Monthly Archives: February 2018

A Top Ten List About the White Storks of Portugal’s Algarve

I have been intrigued by all the white storks we have seen in the Algarve and have been photographing them. I wondered why there are so many.  So I did a little research.  Here are the top ten things I learned about the storks of the Algarve.

  1. Males and females look almost the same although the male is sometimes a little larger.  Storks are monogamous and partner for life. Males and females build their nests together.
  2. Storks don’t sing like many other birds however they do make sounds by clattering their beaks. They open and close their beaks quickly making a very loud kind of knocking sound.
  3. Storks from all over Europe that used to migrate to Africa flock to the Algarve now and stay here all year round. This is partly because climate change has brought milder weather but also because storks no longer need to travel to warmer points to find the lizards, frogs, worms, snakes, insects and fish that used to be the mainstays of their diet. Now they eat at landfills and from people’s garbage cans which provide them with junk food all year round.
  4. Their nests are enormous and built on top of chimneys, telephone poles, church steeples and in trees. Portuguese law protects the nests which are made of sticks, branches, grass and twigs. The same nests are used year after year. It is believed some have been in continuous use for a hundred years. 
  5. The female lays three to five eggs in April and babies become independent after three months. Both parents share the tasks of sitting on the eggs, feeding the babies and protecting and nurturing them.
  6. Storks can live for as long as thirty-five years.
  7. Storks are social creatures gathering in huge flocks of up to two hundred here in the Algarve.
  8. An old Hans Christian Anderson story called The Storks  popularized the idea that storks bring babies into the world. According to German folklore storks found babies in caves and swamps and brought them to couples in a basket held in their beaks. Sometimes the babies were dropped down chimneys. Greek and Roman myths feature storks as examples of devoted parents caring for their children and in turn also as devoted children caring for their aging parents.
  9. The long broad wings of the stork with a span of up to 185 centimetres allow it to soar gracefully through the sky. 
  10. Some 14,000 storks are thought to make their home in the Algarve area of Portugal

Other posts…………..

Finding the Elusive Quetzal in Costa Rica

The Dawn Chorus

Dave Driedger Bird Detective

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What’s Your Place Like?

One of my blog readers has been asking me to describe our temporary home here in Praia da Luz, Portugal.  So today I thought I would give you a little tour. our building in praia da luzThis is how our building looks from the outside.  We are on the fourth floor. We were taking the elevator up to our apartment when we first got here but since our friend Rudy arrived we have been taking the stairs because he’s trying to whip us into better shape. 

kitchenThis our cozy kitchen.  Rudy is at the sink because he does all the dishes, takes out the garbage and recycling, and always sets the table nicely for each meal. dinner with ann and ernieHere is the kitchen from another angle when we were entertaining guests from Winnipeg.sunrise praia da luzThis is the view from the kitchen window at sunrise. dave in our livingroomRudy has just made Dave’s morning coffee and served it to him in the livingroom. diningroom praia da luzI have set up a little work area for myself at the end of our enormous diningroom table. with werner and adeliaHere’s how the space looked one evening when we were entertaining guests for dinner. our bedroomThis is our bedroom with a large bathroom across the hall.  Rudy has a similar bedroom with a small bathroom attached. third bedroomWe also have a third bedroom. Sometimes either Dave or I go to sleep here when the other person is snoring too much. happy hour on balconeyWe actually have three balconies. This one has a table and chairs and provides a lovely view of the ocean for happy hour. In all truthfulness however the day I took this photo was the only one when it was warm enough to have happy hour outside. 

church in praia da luzOur building is just across the street from the local church where we attended services one Sunday and…….one block from the oceanwe are just one short block from the beach promenade. 

So that’s where we’ve been hanging our hats for the last three weeks. We will be here another couple weeks before heading off for points north of Lisbon for the final leg of our stay in Portugal.  

Other posts…………

House with a View and So Much More

Sleeping Under the Eaves

A House Built From Grain Elevators

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Thing 1- Wired For Story- Portugal Style

My friend Rudy who is staying here in Portugal with us for three weeks likes to tease me about my ‘eight things.’  Everyday I try to do eight things to explore and hone and cultivate my craft as a writer.  Thing One is to read a chapter in a book about writing or listen to a video from a course about writing.  I just finished the book Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. It was recommended by Gabriele, a member of my writer’s group.  Here are my top take aways!

