Traveler: Joshua Soares
On a return visit to Portugal, Joshua started his trip in the small fort town of Valença, then worked his way south to the capital of Portugal and the large squares and castles of Lisbon – with many stops in between.
Over the years I have had the wonderful experience of being able to visit Portugal several times. On this last trip, however, I challenged myself to do and see things I had never seen before. Below is a highlight of the many new experiences I had on my most recent trip to Portugal, as well as some repeat experiences that were too good to pass up.
I started in the north of Portugal, in a town called Valença, located on the Portugal-Spain border. Once a Roman fort, this walled town on the Minho River became a very important fortification in the war against Spain. Across the river in Spain, from the town of Tui, one can barely make out the rival fort which was the main adversary during the long war.
The entire town of Valença lived within this fort and at one time this little building was the baptismal room to the neighboring church, signified by the shell on the façade.
The next stop on my travels south was to the Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus located in the Viana do Castelo region. This monument was funded by a captain of the Portuguese cavalry after he regained his eyesight due to a miracle from St. Lucy, the patron saint of sight. Sitting atop a hill, the monument is visible from miles away—a fitting tribute from the captain to honor St. Lucy for the miracle bestowed upon him.
Continuing on the trip, my next stop was to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, a shrine just outside of the city of Braga. This chapel, erected in 1373, was built as a dedication to the Passion of Christ and sits at the top of a large run of stairs (I lost count of how many).
Next was the city of Porto—my favorite city that also has my favorite bridge! I love how the city is built into and up the mountainside, creating layers of urban fabric stacked seemingly on top of each other.
While in Porto it is impossible not to be tempted to try some of their famous Port Wine. The vineyard and wine cellar served as a beautiful backdrop for a day of tasting!
On my way to the final stop in Lisbon, I took a little detour to see the wonderfully colorful beach town of Costa Nova.
Finally arriving in Lisbon, I had to stop by the famous Elevador de Santa Justa with its beautiful Gothic details. This elevator lifts you above the city skyline to look out over the vast city.
Lastly, I ended in Commerce Square—a vast public square capping the long boulevard as it meets the waterfront with a beautiful Baroque triumphal arch.
Though I had visited Portugal a number of times, this trip reminded me that you can never truly stop exploring and discovering new things, and encouraged me to look for those new adventures everywhere I travel.