Armchair Travel: Portugal Photographs

Old Jan 2nd, 2021, 06:50 PM
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Armchair Travel: Portugal Photographs

Having been inspired by similar threads based upon this concept that have been created upon the Italy, Germany, France, and Switzerland boards, I thought I would try something similar for doughty little Portugal (which currently is in last place on the European boards in terms of number of posts). Of Portugal, it might be said -- to paraphrase the 19th century American statesman Daniel Webster's comment about his undergraduate alma mater, Dartmouth -- "It is a small country, but there are those who love it." And with good reason. While small geographically and from a population standpoint, it punches well above its weight as a tourist destination based upon its status as the center of a globe-spanning empire that lasted for some 560 years. That empire brought it great wealth, first from spices, and later from gold and diamonds. And Portugal is also one of the limited number of European countries -- most of which are in Scandinavia -- that escaped unscathed from the First and Second World Wars. It has good food and wine and lower prices than many other European countries, and its small size means that the ratio of sightseeing/getting there time is highly favorable.

So I'll try to start things off with a representative sampling.


The Baixa district of downtown Lisbon , looking down the Rua Santa Justa to the Elevador Santa Justa.


The Belem Tower along the Tejo waterfront in Lisbon


The courtyard of the Jeronimos monastery in Lisbon


View of Lisbon and the Tejo estuary from the Castelo Sao Jorge


The Pena Palace at Sintra


The forest at Sintra


The ceiling of the Hall of the Blazons in Sintra's National Palace


The 18th century Queluz Palace near Lisbon


The central dome of the basliica at Mafra Palace

Castle and church at Obidos


8th of May square in Coimbra


The old cathedral and the Modego River at Coimbra


Street in Marvao, near the Spanish border


Praia da Marinha, in the Algarve east of Lagos
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Old Jan 3rd, 2021, 01:09 AM
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Here's my sample:



and for the whole album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmELyB7t

and the Algarve:



and for this season:


Chosen from this album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmENSCvb

Here's Lisbon:



This is a wonderful museum:


and the album is https://flic.kr/s/aHsjqa5h5k
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Old Jan 3rd, 2021, 01:20 AM
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deleted duplicate posting
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Old Jan 3rd, 2021, 07:56 AM
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Enjoying the photos, thanks for the post. We were scheduled to make a three week trip to Portugal this past May, but we all know how that turned out. Not sure when we'll reschedule, but we definitely will.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2021, 08:04 AM
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Thanks so much for starting this thread! We too were supposed to visit Lisbon last May, am now hoping to go sometime later this year, fingers crossed! In the meantime, will feast my eyes on these stunning images...👌
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Old Jan 3rd, 2021, 08:58 AM
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and then there is Portugal north of Lisbon:





Here’s the album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmEZob5f









Here’s the album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjqbGicw






and the album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpXpD1k
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Old Jan 3rd, 2021, 09:30 AM
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Thanks, Michael, for your contributions! I felt sure I could count on you.

And thanks to those who expressed their appreciation.

Going forward, I'm thinking I will do additional postings based on particular themes, such as:

- Castles and Walled Towns
- Cathedrals and Churches
- Coastlines and Countryside
- City and Town Squares
- Museums
- Dining & Wining

But others are of course free to contribute what they wish, when they wish.

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Old Jan 16th, 2021, 12:15 PM
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Castles and Walled Towns of Portugal (1)

I’m a castle junkie. For me, and for many other travelers, there’s something inescapably romantic about castles. They recall childhood stories of gallant knights in shining armor and the elegant ladies they served, as well as grittier, gorier, and more contemporary fictions like "Game of Thrones."

