A postcard from Lagos

We’ve just had the midterm holidays and last week, we packed up the car and headed off to Portugal, Lagos to be precise. We’ve been to this part of the world a couple of times before but stayed closer to Portimão, this time we fancied a change of scenery and headed further west to Lagos.

We stayed in a lovely apartment on the western edge of Lagos. Sadly it was too nippy to make use of the outdoor pool (well for the softy grown-ups at least!). Can you see the Atlantic Ocean in the distance? It was a lovely spot.

Lagos has a rather pretty old town which is surrounded by city walls.

The archetypal Portuguese tiles are in abundance here.

Even the pavements are artistic…

And there are some gorgeous front doors too…

At the start of our visit to the city there was a craft fair going on in town. Housed in an old building which used to be a munitions store, it was the home for stalls selling needlework, jewelry, fused glass and cork items.

I was in my element and bought a few bits and bobs which will come in handy for Christmas presents.

Among the stalls was a marvelous collection of yarns and woven items.

The lady who runs this stall hand dyes all her yarns and weaves them into beautiful scarves and bags. She also sold balls of yarn…

She dyes the yarn using seeds, vegetables, bark (for the deep purple) and insects for the pink and red tones. I bought this gorgeous yarn which was coloured using tree roots.

If you would like to see more of her work, you can check out her Facebook page.

Another craft emporium had this fabulous window display;

It was run by a German couple who between them wrote books and poetry and whittled beautiful wooden jewelry. They had been living in Lagos for 20+ years and raised their children here. I bought some earrings made by the wife and a book of folk lore stories written and illustrated by the husband.

Zoo Lagos

One morning we took a drive out to Lagos Zoo. I’m uncomfortable with the whole ‘zoo’ thing but at this one, the animals seemed well cared for.

It was a perfect small zoo for young children. In some areas there were no fences at all, and some of the creatures just wandered around at will.

These pelicans caused quite a stir as they just ambled along the path amongst the visitors. We even got to see them being fed a little while later…

There were plenty of primates, many of whom lived on this primate island. The noise of the calls and booming cries could be heard a good distance away in the car park!

This bird had a really funky hairdo…

I’m told that this Pygmy hippo bore a more than passing resemblance to me…

I loved the flying foxes, they were fascinating to see up close.

My absolute favorites had to be the rainbow coloured parrots (macaws to be precise) and this angora nanny goat!

Lagos fort

At the western edge of Lagos seafront/riverfront stands an old fort-like building. Rectangular in shape, with lookout towers at each corner and with a drawbridge on the land side, it caught my eye the first time I saw it.

On our first trip into Lagos, we had tried to get in, but it was closed for lunch sadly. I made it my mission to be back in town one day while it was open to have a mosey inside.

Over the drawbridge and through the old wooden doors we went to buy our entrance tickets.

The Forte da Ponta da Bandeira is a restored 17th Century maritime fortress. On the ground floor are a series of small rooms which were being used as galleries displaying a photographic exhibition.

There was also a very small chapel, dedicated to Santa Barbara. It may be small, but there was such a calming, yet powerful atmosphere in there, and as you can see it was totally covered with traditional Portuguese tiles.

Up the ramp, to the upper floor…

… and the many wind sculptures…

They were so striking.

In each corner of the fort, as I mentioned, there is a little lookout turret, and we were able to go into three of them.

The narrow slit windows perfectly framed the views they looked out on…

…. both inland….

….and out to sea.

It was such a lovely spot.

Back downstairs, we found another small gallery featuring more work from the artist who had created the sculptures on the roof…

José Maria Silva Pereira is the artist who created these installations and the sculptures on the roof are called Caminhos do Vento (which I think translates of Paths of Wind). They were specially designed to be moved by the north wind which is common in Lagos during the summer months.

And that, is just about it for this postcard from the Algarve. We had a lovely few days, and mainly good weather, if you’re ever in this neck of the woods I’d definitely recommend a visit.

Easter in England

Last Thursday we packed up the car and headed off bright and early to Malaga airport to catch a flight to the UK. This time we were heading for new territory, the Jurassic Coast on the South West Coast of England.

We were staying in a lovely house in Sidmouth in Devon.

We even had a ford in front of our front door…

How English is that??

Sidmouth was decked out and ready for Easter…

The shop windows in the town were lovely.

On a walk down to the seafront, the coastal erosion was very apparent.

Just 12 hours before our arrival, there was a major rockfall. Just check out this garden shed on the brink…

On our first full day we took a trip to Lyme Regis on the hunt for fossils…

It’s a rather pretty seaside town…

A place where even the street lights feature fossils!

The inclement weather wasn’t exactly suited to foraging for fossils on the beach, so we made do with a wander around the town. We could appreciate the beauty of the place in spite of the poor weather…

… that coastline must look stunning on a clear day!

