‘Tis the Season to Pick Pears

pears, pear tree,

Pear season has begun.  Aah, it brings back happy memories of last year.  “Tomorrow the workers will stop work on your house to go and pick pears all this month,” said the builder.

“Oh. Right. Okay.”

Serra de Montejunto, pear orchard, apple orchard, orchad, pear tree, travel, tourism, rural portugal

We’re still renovating the house and the pear season is once again in full swing.  The pear festival begins this weekend in our village.  Lights and decorations are being put up across the street and there will be dancing and a stage with music.  We went last year and had candy floss.  We will go this year and have candy floss and sway from side to side listening to the local bands.  The children, as last year, will decide they are too old for the kid’s attractions and beg instead for sweets.

pear trees, montejunto, silver coast

In this area there are pear trees, olive groves and vineyards.  We will buy the seasonal fruit and make pear compote, pear crumble, pear clafoutis, pear pie.  Oh, and pears baked in red wine, white wine, brandy, ginga and drink pear juice on the rocks.

pear orchard, pears, pears portugal

Meanwhile I go for a drive and a tractor pulls out in front of me.  It is going to the agricultural co-operative which is along our road.  It turns off and another tractor full of pears pulls in front.  Another whips in behind.  I am trapped, driving at a snails pace.  I have never seen so many tractors and trailers.  All packed with pears.

crates, countryside portugal, pear crates, fruit farming

Crates lined up ready for filling with pears

It reminds me of the only fruit tree which I haven’t yet got around to planting.  A pear tree.  I’m not sure if we really need our own.

countryside portugal, Serra de Montejunto, pear orchards, apple orchard, pear tree

 

Dancing Wasp – The Wonder of Nature

wasp

Okay, a little diversion from Portugal but I had to share it with you.  I could watch this over and over again it’s so funny!  Who says insects don’t have personalities?

Click on the video link below to see nature up close.

A real wasp on a car window with no special effects.  Starts off dancing then sticks with the car for the journey and does a spot of car surfing!

hornet_insect_wasp_bee_

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pURr2Ly8DsE

The wasp is actually driving through Offord Darcy in Cambridgeshire.

We should give him a name – any ideas??!

wasp

 

Why Computers Are Bad For You

Dog outdoors, dog lying down, dog in countryside, dog with lead, black dog, labrador cross, German shepherd cross

This morning we were out of dog food.  I had the bright idea of boiling up some pasta.  I popped on the pasta, went out and checked some blogs on the computer.  Then another, then another until…came across blog about dogs,  dog = cooking pasta = burning smell = burnt pasta, burnt pan.  Aaargh!  Fortunately the dog will eat anything, hungry or not.

Cooked a late brunch, scrambled eggs and rosti.  While cooking late brunch prepared soup for actual vitamins later.  Went up and did some work on the computer.  “Something smells good”, said Jae, as he lay down on the sofa looking bored.  Feeling of guilt as I should be playing with Jae in the holidays, doing cool stuff like sailing or surfing which is one reason we moved to the Silver Coast.

I suggested a board game. Jae retreated before I could come up with the sentence “how about some maths homework?”  Went back to work on the computer.

Soup, eating al fresco

Jae returned a while later.  “What’s that weird smell?” he asked.  I leaped up from the computer to retrieve yet another blackened pan off the stove.  Picked out the bits of veg. that weren’t black to try and retrieve lunch.  Unfortunately the children won’t eat anything, even if hungry.

Meanwhile, Jae went in the pool.

child swimming, swimming in portugal, above ground pool

Looking forward to dinner tonight.  Maybe I’ll just go straight for a flambé.

 

Lizard Love

 

lizard

I strolled into the bathroom after lunch to put the freshly washed towels away. It was light and sunny and now we have a shower screen it’s looking very like a normal bathroom and less like a semi-renovation job.

“Kids, come and see this!,” I shouted.

I put away the laundry and peeked closer into the bath tub. A baby lizard was scurrying about. Here’s the thing. I’ve always liked lizards, they remind me of Mediterranean holidays, and because we don’t have them in England they’re quite special and something to call the family about in a highly excited, squeaky voice. The kids raced in and we all peered into the bath at the very worried creature who had probably figured out by now that he couldn’t climb out and escape.

lizard

Er…the actual lizard

My daughter, after several attempts, managed to gather it into her hands and carefully carry him, or her, out into the sunshine and put him out by the wall.

I’m surprised there wasn’t a request to keep him as a pet. I think we’ve all realised that a dog and two guinea pigs is enough for now….oh, and mustn’t forget the stray.

dog, stray dog, stray dog in portugal

…mustn’t forget the stray!

Lovin’ It In Lisbon

Finally we made it to Lisbon. I know, ridiculous. We live less than an hour away yet we hardly ever have time to go.

Tram. Lisbon, street scene Lisbon,

 

We went with our guests from Denmark. Now then, when I went to Alcobaca I was lucky enough to be shown around by a historian. No such luck this time you say. Well, we just happened to have a historian from Copenhagen in our little group who had done some research on Portuguese history.

DSC_0429

We started at Belem Tower. Built in the early 16th century it played an important part in Portuguese maritime discoveries of the time and was part of a defence system at the mouth of the Tagus River.

belem Tower, Lisbon

 

Plenty of time to sit and gaze at the view of the Tagus river.

Belem Tower, Lisbon, Tagus River

Followed by a trip to Jerónimos Monastery, built in 1502 to commemorate Vasco de Gama’s voyage to India.

Jeronimos monastery, Lisbon

 

 

 

The interior is fabulous.

Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon

After that – well the day was just too hot so we headed off for ice creams, pastel de natas, cocktails then dinner.  Just to do a little research on contemporary Lisbon, of course.

