segunda-feira, 29 de abril de 2013

40 hour trip to Gerês

Our journey began from Porto, non-prepared and non-planned. An adventure in the middle of the winter, shared with friends, heading towards the most famous Portuguese natural park. We decided to take the national road instead of a highway, and the idea is to catch some relaxing moments and get closer into nature.

We caught the national road N14 to Braga, and then, the N101 until arriving Terras de Bouro
(already in Gerês). In Terras de Bouro we found a beautifull rough terrain. The rural life takes place; people working lands for agriculture. Quite like a travel back in time, maybe twenty, thirty years back.

From here, we went to Campo do Gerês and searched for camping sites to spend the evening.
The way from Terras de Bouro to Campo comes out to be a bit harsh, driving through tight dirty roads where you can easly get lost. Extremely curvy, wavy roads will await you, as well as uplands
and valleys.

We finally arrived to our camping park. The conditions were enough to feel comfortable
amongst nature, but without any luxury. The prices were very accessible, and the facilities,
quite cozy. At night, we spared a moment for the starry sky – in this area all the stars are
visible and fulfill the night sky in such a way that you can almost feel like it is no longer dark.

Next day, we headed north and passed through the dam of Vilarinho das Furnas. It’s was nice
idea to stop the car for a couple of minutes and concentrate in the dramatic view.

We explored the river "Homem", trying to discover ruins within Vilarinho da Furna. In 1972, the village's reservoir filled up and the lands became submerged. Sometimes, when the river level is low, the old village appears again for a while, like an ephemeral fleeting mirage.We waited to see if we could peek some part of it.
After finding the spot out, all we watched was zones with lots of organized rocks and lines that splitted the field over. We saw no ruins, nor house wrecks or structures. The village remained sunk.
Near by, we also found a mountain bike race, and stopped again to watch it for a moment. The competition was pretty difficult due to the hilly rugged terrain. We noticed that the organization took advantage of local surroundings, and settled the tracks over the ancient streets of the village.

Later, we explored the old country villages that met us along the way; all of them were
constructed in hard rock, giving the sites a look of rigidity. It’s usual to see cattle wandering on
the roads; many times we had to slow down our course or even stop the car. One of the things not-to-miss are the view-points on the top of each mountain, where you can have panoramic views and do some bird watch.

We then followed to the Roman Road, that crosses de national park. Roman remains from
70a.c can still be found there...Having a stroll along pedestrian ways, we were carried by huge rocks of greater age, which are now confused with the landscape itself.

We went back to Terras de Bouro to rest and eat. It took some time to find a proper place
because it was Sunday, but soon, a traditional bakery and grocery store with local food made
our lovely meal. Locals were very friendly and helpful.

When we left the bakery was already dark, calling time to go back to Porto...

domingo, 10 de fevereiro de 2013

Old is gold. (Around Goa)

The view of the slum near the airport in Mumbai gives us an effective shock treatment. For a boy from a small town where everything is organized, everything has a meaning, and everything seems to make sense in how things work, that vision does not make any sense. But we realized on the ground that it will make all the sense. Community is something that exists and you live on it, that cannot be bought, and we would realize that the local kindness is the answer: you always prefer to live where you know can confide, and where you can look people in the eyes, even if you´re staring at that person in the urinal in your daily pee. Mombai has Dheravi, the largest slum in Asia, where there is only one toilet per 1440 residents and no enough water supply. From above, we understand the density and fog enveloping. Nobody sleeps alone on this piece of land, and that´s the principle of community.


We arrived in Goa in the evening, at the time of burning garbage. Late afternoon, an additional haze and the smell of burning plastic. The road is a mixture of bumper cars and carnival. If we extend the arm out, we can maybe get a chicken in the arms. We learn quickly that the horn is the compass location. Honk OK Please. Everyone relies on tight distances, and the game is promising. Includes cows and dogs, rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, us and the destiny. In Vagator, Goa´s Mecca, Bean Me Up receives us: an old colonial house with a giant patio, and a good kitchen taken by Tibetans, overlooking the courtyard. The restaurant is open for everyone, with a mixed environment. The rooms are modest, with its mosquito net and adapted fans. It has a beautiful detail: near the toilet there is always a tiny tap to wash the damaged gut.


