Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Not much more to say about the great off-road tracks around Cambelas village in Portugal. These are just by the sea, on the top of the cliffs. Rita, Angela and I went on a Saturday morning ride but I think it was too hard core for them as it was too close of the abyss. But for those who like radical sports there has to be some adrenaline involved, not only cycling in the middle of the vineyards of Dois Portos and Ribaldeira, right? For me, the biggest challenge was getting rid of a dozen dogs that crossed our way and were loudly barking at us a little bit more inland. CHIUUUUUUUUU!!!!!
Photos: Rita Veloso
Saturday, 13 September 2014
Here is something interesting to do in a Sunday morning in Torres Vedras: going up Serra do Socorro, a hill of about 300 m which was strategic for the defence of Lisbon against Napoleon troops. There is even a telegraph built by the Viscount of Wellington at the top of the hill.The way up is of a strong ascent but the views are definetly worthwile. The small chapel rebuilt in the XVIII century receives people who pray and ask for help to Our Lady of Help (Nossa Senhora do Socorro). In a room inside the chapel, wedding dresses, clothes, photos and other belongings from people who were supposedly saved by the Our Lady, are displayed. The hill has interesting circuits for the practice of off-road bike and the coffee/restaurant at the top is an innovation. Activity recommended by Colours of Scotland "Trip Advisor" :-)
We could have been at one of the several music festivals that happen in Portugal during the summer, as for example Rock in Rio. WRONG...We were attending a mass by a superstar priest at the forth of Sizandro river (rio Sizandro), near my village. It was a 3hour mass with songs, dances, white doves, tears...After playing organ for 17 years in a church choire I have had enough of masses, but this time the curiosity was stronger than me. Conclusion: a bless by this "new school" priest certainly won't harm.
Photo: Rita Veloso
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance is the oldest alliance in the world that it is still in force. Thanks to this alliance Portugal remained neutral during the Second World War and was able to get rid of the French during the Napoleonic Invasion (1807). On a 37km bike ride from Foz of river Sizandro to Ponte de Rol, we found, at the top of a hill, one of the forts that was part of the lines of forts ordered by the Viscount of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) to defend Lisbon from the French troops. These forts were called Lines of Torres and were extremely important in the victory against Napoleon. Of course this help from the British was poured with financial benefits for the second. From personal experience I can confirm that for the English there is no alliances without financial advantages, but maybe I should not generalise!
Thursday, 14 August 2014
I have been promoting Scotland landscapes (which I love) a lot. I have promoted Paris. Recently I have been promoting England (more still to come). But now please let me promote my place in Portugal and its surroundings. And I have plenty of reasons to do it: It is not only me who loves it, the foreigners I have hosted in the past weeks in my holidays flats and cottages have been loving this corner of Europe too. So, I have to recognise, I am very lucky to have this place to come back everytime I want.
And the recipe for an excellent evening outdoors yesterday was: my white and black truck, my green and white Specialized, some fearless friends and the beautiful landscape of Dois Portos and Ribaldeira, near Torres Vedras: Approximatelly 16Km of off-road tracks around the best vineyards of Western Portugal. The fearless friends will now come for a ride in Cambelas-Foz sea cliffs and some water sports in Cambelas beach. And I will report all this because August is the month I am promoting my country!
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Curiously the Tour the France did not start in France this year, but from the beautiful English county of Yorkshire. And this was how the people received the cyclists: flowers, hanged bikes, jerseys sticked on the windows...About 1.5 million went to see their favorite cyclists, but if these were Froome, Cavendish or Wiggins, they were not very lucky...Froome crashed and retired, Cavendish as well, and Wiggins was not even selected for the team. Tough life for the English this year!
Monday, 28 July 2014
Today was the last day of the tour de France. Portuguese Rui Costa had to give up because of a bronchitis but the others (Tiago Costa, Nélson Oliveira, Sérgio Paulinho and José Mendes still arrived to the end). Last year I was in Paris watching the arrival of the tour and I was surprised by the speed they cycle. In fact, we can hardly recognise who is who - that's why this stage is for the sprinters! Before the cyclists, normal people like me, who previously registered for the event, can cycle the final lap and wear the yellow jersey. So, I can say my ridgeback already experimented the tour de France!
