Porto: Capela das Almas

Capela das Almas (Porto, Portugal)

Remember how I mentioned a few days ago that azulejos (ceramic tiles) are everywhere in Portugal? Here’s a good example: Capela das Almas at the corner of Rua da Santa Catarina and Rua de Fernandes Tomás. It’s a busy spot, since it’s close to Bolhão Market and Bolhão metro station, with pedestrian traffic on Rua Catarina, a popular shopping street. This magnificently-tiled church is quite a sight when coming off the metro escalator. I have some wider-angle photos of it from my visit in May 2013, here’s one:

Porto, Portugal

Capela das Almas – May 14, 2013

Capela das Almas (Porto, Portugal)

I have yet to visit the interior, but I’ll wait for a rainy day over the winter, today was far too nice to be inside.

In other news, today is my 11th month anniversary of living in Portugal!

August 29, 2014
Album: Portugal (Summer 2014)

Orange Is The New Black

Carolina Michaelis Metro Station (Porto, Portugal) (1)

No, I’ve never seen the television show but this sea of popsicle orange amidst the flower beds of yellow and white deserved a better title than Carolina Michaelis Metro Station, which is where I took these photos. I’ve been using this station for 11 months and each time I climb the stairs to the platform I think to myself, ‘I really need to stop and shoot the flowers!’

Tonight I was, as usual, hurrying up the stairs. But this time I decided to stop and take a few quick shots even though the trains run less frequently in the evening, and despite the terrible lighting.

(For the record, Paulo likes the bottom photo better while I preferred the top, so I used both. And HELMA loves carnations, so they’re for her, too. Orange for all!)

I don’t have any orange clothing, but I always like seeing orange clothing on people and objects. It’s such a happy colour, and as I’m sure the people of The Netherlands and Syracuse, New York would agree, the more orange the better.

Carolina Michaelis Metro Station (Porto, Portugal) (2)

August 28, 2014
Album: Portugal (Summer 2014)

Porto: Ribeira By VSCO

Praça da Ribeira / Ribeira Square, Porto

Praça da Ribeira

Porto was like a steam cooker last night! We met visiting friends for dinner and ate outside in Ribeira (waterfront). Porto is still in the thick of tourist season and the narrow pedestrian alleys around Ribeira were filled with tables of people soaking in the atmosphere. Eating around the square gave great views, especially of the Luís I Bridge and night lights across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia. We walked across the lower deck of the bridge to view Porto from the Gaia side and that’s when the light mist began. Rain may sound unappealing but it finally broke the humidity and immediately the temperature began to cool off a little. Relief!

I didn’t have my camera with me (a good thing, since it would’ve gotten wet), only my phone which took this picture in the square. For better summer photos of Porto taken with the DSLRs, check out the Summer 2014 album.

Coimbra: Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha (Coimbra, Portugal) (1)

Portugal boasts an impressive number of national monuments and this is just one of them in Coimbra, Central Portugal. We passed through the area on a camping trip back in April,  stopping only briefly at the current convent, Santa Clara-a-Nova, because it was preoccupied by a wedding, and spent the rest of our time at Santa Clara-a-Velha. It has a modern visitor centre with artifacts and presentations, helpful to view before exploring the site.

From VisitPortugal.com: Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha

The Mosteiro de Santa Clara was built in 1314 at the orders of the Queen Saint Isabel of Aragon, replacing a small convent of nuns of the Order of St. Clare, founded in 1286. The building was completed in 1330, having been designed by the architect Domingos Domingues, who had previously worked on the Mosteiro de Alcobaça.

This convent is a fine example of the architecture of that period, being notable for the size of the church and cloister and the stone vault that covers the three naves of the church, all of which are of the same size. Because of its location on the banks of the River Mondego, the convent was subjected to frequent floods that led to the building of an upper floor and the abandonment of the almost permanently submerged ground floor. In the 17th century, the king Dom João IV commissioned the building of a new convent at a high point in the city. This new convent was given the name of Santa Clara-a-Nova, and the nuns moved there in 1677. The original convent, which became known as Santa Clara-a-Velha, was abandoned and left to fall into ruins.

At the end of the 20th century, the building was subjected to in-depth restoration work, which uncovered the original structures and led to the discovery of a vast and diversified range of treasures. Now open to the public once again, the convent offers its visitors a spacious outdoor leisure area in a tour that includes the church and the restored archaeological structures. At the Visitor Centre, besides the exhibition of the objects that were found here, laid out in accordance with their importance in the life of the convent, audiovisual media are used to present the history of the site and its restoration.


Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-7pm
Tickets: €4 (discounts for groups, families, children, students and people 65+)
(as of 2014)

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha (Coimbra, Portugal) (2)

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha (Coimbra, Portugal) (3)

Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha (Coimbra, Portugal) (4)

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Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha (Coimbra, Portugal) (18)

April 12, 2014
Album: Central Portugal Camping Trip

A Beautiful Door

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I took these pictures today with my-not-i-phone, filtered nicely with the VSCO Cam app. It’s a door that belongs to a quinta (country house) across the road from my local shopping centre. I’ve passed by it countless times, but the door stopped me today while running errands because of the explosion of flowers above and around it. The burst of colour caught my eye, and I waited for most of the busy traffic to pass before taking a photo across the street to get a wider view.

I’ve been answering a volume spike of email lately from my website, queries about Portugal — visiting here, living here — and one of the recent questions was about flowers. While doing some research to answer the questions, I discovered there’s an Almond Tree Route in the Douro Valley in February/March. It looks gorgeous, I must get myself there!

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VSCO: http://gailatlarge.vsco.co/
Instagram: http://instagram.com/gailatlarge

Azulejos Along The Douro Railway

azulejos (Pocinho, Portugal)

Pocinho Railway Station

When visitors to Portugal ask me what sort of locally-made products would make good souvenirs, I make a point of suggesting azulejos, or Portuguese ceramic tiles. To me, they represent Portugal very well in terms of cultural value, artistic variety, their place in preserving Portuguese history, and their prevalence throughout the country. Azulejos can be found virtually everywhere in Portugal including train stations big and small, from São Bento Railway Station in Porto to the beautiful Historic Railway Station in Aveiro to tiny Pocinho Railway Station shown here.

Azulejos are more than decorative, they were the photography of previous times, documenting life in Portugal for the past 500 years. Sometimes the azulejos are simple, repeating patterns, but wherever you see large panels, they usually show a very localized scene from that period. The Portuguese are industrious people and the azulejo scenes typically reflect this, depicting intense labour activity with some leisure mixed in.

The azulejo is a very versatile Portuguese product, like cork. You can make it into jewellery, use the designs for clothing, decorate any room in your house with them in any size or arrangement, and shape into whatever form you like, not just ceramics. If you visit Porto and are interested in azulejo jewellery, there’s a little place near Praça Liberdade I’m quite fond of browsing called Oporto Craft Market – Mercado de Artesanato. The artists are local and present to answer questions about their products; the prices are very reasonable. It’s not a big place and can get full rather quickly in high season, but pop in when there’s less of a crowd and you’ll probably find some interesting items to take home.

I tried to take as many photos as I could of the railway stations we passed along the Linha do Douro on Saturday, but since the train passed most of them without stopping, only a few made it to this post. I love that even the smallest stations are decorated with azulejos and lots of plants. Makes the wait for a train much more pleasant (along with a matching tiny café serving beer and ice cream).

azulejos (Pocinho, Portugal)

Pocinho Railway Station

azulejos (Pocinho, Portugal)

Pocinho Railway Station

Mosteiro Railway Station, Portugal

Mosteiro Railway Station

Caldas de Aregos Railway Station, Portugal

Caldas de Aregos Railway Station

The rest of these pictures were taken in Peso da Régua, on a section of Rua José Vasques Osório (funny how Google blurred out the faces in the painting for Street View!). The azulejos act as a giant storyboard mural of wine production in the Douro Valley, with a panel devoted to each stage in the process and the final panel showing the boats getting loaded, bound for the cellars in Vila Nova da Gaia:

Peso da Régua, Portugal

Peso da Régua, Portugal

Peso da Régua, Portugal

Peso da Régua, Portugal

Peso da Régua, Portugal

August 23, 2014
Album: Linha do Douro Scenic Railway Trip (2014)

Some Meow For Sunday

friendly stray cat in Peso da Régua, Portugal (3)

Our day started off with cleaning the windows, and that’s about as exciting as it got around Casa Aguiar on this Sunday in late August. I think riding the rails yesterday wiped us out. We have four big panes of glass per wall, and we managed only two rooms — all motivation to finish the rest petered out after lunch. We still have the living room (ignoring the sliding glass doors for now), and the kitchen to go.

Needless to say, my pile o’ unedited pictures didn’t get much of a dent either, so I leave you with some photos of the cutest little critter I met yesterday, a kitty that charmed the socks off me in Peso da Régua. I couldn’t help but notice the interesting mix of markings — like three different cats in one, with a darker tail, a cream-tabby body, a patch of white on the back and chest, and blue eyes like a Siamese. If this kitty has a name, I hope it’s just as interesting!

friendly stray cat in Peso da Régua, Portugal (1)

friendly stray cat in Peso da Régua, Portugal (2)

friendly stray cat in Peso da Régua, Portugal (4)