Thursday, January 3, 2013

Back to the Iberian Peninsula!


Top left corner is Galicia.
It's been such a busy time since we returned from Galicia at the end of October. I only managed one post on return, and then there was the announcement of my husband's photo website and contest, announcement of the winner, a friend's book launch, a family reunion in Raleigh, North Carolina, another friend's book announcement, and then Christmas (which was just lovely but where went the time?) All the while Galicia has been on my mind, but I've been pouring my responses to it into poetry. So it's nice to be back to blogging about the place we love so much.

Today's post, however, is about a trip we took with our friends, David and Terri, to Porto, or "O Porto", in Portugal. Portugal is directly south from Galicia and is like a continuation in many ways. If you look on a map, you can see that one flows into the other, and, indeed, Gallego and Portuguese are "sister languages". For the most part, a speaker of one can understand a speaker of the other with very little difficulty.

But when I think of Porto, I remember tiled walls, a feature, I have to say, of any Portuguese city. (We went to a walled border town, Valenca, a few years ago, and were struck at that time, too, by the many artistically tiled walls.) Along every street, whether old or restored, buildings gleamed with colorful tiles. We stayed for two nights, and the day we arrived the weather was overcast, but that made no difference. In sun or mist or rain, Porto is a beautiful and colorful city.



   

We stayed at what a brochure described as a castle, appropriately named Castelo de Santa Catarina. We've also been told it was a mansion built by someone from Argentina, who later returned to South America. It's a beautiful place, as you can see from the pictures below. There is a central crenelated tower that certainly epitomizes a castle tower,
and also a separate chapel (which was typical of castles in olden days), but the rest of Castelo de Santa Catarina branches out in wings with tiled walls, and gardens at several levels. My husband and I both went crazy with the cameras. Below is just a sampler of what this amazing place looked like!



Neither Terri nor I could resist the opportunity in one of the gardens to sit with ancient pharaohs:

                         
(Do you get the feeling they're ignoring us, though? That's just like those ancient pharaohs!)

The first day, despite overcast weather, we headed down to the river (the Río Douro), where the cafés and shops are. It was a nice walk from our lodgings, ever downward toward the river, and finally down a flight of stairs to the river level and the main wharf area—a convivial sight to say the least, flocking with tourists. Lots of handmade items in some shops. I picked up a few souvenirs there to bring back.




 
Before returning to Castelo de Santa Catarina, we had a really fabulous dinner at a restaurant close to our lodgings: It was an unbelievable meal, enhanced greatly by one of the servers who had a truly funny sense of humor. Here we are, having a grand old time at O Forno:

O Forno 
                                         Rajan, the server, Terri, and David

Me, Terri, David, & Rajan
After our meal we returned to Castelo de Santa Catarina: And another artistic experience greeted my husband and myself:


Our bedroom.
Our bathroom.
The breakfast room next morning.
And with that, I bid you goodnight for now. Coming up: A wine shop, a river cruise, a school, and a fond farewell to what we will always remember as "The City of Tiles."

Meanwhile, is there anything else you would especially like to know about Porto? I'm so enamored of the trip I'd be more than happy to look it up.






24 comments:

Julie Luek said...

Lovely picture that made my heart sigh. I have direct family ties to Portugal and it is on my bucket list of destinations. Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

How wonderful to have family ties there, Julie. What a great excuse to go visit! Where in Portugal is your family from?

Glynis said...

You brought back wonderful memories for me, Elizabeth. We debated about living in Portugal, but opted for Cyprus as they drive on the UK side of the road. Porto was one of the places I loved to visit whenever we went to Portugal.

Aw, I have a hankering to return!

Stacy Henrie said...

Looks gorgeous and amazing! I hadn't thought of visiting Portugal before, but after looking at these photos, I think I've changed my mind. :)

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Glynis, I'm glad it brought back memories. Ah, but how wonderful to live in Cyprus!

Stacy, I'm glad these photos inspired you to think of traveling there. Porto certainly is a beautiful port city.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Thank you for the comment on my blog. I really love yours. May I become a follower?

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, what striking pictures. I love all the tiles. When I lived in Cambridge, there was a big Portuguese community (still is) and some people would put a small bit of tiles on their house. Didn't look the same, but I can see where the inspiration comes from.

Welcome back!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Hello, Optomistic, I'm glad you like my blog. Yes, please do follow. I'm also following yours. It's nice to find a site devoted to optimism!

Theresa, it's good to be back. I've really missed blogging, but was just so unbelievably busy. I see you've been pretty busy too!

Rosi said...

I sooooo want to go where you have been. Beautiful photos of a beautiful place. Someday...

Lydia Kang said...

So jealous. I'd love to go to Portugal!

David P. King said...

I seriously need to get to Europe. Glad you guys had a great time! :)

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Rosi, I think you would really like Galicia! O Porto was a beautiful experience, but it also was a city bustling with tourists. Our part of Galicia is quiet and peaceful, and I always get some good writing done there, despite our socializing.

Ah, Lydia, don't be jealous. Come visit instead!

David, I think you would really like Europe. There's such a different ambience there. We love California, but we love Europe, too.

Laura Diamond said...

Awesome pictures!!!!

Victoria Lindstrom said...

What wonderful life experiences you and your husband have had. The photos are just marvelous, Elizabeth!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great pictures, Elizabeth. Hope your writing is going well.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Thanks, Laura, Victoria, and Rachna, for the nice comments about the pictures. Most of them are by my husband. Hope the writing is going well for all of you.

Richard said...

Walking around those old cities is amazing.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Richard, amazing is the word! It's like being in another world, hearing the language, seeing the history in the buildings. Yes. Amazing.

Catherine A. Winn said...

With your descriptions and photos I felt like I was tagging along on a guided tour. Loved it!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Catherine, I'm so glad you felt that way.

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for visiting my blog today!

Carol Riggs said...

Looks LOVELY! I especially adore that ornate headboard. :) Thanks for sharing your experiences and photos!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

You're very welcome, Theresa.

Carol, yes, the furniture was incredible. Glad you liked the post.

Julia Hones said...

Dear Elizabeth, thanks so much for reading my flash fiction piece! (My story is based on a true personal life experience). Cheers.