Rua do Quebra Costas, Coimbra

As a photographer I found the Portuguese streets fascinating.  They’re not like what we have in the United States, where everything is two or more lanes of automobile traffic.   In Portugal, many of the streets, especially in the old sections of town, were very narrow and primarily used for foot traffic rather than cars.  Keep in mind that many of these roads were around for centuries before the automobile was invented and they were built to last.  In America we’re constantly patching and repaving and widening our roads.  We’re a throwaway society and we don’t expect permanence from anything- even from our roads.

Combra’s Rua do Quebra Costas was a great example of the wonderful streets to be found in Portugal.  For centuries Rua do Quebra Costas was a primary means of ascent from the lower town to the upper town.  Nicknamed “the Backbreaker” for its steep ascent, the street begins at the Barbican Gate, one of the last remnants of the wall that protected Old Coimbra from attacks by the Moors, and ends in front of the Sé Velha (old cathedral).  Much of it is a series of steps which makes it impassible for automobile traffic.  That’s fine with me.  It’s a strenuous walk full of wonderful surprises along the way.

As you make the walk from bottom to top, look for two sculptures by artist André Alves, Fado de Coimbra, which celebrates the beautiful music of Coimbra, and Tricana de Coimbra, an homage to the women of the city, seen in the photo below.

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Yukon Territory, 2016

My wife and I were fortunate to be able to travel to the Yukon Territory in May 2016. The territory is beautiful. These two photographs were taken about five hours apart on the same day.  They show the wonderful variety of landscapes in the territory.

The first photo was taken along the Klondike Highway and shows the beautiful colors associated with the new growth of Spring.

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The second was taken from the return trip on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad and shows the snowy wilderness that most of us probably associate with the Yukon Territory.

View from Train 5

To put this in perspective, the distance from Skagway, Alaska, where our day started, to Carcross, YT, where we boarded the train for the return trip, is about 65 miles.  Within about five hours and sixty five miles we experienced these two landscapes.  The world is an interesting place.

Johns Hopkins Glacier, Alaska

Johns Hopkins Glacier is one of many glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  Named by geophysicist Harry Fielding Reid for his Alma-mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.  While most of the glaciers in Glacier Bay are receding, Johns Hopkins is one of the few that is advancing and actively calving.

Interestingly, climate change has a strange effect in Glacier Bay.  We’re used to thinking of rising water levels associated with the melting of the ice caps, but in Glacier Bay the land is actually rising.  This is because as the glaciers recede, the weight of the ice that has been pushing down lessens and the earth, like a sponge, is springing back and rising slightly.

Glacier Bay is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit.  It’s  rugged landscapes are stunning.  The bay is protected by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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River Arts District, Asheville

Not far from downtown Asheville, the River Arts District is an old warehouse district that has been reclaimed by the art community.  Chockful of artists studios and great restaurants like Summit Coffee and 12 Bones, it’s a great place to sit and enjoy the buildings which have been turned into works of art by the artists who now use RAD as their base.  We visited on a beautiful August day in 2018.  Here’s a sample of the wonderful wall art that makes RAD special.

Aveiro, Portugal

Aveiro Portugal is frequently touted as “the Venice of Portugal” because of its canals and colorful moliceiro boats that ferry tourists up and down the canals.  While the canals and boats are an important part of Aveiro’s identity, the comparison to Venice is for tourism purposes only.  Aveiro is a great little city with a lot of personality and was one of our favorite places to visit.

As you walk through Aveiro, chances are pretty good that you’ll cross one of the three canals.  All of these photos were taken during the two days we spent there in March 2018.  We didn’t ride the moliceiros, but the canals did provide plenty of opportunities to record our memories of this beautiful city.

Denali National Park, Alaska

We were fortunate to be able to visit Denali National Park in May 2016.  Although we didn’t know it at the time, May is probably the best time to visit the park.  Around the beginning of June, the plants leaf out and it’s much harder to spot the amazing wildlife.  I also like the incredible colors you see before everything greens up.

This is a photo of Polychrome Pass which, to me, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.  It’s rugged and ancient and epitomizes the term “wilderness.”

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Everything is just beginning to green up, giving just a bit of color to an otherwise monochromatic scene.  You see one of the many braided rivers that crisscross Alaska and the row after row of mountains are evidence of how, over millions of years, the land has shifted and pushed the land skyward.

I was fascinated by the landscape and, even today, I love looking at the photograph.

Memorable Dining Experiences in Portugal

My wife and I enjoy food experiences, and we were excited about exploring the food and restaurants of Portugal.  These are a few of the more memorable experiences we had on our first trip to the country.

Dinner at Flor de Laranja, Lisbon.  The Moors have a long history in Portugal and the Moorish influence is scattered throughout the country, from castles originally built by the Moors to the beautiful azulejos that are seen everywhere.  We were excited about a chance to eat genuine Moroccan food and were surprised at how few Moroccan restaurants were to be found in Portugal.

Fortunately, we found a good one in the Bairro Alto neighborhood of Lisbon.  This very small restaurant is tucked into a narrow street and is a one person operation.  The owner is cook and hostess all rolled into one.  The atmosphere was appropriately exotic, the service was great, and the food was phenomenal.

Flor da Laranja

A couple words of warning, though.  Reservations are a must.  The owner only seats one or two groups at a time and will not allow anyone else into the dining room.  Also, because of personal attention the owner pays to her guests and the fact that she also cooks the food, do not expect to run in, slam down your food,  and then run out.   We found this to be true pretty much everywhere in Portugal.  The Portuguese love their food and take the time to enjoy the experience.  I suggest you do the same.

