September 12, 2013
To say “goodbye” to Portugal and close this series of posts about my journey to Porto and surroundings, I would like to share with you some special moments, places, tastes, memories of here and there during a short and eventful week last May.
Vende se. For sale. An empty house full of memories of people. A house whose inhabitants may have left for various reasons. Lack of buyers for selling it to ? No means to repair it ? Moving to another city in search of a job ? Emigrating further away in Europe, the Americas, Africa ? One sees many such abandoned houses or closed down shops during these critical times for the Portuguese economy.
Art Nouveau style. A striking contrast. A lot of buildings of the early 20th century in Art Nouveau style, are still visible in Porto. This ancient coffee house has been closed but its prestigious façade and decoration remain. A memory of times gone.
Brazilian hot chocolate, probably the best I ever drank (and this is a Swiss telling you this Believe me, this creamy, tasty, full-flavored beverage is worth the detour.
Pastelleria (bakery), cakes, pastries and sweets are renowned in Portugal. You find bakeries everywhere offering an abundant choice of delicious sweets. Here in a street of Coimbra at the end of a folk festival.
Stamps. I like writing and choosing nice stamps for my postcards or letters. In a little village along the Douro river, a very nice young lady at the local Post Office went out of her way to choose all kinds of different stamps for me. In doing so she also loved practising her French, which I really appreciated. People’s kindness and friendliness were constant during my stay in Portugal.
Flowers. When and where you least expect them, they come at you through a gate, over an old wall, along a street. Bundles of colourful “flores“, highlighting any old stones.
Churches are numerous in Portugal, of all styles and epochs, simple or heavily decorated, often with azulejos. I chose to show this Porto skyline with you. No overpowering churches but present and beautiful, barely outlined in the setting sun. Thank you for having followed me during the Summer across my journey to Portuguese cities, gardens, river and other places I felt like sharing with you. I really appreciated your visits and comments.
August 28, 2013
Coimbra, the ancient city situated on a hill by the river Mondego, South West of Porto. An urban center best known for its university (1537), one of the oldest in Europe but also for its monuments, churches, museums, parks and intense cultural life centered around the university. A town of contrasts between the ancient upper city on the hill and the low city, more modern and commercial by the river. Coimbra’s small cloisters, hidden gems, shadowed and secluded gardens where it feels so good to sit and enjoy a peaceful moment.
Coimbra’s well-known cabaret “Fado ao Centro” where we sat waiting for musicians (all students) to perform their songs (fado) of hope, love, longing, sadness about emigrating. Songs of protest and rebellion in troubled times too.
Coimbra, Santa Clara quartier, away from the busy city, the prestigious monuments and buildings. A little house on the hill, shutters closed to keep away the midday sun, a deserted terrace illuminated by a flamboyant bush of hibiscus.
July 14, 2013
where I stayed during the last week of May ? During the two hours flight from Geneva to this ancient and picturesque town, I had a look at this map and thought I would share it with you. The many flight lines all seem to converge to one particular spot in the South of Europe. A small country on the Atlantic coast from where several navigators left for maritime discoveries : Africa, America, Brazil, India, Macao (China). Great explorers like Magellan, Vasco de Gama, Zarco amongst many others.Our destination was Porto – or Oporto – in the Northern part of Portugal, an old city we had been planning to visit for a long time. Spring was much more advanced than in Switzerland, the touristic Season had not fully started yet, temperatures were pleasant. Our timing was good, it truly was the most enjoyable vacation.
Porto and surroundings offer so much to a new visitor that it would be impossible to tell you about all its various aspects. Let me just show you in a few posts the pictures of some of the places that touched me for a reason or another. This is the first post of a few others showing you different glimpses of Porto, the Douro river and Coimbra, a town in the South of Porto.
After landing in Porto and leaving our luggage in a small hotel in the center of the city, my husband and I walked to the upper town. The view was stunning. A labyrinth of houses of all sizes and colours, huddled together and decorated with the famous Portuguese “azulejos” (painted blue tiles). The red tiled roofs added a touch of colour in those dark and narrow alleys as they glistened in the sunset.Seagulls were everywhere, “A winged squadron flying over us, happy pigeons travelling all over the world, messengers of memory, going over the washing lines in the alleys, huts, grocery shops, sleeping dogs in the sun, red flowers growing in the rust…” (Alberto Nessi)Porto is a harbour city. Sometimes here and there an ancient building in Art Nouveau style looked to me like a towering ship from other times coming out of the haze of history.Contrasting styles of architecture add to this city’s charm. Richly decorated mansions, shops or cafés have grown side by side with other houses, more simple, that line narrow paved alleys. There were not too many visitors at this time of the year but these lanes can be quite crowded when all shops and restaurants are open, especially in the evening or early morning. This is where Porto’s life is felt at best.This most unusual and beautiful hall is part of the central railway station of Porto, Sao Bento. Impressive “azulejos” and sculptures cover the walls and ceilings. This beautiful building dating from 1916 is well worth visiting even if one does not travel by train. Which we actually did when going for a visit to another city, Coimbra. More about that later !For now as the sun goes down over the city, let’s just stop for a while on the top of a hill overlooking the Barreido district and others, less luxurious, which lead to the river. Will we meet there later ?…
November 17, 2012
you will know that Scott Thomas’ new photography assignment is about
Please visit Scott Thomas’ blog here : http://viewsinfinitum.com/2012/11/07/assignment-22-color-composition/ for more information. Deadline to send your pictures is : November 21st, 2012; this challenge is the last one Scott is presenting to us this year. Come and join us ! Thank you Scott, it is always so interesting to share our pictures from all over the world and learn more about photography.
