PORTUGAL, APRIL, 1997
Day 1-Sun., April 20--Lisbon to Viseu (168 mi)
Santa Comba Dao
Into Beira Alta
(Serra de Estrela NP)
Day 2- Mon., April 21-- to Mirandela (122 mi)
Peso da Regua
Day 3--Tuesday, April 22 to Chaves (210 mi)
Vila Verdinho & Romeu
Macedo de Cavaleiros
Pitoes das Jumias
Day 4--Wed, April 23--Viano do Castelo (140 mi)
Into the Minho
Vila Pouca de Aguiar
Cabeceiras de Basto
Viana do Castelo
Day 5--Thu, April 24--Ponte de Lima
The Alto Minho
Vila Nova de Cerveira
Valenca de Minho
Peneda Geres Park
Lamas de Mouro
The Lima Valley
Ponte de Barca
Ponte de Lima
Day 6--Fri, April 25-- to Penacova (195 mi)
Mealheada, Curia, Luso & Bucaco
Day 7--Sat, April 26-- to Lisbon (3 nights)
Day 8--Sun., April 27--Lisbon
Torre de Belem
Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
Museu Nacional de Arte
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
Day 9--Mon., April 28--Lisbon
Baixa, the Center & the Chiado
Day 10--Tue., April 29--New York
Day 1(April 19)--Sat.
We left LBI after lunch at the Cranberry Bog about 3:30 and arrived at Newark about 5:15 (after parking the car in practically the last space in the last lot, miles from the terminal). Boarded the plane very promptly and prepared for a 6:20 takeoff, which occurred about 7:40. jerry was able to sleep quite a bit, but I didn’t at all. The lines were long at Passaporte, and we had a hassle exchanging money. Then we were off in a tiny red Fiat. The Portuguese people all seem very, very nice. It’s Sun morning here.
Day 2 (April 20)--Sun--168 miles
Headed from Lisbon to Coimbra on the A1 then to Viseu on the IP3 (182 mi), stopping at Caramulo on the way.
The route northeast from Coimbra to Caramulo leads through the valley of the River Dao, heart of the region where Dao wines--some of the country’s finest and richest reds, which we enjoyed repeatedly on this trip,-are produced. This area has been a wine growing region for centuries, but only about 10% of the land is currently being cultivated because of the harshness of the mountainous landscape. On the land that is planted, harvesting grapes can still be very difficult and as the slopes are unsuitable for modern machinery, the grapes are still carried to the vats on the harvesters’ heads (we didn’t see grapes, but they carry everything else there too). Where they’re not covered with vineyards, the slopes are thickly wooded with pine and eucalyptus trees, though all too often there are bare tracts where forest fires have raged. One of the books says that locals are suspected of seting some of the fires--eucalyptus is very fast growing and there seems to be a strong timber industry. It was a fine ride. Beyond here, the views from the main IP3 began to be of the spectacular Serra Do Caramulo, breaking to the NW.
Caramulo--Tucked beneath the peaks of the high Beiras serra, C is a very striking village, quiet and very clean, with marvelous gardens throug which we walked a bit.
Into Beira Alta--the region features some of the least explored country in the Iberian peninsula. Arguably, it is also the most quintessentially P. part of the country. Little touched by outside influence, it is historically the heart of ancient Lusitania, where Viriatus the Iberian rebel (a symbol of the spirit of independence in Neoclassical literature) made his last stand against the Romans.
Viseu--From its high plateau, V. surveys the country around with the air of a feudal overlord; and indeed, this dignified little city is capital of all it can see. It’s also a place of great antiquity but seems to be something of a quiet country town. Yet it is also a city of art treasures, palaces and churches. Its local hero is an ancient Lusitanian rebel leader, Viriatu sa combination Spartacus/Robin Hood, made his camp and plotted the moves that turned back the Roman tide. There was a Roman town here, and on the outskirts you can still make out the remains of an encampment claimed to be the site where Viriatus fought his final battle. In fact, it was almost certainly a Roman fortification and, aside from a statue of Viriatus, there’s not much there. The heart of the medieval city has changed little, though it’s now approached through the broad avenues of a prosperous provincial center.
We had a bit of trouble finding our hotel (except for Lisbon, the only one we had reserved ahead), but when we did, it was great. The Quinta de S. Caetano (9500$--about $57) was exactly as described, a farmhouse, one on the outskirts, but now close to the center of town. I had had numerous e-mail conversations with the owner, Julio, who was himself born in the house and baptized in the little chapel nextdoor. His daughter, Katherine, who spoke very good English, gave us a tour. We chose the “Bell Room” on the third floor--a double with impeccible modern bath and a comfortable bed. They recommended a “restaurante tipico” (not a toursit trap, but a comforatble, affordable restaurant frequented by local families)--O Cortice (down a hard to find alley--Rua do Hilario--near the cathedral and the statue of Dom Duarte). We were hungry and tired. Jerry slept for half an hour; then we took off. We wandered amid the cubistic network of overlapping tiled roofstops and entwining narrow alleyways. Then had an excellent meal for 4750$ (about $28.50). I had roast rabbit with potatoes, greens, rice and and eggplant/olive dish; and Jerry had roast pork w/ blood sausage, potatoes and greens. Of course the bread was extra and we had wine and a sausage appetizer (It is common in P to place bread and appetizers on the table--you must indicsate that you don’t want them or else you’ll be charged)
The Old City--
We began exploring the town in the old streets around the Praca da Se. On the approach here, from central Rossio (an ancient market which has evolved into an elegant plaza) up through the Porta do Soar, or along the shop-lined Rua Dr. Luis Rerreira, a certain amount of pedestrianization and “beautification” has been undertaken, but the jumble of alleys immediately behind the cathedral remains virtually untouched. You suddenly come upon 16th c stone mansions proudly displaying their coats of arms in the middle of a street of run-down houses. The Ardo da Se, one of the most harmonious squares in P, holds the cathedral, museum and churches.
The cathedral square itself is lined with noble stone buildings, most striking of which is the white Baroque facade of the Igreja da Misericordia. Silouetted against a deep blue sky it looks like a film set without substance--you expect to walk around the back and find wooden props holding it up. In fact, it is a rather ordinary dull church. We thought it was the kind of church George Washington would have built if he were a Catholic.
Viseu Se (Cathedral)( 9:30-12:30 & 2-5:30-free)--The severe Renaissance facade of the Se evokes a fortress. Two lofty bell towers, unadorned stone up to the balustrade summit w/ crowning cupolas, can be seen from almost any point. The 2nd story windows in the facade, two rectangular and one oval, are latticed and symmetrically surrounded by niches containing religious statuary. On the right, is the 2 story Ren. cloister adorned w/ classic pillars and arcades faced w/ azulejos, the ubiquitous blue and white tiles adorning everythin in P. The cathedral interior is essentially Gothic but infused w/Manueline and baroque decorations. Plain, slender Romanesque columns line the nave, supporting the vaulted Manueline ceiling w/ its nautically roped groining. The basic color scheme inside plays brilliant gilding against muted gold stone. However, the emphasis is centered on the Roman arched chancel, climaxed by an elegantly carved retable above the main alter. The chancel makes ingenious use of color counterpoint, w/ copper, geen, gold, and brownish yellow complementing the giltwork. The ceiling is continued in the sacristy.
Museu de Grao Vasco--(M-Sa 9:30-12:30 & 2-5 300$ or Tu-Su 9:30-12:30 & 2-5 $250)--We were a bit disappointed in the overall quality, although there were some real winners, including La Pontecote, in which the lancelike tongues of fire hurtle toward the saints, some devout, others apathetic.
It was still early, so we decided to try and see the
Serra de Estrela NP-- The largest NP in P, today one of the country's most popular rest and recreation areas. J-M , the great granite Serra is the winter sports capital of P.Most ideal time for hiking is in the spring, when wildflowers bloom. Well marked trails cut through the park
The range is basically a high plateau cut by valleys, from within which emanate two of P's greatest rivers: the Rio Mondego, the longest P river w/ its source in P itself, flows N to Celorico da Reira before swinging SW to Coimbra & the se @ Figueira da Foz; while the Rio Zezere flows SW from near Guarda until it joins the Rio Tejo (Tagus) at Constancia. Over the years, the serra landscape has changed. Once, farmers lived in stone houses w/ straw roofs, dotted across the peaks and valleys, but now they have moved to more modern dwellings on the valley floor. Originally, too, the whole area was heavily forested, but these days the pines are widely cultivated for timber and shepherds now graze their sheep on the higher ground. Lower down, where the land is more fertile, rye is grown.
