Kim Gravelle of Dappled Sunlight Music

I had a little photoshoot on the Gaia side of the city this afternoon, drawing a small crowd of curious onlookers. You see, I was photographing Kim Gravelle of Dappled Sunlight Music and her unusual handmade instrument. It took her three years to build it and it has various sound-making parts, including strings and a hollow tube like a flute. You can read much more about the yet-to-be-named instrument here.

It was amusing to have people run up to me at Cais de Gaia and ask what kind of instrument it is. (No, my Portuguese was not good enough to explain that it’s made from a single piece of wood from the bottom of one of the Great Lakes, and it’s truly one-of-a-kind.) The instrument was built to be taken apart and to fit into carry-on luggage, which also means it takes time to set it up properly from its compact state.

We have another shooting location or two planned, stay tuned.

Kim Gravelle | (1)

Kim Gravelle | (2)

Kim Gravelle | (3)

Kim Gravelle | (5)

Kim Gravelle | (6)

Kim Gravelle | (7)

Kim Gravelle | (8)

Kim Gravelle | (9)

Kim Gravelle | (11)

Kim Gravelle | (10)

October 23, 2014
Album: Portugal [Autumn 2014]

Operation Porto Pooch


Mission: to find this adorable puppy a forever home. Yet unnamed, he is about four months old and was rescued from under a car in Guimarães on Sunday. He’s a street dog — no chip or collar — but extremely good-natured around people and other animals. I took him out for an hour and a half today and he didn’t bark at all, didn’t pull on his leash, and was unbothered by traffic or other dogs, even the ones barking at him. This is one chilled-out pooch!






It appears he’s been bitten by another animal (a dog, mostly likely, but we’ll never know), but he’s been attended to by vets and the wounds he’s sustained don’t require stitches. The injuries are a bit grotesque, though, and for this reason I’ve chosen to hide those pictures by default and you have to click to view them.

I'M TOUGH, show them all...

Right now he’s being fostered in Porto and the hunt is on to find a permanent home. He has the sweetest disposition and would love to be a part of a family… yours? Please get in touch if you live in the Porto area and would like to meet him. I’m sure he will win you over!






Portuguese For Everyone

Cartaz 2014

I got a call this morning near lunchtime. It went something like this:

“I’m speaking to Gail? You registered in Portuguese language classes.”

“Yes, weren’t they supposed to start in September?”

“Actually, they started yesterday–“


“–but we were only notified on Friday that classes could begin, and we didn’t have enough time to reach all of the students. Can you come today at 1:30?”

“Yes, I think I can make it on time but I need to hurry up.”

There was some major skedaddling since I only had an hour and a half to be there, and I was expecting my friends to arrive from Morocco today, too. In the scramble I forgot my notebook and at the times in class when everyone was scribbling away studiously taking notes, I discreetly twiddled my thumbs.

I also discovered that while I’m not the oldest student in the class, I am the only person in her 40s. How do I know? After a full class participation round of “Quantos anos tem?” (“How old are you?”), when I also found out that I’m around the 10th percentile for remembering numbers in Portuguese.

The classes take place in an art school, which makes for an interesting setting — art pieces everywhere — and crowds of students young enough to be my children. (What a thought.) I took a couple of photos with my phone, but felt no real urgency to take more since I will have these views nearly every weekday (except Thursday) for the next three months.

Let’s see how Portuguese I sound in three months.

My Portuguese language class started this week. It's at an art school.

Happy Un-Birthday To Me

Happy Un-Birthday To Me

This is was a most delicious marzipan cake from a konditorei in Dusseldorf, that was flown via RyanAir carry-on to Porto and given to me along with a great big bar of marzipan chocolate last week. No, it’s not my birthday but that’s just a tiny detail, right?

Thing is, the Germans are pretty superstitious about celebrating birthdays on any other day… it is bad luck to mention birthdays before the actual day (not kidding!). Hence, I threw in a big UN in front of the message so as not to beckon any bad karma on Casa Aguiar as a result of this cultural faux-pas. Also, some careful slicing.

Much cake — and marzipan — was enjoyed by all, guilt-free.

October 18, 2014
Album: Portugal [Autumn 2014]

Guimarães and Braga: A Preview

Guimarães, Portugal (5)

Toural Square, Guimarães

Casa Aguiar rode this late October heatwave out of town to the north — namely, the medieval cities of Guimarães and Braga. I’d been to Guimarães briefly before, seven and some months ago, but the weather was mostly unfavourable while we were there; today was a do-over. I was keen on visiting Braga for the first time, too, and both are close enough that we could tour both in one day. We also brought our weekend couchsurfer with us, a Canadian guy (our first Canadian couchsurfer as Casa Aguiar!) who’s travelled to — get this — 135 countries. (I think Portugal is #136?) I’m no slouch in the travel department, but that number boggles my mind.

Anyway, this is a preview of today’s photos, in mostly chronological order starting with Guimarães and continuing on with Bom Jesus do Monte (a sanctuary on a mountain overlooking Braga), then Braga centre.

