Postcards From Portugal!

Rua Augusta Arch in Lisbon, Portugal
Rua Augusta Arch, Lisbon

We aren’t exactly starved for sun in India. But there is something about the light in Portugal, in Lisbon in particular, that I am missing deeply as I write this from our airport hotel in cold, gloomy Frankfurt.

I am in love with Portugal. It is beautiful in a melancholic sort of way. To me its allure lies in its imperfections. The tired ode to an extraordinary history that once stretched all the way to the small town I grew up in. Mangalore, tucked midway between Goa and Calicut: Vasco da Gama’s first port of call on the Malabar coast. Street names echo surnames of some of my oldest friends. Albuquerque, Lobo, Fernandes, Pinto. No one here is familiar with Mangalore however, although everyone knows Goa. Even Diu!

There is much to love in this tiny strip of a country even without the allure of the familiar. First off, its warm, friendly, unpretentious people. The artful floor mosaics on pedestrian streets. The profusion of blue and white Azulejo tiles borrowed from the moors. The trams!

The quaint old shopfronts and antique bookshops around every corner. Lavish Manueline architecture rubbing shoulders with street art. The breathtaking monasteries that are UNESCO certified for good reason. The mournful strains of Fado streaming into our Coimbra apartment in the shadow of a 12th century Moorish tower.

We barely scratched the surface of what Lonely Planet terms Portugal’s ‘cinematic scenery’ in our four days in the Azores and on a day trip to the Douro valley. Another day trip to Braga (from Porto) has me determined to return on a road trip to exclusively explore the enchanting smaller towns someday.

Then there is the freshest of fresh seafood. And great coffee. All cheaper than anywhere else in Europe. The pastel de natas and the port were both far too sweet for our tastes. As were most egg based pastries and desserts. But a concoction of port and tonic (termed Portonic by Lisbon restaurants) smothered with ice and topped with slices of lemon was a delightfully refreshing discovery.

Most of all, I fell in love with the views. Marvellous perspectives every which way we looked in every city we visited. I doubt there is another capital city – barring Rio – that boasts more stunning views than Lisbon.

My only regret? Not having been able to time our visit around (Restless) Jo’s. It was lovely however to be able to catch up with Malaysian travel blogger friend Kathleen, in Porto.

Stay tuned for more posts from Portugal (and Belgium!).

View from São Jorge Castle, Lisbon
Vista – São Jorge Castle, Lisbon
Lisbon Tram
Alfama street scene
Old Bookshop, Lisbon
Atmospheric bookshop full of fascinating etchings and lithographs in Chiado, Lisbon.
Lion fountains and Carmo Church in Porto
Fonte dos Leões and the Igreja do Carmo, Porto
Looking towards Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia
View from Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto)
Azulejo Tiles in Sao Bento Station
Azulejo tile work in the vestibule of the Sao Bento Station in Porto.
Seafood in Matasinhos, Porto
Amazing grilled seafood in Matasinhos, Porto
Douro Valley, Portugal
Pinhao, Douro Valley
University Of Coimbra, Portugal
Portugal’s oldest and most important university in Coimbra
Basilica of Bom Jesus in Braga
Baroque stairway to the Basílica do Bom Jesus, Braga
Cloisters, monastery of Batalha, Portugal
Unabashed Manueline (Portuguese Gothic) detailing in the magnificent Monastery of Batalha
Lagoa Verde, Sao Miguel, Azores.
Lagoa Verde, part of the Lagoa das Sete Cidades in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel

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Hi, I'm Madhu. Wanderer. Travel blogger. Story teller. Bitten late and hard by the travel bug, I am on a mission to make up for lost time.

81 thoughts on “Postcards From Portugal!

  1. Oh, you managed to give me a lovely feel for the place in this, Madhu! I have to move Portugal much higher on my own list now. Hee hee hee. 🙂

  2. Obrigado pela viagem. Thank you for the trip. Oddly enough, never been to Portugal. It was on our list of possiblities for this summer, but…
    (I had to lok up Magalore on the map. Not too far (In Indian terms) from Mysore or Bangalore…
    Are you still in Europe (cold is coming) or back home.
    Take care Madhu

    1. De nada Brian 🙂 We got back two days ago. Yes, Frankfurt was so cold and gloomy, we aborted our plans to walk around its old town during our long layover. Portugal was still pleasantly warm though.

      1. Welcome home. 🙂 Yeah, northern Europe is more difficult as the winter closes in. And it’s not so much the cold. One can dress up for that. It’s the drizzling rain. Makes it hard to walk around. 🙂

  3. I can’t remember- was that your first visit, Madhu, or had you been to Lisbon before? I can feel the magic reaching out to me. Thank you so much for ‘missing’ me 🙂 🙂 I did my last English walk today and am ‘good to go’. You’ve made it seem even more desirable. So glad you had a good time. I envy you the Azores. That’s high on my list. And we haven’t made it to Coimbra yet- next year hopefully, when we might even be Portugal residents. 🙂

    1. Portuguese residents! That’s wonderful. So will you need to spend more time there?

      We had been before on a whirlwind escorted tour that whizzed past Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais and Fatima. This time was slower and more immersive. Missed you lots Jo. I actually planed to stay on if it had just been a matter of a day or two.

      The Azores was a last minute swap with the Douro valley. It rained through two of our four days there with fog cutting down visibility to zero. Make sure you check weather forecasts if you do decide to go.

    1. That’s a lovely compliment, thank you very much Becky! Wish I’d had time to browse through your blog before I went.

  4. Obrigada pelas fantásticas fotografías!!

    I am mostly Portuguese descent, but no one in my family had traveled there. Your photos brought back memories of time there in 2011. Before the trip, I had tried to arrange a 3rd-year university exchange to Coimbra, but it was not possible as my university did not have an agreement with Coimbra. During the trip, I visited the university; while it was quiet–it was August–I was blown away by the campus and the surrounding area.
    I was so excited the first morning that I woke up in Coimbra (in an old ‘inn’ run by a sweet retired couple), that I called my parents from a pay phone; they thought something bad had happened and it was only then that I realized it was about 3am their time! I was thrilled to finally be in Coimbra that I didn’t even remember the time difference. I also heard lots of fado…
    Lisbon was the friendliest capital city I’ve ever been to…didn’t want to leave! And Porto…ohhh…too beautiful!

    Your photos reminded me that I have to return to Portugal–it is a fascinating little gem of a place!

    1. De nada Ciera! Glad you enjoyed my photos and that it stirred fond memories. I didn’t want to leave Portugal either. Hope you get to return soon and hope I do too 🙂

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