Until the 1880's & 1890's, the land was almost completely isolated from the rest of P. and was known mainly to local hunters and shepherds. The land is also the home of the Cao de Sena, or "dog of the mountain," a tough species of canine bred especially for their skill as shepherds. The area is still a major sheep-raising district and consequently filled w/ wild animals, including wild boar, badger, and packs of roaming, often hungry, wolves. Traditionally, the throats of the sheep dogs are protected from the teeth of wolves by iron collars w/ long, sharp spikes. In one of the strangest acts of mutual cooperation in the natural world, many of the dogs survive by sucking ewes' milk.
I made a mistake and used the map from the tourist bureau instead of going back to the rook for the good map. It was an interesting drive, but rain had started and we kept getting lost. We passed through rather disappointing industrial town of Seia, then found Gouveia (where we stopped at a supermercado a got a few things) and saw the statue of a shepherd and dog, at the entrance to town. (It represents the people in the hills around here who live a harsh and impoverished existence and who have, as the P put it, "an unlimited capacity for suffering." There is never a break in the agricultural year, for when the summer is over and harvest is stored away, it is time to begin the cheese making, an activity which brings in their only serious income. The shepherd's friend in this harsh lifestlye is his dog, the Cao da Serra da Estrella--a fearsome looking breed said to be crossbred from wolves.) We also saw the outside of a marvelous cathedral covered with azulejos, but by this time, we were ready to come home and hit the hay.
Day 3 (April 21)--Mon. Viseu to Mirandela--122 miles
When we awoke, after a wonderful night’s sleep, to the rooster’s crow, we got ready and went for a walk in the beautiful garden. Soon, Julio joined us and told us more about the “farm.” Then he ushered us into the kitchen where a waitress brought us wonderful bacon and eggs, to be added to the table already spread with bread, fresh fruit, freshly squeezed OJ, butter and jam, fresh cheese and sliced ham and cheese. We feasted!
Headed north for a beautiful drive on good roads. We stopped at the pretty little town of Castro Daire and enjoyed scenic vistas of the countryside.
We were looking forward to Lamego, with its wide streets and baroque mansions, it nestles between two hills, on one of which sits the pilgrimage church of Nossa Senhora de los Remedios, and on the other a 12th century castle.The town has more in common with the Douro region than Beira Alta, its technical location, as it spreads over gentle slopes of rich agricultural land fed by the river, a terrain which the locals put to good use in the production of such delights as hams and melons, as well as Raposeira--P. champagne. Lamego is a wealthy place, and long has been, as evidenced by the graceful white quintas and villas on the hillsides, and the luxurient architecture of the centre, where Baroque mansions seem to stand on every corner and lavish decorations are found within the smallest chapel.
The Champaigne place appeared before the church, so we drove up and asked the gatekeeper if we could take a tour. Soon we found ourselves alone wiuth a guide who did a wonderful job of speaking slowly, and we learned a lot about how 3 million bottles a year are produced (90% never leave P). We tasted and then bought 3 bottles of Super Bruto for 4400$ (about $26.40).
When we got to the church (the road passes part of the way up) we decided not to climb the 700 steps but enjoyed the view down to the town and up to the pilgrimage site.
We passed throughPeso da Regua (usually just Regua), an expanding provincial town that has been known for over 2 c. as the "Capital of the Upper Duoro" because of its role in the port industry. In fact, the center has shifted to Pinhao, half an hour east. Nevertheless, the ornamental barcos rabelos anchored on the river, and the somber Sandeman cut-out on the horizon, are a reminder of R's previous importance. We drove around, got stuck in a traffic jam, and decided to pass on the Turismo where we had hoped to find information about visits to the local port wine lodges. Just beyond Regua, and past the massive dam of a hydroelectric power station, we begin increasingly to see the terraced slopes where the port vines are grown. Quotas for wine production have been in force around here since the mid-18th c, and some terrace walls from that period have withstood the assault of the diggers and dynamiter that are used nowadays to clear the way for the vineyard tractors. Grape treaders and the traditional barcos rabelos have also been replaced by machines and cistern lorries, though there’s still a demand for large groups of hand pickers (rogas) when there’s a bumper crop.
Looking on our own, we passed many Quintas, but none seemed to be open to the public. Then we saw a sign of Fonseca (whose ‘94 vintage had garnered a 100 from Wine Spectator) with a sign inviting visitors. We started up the road twice (Jerry was sure it was the wrong road the first time, since it was little more thanb 2 ruts in a dirt road) What an adventure. We reached the office of the Quinta Panaschal, where Fonseca is made, and we met Alistair Robertson, Chairman and Managing director, and a very charming English gentleman he was. He had the “girl” come out and give us little cassette players which we used for an audio tour of the vinyard. Then we returned, tasted, bought and were invited by Alistair to stay for lunch. Some other guest (8) arrived by barco rabeloi and we enjoyed apertifs and hors d’ouvres, thendined on pureed vegatable soup with mint, cod w baby white asparagus, vegetables, salad, bread, w/ white wine, and, of course, port to accompany the dessert of cheese and sweet. We left just as the only other visiotrs of the day arrived, never realizing what they had missed.
We continued through the craggy and beautiful countryside with the softer hills of the interior fading dark green into the distance to Pinhao then N on 323 to Sabrosa--this is the birthplace of Fernao de Magalhaes (Magellan), now better known for its wine. Although he is remembered as the first man to circumnavigate the globe, he was, in fact, killed in the Philippines, and it was his crew who completed the epic 3 yr. journey which began in 1519.
Now we were entering Tras-os-Montes
This northernmost district is a wild, rugged land whose name means "beyond the mountains." Exploring this region provides a glimpse into a P not often seen by outsiders. Most of the population lives in deep valleys, many in traditional houses built of shale or granite, and speaks a dialect of Galician similar to that spoken just across the border in NW Spain. Much of the plateau is arid and rocky, but swift rivers and streams provide water for irrigation, and thermal springs have bubbled out of the earth since at least Roman times. You can drive through these savage landscapes, but don't expect superhighways. What you'll find are ruins of pre-Roman fortresses, dolmens and cromlechs erected by prehistoric Celts and decaying old churches.
The country’s roughest, raniest,and most isolated region. TOM is light years off the beaten path. Dom Sancho I practically begged people to settle here after he incorporated it into P in the 11th c, and Jews chose this remote spot to hide during the Inquisition. Today, charm, beauty, and tranquility are the region’s biggest draws. Brimming with splendid mountain views, it is one of the last outposts of the traditional P stone house, complete w hand-cut hay piled into 2-storey conical stacks. Even the gastronomic specialities devoured in these houses hint at the region’s severity: cozido a Portuguesa is made from sausages, other pig parts, carrots and turnips.
The ride was glorious. We rode through Murca only to see the porco there, a remarkable prehistoric stone boar, at least 2000 years old and reckoned to have formed part of an Iron Age fertility cult, or to have been used to ward off evil spirits from the fields.
Decided to stop for the night in Mirandela, and we naturally went to the Turismo to ask for help. Antonio didn’t speak any English, so he offered to lead us in his car. Portuguese people are wonderful. He wouldn’t even accept a tip. We picked the Residential Globo (6000$; $36)--fifth floor, elevator included--and a nice room with bath, TV and AC.
M. is an odd little town with a few remnants of a medieval centre, which contains a scattering of Baroque mansions and a brand new modern art gallery. The town’s most striking feature is undoubtedly its Roman bridge (renovated in the 15th c and stretching a good 200 m across 17 arches. It’s now only open to pedestrians, with traffic forced to use the new Ponte Europa downstream, whos weir has widened the river in town into something approaching a lake. Kayaks and pedaloes splash up and down here, while the lakeside gardens and lawns are pleasant places to loaf around). The Globo was on the far side, so we walked across and wandered the town. Parts of the decaying old town have recently been renovated or demolished; the chapel near the Camara Municipal, at the summit of the ancient citadel, simply fell down in 1985. Scavengers pilfered the best of the stonework, and what was left was rebuilt in a four-square style that contrasts awkwardly with the grandiose Camara Municipal itself. Formerly the Palacio dos Tavoras, this was one of several flamboyant town houses associated with the Tavora family, who controlled the town between the 14th and 17th c.
