Friday, 27 April 2018

More journeys...

Oh, packing again... I am growing a real expert ... got everything in neatly, only to realize that I couldn't locate my nifty box of pills (labelled, one for each day of the week). So unpacked the whole caboodle, but no luck. Then Helenita made the brilliant suggestion that I might have rolled it up by mistake in the eiderdown; I shook, and out rolled the box.
The temperature is a delightful 24 degrees (Celsius) and a sweet wind blows. If only it were like this every day. With some clouds drifting high and the leaves rustling and shining in the light.

It proves too full of bounce on the train to write. So no poem, not even a capture of the impressions of multitudinous greens and golds flashing by outside, only a photo taken by friendly Portuguese lady of me in the station at Setubal. But my icloud uploading or perhaps downloading system has got hiccups so the pix are still on my iPhone and I can't download them onto my laptop.
How happy is he born and taught that serveth not the whims of this internet, is not ordered how to spell by a smart phone that assumes it knows best, and so forth...
So here are two pix of Setubal, in front of the station. Sun shining.
This one is politically interesting. The sign in red means "Higher Salaries". Literally, More Salary.

We had many long discussions about the economic situation in Portugal, Europe, and the world. And considered the disastrous impact on Spain and Portugal of the "discovery" of gold and silver in the New World. And jumped forward to the global scene today and I resolved to read Pikerty's book on Capital which sits upon one of the bookshelves in our boat.
On the other hand: after such knowledge, what forgiveness? to fling in a quote from T.S. Eliot. Not entirely appropriate, but rephrased I might say, after such knowledge, so what? Not in a cynical way, but more despairing at all one knows of the continuous onward crunching  (generations have trod, have trod, have trod (G/M.Hopkins)) and dimming of the light. Or the Light.
Thoughts for a meditative moment. Maybe look at this Saint John? We saw him too in Setubal.
After six hours travel, back in sunny Matosinhos, and supper in our favourite Bar do Oscar, watching a sundown and a kite-surfer.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Setubal, south of Lisbon

Quite a journey from the marina at Leca da Palmeira. A couple of changes of train and much practising of Portuguese. Arrived in the grey evening light and also met on the train from Lisboa Oriente two young ladies just arriving in Setubal; so we made friendly noises. And arranged to meet ere long.
Helenita and Jose-Carlos live on the tenth floor of an apartment block close to the station. Splendid view across greenery and coloured rooftops to the mouth of the river. I can see the spot where we anchored Stroemhella last year with Roberta and Walter (who alas cannot join us this year).
Setubal, like many Portuguese ports, has ancient roots. We wandered round the windy cobbled streets and walked down to the riverside.
Not many tourists here. Maybe too early in the year.
High point was a visit to the Municipal Museum, where a retabel, formerly in a local monastery, has been rescued from damp and decay, cleaned and hung upon the walls. A glorious sight, paintings of rich detail and wondrous intricacy. And the most cuddly baby Jesus I have ever seen. A real baby.

The weather turned into summer, almost too hot for me, and encouraged me to buy a pair of cotton shorts, so here I am comfortable and cool (in all senses of the word).

The food here, especially Helenita's superb Brazilian cooking, is extremely delicious, and as you can see, contributing to an expansion of me! So the sooner I get back to practising Pilates, the better. Of course, I could always climb the ten stories of flights of stairs, but somehow I always find myself moving towards the lift (elevator).
We invited Priscilla and Charlotte, the young ladies we met on the train, to join us for supper. Sampling of muscatel de Setubol.

Today is a Portuguese national holiday commemorating a revolution but I still need to get the details straight. It's called the Carnation Revolution, of 1974.

When the midday heat diminishes we'll go out for a walk and see what's what. Last night the festive day was ushered in with a firework display down by the riverside.

Here a few pix of the river before the sun arrived.

In the above picture Helenita (with blue bag and reddish jacket) is walking at the edge of the river.

The photo on the right shows the view looking upstream towards the dockyard.

