Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Portugal & Spain 2015

In May 2015, my crack traveling companion, Kit, and I set off for four weeks in Portugal and Spain, primarily backroads places that not very many tourists visit. A reminder that you can click any of the photos for a larger view. And when you get to the bottom of a page, click "older post" to continue on in chronological order.

Of course, you can't avoid - nor would you want to - large places like Lisbon and Madrid, but having been to both countries many moons ago, it was nice to see some smaller towns and more rural areas. But first: Porto

The second largest city of Portugal straddles the Douro and has a fabulous collection of historic buildings. The main part of the city is on the right bank, with Vila Nova de Gaia, home to many port wineries on the left bank. So let's start with Vila Nova. To get there, you have to cross the Douro by boat or using the 1886 Dom Luís I bridge:

At the end of the bridge is a wonderful old monastery, the Sierra del Pilar:

Or you can take a boat across the Douro - why not?

Vila Nova itself is a warren of tile-roofed port wineries:

You may recognize a few of the names of these port wineries:

And that last one, Ferreira, was one we visited; sadly, the port we bought there was all gone by the end of the trip... ;)

Just one of some gorgeous buildings in Vila Nova de Gaia:

Slipping down the Douro to its mouth at the Atlantic, we visited a 1661 fort, hosting a variety of occupants through its history, most recently the Northern Commandos Association:


The Ribiera, opposite Vila Nova de Gaia on the other bank of the Douro, is an old European barrio of winding streets.

 The waterfront is lined with shops and restaurants:

But the real jewels of Ribiera are the Igreja (church) São Francisco and the Palácio da Bolsa (stock exchange), built on the site of an old convent. First, the church, built in 1233 and rebuilt in the 14th century with a glittering Baroque interior:

The Neoclassical 1832 Palácio da Bolsa is opulent as only a stock exchange can be:

In fact, it warrants a separate blog post of its own, so carry on below!

The Palácio da Bolsa & the Arab Room

The attention to detail in the Palácio is amazing - it's hard to stop taking photos and even though there are a lot here, believe me that it's only a fraction of those I took... This first photo is of a ceiling detail, showing the coats of arms of countries Portugal had commercial relationships with in the 19th century. Notice the U.S. in the center.

The ceilings are beautifully detailed with plaster and the light fixtures are just yummy:


The floors ain't bad, either.

The Assembly and Tribunal Rooms:

But the jewel here is the Arab room, built between 1862 and 1880 in Moorish Revival style:

The attention to detail here is just magnificent. The Stock Exchange must have been doing very well when this room was constructed!