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Jeronimos Monastery and Manueline Designs

27 Oct

On our first day in Lisbon, we visited the Jeronimos Monastery, specifically the church section. We did not have a chance to visit the two museums that are also housed at the old monastery buildings. But the church was more than enough.

Here I was exposed to Manueline architecture, something I had not seen before, but now enjoy! King Manuel I of Portugal liked maritime designs in his buildings. So the architects, who designed for him, incorporated unique carvings like ropes, sea-life, and other maritime symbols in the structures, as well as nature items like leaves.

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Not the main entrance, but when we were there a bride and groom exited here.

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The surround of this window has some of the rope motif common in Manueline design.

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The ceiling was fantastic.

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These tall columns had many carvings of sea life/maritime symbols.

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Vasco da Gama’s tomb.
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People rub the hands.

The Jeronimos chapel is not filled with ornate gold and silver covered wooden structures, instead it is comprised of fantastically carved stone work that is breathtaking. The high chapel columns and arches are a tribute to the Manueline style. This structure was built in the early 16th Century during the reign of King Manuel I, who wanted to highlight the Portuguese maritime dominance and to emphasis the exploits of the explorer Vasco da Gama, who is buried here.

I think the pictures show why this style became so popular and why it became so associated with Portugal.

Belem Tower on the Tagus River.

The other Manueline structure we visited in Lisbon was the Belém Tower, which actually is located directly opposite the monastery on the banks of the Tagus River.

These two structures were built about the same time, during the reign of King Manuel I in what is now the Belém area of Lisbon. (I wrote about our visit to the tower in the blog linked below.)

Unfortunately, many of the structures built during the reign of King Manuel I were destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. This was a high Richter Scale earthquake and tsunami on the Iberian peninsula that caused major damage and changed the look of many cities in the region.

At the Pena Palace, an arch carved in Manueline style.

While in Lisbon, we spent a day in Sintra where we visited the Pena Palace. When it was built, in the late 1800s, the Pena Palace also incorporated some Manueline architecture within its quirky construction. It was fascinating to see a Moorish style building with a Manueline arch. But then this entire building is a fantastic blend of different design elements. (See link below.)

I understand that many other buildings incorporated this Manueline style in later years because of its Portuguese importance.

For me, the three structures I saw opened my mind to another form of art that I just like. I recommend anyone traveling to Portugal to learn about Manueline designs and enjoy these lovely structures.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/10/21/an-extraordinary-visit-to-the-belem-tower/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/10/20/sintra-and-the-palace-of-pena/

An Extraordinary Visit to the Belem Tower

21 Oct

As part of our first tour in Lisbon, I was excited to go to the Belem Tower. I had seen it from our ship as we sailed into Lisbon so was curious to its history and to see it up close.

Belem Tower from our cruise ship.

The Belem Tower is located where the Atlantic Ocean ends and the Tagus River begins. This World Heritage monument has stood guard over the river since the early 1500s during the reign of King Manuel. When it was built it was farther from the shore on what looks like a little island. But over time the shore line has crept closer.

There is a lovely park on the land surrounding the Tower, also known as The Tower of St Vincent. You can walk along the shore, visit the outdoor tourist market, get a snack to eat.

But for us there was an unusual and special event. One that even made our tour guide speechless.

Before we realized what would happen I took this photo. You can see the naval ship coming closer.

Our first notice that something was up was that part of the walkway just passed the Belem Tower was closed off. Cannons and people in military uniforms were standing at attention.

Then, suddenly, we heard:

Boom boom boom!!!

The naval ship sailing into the river started shooting off its cannons when it was opposite the Tower! When it was done, the cannons located on shore then replied with equally loud and resounding booms.

People were stopped in their tracks. And then ran to the shoreline to see what was happening.

We were lucky enough to see the welcome home of a Portuguese naval vessel heading for the main naval base in Lisbon, specifically Almada, Portugal.

According to our guide, who was just about in tears, whenever a naval vessel returns from a mission, it is welcomed at the Tower of Belem in this way.

She had never seen it happen in all of her years as a tour guide. She was overcome with emotion, as were all those who saw and heard this impressive sight.

It was a welcome home I will never forget.

I thank my daughter who had the presence of mind to take several of these photos.

