Belem: The Glory days of Portugal’s Explorers

Wealth, fame, and fortune, along with spreading Christianity, were reasons why daring sailors like Ferdinand Magellan, Vasco de Gama, and the likes set sail in uncharted waters. This was from a period known as the Age of Discovery. From 1400 to 300 years later, European explorers, many of which are from the seafaring country of Portugal and Spain, visited and mapped most of the world. Portugal discovered the sea route to India while the Spaniards discovered America.

Portugal, a small kingdom whose economy relied on seafaring in the 15th century, had a visionary ruler in Henry the Navigator. He encouraged and paid many to explore the world. And so this nation once ruled the waves.

doca-de-belem-marina

Belem is where the Tagus River meets the sea. From its waterfront, many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyage to discover the world. During this time, Lisbon flourished and many great monuments were constructed.

belem-tower

Belem Tower was one of those. A magnificent fortress also named Tower of St. Vincent, as it was built to honor Lisbon’s patron saint. The tower situated at the mouth of the Tagus River was initially built to defend the city. The 4-storey tower was originally constructed on an island in the Tagus River near the shore. It stands on land today because the riverbank’s location shifted through the years.

Belem’s main street and historical avenues are a strip of 160-year-old buildings that have survived changes and modernization. These include the famous pastry shop, Antiga Confeteria de Belem, known for a particular Portuguese confectionery, an egg tart called

pasteis-de-belem

Pasteis de Belem—the flakiest pastry filled with creamy custard. Just across from Jeronimos Monastery, the shop is easily spotted because of the long line spilling over to the sidewalk. Many of which are visitors from the stunning monastery.

jeronimos-monastery

The Jeronimos Monastery is a classic example of a Portuguese late Gothic Manueline architecture. Along with the nearby Tower of Belem, it was classified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the significant emblems of the Age of Discovery and the distinct maritime motif, which includes corals, sea monsters, and coiled rope, reflects that golden era.

jeronimos-monastery-details

The monastery was built in honor of the successful voyage to India of celebrated Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama. This is also where De Gama, King Manuel, and other prominent figures were laid to rest.

Discovery-Monument

Sitting opposite the monastery, on the banks of the Tagus River, is another stunning iconic monument, the Discoveries Monument. Dedicated to the adventurers and explorers who helped established Portugal as a 14th-century superpower. Unveiled in 1960, on the 500th death anniversary of Prince Henry the Navigator. The massive monument had Prince Henry at the prow of a caravel, backed by figures from Portuguese history that participated in the golden age of discovery.

I have to admit, Belem caught my attention because of one thing only—Pasteis de Belem. If this is the only thing you do, that tram ride to Belem will be worth it already. But it would be a waste to miss its historical sights, which are all within walking distance anyway.

Lisbon’s gateway to the Atlantic, Belem, is where the Tagus meets the sea and where the naval explorer of yore started their journey to the unknown. Take the effort to visit it when in Lisbon.

Useful Info:

Jeronimos Monastery: Praca do Imperio

Opening Hours: Oct-Apr: Tues-Sun 10AM-5:30PM May-Sep: Tues-Sun 10AM-6:30PM Admission: €7

Antiga Confiteria de Belem: 84/92 Rua de Belem

Posted in Lisbon, Portugal | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Year Cruising

“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” — Ashely Montagu

 New-Years-at-High-SeaCredits: JSprague Digi in Deeper course materials

This year, 68 of my family members from all over flew to Singapore for a grand reunion. For the first time, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins took the time and effort to fly from all over and spent New Year holidays together, on the high seas to boot.

mariner's-of-the-seaInside Royal Caribbean’s Mariners of the Seas

A perfect venue, truth to tell, as none of us could go very far—not saying though that the ship isn’t big and off-shore excursions aren’t aplenty. It was contained enough to allow us to catch up.  Some met each other for the first time.

new-year-in-patongFireworks before the New Year in Patong Beach

It was an experience I surprisingly enjoyed. Being the traveler that I am, I thought that this was merely something I had to do, an obligation of some sort. The destinations were nothing to rave about but the togetherness was awesome. It was something unexpected… Which are usually the best, yes? You know what they say— “the things you don’t see coming tickles you the most.”

