Simply beautiful blue and white

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.

Hauntingly lovely Igreja de Santo Ildefonso

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.

The view from the terrace above the cloisters

Stepping in to a fragile and wonderful world

Those courtly days

A cherub or two

A few more?

And one by the window, ready to steal a peep

A room fit for a king

Even the ceiling is gorgeous

But nothing surpasses blue and white

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.

Just a glimpse of the Carmo Church, behind the Lion Fountain

Lovely Rua das Flores

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.

74 comments

  1. My word, what beautiful buildings they are, and you are right about the blue and white – it just takes your breath away. Thanks for sharing them.
    Stunning photos, Jo!

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  2. The first thing that popped into my mouth as if I were carrying on a conversation with you over these images was: “oh my gosh!” Just think of the work in creating these hand made and hand painted tiles adding such grandeur to the architecture. Absolutely beautiful. No wonder you were enthralled.

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  3. The artists must have been inspired by the gorgeous blue of the skies there, which you were fortunate enough to enjoy as well. I wondered if they put up the tiles then painted.. but it almost looks like they painted each tile and assembled after, mosaic style?? Just stunning.. blue is also one of my favorite colors. My mom has a set of the Willow blue dishes.. they’re just so pretty! xx

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      1. So nice to see your enthusiasm, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed so much. Regarding São Bento station when you say “I believe it started life as a monastery” well, not exactly. It’s located where once there was a monastery (Mosteiro de São Bento de Avé-Maria). This monastery was demolish on the XIX century (it was the time of Liberalism and due to extinction of the religious orders, the property was confiscated by the decrees of 1832 and 1834, determining that it pass to the State after the death of the last nun) and the station was build on the early XX century, those lovely tiles are from the XX century by Jorge Colaço. Remains from the monastery are scattered in several museums, churches and other monasteries.

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      2. Thanks for that Fernanda. I knew of the demolition but didn’t want to go into detail, but you’ve very nicely saved me the trouble. I didn’t know that there were various remains from the monastery still to be seen though, so many thanks for reading and for leaving your helpful comments.

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  4. A great introduction into this city. The designs of the buildings are beautiful in the colors of blue and white. Looking forward to more of your posts here.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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      1. I know what you mean. I love taking pictures and when I start it is hard for me to stop. Then I often can’t decide which to post. So you can never make me glazed eyed.

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  5. Hi Jo, Lucky for you you’re a fan of blue and white. Porto is fantastic for azulejos and it looks like you got plenty of shots of some of my favourite places while you were there. São Bento station is amazing, isn’t it?

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    1. I kept going back for another look, Julie- amazing! We were just around the corner at B&B’s Porto Centro, and we took the train to Guimaraes too so plenty of opportunity. Many thanks for your RT. Appreciate it.

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