Vagator was the beginning of the allure of the Middle West: Gandhi, the independence, the sixties and the hippies, and then the trance. The stately colonial homes are an ominous shadow of the portuguese past. No longer perceives from the outside wich are in use. The plot has the typical roofs, windows worked in wood, and large protruding porches leave some pride: they did something right.

We rent bikes and do like everyone else. We got into line at the gas pump and put ourselves on the path. Beside me, a Royal Enfeld flashes me the eye: it is the Indian version of a vintage Kawasaki. As all you can use in you feet around here is flip-flops, the gears in the feet are not trusted.

All owners are patrons: our patron of these bikes occupy a house, on his way. I ask him how I could find a fossil motorcycle like that he has half buried in the garden. A woman washes her clothes in front of their small Hindu temple in the middle of the garden. He´s now barefoot and relaxes his feet on the boiling tar, as we do the business. It is curious to see how the goenses left to do some work and make only what they want. His gaze beneath the mustache tells me: "Tell them there in your text that i changed my class!" 

Looks like a eighties rural scene: we reached the beach on a rusty motorbike, we run to buy a beach towel in the store right opposite the beach, and we have cows in the beach. In addition to composing the photo, is full of rich and laisy Russians, with the usual 15-year time lag. Among the current practice of Vagator, techno and scald outweigh yoga. Vendors (here called hawkers) shout yoga and slippers with the same conviction. Proclaim up yoga but there is no garbage collection, and not even a single municipal bucket for him. Some grafitted walls in Goa say not to throw rubbish indiscriminately, but my ignorance does not allow to solve this puzzle. In fact the only waste treatment are the cows who do that: they ruminate everything. An ecological and beatified investee  from the government recently ordered to build plastic bags thinner so the cows would not die of digestive stop with bags that they could not ruminate. May fate say that children have all better lives than their parents. These sons of the soil continue to have sun, but burn plastic in the open air as their children inhale it.


Saturday night is the Saturday Night market in Anjuna. It's the flea market, with more techno. Remember the old Portuguese fairs, before coming inspectors to confiscate the disorder. The more you go up in the enclosure, which looks like a bullfight arena, the Russians increase, and the shops of things too. There are queues everywhere, buying up tickets, vouchers and tokens for anything. It is curious how the Indian queues grow without any order: if we do not pay attention, we are the last in line in a heartbeat. And it shows so well schizophrenia in large cities. In Margão i'm almost insulted by not being able to raise money as fast as they, and meanwhile, h have a few on my side to look at what I'm doing at the ATM machine.


Visiting family friends, we spent in the neighborhood of Fontainhas in Panjim, where a Bollywood videoclip is being prepared, in a colonial world scenario. There is a certain nostalgia in the air, and the site claims to have the best stores that have ever seen painted. It's smart, and notices a beautiful arrangement in typography, but sees itself as the brands have taken advantage of it. Stores whole painted with the brand, and even whole houses. A beautiful villa Kingfisher alongside a warehouse Vodafone often occupies the landscape. Even the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Imaculada Conceição seems to have been painted by a paint mark, with a gaudy blue and white. Inside, the service at the height relieves the eternal smell of late afternoon, while the guy in front of the bar peeks at the girls between the aquarium in the window.

In Mapusa, the market sells everything. Expected to see more items according to tradition but the garbage that is sold on the beach of Quarteira also arrives here. And the chickens we had in doubt are here, all over. In terms of wildlife, just have not seen live rats. When we arrived in Hampi, we first cows trapped in the courtyard of houses. Someone wrote on a wall a mobile number and drew a chicken. Here definitely they eat up everything. 

Anything that is less than 4 or 5 hours is still a regional train. To Hampi, takes 7 hours, which behaved well. What was not included in the price and we appreciate was the mini-show of transvestites with three teeth, meddling with the private parts of the boys in our compartment. Bringing notes curled in the fingers and asking for more notes, until the shame of boys is higher than a grade of 10 Rupis. Along the way, our places are upgraded and we have to pay an extra for it.