We walked back and had a wonderful meal right at our hotel. jerry had a very large fresh trout stuffed with local presunto (smoked ham) plus potatoes, tomatoes, olives, and carrots. I had a big slab of queso da serra (very good local cheese) with bread, wine, and olives. Not bad for 2000$ ($12).
Day 3--Tues, April 22 (210 miles)
Following the advice of Off the Beaten Track, we followed the N15 north through an impressive butharsh landscape of granite and schist. About 10km out of M., we turned off to the right to the village of Vila Verdinho. It was a long and very rough road, paved w/ granite cubes, to this town time has forgotten which has been designated by the national government to be particularly representative of the the traditional architecture, lifestyle and environment of TOM. The men were all off workingin the fields or harvesting cork, while thge women were getting water from the town fountain to wash their clothes. We stopped to look at the cork and heard a cuckoo cuckooing.
We went next to Romeu, another old town, where we saw houses in which the animals live on the first floor, giving heat in the winter, and the people on the second.
It seems that many of the P. people emigrate every year to Brazil or France, returning home for a few months to work on their houses. And they are lovely places, much like big Florida houses. We see them in various states of construction. The people earn some money, build a bit, then go earn some more money. The look very clean and modern, but everyone we see working is using very old methods: hoeing, shoveling, carrying water, washing at the river bank, carrying things on their heads. Very interesting.
We decided to skip Branganca, the remote capital of Tras-os-Montes, and to spend our time exploring the starkly beautiful terrain of the Parque Natural de Montesinho, which extends north and into Spain.
Occupying the extreme northeastern tip of P., the parque is the only sector of the Terra Fria where the way of life and the appearance of villages have not yet been changed by the new wealth of the emigrant workers. The Terra Fria's predominantly barren landscape is here disrupted by microclimates which give rise to the Serra de Montesinho's heather-clad hills, wet grann plains and thick forests of oak. Another curious feature of the region is the round pombal or pigeon house--a structure which, no matter how well-established its position, invariably seems to have dropped in from another world.
We passed through Vinhais, a pretty village with lots of chestnut trees, on our way to Chave with staggering views at every turn. We found a very nice Residential, similar to the Globo. The guidebooks call them “modern, ugly high-rises”, but they’re clean and comfortable rooms with bath, AC and Tv for about half the price of hotels . We paid 5500$ ($33) at the Res. Casa das Termas, right across the street from the baths and the spa. We had a picnic lunch of presunto, quiesa, vinho and pao in the park, then set off to see the mountains.
First we went north to Montalegre in the Peneda-Geres National Park, then to Pitoes das Jumias a 10km detour off the N103. The town loomed up suddenly, commanding the surrounding plains. On to Outeira and Paradela, 23 km on a stunningly dramatic road, winding along the river valley through handsome villages with cobbled streets lined with grape vines and with fine views over the new dam and mountains.
Back to Chaves, standing just 12 km from the Spanish border. Its name, which means "keys", reflects a strategic history of occupation and ownership. Between 1128 and 1160, the town was an Islamic enclave, and in the following 7 centuries it was fought over in turn by the French, Spanish and Portuguese. One of its greatest overlords, Nuno Alvares Pereira, was awarded the "keys" of the north by Joao I for his valiant service at the Battle of Aljubarrota, and from him the town passed into the steady hands of the House of Braganca. However, as recently as 1912, Chaves bore the brunt of a Royalist attack from Sp--two years after P had become a republic. Today, Chaves is considerably less significant, though it's still a market center for the villages of the fertile Tamega plain--the richest agricultural lands in the province. The town & spa itself is highly compact, grouped above the river, with the spa just below the old walls to the west. Here, in the centre, the town’s military past is still much in evidence. there are 2 17th c fortresses, built in the characteristic Vaubanesque style of the north.
The Castelo, near the bridge, has a 14th c keep (Torre de Menagem), which houses a small military museum. That said, the castle gardens and the views from the battlements are the finest attraction here. The town was known to the Romans as Aquae Flaviae, after its spa waters, and was an important point on the imperial road from Astorga, in Spanish Leon, to Braga. In the first c AD it was the army headquareters under Aulus Flaviensis, who was responsible for developing the thermal stations here and elsewhere in the region--at Vidago, Carvalhelos, and Pedras Salgadas. You can still take the waters at the spa, but doesn’t taste good. Unfortunately, the river itself is polluted, though the gardens are well kept and attractive, and you can take a pedalo ride up and down its banks, to view the traces of the Roman past in the form of the Ponte Trajano--the Roman bridge--and its ancient milestones. The 2 churches in Praca de Camoes are worth a look too: Igreja de Matriz, which is partly Romanesque, and the Igreja da Misericordia, distinguished by vast azulejo panels.
For visitors, its principle attractions are its splendid setting, a modest array of monuments, a spa and its gastronomy.
We decided to test this and went to dinner at the Alga Faustino, an old wine cellar filled w/ hugh wooden casks. I had decided, based on J’s meal last night, to go for the ham-stuffed trout. It was delicious. J. had five baby lamb chops without an ounce of fat. We also were served olives and cheese for an appetizer, rice, vegetables and two pitchers of wine (Travessa Candido dos Reis) for 2370$ (about $14).
Day 4--April23-Wed(140 miles)
The Minho--This is the most northerly, most isolated, and probably the most idosyncratic region of P., w/ a population descended more or less directly from Celtic ancestors. The local tongue is a confusing dialect that more closely resembles that of Galacia (in NW Spain) than it does P. The Minho is almost considered a land unto itself, w/ most of the population centered in Viana do Castelo, Giumaraes, and Braga. Ardently provincial and suspicious of outsiders, the district figured prominently in the development of medieval P as a kingdom separate from Sp., producing early kings who thrust southward in their conquest of territories held until then by the Moors. Even Barcelos, a relatively small town, has played an important part in the P. national identity by producing lore and legends and popularizing the symbol of the victoriously crowing cock, which has been associated w. P tenacity ever since.
We traveled south on N2 following the Tamega valley, through the edge of the Serra da Padrela to Vidago & Pedras Salgadas to Vila Pouca de Aguiar (famous for its bread. This region, the Terras de Basto, is a fertile countryside that produces a strong vinho verde. Here the vines are grown differently than in other places we’ve seen. They are grown on trees or poles 20 feet high. We don’t know how they harvest them. The name ("basto" meant "I claim") comes from a group of Celtic statues, symbols of power, which have been found in several local spots.
Cabeceiras de Basto has been called the most interesting Basto village, at the heart of the Terras de Basto. It proudly displays the finest of the basto figures--which has sported a French head since a prank during the Napoleonic wars--in the gardens across from the bus station We also visited the Mosteiri de S. Miguel there
We arrived at Guimaraes, the original capital (known as the “Cradle”) of P., early and soon became very confused. Eventually, we parked (near the Church of Santos Passos at the foot of some very beautiful gardens) and began to walk. Its medieval core is considered one of the most authentic anywhere. It was the birthplace of Afonso Henriques, first king of P, (in 1110), and son of a French nobleman, Henry of Burgundy, and his wife, Teresa, daughter of the king of Leon & Castile. For her dowry, Teresa brought the county of Portucale, whose name eventually became P. Portucale consisted of the land between the Minho and the Duoro, taking in what is now the city of Porto. Teresa & Henry chose G. as their court, and it was here that Teresa bore Afonso Henriques. After Henry of Burgundy died 2 years later, Teresa became regent for the baby king. She soon fell into disfavor w/ her subjects for having an affair w/ a count from Galacia and developing strong ties w\ her native Spain. As a young man, Afonso revolted against the regent's forces outside G. in 1128. A major victory for Afonso came in 1139, when the reconquest from the Moors began as they were routed near Santarem. This led him to break from Leon & Castile and proclaim himself king of Portucale. In 1143, Spain recognized this newly emerged kingdom. Within a c. of Afonso's death, it was to stretch to its present borders. G. also had another famous son, Gil Vicente (1470-1536). Founder of the P theater, he is often referred to as the "Shakespeare of P." Although trained as a goldsmith, Vicente was later to entertain the courts of both Joao II and Manuel I, amusing them with his farces and tragicomedies. He also penned religious dramas. Although G. subsequently lost its pre-eminent status to Coimbra--which became the P. capital in 1143--it never relinquished its sense of self-importance, something that's evident from the careful preservation of an array of impressive medieval monuments.
