Friday, 29 June 2012

A plastic hammers street vender

A plastic hammers street vender.

A story behind: A city of Porto, Portugal has a special 24th of June holiday: the day of São João / Saint John. But the 23rd is when all the party happens – one of the biggest street parties in Europe – and there’s a lot of things to do. All day and night one can see and heat people hitting each other with the squeaking plastic hammers, one of the Saint John´s day traditions. 
At midnight there is a fireworks display around Dom Luis II bridge. The display goes on for 20 minutes and this is only the starting point for the second half of celebration: the night party and beach sunrise celebration.

Location: Porto, Portugal.

Gear: Nikon D700. Nikkor 70-300 mm AF-S.

Aperture: f/4

Shutter speed:
1/200 sec

Exposure bias: + 0,3 EV

Focal Length: 300 mm

ISO: 400

Date Taken: Saturday, June 23th, 2012, 17: 18 p.m.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A sunny day on the Sao Miguel island

A mid-day light over the northern coast of the São Miguel island, Azores Islands, Portugal.

A story behind: It was Friday mid-day. I was sight-seeing the northern coast of São Miguel, the major island in the Azores archipelago. As I drove past the small village of Capelas, I came upon the nice view over the bay the roofs of the church of Capelas in the foreground. On the horizon, covered with clouds, the Lagos do Fogo volano appeared. 

Nikon D700. Nikkor 70-300 mm. Polarizer. 


Shutter speed:
1/250 sec

Exposure bias:
-0,3 EV

Focal Length: 300 mm

ISO: 200

Place taken: somewhere close to the village of Capelas, Portugal.
Date Taken: Friday, June15th, 2012, 12: 32


PS. I invite you to buy my ebook guide of Azores islands.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A perfect day in Porto

This year, the city where I live has been chosen by Internet users as the most interesting tourist destination in Europe . From now on I am bombarded with requests to write a few words about the attractions that it offers. So today let me take you for a ride  and please spend a perfect day with me in Porto.

Have a breakfast with the locals in one of the many cafes in Baixa District. Most of the Portuguese eat this meal outside their home and near their workplace. You will probably find a nice place in the vicinity of your hotel since in Portugal cafes are on every corner. Ordering a cup of coffee is an art. It will be useful to know a few Portuguese words. The choice is extensive. We enjoy a "hardcore café" (small, pitch black and strong espresso), Pingo (espresso with a dash of milk), coffee with milk (about 50% coffee, 50% of milk, in the north of Portugal, we call it Meia de Leite. The rest of the country usually calls it cafe com leite) or Galao (a sort of café latte in a tall cup, where there is more milk than coffee). To eat order one torrada (thick toast only brushed with melted butter) or tosta mista (something like the French croque monsieur - toast with cheese and ham). Try also one of the many cakes, such as the bolo de arroz (here a link to my recipe for this cake), pao de deus or pastel de nata.
We start sightseeing at the Baixa district, where most of the hotels are located. First we look at the São Bento train station, usually very crowded, where the walls and ceiling of the main hall are covered with an enormous collection of blue azulejos. Another point of interest is the cathedral in Porto - Sé Catedral. After witnessing its magnificence we go through the narrow streets of the poorest district in Porto called Sé. The most typical local street running from the foot of the cathedral down to the river is the Rua dos Mercadores. After a while we arrive at the oldest quarter of the town - Ribeira.

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Be sure to visit the old Stock Exchange building Palacio da Bolsa with its Moorish hall, where 
ViniPortugal - the place where you can taste Portuguese wine is located. 

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Portuguese wines in ViniPortugal.

Not far away there is a large number of boats which go for a short, one hour cruise around the five bridges of the city, to the mouth of the Douro River and to the ocean. Adjacent to the Palacio da Bolsa is the the church of São Francisco with a fantastic wooden, gilded altar. After seeing this wonderful site we recommend going to the other side of the river Douro, to the famous two-level Dom Luis bridge and visit one of the many cellars where port wine is stored. The best wine cellar in my opinion would be the Cal (near the river), where we can purchase in addition to port wine, exquisite dry red wine, aptly named Curva (a hit among our Polish guests - you know why ;)). Quite far from the tourist routes Grahams is also a place of interest. As a reward for a long march up the hill we can enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city as well as a pleasant and interesting visit to the cellars.