Dinner at Ze Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra.  This restaurant came highly recommended in several of the travel guides I’d read.  It’s a tiny little place located on a narrow alley near Hotel Astoria.  We arrived in a drizzling rain and had to wait outside in the alley with other hopeful diners until tables were available.  It was worth the wait.

The inside is tiny, with just a handful of tables and the walls are covered with notes and odds and ends left from past visitors.  Interesting place.  One word of warning, though; it’s cash only.  On the bright side, the bill was very reasonable, so you won’t break the bank to dine here.

The food was fabulous, what I would describe as country cooking.  We had braised goat, soup, and homemade red wine served in a stoneware jug.  There was so much food that we couldn’t finish it all.  And, as the waiter pointed out, we had ordered a half serving!

Breakfast at Cafe Guarany, Porto.  This place is an elegant old restaurant located on Avenida dos Aliados, right in the heart of Porto.  Established in 1933, this old cafe was once a favorite hangout of intellectuals and businessmen.  Named after an indigenous Brazilian tribe, the restaurant celebrates this with a beautiful painting by Porto artist Graça Morais  called “The Lords of Amazonia.”

Cafe Guarany

The food was great, as was the service.  It’s probably the first time in my life that I’ve had ice cream for breakfast.  If you want to experience one of Porto’s iconic cafes, this would be a great place to go.  We were so impressed that we stopped back later in our Porto visit for coffee and dessert.

Francesinhas in Porto.  Porto is famous for a sandwich called the “Little Frenchie.”  It’s anything but little, though.  We’d read so much about it in the guide books that we had to try it, and we weren’t disappointed.

The francesinha is a sandwich filled with a variety of meats including ham and sausage, and covered with melted cheese and a wonderful beer sauce.  It’s usually served with fries, and ours were.

Francesinha

It was a wonderful, delicious, messy delight.  We sat outside a cafe near the beautiful monument to Dom Pedro IV, in .  It’s a lot of food, though, so be prepared to either stuff yourself of leave your plate unfinished.

Dinner at Maria do Mar, Nazaré.  It was raining the night we wandered into Maria do Mar.  It’s a great little place that was full of locals, which is a good sign when you’re looking for good food.  It’s also a favorite hangout of the surfers who come to Nazaré for the giant waves at North Beach.  Maria proudly displays a trophy given to her by a young Brazilian surfer a couple years ago.

It was karaoke night, and several of the staff took their turns singing fado favorites for the locals.  It was a fun place and service was great.

We shared a big pot of seafood stew and a bottle of wine.  The food was excellent and Maria was a very attentive host.  It was a great way to spend a rainy night at the beach.

These are just a few of the memorable dining experiences we had in Portugal.  We had many other great food experiences, and I’m sure on our next visit we’ll find more to enjoy.

Porto, Portugal

I love the look and feel of Porto.  The bright colors of the buildings seem to reflect perfectly the vibrant feel of this city.  It may, in fact, be very old, but Porto seems to have a young feel to it.  It helps that it was a beautiful day when we ventured across the Dom Luis I bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia.

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Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

New York’s Brooklyn Bridge is iconic landmark in one of the world’s most famous cities.  The Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States.

John Augustus Roebling, the bridge’s designer, was seriously injured before construction actually began, when his foot was pinned against a piling by a ferry while he was conducting surveys for the project.  Roebling developed tetanus from the injury and died in 1869, the year construction began.

Washington Roebling, the son of the designer, was designated to take his father’s position as lead engineer in what was, at the time, the largest engineering project of the time.  The younger Roebling became seriously ill from decompression sickness shortly after construction began and, for the next dozen years, supervised the construction of the bridge from his apartment, which overlooked the site.

He was assisted by his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, who did many of the complicated mathematical calculations required to make the great bridge come to life and acted as a link between the on site supervisors and her disabled husband.  Emily Roebling helped supervise the construction of the bridge for the next eleven years and, when the bridge opened in 1883, she was the first person to cross the bridge.

Originally named the East River Bridge, it was nicknamed the Brooklyn Bridge before construction even began.  The name stuck and in 1915 the City of New York officially changed the bridge’s name to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Interestingly, the two towers that support the bridge contain vaults that were rented out by the city to help fund the construction of the bridge.  Because of the constant temperature of the vaults, they were uniquely suited for the storage of wine.  How’s that for making use of available space?

The Brooklyn Bridge handles both automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic.  For more that 135 years the bridge has been a major thoroughfare in the city.  More than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists cross the bridge each day.  It’s a beautiful structure and a remarkable feat of engineering.

 

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The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza

Located just down the hill from Guimarães Castle, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is a beautifully restored palace that was, at various times, the home to the Dukes of Braganza, a pile of ruins, Antonio Salazar’s Royal Palace, and, since 1910, a National Monument.

It’s hard to imagine that from the 16th century until the 19th century, the original palace was abandoned and left to fall into ruin.  In the 19th century, there was a movement to restore the palace, and plans were drawn up to rebuild the palace.  Reconstruction was finally begun in 1937 and, after more than two decades, the palace was finally opened in 1959.

Like the Biltmore House in my home state of North Carolina, it gives you a glimpse of the grandeur of the lives of the richest and most powerful people of their times. There are innumerable beautifully furnished spaces throughout the palace.  You can spend hours exploring the rooms.  There’s even a small museum of modern art in the palace.

This room is an example of the beauty of the palace.  The heavy stone and wood construction is juxtaposed against richness of the wonderful tapestries.  The beautiful vases are probably three feet tall.  It’s a stunning collection of riches.

Braganza Palace Interior