Tag Archives: Lisbon

The Road Taken: My Portuguese Scrapbook

I’ve taken a fair number of trips in my life. Some I recall more fondly than others:  the Chicken Pox Plague in Lyon, France was a particular low with a six-month old and a two-and-a-half year old. Now that we have opportunities to travel just the two of us, we go for impromptu trips:  book on a Tuesday, leave the following Tuesday. Of course, it’s  a stupid strategy for most trips, but it worked wonderfully well when we travelled to Portugal recently.

The image above is a street view taken from the top of a double-decker tourist bus in Porto. Gotta love cool doorways. These come with eyebrows! Plus they are painted carmine and viridian: must use colorful words here, it’s travel writing afterall.

Another street in Porto:  shabby chic in an Old World way. Porto has a San Francisco feel to it with many climbing walks, which turns out to be good exercise for the simple, delicious fare to be had in town.

Ah, the curse of translations: the notorious homonym in the English language.

Clearly, in Portugal there’s a national predilection for tile, called azulejos. The Moorish influence is pervasive in geometric tiles like these, but the figurative ones are the Portuguese way of sharing art, culture, and history. Not only do tiles bedeck buildings inside and out, the “tiling” concept is also deployed underfoot. As you can see in the image below from the seaside resort of Cascais

No fear, just two photos more to close this installment (2 of 3 BTW). Across from Porto is the warehouse district of Vila Nova de Gaia and the locale of this fantastical example of collage/sculpture. I LOVE it! I could go on and on with superlatives, but I will practice restraint:  Art created with repurposed materials that pop up in unexpected places just slays me. I want roadrunner art just like this slapped up on an exterior wall at my home. I wonder if I could pull it off? I’d need welding skills though. Full disclosure: there’s another cool animal, a fox, on a Lisbon street. We drove by too fast in an Uber to take a photo.

See below a warm, just purchased Pasteis de Belem (as described in the prior post) soon to be consumed by me. The verdict? Sublime. Accept no substitutes.

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Sacred Spaces Dressed in Blue

Never did I imagine that I would find a place where cobalt blue takes on such heavenly forms as it does in Portugal. Many, many shutter clicks later I have too many examples of the Portuguese love of tile. Instead I thought I’d share my fave ecclesiastical applications. The opening shot is two churches bisected by a ten-foot-wide slice of a building in the middle. Turns out, even back in the old, old days local zoning laws found eccentric expression.

Overwhelmingly wonderful figurative tile work affixed to the side of the right-hand church featured in the opening photo. Porto certainly earns its place on the list of trendy international cities with it’s eye candy and more.

The Belem neighborhood of Lisbon is home to a magnificent monastery that glows under bright blue skies and rather delicious pastries called Pasteis de Belem. The monastery’s thrifty monks, who needed to find use for an abundance of egg yolks left over from using egg whites to starch their black cassocks, created a sublime custard spooned into a crispy shell that is the reward for hungry tourists who’ve worked up appetites strolling the church’s cloisters. Now I’m not sure if that is a Portuguese urban myth, but I like the idea of enterprising clerics finding a sweet answer to their pressing dilemma.

Porto has such an abundance of blue-tile-clad churches. This one resides near the Douro River.

This one sits atop a Porto hill.

This one is across the Douro River in the port wine warehouse district called Vila Nova de Gaia.

Now this church with it’s dramatic blue figurative tile is at the top end of Porto’s trendy shopping street.

Even in Portugal’s small towns blue-white tile work makes its mark. This fisherman’s chapel in the surfing town of Nazare is lovingly tended by its folk. It’s also sublimely simple after the Baroque beauties of the bigger towns.

Lest you think the tile stays outside with these churches, sacred spaces wear tile inside as well. This church on a promontory in Lisbon is a favorite of mine. Not so much Baroque abundance, but still rich with imagery.

Figurative tile gives way to abundant patterned tile inside an ancient university church in the hilly city of Coimbra. Did you notice the scholars merit leather cushioning in their pews? That could be a luxury with a downside counted in many more seated hours!

A few more things to share . . .

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Filed under Inspirations