Port Klang

So the destinations weren’t great, they weren’t total disappointments either. Our first port of call was Port Klang. What is there to see in Port Klang, the principal port in Selangor state of Malaysia? Nothing much though we heard that it is a haven for local foodies—good enough for us (by us I mean my immediate family).

bak-kut-teh

Seafood aside, Klang is famous for its Bak Kut Teh, in fact they say that this pork rib soup which has become a staple in Malaysia, Singapore and some parts of Indonesia started here. Considered a breakfast food, BKT, as locals call it, is pork ribs (or other parts of the pork meat) slowly simmered in an herbal broth.

restoran-bak-kut-teh-facade

Across the AEON Bukit Tinggi Shopping Center, about 30 minutes away from the Star Cruises Terminal, we randomly chose Restoran Bak Kut Teh. A small shop sans the fanfare – open air and round tables and stools to sit that serves (in my opinion) quite a good and (I assume) authentic BKT.

restoran-bak-kut-tehFood tripping with the family

The Bak Kut Teh has an herbal taste (of course), salty with the hint of sweetness; meat was falling off the bone. Extremely enjoyable with soy sauce, garlic and a bit of chopped chili.

Phuket

Next port of call was an overnight in Phuket. Arriving Phuket at 11AM, it was too late to do much so we decided on a late lunch in Old Phuket Town and a massage after. We took the tender to Patong Beach and haggled with one of the many vans peddling their services to take us to town.

old-shop-house

Old Phuket town shines with personality with its rich history. In this old quarter, you will see beautifully ornate old shophouses, quaint cafes, Buddhist and Chinese temples, and some grandiose Sino-Colonial mansions once occupied by Phuket’s tin barons of years ago.

Raya

In the middle of town, on New Dibuk Road is a two-storey Sino-Portuguese house converted into a restaurant.

green-tint-windows

Tinted glass windows and wooden shutters, hard to find Machuca floor tiles,

Raya-interior

stairs

rustic ceiling fans, vintage posters, a wooden staircase,

old-bar

and an antique bar, this old house exudes old colonial.

raya-dishesL-R: Pork with Kafir Leaves; Deep Fried Sea Bass with Shallots and red chilli in Tamarind-Lemongrass Sauce; Green Mango with Dried Squid Salad

The food, known to be THE Thai restaurant in Phuket; its specialty is said to be the Crabmeat Curry served with rice vermicelli. Being a sucker for all things crab, this was a definite winner. Big chunks of crabmeat and the strong curry muted by the addition of coconut milk produced a subtle creamy curry dish. The deep-fried sea bass with shallots and red chilies in tamarind-lemongrass sauce and the pork with Kafir leaves were fantastic too. When in town, do visit Raya Restaurant if you can.

We could and should have walked around town, but we opted instead for a massage. We could and should have gone to the spa just around the corner from Raya. On a previous  trip (a post I still owe) the boutique hotel I stayed in offered a discount at The Raintree Spa when booked through them.

RainTree-Spa

It was most satisfying, in all the right ways—service, skills, and ambiance. I should have known better than to indulge our driver but, hindsight is always 20/20, so yeah… We could have saved the 30-minute drive to the spa he recommended (name and place I won’t even bother to tell) and used it to walk around the charming old town instead. And to think, I convinced my whole family to that massage.

Koh Phi Phi

Thank goodness for Phi Phi Islands.

Phi-Phi

Praised as one of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia, thanks to the film “The Beach”.

white-sand-beach

A 45-minute bumpy (because we decided to sit in front) speed boat ride from Phuket, the Phi Phi archipelago comprises 6 islands boasting of white sand beaches, stunning limestone cliff and turquoise water, many parts ideal for snorkelling.

snorkling

tourists

Popular with backpackers even before the movie, but the world seemed to have flocked here after the film was shot in 1999. In spite the crowd, the limestone outcrops that swept the archipelago still impressed.

phi-phi-2

Posted in Klang, Malaysia, Phuket, Thailand | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Greetings…

It has been a crazy, crazy month year!!!  This hopes to explain why posts have been slow in coming.  Writing to you in the early morning of Christmas eve in my hotel room in Hong Kong (here for work).  Tomorrow I fly early in the morning back to Manila to catch an afternoon flight to Tuguegarao where, for the first time, I will spend Christmas.

