lello & Irmão Bookstore 

Just down the road, is Lello bookshop, which is considered one of most beautiful bookshops in the world. 

Founded in 1881 the bookshop moved into the current building in 1906. The building has a neo-gothic facade with figures representing Art and Science. The interior is stunning and was designed by Xavier Esteves, with a marvelous red staircase in the center, wooden walls, stained glass ceiling with Lello's motto - "decus in labore" (There is honour in work).

The Lello building, the doorman in a fancy suit, our tickets, Centenary of Lello bookshop in 1981

It's rumoured that J.K.Rowling's inspiration to write Harry Potter began in this library. The well known writer lived in Porto for 10 years in the 1990's working as an English teacher.
I haven't read the books or seen the movies, (sorry to all the fans, but not a fan of fantasy) but apparently there are similarities between Lello's staircase and the one in Hogwarts. Also the Hogwart's black capes could have been inspired on the University capes students use in Portugal, and Porto's university is located nearby.

With all the fame, the only way to visit this bookshop is if you a ticket (4) which can then be redeemed if you purchase a book - English and French books also available.

When we saw the huge queue to go in, my husband and son in law gave up straight away and scurried across the road to the coffee shop. My daughter and I bought the tickets, which are sold at the adjoining shop, where you are able to take photos of some "staged props" and you can buy postcards, books, crafts, etc.

Then we went back outside to join the long queue that went around the building. It only took us about 20 minutes before we were able to go in, so it wasn't that bad.

The bookshop is indeed very pretty, although there are so many people it's difficult to get a good photo without dozens of people in them!
Downstairs area - with Harry Potter scenes
Me on the staircase, intricate wooden rails, stained glass ceiling 

I bought a health book and then found a story book for grandparents to read to their grandkids, so both of us were able to get our entry ticket rebated in the price.

If you peep outside the windows you are able to get a good view of the Jardim das Oliveiras (Olive garden) with 50 olive trees and the Clerigos Tower across the park.  (It was actually very foggy, so couldn't see too much beyond).   The Olive Garden built over a parking garage at Praça de Lisboa (Lisbon Square), was a successful project that brought people and commerce to this area of Porto. 
At one end of the park is the statue of D. Antonio Ferreira Gomes, a Catholic bishop that
fought against the fascist regime in Portugal. 
View from Lello bookshop over the Olive Garden and Clerigos Tower, 
statues in the park - Bishop Antonio Ferreira Gomes

Praca de Lisboa - seen from the top (photo from the net)

                                                                                                                                                                After the visit to the bookshop we walked 5 min. until Rua da Flores to find a place to have lunch.

Rua das Flores (Flower's street)

Near São Bento station, this street in the heart of Porto is a hive of activity from morning to night.
The buildings have been renovated, the electricity boxes are decorated with drawings (murals), there are plenty of coffee shops, boutiques, delicatessen...
Once more I found beautiful doors and windows and loads of different tiles buildings.
You can sit down at one of the Cafe's, have a coffee and a Pastel de Nata (custard tart) and watch the world go by.

Doors, windows, tiles, decorated buildings and murals

But we were all getting quite hungry and decided that we would like to visit the Bom Sucesso Market for our lunch. We started by walking, but the mobile GPS indicated it was a 2km walk, so we took a taxi instead. Taxis are reasonably cheap in Portugal and the trip cost us 4!

Bom Sucesso Market

This market from the 1940's was revamped recently and is now an airy and light 3,200m2 building, with a fresh produce market, food court with 44 shops and a 4 star hotel - Hotel da Musica (Music hotel).

The produce market sells fish, meat, fruit and vegetables from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday.
The food court is open Sunday to Thursday from 10am to 11pm, and has a great variety of stands selling from from Portuguese, Italian, Japanese and others, to fresh juices, wines, bread, coffee and pastries. If you're looking for a foodie gift, there are a couple of gourmet shops that sell edible goodies like cheese, olive oils, preserves and honey.