Beyond that, researching and visiting castles is a good way to pick up local history. Some castles – especially those built near the end of the Middle Ages – also incorporate striking architectural details (Coca and Manzanares al Real in Spain, for example). Others evolved beyond their original purpose into luxurious country houses (e.g., Arundel, Leeds, and Warwick castles). Many castles were built in picturesque locations, either along rivers or at the edge of harbors to control water and trade routes (Bodiam and Conwy in England and Wales; the castles of the Rhine and Moselle; and the Venetian fortresses of the Mediterranean) or atop crags, mounts, or summits for wide visibility and effective defense (Dover in England; Rocca Calascio and Canossa in Italy; Acrocorinth, Monemvasia, and Palamidi in Greece). Finally, where city walls survive, their wall walks often provide great views of the city they protected, or of the surrounding countryside (York, Avila, and Lucca).

Portugal, as befits a country where Moors and Christians fought a nearly 400 year struggle for supremacy and which afterwards had to contend with an immensely powerful neighbor overlooking it hungrily from the east, was a place with a great need for castles and city walls and other types of fortifications. Some are well-preserved; others have been carefully restored. You’ll never be able to see them all; there’s always another around the next curve, or atop the next hill.

So in this next group of posts, I’ll try to provide a survey that covers a range of the country’s fortifications across a broad sweep of its regions, including:

- the Castelo Sao Jorge in Lisbon;
- the Castle of the Moors in Sintra;
- the walled towns of Obidos, Marvao, and Castelo da Vide;
- the Roman walls of Conimbriga;
- the Templar headquarters of Tomar and their river castle of Almourol;
- the elaborate 17th and 18th century defenses of the border fortress of Elvas, inspired by the great French fortress designer Vauban;
- the Moorish-Crusader era castle of Silves in the Algarve; and finally,
- Sagres, whose walls seal off its dagger-shaped cape.

There may well have been some walled Celtiberian towns even before the coming of the Romans, but I haven’t visited any of those. And, alas, I lack any photos from the Lines of Torres Vedras, the powerful network of defenses that the Duke of Wellington erected across the hills north of Lisbon to keep the French armies of Napoleon out of the heartland of Portugal.

Feel free to submit photos of any others that you may have!
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Old Jan 16th, 2021, 01:32 PM
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Castles & Walled Towns of Portugal (2): Castelo Sao Jorge and Castelo dos Mouros

For my first installment, here are a few images of Castelo Sao Jorge in Lisbon (I already included an image of the Belem Tower in my original post) and the Castelo Dos Mouros in Sintra. These could well be the two most frequently visited castles in Portugal.

The Castelo Sao Jorge dates back to probably the 8th-9th centuries, during Portugal's Moorish occupation. It sprawls atop the hill of the Alfama, the site successively of the Phoenician, Roman, and Moorish town. It was besieged and ultimately stormed by the Portuguese Christians under Afonso Henriques, Portugal's first king, in 1147. They forced their way in through a small postern gate in the walls on the north side called the Porta de Martin Moniz, after the Christian knight who gave his life to hold it open long enough for his comrades to stream through. To the south of the inner citadel, you can see the remains of the Moorish Kasbah, which was converted into the royal palace known as the Paco de Alcacova by Kimg Dom Dinis (1279-1325), and used until King Manuel I built the River (Ribiera) Palace on the waterfront in the early 1500's. It suffered significant damage in the 1755 earthquake and was "restored" under the Salazar regime in 1932; all of the guidebooks suggest that the restoration is suspect and a bit too perfect. Some of the battlements make no effort to hide that they are concrete reconstructions and the tower that looms above the main gate is suspiciously flawless But much of the stonework does look medieval to me, and I assume the course of its walls and towers tracks what was there originally.


Castelo Sao Jorge: The walls of the citadel and the bridge across the moat

The castle's terraces offer panoramic views of the Tejo estuary to the southeast; of the Baixa and Chiado and Bairo Alto to the west; and of other districts to the north. The Doring-Kindersley guide to Lisbon has an excellent plan of the castle and its nearby precincts.


Looking towards the Praca do Comercio and the Tejo basin from the castle's promenade


View to the north from the Castle's walls


The towers of the Castelo Sao Jorge, see from below by late afternoon light.

The Castelo dos Mouros at Sintra, on the hillside below the Pena Palace and overlooking the National Palace, also probably dates back to the 8th or 9th centuries. It either surrendered or was taken by siege after the fall of the Castelo Sao Jorge in 1147, and was extensively restored by Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, the German consort of Queen Maria II, in the 1830's.