While I look forward to a good year ahead, I hope and pray that we try to keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts and deeds the whole year round.

2014-xmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Baixa: An Architectural Delight

I walked around the part of Baixa closest to our hostel, bewitched. Lisbon, you are a surprise.

flower-stand-by-figueira-square

Elegant squares, streets filled with cafes and shops, old tramcars, street performers, Neo-classic and Art deco buildings, street vendors selling everything… All this adds to the charm of downtown Lisbon.

tram-in-figueira-square

Baixa borders the river in the bottom of the valley and nestled among the hills of Alfama, Chiado, and Bairro Alto. It’s grid like area stands in contrast to the winding and complicated alleyways of neighboring Alfama.   A central location extending to the Tagus River and Avenida da Liberdade (the Liberty Avenue) and is considered the most elegant of all districts in Lisbon.

Rossio-Square

Rossio. Where the main central square is found. Officially named Praca Don Pedro IV, the square is also called Rossio Square because it revolves around Rossio. It is the heart of the city and surrounding it is nothing but a bundle of architectural delights and here’s sharing with you a bit of Baixa.

Figueira Square (Square of the Fig Tree)

figueira-square-transport-hub

Neighboring the imposing Rossio Square is one of the city’s important transport hub. The metro, the buses, and the charming trams stop here and many shops, cafes, and guesthouses surround the square because of it.

figueira-square

The bronze equestrian statue of King João I stand on a pedestal in the middle of the plaza, the beautifully designed grounds covered with pigeons.

Teatro Nacional Doña Maria II

teatro-nacional-rossio-square

This beautiful neo-classical building survived the earthquake but was destroyed by fire in 1964. It was rebuilt in the 70’s and with it founded Lisbon’s municipal orchestra. Named after Dom Pedro IV, the theater’s façade dominate the northern side of Rossio Square and now hosts some of the most spectacular performances of Lisbon.

Rua Das Portas de Santo Antão

rua-das-portas-de-antao

Just behind the National Theater Doña Maria II and a stone’s throw away from Pensao Residencial Portuense (our hostel) is a lively pedestrian street buzzing with outdoor cafes and restaurants.

steak-at-Locanda-Italaina

It is a mecca for seafood lovers but ironically, we found Locanda Italiana where we were served a superb steak dinner.

Elevador de Santa Justa

elevador-de-santa-justaThis beautifully crafted lift southeast of Rossio Square is the area’s highlight. Raoul Meisner du Ponsard, an engineer, born in Porto to French parents and a Gustave Eiffel student, built this alternative transport to climb up the many steep hills of the city.

walkway

A challenge to Lisbon citizens for centuries. And until the underground Baixa-Chiado metro station opened in 1998, the Santa Justa Elevator was the easiest way to get to the Bairro Alto and Chiado district from Baixa.

metro-station

Rossio Station

rossio-station-entrance

One of the most beautiful train stations I’ve ever seen. Looking more like a temple, the façade is decked with horseshoe doorways and the roof is topped with small turrets and a clock tower.

rossio-station

Influenced by the 16th century Portuguese Manueline style, the façade dominates the northeast side of the Rossio Square. Here, the trains depart for Sintra.

Restauradores Square

Restauradores-Square

Surrounded by beautiful 19th and early 20th century buildings, an obelisk standing in the middle of the rectangular square. It has names and dates of battles fought during the Portuguese Restoration War and this entire square is dedicated to the country’s liberation from Spanish rule.

hard-rock-cafe

Nearby is the former Condes Cinema, a Modernist building built in the 1950s that reopened in 2003 as Hard Rock Café.

elevador-da-gloria

The square is also a few steps away from the Elevador da Gloria, a funicular linking downtown with the Bairro Alto district.