And here is a small reminder that the Vizigoths were here too!

This is the label from a packet of pastries...

Portugal is a country filled with historic memories.

I still need to find out about this revolution...

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The never-ceasing waves

Here's our evening view from a beach restaurant at Leca da Palmeira.
Tomorrow I go to Setubal for a few days.

Certainly time for another poem...

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Walk along the banks of the upper Douro

Here is the poem, composed as David and I walked down a little hill from our house in Foz do Sabor, towards the flooded river banks. Dedicated to Yves, written on his 35th birthday.
Poem for Yves's birthday

We walk, palm against palm
our footsteps muted by the jubilant birdsong
bursting from trees and bushes
luxuriantly fringing the road,
and are delighted by
the bright wild flowers
showering the verges
red poppies, blue forget-me-nots and golden dandelions.
Quiet in our souls?
Something like that.
We look and listen; no need for words.
Crunch crunch soft over the gravel
This road need never end

(At Foz do Sabor, Upper Douro, April 2018)
And this is what we saw:

In the picture below you see the house where we stayed (red walls and roof, overlooking the water)
And here another view of the floods, and me walking down the road with beside me a flowering hawthorn tree.

 As you see, the sky is still somewhat sombre, but it grew progressively brighter and became a sun-stroked afternoon. We reached Pinhao and shed coats and capes... Up the hill to the same house as where David and I had stayed a year ago, commanding a stunning view of a bend in the Douro. That evening we circled around a log fire in the livingroom, drank our excellent red wine (vinho tinto) from the slopes of the Sabor, and indulged in philosophical discussions of a nihilistic nature (ha ha that was just for the irresistible alliterations!!). There was a couple from South Africa there, our age, very chatty. Much jolliness. In the morning the Three Young Ones set off down the hill to Pinhao, while David made me a (perfect!) boiled egg for breakfast, before we followed down. That was steep. Thank goodness for the Pilates practice. We made it in half an hour (David gallantly carrying my rucksack for me, muito obrigada!) and met our family having brunch in a cafe opposite the lovely Pinhao station with its many azulejos. See last year...
And back to Porto.
On our walk back from the Matosinhos tram stop where we got off, David and I found a Tea Salon close to our marina. And yes: fresh baked scones were on offer. What a delight...
So we didn't need any supper. Our Three found a Vegan place in town and returned after sundown.
The following day: Ecco la Primavera! Oh joy. We walk along the seafront. We dance and sing!
Here is the beach just beside our marina... sun-drenched. It is mid April, after all.

 The sun seems to have returned, finalmente, and we can at last shake out our cotton clothes.
Evening, watching across the still bristling waves... Tomorrow will be fine.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Yes, finally Primavera...

Off the boat we climbed, adieu to the bouncing and rolling, and in the chug-chug train along the banks of the winding river Douro, up to the joys of the craggy vertical rocksides and the flooded
grassy banks where last September we swam in the warm waters...
Our most northerly point was Foz do Sabor, the mouth of the river Sabor where ti joins the Douro.
David had already stayed in a b+b and enthusiastically recommended it to us ... and with good reason. It was little short of idyllic. Overlooking a bend in the Douro, set on a hilly slope where vines and orange trees flourish, and the most perfectly appointed house providing a breakfast unsurpassed by any I have ever been offered (oh, with the exception of a thee-star hotel in Jerusalem...).
We could have stayed there a long time...
In the morning we all went for a fresh and hilly walk. David and I wandered down to the banks of the river and later visited the ancient restaurant where last September we enjoyed an unforgettable fish lunch with Ati and Harry. This time we drank Sagres beer and talked to a delightful family fro Lisboa (partly in Portuguese...)
Here some pix.

Aspects of the floods, making the passage up the Douro by boat a tricky matter...
I also wrote a poem, will post tomorrow.
Now it's shopping time, for our final Vegan feast before the family departs (tomorrow afternoon).

