Special places and moments

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.

Azulejos. The beautiful blue and white painted tiles inside houses, on the facades of churches, on  walls like here in a  hall  of Coimbra’s ancient university.Coimbra, azulejos

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.

Porto, abandonned house

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.
Porto, A Brasileira

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.

Porto, chocolate

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.Coimbra, cakes

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.Portugal, stamps

Shops and windows. Some shops still have this old or vintage look that one hardly ever sees any longer in my country. Simply delightful ! I could have photographed so many of them !Porto, shop

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.

Coimbra's roses

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. Porto, skyline 2Thank 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.

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