Sunset On The First Day Of Winter In Porto

Foz do Douro (Porto, Portugal)

New season, new album! These are a few of the first pics from today with our couchsurfer, featuring Paulo and Ice the Wonder Dog. Last year we were hiking in Drave before Christmas, this year it’s even closer to it and warm enough to eat choriço assado outside.

Foz do Douro (Porto, Portugal)

December 21, 2014
Album: Portugal [Winter 2014/2015]

Coimbra Bathed In Sunset Gold

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (3)

I took these photos in Coimbra two weeks ago, around the courtyard outside the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro. I didn’t actually visit the museum, because the light was just too good to go indoors both times I went by. This was also one of those situations when two or three photos seemed inadequate to capture the magic of light and shadows. This is a selection, you’ll find more in the Coimbra album.

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (2)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (1)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (4)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (5)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (6)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (7)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (8)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (9)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (10)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (11)

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro (Coimbra, Portugal) (12)

December 6, 2014
Album: Coimbra, Portugal [Dec 2014]

Flashback Friday: Sagrada Familia, 2004

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia – April 23, 2004

Have you been to Barcelona? Want to see what Sagrada Familia looked like more than 10 years ago? This is it. (Excuse the terrible photos. I’m still cringing, 10 years later.) I’ve been back to Barcelona but *@!% things happened and I didn’t get a chance to return to Sagrada Familia to take pictures of the progress.

Album: Spain 2004

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia – April 23, 2004

I went to the official website to see how things are going. I don’t have any interior shots to compare, so I viewed the aerials. Hmmm, still lots of cranes.

I went to Flickr to view some newer exterior shots. These were all taken on August 23, 2014 by Ferran Pestaña and have Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licenses:

Sagrada Familia 69

Sagrada Familia by Ferran Pestaña

Sagrada Familia 64

Sagrada Familia by Ferran Pestaña

Sagrada Familia 60

Sagrada Familia by Ferran Pestaña

It’s been under construction nearly 133 years, but La Sagrada Família is a long way from being finished. Gaudí died 88 years ago, but his vision carries on. From the official website:

EXPIATORY CHURCH

The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is a work on a grand scale which was begun on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar (1828-1901). At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea.

The building is in the centre of Barcelona, and over the years it has become one of the most universal signs of identity of the city and the country. It is visited by millions of people every year and many more study its architectural and religious content.

It has always been an expiatory church, which means that since the outset, 132 years ago now, it has been built from donations. Gaudí himself said: “The expiatory church of La Sagrada Família is made by the people and is mirrored in them. It is a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.” The building is still going on and could be finished some time in the first third of the 21st century.

Check out the chronology: to date, Sagrada Família has managed to survive the sudden death of its chief architect (Antoni Gaudí died in June 1926 after getting run over by a tram), two world wars, the Spanish Civil War, an arsonist, chronic need to fundraise, and a threat to its stability brought on by the recent addition of high-speed trains running below. Estimates for completion are always a moving target, but it’s optimistically slated for 2026, a hundred years after Gaudí’s death.

I’ve written before about churches taking a long time to build — Hallgrímskirkja in particular, but that was “only” 38 years in the making. Sagrada Família, at 132 and counting, is a building project of epic proportions! Hopefully I’ll get back there soon and give you a photo update myself, with better pictures.

Christmas Lights In Maia

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal (1)

Christmas light displays are a big thing in Portugal, not just in the bigger cities but in the smaller towns and villages, too. It’s not the scale of the monster light displays at some American houses where you’ll see decorating taken to the extreme, but it’s worth getting out the camera for. This is what I managed to squeeze in between seeing the World Press Photo 14 exhibit and catching a bus home.

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal (2)

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal (3)

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal (4)

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal (5)

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal (6)

Christmas lights in Maia, Portugal (7)

December 17, 2014
Album: Portugal [Autumn 2014]

World Press Photo 14

World Press Photo 2014, Forum Maia (7)

I’ve written about World Press Photo before, blogging three years of exhibits at Brookfield Place in Toronto when I worked across the street at Royal Bank Plaza (200 Bay).

World Press Photo 2009
World Press Photo 2010
World Press Photo 2011

This annual photojournalism exhibit shows in 100 venues in 45 countries, but I was still surprised to find out (via search on the World Press Photo website) that here in Portugal there is no Porto venue, only Maia. Tomorrow is the final day of the exhibit, so I scurried over to Fórum da Maia to check out this year’s installment.

If you have never seen a World Press Photo exhibit, I would recommend not eating directly beforehand. Apart from technical skill, the photos in the exhibit are curated for emotional impact and if you are particularly sensitive, it could impact your ability to keep the latest meal down. The exhibit covers world events of which natural disasters and warfare are typically the most graphic, but I also find the man-made disasters make my stomach turn, too — in 2013 that would include the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Savar, Bangladesh, where the death toll reached 1,129.