Bom sucesso market - food and gourmet shops

Lunch of Alheira Risotto, Codfish and Suckling Pig from Bom Sucesso market

My husband, daughter and son in law went for the Portuguese traditional dishes and I went for a risotto with alheira (chicken and bread sausage).
Alheira is something we don't get in Perth (or at least the ones I found here weren't very good, and is one of my favourite sausages - fried and served with chips and egg.

You might be interested in reading about this special sausage that saved Jewish lives in the 15th century.

Casa da Musica

After lunch we walked to the Casa da Musica (Music House) nearby and crossed  huge roundabout - Rotunda da Boavista. It honours Mouzinho de Albuquerque, a Portuguese soldier who fought in Africa during the 19th century.
In the middle of the huge roundabout stands a 45 mt high column topped by a lion over an eagle, commemorating the victory of the Portuguese against the French troops that invaded Portugal during the Peninsular war (1807-1814).
As for the Music House - a concert hall, there were tours of the building, but we would have to wait for a while, so we decided against it.

Monument of Peninsular war/  Casa da Musica

Holy Trinity Church & City Hall

Walking downtown again we came across Igreja da Trindade or Holy Trinity Church just behind Porto's Town Hall. It was opened to the public in 1841, and the architect, Carlos Amarante is buried in the church.

Just before we got to the Town Hall, my husband and son in law decided they had enough of walking and sight-seeing and were returning home to rest.
My daughter and I continued, as there were still a few things to see on the list.
I contacted a friend of ours who lives in Porto and works just across from the Town Hall, and both her and her husband met us for a coffee nearby.
Holy Trinity Church
Porto's  City Hall
 The  City Hall built in 1920, at the top of the Aliados Avenue (Allied Avenue) downtown, is another of Porto's famous landmarks. It's an imposing building with a 70mt high tower with a carillon clock.

After coffee with our friends G and J, my daughter and I walked a few blocks to the next landmark.

Chapel of Souls

The Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls) on Rua Santa Catarina (close to Santa Catarina shopping centre) is a church that is covered in the traditional blue and white azulejos, depicting the lives of various Saints. The tiles are painted in a classic 18th century style, but they were painted in the 20th century.

The tiled Chapel of Souls
It was time to start making our way home via a few more of Porto's landmarks.

Majestic Cafe

There was no time to stop for tea and cake at Porto's most beautiful Cafe, so it was just a quick peek in. It dates back to 1921 and also located on Santa Catarina Street, has a gorgeous facade and the most beautiful interior!
On the other corners are others buildings with beautiful architecture and the most beautiful door just across from the coffee shop.

On the left - lovely architecture / on the right - Majestic cafe facade and inside, and most beautiful shop door.

Just around the corner we came across the Statue of King Pedro V, the National Theatre and another beautiful church - Santa Clara church, with azulejos covered facade. Apparently the interior is magnificent, but it was closed for restoration.

Pedro V statue, National Theatre, Santa Clara Church, Tram and old city walls behind it, Statue of Vimara Peres, count of Portucale during 868 to 873.

Porto Cathedral 

Nearby was Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto), a Roman Catholic church located in Porto's historical centre, constructed around 1110, making it one the city's oldest monuments!
The cathedral is flanked by two square towers crowned with a cupola. It benefited from renovations in the 18th century. Entry is free, but there's a fee to visit the Cloisters and Museum.
The views over Porto from here are also fabulous.

Porto's Cathedral
And we are on the final stretch of our day, going down the narrow streets towards home, we go past Igreja de Sao Lourenco or Igreja dos Grilos (Church St Lawrence or Church of Crickets) a church and convent built in 1577 by the Jesuits. Today the premises belong to Porto's seminary.
There's a lookout next to it, where we had previously been night before when we had dinner at Portugues de Gema. 

St Lawrence Church and lookout, and Porto's cathedral

Home & Dinner

And we finally arrived home at almost 8,30! The sun was setting and I sat down enjoying the amazing views from the terrace.
Just after 9pm we left home for dinner at "Casa Virtude" restaurant just across from the Garden of Virtues, from where we had left this morning.
A great restaurant with great food, and after dinner we were ready to crash into bed.

Sunset views from the terrace

Dinner at Casa Virtude restaurant
And so ends another very busy day in Porto.  Next time we visit the Port wine region of Pinhao.