Here are a few pictures I would like to share with you for this assignment :
June 1, 2012
Since I did not take a lot of pictures during the past months, I thought I might as well dig into my archives and especially my travel shots. Today I would like to share with you a few moments spent some years ago in Bendigo’s Conservatory; a major regional city in the state of Victoria, Australia. Bendigo is notable for its Victorian architectural heritage and mining industry.It was midday on a hot day at the end of austral Summer. There were not many visitors in Rosalind Park which surrounds the Conservatory but a few tourists like me attracted by its pleasant architecture and setting. As far as I was concerned, there was a definite hope for some freshness. The sun shone fiercely. I spotted an ancient bench leaning against the brick wall of the Conservatory; I sat there for a while enjoying the green and summerly landscape. Still, it was too hot for someone who had just left a snowy and cold month of March in the Northern hemisphere.
The large hall was not as cool as I imagined but somehow it brought a sense of freshness and humidity. I was struck by this strange green shade diffused in the whole glasshouse. Trees and plants seemed to reflect in the glass windows and roof. Shade, silence, peace, the perfect moment to make a pause and sit on another bench surrounded by exuberant vegetation.
I was mesmerized by the delicate sound of these few drops of water falling gently into a little pool, like a well. I had stepped into a green world, a vegetation of a great diversity and mystery, an environment not exactly familiar but cosy. It felt good.
A large and heavy urn, as round as a globe, was set in another pool. Ripples of water softly touched the stone shore. Through the glass roof, the blue austral sky reflected on the urn patterns that looked like tracks ? ocean ? bush? A kind of local geography. All new to me as I just landed in this vast and fascinating country and was more than happy to discover parts of it.
Time to leave and drive further. Back into the hot sun on a square surrounded by colourful Victorian houses. And another bench sitting under a huge tree, so generous with its welcoming shade. There was a lot more to see in Bendigo. Will we leave it for a next visit ?
April 21, 2012
in a today’s music hall. In less than a few hours, Johann Strauss’ son Operetta “La Chauve-Souris” (The Bat or Die Fledermaus) will be presented in a totally different auditorium as it was first shown in 1874.
FRI-SON is a self-managed multicultural complex usually dedicated to all kinds of contemporary music styles. The sounds that you can hear today and maybe the artistic trends of tomorrow.
Little by little these industrial buildings were transformed into the happy looking hall that has welcomed so many musicians and groups from here and abroad.An entrance door still closed in the afternoon. Tickets for the Strauss’ operetta were sold out for today’s performance. I got some for next week though.A quick visit inside the concert hall: a modern equipment and old posters of previous concerts.
On my way back, a bus from the Czech Republic had just arrived. The members of the Philharmonic Orchester from Praha were unloading their musical instruments and getting ready for their “première” in “FRI-SON” (one of its meanings is “shiver” in French )
And now, just for a change and if you feel like it, here is the Ouverture of “The Chauve-Souris” as played by the Vienna Philharmonic, directed by H. von Karajan in 1987.
Times change but music remains !
May 24, 2011
Scott Thomas Photography’s challenge for this month is about “Your hometown history”.
My hometown is in another state but surely a “hometown” is also the place one feels good in : my close family lives here as well as some very dear friends. I have enjoyed practising many activities over the years since my family and I decided to settle down in this town. I love the area we live in now almost as much as the one I was born in. My hometown then would be Fribourg in the French speaking part of Switzerland. Halfway between Berne, our capital and the picturesque area near the Lake of Geneva, not far from my “real” hometown in the Alps.
As for history… this subject has been very much part of my life thanks to my paternal grandfather, Ulysse, who was a self-taught historian. A long while ago, I wrote a post about him :
This is the old part of Fribourg on a rather grey day. The medieval town was was built in 1157 along a river. The Sarine river borders two areas in my country: the French and the German parts. Fribourg (town/canton) is one of the 26 cantons/states of the Swiss Confederation. Almost one third of his 30000 inhabitants are students. Several academies, high schools and a bilingual university attract many young people from here and abroad.