But one of the first set of photos I viewed hit much closer to home for me: Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The photo above by Philippe Lopez of France carries the following description:

18 November 2013
Tolosa, Leyte, Philippines

Survivors carry religious images, ten days after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the central Philippines. One of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, Haiyan raged through 47 provinces, causing immense destruction. Over a million houses were damaged, half of them totally destroyed, and more than 4 million people were displaced. Large areas were left without electricity or an adequate water supply for weeks, and the devastation of infrastructure made food distribution and medical services difficult. Many people made their way to less-affected areas, such as the capital Manila, and some cities reported a near doubling of their populations.

The exhibit covers more than headline news, however, there are human interest stories and portraiture (although to a lesser extent), the natural world and wildlife, too. No need to bring airline-grade sick bags to World Press Photo, it’s merely a very small caution about a certain section of pictures. The rest are more thought-provoking than nausea-provoking and definitely worth at least an hour of viewing time. But for heaven’s sake, save your appetite for later!

World Press Photo 2014, Forum Maia (5)

World Press Photo 2014, Forum Maia (6)

World Press Photo 2014, Forum Maia (4)

World Press Photo 2014, Forum Maia (3)

World Press Photo 2014, Forum Maia (2)

World Press Photo 2014, Forum Maia (1)

December 17, 2014
Album: Portugal [Autumn 2014]

Flying Books Over Rua Das Flores, Porto

Flying Books Over Rua Das Flores, Porto (5)

Last weekend an art installation went up in Porto called “Livros Voadores” or “Flying Books” that suspends lines of books over Rua das Flores, and I was curious about the logistics of this until today when I happened to pass under it. Turns out the books are wrapped in plastic to keep them open and protected from the elements, and en masse they do look like birds in flight. Apparently the art installation by Cultureprint is the wrap-up of a book theme for 2014 called “Reading is Flying”.

I don’t know how long the books will remain suspended, but hopefully long enough for me to take another round of photos in more favourable light. Today started out with a much bluer sky, but it turned white by the time I reached the “street of flowers”, which calls for another swipe if the books keep flying.

Flying Books Over Rua Das Flores, Porto (1)

Flying Books Over Rua Das Flores, Porto (2)

Flying Books Over Rua Das Flores, Porto (3)

Flying Books Over Rua Das Flores, Porto (4)

December 16, 2014
Album: Portugal [Autumn 2014]

Chestnuts, Your Charm Eludes Me

castanhas (chestnuts)

After a year of living in Portugal, I’m beginning to think the Portuguese suffer from a case of food masochism. The kind of food they seem to enjoy the most is either not local — BACALHAU, ANYONE? — or is of the utmost inconvenience to harvest and/or prepare. Or all of the above.

I think of this in the run-up to Christmas because bacalhau is served at this time in the least interesting manner possible — boiled, with cabbage — even while there are tastier ways to prepare it. Why is this??? Granted, boiling is faster than preparing, say, bacalhau com natas (creamed codfish with potatoes), but why dress down the bacalhau instead of dressing it up at Christmas? This seems counterintuitive to me unless there’s a religious reason, such as taking the ego of this national dish down a notch for humility…? I’m grasping at straws here to find a reason, as you can see.

Another Portuguese food mystery I grapple with is the appeal of a nut that is SO DIFFICULT TO ACCESS and PREPARE.

Castanhas are encased in this barbed wire of nature, spiky balls that just won’t let go of the fruit! We use this hammer tool to coax them out of the shell without injuring fingers, and meanwhile the ground is a minefield, covered in tiny spikes. Kneeling in these requires kneepads or, more commonly, bending over to pick up the chestnuts. It doesn’t take long before this prolonged bending starts to do a number on your back. On the second day of harvesting, my back preservation method was to grab the floor mats from the car and use them to kneel on while picking chestnuts off the ground with a pair of gardening gloves, all the while wondering ‘What is the big deal with chestnuts?!?!’

harvesting chestnuts in Penela da Beira (Viseu, Portugal)

Paulo harvesting chestnuts in the family orchard in Penela da Beira

That’s not even the end of it. Now you have a bag of chestnuts and a bad back. But alas, you can’t just pop a chestnut into the mouth like a strawberry (another food that’s a pain to harvest but at least there’s the reward of immediate consumption). No, with chestnuts there’s a whole process of preparation which includes using a knife to partly open the chestnut, then roasting it, and then peeling it.

Am I missing something here? Believe me, I’m earnestly trying to understand why on earth people go to all this trouble for chestnuts. I’ve even asked around for favourite ways to serve it. If you are a fan of the chestnut, I would love to know YOUR favourite way to eat this food that seems to do everything in its power not to be eaten!

castanhas (chestnuts)

They look like brains, don’t they?

October 31, 2014 / December 13, 2014
Album: Portugal [Autumn 2014]
Album: Penela da Beira [Autumn 2014]