May 30, 2015

Guarda Cathedral

The most striking attraction in Guarda is its fortress-like Sé, a massive, medieval cathedral built in granite between 1390-1540. The Sé in Guarda is remarkable for the number of different architectural styles in its construction, its Gothic exterior combined with intricate Manueline flourishes.

Guarda Cathedral, Portugal.

 The interior of the cathedral is distinguished by a beautiful Renaissance, white marble altar and carved by French sculptor João de Ruão.

Bishop Vasco de Lamego began construction of the church we see today, the third cathedral to be built in the city, during the reign of King John I.

Guarda Cathedral, Portugal.

Guarda's cathedral stands adjacent to the town's main square - the Praça Luis de Camões - and a statue of Dom Sancho I, who founded the city in 1199. The main square has a number of cafes and includes Guarda's turismo.

Sé da Guarda
Praça Luís de Camões
6300 Guarda

The friendly though basic Casa da Se guesthouse is right in the main square.

Guarda Cathedral interior.

April 29, 2015

Casa da Sé Viseu

Casa da Sé Review - Viseu

Nicky Reiss

Are you looking for something a little different, a unique place to stay, where you can enjoy friendly service, luxurious bedding and exquisite antique furniture for a reasonable price? The Casa da Sé is that place, a self-described "small luxury hotel" where you will feel tempted to stay for longer than planned.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

Arriving in Viseu by bus from Guarda, I walked up the hill to the old town, and without GPS finding the hotel was a challenge. Once you know the roads, however, it is easy to find and conveniently located; I suggest taking a taxi from the station, or taking a good look at the map first.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

There is no hotel parking (there were no cars when it was built), but there is free parking in the vicinity. The receptionist who greeted me spoke fluent English and was friendly and helpful, taking my small suitcase into her care as I had arrived well before the check-in time.

Casa da Sé may be overlooked by some because it is listed under "Viseu Bed and Breakfast" in Trip Advisor; however, I recommend taking a close look at what it has to offer before making your choice of a place to stay in Viseu.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

The location in the heart of the old town is perfect for anyone who enjoys walking around old narrow streets and absorbing the history of a city. It is just yards away from Viseu Cathedral, the church of the Misericordia, the tourist office, and the Museu de Grão Vasco. The Portugal Visitor recommended restaurant, O Hilario, is also close by - I ate lunch there twice and enjoyed the friendly, family-run restaurant.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

Each of the twelve rooms in the Casa da Sé is unique, with its own furniture and decorations, and with varying sizes of rooms and ensuite bathrooms available. I was traveling alone and had a comfortably-sized room on the top floor, with a spacious ensuite bathroom (large shower, no tub), located next to the guests' lounge. The sheets and towels were all of the highest quality, soft, plentiful, and luxurious. There is also a bridal suite – a good excuse to come here and renew your wedding vows if you missed your chance the first time around.

There is free wifi throughout the hotel. Just off the lobby there is a small lounge room where drinks, tea and coffee, and snacks are served. The breakfast room, also off the lobby, is cosy and boasts a large continental-style buffet.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

I have coeliac disease and had informed the hotel in advance. To my delight (I love breakfast) they went out of their way to make a gluten-free cake, provide gluten-free bread and also gluten-free cereal. I have never been treated so well anywhere else. Their breakfast buffet is a large smorgasbord of breads, cereals, cheeses, cold meats, yoghurt, and many other delights. I was only sorry not to be able to eat more.

Casa da Sé Viseu.

One word of caution: the square around the hotel hosts several popular restaurants and bars where people stay out enjoying themselves until the early hours. The windows of my top floor rooms were the original old style and offered no sound proofing.

In reviews elsewhere I've noted complaints about the noise, however I also read reviews stating that the sound proofing was effective. I believe the rooms on the lower floors have modern, and more soundproof, windows. Do check on this when making a reservation; otherwise, if noise bothers you, bring earplugs. Casa da Sé is still an experience to be cherished and enjoyed.

I stayed at the Casa da Sé, Viseu, in August 2014.

Casa da Sé Viseu, Portugal.

Casa da Sé
R.Augusta Cruz, Nº12, 3500-088 Viseu, Portugal

April 14, 2015

Getting From Salamanca or Madrid to Porto by Bus

There are buses from both Salamanca and Madrid in Spain to Porto in Portugal via Guarda.

