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!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Yellow bike in Yorkshire

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

Maillot jaune

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

Colorful cubism of Amadeo Souza Cardozo

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).

Red rose at Kiasma

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.

Brown stains on seabird eggs

Climbing in May allowed me to have a proper look at the diverse egg nests built on the top of sea cliffs and to face angry mothers wanting to protect them. Climbing in June allowed me to face "ugly" chicks and mothers telling me off to keep away from their chicks :-).

Orange beaks of cute puffins

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

Grey May

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. 

Blue and white pub

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.