I recently invited a neighbor over for a drink. She said, “I’d love to come. But I want you to know I am mock cocktail kind of girl.” I had no idea what she was talking about until I gave it a little thought. Well, I am a blue and white kind of girl. Those who know me, have been in my kitchen: only blue and white dishes and tiles and the bathroom follows suit with only blue and white tiles and towels and finishes in the bedroom with blues on the bed and floor. On a recent trip to Portugal, I was in blue and white heaven. You can read: the flora and fauna, the evolution of the wine trade, the vastness of the landscape and the religious and historic events by looking carefully at the exteriors and interiors of Portuguese buildings both large and small.
The Sao Bento Railway Station in Porto is the star of the blue and white tile craze. Called Azulejo, the word is derived from the Arabic meaning polished stone. These tile murals were designed and painted by Jorbge Colac beginning in 1904 and completed in 1916. Threre are 20,000 tiles in the station.
These tile murals tell the story of Portugal’s history, but also document the life of ordinary people.
You expect to see these vast murals on the sides of large churches.
These murals are remarkable, but in some ways more to more liking are the tile murals you find in small unexpected places.
And of course the small churches are covered with geometric blue and white tiles.
Not blue and white, the tile mural above (from the Coimbra, the city with the oldest university in Portugal) tells me a lot about the flora of the period.
The above were some of my favorites – not only because of the plants they represent, but for the beauty of the painting.
By Robert Frost
Why make so much of fragmentary blue
In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,
When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?
Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet) –
Though some savants make earth include the sky;
And blue so far above us comes so high,
It only gives our wish for blue a whet.