Driving Through Portugal

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Driving through Portugal

“Wet or fine the air in Portugal has a natural happiness in it, and the people of the country should be as happy and prosperous as any people in the world.” H.G.Wells

 I love Lisbon and Porto but in addition  Portugal has some of the most beautiful towns, and villages in all of Europe On my last trip I was lucky to include Sintra, Cascais and Estoril. 

This time we have our wonderful tour guide Tiago who took us through these lovely towns. I googled guide to drive from Porto to Lisbon. Sometimes the internet connects  you to just the right person. Tiago was interesting, kind and very knowledgeable about his country. He could change plans in a minute if necessary and made it the perfect itinerary for us. It is a local company which I always prefer  and dealing with them online is easy.  I highly recommend him if you are in Porto. https://www.4u2enjoy.pt/

Amarante is a settlement since the fourth century BC and municipality halfway  between Porto and the Douro Valley. 

A church and monastery sit theatrically beside a rebuilt medieval bridge  over the Rio Tamega.

The scene is spectacular. 

The town enjoys some small degree of fame for being the hometown of São Gonçalo.

He is Portugal’s St Valentine and is the target for lonely hearts who make pilgrimages here in the hope of finding true love.

it is located on one of the original Portuguese routes of the Camino Del Santiago.

Coimbre is a pretty riverside  city with a Unesco World Heritage University that dates back to Roman times.

The oldest part of Coimbra University occupies the former Royal Palace on top of the city’s highest hill. 

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished, and a third of the city’s 35,000-strong population are students.

The Baroque library is quite impressive and a colony of bats is nurtured within it to keep the insect population down.

St Michael’s Chapel is a blend of decorative tiles and sea themed ceiling paintings with a 3,000 pipe organ protruding from the wall.

The large Room of Acts once a throne room with its unique silver and gold paneling and portraits of Portuguese monarchs is where the PHD  students take their exams.

Obidos is a small town in central Portugal. Hiding on a hill behind its medieval fortifications, it forces the modern world to wait outside.

Inside are quaint cobblestone streets, historic houses with yellow and blue stripes  and whitewashed bougainvillea-draped houses. It is easy to wander on the stairs and alleys when you go off the main streets filled with souvenir shops. 

Thought it dates back to the Romans, the fortifications and colors come from the Moors.

When you visit the St James Church you see a bookstore inside because of Obidos commitment to culture and literature.

There are a number of bookshops  in unconventional settings like an organic market and in a wine cellar. 

There’s one local custom worth trying in Obidos. It’s a shot of the local ginja which is a  Portuguese cherry liquor.

The ginja comes in an edible chocolate cup.

.Obidos is actually surrounded by a lot of cherry trees so I believe so the ginja is locally made.

At sunset, we stop in Mafra.

Tiago has arranged for us to meet a luthier who makes Portuguese guitars.

His home overlooks a beautiful beach and a fado singer drops by.

It is a perfect end to the day.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

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The Arabic Influence In Granada, Spain

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The Arabic Influence In Granada, Spain

“Weep like a woman over what you could not defend as a man.” Mother of Boabdil- the last Sultan in Spain

The Moors invaded Spain in 711 AD and they ruled  for over seven hundred years.  At one time, they ruled as far north as France.   The principal cities of Moorish culture were Toledo, Granada, and Seville.  Eventually the Christian rulers in Northern Spain recaptured Spain. In 1085 Alfonso VI of Leon and Castile recaptured Toledo. Cordoba fell in 1236, and one by one the Moorish strongholds surrendered. The last Moorish city, Granada, was captured by Ferdinand V and Isabella I in 1492..

The word ‘Alhambra’ is a short form of the word ‘Calat Alhambra’ which is the name given to a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. The palace started off as a small fortress that was built in 899.

After years of neglect, the Moorish king of Grenada renovated it in the eleventh century. The fortress was to later be converted into a royal palace in 1333  by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.

I spent a day there before so I did not tour again. It is big enough to spend at least a day but you can do the highlights in a few hours.

The area of Granada around the Plaza Nueva and fountain Pilar del Toro is the oldest part of the city of Granada. The Mosque was located here.

The Santa Ana church was built on that same site.  At that time the river would have been visible, not covered over like today. 

In the city center, the Alcaiceria stands out, like a typically Arabic souk (bazaar) that attracts many tourists and locals alike.

Glittery Moroccan lamps, colorful silk and leather products are fun to look at and buy.

Other signs of Arabic influence can be seen in the Albaci­n, one of the oldest areas in Granada. Perched on the hilltop across a canal from the Alhambra, it consists of steep cobblestone paths and quaint authentic white-washed houses known as El Carmen.

Arabic tea houses and Moroccan shops line the narrow street that leads up to the hilltop.

The perfect way to relax after a day, is to smoke some Arabic water-pipe (Spanish name is cachimas) in the dimly lit aromatic tea houses (teterias).  I wish that I had the photos to show you but here was the day I spent there. Not a person was out.

There were several bath houses or hammams  in this area during the Moorish rule. In 1567 due to the difficult situation faced by the Moors in Granada, at the hands of the new Catholic Kings, all hammams in Granada  were prohibited. They also banned speaking  in Arabic and wearing Arab style garments.

The current Hammam Al Andalas  https://www.hammamalandalus.com/en/ is in one of the old bathhouse buildings. It actually dates back to 8th and 14th century. This hammam building was converted into baker ovens in the sixteenth century. The bakers made the most of the heating systems which previously created steam and heated water, for baking their bread.

 As I enter the hammam I have the awkward ‘I forgot my bathing suit moment and it is coed and you have to wear one.” They lend me a bathing suit.  During my stay, I drink  green tea with mint, while  relaxing in the different thermal baths and steam room. As I walked through from the changing area to the baths the humidity and warmth hit me. This steamy comfortable environment is great for unwinding and relaxing tense muscles For a while, there was a quiet relaxed atmosphere and then a bus load of tourists showed up.

Luckily it was time for a wonderful scrub and a soapy cleanse with white frothy bubbles. I go into a different dry space  for a  massage and left completely soft, clean and relaxed.

The Hammam Al Andalus in Granada recreates the feeling of  history and the bathhouses that were  here so long ago. Book it in advance, it fills up quickly and is a wonderful way to capture the feeling old Granada.

Fly safe,

JAZ