Guimarães, Portugal (4)

Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal

Guimarães, Portugal (1)

Guimarães Castle

Guimarães, Portugal (2)

Oliveira Square, Guimarães

Guimarães, Portugal (3)

vintage VW in Guimarães

Bom Jesus do Monte outside of Braga (Tenões, Portugal)

just part of the staircase at Bom Jesus do Monte

Bom Jesus do Monte outside of Braga (Tenões, Portugal)

Bom Jesus do Monte

Bom Jesus do Monte outside of Braga (Tenões, Portugal)

autumn at Bom Jesus do Monte

Braga, Portugal


Braga, Portugal

autumn sunset in Braga

Braga, Portugal


October 19, 2014
Album: Guimarães + Braga, Portugal

Postcards From Porto: A Picture Project


I took this picture last Saturday from the top floor of the Centro Português de Fotografia (Portuguese Centre for Photography). It was taken through some jail bars and a thick pane of glass, so I had to give the image some treatment to make it look like I had a clear shot. And then, after this mysterious artistic fiddling and tweaking process comparable to a cook alternately tasting the food and throwing something else in the pot to enhance the flavour, the picture came out like this. It looks postcard-esque, doesn’t it?

Anyway, when titling this post I started thinking about Christmas and Christmas things and Porto-centric Christmas things. And I came up with an idea, a little project that combines photography, Porto, handwriting, and doing something nice to brighten someone’s day. I’m still in the brainstorming stage, but I’m thinking along the lines of offering to send a customized postcard to someone (as a surprise), made by my little postcard printer with any photo in my Portugal collection.

Anyone can write to me and nominate the postcard recipient but it has to be someone else. It should be a surprise to the recipient, someone who would be tickled to receive a personalized postcard from Portugal.

It could be your grandma, or a child, a friend, or a long-term hospital patient — anyone who you think would like one. I can even print their name against the image on the front of the postcard (“To _____ From Portugal”). I’ll set up a form that feeds into a Google doc with all the information (message, address, image link). As far as quantities go, I’m thinking it should be only one recipient per person, and I’ll cap it off at…20? 30? No time limit, I would just keep going until I reach the quantity limit. I would handwrite your message (here’s a sample of my handwriting), and it doesn’t have to be in English but I’m going to write your message exactly so there can’t be any mistakes because I won’t know!

I’m still working out the details in my head, but until I make a proper announcement I’d love to know who would be interested in participating. You can be anonymous, of course, and send a message to me privately instead of commenting. Whatever photos I take of the postcards won’t have any personal information showing.

I’m always typing these days, it will be such a great handwriting exercise, too!

What’s For Lunch, Porto?

When Paulo and I had lunch in Porto last Saturday, I took a picture of this sign to give blog readers an idea of what the people of Porto consume for almoço (lunch). Little did I know this sign would work against me! But, I’m getting ahead of myself here…

At first I thought, excellent! This sign has pictures, which is good since I won’t have photos of anything beyond what we ordered. Except here on the left sign, starting at the top, we have caracóis, or snails. Problem: it’s a Lisbon thing. I don’t know why, but the northerners don’t eat snails. In fact, I don’t recall snails on menus in Central Portugal, either. I couldn’t tell you where the snail trail begins but if you have a hankering for them, head to Lisbon or further south.

Secondly, moelinhas, or chicken gizzards. Yes, they are a thing and Paulo’s a fan. Me, they’re not my first choice but I eat them and have cooked them at home. At the same time I also understand that for many people, chicken gizzards are about as appealing as a knuckle sandwich.

Thirdly, pimentos padron, which I showed you in the Saturday post, is a Galician dish and rare to see in Porto, even though we are relatively close by. The pimentos were tasty and I wish they were more popular here, but in the meantime I’m going to order them wherever they pop up because it’s still easier than driving to Galicia.

But there’s more on this sign: typos! Actually, I don’t know if it’s a typo or a word mix-up, but the sign says at the bottom “Don’t be full by these public works” while I’m sure that’s supposed to read “Don’t be fooled by these public works”, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense. Either way, the sign is there to assure people that they’re open for business despite their proximity to a construction zone (a hotel is getting built next door).

But without further ado, here’s what we ate:

The francesinha is a Porto dish, but it’s also appearing on menus in Lisbon and the rest of the country where it was previously ignored. A francesinha is obviously something you would not eat regularly because your arteries would revolt. But, like the Canadian sister dish poutine, it sure hits the spot if you’re hungry. This was my introduction to it.

This was my dish, Bacalhau à Braga, which is heavy on the cebolas (onions). God, I love onions.

Lastly, we have the bolo de bolacha, my dessert of choice and the basis of my quest to find the best one. This one doesn’t even crack the Top 10 (too dry!) so I won’t be ordering it next time. Too bad because it looks so good!

October 11, 2014
Album: Portugal [Autumn 2014]

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