Don’t Forget to Look Down


Don’t Forget to Look Down

I very recently took a wonderful trip to Portugal and Spain with my husband and daughter and friend. As I have said on many occasions, travel is such an  educational opportunity. We ate new foods, visited beautiful historic sites, met warm and wonderful local people, and learned to love another part of the world.  According to my FitBit I walked about 60 miles a week while learning new things, it was not what one would call a “relaxing” vacation!

Portugal is known for some delightful things, historic sites, Fado music, flamenco dance, quaint hilltop towns, port wine, seafood, natural wonders, azulejos (tile), fish, cork products, cobblestone streets, and beaches. 

Seasoned travel guru, Rick Steves had some great advice about visiting Portugal, “Don’t forget to look down”! Many of Portugal’s streets and walkways were paved with black and white cobblestones laid down in interesting patterns, it was a joy to “look down”.  

The colorful tile that covers the inside and outside of many private and public buildings is equally fascinating. Called “azulejos” the tile are everywhere and in every color and pattern imaginable. The decorative tiles were first brought to Portugal by the Moors in the 8th century. Later tile making became a uniquely Portuguese art form under Manuel I in the 16th century. Some are strictly patterned tile, others tell a visual story relating to local history or scenes from Christianity. The tile adorn everything from historic palaces, restaurants and storefronts to modern metro stations. They are not only decorative but many protect the buildings against damp, heat and noise as well as many being structural. Because we were in Portugal/Spain during the holidays many things were closed. One of those we were sad to miss was the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (the National Tile Museum). Hmmm, may have to plan another trip.

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