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.

Third day in Portugal. En route for a one day cruise on the Douro river, 980 km long, springing in Spain and marking the boundary between the two countries for about 100 km. Needless to say we did not go to the Spanish border in one day but the short trip up-river was a fascinating and most pleasant one.The light morning fog had lifted  and  the day was  brilliant and hot.

Douro 1

We are sailing at a slow pace between  low hills covered with thick forests or well-kept vineyards. Here and there we pass in front of isolated houses, some look abandonned, others may be holiday houses.Douro, 31

A few bridges  cross the landscape : here an old stone railway bridge and above it  a more modern one for the busy traffic along the Douro Valley. Most villages and towns are built in the hinterland. We passed through them as we travelled back to Porto by train in the late afternoon : white villages surrounded by orchards, large vegetables gardens, some vineyards and all kind of flowers, of course.

Douro, bridges

A flash of golden brightness in the woods. Would those luminous plants be brooms ?

Douro, genets

I was curious about the small white house on the left. A waiter on board told me it was a railway station. Little did I know I would stop there on the way back to Porto later on. A neat and quiet place between forests and rows of  terraced vineyards.Douro, station

Another village  at the edge of the water slowly waking in the morning sun. There were hardly any sounds we could hear from the boat : just a dog  barking, a few kids running and laughing, a peaceful setting. I imagine the hills getting fully alive during wine harvest. It reminded me of my own area in Switzerland, apart from the mountains.

Douro, village

The Douro river was once as a succession of rapids and the river had to be moved up countercurrent. Five dams were built  to make it safe and navigable. The Douro was the river route for the Rabelos barges which transported barrels of wine from the valley to the wine logdes of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.Douro, lock

We are just passing through one of the several  locks. Impressive high walls and heavy doors !Douro, lock 2

More terraced vineyards nested in the forest. A lovely red-roofed house,  maybe a “Quintas” ? one of those farms  and residences of the wine producers where the best wines can be tasted.

Douro,  2

We stopped in Peso da Régua, this is where our small cruise ended. Before our train took us back to Porto, tiime was sufficient to visit the small town which lives for and from wine. In the XVIII century it already was the point of departure for the Rabelos (barges).   Beautiful painted azulejos (tiles) depicted different scenes of the life and  work  in the vineyards.Douro, azulejosHere is a detail of one of the azulejos : the loading of the barrels onto the Rabelos as they went on their journey to Porto.  I liked this tribute to the many men and women who are working hard on the terraced vineyards along the Douro. Their way of working has changed of course, but the passion for their culture and wine making remains the same.

Douro, Regua, azulejos

Back in Porto station early evening, the eyes full of colours : the blue sky and river, the yellow bushes, the green vineyards and forests, the red tiled roofs of the white houses. Truly a magnificent day. I hope you enjoyed it too.

Porto, station 2