Can you guess

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.Portugal, mapOur 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.Porto, old townSeagulls 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, mouettesPorto  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.Porto, Art NouveauContrasting  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.Porto, paved alleyThis 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 !Porto, railway stationFor 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 ?Porto, skyline

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25 Responses to “Can you guess”

  1. These are such nice photos for learning geography. Portugal from what I’ve read is a very pretty country and it takes time to savor the sights and smells. Your post reads like a travelogue. I look forward to reading and viewing more.

    • So nice to read you Yvonne ! How are you doing, how is your health ? How are your little friends ? You are right about Portugal being a pretty country, where to savor sights and smells (oh, the smell and taste of grilled sardines !). Thank you for your words, always so kind, I will post more as soon as I can, a kind of hectic time here.

  2. sybil said

    Yes. Let’s meet there later and do some more touring around. Thanks for bringing me along.

    • Bonjour Sybil, it is good to find you here. I sure will bring you around to more places in Portugal, you will enjoy it, I hope. Next time we’ll walk down to the harbour on steep paved alleys. Put on some comfy baskets 🙂 Thanks for your visit.

  3. Kathy said

    Isa, what a lovely tour. I would like to visit Portugal some day, and this place looks fascinating and beautiful. Our daughter worked at a quinta in Portugal a few years ago and liked it very much.

    • Isabelle said

      Thanks Kathy, I am happy you enjoyed these first glimpses of Porto, and Porto in particular. I am sure your daughter enjoyed her stay/work in one of those typical houses in the country.

  4. Karma said

    Ces photos de Porto sont charmant. J’aime mon regard premier a Portugal. (I apologize for any poor French grammar! 😉 )

  5. Always enjoy your travel logs, Isa. Your cities are so much older and full of character than ours in America. They look charming.

    • Isabelle said

      Thanks a lot Scott. Europe is an old continent, its history is present almost everywhere although we also have our modern,cities. I like the cities near the sea or the ocean.

  6. Stunning photos, Isa! And a nice history lesson as well! Do you have any fabrics that you purchsed in your travels? Ours are getting mundane, and I’m wondering if fabrics are different in Europe. I cannot tell too much from your quilting photos, but I suspect I would be surprised! Thank you for the looksee!

    • Isabelle said

      Hello Tamara and thank you for your visite. I do purchase fabrics here and there but in Portugal I bought some special colourful (mixed shades) thread, handmade, in a lovely shop managed by a lady quilter. We do have special fabrics here in Europe. I must remember of taking some pictures of them.

  7. shoreacres said

    What a beautiful city. I was completely taken with the tile work at the train station. (I just learned that our Grand Central Terminal in New York is not a station. Trains pass through a station, but end their journey at a terminal. Of course!)

    In the first photo, I do like the hanging laundry. Those little touches remind us that life is happening in those beautiful houses. It’s quite amazing how much the town looks like Librizzi, a Sicilian town that was home to a friend of mine. Even the tower – a church? – in the left of the photo looks Italianate. Is that the same tower in the last photo, on the right?

    I’m so glad you were able to have such a wonderful trip. We’ll gladly look at however many photos you want to share!

    • Isabelle said

      Bom dia (Portuguese) for bonjour or good morning, dear Linda. You are so right about the tile work or “azulejos”. There are everywhere and in so different patterns, colours, mainly blue and white though. So much inspiration for patchwork in their geometrical shapes.

      I also agree with you about the similarity of Porto and other cities in the South with the ones in Sicily. Same way of life, more or less.

      Here is some information for you about the famous “Clerigos Tower” built by an Italian architect. Yes, it is the same tower in the 2nd and last pictures.

      Thanks a lot for your visit and comments.

      http://www.gooporto.com/porto-sights/clerigos-tower.html

  8. Janice said

    Quelle belle ville. J’adore les petites ruelles et les batiments avec ses beaux toits de tuiles rouges. Et la gare centrale – c’est magnifique! Comme toi j’apprécie voir les différences de l’architecture, culture, et bien sûr, la nourriture!
    J’attend avec impatience tes autres photos d’Oporto et environs. Moi, je ne suis allée jamais au Portugal… 😦
    Bon weekend, chère Isa. x

    • Bon weekend à toi aussi, Janice. Je suis heureuse que mes photos de Oporto se plaisent. Des temps un peu agités ici mais dès que je peux, je posterai d’autres photos portugaises.

  9. Truels said

    This is an old and beautiful town – I have never been to Portugal, your photos might change that 😉
    Anyway: I’m looking forward to see more from your travel there!

    • Hello Truels, I hope you are enjoying a sunny and happy Summer. Porto and some other cities of Portugal are truly enchanting. I loved people’s welcome and friendliness too. You might well experience this yourself some day. Thank you for your visit. Always nice.

  10. pearlz said

    Your blogs so makes me long to travel, argh.

  11. Tammy said

    Would love to meet there! Have actually been looking through old blog posts for your email. I am in Switzerland! I love traveling and have never been to portugal.

    • Just replied to your email, Tammy. Hope you enjoy your stay here, you arrived in a time of canicule ! So hot these days, just the right Season to be in the Alps. Best wishes and thanks for writing.

  12. Sartenada said

    Bonjour Isa.

    Merveilleuses photos. J’ai jamais été à Porto, mais seulement à Lisbonne, Praia da Rocha et Estoril. Ton blog inspire l’homme pour le visiter.

    Belle journée.

  13. Merci Matti, je suis sûre que toi et ton épouse auriez beaucoup de plaisir à découvrir le Nord du Portugal aussi. Beau mois d’août en Finlande.

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