Thursday, May 31, 2018

our last days in the countryside and relocation to Lisbon

Monday, the next day, after our trip to the Douro Valley, we decided to go back to Barcelos, the town we visited on our first day after arrival for the market which turned out to be the weekend for one of their most important religious festivals, Festa das Cruzes, for a little more wandering around and some shopping.

decorations left over from the festival

We didn't go in the Church of Bom Jesus de Cruz on that day but we did on this subsequent visit. The unassuming exterior holds unbelievable grandeur. We weren't allowed to take pictures of the ornate interior so these are from the internet.

Tuesday, our last day in rural Portugal, we returned to Vila do Conde to explore the docks and piers where the fishing boats come in and leave from.

murals depicting the history and industry of Vila do Conde lined this retaining wall along the beachfront

making nets just like in the mural above

and of course, lunch!

Our last night at the Villa, Denise got in the kitchen and prepared all the left overs and odds and ends into a beautifully displayed and delicious dinner.

Wednesday morning we once again crammed our luggage and ourselves in the car and drove to the Lisbon airport, turned in the car, and then caught cabs to the apartment within walking distance of the waterfront where Jane would spend one night and then head home, Denise would spend 5 nights and head home, and I would spend a week before heading home. Catharine and Vicki would stay the whole two weeks with another friend coming in for a few days the same day I left.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

a market, a castle, and vineyards

The next day, after the walking tour of Oporto on Thursday, we headed back to Vila do Conde for their Friday open market which, like the one in Barcelos, offered everything you could possibly want or need to buy, food to flowers and plants to tools to clothing and shoes to housewares and linens. I loved these open markets.

I bought two meters width of the long ivory lace curtain material for the corner window in the newly finished back bedroom

And then headed to the waterfront for lunch.

another of the religious tableau cabinets tucked between houses or shops

lace curtains in a window

lunch I know, you haven't seen too many of these

Saturday we visited Guimaraes Castle and the Ducal Palace (click on the links for historical information).

view of the Ducal Palace from the castle rampart

While the castle was mainly for defense and has been restored to a state of semi-ruin, the palace has been restored to a perhaps 'glorified' version with rooms outfitted as per their original use...waiting, meeting, dinning, personal chambers, etc. 

the central courtyard is now used for shows depicting life as it was when it was inhabited

one of several of the immense tapestries depicting Portugal's history

the armory

The next day, Sunday, we drove to the wine region of the Douro Valley, a center of vineyards and wineries. It was our longest day trip drive taking two hours to get to the furthest point we went and another two hours home. The hills were terraced with vineyards (or grape orchards as I called them) and olive trees from bottom to top.

We stopped in Regua for lunch (more toasted ham and cheese) and wine tasting at one of the wineries

and then drove on another 30 minutes to Pinhao, another narrow curvy road, to look at the train station which had dozens of gorgeous tile murals depicting the area and industry 

and have a glass of port at a nearby hotel and then headed back home to the Villa.

next: our last days in the countryside and relocation to Lisbon


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

rural Portugal and the Worst Tours company

Even though Portugal is on the same latitude as New York, it enjoys a tropical climate, rarely if ever freezing, and getting up into the 90s during the summer and the countryside shows it with gorgeous displays of color from bird of paradise and calla lilies and bottlebrush and roses and all manner of flowering trees and shrubs. During our stay the temperature ranged from a few lows in the low 50s to some highs in the mid 70s with no humidity and clear blue days for the most part, a few overcast and it rained off and on one day.

Driving through the small villages house after house, courtyard after courtyard, is filled with flowers and just about everyone has a grape arbor as well. It was rare for me to get a picture as we passed through as driving the narrow curvy cobblestone roads often bordered by high walls didn't allow for stopping and picture taking. And the Portuguese obviously love their land as it is unbelievably clean unlike the US which is a pig sty compared. I didn't see so much as a single scrap of paper or plastic anywhere in my entire 3 weeks there.

this home, in our village of Fornelo, though larger than average is still typical in its front garden

Portuguese homes, shops, and churches are faced with cement or stucco, painted or plain, or beautifully patterned tile all with red tile roofs on a hilly terrain. The main roads through the villages and towns and in the cities as well are pavement but turn off those and you are driving and walking on cobblestone which often, in the larger towns and cities, had patterns and designs embedded in them.

Rural Portugal is dotted with small clusters of houses interspersed with small fields and vineyards which give way to more dense housing and the village center and on Wednesday, a week into our stay, we all piled in the car and just drove randomly around the countryside, passing through villages, stopping now and then to take pictures or get coffee or lunch.

the churches all have bell towers, even in the countryside

the attached what appears to be deserted monastery. Portugal had a lot of monasteries

passing a truck full of hay

making random turns we picked what we thought was another narrow walled road but it ended here

Lunch at a local restaurant in whatever village we were in, no menu, no one spoke English, we were sat and two platters of whatever they were cooking were placed on the table. The place was almost empty when we walked in but filled up quickly with people waiting for tables. The man in the foreground in the checkered shirt and his wife approached me about sitting in two of the four empty seats at our table and so they joined us. She leaned over to me and asked “Frances?”. She spoke French besides Portuguese and thought to converse. No matter, we managed a bit.

The next day, Thursday, we returned to Oporto for a walking tour with the Worst Tours company which consisted of two architect friends who were trying to survive during the global economy crash of 2008 when they came up with this idea. Our guide, Pedro, came armed with a portfolio of maps and a wealth of knowledge of the history of Oporto and how and why and where the city grew, asked the group of about 10 of us what we had seen, what we wanted to see and we struck off for the hidden environs of Oporto.

along with the beautiful tile, there is also a lot of iron work on the buildings...balconies, transom grates, or just ornamental traditional, art nouveau, and art deco styles

when I paused to take this picture a workman standing on the top of the wall behind me called out 'picture, picture' so I obliged him

Pedro, our guide, gave us a brief history of the tile work and styles, asking us not to buy tiles on the black market as they are usually stolen off the buildings. Vacant spots on the upper floors, they probably fell off, vacant spots on the ground floor, the tiles were probably stolen.

filling in with whatever's handy

winding our way down to the old abandoned railway track

following the old tracks along the river, the rails were still there but the ties were long gone

The tour ended at the bottom of the stairs at the edge of the tourist waterfront where excavation and restoration of some of the old tile factories is underway.  

next: a market, a castle, and vineyards