A perfect day in Porto, Portugal

Grahams Cellars.

The newly built cable car in Vila Nova de Gaia (still part of the Porto District) we can enter a lookout tower at the former monastery of Serra do Pilar.
Located in this area, partly closed due to traffic, the street of Santa Catarina is the best place to shop.

A perfect day in Porto, Portugal

Shopping in stores on the streets of Santa Catarina.

Drink coffee at the city's most beautiful Majestic Café and visit the azulejos tiles that decorate the walls of the charming little church: Capela das Almas.

A perfect day in Porto, Portugal
The wall of the church Capela das Almas.

Nearby spend some time at the old market hall Bolhão, with many shops in the old colonial style. Pass Aliados, the main square of the town hall, where celebrations are ussually hold after the victories of the beloved city football club FC Porto. Close to the tower of Clerigos you can find the Lello bookstore. Opened in 1906 with its impressive white facade and fantastical, spiral staircase inside ( unfortunately no pictures can be taken inside ). According to the British newspaper "The Guardian" the shop has been recognized as one of the three most beautiful bookstores in the world.

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Stairs in the bookstore Lello.

We pass the buildings of the university, again decorated with a tiled surface, pass the church Igreja das Carmelitas, go around the hospital of Santo António, and soon we come to the park Cristal. Views of the city and of the river are spectacular from here. Near the park, but somewhat hidden, is Solar do Vinho do Porto, where we can spend some relaxation time with a glass of port wine in one hand (there is a choice of over 100 different types of this drink) and a Pastel de Nata in the other. We go down to the river and get on the bus number 500 or the historic tram line number 1, which will take us to the sea. The sunsets here are quite beautiful and the sandy beaches, stretch for miles on end. By walking on the broad waterfront promenade which is usually frequented by joggers and cyclists, we can come up to the fort Castelo de Queijo.

A perfect day in Porto, Portugal

Sunset on the beach at Foz.

In the evening we go (the bus line 500) to Matosinhos. This seaside town is very close suburb of Porto. On the street Heróis da França, opposite the fish hall, where every morning freshly caught sea fishing boats unload their treasures, we find the best fish restaurants in Porto (we particularly recommend our favorite place - a family restaurant O Lusitano ). Grilled fish on the street directly in front of restaurants and their quality is second to none in Portugal.

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Dinner is usually the most abundant food for the Portuguese and eaten within a week is usually the earliest, from 19.30, and at the weekend even later, usually around 21:00.

A perfect day in Porto, Portugal

Choose fish for dinner in the restaurant O Lusitano.

After midnight, begin to pulsate with the life of local clubs, with the most "trendy" Maus Hábitos (Eng. bad manners). Please do not expect to move there before 1.00 at night. Finally, I recommend three particularly interesting places near Porto. Ideal for short trips out of town. first is the beach and chapel Ermida to Senhor da Pedra in Miramar. Best wide and sandy beaches stretching basically from the mouth of the Douro River to the south.

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Sunset at the chapel Ermida to Senhor da Pedra in Miramar.

Other attractions are located close to Porto two wineries. The first is the Quinta de Gomariz , which is located in the town of Santo Tirso, producing award-winning vinho verde. Second place is the Quinta da Aveleda located in a beautiful old mansion, surrounded by a huge park. In both of the wineries can taste wine and buy it locally. The Quinta de Aveleda eager to have the opportunity to also see how the wine is produced on-site and buy local cheeses, jams and honey. Welcome to Porto!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

My first e-book

Over the last 5 years we have made more than 20 journeys to the Azores archipelago. Now we finished The Complete Guide to Azores islands. Written in Polish language, this is interactive e-book in PDF file with  245 pages, over 200 high quality images and 20 maps.  

You can buy it on eBay. Link.