The minute I stepped inside the National Coach Museum, I felt like I’d entered a fairytale. Cinderella’s pumpkin coach had nothing on these! These were the carriages of Kings and it seemed each was more grand and ornate than the last.
Naturally, the display began with the oldest carriage in the museum.
It was magnificent, but as I progressed through time and saw the expanded gilt and artistic intricacy on display, I felt more and more like a peasant. I’m sure I would have never had the chance to ride in something so grand.
These were the carriages of kings. One more opulent than the next. These gave way to princess carriages, queen’s carriages, and all semblance of royalty.
I couldn’t pick out a favorite. I wandered, instead, along the timeline. Carriages became more advanced as a method of transportation. They were no longer confined to kings and queens.
This open-topped carriage was a hunting carriage. It could transport a group of hunters along with their dogs stowed under the seats behind the ventilated openings. Their rifles were stored in a basket hooked to the back.
Another hunting carriage.
Then, an assortment of carriages that were sporting the latest features. Oil lamps mounted on the carriage, which later gave way for electric-powered bulbs.
A German design made of leather was surely the first convertible carriage; you could collapse the panels to open the coach to the air. Another design allowed the passenger to steer the horses from inside the carriage. The driver could see the horses through the eye holes. No coachman needed.
And then carriages started to evolve into something else. First, baby carriages. Then, chairs — enclosed carriages that could be carried on the shoulders of men. Then, carriages meant to carry religious figures. Statues of the Blessed Virgin.
The museum was a historical timeline of transporting Portugal’s most esteemed. Quite different than coaches that mark time in other parts of the world.
I loved the opulence. I was content to spend hours peering at the intricacies of the designs. I loved seeing the carriages’ emergence as a means of transportation for more than kings. I loved the functionality combined with the artistry. I wandered through the museum a few times. Until I finally decided on my favorite.
I want the most opulent of all. My carriage awaits…
Which would you pick?