There's a grandeur to the town, and a tangible sense of history in the narrow streets, which conspires to make G. one of the most attractive places in the country. The old center of G. is an elongated kernal of small, enclosed squares and cobbled streets. It is buttressed at its southern end by the town gardens and overlooked from the north by the imposing castle, an enduring symbol of the emergent P. nation. In between lie a series of medieval churches, convents and buildings that lend an air of dignity to the streets--two of the convents provide an impressive backdrop to a couple of the country's more illuminating museums.
We only saw the outside of the Palace and Castle, but went inside the church (Chapel of Sao Miguel) where AH was baptized. Along the Rua de Santa Maria--from the castle, RdSM leads down into the heart of the old town, a beautiful thoroughfare featuring iron grilles and granite arches. Many of the town's historic buildings have been superbly restored, and as you descend to the center you'll pass one of the lovliest, the 17th c convent of Santa Clara, which today does service as the Camara Municpal. On a much more intimate scale are the buildings ranged around the delightful central squares at the end of the street, Prace de Santiago and Largo de Oliveria (Olive Tree Square). The latter is dominated by the Colegiada, a convent-church built in honor of a vow made by Jaoa I before his decisive victory over Castile. Its unusual dedication is to "Our Lady of the Olive Tree" and before it stands a curious Gothic canopy-shrine. This marks the legendary spot where Wambe, unwillingly elected king of the Visigoths, drove a pile into the ground swearing that he would not reign until it blosomed. Naturally, it sprouted immediately. Jaoa I, feeling this to be a useful indication of divine favor, set out to meet the Castilian forces from this very point.
The Museu Alberto Sampaio was very interesting, with paintings and artifacts from early P. history.
We had a picnic lunch and headed for Barcelos, where we planned to spend two nights and enjoy the Thursday market we had heard so much about. When we arrived, all was chaos as the town prepared for an annual fair. It seemed as if the whole country had arrived. I freaked out and we moved on to
The Alto Minho, set from Spain only by the crystal clear Rio Minho, could have inspired Thoreau to pen a second Walden. Wildflowers spring from the rivers’ banks, broken only by cottage gardens of cabbage, corn; and grapes and rocky mountains rise between unspoiled small towns. Intrepid travelers jump the train at stops between towns and get permission from farmers to camp in their fields.
We found an adequate Residential in Viana do Castelo, the “most folkloric city in the north of P ,” the Laranjeira for 6000$ ($36), and went to the Turismo in Rua do Hospital Velho, off Praca da Erva for a map so we could go exploring.
VdC is the one town in the Minho you could describe as a resort--and it’s all the more appealing for it. A lively, attractive place, it has a historic old centre, above average restaurants, and, some distance from the town iself, one of the best beaches in the north. It’s also beautifully positioned, spread along the north bank of the Lima estuary and shaped by the thick wooded hill of Monte de Santa Luzia, which is strewn w Celtic remains. It has long been a prosperous seafaring town.. It produced some of the greatest colonists of the “discoveries” under Dom Manuel, and, in the 18th c was the first centre for the shipment of port wine to Eng. Many of the buildings reflect these times--unusually for the north, you’ll notice Manueline mouldings around the doors and windows of V’s mansions. At the heart of V’s old town is the distinctive Praca da Republica, a wonderful square enclosed by an elegant ensemble of buildings. We saw copies of its showpiece Renaissance fountain (16th c--crowned w a sphere bearing a Cross of the Order of Christ) in towns throughout the Minho, but few structures as curious as the old Misericordia (almshouse) that lines one side of the square. built in 1598, this is one of the monst original and successful buildings of the P Renaissance, its upper storeys supported by deliberately archaic caryatids. A cool azuelo interior lies within. The small Paco do Concelho (1502), formerly the town hall, seals the square to the east. The adjacent 16th c Camara Municipal has been brightly restored, and stands foursquare above a medieval arcade, while just off the square is the Igreja Matriz, V’s parish church, which retains a Gothic door of some interest. Wherever you stand in V, the modern basilica atop Monte de Santa Luzia makes its presence felt. It’s said to be a great walk (which we didn’t take) up a long stairway, drenched w blood, sweat and tears, through the pines and eucalyptus trees
We looked for a restaurant participating in the Regional Gastronomy Festival and found one , Os 3 Potes, where we feasted on roast kid and tiny potatoes for 6455$ (under $40).
We missed the market in Barcelos, but the one here, outside the walls, built in 1589 by Spain’s Felipe I, was changed from Fri., a national holiday celebrating the Revolution, to Thurs, so we had that to anticipate.
Day 5--April 24--Thu.--153 miles
After breakfast, we strolled to the mercadeo. It was delightful. Most towns of size have a permanent market, a 4-sided comples, open in the middle, with inside stalls for butchers, etc., who are always there. On market day, women and a few men come from far and wide, each with a little bit of “stuff”: a few chickens or a rabbit, carrots or other vegetables, beans, and lots and lots of flowers. We got a loaf of bread, some presunto and cheese, fresh big strawberries, and bottle of wine and set off.
First we went back south for a bit and looked at the beaches of the Costa Verde. Spurred by the flow of foreign currency into the Algarve, the P Tourist Board is energetically trying to promote the Minho's almost continuous line of sandy beaches as the Costa Verde--a zone which seems to stretch inland along the north bank of the River Minho itself. So far, the seaside element of the campaign hasn't worked, for the Costa Verde is green for a reason. It can be drizzly and overcast right through summer and the Atlantic here is never warm. We had cool and grayis weather, but it was beautiful all the same.
Mar--north of Ofir, around 5km inland from one of the best stretches of the Costa Verde. This was refreshingly little to the place: just a church, shop and cafe. As well as fishing, the local economy revolves around gathering seaweed. Traditionally, whole families harvest it on the beach using huge shrimping nets, which are then hauled across the sands by beautiful wooden carts pulled by oxen. Although the methods are changing and tractors are supplanting beasts, the seaweed is still stacked at the edge of the village to dry before being spread as fertilizer on the coastal fields.We didn’t see this, but did see tractor tracks on the beach and some people clamming or musseling or something in the ocean. The fields and vineyards came right up to the edge of the beach
Now we headed back north, passisng through tiny towns with pretty beaches (Afife has a gorgeous one) up the coast to Moncao, where we took the mountain road to Monte de Farro, for “one of the finest views in the North of Portugal.” Rising quickly through the pines the views open out ever more extensively over the Minho valley, the coastal plain and in the distance the mountains of Galacia. We drove up to the top for a picnic--what a view!!
On to Melgaco past Palacio de Brejoeira to Barbeita and its nearby prehistoric hill town, known as the Castro da Nossa Senhora da Assuncao to Ceviaea and Peso or Paderne. Melgaco, the country’s northernmost outpost, is a small border town sitting high above the river Minho. If its rural origins are somewhat obscured by the modern developments that sprawl along the main road, at its heart not much has really changed.
Then through Peneda-Geres National Park, this time, the northwest section
Peneda, the northern section of the Parque, sees far fewer tourists than Geres to the south. However, the route from here is one of staggering scenery and awesome rock formations. Lamas de Mouro is 19km southeast of M. The left-hand fork at Lamas took us up to the ancient village of Castro Laboreiro (9 km), a place that’s known for the breed of mountain dog to which it gives its name. The book said that the village might be deserted because the village people take their flocks up the mountain in the summer. We couldn’t figure out how you could get any mor “up” than they already were. We tried to find the road to the ruins of the town’s castle (left at the roundabout on the other side of the village, then left up a path where the road drops to the right, past a large rock known as the Tartaruga (tortoise), and through heather and between boulders, with sheer drops to each side and steps hacked out of the rock face), but didn’t although it was a very interesting ride. Instead, we found ourselves in Spain, where we stopped in and walked around a pretty parish church, Santa Maria de Real, with intricat carvings, in Tierrachan.
Re-entering Portugal at Lindiso, we stopped and toured the Castle, being reconstructed now. There we found the answer to one of our mysteries (another being the name of the greens we have been eating: Portuguese cabbage--bright emerald green when cooked)--what were the slim, corn-crib like buildings we had seen at many of the farms. They are raised in the air and most have dates on the. Well, they are espigueros or canastros, and there were 60 of them here at the castle. Made of granite, they are indeed used for storing maize. They are located throughout the Minho and usually have a cross on their roofs indicating the religious feeling that motivates their careful construction. They appear to be quite ancient, but, in fact, the crowing of corn was only introduced into the Minho in the 17th c. (only !!). They are raised from the ground to protect them from flooding and rats.
