August 3, 2016

Palácio Nacional de Sintra

The Palace of Sintra (Palácio Nacional de Sintra), in Sintra, west of the capital Lisbon, is one of the town's main attractions.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Portugal.

Sintra was previously a Moorish town before it was retaken by Christian forces in 1147 and the site of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra is thought to have been a Moorish fortress. Nothing, however, remains of the early Moorish and Christian buildings on the site.

The structures we see today were built from the 14th and 15th century on starting with work by King Dinis I and King John I. Some of the famous rooms in the Palácio Nacional de Sintra include: the Swan Room (Sala dos Cisnes), the Magpie Room (Sala das Pegas) and the Arab Room (Sala dos Árabes).

Swan Room (Sala dos Cisnes), Sintra, Lisbon.

The Swan Room (Sala dos Cisnes) and the Magpie Room (Sala das Pegas) are named after the paintings of the two birds on the respective ceilings of the palace. The Magpie Room (Sala das Pegas) was a meeting room where the monarch received notable visitors.

Magpie Room (Sala das Pegas), Sintra, Portugal.

Further expansion of the Palácio Nacional de Sintra was undertaken by King Manuel I from 1497 to 1530, financed by the wealth generated by the so-called Age of Discoveries, as Portuguese explorers such as Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama expanded Portugal's trade routes with South America and Asia.

Features of this new "Manueline" style include azulejos tiles, harking back to the Moorish period, and decorative motifs referencing the new maritime explorations.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Portugal.

Palácio Nacional de Sintra
Hours: 9.30am-7pm (summer)

July 30, 2016

Quarto da Rainha Ajuda Palace

The Quarto da Rainha (Queen's Bedroom) at the Ajuda Palace in the Belem district of Lisbon is a lavishly decorated room in the Napoleonic style noted for its polar bear rug.

Quarto da Rainha Ajuda Palace.

The room was the bedroom of Dona Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), wife of the Portuguese King Luis I (1838-1889). The royal couple were the first residents of this opulent palace, which was originally planned after the earthquake of 1755. Construction was delayed by the Napoleonic invasion of Portugal in 1807 and the subsequent exile of the Portugal royal family in Brazil.

Quarto da Rainha Ajuda Palace, Lisbon.

Features of the bedroom are the walls done in blue silk with silver decorations, the hardwood bed with canopy and the richly painted ceiling.

Palacio Nacional da Ajuda
Largo da Ajuda
1349-021 Belem, Lisbon
Tel: 21 363 7095

July 29, 2016

Castle of the Moors Sintra

The Castle of the Moors (Castelo dos Mouros) in Sintra outside Lisbon is an historic fort built by the Moors in the 8th and 9th centuries. The castle was captured by Afonso Henriques (1109-1185) in 1147 and was no longer in use by the 15th century.

Damage to the walls and the chapel on the site (Chapel of São Pedro de Penaferrim) occurred in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and the site became a "romantic ruin" during the reign of Don Fernando II (1816-1885) in the 18th century.

Castle of the Moors, Sintra.

There are superb views over the wooded hills of Sintra from its battlements.

Other nearby places of interest include the Estate of Penha Verde (Quinta da Penha Verde), the Gardens of Pena (Parque da Pena) of which the ruined castle is part, the Estate of Regaleira (Quinta da Regaleira), and the Estate of Relógio (Quinta do Relógio).

Castle of the Moors Sintra, Portugal.

The walls of the castle can be walked from Sintra-Vila along Rua Marechal Saldanha. The steep walk is about 2km in total. Alternatively catch a #434 bus from Sintra Station which makes a circuit from Sintra Station via the town center, Castelo dos Mouros and the Palacio Nacional de Sintra.

The Castle of the Moors is open daily from 9.30am-8pm (summer) and 10am-6pm (winter). A combined ticket can be purchased to visit the Castle of the Moors, the National Palace and the Pena Palace.

The stand alone admission fee to the Castle of the Moors is presently 8 Euros.

Castle of the Moors Sintra, Portugal.

Castelo dos Mouros
Estrada da Pena
Parque de Monserrate
Sintra 2710-609

July 7, 2016

Camara Municipal do Porto

The Camara Municipal (City Hall) in Porto dates from the 1920's and is located at the top of Aliados Avenue near Trindade Station.

The architect responsible for the building was Correia da Silva, working to an overall concept conceived by English architect and town planner Barry Parker (1867-1947), who was active in both Portugal and Brazil in the early 20th century.

Camara Municipal Porto, Portugal.

The tower of the building rises to 70 metres with a carillon clock in its centre. A staircase with 180 steps leads up to the top of the tower.

