Pieces of Portugal

Last January, while on winter vacation from teaching in Georgia, I met my mom in Lisbon for our second European adventure. Since it’s literally been one year since that trip, I doubt I’ll ever get around to posting the pictures on Facebook. But I did somewhat organize the 3,000 photos I took, in order to make a photo book for my mom’s Christmas present, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.


The Belém Tower, built in the early 16th century, is a prime model of the Manueline (Portuguese late Gothic) architecture that is prevalent in Lisbon. Though its columns and turrets are intricately detailed, the tower contains many cannons and prison cells, as it was mostly used as a defense from invasions. Despite being at the edge of a major city, looking out at the mouth of the Tagus river from the top of tower, I felt like I was alone on a deserted island.


Construction on Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery began in the 16th century and didn’t end until an entire century later. Not surprising, considering the building is over 300 meters long and stunningly elaborate in its architecture and design. Just check out the detail on this portal… And this is only an entrance! Talk about dreaming big.

There are few words that can describe how incredibly delicious Portuguese pastries are, so I’ll just say that I would return to Portugal simply for another bite! My mom and I enjoyed pastries and coffee every day for breakfast… Along with every other meal. Honestly, Portugal’s pastel de nata can easily rival France’s macaron!

When I think of Portugal, I think of tiles. And the azulejos I saw, including the above on the side of a church in Porto, did not disappoint. Beautiful, artistically detailed tiles, old and new, are all over the buildings, countering the monotony of a busy city.IMG_5214

The Gothic exterior of the Church of São Francisco in Porto is a stunning sight at dusk. But even more remarkable is the interior (of which I don’t have a good picture because photography is not allowed inside). Past these doors, the Baroque-styled walls, roof, and pillars are not only painstakingly elaborate, but the majority is decorated in gilt woodwork. The lights reflecting off of the gold surfaces give the jaw-dropping, almost frightening illusion that the whole church is on fire.IMG_5362

The Ribeira district, along the Duoro river in Porto, is historical, popular, and clearly one of the most photogenic areas in one of the most photogenic cities I’ve ever visited. Drawn to the colorful shops, homes, and cafés, you know I stopped for ice cream here.


Across the Duoro river from Porto is the city of Vila Nova de Gaia, known for the wineries that produce Portugal’s most famous export and Porto’s namesake, port. Look closely to see just a small portion of the countless port houses, historically situated along the water for ease of transportation.


Vintage vintage bottles at Graham’s prestigious port house. Our tour guide told us that Graham’s was Winston Churchill’s favorite brand of port, though who knows how many others make the same claim? The wine we tasted here was delectable, and we purchased a bottle from my birth year (a vintage year, naturally) for my dad.

These traditional boats on the Duoro river were historically used to transport port, though they’re probably mainly for show now. Also pictured is one of the five bridges that connect Porto, known as the city of bridges, with Vila Nova de Gaia. The Dom Luís Bridge, designed by Gustav Eiffel before he designed the Eiffel Tower, was the longest arched bridge in the world at the time of its opening in 1886.

IMG_7382Back in Lisbon for our last day in Europe, Mom and I admired gorgeous azulejos from the past five centuries at the National Tile Museum. The huge collection is housed in a former convent, which contains many rooms that still hold their original splendor. This chapel, decorated with impressive paintings and opulent gilt work, was perfect for our final memories of Portugal.

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