11 November 2018

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Lisbon, Portugal

On the last day of October it rained all day. The rains brought a drop in the temperature, from the mid twenties to the late teens, announcing that Autumn has finally arrived here in the city that I now call home. This summer was beautiful, and long and hot, (including a not so nice week of heatwave temperatures of 45C), but the summer seems to have gone by in a flash and although the leaves on the trees are still green, it won’t be long before they bare their naked branches and rain will be ‘the normal’ again. There hasn’t been any rain here since May, so aside from the realisation that summer is over, it was a also a reminder that the stone tile pavements here, when wet, turn into the equivalent of sheets of  ice, and one has to relearn to walk on the slippy slopes to prevent falling over. I have a mixture of things to tell you about this week, none of which have been enough for one post which is why they may seem rather random.

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On the 4 November there was a military parade commemorating 100 years since the end of the 1st World War, (1914-1918). It was the largest parade of it’s kind in the city, honouring the memory of the 100,000 Portuguese people who fought in the war and the 7,500 who died. It was also to honor peace.

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There were 4,500 people in the parade, including representatives from the armed forces of France, Germany, the UK and the USA; approximately 200 vehicles and motorbikes; 86 horses and 30 dogs, complete with their humans; and a fly past by helicopters and F.16 aircraft. The roads around Avenida de Liberdade were closed, where some of the parade participants were waiting, so the city centre, devoid of traffic, became a peaceful place for a couple of hours, aiding time for reflection and commemoration.


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I recently had a guided tour of the Portuguese Parliament Building, which is in the São Bento Palace. The palace dates from 1598 which is the year the monks began building, what was originally a monastery. It remained a monastery until 1833, then it had various incarnations as a prison, a military academy, a hospice, and a repository for deceased foreigners, before becoming the home of parliament.

Over the years the building has been remodelled, with additions like the Lobby, built in 1895; the Grand Staircase, built in the 1930s, which leads to the Session Chamber and the Senate Chamber; and the Hall of Honor  built in the 1940s, with murals depicting Portuguese maritime scenes.

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On a balmy evening in late September, I went to an event of The Environmental Sound Art Festival, held at the Māe d’ Água. I saw Sirius, who are Yaw Tembe, a trumpeter and Francisco Trindade, a percussionist and objects manipulator. Sirius are described in the festival programme as ‘a psychedelic kind of improvised music’.

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I also saw Tomoko Sauvage. Rather than do an injustice to the work of Tomoko I have taken this description of her work from her website,  ‘For more than ten years, Tomoko Sauvage has been investigating the sound and visual properties of water in different states, as well as those of ceramics, combined with electronics. China bowls of different sizes, filled with water and amplified via hydrophones (underwater microphones), water bowls is a kind of natural synthesizer that generates fluid timbre using waves, drops and bubbles. These recipients resonate and also produce subaquatic feedback, an acoustic phenomenon that requires fine tuning depending on the amount of water, a subtle volume control and interaction with the acoustic space. Through primordial materials and playful gestures, Tomoko Sauvage searches for a fragile balance between randomness and discipline, chaos and order.’    

oznorIt was my first experience of music of this kind and it was very interesting. The water around the stage provided great reflections of the event.

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4 November 2018

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Buddha Eden Garden

Situated at Quinta dos Loridos, the park was opened in 2006 and has continued to expand, new pieces were being displayed when I visited. Along side the Buddhas, there’s a diverse collection of contemporary art in the gardens.

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An African Sculpture Garden, dedicated to the Shona people of Zimbabwe, has over 200 sculptures.

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A restaurant provides good Portuguese food and somewhere to rest ones weary feet from walking around the grounds. Adjacent to the garden are vineyards and the onsite shop offers wine tasting as well as an extensive range of local wines.

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27 October 2018

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Buddha Eden Garden, Portugal

An hour’s drive north of Lisbon is the Buddha Eden Garden. Covering over 35 hectares of land, it is the largest oriental garden in Europe. Created by José Berardo, a contemporary art collector, who after reading about the Taliban’s destruction of stone Buddhas in Bamiyan, purchased a huge range of Buddha statues and created the sculpture park.

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Aside from the Buddhas, the park is home to seven hundred terracota soldiers, modelled on the originals from Xian in China.

The gardens are landscaped with several water features, one of which has a variety of wild animals made from metal. There is more about the park in the next post.

