Day 2: Vista Alegre & Aveiro

After a shocking alarm awakening, blearily we stumbled down to breakfast and the promise of coffee. Then we met Diogo and Diana, our guide for the day, in the hotel lobby. Our adventures today take us to the small fishing village of Aveiro and a first stop to Vista Alegre.

While yesterday brought us sun-filled skies, today was the opposite with grey clouds, a biting wind, driving rain and a brief hailstorm! We braved our way, cloaked in rain coats, through the rain to tour the compound of Vista Alegre first. Situated just minutes from Aveiro, Vista Alegre is home to the most famous porcelain in the country. Known for their daily dinner sets, blown glassware, ornate decorative pieces and tribute pieces for celebrated visits of royalty such as Queen Elizabeth and Ronald Reagan. We toured the museum initially where they have thousands of pieces in their archives. Every item ever made was made in duplicate to keep a piece in the archives. We saw the kilns that were in use until the late 1980s. One was coal burning and the other was wood burning. It took 9 workers to keep the kilns running for over 40hrs for each run. They would fill the kiln with boxes, called Saggars, and each saggar held a piece of porcelain. Then they would brick up the opening and seal it with raw clay. The kilns reached 1400*. You could see a glazed like surface on the inside of the kilns—a natural process of the chemicals released from the porcelain that built up on the inside walls.

The museum was filled with drawings of initial designs, and we actually got to visit the artist currently hand-painting pieces for recent release. There is a plate with a red carnation that was being painted by at least 5 different artist today to commemorate the revolution celebration coming up in April. We also saw a vase that required 53 different molds that then had to be glued together to create the finished product. I couldn’t see a single seam.

The factory celebrated its 200th anniversary earlier this year, and a celebrator piece reaching 2 meters high, is currently touring the world. José Ferreira Pinto Basto, the founder, had a vision of a place where workers could live, employees could receive child care with teachers, have a chapel for worship, have a fire brigade and a store for shopping. It was a community and a place of business. There are currently 700 people working at the site we visited, manufacturing fine porcelain and there are separate locations producing glassware and everyday quality items for IKEA.

After the museum we were able to visit the chapel, funded by a bishop with the condition that it could house his tomb. It was beautiful and painted or tiled from top to bottom. It isn’t an active chapel for mass, but you can rent it for weddings.

Then we painted our own pieces to take home and purchased a mug that was designed based on the influence of the cobblestone streets of Porto. The museum, workshop and two different stores were all in different buildings on the compound, requiring us to dash through the soaking rain each time. Just as we were finishing our paining, a loud alarm sounded signaling the first shift of lunch for the 700 workers. The alarm then sounded every 50 min. for the next crew to visit the cafeteria. I thought for sure we were going to have to exit the building in an orderly fashion due to a fire breaking out somewhere on the compound!

Aveiro is where we landed for lunch after a quick tour of the riverbank. They have distinctive boats, called Moliceiro, that you can take rides in along the canal structure and Aveiro is called the Venice of Portugal. The boats all have a saint painted on one end and then a dirty, tongue-in-cheek picture on the other. We, however, did not take a boat ride in the rain and then hail and opted just to have lunch in the city center.

After lunch, we made our way back to Porto and Bryan and I fought sleep the whole way. Our evening led us to a local favorite restaurant, Brasao, for a local sandwich called francesinha—basically a Portuguese version of a croque monsieur with pork cutlets, sliced sausages and Swiss cheese melted and served in a beer based sauce. It was giant. We split it with some French fries, salad and sangria and were completely full. National elections are happening on Sunday, and it’s a pretty big deal. Many are unhappy with the current leaders due to a significant amount of corruption. We saw a huge rally happening in a tent with crowds, drummers, and news crews just up the street. Our tour guide said she didn’t take a touring job on Sunday because it’s the only day you can vote and she needed to be in her neighborhood and has to vote the corruption out!

Headed back to the hotel for a nightcap and now we sleep! Next up..Day 3: Walking & WineNext up..Day 3: Walking & Wine

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3 Responses to “Day 2: Vista Alegre & Aveiro”

  1. Eda

    AMAZING! You captured so much beauty and history! Keep safe, enjoy and absorb it all ❤️

  2. Lauren

    Love reading about your travels!! What an amazing trip so far! Love y’all!!


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