And this is just downtown Lisbon.

Posted in Lisbon, Portugal | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Alfama: The Home of Lisbon Blues Music

“Alfama” recommends Hossein. For an authentic fado vadio, our “unofficial” guide guaranteed that this place is it, writes down the name and address of the bar, then points it out on our map.

A-Tasca-do-Chico-signage

On Rua Dos Remedios, we found A Tasca do Chico. It was Fado Vadio (amateur fado singers) night.

A-Tasca-do-Chico

The small joint only had a few tables, perfect for intimate and informal performances.

tapas-and-sangria

Dinner was simple but we were there for Fado anyway. It was an absolutely enjoyable evening of soulful music. A must in Lisbon.  Really.  Don’t leave Lisbon without a live experience of Fado music.

Fado

So what is Fado? I too, have  never heard of it until I read up on Lisbon. It is a music genre traced back to the 1820s and 1830s at best. Although difficult to trace, it seems to have its roots in the merging of Portuguese, Moorish and African culture. Fado songs can be about anything but it is a traditional form of urban folk music. The Portuguese language has a word, saudade, which roughly means nostalgia or homesickness with a bittersweet longing. Fado music is exactly that. It often conveys a yearning for what could have been or what cannot be. Most of its lyrics are about lost or unrequited love, jealousy and passion, death, and the lives of the Fadistas (fatalists).

There is no better place to experience the nostalgia of Fado than in Lisbon’s oldest district, Alfama. But it is not only famous for its Fado music as to visit Alfama is to visit the architecture, sound and smell of old Lisbon.

And so we went back the following day. Alfama is Lisbon’s most symbolic quarter. The oldest district of Lisbon spreads down the southern slope from Castelo de Sâo Jorge to the River Tagus. The Mouraria and Alfama (both old districts) were relatively spared during the Great Earthquake,

narrow-street

thus remains the charm of winding narrow streets and crumbling walls.

castelo-de-sao-jorge

A walk through the old-fashioned residential neighborhood is like stepping back in time.

Alfama

It’s a village still made up of tiny spaces, whitewashed houses with iron balconies adorned with pots of flowers and drying laundry.

The best way to get to know Alfama is to wander around.

view

The outstanding views, the churches, and the breathtaking panorama of the city from the castle were worth another trip back the next day. Some scenes from our wanderings:

from-castelo-de-sao-jorge

Although we didn’t have time to explore, Castelo de Sâo Jorge is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic center of Lisbon and Tagus River.

IMG_9367As in from Baixa.

It can be seen from almost everywhere on the city.

Miradouro-de-Santa-Luzia

Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a romantic terrace by the church of Santa Luzia with a view of the river and Alfama. On the outside wall of the church are 2 tiled panels, one of Gomercio Square before the quake and another showing Christians attacking the castle.

Miradouro-das-Portas-do-Sol

A few steps away from Miradouro de Santa Luzia is a balcony that opens to the river offering spectacular views over Alfama.  A statue of St. Vincent holding a boat and 2 ravens also stands proud watching over the district. Miradouro Das Portas Do Sol.

Sao-Vicente-de-Fora

From the balcony, one can spot Sâo Vicente de Fora Monastery, an exceptional 16th-century monument located outside the city walls. “De Fora” means on the outside.

Santa-Engracia-Church

Church of Santa Engracia or Portugal’s National Pantheon. This 17th-century monument was converted in the 20th century into the National Pantheon. It is now the burial-place for a number of Portuguese personalities.

approaching-alfama

entertainment

IMG_9665

Useful Info:

Getting There: 

tram-28

Walk from Rossio or take tram no. 28

A Tasca do Chico (Alfama)
Rua Dos Remedios, 83
+351 965 059 670
 
 
References:
Portuguese Fado Music 101 – About. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://worldmusic.about.com/od/europeanjudaica/p/PortugueseFado.htm
Posted in Lisbon, Portugal | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Good Eats: Portugal

Portugal-EatsCredits: Quickpage from 4EVER kit by Sarah H.