Various images of the Castelo dos Mouros at Sintra
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Old Jan 17th, 2021, 07:06 AM
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I have such a soft spot for Portugal. It was my first trip to Europe and I had a weeks notice, so no planning went into it at all. My husband was on deployment and they were having a port stop there, so I loaded up the kids and off we went. We had the best time and it got us hooked on seeing more of Europe. I would love to go back! All of our photos are old school film, so need to look through those again. Thank you for sharing such wonderful photos and bringing back so many wonderful memories
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Old Jan 17th, 2021, 09:13 AM
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Thanks, mms! I'm glad these posts brought back some happy memories, and perhaps added to your inspiration for making some others in the future.

After I posted the above, it occurred to me that I should have provided some images showing the view from the Castelo dos Mouros. It overlooks the town of Sintra at the foot of the hill and the historic Palacio Nacional, which was the main palace of the Portuguese royal family outside of Lisbon from the late 1300's through at least the late 1600's. You can also look back uphill to the 19th century Pena Palace.


Looking back uphill through the mists towards the 19th century Pena Palace


View of the Castelo dos Mouros from above, showing its vantage point overlooking the plain of Sintra below



The view of the town of Sintra and the Palacio Nacional from the Castelo dos Mouros; the two odd conical structures are the palace's chimneys

The Castle of the Moors is also the subject of a comprehensive and impressive Wikipedia article, for which you can find the link below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_of_the_Moors


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Old Jan 24th, 2021, 11:13 AM
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Castles & Walled Towns (3): Obidos, Marvao, Castelo da Vide, & Conimbriga

Next up - Portugal’s walled towns. I’ll focus on three that live and thrive today – Obidos, Marvao, and Castelo da Vide – and one dead town: the Roman ruins of Conimbriga. Note that all three of the living towns are two-for-one propositions that offer both town walls and a castle atop their highest points.

Obidos is a well-preserved late medieval village (and now a tourist Mecca) still surrounded by its walls – sort of a Portuguese answer to Italy’s San Gimignano or to Germany’s Rothenburg ob-der-Tauber. It’s barely 50 miles due north of Lisbon – a straight shot along the modern A8 motorway – and thus is easily done either as a day trip from Lisbon (whether by rental car or with a guided tour) or as one of your first stops on your way to the north. The British “Blue Guide” describes it as “tastefully prettied up, with a reputation for its apples” and as “one of the most attractive and picturesque sights in Portugal,” all of which I would agree with. Unfortunately, lots of other people do, too, which means that Obidos on a nice afternoon ranks only one rung below Belem and Sintra on the mass tourism scale. Because of the presence of significant numbers of day trippers or people who are en route to somewhere else, it is probably best to explore at the very beginning or end of the day. Its scale is sufficiently small that you can tour it in 2-3 hours.

Historically, Obidos was a Moorish foundation. It was actually taken by Portugal’s founding king Afonso Henriques in 1148, a year after Lisbon and the Castelo dos Mouros to the south fell. King Dinis (1279-1325), who transformed the Moorish Kasbah at Catelo Sao Jorge into a Portuguese royal residence, was also responsible for building the castle here. (We’ll encounter him again at Marvao and Castelo da Vide.) Today, it is often considered the jewel in the crown of Portugal’s system of pousadas, the state-run hotels in renovated and reconfigured historical buildings that are a counterpart of Spain’s network of paradors. With only (I believe) six rooms, it requires reservations long in advance and the room costs run $215 - $450 a night. Frances Mayes of “A Year in Tuscany” fame visited it in the course of writing one of her subsequent travel books (“A Year in the World”) and panned it, finding it drafty and cramped, but most lodgers seem to leave extremely positive reviews.


View of Obidos, with the towers of the castle in the distance and a stretch of the town walls on the right


Obidos's castle, dating to the late 1200's - early 1300's, which now houses a hotel (pousada)


A stretch of Obidos's town walls



Gateway in Obidos's town walls

Note that I included another photo of Obidos in my original group at the start of this thread.

