Thursday- Lingering look at Windows- week 21

I’m determined to be on time with this challenge.  Truthfully I don’t have much choice because tomorrow I’m off to Nottingham, to attend a Steampunk book launch with my daughter.  You can imagine what fun that’s going to be!

Last week I shared a few Polish windows with you, so it’s only fair that this week I do the same for Portugal, don’t you think?

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You can pause the gallery to read the captions if you hover over it.  Clever, huh?

But my very best Portuguese window has to be this one.  Anyone who has walked through this gate and looked up will recognise it- fabulous Porta da Vila, in Obidos.

It's in the town walls of Obidos.

So what do you think, Poland or Portugal?  I really can’t choose because I love them both.  Many thanks to Dawn at Lingering Visions for hosting this challenge.  Don’t forget to check out the other entries, and maybe add one of your own.

I guess it’ll have to be English windows next week?  We’ll see.

Sunday Post : People

“People.  People who need people, are the luckiest people in the world…”  I love this Barbara Streisand song.  Here I go again.  It’s sing-along-a-Jo Sunday and I’m taking part in Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post, while gently humming People to myself.

The funny thing is that though I consider myself a “people person”, when I saw Jake’s theme for this week I immediately thought “oh,no!” – I don’t have any people photos.  I’m one of those who waits patiently for someone to turn the corner or move out of range before I take my shot.  I don’t photograph well myself.  The smile never looks natural.  And when it comes to capturing someone on camera, I simply don’t have what it takes to draw out the best of them.  A beach or a tree don’t scowl at you, do they?  So I’m quite envious when I see shots full of character and personality.

Well- you didn’t think you were going to get out of it that easily, did you?  I suddenly remembered when it is that I’m more than happy to point my camera at people : the many occasions when people are lost in celebrations and abandon themselves quite happily to the moment.  Here are just a few:

Crowds line the streets, and even the rooftops, for the Festa dos Tabuleiros at Tomar.

Not an empty balcony or window frame in sight.

Impossible to take this shot without people in it! The flower-filled streets of Tomar.

Drummers at the Medieval Fair in Obidos

See what I mean? He was definitely scowling at me!

Come to think of it, they weren’t so happy either.

Lots of smiley faces on this Carnaval float at Paderne, though.

Not sure if these guys at Loule Carnaval come into the category of “people”?

Or these!

But they certainly know how to have a good time at Alte’s Folk Festival

I even slipped over the border into Spain to watch people having fun there.

So maybe I do take a few photographs of people, after all.  Many thanks to Jake for reminding me.

I won’t be able to join in with the challenge for the next couple of weeks because I’ll be pointing the camera at bridges in Porto and vineyards in the Douro valley.  I’m sure you’ll all keep Jake company, and I’ll find time to see what you’ve been up to when I get home.

Wonder what I’ll be singing next Sunday morning?  I won’t have Jake to prompt me.  I’ll leave you with some lovely entries from this week’s challenge.  View the others on the links or the flying dragon logo.

Picture the World!

Who knows what will land in your inbox next?  I had a lovely surprise this week, courtesy of Lucy Dodsworth of On The Luce.

Lucy has one of the best travel blogs I know, and always keeps her ear to the ground for what’s going on in the travel world.  So it’s no surprise to find that she was the first person to provide a representative photo to display on the Picture the World Project.

The Departure Board website have a great initiative to create a gallery of wonderful photos, one from each country in the world.  It’s a great honour for me to be nominated to provide a photo from my collection to represent Portugal.  I dearly love the country, so hope that I can do it justice.

I’ve been through my photo albums a time or two, and have finally settled on this one.

Porta da Vila, Obidos

Everywhere in Portugal you can observe these beautiful blue and white azulejo tiles, though seldom used to better effect than in the town gate at Obidos.  Most frequently they tell religious stories in churches, Sao Lourenco in the Algarve a stunning example.  Railway stations are common places to find them- Sao Bento at Oporto has some of the best known.  Sometimes they relate to life at sea, or to agricultural scenes from Portuguese life.

Modern homes, too, often have tiled panels displayed, and they are easily obtained from garden centres. (we have two in our patio)  It’s a nice tradition to perpetuate.

Of course, I considered many other photos, and you might like to see some I rejected.

Tile fronted houses in Tavira

This is my personal favourite, but I discarded it because I felt that this style of housing, designed in part to keep the houses cool, though fabulously decorative, is more representative of the Algarve than of Portugal as a whole.

Faro roof tops from the bell tower of the cathedral

I love this one too, with it’s wonderfully shabby walls and the tessoura roof, but again I felt it more typified the Algarve than Portugal as a whole.