Not as famous a cuisine in my part of the world, my first encounter with Portuguese cuisine was in Macau. Technically, what I had was Macanese food—more like a mix of Portuguese and Chinese with influences from cuisines of other Portuguese speaking nations but this sparked an interest in Portugal (and of course its cuisine).

So we made our way there last year. Little did we know that this land offers more than just an awesome cuisine but boasts of picturesque landscapes, colorful cityscapes as well as a rich history.

Lisbon

The primary goal, however, is to delve deeper into its cuisine. And as soon as we arrived in Lisbon, we immediately solicited advice on where to find authentic Portuguese restaurants around the city.

touristy-restos

And thanks to Hossein, we found our way to some unforgettable good eats even though eateries catering more to the tourist crowd dominated the area near his hostel.

Portugal’s colonial possessions influenced the use of spices and ingredients that are today widely used in their cuisines such as chilies from Angola called piri-piri, black pepper, as well as cinnamon, vanilla and saffron. The result is rustic and robust, often described as peasant food. Portuguese restaurants run a broad spectrum from rustic eateries to fancy hotspots.

Lisbon has left an indelible impression on me and a lot of it had to do with the food.  Here’s why I know I’ll be back.

Chicken Piri Piri at Bonjardim

Chicken-Piri-Piri

Chicken Piri Piri. One of Portuguese’s simple pleasures. This chicken is roast to perfection with a blend of potent small chili peppers. Top on our list, the first thing we did was head to this unpretentious eatery where locals go for the charred and plump piri-piri spiced roast chicken.

Bonjardim

Just within walking distance from the hostel, in a side street east of Praca Restauradores is Bonjardim Cervejaria.

On a rainy day, it was comforting to be enjoying chicken cooked to perfection – moist in the inside, skin crispy and gently spiced.

Piri-Piri

For added heat, a piri-piri sauce comes on the side and should be taken with caution. Hossein’s first recommendation, I give it a two-thumbs up.

Maritime Bounty

Being a seafaring nation with a well-established fishing industry, fish and seafood dominate the menu. Often relying on a traditional repertoire of grilled fish, meat, hearty stews and the ubiquitous salted cod, the cuisine is best when simply prepared.

The Ubiquitous Bacalhau

Codfish is a staple and is almost always used dried and salted because this is how this fish was preserved pre-freezer days. Today, they say that there are 365 different ways to cook bacalhau—one for every day of the year. The strong flavor of this salty fish represents the real taste of Portuguese food.

bacalhau-riceBacalhau Rice

Sardinhas

sardinhas-de-escabeche

Another popular sardine dish— Sardinhas de Escabeche, fried sardines marinated in olive oil, vinegar, onions and bay leaves.

Next to adorn the tables of rich and poor are the Portuguese sardines. The country’s 6-8 inch long “slave of the sea” is found off the Atlantic coast of Iberia and France.   They are known to have layers of fat content that melts when cooked (usually grilled), giving it a unique flavor.

Caldeirada

This very Algarvean dish is a stew consisting of a variety of fish and shellfish with potatoes, tomatoes and onions and usually served at the table from a large pot, usually from where it was cooked in.

caldeirada

It is a Portuguese bouillabaisse that calls for a generous splash of white wine and lots of herbs, resulting to a hearty one pot dish often served with crusty bread to soak up the delicious soup.

Porco

From fried pork cubes to the national favorite—roast suckling pig. Portuguese love their pork.

Leitão

leitao

Or suckling Pig is served throughout Portugal. Rubbed with garlic, pork fat, rock salt and pepper, then traditionally roasted in a spit. The result is usually crisp skin and succulent meat.

Bifana

TendhinaTendhina, a hole in the wall in Rossio serving lovely sandwiches.

It’s a simple pork sandwich, really. A humble combination of grilled pork sandwiched on a hard roll that pairs perfectly with a few squirts of tart honey mustard.

Bifina-sandwichMay not look very appetising but this sandwich is heavenly.

