Princess Joana of Portugal

Joana was the daughter of King Afonso V of Portugal and his wife, Isabella.  Born in in 1452, Joana expressed at a very young age the desire to become a nun.  After the death of her older brother, John, she became next in line to become ruler of Portugal, and her desires were postponed.  After the birth of her younger brother, King John II of Portugal, she was no longer the presumptive heir to the throne, but was still known as Princess Joana by the Portuguese people.

402px-Santa_Joana,_Princesa_de_Portugal
Nuno Gonçalves [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
While her father, the King, refused to allow Joana to become a nun, she joined the Dominican Convent of Jesus in Aveiro.  She died at the convent at the age of 38, and was beatified by Pope Innocent XII in 1693.  Although she was never canonized, she is known in Portugal as Santa Joana.

Today, the Convent of Jesus is the Museum of Aveiro and is the third most popular thing to do in Aveiro, according to Trip Advisor.  The museum is full of beautiful artwork and also contains the tomb of Joana.

Museu de Aveiro
Museu de Aveiro

Santa Joana is much loved in Portugal.  There’s a beautiful sculpture of the Princess on Avenida Santa Joana in Aveiro.

Santa Joanna Statue

In 1953, Portugal issued a beautiful stamp of Joana, based on the painting by Nuno Gonçalves.  If you visit Aveiro, it will be well worth your time to visit the Museu de Aveiro as well as the statue of Santa Joana.

Santa Joana

Aveiro’s Old Railway Station

Aveiro was one of our favorite stops during our visit to Portugal.  Though best known for its canals and the moliceiros that carry tourists up and down the canals, there’s a lot more to the city than the canals.  The city is full of fine examples Art Nouveau architecture and Portugal’s famous azulejos and calçada are everywhere.

Just a few minutes walk from Aveiro’s main canal you’ll find the city’s beautiful old railway station.  The station has been replaced by a newer and shinier station, but the old station is a gem.  The station is covered with azulejos depicting scenes from the area, including salt harvesting and fishing, both of which were traditional industries of Aveiro.

Old and New Stations
The old Aveiro Railway station with the new station on its right.

During our visit the station was closed and fenced off, hopefully for restoration.  The building is now over a century old and is in need of restoration.  We were still able to view the beautiful tiled artwork on the front of the building.  The tiles are predominantly the traditional blue azulejos, but highlights of yellow are scattered throughout, especially in the tilework framing the scenes.  These two sections depict scenes of the Vouga River and the Aveiro Lagoon.

Aveiro Train Station Detail 2
Azulejo panels on the Aveiro railway station.

The azulejos are quite beautiful and serve the purpose of documenting the history and traditions of Aveiro.  The citizens of the city are quite proud of their history and their old railway station does a great job of putting their history on display for visitors who may come to Aveiro through the railway station.

Station Azulejo Detail
Panel detail from the railway station.

My hope is that on our next visit to Aveiro the renovation of the old railway station has been completed and we’ll be able to enjoy the station in more detail.  For now, it was a nice stop on our tour of Portugal.

 

Aveiro, Portugal

We were able to spend a couple days in Aveiro, Portugal in March.  It was our first trip to Portugal and we were exploring cities that we felt we can retire to.  Aveiro is on the short list.

First, the details.  Aveiro is a city of approximately 80,000 people in the Centro region of Portugal.  Once an important city for salt and seaweed harvesting, Aveiro is now better known as a popular tourist destination.  Known as “the Portuguese Venice,” the coastal city is built around a couple canals where former salt and seaweed harvesting boats called moliceiros now carry tourists along the river.

Aveiro Canal Sunset

Now, a tourist attraction isn’t what we’re looking for as a place to make a new life.  That being said, Aveiro had a lot that appealed to us.  First, it’s a beautiful city.  Aveiro is famous for its art deco and art nouveau architecture, so the buildings are quite interesting.  There’s plenty of calçada, the wonderful patterned pavements of Portugal, and azulejos, the blue and white tiles common throughout the country.

Azulejos

Aveiro also has plenty of green space.  One of our favorites was the Parque Dom Pedro Infante, also known as the City Park.  It’s a beautiful place just a few blocks from the canals and a wonderful place to spend time.

Parque Dom Pedro

Culturally, there’s a lot to do.  Aveiro is home to the University of Aveiro and, as you’d expect, there’s plenty of things to do to keep the 15,000 students entertained.  The Museu de Aveiro was once a monastery and home to Aveiro’s most famous resident, Princess St. Joana.  It has a great collection of sacred art.

Museu de Aveiro

There are plenty of good restaurants.  Being a coastal city, seafood is plentiful in Aveiro.  One specialty in Aveiro is eels from the lagoon.  We didn’t try them, but we did go for the city’s famous sweet, ovos moles.  It’s a tasty mixture of egg yolks and sugar.  Ovos moles are served either in small shell-shaped casings or in small wooden barrels.  We opted for a barrel and shared.

Ovos Moles

We also found a great little cafe for breakfast and a popular hamburger joint, both just minutes from the canal.

There were a few things we weren’t able to experience in our limited time in Aveiro.  There are two popular beaches  just outside town.  The Estádio Municipal de Aveiro is a 32,000 seat stadium that occasionally hosts the national football team and Portuguese Super Cup games.  The Teatro Aveirence is an entertainment hall showing movies as well as putting on concerts and plays.

Aveiro made quite an impression on us and is one of the cities at the top of our list for potential retirement destinations.  We enjoyed the city and I can’t wait until we can make it back to explore it in more depth.

Aveiro Sunset

 

Aveiro’s Moliceiros

Aveiro has been called the Venice of Portugal because of its canals and the colorful moliceiro boats that carry tourists along the canals.

Moliceiros are long open boats that were originally used to collect seaweed.  The brightly colored boats are right at home on Aveiro’s canals, and fit nicely in a city where Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings are everywhere.

It was raining on our first day in Aveiro, but that didn’t keep us from exploring the city.  One thing the inclement weather did do was cut down on the number of people wandering along the canals, so we pretty much had the area to ourselves.

All the moliceiros were docked when we walked by, but the next day the weather was much nicer so they were back to carrying tourists up and down the canals.

Moliceiros

Sunset, Aveiro

Half of Portugal’s border is coastal and faces west.  It’s ideal for catching some gorgeous sunsets. This sunset was over the canal in Aveiro.  The moliceiros are docked for the night.  Aveiro was a great city and I look forward to returning.

Sunset on Canal

Parque Dom Pedro Infante, Aveiro

The City Park in Aveiro is a beautiful little park just a few blocks from the canal.  There are walking paths, an Arte Nouveau bandstand, a duck pond and a wonderful azulejo covered staircase.  It’s a great place to escape the crowds around the canal and to enjoy a bit of quiet in the center of the city.

Parque Dom Pedro

Graffiti, Aveiro, Portugal

There’s street art, with varying degrees of sophistication, all over Portugal.  It seems that wherever there’s a flat surface someone will mark it.  I saw this wall while walking back from a visit to Aveiro’s old train station.  I find the face intriguing and just a little creepy.  I don’t know the significance of the face, but it’s interesting.

Aveiro 2

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.

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

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.