Portugal Tour - Medieval to Modern
September 18-26, 2005

 

Arrival into Lisbon via Tap Portugal was very comfortable and the hotel was just a short 6 kms from the airport. It was quite warm and with the problems I had heard about no rain and very dry I was a bit concerned about the gardens we would be visiting. To see the green in the city eased my mind and I knew we would not be disappointed.

Lisboa, the capital of Portugal since 1255, was conquered from the Moors by Portugal’s first king in 1147. It lies on the right bank of the Tagus river and in a region that offers a rich diversity of landscape.

Lisboa: Lisbon, the dazzling city that stretches along the banks of the Tagus, is an enchanting capital. There is the fortress around which the city originally built and which is now encircled by charming neighbourhoods with medieval streets. Everywhere are fine monuments that bring to mind the great Age of Discoveries, and picturesque houses whose facades are decorated with ornate ceramic tiles. As the dusk turns to night, the yellow electric tramcars continue to wind their way up and down the hills of the old capital, while the sound of traditional Fado folk songs enlivens many a candle-lit dinner table in restaurants or homes. The capital also provides ample opportunity for seeing popular celebrations, for shopping, and for enjoying the nightlife along the river banks. With the port and marinas situated nearby, water sports are a natural attraction too.

Spreading out along the right bank of the Tagus, its downtown, the Baixa, is located in the 18th century area around Rossio. East of the arcaded Praça do Comércio, are the medieval quarters of Alfama and Mouraria, crowned by the magnificent St. George’s Castle. To the west lie Bairro Alto and Madragoa, with their typical streets, and on the western extreme lies Belém, with Belém tower, Jerónimos monastery (masterpieces of Manueline architecture and classified in UNESCO’s International Heritage list) and the Cultural Centre of Belém.

We gathered for our welcome dinner at the Hotel Fenix the night of September 18th and afterwards settled in because tomorrow was the beginning of our tour.

September 19th was a full day of sightseeing - Lisbon is known as the city of 7 hills, but we were prepared and enjoyed walking among the oldest part of Lisbon, known as the Alfama district. So many tiles and beautiful old buildings and tiled sidewalks - it was wonderful to walk around this area in the warm sunshine. You can see a church with a Knights of the Templar flag - they took over all of the Malta churches at one time. Some of the houses were completely tiled on their fronts. The elevator you see was done by Eiffel. Our first visit was to Quinta da Bacalhoa, a classic renaissance garden with a Portuguese flavour. The son of Afonso de Albuquerque, who had been a great mariner and viceroy of India, also liked traveling. He journeyed to Italy, became a connoisseur of Italian art and admired their gardens. This inspired him to make a villa on a peninsula south of Lisbon. It has logias and patios for outdoor living. A great tank garden is flanked by a hall with three pavilions and decorated with glazed tiles (azulejo) and terracotta busts. This was a beautiful place where we walked along the vineyards and even got to taste some of the wine - it was a 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. After lunch we visited Quinta das Torres. The estate has been owned by the family D'Eça since 1520. It was given to D. Maria da Silva and D. Pedro D'Eça as a wedding present in 1520 by D. Brites de Lara, marquise of Vila Real and Lady of the celebrated Quinta da Bacalhôa. As there were no direct heirs, the property passed to another family branch, the Corte-Real family, then to the Saldanha family, and then to the Melo family, Lords of Murca. The Quinta das Torres has been in the same family for six generations after being bought by Dr. Manuel Bento de Sousa in 1877.

 

 

 

 

 


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