Thursday, August 30, 2012

You can't have your cake, and eat it!

Well, you can eat your cake, but consequences will follow in the form of weight gain. The summer holidays are almost over (sheds a few tears) and the scales have given me the bad news - I've put on weight! I still fit into my clothes, so it isn't too serious, but it is something to be addressed immediately. (Sigh...)

It was inevitable as I have an addiction to sweet foods, and instead of controlling my cravings, I gave in to them. 

I do have a few excuses:
  • When in a different region of the country, you should always try the typical foods and cakes (for educational purposes, of course).
  • When invited to meals by family or friends, it's impolite to refuse to eat anything they put in front of you. (My cousin is a really good cook and always has loads of puddings and other sweets ready for dessert.)
  • A holiday is when you don't follow strict routines and timetables (so you can eat what you like, when you want).
  • A summer without ice-cream isn't a good summer. (You agree, don't you?)
Do I realise my excuses are lame? Yes, of course I do.

To make matters worse, I had a very tiring end-of-school-year and felt the need to do absolutely nothing  for a few days. That included not going for regular walks. My excuse? I was tired and it was too hot!

How to resolve the problems of those extra kilos now? Get back into a healthy routine:
  • Clear out the sugary foods from the house. 
  • Buy only healthy foods.
  • Cook healthy meals.
  • Always have a low-calorie, healthy alternative available for when the sugar cravings attack.
  • Start going for regular walks (and spend less time on the laptop).

I still have 4 days before I go back to work (yay!) but I have already started working on those extra kilos.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

From a distance

Santa Maria da Feira Castle, Portugal
Santa Maria da Feira Castle, from a distance
I was lucky enough to visit the medieval fair at Santa Maria da Feira, but there were so many visitors there on the last day that I had to park really far away from the castle.

This is the first shot I took as I walked towards the centre of the town and it's my entry for Jake's Sunday post challenge "From a distance".

To join in or see the other entries, visit Jake's post.

If you like medieval fairs, you may like to return soon, as I will be posting pictures of the fair that many consider the best in Portugal!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Algarve gems - 2

Nobody guessed where I took the photos for my "Close-up" post - Pigletinportugal thought it was Monchique and Gertygiggles thought it was Alte. While they both qualify in my book as Algarve gems, this one is by the Arade River, near Silves.
Arade River, Algarve
View of the Arade River, from the Silves-Estombar road
Stream, born of a spring in Estombar
The water springs from the middle of the rocks and forms a stream
Natural pool, Estombar
After a bend in the stream, a long natural pool, with the old watermill in the distance
Natural pool, Estombar, Algarve
The pool in high tide, as seen from the watermill
Portuguese watermill
The old watermill
Little waterfall, Estombar
View from the other side of the water mill
Old Portuguese miller's home
The house where the miller used to live
Picnic area, Estombar
Part of the picnic and barbecue area, with a view of the estuary/river
The locals call it "O Sítio das Fontes" (the place of the springs) and my neighbour, not a local there but an authority on all things natural in the general area, didn't know about it, which came as a big surprise to me.

This gem, officially known as "Parque Municipal das Fontes" (Municipal Park of the Springs) or "Fontes de Estômbar" (Estômbar Springs), is a park that surrounds a major spring on the left bank of the Arade River.

It is situated north of the town of Estômbar, not far from Silves.

The park began as a picnic site on the Arade River. Then in 1989 it was formally recognised as an important ecosystem site. The watermill and the miller's house were restored, parking areas were organized properly, an open-air amphitheatre was built and a route for physical exercise was created and sign-posted. 

The day we had a picnic there, it was very hot so I couldn't convince any of my companions to go for a walk along the physical exercise route through the little wood. Maybe next time...

It is definitely worth a visit. 
The GPS coordinates are: 37º 09'42.17''N 08º 29'02.27''W

Related posts:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Black and white

old photos of Praia da Granja

This is my entry for Jake's Sunday post challenge "black and white".

It's part of the the decor inside one of my favourite coffee shops. The new building has replaced the wooden building in the third photo. 
I kind of miss the old building, which was less posh but had more comfortable chairs.

interior of "Nova Barraquinha" coffee shop

For more entries, visit Jake's blog.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Porto and a road with a view, or two

The trains weren't running but I encountered other means of transport.
a tram in Porto
I passed this quaint thing on Clerigos street. It caters for tourists.
There are yellow and red double-decker buses. If I didn't have my little dog with me I would have gone on at least one of their tours.
double-decker tourist bus in Porto

Some interesting sculptures:
newspaper seller sculpture in Porto
I had to wait to get a shot of this newspaper seller ("ardino") because lots of tourist couples were taking turns having their picture taken with this guy. And I took a fancy to this angel:
angel sculpture in Porto garden

This is what I had with my coffee - it's a "broa de mel", a rich honey sweetbread.  It was so good and fresh, that I asked the waitress to let me photograph one.
broa de mel

This is the "Passeio dos Prazeres", with the garden below:
 passeio das virtudes, no Porto
It's a pity they had to put the dumpsters right next to the sign!

