Portuguese Coast

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Navigating in Henry's wake

As the third son of King John I, Prince Henry the Navigator could have wasted his life royally if he'd wanted to do so. Instead, he explored the coast of Africa, designed the speedy-for-its-time sailing vessel called the caravel, and launched Portugal's Age of Discovery, which created rock stars (because they explored rocks) such as Vasco da Gama, the first explorer to sail directly from Europe to India. So we set out to do some coastal exploring of our own.

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Sao Francisco, Porto
The Igreja de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis) in Porto has a fine Gothic exterior, and a dazzling Baroque interior. It's likely that about 200 kilograms of gold leaf were consumed in gilding the columns, pillars, and carvings.
Port wine
Port is a rich, sweet fortified wine produced in the north of Portugal. Established in 1756, the Douro region of Portugal is the third-oldest protected wine-producing region in the world. Historically, the British have been fond of port. Apparently British Prime Minister Pitt the Younger, when he actually was younger, and while colonists were dumping tea in Boston, was on a bottle-a-day port regimen to relieve his gout. Since then, we've learned that port actually triggers attacks of gout.
Azulejos
The painted tiles called azulejos were introduced by the Moors, but they've been a regular architectural feature since then. The earliest examples are from the 16th century, and they've become more elaborate over time. Tiles from different eras reflect the needs and the sensibility of the times - fine arts in the 18th century, a rash of industrialism after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, Art Nouveau in later centuries. This building in Porto is across from the train station, a tableau in itself.
Fado
Fado is the music of Portugal, characterized by its mournful tones. It's associated with the notion of "saudade", a longing for times that can never be recaptured. This street group typifies the look and sound of fado, minor chords strummed on specialized guitars, a costume of black from head to toe.
Cobblestones
All over Portugal, the streets are paved with white cobblestones featuring designs in black. This sort of wavy design is common, and on large surfaces like this one, you could actually feel a little bit unsteady without even being at sea.
Tram 28
Trams like this one ran all around Lisbon in the mid-20th century. Now only three lines are left, and one of them runs through much of the old town. The streets are so narrow that there's barely room between the tram and the buildings to put your arm out of the window. It's a great way to travel uphill on a hot day in Lisbon.
Santa Justa
The Santa Justa Elevator, built by an apprentice to Gustave Eiffel (of Tower fame), connects the lower city of Lisbon to the higher part of town. It was originally powered by steam and is 45 meters (147 feet) high. While its primary purpose is to help people avoid climbing Lisbon's hills, most of the people who use it now are there for the extraordinary views, and perhaps a cup of coffee at the balcony cafe at the top.
Slave market
Portugal has the dubious distinction of having Europe's first slave market, in Lagos. Portugal was also the first European country to outlaw slavery. This area off of a church square held that notorious place. Showing it is a dilemma, and Lagos has handled it well, with recognition but nothing resembling fanfare. It was hard enough to look at the re-enacted ropes; I shuddered to wonder what the scales were for.
Storks
We began to notice many brick smokestacks that didn't seem to be part of factories - in the center of a road roundabout, with a new building constructed around it, or in the center of an otherwise empty field. Then we realized that these are in place to support the nesting of storks. Presumably, storks have to bring their own babies.
Guitar concert
Guitars aren't only for fado. We watched a concert of classical guitar, with some diversions into contemporary music. When dozens of guitars play a symphony together, it sounds almost orchestral.