The shops in Lyme Regis are dominated by the area’s rich prehistoric history. Fossils are all over, none made me smile though like these ‘ammoknits’! How cool are they?

We left Lyme Regis and headed next to Seaton, and Seaton Jurassic in particular. It’s an interactive museum perfect for children and even features a time machine…

We travelled back in time millions of years and learned lots of interesting facts about dinosaurs to earn this treasure…

We may not have made any major fossil finds, but it was a special day for Littlest Postcard who saw real snow for the first time on our drive home.

Exeter

Saturday saw us heading into Exeter to meet up with some old friends from University. We hadn’t seen them for a few years so it was wonderful to be able to catch up with them again.

Gotta love a good gargoyle…

Exeter is a very pretty city. I would’ve liked a look around inside the Cathedral, but unfortunately time didn’t allow on this occasion, perhaps next time…

I spent a good bit of time wandering around looking up at the old buildings with their wonky windows and charm.

Our friend who lives locally took us on a mini Harry Potter tour. Apparently JK Rowling studied at Exeter and while she was there found inspiration for her books. This road, Gandy Street, was the inspiration for…

…Diagon Alley.

And this pub entrance…

… Gringott’s Bank.

There was even a Cauldron Inn…

Or at least there was a sign for one above a doorway.

How about this for an Easter chick?

On Easter Sunday we went to Greendale Farm Shop outside Exeter. I’m not sure that this counts as breakfast, but it was Easter Day…

The Little Postcards loved the farm animals…

… I did too 😉

Then back to Sidmouth for a stroll along the prom and a visit to the town’s independent lifeboat.

The Methodist Church had a beautiful display for Easter Sunday.

In spite of the weather, I was rather enamoured by Sidmouth.

The rather circumspect weather meant that we opted for a trip to the cinema to dodge the rain.

The independent Radway Cinema is really lovely. It was spotlessly clean, the staff were great and it was so reminiscent of our local cinema when I was growing up. We enjoyed Peter Rabbit very much!

However you spent your Easter weekend, I hope it was a good one for you.

A Postcard from the Vatican

DSC_0074.JPG

During the summer of 2017 we did a bit of travelling as a family and at long last I have got round to writing some blog posts about it and downloading a few of the many photos on my camera. Last week I published my Postcard from Rome, today here’s my Postcard from the Vatican.

Before setting off on our holiday to Rome last summer, Mr Postcard rather sensibly booked a couple of guided tours, one was to the Vatican City. Included in the price was entry to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica as well as the tour. We met our guide, Maria, on the steps outside the museum where we were fast-tracked through the crowds.

First stop after the ticket hall was a lovely viewing area which gave us a great position to look out across the Vatican gardens to the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. It was here that our lovely guide took us through many of the things which we were about to see and experience. Our tour was specifically tailored towards a family with young children and Maria showed photographs of various art works and sights we were soon to encounter.

It was here that the first stand out moment of the day happened…. one of the Little Postcards amazed us with his knowledge of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. It turned out that he’d done work on it a couple of years before in school and he’d remembered it. Well I never.

DSC_0021.JPG

After passing through the first part of the Vatican Museum, past ancient Egyption relics and other items from the ancient world, we found ourselves out in a large courtyard garden. The centre of it was dominated by this sculpture. The Sphere within a Sphere was created by Arnaldo Pomodoro and is one of several similar orbs dotted around the world. This one is exactly the same size as the one on the very top of St Peter’s Basilica (see photo above) so it really puts into perspective the scale of the church.

One of the benefits of being on the tour meant that Maria was able to invite the Little Postcards across the chain which roped off the sculpture and got them to help her push the sculpture round so that we could get a 360 degree view of it without moving ourselves. It was fun for the children to get ‘hands-on’ with this piece of art.

DSC_0028.JPG

At this stage I must point out that I am not attempting to write a guide book about the Vatican – that would be impossible in a blog post plus I’m sure that many people far more qualified that I am, have already done just that. I just wanted to share a flavour of some of the things we enjoyed on our trip.

In the following photo you can see, not only the sphere at the top St Peter’s Basilica again (top right), but also evidence of the extensive restoration work which was being carried out on the historic buildings.

DSC_0042.JPG

Some sections had already been cleaned up, while other parts were still in progress.

DSC_0045.JPG

The most impressive aspect of the Vatican City was the beautiful art work which was everywhere. Every wall, every ceiling was covered in the most exquisite work.

And the colours of the paints used are stunning considering the ages of some of these pieces of work.

Now that is what I call a ceiling!

Along the walls of this amazing corridor (the likes of which I have never seen before in my life) was a series of maps. The unusual thing about these maps is that many of them were drawn upside down so that they were from the perspective of the Pope in Rome looking down towards the south. They were also created in the days long, long before satellite images so they were guestimated. Our guide, Maria told us that amazingly in many cases they are pretty accurate despite the lack of geographical knowledge of the time.

Of course, no old map is complete without a sea monster.