IMG_20131101_173409

 

Let’s Visit Caldas Da Rainha

Caldas da Rainha, places to visit, property for sale Silver Coast, boutiques, travel portugal

 

If you’re visiting the Silver Coast this summer don’t miss out on the town of Caldas da Rainha.  If you’re thinking of locating it’s also a great place to live, with plenty of art galleries, museums, great sports facilities including a world class tennis centre and hey, even a boating lake in the park.

This is an old spa town with a tradition of ceramics.  There are museums dedicated to ceramics, cycling, a hospital museum and of course art and sculpture plus a large cultural centre hosting regular events.  If museums aren’t your thing, there are a couple of large, indoor shopping centres too.

Wander around the old part, stroll through the centre with a range of individual shops or visit the daily fruit and vegetable market.  Then when you’re done have a galao (coffee in a glass) at the cafe in the park or in one of the many side streets off the main square.

Caldas da Rainha, Silver Coast, Sight seeing, Places to visit, church, Portugal, tourism Portugal

 

Awesome Alcobaca on the Silver Coast

Alcobaça monastery, Silver Coast, Places to Visit

Alcobaça Abbey

A tragic love story.  That’s about all I knew about the town and abbey of Alcobaça on the Silver Coast. They also have a groovy food festival but I’d never been to that either. I’ve driven past it a zillion times on the school run over the past year determined to find the time to go.

Street in Alcobaça

Alcobaça

Alcobaça is an inland town on the Silver Coast. When my Norwegian pal Hege agreed to accompany me on a trip I was looking forward to finding out more.  Hege is a historian. If you are going to visit a monastery then a historian is the person to go with.

Alcobaça

Alcobaça street style

Alcobaça abbey, the abbey of Santa Maria, is fabulous. As you enter, the gothic vaulted ceiling takes your breath away. Hege pointed out the bricks with identifying marks from each particular stone masons. The monastery is hundreds of years old yet you could imagine the guy chipping out his signature. It reminded me of the stone in our 100 year old house at Castelo Branco with a mark that belonged to our builder’s grandfather. I wonder if brickies do that these days.

Alcobaça abbey, stone signature, stone mason

Do stonemasons still leave their mark?

Alcobaça abbey, stone pillar, mark of stonemason

I stood in the vast abbey with that beautiful smell of old stone and a calmness that reminded me of my home church at St Peters, currently redundant. Religion aside, I love standing in empty churches with the light flowing through. This abbey was actually full of tourists but I still had a sense of peace.

Alcobaça abbey

Vaulted gothic ceiling inside the abbey

Onto tragic love story.  The tomb of Inês lies opposite that of Pedro. In a nutshell Pedro, heir to the throne, was ordered to marry Princess Constanza but he was actually in love with Inês, a noblewoman.  When Constanza died Pedro married Inês in secret but the king had her murdered as he thought she and her family were a threat to the throne. When Pedro’s father, King Alfonso, passed away Pedro dug up the body of Inês and had her crowned – forcing the court to kiss her decomposed hand in acknowledgement. Nice one. This was all quite a while ago around 1355. Kind of feel sometimes that the world hasn’t really moved on much.

Alcobaça abbey, cloisters, cleaned stonework

Abbey cloisters, notice the contrast with the stark, white, newly cleaned area of the lower building

Alcobaça abbey, cloisters

Interior of the cloisters with vaulted ceiling

The abbey was free but we paid to stroll through the cloisters which were around E6.00. Intricately carved Manueline stonework adorns the courtyard and I could imagine the Cistercian monks pottering along the stone floor on their way to the kitchen with its fantastic 18m high chimney.

Medieval kitchen, Alcobaça abbey, Silver Coast,

18m high chimney, that’s a lot of cooking – you should see the size of the fireplace!

If you want to know more about the abbey the Unesco World Heritage site explains the history of the abbey in more detail.

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/505

Alcobaça, Silver Coast, Portugal tourism

Loved the little lanes and well kept architecture

Alcobaça is full of restaurants and restored old houses down little lanes. A river runs through it and the name Alco and Baca come from the two rivers. Indeed, the River Alcoa and the River Baça.

Alcobaça, River Alcoa, Silver Coast, Places to visit in Portugal

River Alcoa

There are some lovely individual shops here too but we hadn’t come for shopping.

Alcobaça, shops, street scene, Portugal Silver Coast, Places to Visit

Tempting – but we hadn’t come to shop

We ate in a restaurant off the main square then headed to the monastery at Batalha, built to celebrate the Portuguese victory with the Castilians at the Battle of Aljubarrota – a battle which only lasted about an hour.

Batalha, monastery, unfinished chapel, places to visit, Silver Coast

Batalha, Manueline stonework, medieval abbey, places to visit, Silver Coast

Ornate Manueline stonework

 

Batalha, tomb of Prince Henry the Navigator

Here lies Prince Henry the Navigator

Similar in style to Alcobaça, gloriously impressive, the highlight of the abbey I felt was actually the strange unfinished chapel, with ornate Manueline decoration around the archway, roofless, open to the sky with tombs around the side.

The striking unfinished chapel - sorry, didn't get round to the roof, mate

The striking unfinished chapel – sorry, didn’t get round to the roof, mate

More information can be found about Batalha at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/264

Batalha monastery, drinking fountain, places to visit, Silver Coast, Portugal

Drinking fountain

Batalha monastery, cloisters, Silver Coast, places to visit

Cloisters

 

I heartily recommend a trip to both these towns. We didn’t have time to fit in Tomar which has a rather grand convent. I’ll have to find another historian to go with, Hege has returned to Norway.

Batalha monastery, cloisters, Silver Coast, places to visit

 

Batalha gift shops

Plenty of quaint gift shops at Batalha