Garden of the Virtues in Porto

And just a few metres from where I had left the car, I found this beautiful old fountain :
fountain on Taipas Street in Porto

This is the Arrabida Bridge ("Ponte da Arrábida"). I took it to get in and out of the city.
Arrabida Bridge across the Douro river
A road with a view

Then I decided to check out the views from the other side of the river, travelling on another road with a view:
typical boat on the Douro river
view of Porto from Gaia
That bit of green is the garden surrounding the Rosa Mota Pavilion ("Pavilhão rosa Mota").
Transport and Communications Museum in Porto
This used to be the customs building, now a congress centre and museum,
Serra do Pilar Monastery

You can just see the Serra do Pilar Monastery and the top of the steel Luís I Bridge ("Ponte de D. Luís").

If I saw all this in a few hours, imagine what you could do in a weekend!

Related posts:
I'm the great pretender tourist
Uma turista no Porto - 1

You may also like to visit:
Porto and the Gaia Wine lodges
Porto and the north

Porto - the city

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sight-seeing in Porto

Porto is lovely in the summer. For those of my readers who live in the Algarve, why not do like me and go north to avoid the extreme heat and tourist overload in August, down south. Taking the train is a good alternative to the car or the coach. If you decide to drive up, it will take you around 6 hours by motorway to reach Porto (allowing for coffee stops and keeping within the legal speed limit).

Every year I look forward to at least 2 weeks away from the overcrowded Algarve. This year I decided to explore the historical centre of the country's second largest city. Yesterday I ended my post as I was arriving at "Avenida dos Aliados" (Avenue of the Allies) and the "Praça da Liberdade" (Liberty Square), which is considered the heart of the city.
a Porto kiosk
A kiosk at the beginning of the Avenue
This square is a "must see" if you like architecture and opulent, intricate facades. Here are a few of them:
Liberty Square, Porto
A sculpture (forefront) and the Town Hall at the top of Liberty Square
Liberty Square, Porto
Another sculpture
Statue of King Pedro IV, Porto
Statue of King Pedro IV

Some of the buildings on the left:
Bank of Portugal building, Porto
The Bank of Portugal

Some of the buildings on the right:

Having almost filled my memory card and changed the overworked batteries in the camera, I moved on to the train station, which is nearby.
Congregados Church, Porto
Congregados Church, on the way to the train station
S. Bento train station, Porto
Part of the train station, as seen from the Square
If you like tiled panels, this is tiled-panel heaven. I didn't take photos of every panel because I walked in with my pet. Carrying a dog and taking pics doesn't work too well, but you get the general idea. 
S. Bento train station, Porto
Part of "azulejo" heaven
S. Bento train station, Porto
Another part of "azulejo" heaven
S. Bento train station, Porto
Yet another part of "azulejo" heaven
S. Bento Train Station is one building you must not miss, whether you arrive by train or not!

By this time I had been walking for over two hours, so I made my way up  Clerigos Street and back to the narrow street where I had left my car.
Clerigos Church, Porto
Clerigos Church at the top of Clerigos Street
My tour of the historical centre is not complete but I hope I have whetted your appetite!

If architecture is not your thing, you'll be pleased to know that the last post in this series will focus on other things I found interesting.

Related posts:
I'm the great pretender tourist
Uma turista no Porto - 1

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm the great pretender tourist

I had decided to play the tourist in the city of Porto (Oporto). I had planned to travel by train and then walk around Porto for a few hours, soaking up the atmosphere and taking photos.

Then last night we had a summer storm. To make things worse, I heard there'd be no trains due to a strike, so I thought I'd have to postpone the trip.

Well, this morning it was sunny. I gathered up all my courage and drove into Porto with my smallest dog in tow. 

