Posts Tagged With: nature

A natural beauty

Piodão1Usually, when thinking of architecture, we tend to think of big buildings, whether modern or old. The way I see it, however, credit should also be given to more “popular” types of architecture, using natural materials – like stone!

piodão4Today I’m bringing you a few snapshots of one of the most famous schist villages from Central Portugal, the village of Piodão.

piodão2Located close to the Serra da Estrela region, Piodão is one of a total of 27 schist villages in the heart of the country. In a place with an abbundance of schist as well as zigs and zags, ups and downs, what do you build your houses with? Why, schist, of course!

piodão3Getting to know these villages is very much worth the trouble of getting away from the city and maybe even getting lost on your way back because the GPS isn’t working and it’s a rainy night and you can’t see s**t. Not that it ever happened to me! This is also the part of the country where you’ll find some of the most beautiful river beaches.

piodão5Enjoy!

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.com/

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Categories: History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A change in perspective?

View of the river Douro, waaaaay up in the north of the country, in Miranda do Douro. Portugal to the left, Spain to the right of the picture

View of the river Douro, waaaaay up in the north of the country, in Miranda do Douro. Portugal to the left, Spain to the right of the picture

As you may (or may not) know, Portugal has a new President. Just to give you some context, in Portugal, Presidents are not the ones who actually rule (that’s for Prime-Ministers). They act like diplomats, in a way, and can veto laws from the Government.

This post is not meant to be about politics and I’d like to stress that I have no political affiliation and it is not my intention to give Beyond Lisbon a political colour of any kind. Still, I couldn’t help but be surprised when checking the news this morning and coming across a sentence, which the new President recently said (sorry, it’s in Portuguese), regarding the presidential ceremonies that will take place in Porto: “Because Portugal is more than Lisbon” (“Porque Portugal é mais do que Lisboa”). Now… that has always been my motto, Mr. President! 😀

headerHonestly, I hope this type of action, coming from the President, will help pave the way for a change in perspective regarding the way people (both in Portugal and abroad) look at the country.

🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: News about Portugal, People | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Strange things in strange places (part 4)

altar3Roadtrips can be surprising.

As we were driving along a road in the Trás-os-Montes region, in the north of Portugal, I thought I saw a sign mentioning an “altar of sacrifices”.

Wait. What? Go back.

Yep, it does say “altar of sacrifices”.

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I couldn’t find much on this site, I have to say. I’m not an archaeologist but I can’t see anything resembling an altar of any kind. Still, it is strange (to say the least) and probably stranger still is the casual sign by the side of the road.

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Known as “altar of sacrifices” or “Pias dos Mouros” these are two parallel rectangular structures, which were dug on granite. The smaller one is about 2 meters long by 0,55 meters wide, while the bigger one is roughly 2,47 meters long by 0,60 meters wide.

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On the sides you can see several carved stone steps. As far as I know no real archaeological exacavation has ever been carried out on this site, but it is believed to have been built previously to the arrival of the Romans to what is, today, Portuguese territory.

Its true purpose and origin? Still a mystery… But it only goes to show that sometimes fascinating things can be where we least expect them!

Enjoy!  🙂

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Snapshots of Nazaré (and a revelation!)

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View from the lighthouse at the Fort of St Michael Archangel.

Nazaré is one of those places that has its own mystique, legends, folk lore and, in more recent decades, tourists and surfers.
In the late 1940’s Nazaré attracted the attention of a then-young photographer called… Stanley Kubrick! He captured bits and pieces of the lives of the people of Nazaré (fishermen and their families, mostly) with their somewhat “exotic” hats and clothes, squinting in the sun and smiling – sometimes.

nazaré4Life by the sea can certainly be hard, particularly when you’re facing giant waves in tiny boats. Ever heard of the “Nazaré canyon“? Probably not, but that’s the phenomenon which caused the famous 100 foot (30 meters) wave surfed by McNamara in 2013, in Praia do Norte.

