Robin's Adventures

Morocco, Spain, & Portugal
A Picturesque Adventure

Porto Cathedral

The Porto Cathedral, which is built at the highest point in the city, was originally constructed in the 12th and 13th centuries. It has been modified and added to many times since then so it has a variety of architectural styles.

The outside has a pair of towers with a large rose window between them. The cloisters are covered with blue and white azulejo tiles illustrating religious scenes.

More Cathedral

Inside the cathedral there are several very ornate altarpieces. One of the altarpieces, which is made of silver, was saved from looting by Napoleon's army in 1809 when priests and parishioners painted over it to hide the silver.

During one battle, Spanish troops took control of the building and the locals rallied to take back their beloved cathedral. There is a plaque in the cathedral as a memorial to those who died in this endeavor. The plaque is made from a mineral with magnetic properties called magnetite which is designed to draw visitors to this location if they were carrying a compass.

In the square outside the cathedral there was a decoratively carved pillory with a twisted stone column that symbolizes power and justice. It has been said that the hooks that remain toward the top of the column were used for hanging criminals.

The Train Station

The Sao Bento Railway Station, which was built in 1900 on a spot formerly occupied by a Benedictine monastery, is noteworthy not simply as a hub of transportation, but more so due to the elaborate tiled artwork that adorns its interior walls.

Inside the building there are more than 20,000 blue and white azulejo tiles that show some amazing scenes from Portugal's history. The tiles, which are the work of artist Jorge Colaco, were created and installed in the station between 1905 and 1916.

Lello Bookstore

The Lello Bookstore, which was first opened in 1906 by brothers Jose and Antonio Lello, is considered by many one of the world's more unique bookstores. The outside facade, which combines the neogothic and Art Noveau styles, has a pair of beautiful paintings representing Art and Science that flank the front window.

Inside the shop are floor to ceiling bookcases that cover the walls on two levels, an iconic crimson staircase, a majestic ceiling with molded plaster designs cleverly painted to look like wood embellishments, and a large colorful stained-glass panel in the ceiling with the moto "Decus inlabore," or "Honor in work."

As if this were not enough to make the bookstore unique on its own, add JK Rowling and Harry Potter to the story. Rowling, who was married to a Portuguese man, lived in Porto in the early 1990s and worked there teaching English. Many believe that she frequented the bookstore and it provided inspiration for the "Flourish and Blotts" bookstore where Harry Potter buys his books as well as for the moving staircases from the Hogwarts School.

Hotel Infante de Sagres

While in Porto, we stayed at the Hotel Infante de Sagres.


Lisbon, which is the capital as well as the largest city in Portugal, is one of Europe's oldest cities. There was evidence that this area was inhabited during the Neolithic period, as well as throughout the following eras by many different civilizations.

Today Lisbon is a modern city, most of which was rebuilt after the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. A panoramic view of the city includes bridges spanning the Tagus River, residential neighborhoods where many of the homes sport red tiled roofs, and the walls of Saint George's Castle.

Important Buildings

Commercial Square, which is a large plaza located near the Tagus river, was the location of a royal palace that was destroyed in the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

When the square was rebuilt, a series of government buildings were constructed to flank a triumphal arch. The centerpiece of the square was an equestrian statue of King Jose I with snakes being crushed beneath the feet of the horse.

The Church of Santa Engracia, which was never actually used as a church, was originally built in the 17th century. After almost 300 years of construction, part of the building was destroyed in a storm. The structure was then used for various purposes over the years, including an arsenal and a footwear factory, before it was converted into Portugal's National Pantheon in 1916. Since renovation ended in 1966 many of the Presidents of the Republic have been interred here.

The Monastery of Saint Vincent was built as a church and monastery in the 17th century, but after the dissolution of monasteries in Portugal in 1834 the monastery building was used as a palace for Lisbon's archbishops. Eventually, the monastery was transformed into a pantheon for the tombs of almost all of the former Kings of Portugal.

We also saw Saint Benedict's Palace, which has been used by the parliament of Portugal since 1834, as well as the pink Belem Palace, which is the residence of the President of Portugal.

Eduardo VII Park

Eduardo VII Park, which, at 64 acres, is the largest public park in Lisbon, is named after the British King that visited Portugal in 1903. The central area of the park is grassy with a maze of hedges and gardens on the periphery.

The fountain at the top of the hill commemorates the revolution that took place in 1974 and is created from ruins that were produced during this revolution. There are also many unique statues throughout the park.

The Old Quarter

Lisbon's old quarter, known as the Alfama District, is the oldest part of the city. There are narrow cobblestone streets, old residences with detailed iron railings on the balconies, and an interesting variety of shops and cafes.

As we wandered through the old quarter, we stopped to try a local Portuguese delicacy called pastel de bacalhau. This popular snack is basically a codfish cake that is made with port wine and cheese. Steve thought it was wonderful. I guess it must be an acquired taste.

Saint George's Castle

Saint George's Castle, originally built in 205 by the Romans, was later taken over by the Moors and then, in 1147, by a Portuguese King who transformed it into a royal residence.

When a new royal residence was built during the 16th century in what would later become the Commercial Square, the castle took on various other roles. The castle was at various points a military barracks, a prison, a theater, and a home for orphaned children. Today, the castle is a tourist attraction and a museum.