A deliciously simple meal to grab when busy or while exploring the town.

Caldo Verde

Caldo-Verde

A hearty soup more common in the north but is found in menus all over Portugal. Made from a thick creamy base of onions and potatoes with very finely shredded collard green (sometimes substituted with kale) and chouriço (Portuguese sausages).

Feijoada

Our kind of dish—hearty and full of flavor.

Hossein pointed us to an address in Rua do Norte. No name, just a number and a street name. Small restaurant with a few tables, the signage inconspicuously positioned somewhere on a window revealed the restaurant’s name—Cantinho do Bem Estar. It was still closed. Someone from inside came out to tell us to come back at 1 (pm). So we walked around, had a few beers and by the time we returned (at precisely 1pm), there was a table already occupied.

IMG_1866

And no sooner than we are settled, it was full. And by the time we were done, there was a line.

Because it came highly recommended by the server and almost everyone had this dish on the table, we went for Feijoada.

feijoada

A dish consisting of beans and pork braised in a sauce of tomatoes, carrots, and cabbage to which traditional sausages (we had a mix of blood sausages and chorizo) and bacon are also added. Definitely a great meal to have on a rainy day.

Cantinho do Bem Estar. Thank you, Hossein, for this marvelous find.

Doces

I’ve always looked forward to Macanese / Portuguese desserts when in Macau, not only because I love sweets but also because they were all divinely addicting. Portuguese love their dessert that’s why.

portuguese-sweets

Convent made cakes and desserts introduced in the 15th century brought forth this fascination for sweets. There is an abundant list of Portuguese desserts from cakes, pastries and tarts to mousses and puddings. And of course, I can’t end this post without mentioning some of my favorites

Pasteis de Belem

As it is in Spain, eggs especially the yolks were in abundance (Portugal being Europe’s largest egg producer).

pasteis-de-nata

Pasteis de Nata became Portugal’s favorite sweet treat. So good that it has made its mark in other countries, Macau being one of them. These are small open pastries with a sweet custard filling and a caramelized sugar topping.

pasteis-de-belem-2

Available in every coffee shop in the land but the best can only be found in the Belem area of Lisbon called Pasteis de Belem. A carefully guarded recipe since it was introduced in 1837. The lines are long and I hate lines.

pasteis-de-belem

But when you bite into the flaky pastry shell, and tasted the sweet, creamy filling dusted with sugar and cinnamon, you know that however long the wait, it will be worth it. Believe. You. Me.

Sintra’s Travesseiros and Queijadas

After touring around this magical UNESCO World Heritage Site, our guide pointed us to A. Piriquita to cap our simple yet beautiful lunch.

sintra

As we walked in, the smell of the buttery goodness of freshly baked goods greeted along with a display full of heavenly sweets. The café though is known for Sintra’s delicacy, the travesseiros, a puff pastry filled with custard and almond, and dusted with sugar. The looks do not prepare you to the light and flakey crust and the moist, creamy almond filling that oozes out when bitten.

Piriquita

Along with this, the jewel of the crown is the famous cupcakes / cheesecake called queijadas. It is essentially a small round custardy tart wrapped in pastry, unlike the cupcake / cheesecake we are familiar with.  It is made with simple ingredients of cow’s cheese, sugar, flour, eggs and cinnamon. With a pronounced cinnamon flavor, these simple ingredients gave rise to an exquisite dessert not quite a cupcake or a cheesecake.

Impressive recommendations, which suffice to say, left me longing to go back.

Useful Info: 

Bonjardim
Travessa de S. Antão 11
+351 213 427 424
 
A Tendinha do Rossio
Praca Don Pedro IV, 6
Rossio, Lisbon
+351 212 468 156
 
Cantinho do Bem Estar
Rua do Norte, 46
Bairro Alto, Lisbon
+351 213 464 265
 
Pasteis de Belem
Rua de Belem, 84-92
1300-085 Lisbon
+351 213 637 423
 
A Piriquita
Rua Padarias 1/7
Sintra
+351 219 230 026
Posted in Portugal | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Passing Through Faro

marina-4

It was a beautiful, balmy day. Blue skies, gorgeous clouds, splendid sunshine.

planning-the-route

We sat outdoors, right beside the marina. We ordered our beer and then planned our day. First agenda was deciding on lunch.

