Livraria Lello, Porto Portugal, March 2018

I love books and I can spend hours in a good bookstore.  Porto’s Livraria Lello & Irmão was on my short list of places to visit in Portugal.

Livraria Lello, or the Lello Bookstore in English, is one of the most beautiful and, thanks to J.K. Rowlings, one of the most famous bookstores in the world.  When J.K. Rowling lived in Porto, she began work on the Harry Potter series.  She was a frequent visitor to the bookstore and the amazing central staircase was the inspiration behind the moving staircases of Harry’s Alma Mater, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Livraria Lello began life in 1869 as Internacional Livraria de Ernesto Chardron.  When Senhor Chardron passed away, the bookstore was purchased by Lugan & Genelioux Sucessores who eventually sold the bookstore to the Lello brothers in 1894.  The brothers Lello decided to build a new bookstore and hired engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves to build the new bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas, in the shadow of the Clérigos Tower  The new Livraria Lello & Irmão opened its doors in 1906.

The bookstore is truly beautiful.  The exterior is a Neo-Gothic with vivid Arte Nouveau paintings, including the two figures of Art and Science, painted by Professor José Bielman.  Just above the door, in gilt lettering, the name “Livraria Chardron” celebrates the early history of the bookstore.

Lello Exterior

The bookstore saw an increase in visitors who, driven by the popularity of the Harry Potter books, just wanted to see the interior that gave birth to the fantastic architecture of Hogwarts. Because most of the visitors were not actually there to make a purchase, Livraria Lello began charging an admission fee in 2015, with the price of the admission ticket being deducted from the price of any book purchase.

The interior is truly special.  There are busts of some of the greatest Portuguese writers, including Eça de Queirós and Camilo Castelo BrancoThe interior has a lot of art deco touches, including the stained glass skylight and the famous forked staircase.  The interior seems to be of wood, but it’s actually plaster painted to look like wood.

Lello Interior 3

As you can see from the photos, browsing through the books is a bit of a chore.  You have to fight your way through the hundreds of visitors.  We did manage to look through the cookbooks but, alas, the selection of English language Portuguese cookbooks was extremely limited.  Once I’ve learned enough of the Portuguese language to read in the language I’d love to go back to peruse the selection of Portuguese classics.  What I’ve read so far- Jose Saramago, Eça de Queirós and Fernando Pessoa- have whetted my appetite for more Portuguese literature.

Lello Interior 4

My dream is to be able to visit Livraria Lello when there are no crowds so I can browse the shelves for literary treasures that may be hidden there.  And while I’m searching for treasure maybe I’ll try to catch a few photos of this amazing store.

 

Joey Ramone

Today would have been Joey Ramone’s 67th birthday.  Born Jeffrey Hyman in 1951, he was co-founder of one of the greatest punk bands of all time, the Ramones.  He died from lymphoma in 2001.

I had the opportunity to see the the Ramones perform at Marietta Georgia’s Strand Theater. Here’s a photo from the show.  I shot it with a Pentax K-1000 on high speed film, hence the grain.  The negative is 35 years old.  Overall, I guess it’s not too bad.

Ramones at the Strand Ektachrome 64pro

Street Art, Aveiro Portugal, March 2018

This beautiful painting is on a wall near the Aveiro Cemetery.  Aveiro has opened its arms to street art and there are a lot of incredible works scattered throughout the city.  This is just one of them.

Aveiro 3

National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA Summer 2013

I was an Army brat.  We moved a lot but we always seemed to go back to Columbus, Georgia, home to Fort Benning.  Oakland Park, Baker Village, Benning Hills- those were the neighborhoods we lived in while my dad was stationed at Fort Benning, while he was in Vietnam and after he retired.  I consider Columbus my home town.

That being said, my trips back to Columbus have been few and far between.  Life gets in the way.   My wife and I did take a trip to Columbus in 2013 to attend an impromptu reunion of the Baker High School Class of 1978.  I really enjoyed seeing my classmates and I was amazed at how Columbus had changed over the years since I was last there.

There are a lot of really nice things to do in Columbus and one of them is the National Infantry Museum.  Opened in 2009, the museum has one several awards, including USA Today’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Free Museum.  We visited the museum as part of a memorial luncheon for classmates who are no longer with us.

The first thing that struck me was the Infantryman, or Follow Me, statue at the entrance to the museum.  The statue was originally located at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning before being moved to the Infantry Museum.  What was interesting to me is that the sculpture was created by two U.S. soldiers, Private First Class Manfred Bass and Private First Class Karl H. Van Krog.  It’s a beautiful monument to the Infantrymen of our country.

Infantry Museum Entrance HDR Structurized 1
The Infantryman sculpture

The museum campus has a 2,100 seat stadium where Army trainee graduations are held twice a week.  We visited on a graduation day and there were a couple hundred very proud graduates and their family members at the museum that day.