Praca do Giraldo, Evora

This one focuses on historic Evora, in Portugal’s Alentejo.  Cobbled streets are seen everywhere in Portugal, and regularly painstakingly renewed.  There’s a beautiful church in the photo.  In this religious country even tiny villages have a lovely place of worship.  The mix of Moorish and modern architecture is also a common sight in Portugal, nowhere more beguiling than in Evora.

The pelourinho (pillory) in Elvas

This one in Elvas was a strong contender.  It has cobbles, washing hanging in the street, and of course the Moorish connection.

Back street fonte in Sintra

Finally, this one, stumbled upon in Sintra, and again typical of the azulejo panelled features you can find everywhere in Portugal.

So what do you think- did I make the right choice?  The Departure Board advised me that they prefered Landscape photographs, so that narrowed it down a bit.

It’s also my task to nominate two people to submit photos of another country.  There are so many to choose from but I’m passing this on to Cathy of A nomad in the land of Nizwa for her wonderful depictions of life in Oman, and to Andrew Petcher of Have Bag, Will Travel as we all know how passionate he is about Greece.

If you have a great shot which you think typifies any of the world’s countries, you too can submit your entry to Picture the World.  Go on- you know you want to!

Seven Super Shots

On a grey, murky Easter Sunday afternoon, after a rather nice dinner had been eaten and washed up, I decided to focus on my next challenge.  Julie Dawn Fox kindly tagged me to take part in HostelBookers Seven Super Shots.  You can see what Julie made of the challenge by clicking on her link above.  Quite appropriate that there’s a chocolate Johnny Depp to be viewed.  I didn’t get any Easter eggs.  Did you?

A photo that takes my breath away

The Ria Formosa from Cacela Velha

You might know that I’d be starting in the Algarve.  I have more beautiful shots from there than just about any place I’ve ever been- not surprising really.  This is a good time to point out that many of the photos on my blog are the handiwork of my husband Michael (he would say the better ones!)  As we sometimes share a camera, it can get confusing, but for the purposes of this post I have to stick to photos that I’ve taken.

The above shot comes from the very first time I witnessed the natural beauty of the Eastern Algarve, in the tiny hamlet Cacela Velha.  It really was breathtaking, and a moment I love to recapture.

A photo that makes me laugh, or smile

James goes paddling

This is one of many engaging photos of my son James that make me smile.  He was a charming toddler and easily found entertainment wherever in the world he happened to be.  Water was inevitably a success.  This was on Rhodes.  Can’t you tell?

A photo that makes me dream

North coast of Madeira from Porto Moniz

I’m fairly sure that this is one of Michael’s photos- oh dear, you’d better disqualify me!  It encompasses everything that I love in a photo- water, mountains, blue sky.  I thought Madeira one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  Cascades of flowers everywhere, distinctive buildings, fabulous scenery and wonderful levada walking- most definitely a place to dream.

A photo that makes me think

Part of the wall in the Jewish Cemetery, Krakow

I was very moved by this section of wall, constructed from the headstones wilfully destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War.  I have been too cowardly to visit Auschwitz.  Just the descriptions of the teeth, hair and glasses massed in cabinets has me in bits.  I really can’t make myself go there.  But Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter of Kraków, speaks to me of the past, and I was intrigued by the synagogues I saw there.  The area is now quite tourist orientated, but if you are able you should experience one of the free walking tours that are available.

A photo that makes my mouth water

A "quejinhos do ceu"

I’m not much of a foodie and I rarely remember to take any photos of food- I just eat it!  I was delighted with this exquisite little cake though.  I was in the small village of Constancia in Central Portugal, at the junction of the rivers Zezere and Tejo.  It’s a lovely peaceful spot for canoeists and nature lovers (unless you time it to arrive on a Youth Festival weekend, as I did)

In the tiny village square with its pelourinho (ornate pillory), visible from our hotel bedroom, we lingered for a coffee at the end of the day.  I have a fondness for the pastel de nata (custard tart), widely available in the Algarve, but the proprietor, Luis, advised me that they only had the local delicacy, quejinhos do ceu.  What a find!  It looked as good as it tasted- a strong hit of almonds.  Strictly for sweet toothes!

A photo that tells a story

Mummers at Grassington Dickensian Festival

Not the best of photos, but a memorable occasion.  The Dickensian Festival in the Yorkshire Dales village of Grassington is one not to miss if you’re in the area in December.  Together with nearby Skipton village, festivals are staged over 3 successive weekends.

The whole is in aid of local charity and you are quite likely to be offered “a kiss for 20p” from a nice-looking young shepherd. (no, that’s NOT my main reason for going!)  The Mummers have many a tale to tell, and if you’re into audience participation they’ll happily include you.  The day closes with a procession through the streets, following Joseph and Mary as they search for shelter at the three village inns.