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22 September 2018

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Óbidos, Portugal

Óbidos is a town about 80 kilometres north of Lisbon, which is completely surrounded by the walls of a 12th century castle. Famous for being a wedding present given to queens by kings, starting with King Dinis who gave Óbidos to Queen Isabel on their wedding day in 1282. It continued to be the property of Portuguese queens until the 19th century. The town is also where, in 1973, the first meeting took place that led to the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974. (Search 25 April 2018 for more information)

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Until the 15th century there was a natural harbour on the west side of Óbidos, where ships moored at the castle walls. A combination of tsunamis, earthquakes and storms ‘moved’ the coastline 10 kilometres away from the town. Óbidos was declared a National Monument in1951.

Access to Óbidos is by the town gate, built around 1380, which leads to narrow cobbled streets, flower covered walls, and white painted, terracotta roofed, buildings. There are also five churches and a chapel fitted within the medieval walls. The shops all seemed to be aimed at tourists, which fill the main streets, wander away from these and one will find quieter lanes with fewer tourists, making it slightly more pleasant to enjoy the medieval delights of Óbidos.

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It is possible to walk along the castle ramparts, which provides views of the surrounding countryside as well as of the town itself. The aqueduct, sited outside the town walls was built by Queen Catherine in the 16th century  to transport water to the town.

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15 September 2018

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Murtosa, Portugal

The municipality of Murtosa is located at the centre of the Rio de Aveiro, and over 80 percent of its land area is within a Special Protection Zone. Much of this area is covered by the lagoon and one of the best ways to experience this is a boat ride.

The chap steering the moliceiro, (boat) I was in was 82 years old, and has worked on the lagoon all his life. In the 19th century moliceiros were designed and used to harvest seaweed from the lagoon, ‘moliço’ is seaweed. They are painted in bright colours, with low sides and a high front and back, to make the collection of seaweed easy.  The seaweed was used to fertilise the sandy soil in the area, before chemical fertilizers were used. The moliceiro is perfect for  the shallow waters of the lagoon.

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The moliceiro are now used for tourist trips, here and on Aveiro’s canals. On the lagoon it’s possible to see egrets, herons, sandpipers and flamingos. During the trip we also saw humans, harvesting clams. A few boats were anchored, while men and women, up to their chests in water, drag the sand for clams.

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Lisbon

I’ve been away for a few days, so when I was back home in Lisbon, I went for a Sunday stroll, the temperature is still in the late 20s here, and with the intense heat of the summer gone, it’s a pleasant warmth to walk in.  I live near Parque Eduardo VII, so my walk often takes me here, where the water lilies are now in bloom. One of my favourite gardens to walk around is the Gulbenkian Gardens, here I saw turtles all competing for a space on the rocks so they can bask in the sun. On my way out of the gardens I saw Half Bear by BORDALO II, the contrast of  contemporary urban art sitting along side nature, is typical of Lisbon.

 

 

8 September 2018

Murtosa, Portugal

On my day trip to Aveiro, I stopped off at Casa Museu for lunch. The museum is run by volunteers, who grow, raise, prepare, cook and then serve the food, which was delicious and plentiful. After lunch there was a guided tour of the grounds and the exhibits on display. The volunteers are custodians of the museum for Portugal and they were delightful.

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The museum provides a view of how life was for farm workers, in the early 20th century. The tools of crafts and trades were on display, this farm had a tailor, cobbler, blacksmith, hairdresser, a huge press and a shop.

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The farm house has very small bedrooms and large reception rooms, which display basketry, wool production, and weaving looms. The kitchen was quite small considering it was used to cook food for all the farmworkers. DSC_0210

The farm was self sufficient, even providing its own water, although the well was still operational, the water for the farm is delivered through more conventional means today.

 

18 August 2018

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Aveiro, Portugal

Aveiro, is a town situated between the Atlantic Ocean and mountains, and was, until the 16th century, a large important sea port. It is also known as the Venice of Portugal, due to it’s location on the Aveiro Lagoon, and the network of canals that run across the city.   I took to the water in one of the many boats that take tourists along the canals, to see the more of the town.

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Wealthy emigrants returning to Aveiro from Brazil brought Art Nouveau to the town. The Aveiro Art Nouveau movement mixed elements of this style with traditional Portuguese styles and there are some beautiful examples of this here.

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The Aveiro Salines, salt flats, only produce a small amount of salt now and are more of a tourist attraction today. However, salt production was once a major economic activity and one of the most important factors in the development of the region, references about salt date back to 949. By 1178 Aveiro was providing salt for the whole of Portugal as well as exporting salt abroad. Salt production here is restricted to the summer months.