Now we entered The Lima Valley
The Rio Lima, whose valley is perhaps the most beautiful in P, was thought by the Romans to be the Lethe, the mystical River of Oblivion. Beyond it, they imagined, lay the Elysian Fields; to cross would mean certain destruction, for its waters possessed the power of the lotus, making the traveller forget country and home. the roman Consul Decimus Junius Brutus, having led his legions across most of Spain, had to seize the standard and plunge into the water shouting the names of his lefionaries from the far bank, to show his memory remained intact, before they could be persuaded to follow..
Ponte de Barca was the first town. The Lima is spanned here by a lovely 16th c bridge; alongside is a splendid market and, on the adjoining corner of Largo de Misericordi, a seasonal Turismo
And finally to Ponte de Lima, where we got a fine room in the Pensao Sao Joao overlooking St. John’s Fountain and an interesting statue for 5000$ ($30) just as the rain started in earnest.
We walked around the town (glad we brought our unbrella). Ponte de Lima lies at the end of a low stone bridge, Roman in origin and said to mark the path of their first hesitant crossing. It’s a delightful small town, whose old centre has no specific attraction other than its air of sleepy indifference to the wider world. The town’s main focus is a long riverside Alameda, shaded by magnificent plane trees, leading to the rambling old convent of Santo Antonio, which contains a small museum of treasures within its church. In the town are many handsome buildings. There are several 16th c mansions w stone coats of arms, and interesting remains of the old 14th c keep, used up to the 1960s as a prison (the occupants were allowed to hang cups down from the windows for money and cigarettes). It now houses a small craft shop where I should have bought the linen blouse we admired.
We took the recommendation of the lady at Turismo and crossed the river for dinner at A Carvalheria (a restaurante tipico) where we had a wonderful meal for 4450$ ($27). We both selected the chef’s specials: Jerry had Pernie no forno (a huge cut of roast pork with potatoes, rice and green beans) and I had Arroz do Pato (fat free slivers of duck baked in rice). We started with 4 appetizers (codballs which were light and tasty, pickled something, beans and mushrooms) and of course bread and a great bottle of Ponte de Lima vinho verde.
Day 6--April 25 (Revolution Day)--Fri-- 195 miles
The day began with a very pretty drive down the N201 to Braga, crossing the Lima just before entering the city on a old one-way bridge. We didn’t stop, but went on through Curia and Mealhada and on to Luso and the Bucaco forest.
Avid arboreal aficionados and aqueous admirers alike absolutely adore basking in the Benedictine botany of Bucaco (Bussaco) and losing it in the lavish luxury of Luso. Bucaco, home to P’s most revered forest, has for centuries drawn wanderers in search of a pristine excape from the city. In the 6th century, Benedictine monks settled in the forest, established a monastery, and remained in control until the 1834 disestablishment of all religious orders. The forest itself owes its fame, however to the Carmelite monks who arrived here nearly 400 years ago. Selecting the forest for their desertos (isolated dwellings for penitence), Carmelites periodically planted trees and plants brought from around the world by missionaries. Today, the fruits of their labor are inspiring. Dom Manuel’s exuberant Palacio de Bucaco, adjoining the old Carmelite convent, is a flamboyant display of neo-Manueline architecture. The azuelos adorning the outer walls depict scenes from Os Lusiadas, the great P epic about the Age of Discovery. The place is now a luxury hotel--pousada--with doting staff that can provide maps of the forest. In the forest itself, landmarks include the Fonte Fria (Cold Fountain) with waters that ripple down entrance steps, the Vale dos Fetos (Fern Valley) below, and the Porta de Reina (Queen’s Gate).
We were ready for lunch, so we returned to Mealhada. The tourbooks had talked about the famous Churrasquerias which serve roast suckling pig. We passed Pedro’s (recommended by Frommers), but it looked rather touristy. We had spotted another which looked very large--Churrasqueria Rocha (500 m from the Police Station on the road to Luso) and it was fantastic. We arrived about 12:30 and there were 3 or 4 other tables occupied. By the time we left, there must have been close to 200 people enjoying the Leitao. You order by the kg (a thing we had seen on several occasions)--we got um media kg (one half). The roast meat, with wonderful crispy skin comes on a big platter. You get another with good salad and home made potato chips. They recommend espumante (sparkling) wine, so we had Barrada Messias bruto. With bread, the bill was 4000$ ($24).
We went on to Penacova, where we tried at the Residencial San Joao, but found it had been converted to apartments. We went across the street to the Pensao Avenida, where a comfortable room with bath and breakfast was 4400$ ($26.40).
It was, as planned, still early, so we took the 110 south, keeping high above the river for the most part, affording the occasional sweeping view of glistening water and improbably perched hamlets to Coimbra-"the most romantic city in Portugal”, where we took the advice of the books and parked on the outskirts of this remarkable city.
We stopped first at the Turismo--Largo da Portagem facing Ponte Santa Clara for a good map of the city. On the weather-washed right bank of the muddy Mondego, Coimbra is also the educational center of the country. It's a wonderfully moody place, full of ancient alleys and lanes, spreading aroung the country's oldest university, founded in 1290.
We found the Velha Universidade, dating from the 16th c, whose buildings are set around a courtyard dominated by a Baroque clocktower and a statue of Joao III, who looks like Henry VIII.
Sala dos Capelos--this is where the students graduate and was very elaborate. The ramparts gave us great views.
Capela--not the finest of Coimbra's religious foundations but one of the most elaborate--covered w/ azulejos and intricate decoration including twisted, rope-like pillars, a frescoed ceiling, and a gaudy Baroque organ.
Biblioteca--to the left. A Baroque fantasy presented to the faculty by Joao V in the early 18th c. Its rooms telescope into each other, focusing on the founder's portrait in a disconcertingly effective use of trompe l'oeil. The richness of it all is impressive, such as the expanse of cleverly marbled wood, gold leaf, tables inlaid w/ ebony, rosewood and jacaranda. Chinese-style lacquer work and carefully calculated frescoed ceilings. The most prized valuables, the rare and ancient books, are locked away out of sight and, impressive multilingual titles notwithstanding, the volumes on the shelves seem largely chosen for their aesthetic value; no one seems likely to disturb the careful arrangement by actually reading anything. The guard gave us a very interesting tour--in French.
Museu Machado de Castro, just down from the unprepossessing Se Nova, was named after an 18th c sculptor and is housed in the former archbishop’s palace--which would be worth visiting in its own right even if it were empty. As it is, it’s positively stuffed with sculpture, paintings, furnitur and ceramics.
Mosteiro de Santa Cruz, is at the bottom of the hill, at the northern end of Rua Visconde da Lus, where restraint and simplicity aren't words that spring to mind. Although it was originally founded by Sao Teotonio and predates even the Se Velha, nothing remains that has not been substantially remodeled. Its exuberant facade and strange double doorway set the tone. In the early 16th cen. Coimbra was the base of a major sculptural school that included French & Manueline masters. They designed a variety of projects: tombs to house P's 1st kings, Afonso Henriques & Sancho I; an elaborate pulpit; and, most famously, the Cloister of Silence. It is here that the Manueline theme is at its clearest, w/ a series of airy arches decorated w/ bas-relief scenes from the life of Christ. From the cloister a staircase leads to the raised coro, above whose wooden benches is a frieze celebrating the nation's flourishing empire. Around the back of the monastery, the small Jardim da Manga faces the main road. More cloister than garden, it was at one time surrounded by orange trees, and today still retains a cupola and fountain; there's a handy cafe at the rear of the garden.