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Shadow of the seagull

Will now attempt to fly over a poem I wrote a few days ago, after watching a seagull engaged in a duel with five cats ...
Yes, it's worked! David and I observed this scene from the window of the restaurant where we were enjoying a most excellent Sunday lunch. See previous Blog.

The Gull’s Meal

A shadow moves across the sand,
shadow of  seagull.
He has a broken wing, lands wearily.
Hops slowly along the beach
jagged, off-balance, a live fish squirming in his beak.

And the five cats creep out, on low, well-filled bellies
silently stalking
leaving their shelter.
The gull looks round and sees them
unperturbed: his beak sharper than their claws.
But: five against one?

The bird thought better of it
relinquished his prey
flapped to a nearby rock which rose
jutting out of the sea, wave-battered.
The gull, a juvenile, mottled feathers,
kept watch, aloof on his outpost
waited, bided his time, spray-spattered.

Cats slide towards the fish, lying still flapping
inspect, decide: too slippery, perhaps too bony
not worth the effort.
Five depart.

Gulls swings back to the sand
chuckling to himself
hails the despairing fish:
“You and I were meant for one another, dear”
he screams affectionately.
Fish lies still.

The seagull looks about, gazes towards the horizon
where huge swirling clouds echo
the hugely curling waves
pounding crashing crumbling into foam:
More majestic and magnificent
than a mere meal.

Here in Leca da Palmeira it continues to rain and the sea continues to bubble (for want of  a better word).  Happily we have visitors, my niece and nephew and friend, who arrive bearing gifts of Belgian chocolate and good humour. The first night the creaking ropes are not too intrusive; we all sleep well.
Today the three have set off to downtown Porto to visit the port cellars.

Here I sit in the Club House gazing out at the impenetrable grey of sea and sky, hoping ever hoping for a lightening on the horizon...
My niece Tilla bought some special waterproof Crocs at the plane stop-over in Brussels; essential gear ! Here she tries on the comforting boots:
And today is my granddaughter Rachel's fourth birthday: I skyped her in Stavanger  and retract all my moans about the internet! Wonderful to see the children and chat with them about birthday cakes...
Specially-ordered chocolate cupcakes made by Mummy... oh so yummy...

Monday, 9 April 2018

Developing the Noah syndrome

The rain it raineth every day ... I've been back in Porto (Leca da Palmeira) now for 30 days and I think it quite possible that it has rained every one of them.
The Noah syndrome ... but he had 40 days to endure...
Happily, the sun does come through and as I deeply appreciate, we get the most stupendous cloudy sunsets; so can't complain.
But oh Primavera, where are you hiding ?
The daffodils are out in my back garden in Amsterdam.
Here we make a hot-water bottle to warm up the bed (well, of course, the boat is a trifle damp and chill!).
But my rheumatism is behaving and of course, there is the excellent Pilates right here in the Sports Centre beside the marina. Not too many stiff muscles.
And we are supplied with truly excellent restaurants, complete with vinho verde... here we are enjoying our Sunday lunch.
The sea in the background and delicious pasta in the foreground. 
There are moments of great contentment. Out of the storm...

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Mischievous Mistress

For want of a better way of referring to the sea ... actually, it's not just the sea, it's the intricate interaction of wind, and wave, and sky and the endless movement of the spheres.
Nevertheless, this makes for fine sunsets. As the light begins to fade, David and I leave the boat and set off along the seafront, heading for the not-too-distant lighthouse.
Along our way we often pause to gaze in wonder at the huge breakers rolling in, mounting and curling and spitting spume high into the air before they crash downwards and seethe across the wet sand in complicated swirling patterns.
Time for me to try photos (there are always plenty of people armed with cameras of varying types). Though I must say, this smartphone is astonishing in what it captures. See here:
In the distance at the left is our marina, Leca da Palmeira. Today has been sunny. But this is not forecast to last. More rain tomorrow.
I grow weary of the never-ending bumping and rocking; squeak moan, creak groan, chant the mooring ropes as the surge from the Atlantic washes into the basin where the boats are tethered.
I shall be glad to be off this sea, and watch it from ashore!
Here's our yesterday sunset:

