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Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #8 – ‘Lisbon, Portugal: The City of Light, Art and Egg Tart Pastries’

Karen overlooking Lisbon with Targus River in background

Karen overlooking Lisbon with Tagus River in background

Known as “the white city” because of its clear light and beach-worthy climate, Lisbon is spread over a string of seven hills north of the Tagus River. With its switchback streets and alleyways, pastel-colored houses with laundry hung out to dry, black-and-white mosaic cobblestone sidewalks bordering wide boulevards, red and yellow trams clanking through the streets, blue-and-white painted, glazed ceramic tiles adorning churches and fountains, it is as if the city had been handcrafted for a Cinemascope movie.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, was colonized by many civilizations such as the Greeks and the Moors, and finally in 1147, by the Portuguese. The city is linked with heroic deeds of the Portuguese maritime exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was the Age of Discoveries and the Golden Era of Portugal, transforming Lisbon into the opulent center of a vast empire. Part of the wealth from these expeditions was used to build monuments and buildings in a unique Portuguese style: the extravagant Manueline architecture, best typified in the Jerónimos Monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Jerónimos Monastery - Lisbon, Portugal

Jerónimos Monastery – Lisbon, Portugal

Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #7 – ‘Oporto, Portugal: The City of Port Wine and Bookstore of Harry Potter Inspiration’

Historic Centre of Oporto from the Douro River - Oporto, Portugal

Historic Centre of Oporto from the Douro River – Oporto, Portugal

Oporto, also known as ‘Porto’, is the second largest city in Portugal (next to its sister city, Lisbon). Once an important outpost of the Roman Empire, Oporto is now one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to 275 BC. The Douro River, which was a Roman trading center, is now hallmarked by an extraordinary double-decker bridge, the work of the famous Parisian engineer, Gustav Eiffel (of the Eiffel Tower, Paris).

Dom Luís I Bridge over the Douro River - Oporto, Portugal

Dom Luís I Bridge over the Douro River – Oporto, Portugal

Porto is registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One of the reasons for its fame is its unique, classical gilt-work architecture, reflecting the baroque-style and romanticism of the 19th and 20th century. I remember thinking the lacey balconies gracing many of the buildings, somehow reminded me of New Orleans.

Ribeira Square - Oporto, Portugal

Ribeira Square – Oporto, Portugal

Porto’s most internationally famous export is port wine, which is named for the city. The Portuguese take their wine so seriously, that the guidelines dictated by the ‘European Union of Protected Designation of Origin’ state that only port from Portugal may be labeled as Port Wine. I’ve personally never been a fan of port because of its overwhelming sweetness, but after visiting the Sandeman Winery and tasting a glass, I could possibly do a commercial! The port was memorable… smokey and sweet, delicate and bitter – all at the same time.