 1. Story telling trumps beautiful writing every time! It is important to write well but you must also spin a story that  hooks your readers. 

Our tour guide in Lisbon was a fantastic storyteller

2. Your story needs to tell us something about what it means to be human and how humans react to circumstances beyond their control. 

The beggars in Lisbon deal with their difficult circumstances in different ways

3. You should be able to sum up your story in one short sentence. 

Cramped by Hunger– the short description of this painting by Portuguese artist Marcelino Vespeira tells such a sad story.  

4. Your story should change the way your reader sees the world. 

Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator changed the way the people of Europe saw the world.

5. Every detail in your story should be specific, tangible and visceral. 

Smelling the pine on a hike in Portugal. Your story must have sensory details

6. There must be CONFLICT and it should begin to sprout on the first page of your story. 

There has been plenty of conflict in Portugal’s history

7. Everything that could go wrong for your protagonist should go wrong. 

As we made the trek to our apartment in Lisbon we faced many obstacles

8. There has to be a kind of ticking clock built into your story that make the dangers your protagonist is facing clear and present and intimate. 

I felt a clear sense of danger when this eagle flew right by my ear

9.  The response and advice of others is important and helpful as you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite your story.

Many of the people we have been getting together with here in Portugal read my blog and I love hearing their responses.

10. You will need INCREDIBLE determination and patience to get your story published. 

The cobble stone artists of Portugal require tremendous determination and patience to complete their work

Other posts…………

So Much Hard Work

A Glamourous Night for Manitoba Writing

 Quick Five



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A Chapel of Bones

“Stop here and consider, that you will reach this state too.”  

That reminder is over the entrance to the Capela dos Ossos or the Chapel of Bones in Faro, Portugal.  We visited it the day we went to Faro to meet our friend Rudy at the airport. 

church in faro portugal

I stand outside the The Igreja do Carmo cathedral in Faro Portugal

The chapel is located in the rear courtyard of the The Igreja do Carmo church. 

veronica in church in faroWe first went inside the church where I found another Veronica Station of the Cross to add to my photo collection of them from around the world.  inside faro cathedralThe inside of the church is very ornate decorated with gold from Brazil which was once a Portuguese colony. chapel of bonesThe Chapel of Bones just behind the church lives up to its name.  It contains the bones of over a thousand monks whose bodies were exhumed in the 19th century from Faro’s overcrowded cemetery. IMG_3825The monks’ faces stare at you from the ceiling and walls of the Chapel of Bones.  The practice of moving bones from cemetery plots into ossuaries after a period of seven to ten years was once common in Catholic Europe. monk skulls on wallsThere are still ossuaries like the ones in Portugal in Spain, France, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Italy. faros chapel of bones

The Chapel of Bones was certainly a unique place to visit, although I think there may be slightly less macabre ways to remind to people that we need to live each day of our lives to the fullest. 

Other posts. ……

The Catacombs- Myth and Reality

A Veronica Sighting in Costa Rica

Cambodia Revisited

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We Just Keep Meeting More Winnipeg People in Portugal

We had dinner last night with Wilf and Karen.  They have spent the last week in Lagos a six kilometer walk from Praia da Luz where we live, and so in the late afternoon we trekked in to Lagos to have dinner with them.  Although we don’t get together with Wilf and Karen regularly back in Winnipeg, we are close friends with Wilf’s sister and her husband, and when we lived in a house trailer in Landmark early in our marriage, Wilf’s Dad was our landlord.  

It is always great to spend time with fellow travelers and compare notes about what they have been seeing and doing. We went for dinner at Mare. It is a seafood restaurant right over the fish market in Lagos.  So naturally we all had fish.  I had the shrimp curry which was great and the others shared cataplana.  A cataplana is actually a piece of cookware made of copper or aluminum and shaped kind of like a clam shell. Last night the cataplana’s at our table were filled with many different kinds of fish all cooked together. 

Since it was cold and dark by the time our meal was finished we decided to take the bus home.  Wilf and Karen waited at our stop with us and we carried on visiting till our bus arrived.  We had a lovely evening with them.  

I wonder which Winnipegers we will rendezvous with next in Portugal. 

