All Souls Day

All Souls Day

All Souls Day is the day after national holiday All Saints Day in Portugal. It’s a day for remembering the dead, like Day of the Dead in Mexico. People go to cemeteries and put flowers on the graves of their loved ones. Because the day before is the day many people have off work, some people take flowers on that day.

Lisbon All Souls Day

All Souls Day had a special meaning for me this year as my father had died just a few weeks earlier. I had nowhere to put flowers, but I went to the large cemetery near my home in Campo de Ourique. It’s almost all above ground, a collection of mausoleums large and small. While some are in disrepair – you could even reach in and touch the caskets – many are not. It’s a beautiful cemetery with a cliff-like perch on the side away from the entrance, leading to terrific views out to Almada across the Tagus River.

Lisbon All Souls Day

There was a small number of graves – probably around ten – that were just mounds in the shape of a body. It’s not obvious that there’s a casket underneath, there may well be. The markers are metal and worn, no names or dates are visible under the rust. Most of these were undecorated with flowers, but there were a few that someone had remembered.

Lisbon All Souls Day

A few graves bore huge amounts of flowers. Was it one relative who bought out a small flower stand? Or were these people with large families or reputations? Maybe by the next All Souls Day, I will have the answer.

Here’s a slideshow with photos from All Souls Day.

Into the Douro Valley

Into the Douro Valley

The Douro River starts in Spain and ends in Porto, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is best known for its vineyards and wine making, and particularly for its central role in the making of Port wine. The valley is spectacular, with steep hills covered in terraced grape vines, beautiful bridges, and winemaking estates and homes.

Douro River Valley

 

Our visit began at the Santa Apolónia train station in Lisbon. The ride to Porto is about three hours and the trains are quite comfortable, even in “tourist class.” Arriving in Porto, there is a transfer to the train going to Regúa, a prominent town that takes another two hours on the train. This train, while not as comfortable, often offers views of the river and the south slope vineyards. It’s an old line, often single-tracked which occasionally causes delays while waiting for an oncoming train to get through.

Regúa

Regúa embraces today’s Portugal, with a well-preserved quaint “downtown” and tasteful modern buildings behind the downtown. As it sits on the river, there are docks and riverside bars. As with every town and city we’ve visited, there are some attractively abandoned buildings.

Douro River

The plan was to take a six hour cruise on the river. Given the heat (34C at the peak), it’s a blessing that this fell through due to dam repairs. Instead, we ended up with another train ride, this time farther up the Douro to Pinhão, a village smaller than Regúa and the departure point for a lot of boat rides. We took a smaller boat for a much shorter ride, a pleasant afternoon jaunt on the river. The tour started out with a group of drunk Americans yelling about tequila (apparently they were confused about what country they were in) but fortunately, they moved to an upper deck and everyone else was happy.

Douro Winery

Back to Regús and out the next morning to a winery. We would have liked to visit a smaller winery with a chance to speak with winemakers or vineyard managers but it was too difficult to arrange, especially as we didn’t have a car. We ended up with a group at a large winery. We had a tour and tasted some decent if unexceptional wines, but it turned out the group, which was mostly Americans with a few people from China, was a lot more interesting than the drunk Americans on the boat ride.

Funicular, Porto

After the winery, we headed back to Porto. Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, much smaller than Lisbon, but with lots of character. Although inundated with tourists like Lisbon, the city center is much smaller so you can escape more quickly. We found a funicular that was fun to ride for all 90 seconds it took to go up a hill at a 75 degree angle.

Romantic Museum, Porto

Porto stands in contrast to the rest of the Douro Valley, it’s urban and modern and busy. We didn’t explore the port houses on this trip but did enjoy the views of the city. It was extremely hot and we ended up in a park the afternoon before we left. Walking through  the park, we encountered a museum – Museu Romântico da Quinta da Macieirinha – that had served as the home of the exiled King of Sardinia in the early 19th century. The museum is not on the path most tourists take so it was quite empty. Well-preserved in a condition close to original, it was quiet and enjoyable, the last stop on the trip north.

Across the Tagus

Across the Tagus

Almada is just across the Tagus River from Lisbon. It’s accessible by ferry, bus, train, and car, the last three quite simple by crossing the Ponte 25 de Abril, also known as Lisbon’s Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a large suburban area with several urban and village centers, beaches, and a fishing area.

Almada

Taking the ferry from Lisbon’s Cais de Sodré to Cacilhas lands visitors at a seaside area that has some restaurants and a dockside area with people fishing. It also has a beautifully run-down set of buildings along the water. They’re all falling down and going inside would require a hard hat as they seem to decay regularly.

Almada

There are two directions to go form the Cacilhas ferry terminal. One is towards the bridge and offers a terrific view of Lisbon from a glass elevator that goes up the rock face. The other direction is into the city of Almada. Almada isn’t known for historical landmarks in general, but does have some excellent restaurants, a nice church (what city or village in Portugal doesn’t have a church?), and a relaxed feeling.

Almada

Not that far from the center of town is an area known as Romeira. Romeira features decaying industrial buildings, including some spectacular towers that once held flour, some of the best street art in Lisbon, and a small number of people living in makeshift homes. There’s traffic through it but not many people walking, giving it a somewhat edgy feel. It’s a photographer’s paradise.

Almada

Some of the best street art here is by well-known artist Styler.

Trafaria

Another ferry goes from the Belém district of Lisbon to Trafaria, a bit west of Cacilhas. Trafaria greets visitors with a small beach with boats haphazardly strewn across the beach and moored in the water. Looming over the beach is more industry, dominating much of the landscape.

Trafaria

The village by the water is typical of Portugal, with narrow streets and alleys lined with small houses, and restaurants that grill sardines outside. Some structures, especially the industrial ones, are decaying, like in so many other places with dead industries. The only signs of life in these buildings are feral cats and kittens.

Trafaria

Old buildings including forts can be found around Trafalgar. The structures closest to the water are fenced off and the ones inland are difficult to access. Those are being saved for a return trip, along with a visit to a long-closed water park, once local assistance is enlisted.

Thanks to Anabela Melo de Carvalho for information about Almada.