Saturday, December 30, 2017

Xmas in Portugal - Dec 30: Walking and Shopping


Our last day is Porto is, basically, our last day of 2017, as we will be in the air tomorrow (New Year's Eve). We start with a quick walk down Boavista, past the Casa da Musica, and on down to Rua Migeul Bombarda, a narrow little road full of funky galleries.





Then we turn toward the river, and catch a flea market near the Igreja dos Clerigos. Not quite as extensive as the Feira da Ladra, but still a lot of fun.



Once we reach the church, we get back into tourist mode. We head down the Rua dos Clerigos, and toward City Hall Plaza, the Praca da Liberdade, where they are clearly setting up for some kind of New Year's festa. 



At the top of Avenida Dom Alfonso Henriques, there is a small church covered in azulejos, but I cannot seem to find its name on any of our maps (I find out later it's the Igreja de Santo Antonio dos Congregados). It's quite pretty, but evidently not a real attraction.


We continue towards the river and up the next hill toward the Se do Porto, and we start to get some views over the historic center and the Ribeira. But we take the scenic route, up the little, steep street, down the next steep street, and through some windy alleys, and then up the big stairs.



The interior is much as I remembered, but there did seem to be some more interesting details



Back outside, we continue on towards the Ponte de Dom Luis I, which is also, as I remember, only better. The air is cool now and the light faded.





We finish the day by taking a shuttle to the El Corte Ingles, a big (big!) department store in Gaia to buy some gifts – it feels like a department store in Tokyo, with bright lights, lots of stores within stores, and gourmet foods on the lower levels. We catch the sunset from the bridge coming back over the river.

Feliz Ano Novo!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Xmas in Portugal - Dec 28: Return to Old Porto

Today we have a day of sightseeing, as we try to keep out of the damp weather, still we are on the hunt for the gloomy and the spooky. We have two top tourist targets to check today: the Palacio da Bolsa and the Igreja de Sao Franciso. So it's a return to the old historic center of Porto: the hidden hills, steep cobbled streets, peekaboo vistas, and the amazing architecture.







The two sites, the Palacio and the Igreja, are connected buildings. I realize that when were we ate dinner, within the Palacio last night, we were looking out onto the front door of the Igreja. Our first stop inside is the "private church", which is much large and elaborate than the term suggests. It's a wonderful, small neo-classical gem; reminds me of the Igreja Paroquial de Sao Nicolau that we saw in Lisbon.


Below this small church is a crypt full of halloween-tinted amazements. There are tombs lining the vaunted passages, and small, sculpted skulls mounted on top of each group. Shockingly, in the last passage, there is a grate through which you can see a scattering of actual bones and skulls.




Adjoining the small church is a dispatch house designed by Nicolau Nasoni: beautifully executed wooden ceiling, trompe l'oeil, faux-stone walls, and elaborate stone doorways. From the dispatch house there is a view back to the main entrance of the big church.




There are no pictures allowed in the big church, so you'll have to make do with those provided online.  The churches don't any kind of presence on there street, and the entry is not through a piazza or open space, but up a set of winding stairs. Each church id approached on a different level, so the facades are only truly visible from close angles.

We have a few minutes before our tour of the Palacio begins, so we walk about the Ribera for a while. The sun is setting, and the winter crowds are much thinner, but it is still hard to capture images without others jumping in your frame and taking a selfie.








Inside the Palacio is a set of unusual rooms, each with it's own character. The main "courtyard" space, which apparently used to be the trading floor for the stock exchange, is called the Hall of Nations. The spaces are unevenly lit, so it's hard to capture the color and detail of the rooms.



At the back of this main hall is a Grand Stairway that leads to a gallery; the stair hall has a glass cupola.



The first room is a kind of commercial courtroom where certain kinds of disputes were adjudicated. The walls and ceiling contain paintings the explain the function of the room.


Next to that is a row of offices and meeting rooms for the administration of the commercial association.




There follows tow extra-fancy rooms: one dedicated to the Portuguese royalty and one very large rooms done in a Moorish style, including Arabic script within the patterns on the alls.



We make our way back to the historic city center, as the sunlight fades, and the holidays lights begin to take over.