Other posts…….

More Winnipeg Friends in Portugal

Coming All the Way to Portugal To Get To Know People From Our Church

A Reunion With Old Friends, Great Stories and Portuguese Wine



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Best Picture? You Must Be Kidding!

phantom thread movie posterWe saw Phantom Thread in Lagos Portugal last week.  There were no characters in the movie I liked or cared about. 

reynolds woodcock in phantom threadCertainly not the self-centered, chauvinistic 1950’s high-end fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock who was not only cruel and demanding but eccentric and anti-social as well.  He had a creepy obsession with his dead mother that reminded me of Norman Bates in Psycho. Was Reynolds Woodcock the villain of Phantom Thread or the protagonist? His toxic behavior towards women could make him a poster child for the#MeToo movement. 

I sort of admired Reynolds’ sister Cyril who was essentially the brains of his fashion empire taking care of all the organization and paper work and customer relations to keep the family business thriving. But it was hard to like Cyril because she was way too devoted to her crazy brother and tolerated his ridiculous behaviour. I wanted to shout at her, “Make a life of your own.  You are smart and confident. You have what it takes. Ditch that neurotic sibling of yours!”

SHOWBIZ Film Reviews 083028

Reynold’s sister Cyril supervising the hardworking seamstresses in the film

I felt sorry for all the very talented seamstresses who worked in Reynolds’ fashion house. Without them his business would have been nothing. It was their skill and expertise that made his illustrious reputation possible.  They all lined up like frightened soldiers to cater to their boss’s every whim.  Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson never really let us see their individual personalities. 

I had no respect for the rich women who came to buy Reynolds’ dresses. They seemed to care about nothing more in life then what social event they would attend next and what they would wear to it that would make everyone else jealous of them. Their main concern in life was whether they looked beautiful or not. 

Phantom-ThreadFinally we have Alma, a simple waitress who becomes our protagonist/villain’s mistress and then wife.  Initially she is besotted with this man who introduces her to his upper crust London life. But even when she fully understands his crippling obsessiveness and cruel nature she doesn’t leave him but cultivates a sadomasochistic relationship with him that keeps him in her life. 

fashion 1947-57

Photo I took at the Golden Age of Couture exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum in 2009

The only thing I found mildly interesting about the movie was its historical signficance. In 2009 I visited a fascinating exhibit at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum called…. The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947–1957. It featured more than a hundred fashionable outfits from exactly the time in which Phantom Thread is set. The exhibit touted 1947 -1957  as the most glamourous and remarkable decade in fashion history. It happened right after World War II when people were beginning to have an interest in things like fashion again and it celebrated designers like Dior and Givenchy. Phantom Thread is firmly set in that golden fashion decade. I applaud the film’s costume designer Mark Bridges who so faithfully recreates the outfts of the golden fashion decade for Reynold Woodcocks’ clients and his wife Alma to wear in the movie. 

Phantom Thread is nominated for best picture at the upcoming Academy Awards. Except for its costumes I have no idea why. 

Other posts……….

The Golden Age of Fashion

Inuit Fashion Show

The Costumes Were Worth the Price of Admission


Filed under Movies, Portugal

Biblical Reflections, Creative Rock Naming and Noticing the Little Things Along the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

I finally just stopped taking pictures!  There was too much beauty all around!

Yesterday we went on another stunning hike recommended by our friends Werner and Adelia, a twelve kilometre moderately difficult trek. It was called The Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. Maps along the way let us know where we were at various points on our journey.  There were fences to keep you from inadvertently walking too close to the edge of the cliffs and tumbling down into the ocean and trail markers that helped you find your way. Two equal signs meant you were on the right path.  A marker with an X meant you’d gone the wrong way.  Left and right turns were also clearly marked. 

Our friend Rudy was in a rather theological mood on this hike referencing various Biblical stories as we walked. As we approached this long staircase up the cliff for example he recalled the ladder the angel’s walked up and down while the Old Testament character Jacob lay dreaming. Rudy also mentioned the story of King David’s son Absalom as we walked under a low hanging branch on our path. Rudy remembered that Absalom’s hair had become tangled in just such a branch and this led to his death.   Our path which was sometimes wide and sometimes narrow reminded Rudy of the injunction in the book of Matthew that the wide path leads to destruction. 

