Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Porto - Day 11

Thursday, June 16
Still a bit gray out today as we set out to explore more of Porto.  Our guide yesterday, Andre, had described Porto as "rainy, windy and foggy," kind of like San Francisco, complete with the steep hills and cable cars. And much like the California city, even those cloudy days are often interspersed with brief bursts of sunshine.
We started out walking from our hotel and toured much of the old historic section.
One of the areas was the Avenida dos Aliados (Avenue of the Allies), referring to Portugal's role on the winning side in WW I.
In the foreground is Praça da Liberdade with a statue of King Pedro IV, king in the 1830's who advocated for reforms, and in the background, is the city hall, circa 1920.
This next shot shows a piece of modern art now gracing the avenue and in front of city hall (although some distance away).
Along the way we stopped to have an up close inspection of the Dom Luis I Bridge, the major downtown bridge and the one we had seen yesterday on the boat ride. It was constructed in 1886 by a partner of Gustave Eiffel. The two-level arched bridge was used for both trolleys and vehicles on top (now just the metro) and vehicles and pedestrians on the lower level.
We stopped on the metro level and took photos with some great views, particularly of Vila Nova de Gaia across the river from Porto.
Also a great view of the Ribeira on Porto's side.
On to the Cathedral Se, a 12th century Romanesque cathedral which has a very austere inside but enhanced with a beautiful 18th century Baroque alter.

The Cathedral is significant because it was the scene of many royal marriages including John I and the English princess Philippa, which established the Portuguese-English alliance. From my standpoint, it is also the starting point for the Camino from Porto. Prior to entering, we took some more sweeping shots of the city.
When a place is built on hills, you do get marvelous views. Behind me rising above the buildings is Clerigos Tower, which can be seen from various points. It is next to a church of the same name, designed by the famous Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter who produced extensive work in northern Portugal in the 18th century.
The tower, which is about 250 feet high, was completed in 1763 (after the earthquake). There are 240 steps to the top, but it didn't fit my schedule (this time!)
From here we went to the São Bento Train Station for another look at the tiles.
Installed between 1906 and 1918, this one chronicles the 1387 wedding of King John I and Philippa.
Our last two sights on the tour were actually connected, but today are very different.
On the right is the Stock Exchange Palace (which is neither a stock exchange nor a palace) and on the left is St. Francis Church.
First the Stock Exchange. In 1832, the monastery to the church burned down and Queen Mary II offered the ruins to the Commercial Association. Taking great pride in the skill of local tradesmen, the merchants crafted a building that showcased the talents of the community.
We toured a number of rooms which were all beautifully decorated with complex patterned floors using Brazilian and African woods from Portugal's colonies, tiles and architectural details. One of the rooms was the Central Courtyard,
with its beautiful tiled floor and covered by a metallic octagonal dome with glass panels.
Another room was kind of like a "court" where they would mediate disagreements between merchants.
The paintings around the room illustrate historical scenes dealing with justice. There were several small offices. This one I liked because the carpet is a special Portuguese style of embroidery worked in wool on linen - on inspection, it looked like a combination of cross-stitch and needlepoint -- and the floor is cork!
The grand finale is the Arab Room, completed in 1880 in the Moorish revival style that was popular at that time.

The room is used for receptions for dignitaries. 
From here we went to the St. Francis Church, completed in 1425, making it the best example of Gothic architecture in Porto. We were not allowed to take photos inside, but much of it reflected the later Manueline and Baroque styles with their ornate designs. I was taken aback by the large paintings of Franciscans being crucified by the Japanese and beheaded by Moors. Kind of scary images.
From here we had the afternoon free for lunch and sightseeing. We were right next to the Ribeira (waterfront) so I walked along the street checking out the restaurants and the shops.
And walked by the Praça Ribeira.
Then I took the funicular back up the hill and went to Rua das Flores, that our guide had said was where the art shops are located. I had a delightful time checking out the shops and found one with real treats. It was called "Memorias" and carried antiques and textiles. I bought an antique cloisonné thimble and some fabric which looked like a photograph of the apartments along the waterfront with their wrought iron balconies. I had a late lunch of quiche and drink for less than 5 euro in a small cafe on the street and then headed back to the hotel.
Tonight we said our farewells.First we gathered at the hotel for a champagne toast and gave Robert postcards from each of us telling him how much we appreciated him as our guide. Then we had dinner at Restaurante Escondidinho, which was just down the street.
Lots of laughter and hugs and a great ending to 11 days together. The rest of my adventure begins tomorrow.

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