In the Hanuman temple - the monkey god of hinduism, an avatar of Shiva - someone lying inside and wrapped in a blanket is being healed by the prayers, groups of ladies that just climbed the 572 steps. A Buddhist monk tells us that the slippers stays outside. Inside, two shamans sing and play a beautiful mantra, and try also try to reverse the fragile condition of the patient. I believe in the power of music more than the chatter of ladies. Had to bite the words a bit later, when Khali, after inviting us to know his place and his miraculous plants, blesses us with a strip of orange pigment on the forehead, in the almost private temple of his village. Everyone respects him, and us too. It seems the Indian cousin of Snoopy Doggy Dog, but goes beyond. We were touched by the gesture, and we are let to go with a warm star in the heart. Overlooking the end of the world, nor the monkeys dare to change the fate of diseases.


In Arambol, plastic bottles and glass get us courteously, neatly in a corner of each house. The houses on the water remind us Meia Praia,  and their indians. The Indians here are selling saris across the street, along with the Rom ladies. Today is Sunday and the Indian pilgrimage comes to see women and drunk up. They ask again and again for a picture of us, a beautiful reason to collect, and throw themselves into the water completely drunk.

Walking a bit further we ran into exclusive beaches as we had not seen until now. Mandrem is still a good stretch of sand, here and there with touches of Costa da Caparica. The cloudy water
in the Arabian Sea is what receive us. The body is in cod mode, such is the amount of salt that the body gets after a bath, but the temperature is perfect for snorkling. From the streets we see the flower of cashew, which later we would get in the shape of Feni, similar to our aguardente. The crab is the regional snack, grilled in tandoori oven on skewers. The biryanis are a mountain of rice with an explosive filling, and samosas are sold at the beach with coconuts. The crepe filled with fruit is a splendid beginning to any boring wake up any.

Finally, we come to paradise. Paradise Beach, deserted beach, camels, Hondas skiding in the sand, the Catholic families doing picnics. The Portuguese were here and built a fort that is now a resort. No, not yet.

The guy who works at the bar is raising money to open a cafe in his homeland. Almost everyone who works in Goa is not from Goa: Nepalese, Tibetan, Himalayan and many people here spend the summer season to survive. I show him the place where I work, to give you some suggestions, and he tells me he had never seen a bunk bed. To be with a woman in a hotel room in India have to have proof of marriage, he tells me. If you have, you can now sleep peacefully. I do not know the veracity of this, because he tramples English grammar often.


And once again, the animals are dictating the rules of the game: the turtles protect the beach of Agonda, last redoubt of a small paradise protected. Hawkers are not allowed on the beach, and between us and the water there is only sand and the turtle eggs. Here we have silence like we never had until now. Privacy notices less when space is too busy: busy for people, bikes, rickshaws, noise and smoke. India is gentle, even when we are in the queue for anything and someone leans against us for no apparent reason. India is gentle even when that space is at risk of imploding.

Suketu Manuel 

terça-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2012

Our culture will not die.

Nowadays if your turn on the news on Portugal there is mainly one subject: the crisis. We live in hard times, with unprecedented cuts in our health care system, education, salaries, pensions, and everything else. In this environment of crisis, there is one subject that suffers most profoundly in this conjecture: culture and art.

Our Ministry for culture ended last year, being replaced by a small division that manages the funds that are still available for it.

Although one could predict this would have a devastating effect on our artistical and cultural environment, somethings just seem to challenge logic.


In the last years the number of festivals, exhibitions, artistic caffes/communities, independent theaters, independent bands and small record companies, flourished. A new generation of fresh creative entrepeneurs has come to life.

It is always good to remind ourselves that the hard times can also be a driving force for change and sustentability. We do more with less, we cooperate and we use original ways to conquer adversity.

For you this is also good news. If you come to Portugal - and almost anytime of the year - you'll have a range of quality options either on cinema, visual arts, music or performance. Oh.. and everything is usually very cheap.

I wrote down some examples of music and cinema festivals we had this year. There are things for every taste.

Doc Lisboa
Indie Lisboa
Estoril Film Festival
Experimenta Design
Monstra Festival
Bons Sons
Optimus Alive
CoolJazz Fest
Cascais Music Festival
World Music Festival - Sines
Festival para gente sentada
Jurassic Club Fest
Marés Vivas
Milhoes de Festa
Optimus Primavera Sound
Paredes de Coura
Sumol summer fest
Superbock Superrock
Vodafone Mexe Fest

Check it out!
And see you in a while.

