The colorful Saint Anthony of Lisbon

Many know him as Saint Anthony of Padua, but actually he was born in Lisbon around 1190. Fernando Martins de Bulhões – Saint Anthony – was a Franciscan friar canonized by the Catholic Church in record time, one year after his death, and declared Doctor of the Church. He died in Padua in 1231 and many miracles have been attributed to him. He is considered a protector of the souls of Purgatory, guardian of good marriages, defender of animals, healer, and advocate of lost objects. The 13th of June sees the celebration of his death and is also the day of the city of Lisbon, despite Saint Vincent being the patron saint of the capital.


Portugal's Barcelos Rooster

The Rooster of Barcelos tells the story of a pilgrim and a miracle proving the innocence of a man who had been sentenced to death. A passing pilgrim, on the route to Santiago, was accused of a theft and despite his pleas of innocence, was condemned to death. The pilgrim pled to make one last appeal to the local judge. He was taken to the judge’s home, and the man was about to have his dinner. The condemned pilgrim pointed to a roast chicken on the table and said, "It is as certain that if I am innocent this rooster will crow." Indeed, the rooster stood up on the table and crowed and the man was immediately freed and sent off to Santiago.


Some years later, he returned to Barcelos to offer a cross featuring, you got it, a Rooster  ("Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo") to say thank you for the miracle. And you can see it today in t the Archeological Museum of Barcelos. Indeed, that rooster went on to be the colorful rooster that so many associate with Portugal today.

The Golden Age of Portuguese Cinema

Starting in 1933, with A Canção de Lisboa, the Golden Age of Portuguese Film would last the next two decades, with films such as Maria Papoila (1937), O Pátio das Cantigas (1942) and O Leão Da Estrela (1947). Aniki-Bóbó (1942), Manoel de Oliveira's first feature film, launched his carrier. It marked a milestone that dealt with social issues in a neo-realism style.


Based on staged musical reviews, the comedy musical or "Comédia À Portuguesa,"  films looked at everyday life and common people. The humor was often sharp and bittersweet.

The Golden Age produced classic such as Aldeia da Roupa Branca (1938), O Pai Tirano (1941), O Costa do Castelo (1943), and Menina da Rádio (1944). Fado, História de uma Cantadeira directed by Perdigão Queiroga in 1947 starred a young Amália Rodrigues in a musical drama. Camões, directed by José Leitão de Barros, was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival of 1946.


Here comes the A330!

SATA Internacional will replace its three Airbus A310s in its long-haul fleet with two Airbus A330-200 aircraft, the company announced. The A330 aircraft on long-haul routes ensure a service to North America, home to large communities of Azorean and where the company has two very important regular flights: Toronto (Canada) and Boston (USA) . The two aircraft will be acquired on operating lease and shall reach the Azores by August.


Mértola and its Castle

Isolated and remote, Mértola surprises the visitor with its rich heritage and amazing position.  Once known as Myrtillis Romana, the place flourished in the days of the Romans. Its vast walls were not enough to save the town from the Barbarian onslaught that ended Roman rule of the Iberian Peninsula.  But, the 8th century arrival of the Moors brought a new period of prosperity.  In 1238 the Portuguese king Dom Sancho II took the castle and handed it over to the Order of St. James. By 1300 a new castle had risen from the ruins of the old. The walls remained in constant reconstruction with Spain just across the river.


Today, Mértola is an archaeological jewel, with excavations revealing remains from the town’s many rulers of the past 2000 years. Inside its walls thrives a beautiful town, rich in simple houses, old cannons, and flowers. The vast cistern and castle keep are testaments to the town’s bellicose past. It also boasts the only still-standing Moorish mosque in Portugal. The square mosque, now a church, is a unique example of the lost riches of Moorish Portugal.

The Castle of Beja

It would be hard to find a higher or prouder tower than that of the castle of Beja. The town was an important Roman outpost called Pax Julia, and it served as a county seat in ancient Roman Lusitania. With its capture by the Moors in 713, Beja flourished as an intellectual center. But, the walls grew stronger as the constant political bicker between local Moorish Califs led to the city’s final capitulation to a Portuguese army of common people and untitled knights in 1162.  The first order of business was to rebuild the shattered defenses, and the walls now served as the southern-most border against the Moors. Perhaps because of its importance as a southern outpost, or in honor of its rich past, but Portugal’s kings set to build unequalled churches and fortifications in Beja throughout the medieval period. In 1307 the king, D. Dinis I ordered a towering keep to be built with an impressive balcony, and all defended by elegant pointed castellated walls.The castle saw action again, as the town revolted against the Spanish in the 1580s, and again with a bloody popular revolt against the occupying French in 1808, and once again during the 1830s Civil War. Much remains of the great castle, and the well-preserved tower is seen well in the distance.  Inside the great keep are three elegant Gothic chambers with high vaulted ceilings. To climb to the top, one must contend with 183 steps in a circular staircase. Many vestiges of earlier forts are found in the castle walls. Old stonework is clearly seen integrated into the keep, and a Roman arch and tower are still found in the barbican. Castelo_de_Beja_2

