Note: This is a continuation of a previous post. To view Part One, click here.
Right, I think we’ve had enough rest. Back on your feet, lads: it’s time to resume our stroll through the historic centre of Macau.
From the Ruínas de Igreja de São Paulo (above), let’s walk south down Rua de São Paulo, then right at the intersection onto Rua das Estalagens. These streets are lined with stores selling antiques and all manner of traditional Chinese goods, but if you’re not in the mood to shop then we’ll just keep going. Left onto Rua de Camilo Pessanha, then another left onto Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro.
Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro (above, looking southeast) is downtown Macau’s main street. Many of the city’s major tourist attractions are located along or near this busy thoroughfare, making it an excellent place for confused visitors to head for in order to regain their bearings (and to catch a bus or a cab).
Let’s keep walking until we see the Largo do Senado on our left. Now look to your right and you’ll see the building from where Macau’s central square got its name.
Before us stands the Leal Senado (Loyal Senate – above), the seat of power during Portuguese colonial rule. Built in the 1780s and substantially altered during the next two centuries, this fine building now serves as the headquarters of Macau’s Instituto para os Assuntos Cívicos e Municipais.
In spite of – or perhaps because of – its current role as Macau’s de facto city hall, the building is open to the public and no admission fees are charged. Let’s have a look inside, shall we?
Above the main staircase in the Leal Senado’s entrance hall is an inscription (above) commemorating the honorary title – “there is none more loyal” – conferred upon the city in 1654 by King João IV of Portugal.
From the top of the main staircase, we emerge into this lovely stone-paved courtyard (above). Surrounded by walls clad in blue-and-white tiles and featuring a fine stone fountain surmounted by the Portuguese royal coat-of-arms, this secluded little garden is perfect as a quiet, relaxing retreat for exhausted trekkers like ourselves.
But before we step any further into the courtyard, let’s walk down the steps to our right and admire the series of beautiful tile panels (below) depicting the Leal Senado as it appeared at various points during its history: in 1789, just a few years after it was first built; in 1888; and in 1999, the year of the handover.
To the left of the courtyard entrance is a similar set of tile panels featuring reproductions of old maps of Macau.
The elegant European architecture really does make this place feel like a little piece of Portugal (above).
Incidentally, I haven’t the foggiest idea whom the portrait bust is meant to represent. Probably a Portuguese king, if the laurel wreath and old-fashioned breastplate are anything to go by.
All right, let’s proceed. Back out of the Leal Senado and onto the pavement flanking Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, we catch another glimpse of Macau’s General Post Office Building (above).
From the entrance of the Leal Senado, we head right and follow the street until we reach Rua Central. Let’s turn right again here, then keep going until we spot a side street sloping steeply upwards to our right – Calçada do Teatro. At the top of this ramp-like street is the Largo de São Agostinho and the next two stops on our tour.
A view of the Largo de São Agostinho (above).
Across the street from the theatre is the Igreja de Santo Agostinho (above). The first church on this site was built by Spanish Augustinians in 1586, but the building we see today was only erected in 1814.
A view of the nave, looking towards the sanctuary and high altar (above).
The supporting columns and arches on one side of the church (above). Note the ornately decorated galleries halfway up the wall.
A side altar and pulpit (above).
The rear portion of the church, including the choir loft (above).
We return to Rua Central and resume our southwesterly stroll. At some point, the name changes from Rua Central to Rua de São Lourenço, but it’s really just the same street.
Along the way, we catch a glimpse of urban life in modern-day Macau (above). Things seem generally quieter here than in cosmopolitan Hong Kong, which suits me just fine. It’s a delightful contrast to the heaving, non-stop, always-on-the-go pace of city life I’ve gotten used to back home.
Looming above the street is the impressive cream-coloured façade of the Igreja de São Lourenço (Church of St. Lawrence – above), which is the 19th-century stone incarnation of a wooden church built in the 1560’s. Let’s pause for a moment to admire the fine architectural details, although we shouldn’t linger out here for too long – the best stuff is inside.
A view of the nave, looking towards the sanctuary (above).
Let’s move a little closer to the sanctuary (above). This shot shows more of the decorative work in better detail.
A close-up of the sanctuary and high altar (above). Standing over the altar is a statue of St. Lawrence himself, holding the instrument of his martyrdom (a gridiron) and dressed in a fine red dalmatic.
Attached to the walls of the church are some beautiful wooden panels (an example of which is shown above) depicting the fourteen Stations of the Cross.
The rear portion of the church, including the choir loft (above).
From the church, let’s proceed down Rua de São Lourenço. The signs will change yet again – this time to Rua da Barra – but we’re still following the same road as before.
Along the way, we’ll pass a nice little square called Largo do Lilau. On one end of the square stands a granite-clad fountain with two spouts. Take a sip of water from here and you’re bound to return to Macau one day – at least, that’s what the guidebook says. (A downmarket version of the Trevi Fountain, perhaps?)
My brother and I didn’t get to try it, though. The fountain was bone dry when we got there.
Further on down the road stand the so-called Moorish Barracks, a not-particularly beautiful structure built in 1874 and now serving as the home base of the Macau Maritime Administration.
All right, we’re nearing the end of our journey. Maintain our heading and we’ll soon find ourselves on Rua do Peixe Salgado. Keep going until we hit a wide avenue named Rua do Almirante Sergio, then turn left and carry on towards Rua de São Tiago da Barra.
On one side of the open space flanking Rua de São Tiago da Barra is the A-Ma Temple (above).
Across the square from the temple sits a rather drab-looking modern building. After a long day’s walk like the one we’ve just taken, it’s easy to say “no thank you” to this unimpressive piece of real estate and beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of one’s hotel room – but that would be such a dreadful waste. Inside this building is the Macau Maritime Museum, which features a wonderful series of exhibits showcasing the city’s intimate relationship with the sea – including what may well be the finest collection of ship models I have ever seen in my life.
So here ends our tour. I hope you’ve enjoyed our stroll through the historic centre of Macau. There are many other places to see, but since they’re not within easy reach of our walking route we’ll save them for a future post.