Sintra and the Palace of Pena

20 Oct
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The Palace of Pena and its quirky architecture.

High on a hill above Sintra, amidst gardens and above steep paths, sits the Palace of Pena. Conceived by the King of Portugal,  Don Fernando II, who lived from 1819-1895, The Palace of Pena was his dream home.  But he did not only plan the palace, he also planned for lovely gardens to surround it, bringing in plants and trees from around the world.  Creating a little world that has been named a World Heritage site.

He started building this, his summer home over the ruins of a 16th Century convent, the Convent of Our Lady of Pena, which he purchased in 1838.  It took about 15 years to complete his fairy tale home that combines German, Indian, Moorish and Portuguese styles.  A bit of the convent remains in the chapel.  The tile work and the Manueline style of decoration are definitely Portuguese.

 

You could spend days investigating this hillside extravaganza.  There are acres upon acres of gardens and kilometers of paths.  Besides the Pena Palace, there are the ruins of a Moorish castle.

As a lover of Disneyland and unusual architecture, I could not help but love the Palace of Pena.  The four modes of architecture come together in a romantic version of a palace.  Part of me wanted to ooh and aah over the building, and part of me wanted to giggle a bit and just enjoy Don Fernando’s view of the world through his enjoyable home.  But above all, I wanted to enjoy the sites and the joy of the gardens he and his second wife created on this hill.

 

When you enter the Palace area, you go over an area that was once a small draw bridge, through a tunnel that opens into a courtyard.  This side of the building is sunny and bright. No winds come through.  But when you walk through the arch in the Moorish style segment, you enter another world.  Our guide told us to zip our coats. And he was right.  With wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean, the other courtyard also had  harsh winds!

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The guide held my hand as we walked along the narrow ledge on the windy Atlantic side of the Palace.

We walked along the  wall of the palace in a narrow pathway.  I do not like heights, so our guide held my hand along the way.  The view were worth it.

To be honest, it was not always easy walking up hill to the palace or around the palace grounds.  There are many steep area and steps.  Honestly, coming back down the hill was almost more difficult.  It had rained a bit and so the stones were slippery.  I will say my leg muscles got a good workout.  Our guide helped by letting me hold on to him. So be careful when you go to visit.  And you must go to visit!

After our time at the gardens and palace, we drove back down the hill to the picturesque town of Sintra.  We parked along a promenade and walked to the old part of town, past the official royal castle with its twin chimneys: the Sintra National Palace.  Now a museum, it once was the royal residence from the 15th to 19th centuries.

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The shopping area of old Sintra

We walked through town and its several narrow streets filled with shops.  It was the first time I actually got to shop during my vacation.  I purchased only items made in Portugal, mainly made of cork and/or tile.  I watched a woman hand painting tile in a small shop, where I found some gifts.  Then we meandered uphill to more shops and a pastry restaurant, where we purchased a treat.

There were many little restaurants and shops for the many tourists that were visiting the town.  At times, the narrow streets were almost too crowded.  But the cruise ships have discovered this town, about 25 kilometers from Lisbon, so it is a popular destination.   Our guide brought us to the Palace of Pena first thing to try to miss some of the crowding.  He was right, but the time we left more and more people were filing into the park.

After Sintra, we left town to travel to the beach and eat lunch at a restaurant, Mar do Guincho, located right on the beach.  The fresh seafood was delicious.  The waiter brings the whole fish to the table to tell you what is available.  I had a local fish caught that very morning.  While my husband and guide shared a two-person traditional seafood and rice stew.

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The ocean was very rough.

While we ate, we watched the very wild ocean hitting against the shore.  All the beaches were closed the few days we were in Lisbon due to the errant hurricane and tropical storm that arrived with us.

We were there along with Hurricane Leslie.  We actually did not experience any issues, except for some rain. But the country was not prepared for a category one hurricane.   There was storm damage along the coastal towns and in Lisbon.  Tiles were blown off roofs, causing leaks; trees and branches were down; the ocean waves were very high and strong; and there were some people injured. I am glad no one was badly injured.

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Cascais

After lunch we drove along the coast stopping once in a while to watch the waves.  The we went to the city of Cascais where we walked along the beach promenade in town. We had a good time looking at all the expensive homes along the way and seeing the lovely marina area.  I imagine that this town of the wealthy would be a good place for a holiday.  But for us it was a quick visit and then back to Lisbon to rest for our next day’s adventure.