Alexandre Herculano -- The tale of a Bloody Castle


Alexandre Herculano, (1810-1877) introduced the historic novel to Portugal His remains lie in a majestic tomb in the Jerónimos Monastery at Belém, near Lisbon. Herculano told many an inspiring and powerful tale about his nation, but the most moving may have been the story of a father, a son, and a castle. Few Portuguese school children escape without reading Herculano's "Tale of Honor," which takes place at Faria Castle.  In the 14th century, Castilians outnumbered the commander of the castle, Gonçalo Nunes, and also held his father, Nuno Gonçalves, captive. They threatened to kill Nuno if his son did not surrender. Nuno tells his son to fight to the last.


"You know, Gonçalo Nunes, to whom this castle belongs, under the code of war, I placed it under your control?."

"It is of our lord, the king, D. Fernando of Portugal, to whom you swore allegiance."

"You know, Gonçalo Nunes, the duty of an alcaide is to never hand over, for any reason, your castle to the enemy - even if you are buried in its ruins?"

"I know, my father! - said Gonçalo Nunes, in a soft voice so as not be heard by the Castilians. "But do you not see that it is your death if they think that you counseled me to resist?"

Nuno Gonçalves, as if he had not heard his son, then said in a loud voice, "Then if you know how to fulfill your duty, Alcaide of the castle of Faria! Damned be you to hell, the moment that anyone enters this castle without stepping over your dead body."

The Castilian commander was not amused and killed Dom Nuno on the spot. But the Portuguese resisted and after a terrible siege, the Castilians were defeated.

Today, in nearby Barcelos, a statue of the father and son stands in the center of the town, united in an embrace, their swords still ready to meet the enemy.


Guide to Rail and Trains in Portugal

Rail is a great way to get around Portugal. It is fast and easy, with major rail hubs in Lisbon and Porto. In fact, the Oriente Station is about 10 minutes from the airport in Lisbon.

So, here is what you need to know about the rail services:

Alfa Pendular - super fast train that glides from Braga to Porto to Lisbon the the Algarve and back. Full service, wifi, dinning car.



Intercidades - Run on all North-South, East-West routes, with 2 classes, fast with cafe car, and only stops at major towns.


Regional - Slower service with more stops, also on branch lines.

Urbanos - Light rail around cities.


International night trains such as the Lusitania offer luxury international service.

Just 2 and a half hours away from Lisbon, the high-speed Alfa Pendular reaches Porto faster than driving.

The Castle of Guimarães

In the middle of the historic walled city, surrounded by parks and a 15th century palace stands the castle that witnessed the birth of the nation. The castle of Guimarães is simple, yet a formidable site, and a place with a story. It was here that D. Afonso Henriques was born in the 12th century to the Count Henrique and his wife D. Teresa. The future king was baptized in the Romanesque chapel of São Miguel outside the castle gate. The country of Port Cale extended from the banks of the Minho River to the water of the Douro. It belonged to the kingdom of Castile and Leon, and had just been wrestled from the Moors, and was given to the Frenchman Henrique of Burgundy as its first count. Henrique dreamed of establishing his own kingdom, but his death in 1114 would pit his widow against his son some 14 years later when young Afonso Henriques discovered that his mother was cheating him out his inheritance. In June of 1128 Afonso Henriques and a group of his friends defeated D. Teresa’s army at São Mamede. He imprisoned his mother in the castle of Guimarães, but soon found himself under siege by the king of Castile and Leon, who did not want to lose Portugal. A treaty was worked out and Afonso Henriques, now count of Portugal, began a relentless campaign from Guimarães to push the Moors south.



At the mythical battle of Ourique in 1139 Afonso Henriques dreamed that God offers him the crown, and then defeated a vast army of five Moorish kings. His men proclaimed him D. Afonso I, the new King of Portugal, and although it meant breaking his promise to the Castilians, he accepted. After all, who can argue with God’s will? Today, the ruined palace of the first king, with its simple granite rooms, is all that fills the restored walls of Guimarães. But, the pointed castellated walls and parapet, high keep and guard towers remain, a reminder to today’s Portuguese of the courage of their first king.



Soure and its Castle

Guidebooks and tourists often ignore this tiny ruin. They make a great mistake in doing so, as Soure’s castle has several unique features. First, it is on a flat plain on a riverbank in a country where castles seek out the high ground. It also has one of the earliest keeps in the country, dating from the 5th or 6th century. Finally, it has a series of rare Visigothic windows, not to mention a Roman temple. Soure had found itself in a no man’s land after the fall of the Visigothic kingdom to the Moors. The tiny castle must have seen numerous battles as Christians and Muslims fought. By the 12th century it was in Portuguese hands, but at that point the town had been abandoned. After the Moors had been expelled from Santarém in 1147, people returned to Soure. But, the castle was soon abandoned and fell into ruin. What remains is a wonderful lesson in Portuguese history, and it is more than enough to merit a visit.