Se Velha is probably the most important Romanesque bldg in P--built 1140-1175. P Romanesque is an architecture (continued into the 14th c in the N, at which time the Gothic style was already spreading throughout the rest of the country), of simple, often dramatically stark forms, whose sturdiness is frequently explained by the need for fortification against the continued threat of Moorish or Castilian invasion. This fortified appearance is enhanced in the cathedrals of Lisbon & Coimbra by the crenellated facade towers. (Most of the Rom. buildings are of granite. The hardness of granite renders detailed carving impossible, thus favouring a simplicity of form. In areas where the softer limestone abounds, such as the central belt of the country--including Coimbra and Lisbon--carved decorations are more common). These Rom. churches share a certain robustness; a method of construction based on semi-circular arches and barrel vaults; a cruciform plan; and a solid, almost sculptural sense of form in the interior which allows for a play of light and shade. This sobriety is accentuated by the paucity of decoration, which is frequently reduced to the capitals of columns and the archivolts surrounding the protals. When the tympana are not bare, the simplified carvings are usually styilized depictions of Christ in Majesty, or the Agnus Dei. In some cases, animals and serpents climb up the granite columns.
We thought we might try to visit the Santa Clara Convents, so we returned to the car, stopping to hear the fado music in the park where a book fair was going on. However, we got messed up and lost trying to find the convents and decided to call it a day and return to Penacova on a very pretty winding road through eucalyptus logging country, passing through Lorvao, an ancient Benedictine convent (9th c), predating the arrival of the Arabs, and later taken over by Cistercian nuns. The abbesses are buried horizontally in the graveyard, the lesser sisters are buried vertically, in twos and threes. Most of what remains is the product of heavy restoration in the 18th c. Today it’s used as a rathe old fashioned psychiatric institution.
Penacova is a larger town set high above the river. Today is Revolution Day when, in 1974, in a nearly bloodless coup, the army overthrew the government. The Penacova town square was filled with bands, people and lots and lots of politicians making speaches. We listened for a while, strolled through the town, saw the town park with tennis courts built into the side of a hill, and had a beer at the Panoramico restaurant (where they sold highly elaborate carved toothpicks-palitos) with fantastic views of the Mondego river valley. Then we came back to the room and ate our reserves, washed down with another bottle of espumante bruto, which had been chilled by the kindly pensao. It proved to be a long night, however, as the cuple across the hall were obviously very much in ove and in great physical shape.
Day 7--April 26--Sat
After breakfast, we headed South on N112 (or 2), winding through pine forests and quiet villages like Arrifana and Vila Nova de Poaires to the wide, beautiful and fertile River Ceira at Vila Nova de Ceira to Gois, and on through Lousa. Then we took the N342 through Miranda Do Couro to Lanas, right on N110 to turnoof for Condexia Velha (N342) to N347 north to Condeixa Nova and south on N1 to
Ruines de Conimbriga, a very interesting archeological excavation with beautiful mosaic floors and a well done museum of artifacts. The town was a major stopping pt on road from Olissip (Lisbon) to Bracara August (Braga).
Then a rainy trip through the Estremadura region which has played a crucial role in each phase of the nation's history, and features the monuments to prove it. It is a comparatively wealthy region and has received substantial EU grants to help restructure agriculture. Encompassing a comparatively small area, it boasts an extraordinary concentration of vivid architecture and engaging towns comprising the most exciting buildings in P.
We took the IC1 S to Leiria, where we saw the great Castelo de Leiria, once occupied by Dom Dinis, the poet king, who gave it to his beloved wife (along w/ Obidos, Abrantes, Porto De Mos, & Trancoso), known as Saint Isabella. Tower-topped and still imposing, it has been extensively restored, mostly in the 14th & 18th c.. The walls also contain the castle church of Nossa Senhora de Penha , erected in 1400 by Joao I, and now reduced to an eerie roofless shell Both the palace and the church are Gothic. From an arched balcony, high above the Rio Lis, you can view the city and its surroundings. The castle lies on the summit of a volcanic outcrop that was practically inaccessible to invaders. The Moors had their defense redoubt on this hill while they were taking possession of the major part of the Iberian peninsula. The fortress was first taken for Portugal in the 12th century by its first king, Afonso Henriques, and was twice recovered by him after the Moors had retaken it.
The area is covered by pinewoods, stretching as far as the eye can see, vast expanses of intensest green permanently irrigated by numerous water courses. Nothing jars in this landscape, total calm prevails, calm which is an integral part of the region.
Seven miles S, the landscape is abruptly interrupted. Without warning, Batalha and the Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitoria loom unannounced over the motorway. This was a very worthwhile stop. Designed in the splendid Gothic and Manueline style, it is an imposing mass of steeples, buttresses, and parapets when approached from its western facade. Much restored, it is a jewel of finely cut gems in stone. The western porch, ornamented by a tangled mass of Gothic sculpture of saints and other figures, is capped by a stained glass window of blue, mauve, and amber. The hue of the limestone has supposedly changed through the ages; today, it is a light burnished beige,. Napoleon's irreverent army used the stained glass windows for target practice. The true affirmation of the national Gothic style came here. The stylistic heterogeneity of Batalha is due to the many years it took to build. Its construction can be divided into 3 stages. The first, lasting until 1438, was initially supervised by Afonso Domingues. His plan was entirely P. in inspiration, following the general scheme of the churches of the Mendicant Orders (Franciscans and Dominicans). The central nave is illuminated by windows; simple ribbing supports the vault; and the chancel gives on to 2 pairs of chapels, without ambulatory. Offset by Domingues' scheme, the next architect, Huguet, made contributions which include the Founder's Chapel and the famous chapterhouse vault, which have a greater refinement and elegance, influenced by English Gothic architecture. The second stage, under Martim Vasques and Fernao de Evora, lasted until 1481, during which time a second cloister was built. The third stage corresponded to the Manueline phase of the building, culminating in the arcade of the incomplete chapels and the Royal Cloister.
Nexr, we passed the Battle Site of Alijubarrota at the hamlet of Sao Jorge on the way to
the Cistercian monastery at Alcobaca. This town continues to stand as though virtually immune to unbridled progress, a collection of buildings resting placidly on the banks of the Rio Alcoa and the Rio Baca.
We were, oddly enough, hungry and looked for a supermercado. What we foound, instead, was a lady barbequeing chicken outside her restaurant. Jerry went to investigate. He returned with two whole chickens. We had bread and a litre of wine (which, together with 4 oranges had cost 230$ ($1.38), so we stopped by the road and picknicked on an old stone wall (thebottle popped itself open when we removed the foil).
After this, we were ready for the monestary . In France, new methods of construction involving pointed arches and ribbed vaults allowed for lighter, taller arch. forms. As the main weight of the building was now borne outside at fixed points by flying buttresses, the walls could be pierced at frequent intervals. The light filtering into these Gothic interiors became a metaphor for Divine Light replacing the Romanesque emphasis on Mystery. The first building in P to use these new construction methods was the majestic church at the abbey of Alcobaca. With its great height and elegant, unadorned white interior bathed in a milky ligth, A. is one of the most serene and beautiful churches in P. Begun in 1178 and consecrated in 1222, it is almost purely French in inspiration. The sarcophagi are considered the greatest pieces of sculpture from 14th c. P. The oval-faced Ines is guarded and protected by hovering angels. Her tomb rests on sculpted animals w/ human faces, said to represent the assassins who slit her throat. Pedro lies in a tomb supported by lions, symbols of his timeless rage and vengeance.
From one highlight to another--the kitchen was unbelievable--with its cellars and gargantuan conical chimneys, supported by 8 trunklike iron columns. A stream tapped from the Rio Alcoa still runs through the room. It was used not merely for cooking and washing but also to provide a constant supply of fresh fish, which plopped out into a stone basin.
The Cloister of Silence has beautiful stone traceried windows, and the Sala dos Reis displays statues of virtually every king of P.
Through Caldas da Rainha and Obidos rising on a sugarloaf hill above a valley of vineyards. Its golden towers, ramparts, and crenellated battlements contrast w/ bright white houses and the rolling countryside where windmills clack in the breeze.
Day 8--April 27--Sun-Lisbon--Hotel Fenix--
We found our hotel without incident. It was very nice, right on the Parque Eduardo and Marquis de Pombal is right outside our window. Took a stroll before dinner and saw our first homeless and first threatening bum. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and it was great. Jerry had duck with vegetables and I had lamb chops (how can the Portuguese serve lamb with no fat?!) and a good Dao wine (our favorite) for 5650$ ($34). we went to bed ready to conquer Lisbon mass transit.
