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Portugal Photo Tour
This collection of photos were mainly taken during a 2 week trip around Portugal in 2006 armed with my, then new, Canon 5D. We did a big loop starting in Lisbon and zooming up to Porto and back down the long way through many towns and cities including Coimbra, Lamego, Sintra and Tomar.
I had lived in Portugal for 4 years at the end of the 1990s but for some reason I cannot now comprehend I had managed to take about 20 photo and most of those were of people?! Also, I had rarely strayed inland so this journey covers a host of new spots as well as my old favourites.
I thought I'd start with Sintra as this is my favourite spot in all of Portugal. The photo above is the town's Neo-Manueline town hall. The styling reflects the eclectic, fairy-tale style architecture that can be seen all over the old town.
Sintra's fairy tale Pena Palace is straight out of a Disney story. Perched on the very top of the high hill that overlooks Sintra the views from the palace are spectacular. The surroundings are equally wonderful with assorted grottoes, follies and formal gardens dotted around the forest that covers the hillside.
The palace is an extravagant mix of Romantic, Manueline and Moorish styles and is built on the site of a 16th century Hieronymite monastery. It was built in the late 19th century by the Prince Ferdinand de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha for his wife, Queen Maria II. I hope she was sutiably charmed (and didn't ask how much it cost!)
The other castle in Sintra is the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros). Situated on the hilltop near the Pena Palace, the castle enjoys equally commanding views. The original Moor's castle dates back to the 8th century but most of what you see today is in fact another of the spendthrift King Constort Ferdinand de Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's grand follies.
Located around 45 minutes drive north of Lisbon is the fishing village of Ericeira. At its heart is a jumble of whitewashed cottages lining cobbled streets all leading to the harbour. Located on the stormy Atlantic coast the fishermen here must be a hardy bunch.
In latter years the village has expanded rapidly with many new apartment blocks being built to accommodate weekenders from Lisbon. The main draw of the village is its excellent beaches, some of which provide world class surf.
The charming town of Tomar is located just over 100 Km north of Lisbon. It is a very pretty town with an affluent feel to it. The photograph above is of the town's main square with its distinctive Church of Saint John the Baptist and statue of Gualdim Pais, the town's founder.
What you cannot see above is the castle and UNESCO listed Convento do Cristo that dominate the town from their hilltop postition.
The Convento de Cristo in Tomar is a vast building adjoining the castle. Much of it is open to the public including the beautiful cloisters. Above is the Claustro de D. João III, probably the finest in the monastery. Built in 1591 the cloister was designed by Italian architect Filippo Terzi in the Mannerist style. Design details aside this is a beautiful, peaceful place.
The sumptuously ornate Charola Rotunda (Round Chapel) in the Convento de Cristo has to be seen to be believed. Dating back to the 12th century this chapel in particular has strong links with the Knights Templar. With features like this it is not hard to imagine why the convent has UNESCO World Heritage site status.
Back to Lisbon. Looking at the smart, regular downtown buildings in Lisbon it is hard to imagine the higgledy-piggledy winding crowded streets of the Alfama and Bairro Alto on either side. Of course, much of this is due to the rebuilding that occurred following the devastating 1755 earthquake. You can make out some of the ruins of the Convento do Carmo, one of the buildings ruined on that fateful Sunday morning.
Just out of shot is the Elevador de Santa Justa, an elevator taking shoppers from the Baixa to the Praca do Carmo above.
The statue of Dom João I in Lisbon's central Praca de Figueira is overlooked by the Castelo do São Jorge. João was the 10th king of Portugal and in the country he was known as 'João the Good', outside he was often referred to as 'John the Bastard'!
Down by the waterside Praca de Comercio is the Ministerio de Justicia building with this great corridor of arches.
Set on the northern bank of the River Douro as it makes its final meander to the Atlantic Ocean is Portugal's second city. Porto's historic city centre is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and spending any time there should male it clear why. The city has an olde-worlde feel to it. It's not just the historic buildings, the whole city oozes history. This is however contrasted with bursts of ultra-modernism such as the Casa da Musica and Serralves Museum.