Nuno Madureira

domingo, 4 de novembro de 2012

Vintage in Porto.

Our vintage tours aim mainly for the unveiling of the past traditional Portuguese culture, with all of its ancient peculiar locations and sites, guiding us on a time travel back to the beginning of the 20th century; gathering the necessary to understand the history behind the old and the new commerce still existing, from the small local business that were passed on from generations, as well as newly redrafted stores that still resist the strength of time and economy. These are the references that reports us today, what the city once was.

The outset of the journey is at Lello bookshop, acknowledged as one of the most stunning bookshops of the world. There you can find a close tie between the Anglo-Saxon culture and Oporto, throughout commercial influence, architecture and the neo-gothic design. Another obvious stop nearby, is Rua das Galerias de Paris, where you'll observe appealing examples of nouveau architecture, and some insights of the aged, yet lovely ways of the city.

It's an interesting thing to realize how the town business used to settle on its singular organization. Oporto was always known for being a mercantile spot, but nowadays with the ascending expansion of the contemporary architecture, we slowly watch this ancient atmosphere vanish before our eyes, disconnecting us from our ancestor's and their inheritance.


Along our route, we will also find a place of great matter, the iconic Arcádia, the oldest artisanal chocolate factory of the city, born in 1933. It gets easier to sense there the non-turistic feeling, comprehending a timeline since the birth of the company, to the metamorphosis of the present times. For a delightful taste of it, have yourself a classic língua de chocolate (chocolate cat tongue), or a chocolate bonbon filled with Port wine.

From there, we continue our stroll to face some charming bookscouts, antiquarian book stores that summed up, over years and years of searching activity and book trading, rare works and interests from long past editions. These places are disseminators of a profound literary culture, from the multilingual existing works, to the endless diversity of subjects, and knowledge. Plus, the low price sales from the se burrows of wisdom, makes this experience even more

The next stop is all about vintage. Rua do Almada was once a brisk, vivid,  active commercial street with all kinds of offers for buyers; special in many ways, it stands out also for being the first straight-lined street of the city, from tip to toe. Today it's luster fade into old tool shops, ulterior design companies - and more recently, new wave, alternative fashion stores - these shop have every eccentric piece of clothing you might look for, from the 50's up 'till now.

Some are almost for free, some very expensive. Anyways, the vintage you may often find is most probably connected to our political background, which was deeply influential. Portugal lived under a dictatorship that came to an end only in 1974 - the fashion design from Paris and Milan during the 60's and 70's reached us several years later, and hence, in these stores you can still find the typical outfits worn in the times of oppression.
After a glance of the oldies fashion, we skip to one of the oldest premises of the town, Januário House, a small business in the historical center, where you can discover everything about baking and confectioning traditional Portuguese pastry, still using baking forms from three generations ago.


 Moving forward, we cross now the heart of the city - Mercado do Bolhão - older than the elders that still remain there selling groceries, older than their grandparents and the ones before them, this building was the zenith for grocers and fresh food and provisions, Home and job for many of the locals. But with the wind of changes and industry demands, the traditional commerce areas like Bolhão were soon replaced for hypermarkets shopping centres. That is the reason why the market is empty and lifeless most of the time, although some people are still trying to recover it's former spirit. Nonetheless, An undeniable cultural and social reference.

Passing through the south exit of the market, ancient colonial stores begin to appear in our way. Until the end of the dictatorship regime, there were sold exclusive products from the Portuguese colonies all over the world. Forgotten in time and memory, almost no one notices them - but, if you watch mindfully the facades, the color set and the interior design, we understand the presence of distinct exotic styles, some remitting us to Africa.

After seeing three stores alike the description, we arrive the grandiose Majestic Café, a place where the elites of the 20's used to meet for social gatherings - discussing politics, art, literature, and sharing ideas; and this, of course, imported from the French style belle époque. Worth giving a look for the exquisite nouveau architecture.

One of the last stops is Praça da Batalha, former stage of the city's social activity a long time ago - there, we find an antique cellaret with fragrant wine and helpful info on the typical wines and dishes from the north. Descending the same path, we meet pastries and cafés were every Portuguese likes to have proper traditional cakes and sweets. Brasileira Café will also be found, another iconic café founded on the 20's social gatherings, famous for the uncountable artists and writers whom once attended it.