Lisbon has an efficient system of buses, subways, trams and trains. We used them to full advantage. We bought a ticket each day, good for 24 hours on all the busses and trolleys, for 430$ ($@.50). Took our first bus, #27, to Belem. Belem is more of a suburb than a neighborhood of Lisbon, but its heavy concentration of monuments and museums makes it an important stop in any comprehensive tour of the capital. Belem is P at the peak of its imperial glory. As later generations painfully discovered, the fame and glory of P’s Age of Discovery fizzled away as gold was lavished on showy palaces, monasteries, and royal carriages--all of which now benfti museums, not empires or citizens. To visit Belem is to understand saudade, the “nostalgic yearning” expressed musically in fado.
Across from the monastery along the river is the Padrao dos Descubrimentos with its glorious statue commemorating the Age of Discovery. We walked along the river to Torre de Belem rising from the north bank of the Tejo and surrounded by the ocean on 3 sides. It was under construction, so we couldn’t climb, but they had hung canvas outside which looked like the real thing.
The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos rises from the banks of the Tejo behind a regal sculpted garder. It was very beautiful and very crowded. It was fortunate that we got there when we did (10 am), because it closed at 10:30 for Sun mass.Established by King Dom Manuel I in 1502 to give thanks for the success of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India, the monastery stands as P’s most refined celebration of the Age of Discovery. The monastery showcases P’s native Manueline style, combining Gothic forms with early Renaissance details. Sailor symbolism--ropes, anchors, and coral--is ubiquitous.
The main door of the church, to the right of the main monastery entrance, is a sculptured anachronism--Henry the Navagator mingles with the 12 Apostles under carved canopies on both sides of the central column. The symbolic tombs of Luis de Camoes and navigator Vasco da Gama lie in 2 opposing transepts. The octagonal cloisters drip w overdone stone carvings, a contrast to the simplicity of the rose gargens in the center.
We took a bus to the Palacio Nacional da Ajuda to see the changing of the guard, but it was closed for disinfection and fumigation??.
Another bus (#6) to Museu Nacional de Art Antigua--The country's greatest collection of paintings is housed here, which occupies 2 connected buildings--a 17th c palace and an added edifice that was built on the site of the old Carmelite Convent of Santo Alberto. The convent's chapel was preserved and is a good example of the integration of ornamental arts, with gilded carved wood, glazed tiles and sculpture of the 1th and 18th c.
The museum has many notable paintings, including the famous polyptych from St. Vincent's monestary attributed to Nuno Goncalves between 1460 and 1470. There are 60 protraits of leading fitures of P history. Other outstancing works are Hieronymus Bosch's triptych, The Temptation of St Anthony; HansMemling's Mother and Child; Albrecht Durer's St. Jerome; and paintings by Velasquez, Zurbaran, Poussin, and Courbet. Paintig from the 15th through 19th c trace the development of P art.
The museum also exhibits a remarkable collection of gold and silversmiths’ work, both P and foreign. Among these is the cross for Alcobaca and the monstrance of Belem, constructed with the first gold brought from India by da Gama. Another exceptional example is the 18th c French silver tableware ordered by Jose I. Diverse objects from Benin, India, Persia, China and Hapan were culled from P expansion overseas. Two excellent pairs of screens depict the P relationship w Japan in the 17th c, Flemish tapestries, a rich assemblage of church vestments, Italian
We especially enjoyed the polychrome ceramics, and sculptures. We loved the carved wooden statues of saints, especially one, strikingly modern in appearance, from the 13th c. Also several of SanIago and a wonderful creche from the 17th c.
Then we walked down to the Santos Velho and had a wonderful lunch at the Confeitana de Santos. We both had cream of shellfish soup, then Jerry had a huge, sizzling dish of ham, liver and potatoes cooked with garlic, bay and parsley, and I had a huge dish of fresh strawberries. All washed down with an icy col Frei Bernardo Vinho de mesa branco 1610$ ($9.66).
Got the #27 to Museo Calouste Gulbenkian. Opened in 1969, this museum, houses "one of the world's finest private art collections." It was deeded by the Armenian art tycoon Calouste Gulbenkian, who died in 1955. The modern, multimillion dollar center is in a former private estate taht belonged to the count of Vilalva.
The collection covers Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities; a remarkable set of Islamic art, including ceramics and textiles of Turkey and Persia; Syrian glass, books, bindings and miniatures; and V|Chinese vases, Hapanese prints, and lacquerwork. The European displays include mediaeval illuminated manuscripts and ivories, 15th to 19th c paintings and sculpture, Renaissance tapestries and medals, important collections of 18th c French decorative works, French Impressionist painting, Rene Lalique jewelry and glassware.
In a move requiring great skill in negotiation, Gulbenkian managed to make purchases of art from the Hermitage. Among his most notable acquisitions are 2 Rembrandts.
We walked through the gardens and around the back streets, stopped for a beer and to rest our feet. Walked some more and looked for a place for dinner. We did it again. For a trip that was supposed to be plagued with bad food, we have yet to have a less than excellent meal. The restaurant we had picked, based on Frommer, was full (although all the tables seemed to be empty at 7:30), so we walked back to the Parque Eduardo VII anwent into the restaurant at the top of the Parque, Botequin do Rei. We had a table overlooking fountains and pools (a Portuguese dog was trying to catch the Portuguese ducks) and had a wonderful meal at about one third of the price we would have paid. We had good cheese and pickled octopus for appetizers, then another cream of marisco soup and a main course of arroz de marisco ( a wonerful paella-like dish with langoustos, shrimp, baby clams and rice, in a coriander sauce) with the same wine we had enjoyed at lunch for 5200$ ($31).
Day 9-April 28--Mon
After breakfast at the hotel (a nice big buffet), we caught a bus and went on a walking tour of the Alfama--
Europe’s most colorful sailors’ quarter goes back to Visigothic days. It was a rich district during the Arabic period and finallythe home of L’s fisherfolk (and of the poet Luis de Camoes, who wrote, “our lips meet easily high across the narrow street”). One of the few areas to survive the 1755 earthquake, the Alfama is a cobbled playground of Old World color
Se Even official tourist brochures admit that this cathedral is not very rich. It is not much on the inside, but its exterior is a textbook example of a stark and powerful Romanesque fortress of God. Characterized by twin towers flanking its entrance, it represents an architectural wedding of Romanesque and Gothic. The facade is severe enough to resemble a medieval fortress. At one point, the site of the present Se was allegedly used by the Saracens as a holy mosque. When the city was captured early in the 12th century by Christian Crusaders, led by P's first king, Afonso Henriques, the structure was rebuilt. The Se then became the first church in L. Inside the rough exterior are many treasures, including the font where St Anthony of Padua is said to have been christened in 1195. A notable feature is the 14th century Gothic chapel of Bartholomeu Hoanes. Other items of itnerest are a crib by Machado de Castro; the 14th c. sarcophagus of Lopo Fernandes Pacheco; and the original nave and aisles. A visit to the sacristy and cloister (closed Mon) requires a guide. The cloister, built in the 14th c. by King Dinis, is of ogival construction, with garlands, a Romanesque wrought iron grille, and tombs with inscription stones. In the sacristy are housed marbles, relics, valuable images and piecews of ecclesiastical treasure form the 15th and 16th c. In the morning, the stained glass reflections on the floor evoke a Monet painting.
A couple of blocks west, along the Rua de Alfondega, is the Church of Conceicao Velha, severly damaged by the earthquake but retaining its flamboyant Manueline doorway, an early example of this style and hinting at the brilliance that emerged at Belem. It once formed partof the Miseracordia (almshouse)--you’ll find one of these impressive structures in almost every P village and town.
Campo de Santa Clara--Santa Engracia, the loftiest and most tortuously built church in the city. The building is prisinte and cold, and the state has fittingly turned it into a neoclassic National Pantheon containing memoriail tombs to P heads of state and various other memorials to artists, poets and warriors.Begun in 1682 and once a synonym for unfinished work, its vast dome was finally completerd in 1966. It was closed, so we couldn’t see inside.
We walkewd and walked and walked some more, and finally found the Castelo Sao Jorge, which local people call the cradle of their city. This may well have been the spot on which the Portuguese capital began. Believed to have predated the Romans, the hilltop was used as a fortress to guard the Tagus and its settlement below. Beginning in the 5th c, the site was a Visigothic fortification; it fell in the early 8th c to the Saracens. Many of the walls that are still standing were erected during the centuries of Moorish domination. The Moors were in control until 1147, the year that Afonso Henriques, the first king of thecountry, chased the Moors out and extended his kingdom south. Even before Lisbon was made the capital of the newly emerging nation, the site was used as a royal palace. The conquest of L from the Moors--and the seige of the Castlo--are depicted in azuelos on the walls fo the church of Santa Luzia. An important victory leading to Muslim surrender at Sintra and throughout the surrounding district, this was not, however, the most Christian or glorious of P exploits. A full account survives, written by one Osbern of Bawdsley, an English priest and crusader, and its details, despite the author’s judgemental tone, direct one’s sympathies to the enemy.