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11 August 2018

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Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is a town and a municipality, north west of Lisbon. Evidence of it’s early occupants, the Moors, can still be seen today, the Moorish Castle, built around the 10th century, sits on one of Sinatra’s hills.  In 1995 UNESCO awarded the town World Heritage status.

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Town Hall

The short walk from the train station to the town centre takes one past the town hall, and along Volta Duche, where contemporary art works are dotted along the path. There is a small wall on the path, which makes a perfect place to set up items for sale, I particularly like this gentleman, who was playing one of his albums on a record player, that must be at least forty years old.

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This fountain was built in 1922, in the Moorish style.

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In the centre of Sintra is The Palácio Nacional de Sintra, (National Palace) a medieval palace with origins as far back as the 9th century. It became the official residence of Portuguese royal family from the 14th century with King João I. Refurbishments undertaken over time have added Gothic and Manueline, to Moorish architectural styles.  The huge multi-room building has distinctive, twin conical chimneys, 33 meters high, which were added in the early 14th century,  as part of the kitchen improvements.

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Swans Hall is the largest of the palace’s rooms, named after the swans painted on the ceiling. The magpie room also gets it’s name from the birds painted on the ceiling. The palace also has one of the largest collections of Mudejár, Moorish Iberian Tiles, in the world.

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The Coat of Arms room has the coats of arms of 72 Portuguese noble families, painted on the domed ceiling, initiated by King Manuel I, who wanted to regulate their use.

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The Palatine Chapel, has freso paintings depicting  the holy spirit as doves carrying olive branches.

4 August 2018

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Porto, Portugal

The Avenida dos Aliados, (Avenue of Allies) is in the centre of Porto, the name refers to the treaty made between Portugal and the UK in the 14th century, which is actually still in place, The Anglo-Portuguese Treaty is the oldest operational alliance in the world.  The Câmara Municipal (city hall) stands at the top of the avenue,  which is lined with buildings in a mixture of architectural styles, including Art Deco and Art Nouveau, built from 1919 onwards.


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The first train arrived at São Bento station in 1896, the building didn’t open until 1916. The site of a former convent, the outside of the building is quite plain compared to what awaits one inside the main entrance hall.  It’s covered in twenty thousand hand painted azulejo by Portuguese artist Jorge Colaço, who took eleven years to complete the work.

The larger panels depict important Portuguese historical events, like the Conquest of Ceuta, and the Battle of Arcos de Valdevez. The smaller panels feature everyday life; working at the watermill and vineyards, a pilgrim camp, a cattle fair, shipping wine and the harvest.
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There seems to be at least one church on every street in Porto, some have three or four. The churches that I noticed have eye catching exteriors, like the one’s shown in these photos, often clad in blue and white azulejos.

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The prominent,  multi windowed, large white building in the photos is the Paço Episcopal, (the Episcopal Palace) which was once the residence for the bishops of Porto. The origins of the palace date back as early as the 12th century, the current building is Baroque in style and dates from the 18th century.

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Across the river  is the remains of a derelict building, long abandoned by its occupants, and gradually being taken over by nature, I like it’s decaying beauty.

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28 July 2018

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Almada, Portugal

It takes a few minutes to cross the River Tagus in a small orange and white ferry, to get to Almada. The ferries run all day, and this was just a quick trip to the other side of the river to see what is there. A row of disused, graffiti covered, buildings along the riverside does look grim, these were where fish was processed, talks are ongoing between relevant humans as to the regeneration of this area. If one walks pass the derelict buildings, there are a couple of restaurants,  before a walk up lots of steps, to the Miradouro Boca do Vento.

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The miradouro provides views of the Ponte 25 de Abril and of Lisbon. One can also see the Santuário Nacional de Christo Rei, inaugurated in 1959 and inspired by the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

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The walk back to catch the ferry takes one through the district of Cacilhas, and pass a beautiful blue painted church, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso, built after the earthquake of 1755.

Cascais, Portugal

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A train journey this time, to visit Cascais. Cascais was a small fishing port until the late nineteenth century when King Luís I declared his love of the place as a summer retreat. High society followed royalty and the town became a fashionable tourist destination. The main reason for my visit is a guided tour of the Palácio da Cidadela de Cascais, which is where, once he had converted it into a sumptuous palace, Luís spent the summer. It was assigned to the Presidency of the Republic in 1910, and is now the official residence of visiting heads of state to Portugal.

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The guided tour was interesting, the position of the building provides great views of Cascais Bay. I really liked the sculptures in the courtyard outside the building.

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Praia da Ribeira de Cascais sits in front of the Praça 5 de Outubro, the main square in the centre of town, where the azulejo clad, town hall also is also situated.

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Lisbon, Portugal

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There’s jazz in the park near me every Sunday this month, just for an hour, it’s free, like so many cultural events here. After the jazz I wandered over to the Gulbenkian gardens, with sculptures and water features, they are a delight to walk around. I also visited the Museu Gulbenkian Calouste, (contemporary art) which had extended opening hours and was also free to enter.

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21 July 2018

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Porto, Portugal

It’s a pleasant walk from my hotel to the centre of the city, the view changes as one gets closer to the centre. It starts with a view of Vila Nova de Gaia, by the Ponte do Infante, the buildings look as if they are stacked on top of each other as they reach down the hill to the river side.  A combination of the bends in the river and the bridges being quite close to each other, provides the view of a bridge through a bridge.

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There is an alternative route down to the river front, hundreds of steps that meander down and around homes, to arrive just by the Ponte Dom Luis I.  I really liked the randomly shaped, terracotta tiled roofs.

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The Muralhas de D. Fernando, are what remains of a series of walls built around the city, from around 1336. The funicular runs between the wall and the buildings, taking one up the steep slope.

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A walk across the Ponte Dom Luis I, provides an alternative view of the old wall, and of Vila Nova de Gaia across the river.

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The Centro Português de Fotografia, is in a building that was once used as a prison. Built in 1796, it was a prison until April 1974, when, a few days after the Revolution, the building was deactivated and the existing prisoners were moved to other prisons. After renovations the museum opened in 1997, as well as holding photographic exhibitions, and promoting the development of photographic art in Portugal, it has a large collection of cameras.
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The cameras are displayed in glass cabinets, on glass shelves, so it was difficult to get reasonable shots of the exhibits. Some of the older cameras, made from wood, are like works of art.

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There was a lot of miniature cameras on display, seen as cutting edge at the time of their production and used by spies for covert operations. There’s also an interesting collection of objects turned into cameras, carbonated drinks cans, cigarette packets, lighters and portable radios.

Before the digital cameras, taking photographs involved using a ‘roll of film’, that is what the coloured little cylinders in the photo above are, which only had room for a certain amount of photos. When all the film was used up one had to get it developed, either by taking it to a store that did developing or sending it by post. It was only when the developed film was collected that one could see the results of the photos.

There is a delightful mixture of architectural building styles in Porto, it’s worth a walk around the city to appreciate them.  Residential properties if not covered in azulejos are often painted in bright colours.

 

14 July 2018

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Porto, Portugal

The Sé do Porto, (Porto Cathedral) was built in the 12th century, in the Romanesque style, although structural additions added over the years have added Gothic and Baroque elements to the building.  It sits in the oldest part of the city and is also in the historic area designated by UNESCO.

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There is a diverse selection of urban art in Porto and the following photos are of what I saw on my walks around the city. The building the big blue cat was painted on was very close to the next building so not great for taking a photo. The rabbit was in Vila Nova de Gaia.

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The Jardim do Cordoaria has sculptures, by Juan Muñoz, of men in various poses, laughing, and rather unusual trees. Just up from the gardens, trams wait outside the Igreja do Carmo. The outside of the church has azulejo panels, which seems to be a common decorative theme for churches here.

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The Clerigos Tower is the bell tower of the Clerigos church, completed in 1763, the Baroque building was designed by the Italian architect Nasoni. One can climb the 225 steps of the tower to the belfry, for panoramic views of Porto. When it was built it was the tallest building in Portugal, (today it’s the Vasco de Gamma Tower in Lisbon), at 76 metres high, it dominates landscape views of the city.
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7 July 2018

Porto, Portugal

The ‘tour brochure’ (leaflet) given to me with my entrance ticket tells me that the Livraria Lello, is the most beautiful bookshop in the world. As I haven’t visited every bookshop in the world I can’t really comment on this, other than to say it is a beautiful shop.

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It is a bit of a faff actually getting into the bookshop. One has to buy a ticket, €5, from a store just along the street from the shop and then go to the bookshop. In the morning the queues are very long, wait until later in the afternoon and they have gone and one can just walk in, once the person on the door has seen the ticket. However the shop is still full of people, mostly taking selfies, so getting decent photos without humans in was quite difficult. The reason thousands of  visitors from around the world visit this bookstore is the author J. K. Rowling was allegedly inspired by the interior when writing Harry Potter. I haven’t read Harry Potter, so again I can’t make any comment.

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