‘Bom Dia’ from Portugal

I arrived at my sister’s smallholding (Quinta das Abelhas) in Portugal today, after a long and tiring trek from home. Mum and I flew to Porto yesterday, and stayed the night at Pão de Açúcar with my sister and her husband. The rooms we had were very nice, but not quite as stylish as the ones shown on the website. One thing that was as good as it looks is the staircase.

pao-de-acucar-staircase3

Pão de Açúcar staircase

Today, we all explored parts of Porto, including the, reputedly, most beautiful bookshop in the world! – Livraria Lello).

Livraria Lello, Rua das Carmelitas

Livraria Lello, Rua das Carmelitas

Unfortunately, as it was Sunday, we could not get a proper look inside. However, the interior can be seen from dizzying angles at 360 Portugal, and it is included in the world’s 10 best bookshops (according to the Guardian). UPDATE  2nd August 2010: there are some amazing photos (from various sources) of the interior of Livraria Lello at Desi Colours. The staircase looks stupendous!

We strolled on into Rua dos Clerigos, with views west towards Clerigos Tower, and east towards Praça de Liberdade and beyond.

Rua dos Clérigos - view west

Rua dos Clérigos - view west

Rua dos Clérigos - view east

Rua dos Clérigos - view east

We made our way on to the cable car to get down the hill to Ponte Dom Luis and Cais de Ribeira. As the cable car emerges from the tunnel and rounds the bend, the view is a stunning panorama of south Porto.

Ponte Dom Luis

Ponte Dom Luis

The gifts in the tourist shops along Cais de Ribeira are bright and colourful, but, of course, very pricey. The tile-fronted houses, with decorative balconies are all very pretty.

The square at the west end of Cais da Ribeira (where it joins Rua dos Mercadores) is also lovely – very busy with people at the restaurant. There is a certain ‘Englishness’ about the buildings here, especially the black and white one – the timber frame, sash windows and a little bit more overhang at each higher level.

Rua dos Mercadores from riverside

Rua dos Mercadores from riverside

We had a delicious lunch at Chez Lapin, a restaurant by the river, then slowly made our way back to Ponte Dom Luis, across the river and towards our transport home, enjoying the colourful scenery along the way.

Fig tree with Ponte Dom Luis beyond

Fig tree with Ponte Dom Luis beyond

Cais de Estiva

Cais de Estiva

The weather has been gorgeous, with bright blue skies making the architecture look even more stunning. It was a brief tour of Porto, and a very enjoyable one.

It was exciting to see my sister’s place, too – a lot has changed since I was last here and everything is looking very good. Life here is very low impact and sustainable, using a huge range of technologies along the way.

They grow their own fruit and vegetables, using them to make olive oil, wine, jams, pickles, etc. There are various forms of accommodation spread out across their bit of terraced hillside – a small house, a bigger house (renovation in progress), three yurts and three caravans.

View from yurt

View from yurt

Visitors are welcome here, whether it’s for a low impact holiday or to volunteer on the farm in return for food and accommodation. See Portugal Smallholding for more information.

It was great to meet all the animals – I don’t even have a cat any more, and having grown up on a small-holding with various combinations of dogs, cats, goats, pigs, Shetland ponies, bullock, turkeys, chickens, etc, I miss having a few furry friends around!

Horses at Quinta das Abelhas

Horses at Quinta das Abelhas

Skyline at Quinta das Abelhas

Skyline at Quinta das Abelhas

With an eventful day drawing to a close, I’m feeling quite reflective, so bear with me if the next bit sounds like nonsense! It has been a day of strange familiarity in a way, back on a small-holding, which brings memories from childhood, and back in Portugal, which reminds me of more recent times. When I was studying geology, we had three or four field trips to Portugal, so the architecture and landscape are familiar, but still strange in some ways, too.

Most of my recent travels have been to Ireland, which is probably why it feels quite strange to be here – it’s hard to explain, but I know what I mean! Perhaps something to do with going to Ireland feeling like ‘home’, whereas coming here definitey feels ‘foreign’ and like being on holiday.

Anyway, holiday or not, I still have to go to bed (this has never been one of my strong points, nor has getting up!). Good night!

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