Dave took to naming the various rock formations we encountered.  This one for example he dubbed Shark’s Tooth.  This one was Elephant Drinking Water. and this one Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie without the chocolate chips. I tried to look for the smaller wonders on the trail. A brilliantly lime green gecko that walked with great difficulty across the stony path. Gorgeous flowers springing up from cracks in the stone the seashells that had become embedded in the rock in so many places and the cactus getting ready to bloom.Rudy and I checked out some of the sink holes or cenotes along the path. They reminded us of the cenote in Mexico where we had gone swimming with Rudy and his wife Sue many years ago. All over the Algarve you can see signs like this advertising boat trips through water caves. We were walking on top of those caves and looking down into them. We saw some boats inside the caves on our walk. That would definitely be another interesting way to explore this same area. This is the Cathedral Cave which is the one pictured on all the brochures and billboards but photographed from our perspective on the hike. Some fellow trail walkers told us couples actually boat into this water cave with their wedding guests and get married there. The reason the trail is called Seven Hanging Valleys is because there are seven valleys along it. Each one is associated with the mouth of a former river.  The valleys were formed when the limestone coastline was rapidly eroded. Of course the erosion of limestone has created other breathtakingly beautiful scenes along the trail. I thought our hike to Ponta Da Piedade earlier in the week had really been something.  But the scenery yesterday was unbelievable.  I finally just stopped taking photos because I already had way too many and I just wanted to enjoy the vistas. This  is how the Seven Hanging Valleys Walk is described on the Walk the Algarve site. 

Here, the azure-colored ocean has conspired with the warm-colored cliffs to create the quintessential Algarvian seascape and one of the most rewarding walks along the sun-kissed coastline.

A most apt description if there ever was one!

Photo credits:  Some photos in the post were taken by my friend Rudy and some by my husband Dave

Other posts……..

Nature’s Artwork

The Arches 

Glacier Hike

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To Understand Yourself: Is That a Discovery or a Creation?

I always like to read novels set in the countries we visit. I started my two months in Portugal with Pascal Mercier’s Night Train to Lisbon. It’s the story of Raimund Gregorius, a 57 year old ancient languages teacher in Bern, Switzerland who encounters a Portuguese woman about to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. He saves her life and aburptly leaves his own career and home to pursue her to Lisbon taking along a Portuguese book he finds in a second hand book shop. It is called The Goldsmith of Words and was written by Amadeu de Prado a deceased Portuguese doctor.  

Raimund reads the book and becomes obsessed with finding out about the author. He goes to visit many of the people who knew Amadeu de Prado. As Raimund learns about Amadeu’s life he is inspired by the doctor’s  passion, courage and strong personal relationships. To Raimund it seems the very antithesis of what he views as his own plodding lonely existence back in Switzerland. 

jeremy irons and lean olin

Jeremy Irons plays Raimond in the movie version of Night Train to Lisbon and Lena Olin has the role of the former lover of the doctor who wrote the book The Goldsmith of Words 

The book exams the idea of how the choices we make in life impact us. What were the turning points that could have changed everything? Is it possible even at an older age to throw off our current existence and begin anew? 

There is a lots of heavy talk in this book and huge excerpts of rambling philosophical thinking from The Goldsmith of Words. Sometimes I felt like skipping these sections to get to the plot, but they did have some thought provoking ‘gems’ I bookmarked in my Kindle as I read. 


We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. 

Sometimes, we are afraid of something because we’re afraid of something else

To understand yourself: Is that a discovery or a creation?

So, the fear of death might be described as the fear of not being able to become whom one had planned to be

There were people who read and there were the others. Whether you were a reader or a non-reader was soon apparent. There was no greater distinction between people.

Why do we feel sorry for people who can’t travel? Because, unable to expand externally, they are not able to expand internally either, they can’t multiply and so they are deprived of the possibility of undertaking expansive excursions in themselves and discovering who and what else they could have become

night train to lisbon movieMy friend Rudy helped me find the movie Night Train to Lisbon on his Apple TV and we watched it.  The film took HUGE liberties with the plot, leaving out many characters and simplifying the long passages from The Goldsmith of Words into short statements. It resolved a number of loose ends the book didn’t pursue and was much more plot driven than the book.  