It is certainly awesome. What a wonderful place to be, here on the Atlantic coast facing westwards. What matter if the anti-cyclone over the Azores refuses to arrive (was that the story?) Rain rain go away, come again another day...
Rain rain go to Spain
And never show your face again...
I begin to understand all the songs and poems reviling the too-long presence of rain (la pluie, pioggia, chuva... we have learnt it in various other languages in the countries  we have recently visited).
Now our next-door neighbours are bringing in their yacht with much bumping and rocking so I have to stop.
A final sunset picture from Porto:

Monday, 2 April 2018

More ponderings on Guimaraes

The rain held off and we were able to climb up to Guimaraes fortress-citadel! Splendid, excellently preserved, and a joy for all who love to walk round crenellated walls.
The sky grew increasingly less grey, and very soon there were happy families (mostly Portuguese, but some French and a smattering of English) disporting themselves in the extensive castle grounds. We also looked into a charming Romanesque church, no longer used, serenely free from baroque eccentricities! Then down the slope to the palace of the Dukes of Braganza. Where there is a bedroom of our dear queen Catherine, and an exceedingly fine portrait of her labelled "Catherine of Braganza" painted by a pupil of Lely's. (She is the lady who brought tea, alias cha, to the English sitting rooms in the 17th century.)
The palace is extensive and finely furnished, exuding a great sense of space and uncluttered-ness! Partly thanks to the magificent high ceilings, which made me think of a ship's ribs in reverse:
See what I mean?

Much of the palace has recently been restored.
One of the helpful "guards" (a charming young lady who spoke excellent English) said that many of the objects in the palace had been lent or given by various museums.
There was an enormous range, from worn and faded but still beautiful Persian carpets, through Chinese vases from the Qing dynasty to magnificent carved cupboards (some were suspected to be from the Netherlands, and did look kind-of familiar...)

Below: carved oak cupboard

Leaving the exquisite works of past artisans (among whom I number my ancestors, the woodcarvers who fled from France and settled in south England), we strode down the hill and back into the old city.
In search of food ... but we were too late, and were greeted everywhere by Fechado signs : Portuguese for Closed.

So we went to our favourite Pasteleria and were shown a cafe where we could get a pizza and a bowl of vegetable soup (sopa de legumes), a staple of many a Portuguese eatery. We didn't take a pizza: not in Portugal!
It staved off our pangs and we popped into a nearby supermarket for cheese, carrots, cucumber and chocolate.
Then back to our Pasteleria for some real bread rolls.
We have made friends with one of the young waiters there (he loves to practise his French and Englsih). He told us that Guimaraes used to be one big family, but that now things are changing, with people arriving from "outside" ... This he regretted. He said: 'It used to be that everyone knew everyone else; we knew people from the church, the family and football. But it's changing everywhere.'

Our travels are always teaching us new things. There is a small monument near one of Guimaraes's central squares, a bust of Abel Salazar. Recognising the surname, I looked him up. A man to honour: a doctor, a medical researcher, a writer, a painter, and an anti-fascist. Born in Guimaraes, died in Lisbon. He is remembered particularly in the north of Portugal.

Easter in Guimaraes...

Crunching over the fallen beech nuts, we climb yet another hill and reach a fine point de vue looking down towards the pousade (historic guest house in Portugal), once a monastery whose twin towers overlook the city of Guimaraes.
The pousade can be found throughout the country, offering historic buildings in which to spend a few elegant days ... The food is also usually excellent. David and I had a bowl of delicious chicken soup and relaxed in a room tiled with coloured azulejos, and where a lady from Brazil (a professional pianist) opened the Yamaha baby-grand and delighted us with some Chopin. True Easter Sunday elegance!

We had chosen this day to be outside, and it looks like it will be the only dryish day of our stay. Aha, I spy some watery sunlight outside so I think will grab the opportunity and execute our plan of visiting the castelo.
More later...

Below: the gardens at the pousade of Guimaraes