At last but not least, we find a quondam barber shop still in function, a curious place that indeed makes us enter some other century. We end our tour at Estação de São Bento, one of the most relevant places for the locals, past and present.


"My heart shall remain in Porto".
Humberto Delgado

Text by Henrique Guedes/ Pictures by Ricardo Castro
Nov 12

domingo, 2 de setembro de 2012

When in Porto,

The culture of drinking in Portugal has not changed that much, even knowing that the beer companies have embraced a poisoning atittude in the market. Yes, we drink beer, a lot, but some of our cities became open beer festivals and our streets public toilets. Even when it´s cold, we go out and drink: wine at the meals and beer after. It´s somehow moving to see how may good wines we can afford for almost no money. We are still wine lovers, and from red and white to green and rose, the choices are unstopable.

Let´s face it: we are the worst wine marketers. Our wine is still unknown, it´s not a label yet, in terms of french and italian wines are.Touriga nacional, the nobblest red cast, from Dão Wine region is one of our most  famous labels. Demarcated regions were created by Marquês de Pombal back in 18th century, to assure the quality of it.

In city supermarkets, the choices are obviously more boring and more touristy. You just need to go out a bit to the inland and you will see incredible wines at cheaper prices. You will be suprised to find in that restaurant in the middle of nothing the best wine of your life. It hapenned once in Beja to find a marvelous brand new rose, from Alentejo, joining some local migas (greasy ribs in a bread mix) and the first thing we did was to buy some bottles in the local Pingo Doce. Of course, we tried to find it in Lisbon or Porto, and no signs of it.

In Lisbon, beer it´s more popular than wine. In Porto, the obvious Porto it´s not so obvious. It´s simply not part of our daily habits. Last time i had it was in my chilhood, just to feel the taste of it while i was watching my aunts eating cookies. Once again, Tourism has left his footprint. The common scenario in Poets Hostel in Porto is seeing everyone buying the cheapest Port wine bottle and drink it from the bottle, like one litre beer. Never forget: never trust city guides, trust us.

Manuel Pacheco

segunda-feira, 13 de agosto de 2012

For your pleasure, in Lisbon.

All activities are free and all contents are original.

segunda-feira, 30 de julho de 2012

We love Tourists, and they love us.

Portugal has been for a while under the siege of incompetent national rulers, with us watching them obeying mostly their stupidity and external demands - the euro and the EC - being concerned about the fake "dream" of a communal European community. In the beginning, we assume that it looked like a great idea. We remember our school days: it´s great to live for some years with friends, sharing a 20m2 flat, but after a while you will always need your own space. The same with mother Europe and all its young siblings.

This has leaded to something that we now find it very bitter and hard to swallow - it was in fact a dream, and a dark dream. When you don´t have a political system to sustain a coin shared among other countries, there will be no coin anymore. Let´s say, money.

They simply forgot to try to answer the question: What will happen to each countries traces?

We can recognize now very easily that the boom of tourism in later years in Portugal was somehow due to a very funny feeling: the let´s travel there before it changes, and gets very expensive or unrecognizable. The crisis made that watermark in everyone´s behavior. In fact, it´s still very cheap, and we look around and we only see people struggling to survive. Meanwhile, resorts are arriving to the most hidden gems in the coast - yes, yes, who doesn't have resorts... - , to places we never thought it could happen. But we see also very happily that it´s not that easy to do whatever they can to expropriate the identity of a place that, in this case, has a lot of it.

Portugal is tough, and so far our character has been proving to be very resisting. It´s not a matter of a distinctive characteristic of our people - and how bad this may sound - but in fact there´s something there that has been working in order to keep our manners. Some may say they are rude. We are - descendents of fishermen and farmers, ready to improve their life in order to simply survive. 

We believe in a balanced tourism, but the last incompetents ruling us were desperate to sell us. A balanced tourism is the one that is releasing smoothly their gems. If only they could understand the value of a personalized service, face to face, from a friend to a friend, they would understand very fast that the massive tourism will never be right and bright, and a clever step would be to keep our beautiful piece of land taken by the young spirits that lately respected our origins: doing their best to leave everyone happy, and that will do for sure more for the future of the tourism than a closed bunker with palm trees called resort.

Gore Sassoon

We love tourism tours