The exhibits inside the museum honor the men who fought in the many wars and conflicts the United States have participated in over the years and can only be described as incredible.  The entrance to the exhibits is called the Last 100 Yards Ramp.  As you walk up the ramp you pass Infantrymen fighting battles from the Revolutionary War through the Afghanistan War.

Infantry Museum Paratrooper
The Last 100 Yards Ramp

My favorite exhibit halls were the World At War 1929-1947 and the Cold War 1947-1989.  Life size displays are combined with projected images to create amazing interactive dioramas.  Here, a Korean War soldier sits and writes a letter to home.

Infantry Museum WWII Trench HDR Deep 1
The Cold War Exhibit

A special exhibit, the Hall of Valor, pays tribute to the nearly 1,500 American Infantrymen who were awarded the nation’s highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor.  It’s a beautiful exhibit.

Infantry Museum Medal of Honor Hall
The Hall of Valor

Some of the weaponry on display is quite scary.  There’s one weapon, kind of a rocket launcher, designed to launch a shell armed with a nuclear warhead up to five miles.  Fortunately, it was never used.

There are exhibits focusing on the Rangers, Cavalry, and Armor, all important parts of the Infantry.  There’s even an exhibit hall celebrating the connections between Fort Benning and Columbus.

Infantry Museum Ranger Room
Ranger Exhibit

There’s a lot more to Columbus.  There’s the Chattahoochee RiverWalk, the Coca Cola Space Science Center and Planetarium and a whitewater kayaking course on the Chattahoochee River.  The Infantry Museum, though, brought back a lot of memories from a childhood lived around Columbus and the Army.  Our day at the museum was a day well spent.

 

Azulejos, Portugal, March 2018

Azulejos, the beautiful decorative tiles that adorn buildings throughout the country, are now synonymous with Portugal, but they have a history that spans several countries and cultures.  Of Moorish origin, the tiles were not only beautiful, they had a functional purpose as well, serving as insulators against the intense heat of the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Azulejos first came to Portugal from Seville, when Dom Manuel I, during his visit to the Spanish city, was struck by the beauty of the tiles.  Originally the tiles were of geometric or floral patterns.  Their use rapidly spread throughout Portugal, becoming a popular building material for the outside of buildings as well as being used to decorate the interiors structures.

Azulejos
Aveiro building with both geometric and pictorial tiles

As the popularity of azulejos grew, so did demand.  During the second half of the 17th century, Delft potter makers, whose blue and white pottery was already popular throughout Europe, began producing tiles.  The popularity of the Dutch tiles was such that they effectively created a monopoly and shut out many Portuguese manufacturers.  Dom Pedro II, alarmed at the rate that the Dutch tiles were taking over the market, banned all imports of azulejos between 1687 and 1698, allowing Portuguese artists to fill the void left by the ban.

Aveiro Station Detail
Detail of tiles on Aveiro train station

Over the next few centuries azulejos remained popular in Portugal.  The influence of the Dutch tiles continued to be felt, as the blue and white tiles were the most commonly used, but more and more the tiles were used to depict scenes and tell stories.  Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs became popular in the early 20th century as artists such as António Costa and Jorge Colaço began to create works of art from azulejos.

Sao Bento 8
São Bento train station

From the stunning São Bento Station in Porto, featuring over 20,000 blue and white tiles, to decorative scenes featuring just a couple dozen tiles, azulejos can be found throughout Portugal.  This art form with an international history is now forever a part of Portugal.

 

Stained Glass, Tarpon Springs, FL, June 2008

This beautiful stained glass image is part of the tiny St. Michael’s Shrine in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Stained Glass 2

The shrine was built about 80 years ago after a young boy, Steve Tsalickis, lay near death.  The young was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  His vision and hearing was already affected and the doctors told the family there was no hope.  Bedridden for months, one day the young boy asked his mother to bring him an icon of St. Michael the family kept in the living room.  When she brought the icon to him, Steve said he had seen St. Michael.

Steve made a complete recovery and, in honor of the miracle, his parents built the small shrine.  Today people come from around the globe to visit the shrine.

In Roman Catholic teachings St. Michael is known as the leader of the Army of God, and he is frequently depicted with a sword and armor.  In the Book of Revelation, St. Michael defeated Satan during the war in heaven.  Interestingly, Michael is an Archangel in Judaism, Christianity and Islam; in all three faiths, Michael is the protector of the faithful.

Tricana de Coimbra, March 2018

This beautiful bronze sculpture, by artist Andre Alves, sits along Coimbra’s famed Rua Quebra Costa, a narrow lane leading to the top of the Old City and the University.  The statue honors the tricana, a woman of Coimbra.  She’s dressed in the traditional clothing, with a shawl and apron, and carries a pitcher, with which she would fetch water from the Mondego River.  I love the way the statue sits along the rua, with her sandals kicked off,  as if she’s resting before the long climb up the hill.

Tricana de Coimbra