Marvao gets far fewer visits than Obidos, although it turns up frequently in travel articles. The lesser volume of tourist traffic is a function of it being 140 miles from Lisbon, hard over by the Spanish border, with no other major towns or attractions close by. It’s catnip for travel writers, however, because of the sweeping vistas of the National Park of the Serra de Sao Mamede that it commands; because of its walls, castle, and pedestrianized lanes; and, I suspect, because of its remoteness and solitude. Marvao was apparently the site of a small Roman fortified post or tower; its walls and castle date to the 13th century, when they were erected at the direction of King Dinis, with additional outworks added in the 17th century.


Marvao's castle and the gardens below it, just past sunset


The Castle's main gate



The castle's inner court, and the Serra de Sao Mamede stretching into the distance



Marvao's town gate

Castelo da Vide is barely six miles northwest of Marvao. It likewise sits atop a spur of the Serra de Sao Mamede. Its walls and castle date to the late 1200's and 1300; again, King Dinis was responsible for their construction. These successfully weathered a Spanish siege during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704.


Street in Castelo da Vide, with its castle at the top of the hill


View of Castelo da Vide, from the castle tower (yes, this was taken from the window in the tower you can see in the above photo)


The castle at Castelo da Vide

Finally, Conimbriga, south of Coimbra, seems to have existed as far back as c. 800 B.C.E. and then became a major center under the Romans from about 130 B.C. through 468 C.E./A.D. During the days of its greatest prosperity, when Roman power was strong and there were no enemies closer than the Rhine, it required no walls. That changed as a result of the turmoil in the third quarter of the third century, and a massive set of walls with square towers were constructed late in the third or early in the fourth century that cut through existing neighborhoods and protected only the city’s most defensible core. Nearly two centuries later, when the Western Roman Empire was in its death throes, the city fell to marauding invaders from a Germanic people known as the Suevi or Suebi, who took and sacked it in 468 – less than a decade before the forced abdication of the last Roman emperor in 476. The town died out after that.


The House of the Fountains at Conimbriga, with the late 3rd century walls and towers seen in the background


Roman walls and towers at Conimbriga


Conimbriga's Roman gate, with its Roman forum beyond

[To Be Continued. Next up: the Templar headquarters at Tomar and its island castle at Almourol.]
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Old Jan 25th, 2021, 02:12 PM
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Thanks for the great photos

Hello
I just want to thank you for the great photos and very interesting historical information that accompanies them.
It takes quite a bit of time and effort to do but it's appreciated.
Happy travels
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Old Jan 25th, 2021, 07:07 PM
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Thank you, Aulop! I enjoy doing this, but it's always great to receive a word of appreciation. Another post follows.

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Old Jan 25th, 2021, 08:28 PM
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Castles & Walled Towns (4): The Templars Castles at Tomar and Almourol

The Order of the Knights Templars – those arch-villains of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code – played a significant and singular role in Portuguese history. In 1158, the Portuguese chapter’s grand master, Gualdim Pais, who had been a principal lieutenant of King Afonso Henriques during the campaigns of the Portuguese Reconquista between 1139 and 1148, was granted the right by the king to establish a new base for Order at Tomar, in central Portugal. He started construction of a round church and castle there in 1162, which ultimately grew into the mammoth fortress-monastery that visitors see today. In 1190, the then-aged Gualdim led a successful defense of the fortress at Tomar against the resurgent Almohad sultan of Morocco.

When the Templar Order was suppressed elsewhere in Europe in 1307, our old friend King Dinis persuaded the Pope to let him reconstitute the Templars under new, royal management as the “Order of Christ.” The new Order succeeded to the Templars' properties in Portugal and enjoyed a close relationship with the crown. Prince Henry the Navigator, the great visionary of Portugal’s overseas maritime expansion, doubled as its Grand Master from 1417 until his death in 1460, and starting in 1492, the Grand Master’s position was always held by the king himself. The Portuguese ships that sailed to India under Vasco da Gama and his successors bore the Order’s red cross upon their sails. The Order’s military functions were discontinued under King Joao III in the 1500's and it became purely monastic in character. In that form, it survived until the monasteries were secularized in 1834.