Getting From Salamanca to Porto by Bus.

Buses are operated by ALSA/Internorte and take 6 hours and 15 minutes from Salamanca and 9 hours, 15 minutes from Madrid. The bus station in Porto where these international buses depart is at Casa da Musica on the Porto metro.

Presently the bus leaves Salamanca bus station at 12.45pm and arrives in Porto at 6pm. Returning to Spain from Porto the bus leaves Casa da Musica at 10.15am and should arrive in Salamanca at 5.30pm.

Getting From Salamanca or Madrid to Porto by Bus.

The bus from Portugal to Spain usually goes via Aveiro. Price for a one-way ticket is presently 44 Euros.
(Note: there is an hour difference in time between Spain and Portugal.)

The bus stops on the Spanish side of the border at a service station for a break for food. There are occasionally delays at the border.

Madrid to Salamanca is pleasantly done by train and then bus to Porto. If you are doing the whole leg by bus the journey takes 10 hours. The bus leaves from Av. de America at 9am and arrives in Porto at 6pm. Single is 50 Euros with the return fare 84 Euros.

April 11, 2015

Aqueducts in Portugal

Portugal has long been dry and arid especially in the south. Portugal has a number of historic aqueducts that were built to bring water from the hinterland to the cities. The Romans were the first to build aqueducts in Iberia and there are remains of 3km-long aqueduct in Conimbriga near Coimbra.

Aqueducts in Portugal.

Aqueducts in Portugal can be found in Vila do Conde (Aqueduct of Santa Clara), Serpa, Evora (the Aqueduto da Agua de Prata), Elvas (Aqueduto da Amoreira), Braga (Sete Fontes), Obidos, Tomar (Aqueduto de Pegões) and famously in Lisbon (Águas Livres).

Aqueducts in Portugal.

The 18th-century Águas Livres that brought water to Lisbon was 18km long. Construction began in 1731 under Italian architect Antonio Canevari and finally brought water to the capital in 1748 after work was continued by a number of Portuguese architects until 1799.

Aguas Livres aqueduct, Lisbon, Portugal.

April 10, 2015

Igreja Matriz de Mertola

The Igreja Matriz de Mértola in Mertola in the Alentejo region of south east Portugal is only one of two churches in the country that have been built over mosques following the Reconquest in the 13th century. The other is in nearby Serpa.

Igreja Matriz de Mertola, Alentejo, Portugal.

The Igreja Matriz is registered as a National Monument and retains the Moorish arched doorway and the mihrab - a niche pointing to Mecca.

Igreja Matriz de Mertola.

October 25, 2014

Jardim do Morro Station

Jardim do Morro Station is a stop on the Porto metro in Vila Nova de Gaia on Line D from Hospital Sao Joao on the Porto side to Santo Ovidio on the Gaia side.

Jardim do Morro Station, Vila Nova de Gaia

Jardim do Morro Station is one stop south of Sao Bento Station just over the upper level of the Ponte Dom Luis I Bridge and adjacent to the Mosteiro de Serra do Pilar convent.

Jardim do Morro Station, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal

Jardim do Morro Station is handy for connecting with the Teleferico de Gaia cable car and to visit the port wine lodges below.

Jardim do Morro is an excellent place to take photos over the River Douro to the city scape of Ribeira.

Jardim do Morro Station, Vila Nova de Gaia

October 15, 2014

Barcelos Rooster

The Barcelos Rooster (Galo de Barcelos) is a common emblem of Portugal often seen in souvenir shops. Consideredan item of good luck, the rooster comes from a story of a roasted rooster that crowed to prove a condemned man's innocence.

Barcelos Rooster, Portugal

The garish, brightly-colored Barcelos Rooster is often sold as a ceramic ornament but there are plastic versions too.

The standard Galo de Barcelos may be as aesthetically pleasing as a Staffordshire Toby Jug, but it serves the same purpose - as a gimmick for a popular, local industry.

Barcelos, near Braga, is famous for its eartherware and pottery, and the national symbol of good fortune and honesty is produced en masse in the town.

Barcelos Rooster, Portugal

The Galo de Barcelos is usually black but now comes in a variety of colors with a red plumage and a bright yellow or orange beak.

So if you are looking for an iconic memento or keepsake of Portugal, look no further than a Barcelos Rooster for your mantelpiece.