The attack, in the summer of 1147, came through the opportunism and skilful management of Afonso Henriques, already established as “King” at Porto, who persuaded a large force of French and British crusaders to delay their progress to Jerusalem for more immediate goals. The Crusaders--scarcely more than pirates--came to tems and in june the siege began. Osbern records the Archbishop of Braga’s demand for the Moors to return to “the land whence you came” and, more revealilngly, the weary and contemptuous response of the Muslim spokesman: “How many times have you come hither with pilgrims and barbarians to drive us hence? It is not want of possessions but only ambition of the mind that drives you on.” For seventeen weeks the castle and inner city stood firm, but in Oct. its walls were breached and the citizens--including a Christian community coexisting with the Muslims--were forced to surrender.
The pilgrims and barbarians, flaunting the diplomacy and guarantees of Afonso Henriques, stormed into the city, cut the throat of the local bishop, and sacked, pillaged, and murdered Christian and Muslim alike. In 1190, a later head of English Crusaders stopped at L and, no doubt confused by the continuing presence of Moors, sacked the city a second time.
A triumphant statue of Afonso Henriques--who alone emerges from the account with honor--stands at the main entrance. Beyond stretch gardens and terraces, walkways, pools and caged birds, all lying within the old Moorish walls. At first, the Portuguese kings had taken up residence within the castle--in the Alcacova, the Muslim palace--but by the time of Manuel I, this had beensuperceded by the new royal palace on Terreiro do Paco. Of the Alcacove only a much-restored shell remains. But the castle as a whole in an enjoyable place to spend a couple of hours, wandering amid the ramparts and toweres to look down upon the city.
Crammed within the castle’s outer walls is the tiny medieval quarter of Santa Cruz, once very much a village in itself, while to the north sprawls the old Mouraria quarter, to which the Moors were relegated on their loss of the town. This, despite a few grand old houses, is largely in decay, though currently undergoing substantial redevelopment.
We, walked the esplanades and had a fine view. At the castle entrance, pause at the Castle Belvedere, the P "ancient window". Stroll through groves of olive, pine, and cork trees, graced by the appearance of flamingos, a rare white peacock, and swans
Feria da Ladra, L's rambling and ragged flea market, fills the , at the edge of the Alfama, all day Sat.
After the Alfama, we were ready for the Baixa, the Center & the Chiado
We walked to the Rossio--a popular meeting place where business men get their shoes shined, the local African population hangs out. We enjoyed the square, with its monuments: Praca da Figueira, one of the main city bus stops, centered on a fountain and lined with shops and crafts; Sao Domingos church, immediately to the east in Largo SD, was where the Inquisition read out its sentences. It was blackened and gutted by a fire in the 1950s, and the doors are now firmly closed; and the square's single concession to grandeur is the Teatro Nacional de Dona Maria II, built along the north side in the 1840s. Here, prior to the earthquake, stood the Inquisitional Palace, in front of which public hngings, autos-da-fe and even bullfights used to take place. The 19th c statue atop the central column is of Dom Pedro IV.
We stopped for lunch where the local business people go, to the Restaurante Uma Marioqueira and had roast pork cubes with delicious baby clams and frenchfires and a cold white Terras de Xisto for 3170$ ($19)
We took the funicular, Elevador de Santa Justa to the Barrio Alta
Like the Alfama, the Bairro Alto (Upper City) preserves the characteristics of the L of yore. It once was called the heart of the city, probably both for its location and its inhabitants. Many of its buildings survived the 1755 earthquake. Today, it is the home of some of the finest fado cafes in L, making it a center of nightlife; it is also a fascinating place to visit during the day, when its charming, narrow cobblestone streets and alleys, lined with ancient buildings can be appreciated in the warm light coming off the sea.
Originally called Vila Nove de Andrade, the area was started in 1513 when part of the huge Santa Catarina farm was sold to the Andrade family, who in turn sold the land as plats for construction. Early buyers were carpenters, merchants, and ship caulkers. Some of them immediately resold their newly acquired land to aristocrats, and little by little nobe families moved to the quarter. The Jesuits followed, moving from their modest College of Mouraria to new headquarters a the Monastery of Sao Roque, where the Misericordia (social assistance to the poor) of L is still carried on today. The Bairro Alto gradually became a working class quarter. Today the quarter is also the domain of journalists, since most of the big newspapers have their plants here. Writers and artists have been drawn here to live and work, attracted by the ambience and the good cuisine of local restaurant.
The area is colorful. From the windows and balconies, streamers of laundry hang outdry, and there are cages of canaries, parrots, parakeets, and other birds. It comes alive at night, luring visitors and natives with fado, food, discos, and small bars. L's budget restaurnat, the tascas, proliferate here, together w/ more deluxe eateries. Victorian lanterns light the streets, along which people stroll leisurely.
We followed the big street (Rua da Misericordia) downhill a couple of blocks. Sao Roque Church is around the corner (to your left) on Largo Trinidade coelho. It looks like just another church from the outside. Nor does it seem impressive whe you enter. But hang around the gloom and the sacristan will come and escort you around, turning on lights to a succession of side chapels, each lavishly crafted with azuelos, multicolored marble and Baroque painted ceilings. Wander slowly under its flat painted ceiling and notice the rich side chapels. The highlight is the Chapel of St. John the Baptist (left of altar, gold and blue), which looks like it came right out of the Vatican. It did. It was ordered from Rome in 1742 by Dom Joao V to honour his patron saint and, more dubiously, to requite the pope, whom he had persuaded to confer a partiarchate upon L. Designed by the papel architect, Vanvitelli, and using the most costly materials available, including ivory, lapis lazuli and agate. It was the site of one papal mass; then it was taken down and shipped to L--probably the most costly chapel per square inch ever constructed. Notice the beqautiful mosaic floor and the 3 (or 4) paintings that are acutally intricate mosaics, a Vatican speciality. The Sao Roque Museum has some impressive old painting and church riches.
After a visit w the poor pigeon-drenched man in the church square, continue downhill along Rua da Misericordia into the Chiado district. Shoppers can duck into the chic Centro Comercial Espaco Chiado at Rua da Misericordia #14 (with chic public-enough toilets and classy bars; closed Sun) en route to Praca Luis de Camoes (named after P’s best-loved poet).
A left to a small square (Largo Chiado, the torn-up site of a future Metro stop) and 2 downhill blocks on Rua Garrett, left up a hill along Calle Sacramento, led to another pleasant square, Largo dos Carmo, wth the ruins of the Convento do Carmo. It was closed but we rested there and had a beer.
Across the street from the lift, we found Solar do Vinho do Porto. In a stuffy ‘60s-decor livingroom atmosphere we had for 180$ an apertif port, they didn’t have our Fonseca. Then took the funicular back down.
For our final night we decided to splurge and went to one of the finest resturants I’ve ever been in, Conventual (Praca das Flores 45). It’s a tiny place on a beautiful lilac-filled square. We arrived at 7:30 and rang the bell (you wouldn’t even know it was a restaurant and you wouldn’t have entered without a reservation--we had had the concierge make one for us the day before). The owner wandered about, adjusting roses, fixing the cap on her personal collection of old, odd carved saints. We were seated and served a cocktail, then a wonderful rich creamy cheese, gingerbread!!, and the ubiquitous olives. We ordered appetizers--creamy coriander soup for me and gazpacho with fresh veggies for Jerry. Later, he had pork with zucchini and tomatoes, and I had the special of the day, grouper gratinee with white asparagus. The bread and wine were delicious and we finished with cafe and brandy. the owner brought around little pumpkin tarts. We walked home and packed
Day 10--Tues, April 29--airport to USA--got a bus to the airport--halfway there, we realized we had left our jackets in the room. We checked in at TAP and Jerry, white knight that he is, get a bus back and retrieved them and was back at the airport by 11:30 for our 12:40 flight.
Got back to Newark about 3:30 and were back on the Island by 6. Jerry’s truck battery was dead, but he fixed it and was home by 10.