All in Portugal

We had talked about traveling to Portugal for at least 15 years, often as possible winter destination.  Like everyone else, we always seemed to go elsewhere--Paris, London, Rome, Vienna, Prague, Istanbul, Madrid, and Moscow, among others.  I can't say that was a mistake--each  is a worthwhile destination--but so is Portugal.


Today, I was up at 5:30AM for sunrise--The Dom Luis I was my muse, just as the Williamsburg Bridge had been Sonny Rollins' muse 57 years earlier.  Sunrise is an an interesting occurrence, one which is often taken for granted.  First the sky is turquoise, which evolves into an often nondescript gray translucence.  It is the last stage, when the golden rays reflect off objects, that captures everyone's attention.  


Were John Carpenter directing a slasher movie about a group of teenagers exploring Europe while on summer vacation, he might chose the catacombs for one of his scenes;  One of the wood planks break, with a kid falling into the pit of bones below.  Alternatively, a hairy arm could thrust itself up, breaking the planks and grabbing one of the kids by the ankle.


After using the station's WC--immaculate--we headed to the Rua de Santa Catarina.  Our destination was Cafe Majestic, an Art Nouveau cafe that once was the haunt of the city's intellectuals, but now is overrun with tourists (including us), like Les Deux Magots in Paris.  

We were seated in the back of this richly appointed establishment, which provided us with a great view of the comings and goings.  We both opted for almond torte, which was excellent.  I also had a glass of 20-year old tawny port.  Yes!


We spent most of our time exploring the older buildings, including St. Michael's Chapel and the Biblioteca Joanina, which is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.   It contains somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 books, depending on who is counting.  Many are in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  Most are notable for their ornamental bindings and coverings.  


We then headed down the hill, grabbed a cab, and went to Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo, which has two funiculars running up and down the hill.  Today, the photo gods did not favor me with a photogenic scene--too late in the day so everything was in shadow.


Like everyone else (or so it seemed), we started at the Jerónimos Monastery, which includes a cathedral, monastery, and cloisters, all constructed in what is referred to as Manueline style (Gothic).  The monastery is closely associated with the Age of Portuguese Discovery, largely because construction commenced in 1501 and the facility is close to the river bank where the yearly voyages to India, China, and Japan departed from.