Tag Archives: Tiles

Portugal, Porto

It’s been four years since I was last in Porto so I did fewer of the obviously touristy things but instead enjoyed wandering about and seeing some art museums and taking a couple of easy day trips from here (Aveiro and GuimarĂ£es – see separate posts).

Last time I stayed a couple of kilometres out at a lovely palace hotel along the river: this time I stayed in the centre of the town in a great apartment (strongly recommend Leftheshomes if you are thinking of coming).

The city retains its charm and is very colourful.

The bridge below connects the old town to the port wine cellar area. Didn’t visit any this year but if you haven’t been port wine tasting while sitting outside and surveying the old town on the other side of the river is a must.

Like Lisbon there are plenty of old style trams and fabulous tiles everywhere you look. Coffee shops abound tempting me to enjoy far too many pasteis de nata and pretty green squares.

The building below is officially one of the worlds most beautiful book shops Livraria Lello. Thankfully I visited last time I was here. Why so popular that you have to pay Euros 5 to get in? It is supposedly the bookshop that JK Rowling used as a model for parts of Hogwarts – they urban myths abound as she lived here for a couple of years before she became famous. Still even from the outside it is gorgeous.

This the beautiful Sao Bento station interior with spectacular tiles – this is a place I never get bored of visiting.

The week I arrived happened to be student graduation week when the city goes a little crazy with celebrations and lots of different outfits warm on one day when thousands of students walk down the hill on their knees in the costume of their college. On the Sunday which was calmer I snapped the more formal – with parents – grad day. The colours and badges they wear relate to the nature of the course they have taken. The urban myth is that JK Rowling took these as inspiration for the clothing worn by Harry Potter and others in the four houses of Hogwarts. Could be …..

As usual I took an evening food walking tour which involved a lot of wine and a speciality chicken sausage. Not my favourite but interesting to me because it is based on the sausage the “converso” Jews used to make and hang outside their doors during the inquisition to prove they had truly converted to Catholicism- apparently back then no-one has the imagination to believe that a sausage could be anything other than pork!

Loved the coffee grinders in the old style grocery store we visited. Locals come just to grind their coffee in these machines.

In the 1930s Guyana cafe the artwork was cool and there was a local poet doing his thing as apparently he does every day. Loved that.

I also visited Serralves – a museum/garden that I’d never heard of before. I especially loved the art nouveau house and garden.

The interior was mostly empty except each room had one feature left from photographs from its heyday. I really liked that idea and it gave the opportunity to appreciate the architecture.

The gardens (and it was raining by then) are lovely in their own right but also had an excellent exhibition of giant sized sculptures by Joanna Vasconcelos whose world enjoyed – especially the giant stilettos made out of saucepans and lids!

Inside the museum these sculptures made me smile. Two made from irons, an adult roundabout (that you can ride on) made from old office chairs and a telephone switchboard.

Spain, Seville – the Alcazar Palace

Even though I am not a fan of Game of Thrones I was very much looking forward to visiting the Alcazar Palace in the centre of Seville. It is as spectacular as I expected and as I am very fond of moorish architecture and it gives the Alhambra a run for its money. It takes about two hours to do it justice and once you are in you can wander around (with audio guide) to enjoy the interiors and the Palace Gardens. Unfortunately everyone else has discovered this place so i strongly recommend you either book ahead online or get there at 9.30 when it opens. Queues to get in were horrendous by the time |I left. If you want to see the Upper Palace – definitely book ahead. It was sold out for the full week when I visited and it is not even June yet!

Here are my personal highlights:

The interiors

The architecture

The tiles – was missing those from Lisbon! What is that lady thinking?

The Tapestries

The Palace Gardens

Portugal, Lisbon – tile frenzy.

Walking around Lisbon means you are exposed to tile work wherever you go ( a legacy from the period the moors lived here). These tiles were hand painted and decorated the exterior and interiors of buildings and churches. Some are purely for decoration and others tell stories about battles or saints. Some were even coded to denote whether the building or company was of Catholic or Freemason origin.

Sadly the ability to make quality tiles is a bit of a dying art and certainly very expensive so while there is some restoration mostly you get to see the original tiles which are sometimes in better condition than in others.

It is one of my favourite things about this city so wanted to share some examples in the same place.

Portugal, Evora – the Alentejo Region

A short side trip to the walled town Evora for three days gets me out into the countryside. I took the train – 1 hour and 40 minutes – which is a lovely way to travel. Accommodation was at the Albegaria do Calvario hotel just inside the city walls. Large rooms with an excellent breakfast and a 5 minute walk into the centre of town.

Evora has a lot to offer for a small place. Lovely buildings painted with red roofs painted white and yellow. There is a lot of debate about why yellow – some say to stop the evil eye, others say it replaces the old blue as blue and white are the colours of a rival football team. Who knows? Anyway the buildings plus the impressive aqueduct that runs right through the town and some of the houses, make for a pretty environment and that’s good enough for me .

Although this is a medieval town it is famous for its Roman Temple ruins which are slap bang in the middle of it and in pretty good nick

Add to the above some beautiful churches with lovely Portuguese tile work and the macabre Chapel of Bones (apparently they had to dig a load up from the cemetery as they needed to space for new houses so they put them into this chapel) with the enticing reminder “we bones that are here, we are waiting for your’s”. Nice!

Add a few museums with contemporary and traditional art plus some local food (that’s baked melted cheese a speciality around here)

And finally a special exhibit to hundreds of nativity scenes and I liked the funky irreverent modern ones the best!

All in all – well worth a visit for a quieter pace of life.