Dancing on a Cruise Ship

12 Oct

After 11 years of ballroom dance lessons, my husband and I stopped taking lessons when our instructor moved. We keep saying we need to find someone else or find another dance studio closer to home. But that has not happened.

We miss dancing once a week. But I do not have the patience right now to investigate and find another place.

In the meantime we watch “Dancing With The Stars”. We critique the dances and determine if there really was any part of the true dance in these routines. Sometimes I agree with Len that the dance they danced was not at all the cha cha or fox trot it was supposed to be. But we enjoy it.

However, once or twice a year, we take a cruise and then our dancing shoes come out. Some cruise lines do have wonderful dance floors and bands. And we enjoy evenings of exercise as we practice our dances. Each evening we get better since we remember additional moves the more we dance.

However, some cruises do not cater to the ballroom dancers. On a recent cruise around Hawaii, the dance floor was MARBLE and the only one who played any dance music was a pianist. Although he was great and accommodating to the dancers. But a marble dance floor is A horrible idea. Also there were only 4-5 couples who were there dancing each day.

Even still, after a few days, the dancing couples start to recognize each other. It is a friendly bond.

Dancers On the Serenity dance floor.

Recently we were on another cruise ship, the Serenity, which has a great wooden dance floor. A true band. And even ambassadors to dance with single women.

Each evening my husband and I joined with others on the 12th floor to dance our favorites: Fox trot, rumba, cha cha, waltz, tango and swing.

We sit out the salsa and jive. But enjoy watching those who dance to the faster beats.

Over the week we started visiting with other dancers on site-seeing tours and in other lounges. Those who hang out by the dance floor began to recognize each other. And those that do not dance, seem to enjoy watching. Or getting on the dance floor just swaying to the music.

We befriended one of the ambassadors, as he went on several tours that we were on. In the evenings between sets, he talked to us. Each of the ambassadors have other careers, but are all dancers who get free cruises for dancing in the evenings. I believe Crystal Cruises is one of only two that still offers ambassadors.

We danced every day. And it was fantastic! A great way to meet people, get some exercise, practice our dance moves, and joy the cruising experience.

Jose Sala Sala and the Sanctuary of Mary Magdalena in Novelda, Spain

10 Oct

The Santuario de Santa Maria Magdalena is stunning! This modernist church built in the 1900s was designed by Jose Sala Sala, a local boy who moved to Barcelona to study architecture, and ended up learning with Gaudi. The Gaudi influence is strong in this stone and ceramic building.

Standing on a hill above Novelda and sharing the mountain with the ruins of the castle Mola , the church can be seen for miles. The winding road takes you to the parking lot, so when you first approach the church, you see the back first.

Back of the church.

No worries. It is also beautiful. Our guide, David, said as he heard the group oohing and aahing, “If you think this is lovely, wait until you see the front of the church.”

He was so correct. Each side of the church is just delightful. The stone, ceramic and brink intertwined in wonderful patterns lifting your eyes to the sky and to the torrents that grace the front.

The interior is classic and simple. No gold leaf and overdone interior here. Just simple elegance and paintings and tapestries. The church was built in stages from 1918 to 1946.

But the best is not yet complete.

Where the organ will be. A special cement base was poured to hold the weight

At the back of the church, by the entrance is a giant marble base made of Alicante red marble that will hold the marble organ that has been worked on for 26 years. Large white marble ovals represent the tears of Mary Magdalena. Each hollow pipe is made of red marble. 54 are complete. There are hundreds of pipes still to be carved. But then we know that in Spain it seems great things are worth waiting for!

But you can hear the lovely sounds that it will eventually make through a short concert of the completed pipes . We heard several minutes of Pachelbel’s Canon in D and it was astonishing. I can only image that when the full organ is completed, it’s music will not only fill the church but for miles around!

I kept thinking, what a lovely place for a wedding. When our guide told us that our bus driver and his wife were married there 12 years ago. We all congratulated him on the good choice.

The vista from the front of the church includes the town of Novelda, the vineyards and some of the marble factories that brought wealth into the area.

Bicyclists and their picture.

While we were visiting a group of bicyclist came to the top to see the church. They asked our guide to take a group photo of them in front of the church. I too needed a photo of my husband and I there. It was so beautiful.

But then even the sides of this church are so intricate. I loved every angle of it!

Gaudi is one of my favorite architects. I do not know what else Jose Sala Sala designed, but the influence of Gaudi runs strong in his work. I would love to see more. And for those traveling to Spain, go see this church!

