The Candlelight procession following the statue of Our Lady moved some cogs for me but it was the midday Mass celebrated by a blind English priest in a small chapel in the basement of a non-descript hotel that was more touching.
We were hosted royally by an ophthalmologist turned wine grower, whose family has owned twenty four hectares of vines up and down the mountain in the Douro for three centuries.
Previously I had known only the Mateus Rose, which also comes from around this region.
More to come
How can a man have a siesta with all the noise in the largo beneath his window?
We are in the north of Portugal in the medieval town of Guimarães. Between the local traditional dancers and the Brazilian Caphoeira Martial Arts group, not one minute of rest has been possible, and now it’s time to get up for drinking and eating again. It”s been so hot, I have run out of short-sleeved shirts and I don”t know what I will wear either!
More to come . . . on this find of a town
I came face to face with my mortality yesterday while visiting a Chapel with walls and columns lined with thousands of bones and skulls here in Evora. A poem on the wall was perhaps a little wake-up call as to what’s really important in life.
The scraggy skulls
The scraggy skulls
Are my company.
I have them night and day
In my memory;
Many were honoured in the world by their talents,
And other vain ornaments
Which served vanity.
Maybe in Eternity
The reason of their torments!
Each time I got up on my first night in Évora I could hear the drums. What was going on?
Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is the capital of the Alentejo region of Portugal less than two hours from Lisbon. We are staying in an old convent, the Pousada dos Loios with a Roman Temple right outside our front door. (The Roman columns and the Christian Cross puts a certain relevance into Roman and Catholic.) The well preserved town centre is still partially enclosed by medieval walls and a large number of monuments from various historical periods, including the 16th Century University.
The ‘drums’ I hear are the thud-thud-thud from the University musical groups of students in black capes and coloured linings as well as different merit badges showing their studies (known as Tunas). They are participating in a Tuna Festival in the cloisters of the old University just below my convent cell. We went down last night after dinner and joined them, but departed back to our cots at midnight. And they had only just begun!
Obviously there are no ‘studies’ this week.
Day 1 on the road in Portugal took us to Villa Vicosa, the home of the Dukes of Braganza. And then here to the old city of Evora for our first taste of staying in a pousada. You can imagine the setting of these grand old convents and monasteries on the best hills with a smart interior designer coming in and having carte blanche to redecorate. It’s very comfortable except some of the staff may once have been gardeners for all they care about serving breakfast with a smile in the cloisters.
I cracked my head on my cell door as I was leaving this morning but I think I’ve managed to staunch the blood flow now. I don’t dare touch the sticky lump though. Edmundo is in good form and our happy American driver Greg is a walking encyclopaedia and eager to share all about his adopted country. I’ve given up on trying to absorb who begot whom and whose brother killed the other to put his nephew on the throne. This is a holiday!
The food is remarkable. The selection of cold antipasti at dinner last night looks so simple but tastes out of this world – olive oil, garlic and coriander is used a lot. Our grilled grouper with a side plate of rice and clams (think wet risotto) was sensational. It took Edmundo to go choose the caramelised prune (think thick caramel!) to go with the decaffeinated espresso. We had to walk home uphill over the cobblestones and do a quick circuit of the town at midnight or else I could never have slept.
The “getting to somewhere” is a sufferance but it has an attractive side-benefit – airline frequent flyer points. After endless hours of flying back and forth to Europe over the years amassing Miles & More points, I am finally enjoying the side benefits with a first class ticket on Singapore Airlines today.
My sister Annie won”t be happy if she doesn”t know what I had to eat on the flight. Suffice to say, breakfast is breakfast, except this morning, the freshly prepared stack of hot scrambled egg and thick slices of smoked salmon were delicious. Lunch was more adventurous with strips of salty emu prosciutto on the mushroom soup, and some small apple eggplants with chunky pieces of duck in a very flavoursome but mild curry.
But, unlike Somerset, this particular Musgrave has writer’s block of the worst order. Would a foot massage be a possible remedy for my malaise? That is exactly what I do, and after ninety minutes of pampering, with my feet soaking in a tub of hot paraffin; a pot of hot ginger tea at my side; hands free, I begin to make notes!
Let me put it this way.
I invited thirty five family and friends to accompany me to the India I’d come to love during the four years I was travelling there for my job in the Eighties. I wanted everybody to enjoy more than the usual touristic experiences of Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan.
I had my own ideas of course but it was my old Amex colleague Tony Singh and his friends, Nimi and Pawan who pulled ‘rabbits out of the hat’ with the events they conjured up.
CLICK HERE to read how we venture below the surface in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur while celebrating my 65th birthday over ten magical days in September 2007.
The picture of Annie on the front page of this story reminds me of an old black and white photograph of her as a three year old sitting cross-legged on the back lawn of our house in bayside Redcliffe.
Growing up, I remember kids from the Far West Children’s Homes coming to Redcliffe for their first-ever view of the sea. And now, sixty years later, Annie is going to sea for the first time, just as excited and wide-eyed, with Trevor and me. What better first time ‘going to sea’ experience than on this Gourmet Food and Wine
Expedition on the 100 metre ocean-going mega yacht “Orion” around the Tasmanian West Coast and up to Sydney?
CLICK HERE to read story.
2007 – The occasion is my 65th Birthday in Agra, India
The Taj Mahal stands to celebrate the matchless love Emperor Shah Jahan had for his Queen Mumtaz. The famous Bengali poet, Tagore, describing Shah Jahans grief on Mumtaz death, wrote Running tears turned his garment white and the rest of the court followed suit. As did we!
We alight from our white-draped rickshaws walking through white-uniformed horse guards with spears and up a path lit by hundreds of white candles. We lounge on white bolsters under a new moon with plenty of cold Kingfisher and platters of prawn, chicken and beef kebabs from the kitchen of Sheratons famous Bukhara Restaurant watching Alan Guignon performing a recitation of Tagore’s poem.
As a footnote:
Little did the 35 guests realise that two hours before they arrived, that this magical setting, now ablaze in white and light, was a car-park for a carpet factory!
Amazing how the Event Planner, Nimi, managed the transformation installing the white stage, the white sets, the white reclining lounges, lighting and sound system in just two hours.
PICASA PHOTO ALBUM
Click on photo below to open and view
|Guests at "The Musgrave Party" – India, September, 2007|
Watch this space for the stories for my upcoming trip.
I recall similar disappointment years ago when I first saw St Peter’s in Rome. The wide sweep of the Square just ‘appeared’ at the end of a row of drab buildings along a long, narrow street. Also one Sunday afternoon in London I lost my way in the city and turned out of busy traffic onto the approach of a bridge. Stopped at traffic lights, I looked up to see the battlements of Tower Bridge in close-up with no magical stretch of river to set the scene. Postcards conveniently remove the blight from many of the world’s famous landmarks.