Lots of things have changed since I moved to the Algarve so I was expecting to get lost at some point. That probability rose sharply because I left my map at home! However, sometimes things work out really well despite us messing up. Just as I turned into a narrow street realising I was lost, I found a space right at this door and parked the car.
Oporto British Club
Oporto British Club

I got out, got C. on the leash and then asked a passer-by the name of the street (so I'd know where I'd left the car). I was at "Jardim das Virtudes" (Garden of the Virtues), a lovely shady place with a view of the Douro River. I took it as a good omen.
Rooftops and Douro River
View of the Douro River
I had seen the "Torre dos Clérigos" (Clerigos Tower) a few minutes before I had parked, so I started walking, hoping to find it, which I did.
Clerigos Tower in Oporto
Clerigos Tower
 These are some of the sights I saw on my tour:

Carmo and Carmelitas Churches in Oporto
Carmo Church (left) and Carmelitas Church (right)

Tiled facade of Carmelitas Church in Oporto
Carmelitas Church - tiled facade

Lion Fountain in Oporto
Lion Fountain

Lello Bookshop in Oporto
Lello Bookshop

Clerigos Street in Oporto
Rua dos Clérigos

Eventually I found myself walking down "Rua dos Clérigos" to the centre - "Avenida dos Aliados". From there I made my way to the train station and then I retraced my steps, stopping only for coffee and cake.

But I cannot put everything in this post or it will take forever. Suffice to say that my excursion exceeded all my expectations!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Jake has provided the word close-up for inspiration for our Sunday Post.

You already know that nature is always close to my heart, so here goes...
An Algarve stream
A beautiful stream somewhere in the Algarve, on a hot summer's day.
And now for the close-up:
Rocks surrounded by cool, clear water!
For those who know the Algarve, can you guess where I took these photos? Let me give you a hint - it's another Algarve gem, but probably much less well-known than this one.

To see all the other interpretations in this Sunday post challenge, check out the comments' section at Jake's prompting post.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blog directories - are they worth the hassle?

Read any article on how to run a successful blog and every one will mention the need for promotion to generate traffic. So it seems natural that newbie bloggers like me would want to have blogs listed on the best blog directories.

That's where the problems start.

If you google, you'll find many articles indicating the "top blog directories" but can you really trust those lists? When you try to find opinions about each of the blog directories out there, what you usually get is lots of self-promotion.

Let me share with you some of my experiences.
  • The first directory I went for was one that a trusted blogger had joined. Signing up, submitting the blog and placing the HTML code on my blog wasn't complicated. Approval was fast and, so far, I have no complaints. 
However, I now realise that it isn't always as straightforward. Submitting a blog can be confusing because each directory has different rules, terms, conditions and categories. It's when you need support that frustration can set in.
  • After submitting my blog to another directory, I began to notice alarming comments and queries from other bloggers on there. There were complaints about "other people claiming ownership of people's blogs" and questions about "how to cancel an account" ... and absolutely no replies from the directory's support team! I decided to get out fast, managed to delete my blog from the list but had no idea how to cancel my account. I hope cancelling the accompanying Facebook app has taken care of that and I trust that problems associated with this site will not haunt me in the future.
 Problems with lack of support and feedback seem quite common.
  • Having submitted my blog to another directory, I immediately got a welcome message and I was impressed, but not for long. There was a problem with my RSS feed (it hadn't been a problem on the previous directory). I had to go on Blogger help forums but I eventually fixed the problem. Then I resubmitted my blog... and waited... for ages! I asked for help on the directory's forum and some kind soul (not from the support team) suggested I put the question on Twitter, so I did that, and waited. Finally I decided to remove the HTML code/badge promoting that particular blog directory from my blog and deactivated my account. Soon after, I began receiving tweets from the directory, promoting blogs on its list. How weird is that?
Directories for Portuguese blogs are hard to find, but I have a Portuguese blog, too and there are many more Brazilians than European Portuguese, so it's important to promote my blog in Brazil.
  • I eventually found a Brazilian blog directory but while I was waiting for my blog submission to be approved, I suddenly found that anyone trying to read my blog was automatically redirected to a site full of pop-up ads! The problem only went away when I removed their HTML code from my blog! If anyone reading this knows of a reliable Brazilian blog directory, please leave a comment - I'll be eternally grateful.
To conclude, it seems to me that some blog directories mercilessly exploit submitted blogs for self-promotion and not much else. Many blog directories may say they're the oldest, the biggest, the best, the ones with the best ranking, etc. but "the proof is in the pudding".

My advice to fellow newbie bloggers? Check on the reputation of a blog directory carefully before you sign up!

My question to seasoned bloggers? Which blog directory would you recommend?

Sunday, August 5, 2012


This is something I consider splendid.
Victoria Falls
The Victoria Falls
On the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1989, the Victoria Falls, so named by the explorer David Livingstone in honour of Queen Victoria,  is a magnificent waterfall on the Zambezi River, between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Falls are also known by the indigenous name of Mosi-oa-Tonga, meaning "the Cloud that Thunders".

Victoria Falls
Wonderful, impressive, magnificent, phenomenal, grand, majestic, unforgettable...
Claimed by some to be the largest, this is certainly one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world.
This post is part of a weekly feature that is hosted by Jake, who provides a word for inspiration and we, the participants, post our interpretation. Splendid is the theme for this Sunday Post.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...