Café Guarany, Porto Portugal

My wife and I could be called foodies.  We enjoy a good meal and love to visit highly rated restaurants and eateries of all kinds.  We made a point, during our Portugal trip, to explore the many great foods and restaurants available.  Café Guarany was one of our stops.

Guarany Exterior

Located on Avenida dos Aliados, in the heart of Porto, Café Guarany has been a popular gathering place for Portuenses since 1933.  It’s a beautiful restaurant.Named for a Brazilian indigenous people,   Renovated in 2003, the interior’s centerpiece are two paintings, “The Lords of Amazonia” by University of Porto alum Graça Morais.

Cafe Guarany

We had a wonderful breakfast at Guarany.  Ann Marie had the ubiquitous tosta mista, which is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  The tosta mista is very tasty and we had several of these during our Portugal trip.  We had a version of it in Coimbra with grilled chicken which was very good as well.

I ordered a crepe Alaska.  I completely missed that it had a scoop of ice cream on top.  Ice cream for breakfast?  Yep, and it worked.  The crepe was great, pineapple, berries, whipped cream and an orange slice, and a scoop of tangerine ice cream to top it off.  It was really good and the tangerine ice cream was a nice touch.

Tosta Mista and Ice Cream

Later we decided to stop in again for dessert, port and coffee. On the way there, the bus stopped and the driver said that something was happening ahead and that we would all have to to exit the bus and walk to another stop.  We were just a short walk from the restaurant so we set out on foot.

We were at the restaurant before the dinner crowd so we had a nice leisurely dessert, accompanied by a glass of port and a coffee.  While we were enjoying our meal, we noticed a policeman just outside the door, putting a police border across the road.  Soon, a crowd began to gather and a news crew showed up.  We watched with interest as we ate.  I took this photo once we were done and had left Guarany.  It was taken no more than 20 feet from the front door of the restaurant.

Bomb Scare

We made our way back to our hotel and followed the drama on the local television news.  I’ve been learning the Portuguese language for a few months and we were able to understand that an unidentified black automobile was found abandoned on Avenida dos Aliados.  Fearing that there could be a bomb in the vehicle, the police had cordoned the area off and had brought in the bomb squad.  The news showed, in an endless loop, two policemen releasing a bomb sniffing dog to investigate the car as they watched, crouching behind the monument to Dom Pedro IV for protection against the potential blast.

About three hours later, the drama came to an end.  Someone had finally thought to run the tags and contact the car’s owner.  Apparently the car had stopped running and the owner simply left it there and took the bus home.  The car was towed and the story was over.  The event added an interesting and unique memory of our trip to Portugal.

 

Porto, Portugal

I love the colors of this photo of Porto, taken from across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia.  Porto is a beautiful, bustling city.  We enjoyed our few days in the city and we can’t wait until we can visit again.

Ribeira and Douro

Avenida dos Aliados, Porto

Avenida dos Aliados is a beautiful avenue in the heart of Porto and is a great place to use as a starting point for exploring the city.  Lined with fine old Beaux Artes buildings, it’s been compared to Paris’s Champs-Élysées.  This is the view from Praça General Humberto Delgado, just in front of the Municipal Building, looking towards the Praça da Liberdade and the Hotel Intercontinental.

Located just a five minute bus ride from our hotel,  Avenida dos Aliados served as the hub for our explorations.   The avenue is just a few minutes walk from the Majestic Cafe, Livraria Lello, São Bento Railway Station, Mercado do Bolhão, the Church of São Francisco and many other tourist destinations.  It was also a great place to sit in one of the many restaurants to relax and plan our move.  We had breakfast at the famous Cafe Guarany and experienced Porto’s famous francesinha at an outdoor restaurant in the shadow of beautiful statue of Dom Pedro IV in the Praça da Liberdade.

Interestingly, until 2006 there was a tree-lined park in the center of the avenue.  When the metro station was built under the avenue, the park gave way to a paved square.  It would have been nice to experience it as a park, but Porto makes great use of the open space, using it as the chosen spot for concerts, festivals and other big events.

Avenida dos Aliados

Câmara Municipal do Porto

Porto’s Municipal Building is a beautiful structure.  The building was originally designed by British architect Barry Parker, whose plan was approved in 1916.  After several delays and modifications of the original design, the Câmara was finally opened in 1957.  Located at the north end of Avenida dos Aliados, the Câmara is the much photographed centerpiece of Porto’s tourist district.

Camara Municipal de Porto2

Dom Luis I Bridge, Porto

This beautiful bridge, which spans the Ria Douro, was designed by Théophile Seyrig, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel.  It has multiple levels, and is open to Metro, foot and automobile traffic.

Gustave Eiffel is most famous for the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  His mark, through his work and those of his students, can be felt throughout Portugal.  Besides the Dom Luis I Bridge, the Maria Pia Bridge in Porto is an Eiffel work, as is the Eiffel Bridge in Viana do Castelo.  The Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon was designed by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a student of Eiffel’s.

Ponte de Luis 1

 

Street Scene, Porto Portugal

I really like photographing street scenes and cityscapes. This photograph was taken from near the Porto Cathedral.  I love the colors of Porto, with the azulejos of various colors.  Another thing that I find fascinating is the juxtaposition of the old and new.  The modernity of the cars and satellite dishes and graffiti don’t really seem out of place against the buildings, some of which are hundreds of years old.

Porto Street Scene

Stairway, Porto, Portugal

I really like the way the severe stone stairway leads to Porto’s Cathedral.  If you were so inclined you can imagine that you’re climbing a stairway to Heaven.

Stairway to Heaven

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.

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.

 

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.