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Old town sights and a boat trip

A return to Faro day two


View A return to Faro on ToonSarah's travel map.

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Storks nesting on the gate to the Old Town

We awoke to bright sunshine but with a fresh feeling in the air – a lovely spring morning. We found a nice café in a nearby street where we had breakfast outside – great coffee and a tasty chocolate croissant. Then we headed to the old town taking photos on the way.

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On the streets of the Old Town

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Statue of Dom Afonso III

After a stroll around some of the picturesque streets we came to the municipal museum in the former convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, which was just opening for the day. I'd read that the old monastery cloisters were worth seeing, in addition to some of the Roman artefacts in the museum, so we paid the modest 1 euro (seniors rate) to go in. I loved the worn animal gargoyles in the cloisters and the views of the rococo dome.

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Some of the gargoyles

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The dome

The mosaic of Oceanus was the star exhibit in the museum itself. I was fascinated by the examples of a very early (pre-Roman) Tartessian language of the Algarve region; and we both liked the works in a temporary modern art display.

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In the Municipal Museum

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Mosaic of Oceanus

By the time we left we were ready for another coffee so we found a sunny spot outside the Cidade Velha restaurant where I recalled having eaten dinner with the VT crowd four years ago. The cappuccinos were good but unfortunately the glass mine was in fell out of its metal holder, spilling hot coffee all over me! The one good thing was the relative proximity of our little apartment, allowing me to go back to change my clothes.

That done we returned to the old Town to visit the cathedral. Although not large it dominates the Largo da Sé in the heart of the old town. A flautist was playing rather beautifully on its steps, collecting money to help refugees in Ukraine.

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On the steps of Faro Cathedral

The cathedral dates originally from the mid 13th century (completed 1271 and expanded about 50 years later). It was built on the site of a Moorish mosque; Faro was the last part of the Iberian Peninsula to be liberated from the Moors, in 1249. That mosque had been built on the remains of a Visigoth cathedral and that in turn on those of a Roman forum. This therefore has been the heart of the city for hundreds of years.

The original Romanesque-Gothic structure was damaged in a raid by the English in 1596 and further and more badly destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, which left only the tower gate and several of the chapels still intact. Today the cathedral shows rather a mix of architectural styles, with Baroque predominating.

There are some gloriously ornate chapels inside, the rich gold offset by the traditional blue and white azulejos. It was rather dark in places and of course I didn’t use flash, so some of the photos are rather noisy but I hope worth sharing regardless.

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Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary (on the left) and of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (on the right)

We climbed the stairs to the choir loft from where you get an excellent view of the cathedral as a whole and a close-up look at the organ.

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View from the choir loft, and a detail of the organ

Further up the steps we checked out the small cathedral museum, with a collection of beautiful church vestments, silver chalices and other items, some relics (including the forearms of St. Boniface!), wooden statues of saints and other assorted items.

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Detail of a carving in the cathedral, and the ossary

Back at ground level we wandered around the small cloister area with a couple of chapels leading off it. One of these is an 18th century ossuary. We also spotted a cute chameleon in the small sunny courtyard.

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The chameleon

Our admission ticket also included the tower. I’d been up on my previous visit and knew it was a fairly easy climb and worth it for the great views. You can look down on the peaceful Largo da Sé immediately below you, lined with its orange trees; and then raise your head to look beyond this and the pretty tiled roofs of the old town to the lagoon of the Ria Formosa beyond. You can also get a good close up look at the bells and at the inner workings of the clock, encased in glass.

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View from the tower

We had a great lunch of local cheeses and charcuterie in the Castelo bar, another spot I remembered from my previous visit. After that our plan had been to take a boat trip to the but a strong wind had got up so the boat company was only running the shorter nature tours in the more sheltered waters. So we opted for that as an alternative and despite the wind enjoyed seeing spoonbills, flamingos and other birds as well as the oyster beds.

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On the lagoon

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Oyster beds

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Oyster beds

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Oyster beds

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Collecting oysters

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Fishermen's huts

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Fishermen's huts and flamingos

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Flamingos

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Flamingos

Back on dry land we sought out a sheltered café terrace for the obligatory holiday ice creams, then returned to the apartment for a break, and to put my clothes from the morning's incident through the washing machine!

In the evening we had dinner at Vila Adentro, an historic restaurant near the cathedral in the Old Town. I had a delicious goats cheese and fig filo pastry parcel to start, monkfish wrapped in bacon for my main course and a slice of lemon meringue pie to finish, plus a large glass of my favourite Portuguese wine, vinho verde.

Posted by ToonSarah 14:02 Archived in Portugal Tagged birds boat museum cathedral monastery portugal faro Comments (7)

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