One of my earliest memories is of the blue and white Willow pattern plate that sat on a shelf of my grandmother’s Welsh dresser. It was side by side with a heavy glass plate, with The Lord’s Prayer etched around the rim. Commonplace in those days, I expect, but I loved them.
I don’t know if it’s that memory, or my lifelong embrace of the sparkling colours of the sea, but I’ve always loved the simplicity of blue and white. Imagine then, my response, on arriving in Portugal and finding that so many of it’s buildings have been lovingly clad in blue and white tiles.
Porto? Well, that was just the icing on the cake! Stepping out of Bolhao Metro, I turned down Rua de Santa Caterina. Immediately in my vision, the Capela das Almas, a solid wall of blue and white. It was late evening and dark, so the church was floodlit. What a welcome! I knew right then that coming to Porto was going to be all that I had hoped for.
The road dips gently down, passing famous Cafe Majestic (pinch me, I really am here!) and into Praca de Batalha. I just stood and stared, and stared.
After a night’s sleep, it just got better and better! Well, you’ve all heard of Sao Bento railway station, haven’t you? It was just around the corner.
I wasn’t so sure at first about the Se, or Cathedral. It has the Rose Window and the sturdy pillars of my own Durham Cathedral, back home, but step into the cloisters and you’re in a magical world. Climbing to the Royal Apartments and viewing terrace, I couldn’t imagine ever attending to the affairs of state with such a view on hand.
Of course, it doesn’t end there. There’s the Carmo Church in the University Quarter, a tile wall that I adore in Rua das Flores, and many others.
But I don’t want to wear you out. We still have to travel up the Douro together. There was no shortage of azulejos there either, and the most stunning scenery I’ve seen in some time. So do come back, won’t you? I’m looking forward to it.