I Do Love Gaudi! My Second Barcelona Gaudi Adventure.

8 Oct

I returned to Barcelona with one main focus — to see the Gaudi sites I missed last time and to see the new house that opened to the public less than a year ago.

Although I had see CASA Batllo in my first trip, I had not seen Casa Milo up close. Since it was just a few blocks from our hotel, we walked there our first day. It did not disappoint, even though it was not colorful! And I do like color. I loved the terraces and curving forms.

I also got to see Casa Batllo in the evening, which is another wonderful view.

The next day we had hired a private tour guide to take us on a Gaudi tour. High on my list: Park Quell and the new Casa Vincens, a house that was privately owned until just a few years ago and opened as a museum in November 2017.

Added to our agenda was Gaudi’s dragon gate at the entrance to what was once the Quell estate, then became the King’s palace and is now a convention center.

This gate is Amazing!! The dragon can move but cannot fly away!

As for Park Quell, the park was donated to the city of Barcelona when Mr. Quell died around 1919.

The gardens, paths, bridges, and buildings are wonderful to explore. The outdoor theater, market and the two houses call out to be explored. The three bigger houses on the property were big designed by him. But the two at the main entrance are probably his design.

I also loved the iron fencing, with its swans and lily pads in my opinion, which is repeated at the Casa Vicens. Gaudi’s designs were fantastic, original and amazing.

Finally Casa Vicens with its spectacular ceilings and moorish smoking room was the end to my Gaudi adventure. I especially loved the walls in the bedrooms and the little balcony off the living room. And my sojourn in the torrent on the rooftop made me feel like the queen of Gaudi!

My love of Gaudi grows with each additional site I explore.

One last photo of a Parc Güell bridge that my husband took. I love this view.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/07/06/my-architectural-love-affair-with-hundertwasser-and-gaudi/

A Garden is A Great Place to Unwind

27 Aug

Being outside, enjoying plants and gardens, is to me a gift.  I love my gardens, but personally, I do not like to garden.  I have many friends who enjoy being outside and weeding, planting and keeping their gardens lovely.   I love to have my gardens planted and maintained by my husband and a gardener.  But I love my plants, my trees and my flowers.

For many years my father would garden for me whenever he came out to visit.  He loved it!  My husband and dad dug many of my flower beds and did all the original plantings.  But later in life, when he was not moving as much, he still helped put out the mulch.  And eventually we would put a chair in the shade and let him direct all the gardening.  Once he passed away, I really left the gardening to my husband and “John” the gardener, who we had hired when my dad stopped being able to do as much.

I make decisions as to what I like and where it should go. But then I step back and let others do the work.  I love nature, but my way.

My love of gardens extends to my joy in walking through public gardens.  When I can, on my journeys, I try to visit botanical gardens.  I have been to gardens in Canada, an especially lovely peony garden in Quebec City; and throughout the USA, including close to home, like the local Arboretum, a favorite place to walk.

In my recent travels to Hawaii and California, I spent much of my time enjoying gardens.  Let’s be honest, Hawaii is just one giant garden.  We were there two weeks before Hurricane Lane hit, so I am hoping that the lovely Flora on the Big Island of Hawaii survived.

On Maui we went to the Maui Tropical Plantation.   I call it a botanical garden of fruit bearing plants, besides just being lush and lovely.  We took a tram ride with a young woman who not only told us what was grown, she even showed us the correct way to open a coconut.  I am sure she shows everyone and does the same speech.  But it was fun.

We enjoyed walking the grounds and seeing the beautiful plants.

So when we were in California a week later for a wedding, we had some time to just relax with my siblings.  The one place I thought we would all like was the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens, which turn out to be just great.  Only problem, most of the paths are not paved: wear closed shoes!!

Among our favorite spots was the Children’s Discovery Trail with its beautiful flowers, giant dragon sculpture and musical garden. We liked the tropical garden with the dinosaurs hidden among the plants, Dino Digs.  In fact, I loved many of the art pieces hidden among the plantings. We walked through the Australian garden, the reception rose garden, and the ceremonial garden as well.  I will admit, we did not walk down to some of the lower gardens, but from our view they were fantastic.

I hope everyone has the chance to be outside and enjoy the garden of their choice.  It truly is a wonderful way to relax.