The photo that I am most proud of (aka worthy of the National Geographic)

Porta da Vila, Obidos

I’m out of my depth here as I am no technician when it comes to photography- I just know what I like and do my best to capture it.  You knew I’d end with Portugal, didn’t you?  I’m going to give you two to chose from, since that one in Madeira wasn’t really mine.  That way I can legitimately claim seven.  The Porta da Vila is part of the town walls of Obidos – another place you don’t want to miss if you have the opportunity.  I was there at the time of a Medieval Fair, which really added to the atmosphere, but the liqueur Ginja de Obidos, served in chocolate cups, makes it a great venue at any time of year.

Sunset in Cabanas

I can never resist a sunset and am often up on our roof terrace at the end of the day, listening to the birds and watching the changing sky.  The above shot was taken in February, during an evening stroll along the boardwalk in Cabanas, just a few miles east of Tavira, in the Algarve.  I like to think I’m getting better at taking photos, but in reality I’m very hit and miss.

So I’ll pass on the challenge to someone I know can do much better:

Francine in Retirement

Fun and Fabulousness

Just a Smidgeon

Bringing Europe Home

Fabulous 50s

I am knocked out by the photography on all your blogs and I don’t know how you’ll pick just seven.  You also need to tweet your post to HostelBookers to let them know you’ve taken part at #7SuperShots.  Don’t forget to check out Julie’s Johnny Depp!

Obidos – chocolate cups and pure theatre!

There can be few settings better suited to a Medieval Fair than Obidos- a charismatic walled town, suspended in Central Portugal in a seeming time warp.  Given to his bride Isabel as a wedding present by King Dinis in 1282, this is one very special small town. 

Porta da Vila

Porta da Vila

Passing under the Porta da Vila, the main gate, your eye is drawn upwards to a balcony nestled beneath an arch full of azulejos.  These characteristic blue and white tiles are seen everywhere in Portugal, though rarely to better effect.

I had great expectations for my visit but was quite unprepared for what transpired. I was enchanted and completely drawn into the atmosphere of the place.  It came as no surprise that maidens with floral crowns wandered the streets, nor that tabards and hose adorned a majority of males.

Banners overhead knitted the narrow streets together.  Tiny shops beckoned and beguiled.  

By the castle walls a booth had been erected. The realisation dawned that I had walked into a  Medieval Fair!  7 euros could buy admission to an evening of entertainment, inside the Castelo, from 5pm till midnight.  According to the programme, there was a parade at 6pm.  Much jingling of horses and good natured banter preceded it.

Finally a disdainful looking knight on horseback wheeled around, summoning his minions.  A flare of trumpets and the steady beat of drums and they were off. The hunting dogs looked regal. A juggler and jester entertained.  Threading through the narrow streets they circled the town, pausing frequently to engage with their audience.

Around the castle, barbecues and food stalls smoked and sizzled. The lights came up as day faded into warm evening.  The castle stood tall behind the courtyard.

Courtly dancers took to the stage, bowing and dipping to medieval strains. There was Falconry and Jousting.  Periodically the drummers leapt in to heighten the atmosphere with their furious thrumming.  But unquestionably the star of the show was our jester friend, “the fool”, with an hour or more of silliness and audience involvement.  A Portuguese Tommy Cooper, he transcended language, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand.  My sides were aching at his antics.  Midnight came all too soon.

A sweet treat- Ginja d’Obidos Still absorbing sights and sound, it was time to return to the hotel.  I planned on a chocolate treat to round off the evening.  At intervals along Rua Direita, small counters were set up.  On each, delicate, diminutive cups of chocolate awaited the cherry brandy liqueur known as Ginja d’Obidos.  First you drink the liqueur, then you eat the chocolate cup.  Inspiration!

And finally…

Casa de Relogio

I stayed at the Casa de Relogio, just outside of the town walls, and was made warmly welcome by the owner.  Our hire car was parked on a postage stamp of space outside our bedroom window. (Rua de Graca, Obidos 2510-999)The towns architecture is quirky and interesting. On a fine day you can walk around the ancient walls, peering down or off to the horizon.

I can highly recommend the restaurant O Conquistador.  The  warm bread and cheese to start was exceptional and I loved my lombo do porco no forno with rice, peas and wonderful roast chestnuts.  The javali (wild boar) also got the thumbs up, and the scrumptious house red was served in earthenware mugs. (Rua Josefa d’Obidos tel. 262 959 528)

The Medieval Fair takes place in July.  Another highlight of the town’s year is the Chocolate Festival in March.  Both children and adults can take part in culinary adventures with chocolate, feast upon chocolate and cakes, and wonder at the remarkable display of chocolate sculptures.

Whenever you choose to visit, I think you’ll find that Obidos has a magic all it’s own.