Robin's Adventures

Morocco, Spain, & Portugal
A Picturesque Adventure

Plaza de Espana

In preparation for hosting the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929, the Plaza de Espana was built in order to showcase the industry and technology exhibits of Spain. The buildings form a giant semi-circle and there is a moat and several bridges. Currently, the buildings are used as government offices.

If the buildings look familiar, it is because you may have seen them in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. In the movie, the buildings were supposed to be the City of Theed on the planet Naboo.

More Plaza de Espana

Along one end of the plaza, there are a series of tiled alcoves that are designed to represent different provinces throughout the country. Each alcove has a small covered bookshelf that contained leaflets with information about that province.

Flamingo Dancers in Spain

At Sea

Before we left port, we enjoyed a wonderful on deck BBQ with creatively carved fruits and vegetables as decorations and with paellas and other Spanish delicacies on the menu.

During the next day and a half, we would leave the Mediterranean Sea and finish our cruise on the much more turbulent Atlantic Ocean finally arriving in Lisbon, Portugal.

One of the things we found amusing on the cruise was the towel creatures created for us by our cabin steward. He was able to create an impressive variety of animals and we got a kick out of coming back from a day in port to see what he had left for us.

Wind Surf Final Day

We spent part of our final day at sea exploring different areas of the ship. We took some photos at the very front of the ship on the bow sprit and then we went into the bridge to see the ship's command center.

The following morning, as the sun rose over Portugal, we prepared to disembark from the Wind Surf and begin the final portion of our adventure.


Porto, which is located on the Douro River, is the second largest city in Portugal. The skyline of the city is distinctive with tall narrow homes adorned with red rooftops.

A few iconic buildings stick out in the city view, such as the green domed tower that tops the city council, the 249-foot-tall bell tower from the Baroque Clerigos Church, and the imposing structure of the Porto Cathedral.

A large section of the medieval city wall is also part of the landscape and it provides a historical context for the city as well as engendering a sense of admiration and respect for the engineering and construction techniques of the city's medieval residents.

Portuguese Azulejos

Ceramic tiles are everywhere in Portugal. They are used on both interior and exterior walls of houses, shops, cafes, and even churches. They are decorative, easy to care for, and help provide insulation for the buildings they adorn.

Azulejos were first introduced by the Moors in the 13th century and the term comes from an Arabic word which means "polished stone." At first, the tiles were solid or had simple floral or geometrical designs because the Moors, for religious reasons, could not have human or animal figures in their artwork.

After the Moors were expelled from Portugal, the azulejos remained, but took on a whole new look as more colors and fresco-like designs were produced.

Bolsa Palace

The Bolsa Palace was once a convent, built in the 13th century, that was part of the Saint Francis Church. The convent was badly damaged in a fire in 1832 and the Queen of Portugal donated the building to the city's Commercial Association shortly thereafter.

The building was rebuilt between 1842 and 1910 and the interior designs are quite impressive. The palace is no longer used as a stock exchange, but is still used by the commercial association. In addition, major events and official receptions are held in the palace.

The Arab Room Reception Hall

The most impressive room in the Bolsa Palace is the Arab Room Reception Hall. The rest of the palace is Neoclassical in style and so the Moorish design of the reception hall came as a big surprise when we entered the room. This room is often used for music concerts and affairs of state.

Interesting Churches

The are a great deal of churches spread out across the city of Porto. Many have interesting stories to tell and noteworthy architectural styles. Here are a few that caught our eye.

There are two churches that were erected side by side, the Carmelitas Church with the interesting dome on top of a single bell tower (on the left in my photo), and the Carmo Church with a Baroque exterior and beautiful blue and white tiles (on the right).

Carmelitas, which was built in the 17th century, was the home of an order of Carmelite nuns. Carmo was built in the 18th century as a home for an order of monks. Between the two churches is one of the narrowest houses in the world. Local legend says that the reason the house was put there was to keep the nuns and the monks from getting too friendly with each other.

It is interesting to note that people actually lived in this very narrow house until 1980. Now the house is considered more of a curiosity and it is opened to the public as a tourist attraction.

The Parish Church of St. Nicholas was rebuilt after a fire in the mid 18th century and the facade was covered with blue and white tiles almost 100 years later in 1861.

Saint Anthony Church, which was built in the late 17th century, also has beautiful blue and white tiles. The tiles on St. Anthony's tells the story of the Saint and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

The Church of St. Francis is a large imposing Gothic structure with a beautiful rose window, twisting spiral shaped columns, and a statue of Saint Francis at the entrance.