One of Porto's defining features is its array of bridges. In the photo above is the Ponte Dom Luis I, Porto's best known bridge. It leads from the Port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia to Porto's bar and restaurant district, the Ribeira.
The Ribeira is a great place to spend some time day or night, eating or drinking. I have some great memories of nights sipping beer around the 'Cube' and then heading between bars and clubs around the Ribeira.
The Majestic Cafe is a fine example of Belle Epoque design and harks back to the town's heyday in the early 1920s. It is located on the busy shopping street of Rua de Santa Catarina in the heart of the city. The interior is in keeping with the wonderful facade and is well worth a visit.
I found this little row of cafes particularly fetching. They are located a minute or two out of the city centre in the Jardim da Cordoaria which nestles between the imposing churches of Clerigos and Carmo.
This is the view across to the Igreja do Carmo from Praca de Lisboa in Porto. This large Baroque / Rococo church is in fact two churches; the Igreja dos Carmelitas and the Igreja do Carmo. What is strange is the two a separated by a 1 metre wide house!
The blue and white tiles on the side of the church are an outstanding example of azulejos. The interiors of the churches are equally well adorned.
Some miles inland and up the River Douro is the town of Amarante. The name is apparently derived from the Portuguese word for love, 'Amar' and it is an attractive little town. Situated on the river Tamega one of the town's main features is this bridge which in 1809 was the scene of a famous battle between French and Portuguese armies.
Across the bridge is the church of São Gonçalo. The saint's local claim to fame is the Festas de São Gonçalo (festival) where the town's bakers sell phallic shaped cakes!
Vila Real is about as far inland as I ventured in Portugal. To some extent you can tell how far inland you have gone by how much people stare at you! Vila Real is an attractive town with some fine buildings such as the 15th century cathedral and town hall. What I liked about the town is if you walk 5 minutes out of the town centre in the right direction the town just stops with valleys running away beneath.
Lamego is around 60Km inland of Porto. The town is dominated by the Santuário Nossa Senhora dos Remédios which consists of an 18th century church set at the top of 14 terraces with 611 steps leading to it. From here you can look out over the whole town below. There are also plenty of things to explore in the surrounding woodlands and at some of the stages on the ascent to the church.
Lamego also has a small 12th century castle to which the streets of the inner town all lead. This is one of those streets and it leads to the Porta do Sol, a gateway through which the walled part of the town can be accessed.
Coimbra is home to Portugal's most prestigious and oldest university. The Portuguese equivalent of Oxford / Cambridge or Havard / Yale, all rolled into one! This photo is the old part of the university. It was opened in 1290 making it the second oldest in the world and is steeped in tradition. There is a strong link with the traditional fado music, with groups of cape wearing students (tuna acedemicas) making impromptu performances on the streets at night. Other traditions include the Festa das Latas at the beginning of the academic year and the 'burning of the ribbons' at the end of one's academic career.
The old university is also home to the Dom Joao V library with its stunningly ornate baroque interior.
Yet another of Portugal's Manueline extravagances. This one is the entrance to Coimbra's Santa Cruz church. The 12th century church contains the tombs of two of Portugal's earliest kings, Afonso I and his son Sancho I
Coimbra is a small but attractive city and has many examples of interesting architecture such as these buildings on the town's main shopping street which seem to blend from grand to back street in the blink of an eye.
This photo dates back to a previous trip to Portugal. It is of the point in Sagres which as far as Portugal is concerned is the edge of the civilised world. This stretch of land is intimately associated with Henry the Navigator and was allegedly home to his maritime college.
Sagres is at the very western tip of the Algarve and has until recently escaped the rampant advances of tourism. This stretch of coast faces the full force of the Atlantic Ocean and accompanying winds so is less favoured with the package holiday trade.
This last photograph was taken by a friend of mine, I myself have never had the fortune of visting the Atlantic islands of the Azores. The photo is of the spectacular Lagoa do Fogo (Lake of Fire), a volcanic crater on Sao Miguel island.
I hope you have enjoyed this random, yet geographically diverse collection of photos of Portugal. I have to admit I enjoyed taking every single one of them and am looking forward to the day I can get back over there and finish the job!