On a similar note, I have watched two great documentaries at the Belmont Filmhouse (Aberdeen) and another at the BBC that I recommend: One is about Marco Pantani (The accidental death of a cyclist) and the others about Lance Amstrong (The Amstrong Lie, Storyville: The Lance Amstrong Story). I was impressed with the size of the lie and I do often ask myself if big liars can be trusted back again. I deeply doubt it.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Besides working in interesting topics, meeting fascinating people, travelling and being learning all the time, working in academia gives what most of other jobs do not give us: flexibility! And with it I went to Portugal to celebrate my birthday with my parents, family and friends. I also took advantage to go to Lisbon and participate in the big festivities of the city (Santo Antonio), which are, obviously, on my birthday! And I even had time to be surprised as I went to visit the Berardo Collection Museum, considered one of the best free entry museums of Europe. No wonder! The collection is very complete in terms of modern art currents and I just managed one floor!! I definetly recommend it. The painting in the photo is from Portuguese cubist and futurist painter Amadeo Souza Cardoso (1987-1918).
Recently I went back to Helsinki. It has been the third time in less than two years. I tought there was not much more to see anymore, but I knew I was wrong as soon as I had this thought. Helsinki has a taste of Eastern European city: its buildings, its light, its street markets, its music festivals...A visit to the nearby island proved worthwile as the sun was shinning and the sea was very blue. And as in the last 10 years my interest for contemporary art has been growing at the speed of light, I made sure I did not miss the museum of contemporary art of Helsinki, Kiasma. An interesting building with a curious collection. This red rose was made of candies and it was tempting not to steal one.
Puffins (Fratercula arctica) are these cute little things that come to the Scottish sea cliffs during May and June to lay their eggs and bring up their chicks. They make a sound that resembles human voice to me. It is fascinating to observe them, flying from incredible heights and diving into the water to find fish for their offspring. These come every year to the bird reserve south of Aberdeen (Fowlsheugh). Climbing in the cliffs is another way of observing their feeding activities, and I was fortunate to watch it some weeks ago.
Monday, 12 May 2014
It is May again and life is bursting everywhere. Just next to my office there is the university botanical garden. The flowers, the birds, the insects make it a great place for a walk and for getting some fresh air. In this photo I caught the male chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) courting the female chaffinch. He did not bother I was spying on him so focused he was on impressing the "lady".
Bad things should never happen in May. But as they did, Aberdonian May will always bring a bitter taste to my mouth.
Local pubs are very typical in rural Scotland. We seat, eat good fish and chips, or burguer and chips or any other pub food, and watch the football or the F1. Sometimes the fire is on. The environment is quirky. Local people speak loud and are authentic. The pub in the photo is in Portsoy, a small fisherman's village in the North coast. Inside everybody knows each other. My German friend describes his pub experience in the following way: "In Scotland, I can go to a pub on my own, I drink a beer, enjoy the environment and nobody look me as if I am weird." I have never been on a pub on my own, but I should definetly give it a try.
Sunday, 4 May 2014
As a broken ankle is much easier to heal than a broken heart, I am back to outdoor climbing. And, incredibly, Aberdeenshire is also a great place for outdoor climbing. Along the coast, just by the sea, the granite cliffs are excellent spots (e.g. Cove Bay, Collieston) to practice rock climbing. Being in the sun, by the sea and doing some exercise is a great way of spending the weekend, specially now with the birds nesting in the surroundings.
Saturday, 29 March 2014
Friday, 28 March 2014
Photo: Anja Byg
This winter has been very mild in Aberdeen. So, to experience a bit of cold and snow we have been going to the mountains! In the last walk we went to Glen Esk. We started in the car park near the Invermark Castle, followed the track by the Water of Lee, then we climbed steeply and passed the beautiful Falls of Unich and went uphill to experience a breathtaking view over Loch Lee and the Glen. We saw loads of mountain hares, which still have their white coat, and grouse, the famous grouse. Thanks to Anja, we have a record of our relaxing chat at the top of the hill and of our faces full of joy for being in outdoors Scotland.
Life is full of coincidences and interesting connections. A couple of years ago I watched an interesting documentary on BBC about diners in America. Suzanne Vega, an american singer I really like, was interviewed in this programme because of her song: "Tom's diner." Last christmas, I was listening "Hotel Babilonia" on my favourite portuguese radio antena 1 and they were talking about the excellent Suzanne Vega's new album. Back in Scotland, I listened a programme on BBC radio 4 about Suzanne Vega's new album and her song "Tom's diner". In February this year I had a very tasty brunch at Tom's diner. Isn't life special?
"I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner
I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner
I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee
Sunday, 2 February 2014
Since I have been back, several people have asked me if I miss Paris and how do I feel by moving from Paris to Aberdeen. I have reflected about this before, so I can summarize my thoughts:
1- It was a great opportunity to live in Paris but I did not enjoy the traffic, concrete, pollution, packed metro, noise, people everywhere, the cold, the heat, living far from the sea...
2- It was a great opportunity to live in Paris and I did enjoy the museums, independent cinema, free cultural events at UNESCO, art, the fact that I could go everywhere with my bike, the multiculturality, the great view from Monparnasse, the 14th of July, the arrival of the tour, the cheese...
3-When I ask myself if I could have given up all this, I can say yes. But if I think deeply, maybe I couldn't. My Tunisien friend Kari. made Paris a compulsory stage of my life. When in Paris, everyone should have a friend like Kari.: She is true friendship, cultural knowledge, city expert, political will, cinema lover.... Thank you very much Kari!
Monday, 27 January 2014
I am back to Aberdeen. I like this city a lot but the return has been tough since the life I left in 2012 is not here anymore. There are still friends around and more friends have been made. I am still a busy bee as before but something very important was taken away from me. Aberdeen is emptier. But, obviously it is winter time and winter is always difficult anywhere we are. I am longing for the longer and brighter days to climb Bennachie again. This range of hills in Aberdeenshire were place for ups and downs full of surprises. I hope the future climbs will be as fun as the previous ones.
Saturday, 25 May 2013
I went on my bike to Versailles Palace and gardens in March this year. It was cold like hell - well, hell would be hot right?... So, cold like...cold like Braemar in January!! :-)... The trees had no leaves and there was still snow on the ground. I have been hoping to return to see the flowers but the weather in Paris is still cold as...Braemar in January!
Ben More is a munro located in the Isle of Mull - Scotland. It is ranked the 7th highest of the British Isles - reaches 966 m of altitude.The climb takes about 4 hours and it starts from sea level. I am tempted to say that Ben More is not a very difficult mountain to climb as I did it just one month after the 2nd operation to my ankle (in June 2010), under a 26ºC heat (which in Scotland is quite hot), with only 100 ml of water and weighting 10 Kg more than my normal weight! In a clear day like this the view is breath taking!
Sunday, 28 April 2013
About half an hour on the ferry (from Kilkoan, in the West coast of Scotland) it is enough to reach Tobermory, the capital of the Isle of Mull. This is the 4th largest Scottish island and it has been inhabited since the end of the last Ice Age. In this island we can climb Ben More, have a pic nic by the sea, eat beautiful local cheese, visit stone circles and castles, and observe the wildlife. This can be done either by car, bike or walking. If you go by car you can cover a biggest area in fewer time. But cycling has its charm! In the weekend I was there the sun was shining and also the moon. About 10 ticks covered my body when I left, but that is part of the fun :-)
Saturday, 16 March 2013
In the white sands we put up our tent. In the turquoise water I swam in the morning.
This beautiful place is called Sannabay and it is located in the West Coast of Scotland, near Kilchoan. With some luck we can get a day like this: hot weather, blue sky and no one around. And this can only happen in Scotland. We had been driving for 3,5 hours, we stopped for newspaper wrapped fish and chips in a pub with grumpy barmen (it was after 8pm on a Friday- Oh my God!!), and I was too tired to be driven to the end of Ardnamurchan Peninsula, where Sannabay is located. But I do not regret it at all - waking up in the morning hearing nothing else but the sound of water and birds...I stop here because there are no words to describe the harmony of the moment.
