Arched Stairs

In March we visited the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza in Guimarães, Portugal.  A beautiful structure, it’s hard to believe that a century ago the palace was in ruins.  It was renovated based on an analysis of other European palaces of the 15th century.  The newly reconstructed palace was opened to the public in 1959 and once served as an official residence of Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

The palace is full of interesting rooms with priceless antiques and paintings, but this arched staircase, with a simple wooden door at the bottom, caught my eye.  It’s primitive and elegant at the same time.

Arched Staircase

Crystal

Crystal came to us as a stray.  We had her for 12 years and we believe she was about 15 when she left us.  She was, to paraphrase A.A. Milne, a pointer of very little brain.

She lost her eyesight gradually and by the time she passed, she was completely blind.  She and I still played fetch every evening, I would direct her with “right, now left, almost there…good girl!”

One day she interrupted our fetch session and started wandering the yard.  I wasn’t worried;  the yard is fenced and she was safe.  She disappeared around the house and came back a few minutes later with a dead squirrel.  It was stiff as a board, but Crystal was proud of her prize and a bit disappointed when I took it away and disposed of it.

We named her after the Crystal Gayle song “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”  She had just a couple little blue spots on otherwise brown eyes.  This photo shows her eyes well.

Crystal

São Bento Railway Station, Porto Portugal, March 2018

Portugal is full of beautiful and wonderful sights.  From the beaches of the Algarve to the wilderness areas of the Minho, beauty is found everywhere.  Porto is home to one of the most beautiful railroad stations in the world.

The Convent of São Bento da Avé Maria originally stood where the São Bento Station now sits, but the original convent was destroyed in a fire in the 18th century and the rebuilt convent was in a state of disrepair when the decision was made to raze the convent and to build the station.

Porto architect José Marques da Silva was chosen to design the station.  The French Beaux-Arts was opened in 1900.  The exterior is quite striking.

Sao Bento Exterior
The Beaux-Arts exterior

The interior of the station, though, is what puts the São Bento Station on the list of most beautiful railroad stations.  Between 1905 and 1916, renowned artist Jorge Colaço covered the walls of the station with hand painted azulejos depicting historical events and scenes from around Portugal.  Colaço created many works of art throughout Portugal but São Bento Station is arguably his best work.

Sao Bento 6
The lobby

While most of the artwork are the blue and white tiles most commonly used, the top border is a mural of polychromatic tiles depicting the history of transportation.  One of the larger murals depicts Infante Dom Henrique’s victory at the battle of Ceuta.

Sao Bento Detail 2
Celebrating Infante Dom Henrique’s victory at Ceuta

Another mural celebrates the marriage of João I to Philippa of Lancaster.  The murals are all quite beautiful.

Sao Bento Detail 1
Celebrating the wedding of João I to Philippa of Lancaster

It’s important to remember that the São Bento Station is a working railway station and is a major transportation hub in the north of Portugal.  It may look like a museum but it still serves its original purpose and moves a lot of people every day.

Sao Bento 10
The busy station platforms

São Bento Station is a beautiful landmark and a can’t miss destination if you’re traveling in Portugal.

Bicycle, Louisa, Virginia, May 2018

This bicycle was outside a wonderful little bed & breakfast called the Whistle Stop in Louisa, Virginia.  I love the way the colors of the old rusted bike now blend with the greenery growing around and over it.  It’s as if the man made materials are becoming part of Nature.

Bicycle

Paulo Neves Sculpture, Braganza Palace, Guimarães, Portugal, March 2018

From the plaque:

“It is said that “trees die standing tall”.  But, the leafy horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) that lived here in front of the Palace of the Dukes, and whose trunk “slices” are exhibited here, fell ingloriously on a stormy night in 2016.  The chestnut fell, but the magnificence of the trunk and the beauty of its wood deserved better fate than that of ending up heating someone’s home.

“So, we challenged the sculptor Paulo Neves to use his creativity, and his great wisdom, and sensibility to give life to the old trunk. And thus, this set of pieces was born, beautiful in their natural simplicity, open in their core, rough on their exterior, combining the lightness of the wood and the darkness of the bark and adorned with two parallel incisions in a dark shade.  The old trunk turned into art to be enjoyed by all those who come by”.

Paolo Neves Art

Everywhere we went in Portugal, there was art.  From magnificent paintings in the local church to street art painted on a wall, it’s evident that the people of this country love art.  I love this piece for its simplicity and the way Paulo Neves uses Nature itself to create art.  Beauty can be found everywhere, even in the ruins of an old chestnut tree.

 

Carousel, Myrtle Beach, SC

I find carousels interesting.  Many of the animals were hand carved and are real works of art.  This one is from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  I love the weathering of the paint and the eyes on the horse are quite striking.

Carousel Horse

Igreja de São Francisco, Porto Portugal, March 2018

The Franciscan Order has had a presence in Porto since the early 13th century.  Initially, the order was persecuted by the existing religious community and the order left for Vila Nova de Gaia.  During the reign of King Ferdinand, it was ordered that their property in Porto be restored to them and around 1425 the Igreja de São Francisco was completed.  Despite many changes to its interior and a 19th century that destroyed the cloister, the church remains Porto’s finest example of Gothic architecture.

Sao Francisco Rear

The Franciscans were a mendicant order and the plain exterior of the church is in keeping with the simple austerity of the order.  The only adornments are the crosses and a beautiful rosette window.

Sao Francisco Front

During the 1833 siege of Porto, a fire broke out, caused by gun fire, that destroyed the cloisters and damaged the church.  The facade was rebuilt with the rosette window being the only remnant of the original Gothic facade.

The heavy stone exterior hides one of the most amazing interiors of any church in Portugal.  Over the centuries, many prominent families became supporters of the church.  The families poured their wealth into the church and during the 17th and 18th centuries much of the original austerity gave way to in incredible display of wealth.

The interior was entirely lined with elaborate gold-covered carvings.  There’s really nothing that can prepare you for stepping into the space.  Photography in the main interior is not allowed, but this photo from Wikimedia shows the amazing interior.

2048px-San_Francisco_Porto
By Asmodaeus [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Next to the church is an annex that houses a museum, a chapel and the catacombs.  It’s very interesting, especially the catacombs.  Before the first public cemeteries, most people of wealth were interred in the church catacombs.  The the walls and floor of the catacombs has individual tombs. You were good for 10 to 15 years, but eventually the bodies were removed from the tombs and placed in an ossuary.  There’s a glass window in the floor where you can look down and see the many bones that were placed there over the centuries.  It could have been worse, though.  If you were poor and died, your body was usually just thrown in the river.

Among the museum items was a really nice collection of alms boxes.

Alms Boxes

Finally, there’s a beautiful chapel attached to the church.  While not as extravagant as the main church, it is quite beautiful.

Sao Francisco Chapel Interior

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Porto, please add the Igreja de São Francisco to your list of must-see places.  Until then, though, there’s a really interesting website that provides a virtual tour of the church.  It’s well worth checking out.

 

Municipal Cemetery, Aveiro Portugal, March 2018

I find cemeteries beautiful and peaceful places.  The Cemitério Municipal de Aveiro is no exception.  We visited the cemetery, located behind the Cathedral, on a sunny March day.