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Even in Praia do Norte the sea can sometimes be flat – like on this day! Just my luck!

Traditionally, the women of Nazaré wore not one, not two… but seven skirts! Why? Well, there are several theories, but no certainties. Some people say it has to do with the magic usually associated with the number 7 (and, particularly, with the seven waves, since they used to spend a good part of their day near the sea); others claim it was simply because the women used those skirts to cover both their heads and ther legs while they sat in the sand, waiting for the men to come from the day’s fishing activities. Contrary to what some people might think, yes, it does get cold in Portugal and, yes, we have fog, cold drizzle and wind, even on the beach! 😉

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And if you think that Nazaré sounds reaaaaally similar to Nazareth… well, that’s connected to the legend of Nazaré!

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Remember the lighthouse from the first photo? It’s that tiny spot on the left.

There’s a giveaway taking place right now on the blog’s Facebook page. It’s your chance of getting a box full of Portuguese goodies – for free! 😉

P.S.: If you follow the blog you may have noticed that I haven’t posted so often lately. No, I haven’t given up on the blog or the site. It’s just that I have… let’s call it “a new project in the making”! 🙂

coming soon

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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Categories: Legends, Nature, People, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A long, long time ago…

mezio1Before Portugal even existed there were people already living here. Obvious, right? Those people built huge stone monuments, some of which made their way to our day and age more or less intact.

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Today I’m bringing you a couple of examples you can find in the Peneda-Gerês region, particularly in the area called Mezio (near Soajo).

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Not much is known about them, but they’re thought to be approximately 5000 years old. You can find examples of this type of pre-historic monument all over the country, but mostly in the north and in Alentejo (as far as I know).

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Truth be told, they’re not always easy to find, even when they’re mentioned in maps and hiking trails. Sometimes you’ll just have some obscure reference to a dolmen in a particular area and little more information besides that.

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But who doesn’t love exploring around a bit? 😉

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Categories: Activities, History, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Beyond the obvious

tavira4Reputation can be a good thing or a bad thing – a bit like tourism.

In Portugal, the Algarve (in the south part of the country) has a reputation for being one long strip of sand, sea and sun, filled with restaurants, pubs and hotels – a place that becomes overcrowded in August with both Portuguese and foreign tourists, battling for a spot on the beach.

tavira1The truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can experience the real Algarve, if you dare to look beyond the obvious. Altough this a region which has beautiful beaches (many of which with very few waves you fraidy cats) it also has castles, old forts, white-washed villages and towns, wonderful cuisine, thermal baths and even a natural park (Ria Formosa).

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Today I’m sharing with you some images taken, just last week, near Tavira, in the Ria Formosa area. You don’t get to see this unless you leave your hotel-with-swimming pool-and-5-bars-in-a-nice-all-inclusive-package.

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Will you dare to step out of your comfort zone? 😉

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Categories: Activities, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

And if life gives you stones…

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You use them! 🙂

As promised on my previous post today I will tell you about a specific type of architecture, let’s call it “folk architecture”.

Meet the espigueiros, built with stone (and sometimes a mix of stone and wood) and which have been, for centuries, allowing people in the Minho region to keep their corn dry and safe from rodents. Although they’re usually found in Minho you can also spot them in other parts of North and even Central Portugal. They’re a great example of how humans can survive and thrive in harsh conditions.

In a place where stone seems to be the most common construction material people came up with a way of protecting their crops using, well, stone! The espigueiros are used mainly to keep corn, but they’ve been around since before the Discoveries (probably since before the Middle Ages, actually).

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Here’s the deal, in a nutshell: Corn is harvested in Autumn and must be left to dry during the Winter, ie, when it’s cold and damp. These structures have vertical cuts on the side walls, making it possible for corn to dry without without letting mice get in to take a nibble. They also have different types of “marks” (usually on the locks), so the owners will know which espigueiro belongs to which family.

These particular examples of espigueiro can be seen near the castle of Lindoso and some of them were built in the 18th and 19th centuries!

