About two dozen friends traveled to Lisbon and Porto recently for a brief introduction to Portugal’s history, culture and beauty. It was the group’s (Northern New Jersey Skål Club) 15th Friendship Tour and I had the good fortune to be invited for the second time. In 2017 I visited Venice and Croatia with many of the same members.
Our guide was João Brandão of Your Tours (www.yourtours.pt). I mention him because his encyclopedic knowledge, his talent for presenting facts and anecdotes in an engaging manner, and his love of his city and country immensely enriched our Portugal experience.
Photos are my memories. My objective on each trip is to capture unique moments. It is not easy to do and I am not always successful. The challenge is finding the right photo while touring with a group — without wandering too far away!
I have selective vision. What I like is not always the casual travel photo. What follows are selected scenes from this trip— in no particular order — that resonated with me, and comments about them.
Rotunda da Boavista, Porto
Just a short stroll from Hotel Fenix in Porto, Portugal, is a park that occupies the center of a roundabout where eight streets meet. In the middle of the park is a curious monument that commemorates the victory of the Portuguese against French troops that invaded Portugal during the Peninsular War (1807–1814). Our guide had pointed it out during a tour of the city and I was happy to visit it again on our last day there.
I was especially interested in the symbolism: the French imperial eagle conquered by the Portuguese lion. To my knowledge, lions do not and probably never did live in Portugal. Their habitat is Sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of India, but the idea of the lion is certainly intriguing. What may be absent is the considerable support of Great Britain and Ireland in holding off the Spanish and Napoleonic troops. However, the British also have adopted the lion as a national symbol — whether lions ever lived there or not!
The lion is — unsurprisingly — the symbol of the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico, on the island where I live. It was named for a descendent of Juan Ponce de Leon, the island’s first governor (who supposedly sought the fountain of youth) and who “discovered” and conquered Florida for the Spanish throne. There were no lions in the Caribbean, but León is Spanish for lion so the city has a pride of them, not all fierce!
Lions, I assume, wherever they may be, are usually ferocious and brave, characteristics that a nation defending itself from invaders should ideally possess. Perhaps the shared symbol in Porto subtly encompasses that idea. It was an important moment in Portugal’s history, of course, and foreshadowed the close relationship between Portugal and Great Britain that was so significant during the World Wars and continues today.
For more of my work on Medium, please visit my archive HERE.