Not particularly known as a tourist destination with little to boast in terms of tourist attractions.

quiet-plaza

The gateway to Portugal from Southern Spain is a quiet town in the Algarve region.  Quiet relative to all the places we’ve visited on this trip.  Tourists more like pass through Faro on their way to a beach resort or a fairway nearby. But I love it for the quietness.

graffiti

If you look beyond the graffiti walls, Faro is charming. Small enough to cover by foot and without an agenda, we went with the flow, stopping for beer or sweets when tired or just felt like it.

The journey by bus from Seville took about 2 hours.  We arrived mid-morning and it took about 10 minutes from the bus station to our cozy B&B, comfortable enough for one night (read: tiny room).

azothea

“What can we do for the day?” we asked the young lady in charge. “Here?” she thought for a second. “Nothing much” she replied. We could go to Lagos for the day if we wish. Her advice.

We didn’t.  Into our third week of traveling, we felt like doing nothing.  We needed to recharge so we stayed put.  Never mind that we didn’t get see the fort up in Lagos.  So after a few beers at the marina, we followed the map to Adega Nova along Rua Francisco Barreto.

Adega-Nova

Beautiful lunch and a superb dessert—a place I highly recommend when in the area.

Then we walked towards Cidade Velha (the old town) through shops and cafes along the city’s pedestrianised shopping center.

pedestrian-shopping-street

We entered the old town through Vila Adentro and was magically transported to another world.

old-town

Streets cobbled and lined with whitewashed houses maintaining the Portuguese character,

cobbled-street

a large section of this old walled city is still surrounded by walls built by the Muslim conquerors.

wall

This medieval walled city survived two earthquakes, they say.

Palacio-BelmarcoThe Palacio Belmarco

The hodgepodge of Baroque, Gothic, and Moorish architecture provides a fascinating insight into its past.

Linked by medieval gates or arches, the Arco do Repouso is the most impressive section of the walled city,

arco-do-repouso

 and the Arco do Porta Nova or the Portes do Mar (doors of the sea) near the water, is usually where many would end their walk, us included.

jardim-manuel-bivar

Walking at the water’s edge heading back to Jardim Manuel Bivar near the marina, many offered us a trip to Ria Formosa Natural Park, a marshland supposedly teeming with birdlife.

We declined. Instead, we headed to Clube Naval.

clube-naval

We read that this harbor-side bar offers good views of the park and the city from the top floor,

beer and ice cream

but they were closed for the day so we settled for a cafe nearby, spending the rest of the day admiring the harbor and the city until we were ready for dinner.

boardwalkWhere one take the trip to Ria Formosa.

harbour marina-2 marina-3

Contrary to the lady’s (from the B&B) enlightenment or lack thereof, Faro is a delightful destination in its own right.  The charming old town had impressed and makes for a wonderful, unforgettable break.  I wonder why she thought otherwise? Perhaps we need to start seeing beyond our ordinary. I too am guilty of that in many ways.  We tend to take for granted the (what we think are) ordinary things.

Here are more photos of our wonderfully surprising day well-spent.

Capuchin-conventCapuchin Convent close to the guesthouse

charming-city   estatua-d-afonso-III

At the Largo do Don Afonso III, named after the 13th century king whose statue dominates the square.
governo-civilGoverno Civil
igreja-de-sao-pedroIgreja de Sao Pedro

museu-municipal

The Municipal Museum, Faro’s cultural highlight, is in a former convent built around a Renaissance cloister containing exhibits related to the city’s Roman and Islāmic heritage.

Useful Info:

Adega Nova
Rua Francisco Barreto
+351 289 813 433
www.restauranteadeganova.com
 
Azothea
Rua Baptista Lopes, 40
+351 289 802 536
www.facebook.com/Azotheabnb
Posted in Faro, Portugal | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment