Sunday, 15 November 2015

Blue sky

Pink and blue - "manufaktura porcelany"

With this picture I want to contribute to the promotion of a local porcelain maker I found in Kazimierz district in Krakow. I was just passing by in a rainy afternoon when my eyes caught these strange cups in a big window of a pottery workshop. The maker was a really nice girl who explained me all about her products and distinct design. The name is "manufaktura porcelany" and this is the website: . It has been the second time this year I meet such pleasant artists!

Green lawn at Begijnhof

If it was not for my cousin, I would probably never find out about this little quiet and picturesque corner of Amsterdam. This is the recognition that having someone more knowledgeable (local!) about the cities or places we stop by is a real privilege. This courtyard dates back to the Middle Ages and takes the name from the Beguines, Catholic women who lived here as nuns. There is even one house in wood (Wooden house) dating back as far back as 1528. It a peaceful space surrounded by the busy streets of Amsterdam which is worthwhile visiting.

Grey day to remember bleak Krakow of the past

I was about 14 years old when I saw the movie Schindler's List for the first time. It was on a history class with one of my favourite teachers: Ana Machado. At such a young age the movie made a big impression to me and I think it was by then I fully understood the importance of tolerance. I was far from imagine that one day I would find myself stepping inside Schindler's Enamel factory in Krakow. I was surprised to discover that the reason why Schindler employed Polish Jews was because he wanted cheap labour to run his factory. I was relieved to found out that he eventually started actively saving as many as he could. The factory now holds an exhibition about Krakow under Nazi occupation, including several photographs taken between 1939 and 1945, Schindler's office furniture, a hairdresser's salon, a conspiracy apartment and many other features of the time. I should not finish by mentioning the Portuguese counterpart of Schindler: Aristides Sousa Mendes, Portuguese consul in Bordeaux (Paris) who provided visas to around 10,000 Jews so they could run away from a Nazi surrendered France.    

Autumn colours in Aberdeenshire


Autumn colours were back in Scotland last month. By the time I write this post they are almost gone. Every year is different but not less spectacular. A bike ride around Braemar hills, Linn of Dee and Invercauld Estate in a sunny Autumn day is one of the best ways of appreciating one of the best things Scotland has to offer! 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Green Glencoe

Glencoe is a valley in the highlands of Scotland. The walk up the hill (Sgorr na Ciche or Pap of Glencoe) was very steep but I found that listening to the BBC programmes "Desert Islands Discs" and 'The Unbelievable Truth" on my ipod really helped going up. Appreciating the view from the top of the hill, sheltered from the wind in a clear and sunny day is the best medicine to charge batteries for another working week.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Brown chanfana with boiled potatoes

Chanfana is a traditional Portuguese dish of old goat cooked in a clay recipient with red wine, garlic, laurel, pepper, paprika and salt. We were recommended a small restaurant in Miranda do Corvo to eat this delicacy. We arrived and were received by a small lady who spoke 'gallego' to us. We thought that we were going to make a mistake: eat chanfana cooked by a 'gallego' cook?!. After an hour which we used to cycle around the town, we sat at the table in the restaurant and just enjoyed this food of the gods. The 'gallego' cook could not have cooked a better chanfana for us.

Gondramaz - The brown schist village

Gondramaz is one of the many schist villages of the centre of Portugal. They are lost in time and because of that they seem enchanted. People have left many years ago to the city or abroad, and only few still insist in living there. Walking in the silent streets we appreciate the architecture and the stories it buries inside each house. In a corner we find a couple of people, those who insisted to stay where their heart lives. What they tell me I already read in a novel by Aquilino Ribeiro while waiting in a hospital bed to be operated to my ankle. Five years later, it was my ankle who brought me here, pedalling my bike eight kilometres up the hill to experience one bit of the environment that provided Miguel Torga the inspiration to write Bichos - a masterpiece of Portuguese literature in my opinion.

Grey octopus

The second time in my life I caught an octopus (third time I went fishing) I felt again that hunter instinct I discovered some time ago. It must be remains of primitive human instinct left on me and I was surprised to find out how alive they still are. The fishing tools are very simple and traditional: a pole with a net in one hand and a pole with a crab attached to attract the octopus in the other hand. I need a bit of patience and perseverance to go from rock to rock and from pool to pool. Suddenly, big tentacles surround the crab with a strength I am not used to. The heart beats faster, and mum comes to help. I caught an octopus. 

Orange sunset by the sea

This was by far the best sunset I ever photographed. Photographed, filmed, looked at, everything we can imagine possible during 10 magic minutes. Time the sun takes to hide behind the sea. Or better, 10 magic minutes that the Earth offer us while rotating around its own orbit. Adding this to luxurious and almost deserted beaches (well, not so deserted this year!), exhilarating sea cliffs, romantic countryside and we have the perfect combination for idyllic holidays. And this is my village, Cambelas... 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Blue sea at Reiff and an otter passing by

"The headland closest to the road end, about 5-10 minutes north west from the bridge and visible from the parking spot. the crags extend for about 400 metres north wards, before petering out into the boulders and sand of the fine Camas Eilean Ghlas (Blue-green Island Bay)." - in Scottish Rock
While here, an otter, a seal and a guillemot with fish on his mouth passed by!

Green vegetation around Raven's Crag

1) The rock
 2) The climb
3) The view from the top
An easy climb not too far away from the car park, which means a nice walk is involved. There are many options here, ranging from 'Very Difficult' to 'Severe'. Relaxed climbing with the midges sometimes around. The view from the top is great, both to inland and to the coast.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The green Peter Pan

After an afternoon climbing in Glen Clova, starving for some fish and chips because restaurants in Scotland do stop serving food at 9.00pm, I ended up in Kirriemuir (Angus), the village where J. M. Barrie was born. James Matthew Barrie was a Scottish author and dramatist and he wrote the story that torments me the most: Peter Pan -  "He is afraid of nothing except of mothers, fathers, and growing up."

"Our common future" in the blue planet

July 10 2015, Paris: "Emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases must eventually fall to zero to stabilize the global climate, according to scientists leading the biggest international climate science conference prior to the Paris UN COP meeting in December. But they also indicate cautious optimism that growing political momentum means the two degree Celsius climate upper limit is still within reach.  In practice, limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels will require cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases by 40-70% below current levels by 2050."

Orange sunset at the Cioch

"In the centre of the cliff is a beautiful sheet of low-angled pockmarked gabbro with the unique unmistakable and justify famous landmark of the Cioch block rearing up above its right (west) end. The top of the Cioch is one of the finest picnics spots around." (in Scottish Rock). However, for those who climb, bear in mind the chimney in the way up to the Cioch. No rucksacks and no fat people can pass that. It is as if we are being born again!
Curiosity: It was in the Cioch that a famous sword fight was fought in the film "Highlander" and the swords are still there! Of course Sean Connery did not rock climb until reaching the Cioch, but was flown in by helicopter instead.

In the bright sun of Cambelas


In my last stay in Cambelas I found that I have someone now guarding my house when I am not there. I can breath of relief :-). I do not know her real name. In the village everybody calls her Ti Loira - Aunt Blonde.

Green waters at Plitvice Lakes National Park

The Plitvice Lakes National Park was founded in 1949. It is  situated in the mountainous karst area of central Croatia. The important north-south road connection, which passes through the national park area, connects the Croatian inland with the  Adriatic. It is UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.  The park is full of green lakes, energetic cascades, luxurious vegetation, fish, aquatic insects and...Chinese! To get away from the crowds and have some quietness in nature the best is to walk the path in the edge of the main lake instead of taking the boat connecting the two extremities of the lake.

Green and blue from the window of the Caledonian sleeper

A little post to promote a sustainable way of travelling to London: The Caledonian sleeper Aberdeen - Euston station - Aberdeen. A comfortable bed, a nice view at waking up, a tasty and warm porridge for breakfast. This is what it means to travel environmentally friendly in the overnight train to the capital of the British Isles.

And now a challenge!

What is the device four brilliant researchers cannot be without, in a 7 hour walk, in the spectacular outdoors of Hoy? The correct answer is worth a stay at my house, by the beach, in Portugal :-)

Blue sea around the Old Man of Hoy

"A man was setting traps for rabbits in Hoy. He saw a huge giant and ran home and refused to return there for the rest of the winter." Adapted from The Mermaid Bride and other Orkney folk tales.

Colourful and very tasty food at Umea

It is true that I can eat everything and that I like every cuisine I try. Some food I like more than other, but in general I eat and enjoy everything. After teaching in a PhD course at the Faculty of Forest Sciences (SLU) in Umea, the Swedish students presented the best delicacies of the region. Raindeer, moose and pickled herring are only absolutely DELICIOUS!!

Musicians in Vienna dress in black


It is true that Vienna is beautiful in spring time. There are flowers everywhere, people seat in the parks, the Naschmark is more vibrant than ever. But how can one resist to a cosy musical concert by virtuoso players?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Purple wild flowers overviewing Slains Castle

Slains Castle is a ruined castle in Aberdeenshire. It overlooks the North Sea from the top of a cliff and it is very close to one of the most beautiful beaches in this county: Cruden Bay. The core of the castle was built by the 9th Earl of Erroll in the 16th century. But Erroll decided to be catholic and because it conspired with other catholics, signing letters aiming at aiding Spain's aspirations in the British Isles, the castle was destroyed. After rejecting the catholic religion, the Earl of Erroll returned to Scotland and built a new tower and courtyard in the castle.  In the 19th century, the author Bram Stocker stayed in Cruden Bay and the castle inspired his novel Dracula.

Pink flowers in Seaton park

Spring in Aberdeen is usually glorious. There are beautiful and colourful flowers everywhere. This picture was taken in the walled gardens inside Seaton park, just a 3 minute walk from my office at University of Aberdeen. Seaton park is one of the nicest parks in the city and it was bought by the council in 1947 for public use. The river Don passes along the edge of the park and there is now a big lake where ducks and other birds rest. The park is used as a pleasant break from work and at the same time as an inspiring place for new ideas.   

Monday, 13 April 2015

Art naif is very colourful!

Photo: Dolores Rey-Vicario

This history of Brazil has been drawn by amateur painters and street artists. They do not pay much attention to techniques, proportions or art currents. They do pay attention to colours, rhythms and smells, which are, in my opinion, the best categories of words to describe Brazil. The absorption of these senses by artists has provided colourful paintings, which are classified as art Naïf (Naïve art). The MIAN is the Brazilian International Museum of Art Naif and presents a big collection of this type of art.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Dark night with bright lights

Photo: Antonio Ioris
Eleven million people live in Sao Paulo, Brazil and this is more than the Portuguese population (10.5 million). Such a big city require a fair amount of resources to survive: water, food, energy... If one of these fail there might be a conflict. Water scarcity caused by the lack of rain in the summer triggered a series of adverts on TV on how to best save water at work and at home. This measures intended to avoid water rationing in case the drought was to persist. I was surprised to see that little actions, which I considered basic and which I learnt at primary school in my "prone to drought country", where not yet embedded in a society where 9 million people depend of one only catchment: the "Cantareira reservoir system". Household water use was not the only activity at risk due to drought. The newspapers described that coffee production was going to decrease between 15-20% in Sao Paulo state in 2015. If we can survive without coffee, other products are more necessary, and the production of these are also at risk. Water scarcity and government corruption originated something called "panelaco" - people came to their balconies to beat cooking pans in protest. Let's hope the "panelaco" will be the worst consequence. 
For more info, the guardian published an interesting article about the recent drought in Sao Paulo:
And, thanks to Antonio, I have this beautiful picture from Avenida Paulista, in Sao Paulo. For a photography lover, it is a torture to travel without a camera. But I found it very liberator as it allowed me to focus more on smells and sounds, and it trained my brain to memorise every image. An experience I definitely advise.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Purple lights at Aberdeen His Magesty's Theatre

I think it is more than time I write a post about His Magesty's Theatre. It is here I satisfy my thirst for culture when I am in Aberdeen. I love the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet, and also the plays and musicals. Other venues (e.g. Music Hall, Lemon Tree or Woodend Barn in Banchory) are great places to listen live music and experimental stuff. But HMT is "la cerise sur le gâteau"!

Very colourful - rediscovering charity shops in Scotland

I have never really looked properly at charity shops until I was back from Paris. If I analyse the facts, Paris might have played a role in my current interest for charity shops. The famous "marché aux puces" (flea markets) which are set in the different "arrondissements" (neighbourhoods) of Paris have an array of little treasures to be found: retro furniture, porcelains, paintings, art deco (and nouveau), lamps, old postcards, photos, clothes, jewelry etc etc. In Scotland, charity shops and antiques shops are the replacements of the Parisien "marché aux puces". In Aberdeen, these have been flourishing in the high street and I am loving it. My last achievement was this retro 60s Royal scale which I found in the charity shop in Cults, just off Aberdeen. It is so cute and it will look great in my modern Portuguese kitchen. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dry and bright

The sacred city of Caral is the second oldest civilization in the world. It has been established in the North-Central region of Peru, before any other civilization has established in the Andes and America. The development of the Caral civilization was premature in comparison to other civilizations (e.g, Egypt, Mesopotamia) established in the old continent. In addition, while other civilizations exchanged goods, knowledge and experiences among themselves, the civilization of Caral developed without any contact with other big civilizations. Absolutely fascinating!

White sky, blue sky, white sky...

They eat, they drink, they dance, they shop. But is it really like this?

Orange lights in a dark night

Is it good or bad that when I pass here now the only thing I can remember is a passage of Dan Brown's book, Angels and Demons?

"It was 11.07 pm. Langdon's car raced through the Roman night. Speeding down Lungotevere Tor Di Nona, parallel with the river, Langdon could now see his destination rising like a mountain to his right. Castel Sant' Angelo. Castle of the Angel."

Under the yellow sun of Alcala

Maguer, señor Quijote, que sandeces
vos tengan el cerbelo derrumbado,
nunca seréis de alguno reprochado
por home de obras viles y soeces.
Serán vuesas fazañas los joeces,
pues tuertos desfaciendo habéis andado,
siendo vegadas mil apaleado
por follones cautivos y raheces.
Y si la vuesa linda Dulcinea
desaguisado contra vos comete,
ni a vuesas cuitas muestra buen talante,
en tal desmán, vueso conorte sea
que Sancho Panza fue mal alcaguete,
necio él, dura ella, y vos no amante.
Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quijote de la Mancha

Brown chair with a broken leg

Everytime I come to the UNECE in Geneva I ask myself what is a chair with a broken leg doing in front of the Palais des Nations. But I will find out, because google is "our friend"!
So: The chair with a broken leg symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs, and acts as a reminder to politicians and others visiting Geneva. The work is from Swiss artist Daniel Berset.
Wow! What a noble message this chair carries!

Mix of colours in Freiburg market

Food security, food security, food security...To this contributes a daily market in the main square of Freiburg. The products look fresh and local, and by 8am there is already plenty of happy people around buying those products. A lesson on food security to those countries where outdoor markets almost disappeared.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Shining radio in a better together Scotland

I am glad I can wake up listening to BBC Radio 4 and I can go to sleep listening to BBC Radio 3.

Off-road biking in the brown cliffs of Cambelas

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

Blue sky at Serra do Socorro

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" :-) 

White doves in Mass in Rio (da Foz)

I am back to grey Scottish weather to remember the Portuguese sunshine. And here's the story:
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

Green vegetation at the Lines of Torres

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

White and black truck, green and white Specialized, fearless friends

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!