This medieval town used to be surrounded by ramparts. Most of those walls were destructed over the centuries. A few of them remain and have been restored as well as one heavy wooden gate that would close the town at night.
A colourful old house that used to be a military arsenal. Nowadays people seem to be more peaceful in town and the arsenal became “Arsen’Alt”. The large painted house is meant to bring people together in the Alt district. It promotes local community life for all those wishing so: kindergarten, various courses, craftwork, cultural activities, meetings, movies, birthday parties, etc… An inter-generation leisure complex.
By chance I happened to be in the old town when a photography exhibition took place on a square. It was all about the people who lived and are living now in this part of our town. Maybe one of these two ladies recognized herself or someone she knew on a picture ?
Pictures from today and yesterday; remembering history in a district that used to be a deprived area inhabited by large families coming from the country in search of a job in town. Years later many of those same families left their old houses that had become run-down for apartment houses in the upper part of the town. Ancient houses have been restored and are now sought-after… Times are changing.
Just an old pub about one of my idols ;) “Elvis et moi”. The owner must have the complete collection of The King’s LP’s ! A real fan and a charming lady. Pity the pub was closed as I took this picture.
Many museums are worth visiting in Fribourg. A favourite of mine is the Gutenberg Museum. A whole post would be necessary to show you its wonders. I will write more about it some time. For now let’s meet the writer and the bookbinder…
… as well as two Turkish musicians who were practising folk music in a garden outside the museum: “Our landlady does not allow us to play in the apartment !”. They were preparing for a traditional celebration with members of their community, an important one in our city.
Are you tired after the visit ? Then why not take a break on the lawn or on this stone (molasse) bridge. From there you will be able to have another look at the old city, like in the first picture. Fribourg or Freiburg in German is a town of bridges over the river. Bridges over cultures, languages and times. Bridges that join rather than divide. It is a small town you may well enjoy visiting if you are around someday.
Thanks Scott for allowing me to use pictures of various “times”. I loved this theme too.
October 21, 2010
A large, very large city (15 mio inhabitants) spread over two continents, Europe and Asia, linked together by two bridges and whose symbol is the tulip. A city whose name varied over time and civilisations : Byzantium under the Greek settlers, and Constantinople as the new Eastern capital of the Roman Empire. Did you guess where I had the great pleasure of spending four short days recently ? Yes, right In Istanbul, Turkey, just 3 1/2 hours away from Geneva (by plane). But what a change of scenery and way of life !
Describing and picturing all I saw in this short time is not really easy. I took many photos of the main touristic sites we visited. A morning cruise on the Bosphorus, gardens and palaces visited during a rainstorm that looked and felt more like a deluge, a Byzantine underground Cistern, the famous Bazars, the seagulls that were everywhere and as big as ducks, ancient Ottoman quartiers and their wooden houses, small sesame breads sold in the streets which never tasted as good as when eaten under the pouring rain, the bridges and their busy lanes (day and night) that we crossed by bus, and so much more… There are a lot of blogs and sites about this prestigious historical city – named “European Capital of Culture for 2010″ – that will inform you much better than I would about the incredible and precious treasures of Istanbul. Personaly, I chose to share with you some images that may tell you how I felt about Istanbul, its contrasts, the traces of its historical past and its ever-present beauty.
A mosaic in blue shades like the magnificent domes of the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet I mosque) and the Hagia Sophia Museum (formerly a Basilica, then a Mosque and now and museum.
The breathtaking shades of Hagia Sophia’s stained glass windows, a soft inner light that no words can tell. I felt an indescribable feeling of serenity (in spite of the crowd); I could well imagine the fervour shared inside the same basilica/mosque over the centuries by so many believers.
Deserted benches in a luxuriant vegetation.Group in blue…It was a great day for street vendors We were offered blue plastic raincoats and umbrellas. ‘brellas,’ brellas ! was the rather joyous cry people heard all day long in the saturated streets. And of course, we were only too happy to buy an umbrella on such a wet day !
When rain was just too much to put up with, the Grand Bazar and the Spice Bazar (also called Egyptian Bazar) would welcome you. A feast for the eyes and, in some shops, a delight for your sense of smell. Imagine carpets, shawls, embroidered boots, jewels, spices, soaps, leather goods, glasses, ceramics, coffee, those very special herbal teas and the sweet Turkish delights Just anything you can think of.Walking in Istanbul’s ancient Ottoman areas is a totally different experience and well worth it.
Away from the crowds and the most visited sites, small wooden houses huddle together along uneven streets where people live and work. Another vision of old Istanbul, its craftmen and shopkeepers, small stores and cafés where tourists are rare.
Fruits, veges or other food are often sold in the streets. Tempting, delicious.
As the evening comes, a muezzin calls for another prayer. The sky darkens before rain starts falling again. Will the remaining golden patches of sun between the clouds announce a sunny day in the morning ?