The impressive facade is granite with a number of statues by José Sousa Caldas and Henrique Moreira on the top section added as embellishments. The statues represent Porto's various industries such as viticulture and maritime trade.

Altogether the Câmara Municipal do Porto has six floors, a basement and two inner courtyards.

Camara Municipal do Porto, Trindade, Porto.

Due to various delays in construction, the municipal authorities only moved in to the building in 1957.

On the west side of the town hall is a tourist office (turismo) with information on the city in various languages.

Camara Municipal do Porto.

Camara Municipal do Porto
Praça General Humberto Delgado
Porto 4000-172
Tel: 222 097 000

To reach the Camara Municipal do Porto walk south from Trindade Station or north from Aliados Station on the Porto metro.

Camara Municipal do Porto.

June 9, 2016

Colombo Mall Lisbon

The Colombo Mall in Lisbon is one of the largest shopping centres in Portugal and the largest in Lisbon. Colombo features over 100 fashion stores and around 60 restaurants in its impressive food court with cuisine on offer from all over the world including Japanese sushi, Indian curries and Chinese dishes as well as several fast food outlets (Burger King, McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut).

Centro Colombo Lisbon.

Brand stores at Colombo include Adidas, Asics, Bershka, Billabong, C&A, Clarks, Disney Store, Footlocker, Guess, H&M, Hush Puppies, Inglot, Lacoste, Levi's, Mont Blanc, Pepe Jeans, Primark, Rolex, Sportzone, Swarovski, Swatch, The Body Shop, Timberland, ToysRus, Triumph, United Colors of Benetton, Vodafone, Zara and many others.

Centro Colombo Lisbon, Portugal.

Colombo also has a multiplex cinema including an IMAX theatre. There is free Wifi throughout the mall.

If you tire of the shopping there is an outdoor garden with fountains to relax as well as a bowling alley. Colombo opened in 1997 and its layout and design has an "Age of Discovery" theme.

The nearest Lisbon metro station is Colégio Militar/Luz Station and a number of Lisbon buses stop at the shopping complex. Colombo is opposite the Estadio da Luz and the Benfica Museum.

Centro Colombo Lisbon, Portugal.
Centro Colombo, Av. Lusíada 1500-392
Lisbon, Portugal
Tel: 21 711 36 00

June 3, 2016

Ilha da Armona

Ilha da Armona, along with Ilha da Culatra, are the two main beaches accessed from the laid-back resort of Olhão, on the Algarve.

Ilha da Armona, Olhao, Algarve.

The Ilha da Armona is part of the picturesque Parque Natural de Ria Formosa, 60km of salt marsh, creeks, lagoons and sand dunes stretching from Faro east to Cacela Velha.

The boat from Olhão drops you at a small harbour on Armona, which has a few shops and restaurants. From here it is a 15-20 minute walk along a narrow street lined with holiday bungalows and an Orbitur campsite (Tel: 351 289 714173) to the south of the long, narrow island and Praia de Armona.

Ilha da Armona.

The Praia de Armona has a very natural feel and the beach stretches out into the distance along the whole southern coast of the island. There are no cars on the island, which is 9km long and about 1km wide at its widest point.

To reach both Ilha da Armona and Ilha da Culatra take a ferry from the harbour near the fish and vegetable market and the replica of the Caique Bom Sucesso on the waterfront of Olhão

Ilha da Armona can also be reached from Fuzeta.

Ferry ticket office in Olhao.

Ilha da Armona, Olhao.

Ilha da Armona, Olhao, Algarve.

June 2, 2016

Museu de Cidade Olhão

Back from the waterfront, the fish and vegetable market and the Caique Bom Sucesso in Olhão is the small but interesting Museu de Cidade.

Museu de Cidade Olhão, Algarve, Portugal.

The museum is situated across the cobbled square from the 17th century Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary).

Museu de Cidade Olhão, Algarve, Portugal.

On display in the two story building are various exhibits relating to the history and culture of Olhão as a fishing port in the Algarve since Roman times. These include model boats, beautiful embroidery, clothes worn by the local fisher folk, Roman archaeological remains, black and white photographs of Olhão's distinctive Moorish-style architecture and exhibits on the salt industry, which has remained of great importance in the town' economy over the centuries from the Romans on.

Museu de Cidade Olhão, Algarve, Portugal.

As well as the small permanent collection of exhibits, the Museu de Cidade also stages temporary exhibitions.

Museu de Cidade
Praça da Restauração
Marítimo de Olhão 8700
Tel: 0289 700 103
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10am-12.30pm; 2pm-6pm; Saturday 10am-5.30pm

Museu de Cidade Olhão, Algarve, Portugal.