22 September 2018



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)


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.


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.





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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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


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.






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.


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.




11 August 2018


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.


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


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.



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.


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.



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.




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.


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.




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


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.


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.




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.




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


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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The Neo Gothic building was designed by Francisco Xavier Esteves and opened in 1906. The ceiling design on the lower floor, looks like carved wood, it’s actually painted plaster. The twisted stair case leads up to the first floor with Art Deco details on walls and columns. A stained glass skylight has the Latin ‘Decus in Labore’,  (Dignity in Work), which was the company’s golden rule. I liked the little busts of humans heads on the books.

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Ribeira is one of Porto’s oldest districts and was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The Jardim do Infante Dom Henrique is named after the statue of the man himself, also known as Prince Henry the Navigator, who was born in Porto.

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The narrow streets and winding alleys slope down to the Cais de Ribeira, a riverfront promenade, with restaurants, cafes, bars and of course boats. The  bright coloured buildings are also homes and washing, flapping in the breeze, looks like giant bunting.


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There are stairs to get back up to the top of the hill, if these are too much there is a funicular which takes one up in seconds.


30 June 2018

Ponte Maria Pia and Ponte São João

Porto, Portugal

The River Douro flows through Porto and there are five bridges fairly close to each other to enable one to cross the river. The oldest is Ponte Maria Pia, a rail bridge,  designed by Gustav Eiffel and named after the queen of Portugal at the time it was built, in1877.  Although it has been out of service since 1991, it has not been demolished as it’s a National Monument.  The replacement rail bridge is the Ponte São João, a complete contrast to it’s predecessor, white and made of concrete.

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Ponte D. Luis I

The most striking of the bridges is Ponte D. Luis I, designed by a partner of Eiffel, Téophile Seyrig, which accounts for the design similarity to the Ponte Maria Pia, it opened in 1886. There are two levels, the top is for the metro and pedestrians and the lower level is for motor traffic and pedestrians.

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The Ponte de Arrábida is the last bridge before the river meets the ocean, made of reinforced concrete it carries six lanes of traffic over the Douro. At the time of completion, 1963, the bridges main span, was the largest concrete arch span bridge in the world, 270 meters. It was declared a national monument in 2013. The most recent bridge is the Ponte Infante Dom Henrique, which opened in 2003.

Ponte Infante Dom Henrique

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Although Vila Nova de Gaia is just a short walk across one of Porto’s bridges, it is not actually part of Porto, it’s a separate town. Gaia is home to more than fifty port wine labels, and it is here that the Caves do Vinho do Porto, (Port Wine Cellars) are. The cellars, most of which are centuries old, are where the wine is brought to age.

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Cais de Gaia was where the rabelo boats would dock, offloading their cargos of barrels of wine, it is also where Port Wine was shipped to the rest of the world. Today it’s a promenade with restaurants, bars, and where humans depart for Douro River cruises. Bobbing about on the river are the traditional rabelo boats. A cable car runs along the shoreline and up to Jardim do Morro, a hilltop park which provides views across the river to Porto.



Next to the park is Mosteiro da Serra de Pilar, a 17th century monastery with a circular cloister, if the climb up to the winding streets behind the river isn’t an option, one can always stroll across the top level of the Ponte D. Luis I.




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23 June 2018


Porto, Portugal

Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, situated in the north of the country, and famous for Port wine. There is archaeological evidence of wine production in this region during the 3rd and 4th centuries. The earliest mention of ‘Port wine’ dates from 1675, in 1756 a royal charter defined the region for production of Port wine, making it the first wine region in the world to have a formal demarcation. The Douro winemaking region was declared a World Heritage Site By UNESCO in 2001.  I’m not actually here for the Port wine, I’m here for fireworks.

I’m in Porto to enjoy the São João Festival.  The history of São João dates back to the 14th century,  when it was originally a pagan festival, the saint is celebrated on the 24 June, but the celebrations start on the 23 June. The whole city becomes the venue for the festival,  and everyone in Porto is out on the streets celebrating.  Tables are laid with food; streets are dressed in bunting; pop up stalls sell cakes and sweet breads, or plastic hammers; bars are set up on the streets; barbeques are fired up, grilling sardines, (compulsory festival food); music is provided by street musicians, or sound systems from bars, and if either of these options isn’t within hearing distance, apartment windows are opened and the volume control is turned up to very loud; and, everyone has a plastic hammer.


The hammer was introduced as a festival prop in the 20th century, their purpose is to (gently) hit people, usually on the head. They are brightly coloured, lightweight plastic, come in all sizes, and they squeak. The squeak from the thousands of hammers was the sound of the festival.

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One was never far from a grilled sardine, just follow the smoke from the coals, which filled some narrow side streets, and gave the city a rather hazy look. No street was too small to hold a party, and celebrations weren’t confined to land, boats were also party venues.

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Once the sun had set it was time to light coloured paper lanterns, hundreds were lit throughout the evening and gently floated up into the night sky. Promptly at midnight the fireworks started, the display lasted around 20 minuets, it was spectacular, and brought even more people out on to the streets.  After the fireworks, the party continued until the morning.


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16 June 2018


Lisbon, Portugal

There’s a festival of some sort almost every month in Lisbon, and this month is no exception. In June, there are celebrations almost every day, with the high point of Festas de Lisboa,  The Marchas Populares, on the 12 June. It is the 86th year of the Marchas and this year celebrates the 120th anniversary of the birth of actor Vasco Santana and the film Canção de Lisboa.

Twenty three groups, from neighbourhoods across the city, comprising of a total of 1600 people, sang and danced their way along the Avenida da Liberdade, starting late in the evening on the 12 June and finishing around three in the morning of the 13 June, which, fortunately, is a public holiday.  Each group has its own band, and props, which are used to set the stage for the performance.  The costumes were very detailed, lots of colour and even more glitter.  I liked that the participants were all ages, a good representation of the community.

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Each of the groups performed their song and dance several times during the march, it is serious stuff as they are competing to win.  They are assessed on, costume, music, original composition, choreography, stage, and avenue parade. This year, Alfama was first, (for the third consecutive year), Bairro Alto was second and Madrago was third.  The President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sausa, was amongst the VIPs at the Marchas and greeted all the groups when they got to the main performance area.

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Bairro Alto


The Marchas were televised live, and could also be viewed on big screens erected around the city centre. Thousand of people came to the Avenida Liberdade to watch the Marches turning the centre into a big party.  Many of the side streets were dressed in bunting and party ready, with basil and fish scented smoke, signalling that the barbeques were fired up, and sardines, traditional festival food, were being grilled,  The street parties carried on into the early hours of the morning.

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There is a lot of waiting around in between the performances, so there’s time for a smile for the camera, a hug and a chat.


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The Madrago marchas were barefoot, it is thought to be a tradition that comes from the fishermen and women living and working without shoes.



This was the last group to march,  and although some of the people watching had gone home, it was around 2 in the morning, there was still a wave for those who stayed till the end.

Saint Anthony is celebrated on the 13 June, the day he died, he is Lisbon’s most beloved saint. The Igreja de Santo António, is built on the site of the house where he was born, in 1195, and in June as part of the Festas Lisboa, the area outside the church is decorated with flowers.


9 June 2018

Lisbon, Portugal

The jacaranda trees have been in bloom for some time now, giving the city streets and parks a pop of purple, with the fallen blossoms colouring the pavements purple too.


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