The perimeter wall and glacis of the Templars' headquarters at Tomar


The Templar Round Church (1172) at Tomar


The vaulted ceiling of the Templar round church (Charola) at Tomar


The east front of the Templars' Church at Tomar -- note the Order's cross above the famous window in the Manueline decorative style


Overview of the Templar complex at Tomar from the outer wall

Tomar is about 85 miles from Lisbon. Less than 20 miles to its southeast is the Templar castle of Almourol, which sits upon a small island in the Tejo/Tagus River, like a ship moored to its northern bank. It was also built by Gualdim Pais in 1171 to guard the Portuguese kingdom’s then-southern frontier along the Tejo against the Moors to its south. The most picturesque way to reach it is by a motor launch from the parking lot on its northern shore, although if the water is low enough and you don’t mind a rocky uphill scramble, you can also reach it on foot. It has a central keep surrounded by a wall with nine towers. Unfortunately, I arrived there after closing time and the gate was locked, but I was still able to see it from the outside.


The Tejo/Tagus River at Almourol


The Templar Castle at Almourol


Close-up of the castle walls at Almourol

[To Be Continued: Castles and Fortresses of the Alentejo and the Algarve - the final installment]
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Old Jan 27th, 2021, 12:29 AM
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Am so enjoying this fabulous pictorial journey jeffergray, I didn’t realise there was so much to see and do in this small country. We were planning a trip to Lisbon in March, but I’m definitely hopeful of getting there sooner or later. If things go as planned I will have to visit Portugal regularly over the next 5-6 years and your thread has only whetted my appetite! Many thanks, am looking forward to further installments...😊
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Old Jan 27th, 2021, 12:09 PM
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Ditto on the thanks, really a great job and I appreciate the effort. I did recognize the wall in Viseu, and liked your Ponte de Lima bridge picture.

Just booked airfare for 3 weeks in November 2021, to make up for my canceled 10 days in November 2020.

When you were in Tomar, did you get a chance to climb the aqueduct? That was amazing, so high up, no guard rails, no one else there (November 2019 trip, sure it's different in summer.)
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Old Jan 27th, 2021, 07:22 PM
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Thank you, gettika and bdokeefe! Yes, there is much more to come. But I have yet to see the northern third of the country, or Madeira and the Azores, which seem to be Europe's answer to Hawaii. So I hopefully have further trips to Portugal ahead as well.

Unfortunately, bdokeefe, I overlooked the aqueduct, although I see now that it is covered in my Blue Guide (bold-faced type and an asterisk, no less!), which makes it sound well worth visiting. But it was about 5 p.m. when I finished at the Convento da Cristo, and I still wanted to see Almourol, and then I had a relatively lengthy drive ahead to Marvao beyond that . . . and such circumstances can make for missing things. I likewise was bitterly disappointed to learn after my return that I probably passed with half a mile of a well-preserved Roman-medieval bridge at Portalegre, near Marvao. But such omissions are inevitable, and provide an impetus to further travel in the future!

P.S. The photos from Viseu and of the Ponte da Lima were Michael's work.
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Old Jan 27th, 2021, 07:32 PM
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The Aqueduct at Tomar

bdokeefe's comment about the aqueduct at Tomar led me to go looking for photos of it on Flickr, and it is indeed spectacular! Below is a link to what I found:

https://www.flickr.com/search/?text=Aqueduct%20Tomar

This image gives perhaps the best sense of it:

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Old Jan 31st, 2021, 11:23 AM
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Isn't that always a problem, not enough time. Here's a snap of my daughter during our visit.
The lack of guard rail adds to the adventure level. Another daughter doesn't do heights and stayed on the ground.


The Convent really is impressive, thanks again for this thread. Have airfare booked for November of 2021, so fingers crossed.

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