Yes, indeed ! The sky has cleared up and a sunrise over the Bosphorus was one of my favourite moments in Istanbul. Pastel shades over the straight for boats which are coming back slowly to the fishing market early morning. A view I never tired of.
Thank you for accompanying me for this short visit through the ancient part of the city. I thought I would focus on the historical part of Istanbul although the modern area is quite another story and well worth seeing too.
Below are a few links of interest for those of you who would like knowing more about Istanbul.
October 1, 2010
Back from a visit to Italy, in the Piemonte area which is not far away from the South of Switzerland; it was a long drive though, the winding and steep roads went through mountain passes and narrow valleys. Photos will follow when I will be back from another trip to a completely different and unexpected destination Until later and enjoy these first weeks of October which I hope will be mild and colourful. Fall is definitely on its way…
August 16, 2010
This post is my contribution to the new photography challenge assigned by Scott Thomas, http://stphoto.wordpress.com; its theme is related to Travel Photography. On the following link you will find the necessary information if you want to join us. Everyone is welcome ! Photos are to be posted until September 8, 2010.
For me, Hauterive is not a faraway place to travel to, 15kms at the most from my home near Fribourg, Switzerland (South of Berne). More than a travel in the usual sense of the word, I would call it an “inner journey”. As soon as you leave the main road leading to the Abbey of Hauterive, you enter a small domain where peace, silence and nature help you slowing down. You don´t even realize it but the way you walk down the path leading to the Abbey is definitely more slow.
I did not meet many people as I strolled under the forest archway. It was a weekday; on Sundays the monastery welcomes many visitors coming to the 10am mass celebrated by the Cistercian monks in the Abbey founded in 1138.The community of Hauterive is a haven of peace. Whenever I need some quietness or just a little time for myself , I love to go and sit in the garden in front of the Abbey. Parts of this garden are closed to the public and reserved to the monks. Pilgrims on their long way to St- Jacques de Compostelle in Spain may stop there for the night.Between light and shade, some benches welcome people who come there for a pause in their day. Some – for their own particular reasons at a period of their life – can stay for a longer time at the Abbey and live with the monks according to their rhythm and spirit. I cannot speak for them but personally I always feel a great inner peace as I stay there, outside or inside the church, also when walking along the river.
This is a view of the Abbey (at the back) and the farm (in front). The monks´s monastic life is essential (“ora et labora” – pray, work and also fraternal life). The monks also cultivate a certain form of relationship with the exterior world. Over the centuries they have valorised agricultural land so that they can sell their various products which bring the necessary revenues for their subsistence.Silence is appreciated in the areas where the monks are praying, meditating.
Hauterive Abbey (which means “high banks”) is located near a river, the Sarine. It flows quietly; people like to come and spend the day at the edge of the water. I saw fishermen trying to catch trouts. Cistercian monasteries were often built near a river in rather secluded areas. Maybe they used rivers as a way of transportation for their goods to be sold in the towns nearby ? It was often done so in the Middle Age when roads were unsafe.
To reach the Abbey you can either walk down a peaceful forest path or use those old wooden stairs. They have been restored of course and if they could talk, they would tell of all the people and the countless steps up and down over the centuries. The walls are original with an occasional patch of new cement and paint here and there. No straight lines for them but slight curves, a sort of imbalance as if they carried the weight of time and events.Let´s enter the Abbey itself through the main porch decorated by a fresco. I visited Hauterive several times over the years; for this photo assignement I came on a sunny morning which soon turned out to be a rainy one. The colours would have normally been much brighter.
I never took any pictures inside the Abbey but the monk I asked about it said it was all right. Those are the stained glass windows on the South side of the church, their bright colours subdued under the cloudy sky. The “rosace” (rose window) is very striking.
Rose windows are particularly characteristic of Gothic architecture and may be seen in all the major Gothic Cathedrals of Northern France. Their origins are much earlier and rose windows may be seen in various forms throughout the Medieval period (Wikipedia).
There were very few people inside the Abbey. I sat for while on the chair on the left. On Sundays and special celebrations the nave and the lateral aisles are all taken up. The monks are reunited behind the choir-screen for the celebration. Their Gregorian chant fills the Abbey. Moments of spirituality and sharing. I feel like saying a sharing beyond all religions, a sheer spirituality that the site inspires and transcends. The monks´chant is bringing life to the ancient walls.Leaving the Abbey by the quiet forest path, I was surprised by a bird flying right in front of me ! I still don´t know how I managed to take a picture. But here it is, a graceful bird dashing to the purple flower bush. A lovely ending of my travel with you. I hope you enjoyed this quiet journey near Fribourg, Switzerland. Thanks to Scott for another interesting photography challenge.
For more information on the Abbey of Hauterive, here is a link to its site. An English translation is available too.