One of my favorite things about both the book and the movie was……. that having spent a week in Lisbon I was able to identify many of the places in which the story was set. Dave and I left for the Algarve in the very same train station where Raimond arrives on The Night Train to Lisbon. 

Other books………..

Reading My Way Through Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Where I Live Now

Seeing The Post in Lisbon


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Nature’s Artwork!

IMG_8273Ponta Da Piedade is often billed as ‘the most stunning place in the Algarve’ but for some reason after several weeks here we still hadn’t visited it even though it isn’t far from our home in Praia da Luz.  IMG_0076At the beginning of last week we met a couple from Newfoundland on one of our walks who suggested we would enjoy the hike to Ponta Da Piedade.  At the end of last week when our Winnipeg friends Werner and Adelia came to visit they had just finished a hike to Ponta Da Piedade and showed us some stunning photos.  

with rudy on hike in portugalSo yesterday morning we decided we needed to try the hike ourselves. Along with our friend Rudy we took our regular walking path to Lagos but before we got into the city centre we followed the signs and turned off down to Ponta Da Piedade. IMG_8259 (1)It was a gorgeous day weather wise and so we stopped to explore one little beach on our way to Ponta Da Piedade and although we thought it was lovely the best was yet to come when we reached our actual destination. rock formations portugalThis post is going to contain lots of photos because ‘oh my goodness’ what a beautiful spot!!

blue sea and sky Ponta Da PiedadeThe sea and sky were varying shades of pristine blues and the golden cliffs rose dozens of meters high.  out on the cliff Ponta Da PiedadeStanding on them you were higher than the birds.  And we saw and heard lots of birds, some of them nesting right on the cliffs. Ponta Da PiedadeNature has eroded the rocks here into caves and crannies and towers and arches. lighthouse walk lagosWe walked down nearly 200 steps to get a close up view of some of the formations. beautiful rocksThe artistically eroded rocks reminded me of the ones we saw when we were kayaking in Halong Bay in Vietnam and hiking to Echo Point in the Blue Mountains of Australia and traveling in a little boat down the Li River to Yangshou in China . But the Portugal rocks were unique and had a beauty all their own. cliff path Ponta Da PiedadeWe explored a path that led off along the cliffs and discovered to our delight that we could walk high up along the ocean all the way from Ponta Da Piedade to Porto do Mos a kind of halfway point where we often stop for a break on the hike to and from the city centre of Lagos.

beach on the way home from Ponta Da PiedadeWe passed some gorgeous secluded beaches on the way back but you would have to be a pretty intrepid climber to make your way down the steep cliffs that led to them. 

hike Ponta Da PiedadeSome folks say Ponta Da Piedade is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m glad I didn’t miss seeing it. cliffs near lagosOur hike round trip was more than 15 kilometers.  I was tired when we got home but oh so satisfied. marylou Ponta Da PiedadeEvery step had been worth it. 

Other posts……..  

Too Old to Visit Lagos?  

Can Your Marriage Survive Lollygagging?

Lisbon By Design


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More Winnipeg Friends in Portugal

We knew before we left Winnipeg that our friends Werner and Adelia would be in Portugal at the same time as we were. On Friday night they were staying in Lagos just a few kilometers away so we invited them and their traveling companions Richard and Carolyn to join us for dinner at our place.
We had never met Richard and Carolyn, who are from Ontario, but we had many interests and experiences in common and it wasn’t long before we were having a lively discussion that covered religion, politics, business, education, parenting, sports, international teaching and travel experiences. And that was before we had even opened the two bottles of wine our guests had brought with them. We went for a walk along our promenade and halfway up our landmark hill, but by then it was twilight and we headed back to our place for appetizers after which we ordered pizza from the establishment right next door to our apartment.  During dinner our friend Rudy discovered that he and our guests had any number of acquaintances and friends in common.  Our lively conversation continued over chocolate, fruit and glasses of Portuguese port.  It was 11 o’ clock before our guests headed back home to rest up for a long hike they had planned for the following day. This is the third group of Canadian friends we’ve had a rendezvous with here in Portugal and we know more are to come.  We are looking forward to visiting with them too!

Other posts………

Coming All the Way to Portugal To Get To Know People From Our Church

A Reunion With Old Friends, Great Stories and Portuguese Wine



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