Saturday, 2 March 2013
By being Portuguese I am used to give food lots of attention, good food. Food is the center of all religious and non religious festivities in Portugal. It is like a religion itself. During my 5,5 years in Scotland I also put a lot of importance in food: I lived with people that loved food, I missed my country's food and I wanted to show my friends how good my country's food was. Now in France, what can I say? Food is everywhere! In the shops, in the street markets, in the restaurants. It is a food overdose!
Yes! I also had to queue to eat these tasty "huîtres au citron". Although I was so lucky to be offered a ticket to enter Le Salon d'Agriculture by a random lady that appeared in front of me while I was waiting for my colleagues, I still had to queue with them to get their tickets. I think I am finally "mentalized" for the queues in Paris.
I have been in Paris for 3 months now. Only officially, because I have been twice in Portugal and once in Spain already. The main reason is affective: to be with my parents and to see my friend Julia. But there is also another very valid reason: To see the SUN!! And what can I say about Paris? Yes, it is a non-stop cultural life: concerts, seminars, meet-ups, museums, exhibitions...But to enjoy this cultural life one have to queue! For example, I almost turned ice while waiting 1 hour to see Marc Chagall exhibition! - Beautiful though.
Sunday, 9 December 2012
30th November of 2012 was the official end of 3,5 very enjoyable years to obtain my PhD in Geography. I learnt a lot during this period. I travelled to several countries, met very interesting people, taught intelligent students, was taught by intelligent teachers...It was not always easy: A PhD requires great dedication and if we are not strong and determined to finish it the tricks of life can make the task difficult. I have to thank the help and guidance of my excellent supervisors Prof(s) Pete Smith, Bill Slee and Colin Hunter and the support of my parents, friends and colleagues. I was very happy in Aberdeen and now that I am in Paris, I will keep writing my Scottish stories because there are still plenty to tell. And if you do not mind, from time to time I will also post here some colours of Paris :-)
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Photo: Richard Hewinson
Another exciting and challenging ridge to scramble is A'Chir in the Isle of Arran - west coast of Scotland. Arran is said to be "Scotland in miniature". But I was unlucky here. A dodgie jump at a place called "Le Mauvais Pas" (I wonder why is called like this...) put a stop to my walk at 6pm. I broke my ankle in two places and I had to be rescued from the mountain by some handsome guys, and lifted by helicopter. Six weeks on a cast and two operations did not stop my desire of going back and doing it again. Plus: God bless the UK National Health Service!
Scrambling is a method of ascending rocky faces and ridges. The term is somewhere between hillwalking and rock climbing. It means that hands must be used in the ascent. A very nice scramble I can suggest is Stac Pollaidh, a mountain in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. It can be climbed in less than 3 hours by any relatively fit person and once on the ridge the summit is located about 300 m to the west. To reach the it one must scramble over several rocky pinnacles and a good portion of skills is needed!
Sunday, 4 November 2012
This is an awful picture but it is the only one I have to illustrate the celebrations of Guy Fawkes' night in Aberdeen! It was taken on the 5th of November (2009) at the beach where lots of people concentrated to see the bonfires. This year, since Friday that we can hear fireworks in Aberdeen, but the big firework will be tomorrow evening! And what are British people celebrating? They celebrate Guy Fawkes' arrest and execution due to an attempt to kill protestant King James I of England (and bomb the parliament) in 1605. His objective was to trigger King James' replacement by a Catholic king. The 5th of November was kept as a thanksgiving day for the divine intervention in the King's survival and since then, people celebrate with (rather noisy) bonfires!
Saturday, 6 October 2012
In the last weekend (30 Set 2012) we were at the mountains again. The day was clear and we could enjoy the beautiful views from the top of the munros, in Glenshee near Braemar. It was very windy and the ascending to the top was tough. However, the scenery compensated largely the difficulties of going up. This time, to give a bit of the feeling of what is to be at the top of a mountain, I post a short video I made. This is Creag Lacach munro!
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
This is the 5th issue of the AU Science Magazine. This is a colourful, exciting and accessible publication that conveys the fascination of science with a special emphasis on research from Aberdeen. It is exclusively produced and edited by students from Aberdeen University. This issue has an article written by myself: 'The bio-economic uncertainty'. Read it online at: http://ausm.org.uk/ (page 8).