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Categories: History | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Building bridges

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First post of the year and anniversary post as well – today is the blog’s second birthday! Yay!

This past year was incredibly busy and it seemed to go by in a flash. I met great people, explored new places and learned a lot. There’s a website in the making and an increased presence in social media, besides a never ending bucket list for travel destinations and experiences in Portugal. I’d like to thank everyone who stops by, whether you’re fellow bloggers or interested in knowing more about Portugal – you rock! 😉

For today’s post I’m bringing you a bridge – but not just any bridge.

You can find this bridge in Castro Laboreiro, a town very very close to the border with Spain and in the area of the Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Castro Laboreiro is the kind of place that is older than you think might be possible and has a ton of history. Still, you risk missing out on a lot of things if you don’t pay attention. This bridge, for example, can be found by the side of the road and you may not actually notice it. Not much is known about it but, like many bridges in the region, it probably dates back to the time of the Roman empire. Can you imagine how many thousands of feet walked on it?

The surrounding area (which I’ll show in future posts) looks like it came straight from a scene from The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, with breathtaking views of mountains and valleys.

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I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful 2015 with plenty of travel and good times! 🙂

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Categories: History, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Out and about

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Do you like to explore new places? I know I do!

This spot in particular is in Sintra, although it’s not what you’d call a “touristy” place. Actually, it’s one of those places you hear about or have a vague memory of reading about in some obscure blog (ah!).rio1

Being there I thought of how much I believe “authentic” travel to be important. And what do I mean by “authentic” travel? Exploring! Even if you’re in a city, venture out of the most famous streets, have your lunch where the locals go to, lose the tourist guide!

So many people seem to focus on going somewhere to see castle A, palace B, famous street C… I see that happening everyday  – in Lisbon, in Sintra, in Porto. I know that sometimes we manage to fit a little “travel time” on a weekend or a business travel and time doesn’t stretch. But, come on, get out of your comfort zone!

This place is close to Lisbon, very close to Sintra and I can tell you the GPS coordinates I had for it were wrong!

There were a few BTT lunatics people there but it’s far from being a well known place. Unfortunately, I didn’t reach the waterfall because my hiking shoes are not that good and I was in serious risk of slipping. Still, it’s a beautiful place and I will surely go back!

Location? Top secret! :X

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Enjoy! 🙂

Oh, before I forget, there’s a surprise on the way! 😉

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Categories: Activities, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Little place, big history

cabo são vicente

Can you see it? Can you see that tiny white spot in the distance?

Remember when I told you about Sagres, the “holy promontory”? Well, that white spot is the lighthouse of the Cape St. Vincent (Cabo de São Vicente) as seen from Sagres.

This bit of land is, surprisingly enough, full of stories as well as history.

According to legend (and some history) Cabo de São Vicente, much like Sagres, was considered sacred in the Neolithic period. Later, ancient Greeks would come to call it Ophiussa, meaning “Land of Serpents” (although some claim that the name extended to much of today’s Portuguese territory) and Strabo mentions the existence, in the area, of a temple dedicated to Hercules.

In the 16th century this little bit of land suffered attacks from French and Dutch pirates and even from Francis Drake. Most of the buildings that existed in the area were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, so there’s not much left from that time that would let us know how the whole thing looked back then.

Trivia tidbit of the day: Lisbon’s coat of arms has, among other things, a ship and two ravens. Legend has it that two ravens guarded the dead body of the martyr St. Vincent until it could be found by his folllowers. When his body was taken to the cape which now has his name, a shrine was built over his grave – being guarded at all times by flocks of ravens. This caused the Arab geographer Al-Idrisi to call it “church of the raven”. In 1173 Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, had the body exhumed and brought by ship to Lisbon. The ship was guarded by (you guessed it!) two ravens.

Enjoy! 🙂

Oh, before I forget, there’s a surprise on the way! 😉

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Categories: History, Legends, Nature, Places | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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