As a born and bred Mancunian, I have an affinity for bees (they were used in the coat of arms of the city to signify the industriousness of the workers during the Industrial Revolution and came to prominence again last year as a sign of solidarity following the terrorist attack in Manchester). As I walked along this elaborately decorated corridor, I found myself spotting more and more bees on all of these maps, both in the maps and on the ‘frames’.

I have done a bit of research (by no means comprehensive)  and it turns out that Pope Urban VIII came from the Barberini family and their coat of arms featured three bees, you can read about it here. You can also find other explanations for the existence of so many bees in the Vatican here. When you look at the maps on the walls of this corridor there seems to be a significance to the bees and where they are placed as if they are marking out churches or cathedrals.

If you can shed any light onto why there are so many bees buzzing about the Vatican, I’d love to hear from you! (I wish I’d asked more questions at the time!)

After this beautiful bee-filled corridor, lay the Sistine Chapel. Photographs are not allowed to be taken in there (although many people did) nor are you allowed to speak in there (although many people did). Therefore I have nothing to show you from in there. All I can say is that it was beautiful, indescribably detailed and mind boggling at how Michelangelo could have completed such an amazing peace of work. (You can see it for yourself on the Vatican website). It was also easy to see that on occasions when it is quiet and calm, that it could be an incredibly spiritual place. Sadly for us, it was more like a cattle market, I was shocked at so many peoples’ lack of respect for such an important religious site (despite the best efforts of the Vatican staff). What a shame.

Next up was the final part of our tour.  At this point, our tour guide left us briefly and came back bearing gifts for our boys. Rather aptly it was a postcard for each of them to remind them of their time a the Vatican. We thought it was a lovely gesture. Thank you Maria, if you see this!

The final stop was St Peter’s Basilica itself. How’s this for an impressive porch?

DSC_0048.JPG

What a place…

DSC_0053.JPG

The Basilica was just mind blowing in it’s grandeur. Every surface was decorated.

DSC_0060.JPG

The secret as to why these works of art have stood the test of time is that unlike in the Sistene Chapel, they aren’t paintings. They are made up of millions of tiny mosaic tiles. You may be able to make the tiles out in the photo below:

DSC_0059.JPG

Everything here was on such a grand scale, the like of which I have never seen before. It was a beautiful building, if rather busy.

It was on the steps outside the Basilica that we said our goodbyes to our guide for the morning. Enlisting the help of a guide was a price definitely worth paying, especially with young children. They have a relatively short attention span (as do I to be fair) and were able to ask Maria questions that we wouldn’t have been able to answer. It also gave us the chance to learn so much more about our surroundings as, with the best will in the world, you cannot stand and read signs and notices next to exhibits when you are being pulled off in all directions to look at something else by smaller people. I would highly recommend the use of a guide if you are planning a visit yourself.

DSC_0050.JPG

From the front steps of the Basilica, we were able to gaze up to the Pope’s balcony. I’m not a Catholic, but it was quite surreal to find myself in a place which is so well known around the world. There was a definite sense of reverence and peace in spite of the hoards of tourists.

DSC_0051.JPG

It was upon leaving St Peter’s Basilica that we got our first full glimpse of the famous Swiss Guards. We did spy them at a distance while we were inside the complex but this time we got to see them in all their multicoloured glory.

DSC_0063.JPG

DSC_0064.JPG

DSC_0071.JPG

At the end of our visit it seemed only right that we should visit the Post Office of the smallest nation in the world and send a postcard home…

I was blown away with the beauty of the Vatican City. I didn’t really know what to expect, of course I had seen bits on telly and in books but to actually experience it for real was another thing altogether. One thing’s for sure, I will never forget the day we went to look around the Vatican.

DSC_0085.JPG

A final postcard from Portugal 

  
Today’s the day we wave goodbye to Portugal and head back home to Gibraltar. We have had a brilliant week and were  lucky enough to meet up with friends which meant the children had buddies to play with on the beach and in the pool. 

  
We have had mixed weather for our stay, some days scorchingly hot, on a couple of others we’ve even had rain but that hasn’t affected our enjoyment of this beautiful stretch of Atlantic coastline.

  
The aforementioned friends have been coming to this part of the world for many years and were able to introduce us to some lovely things like the red berry laden, white sangria above. It’s made with a fizzy white wine, spirits and strawberries, cranberries & raspberries and is divine. It also requires the drinker to have an afternoon nap!

We were also introduced to these beauties:   

They are local sweets made with marzipan and filled with egg custard. They looked fab and tasted delicious, from someone who doesn’t normally like marzipan that’s a BIG deal.

We’ve had great meals out, like the one in this atmospheric taberna in Portimão. I was ever so brave and ate clams and baby octopus (another BIG deal for me).   

There has also been plenty of time to be crafty and I’ve been making great progress on one of my cross stitch WIPs. The stitching session below was powered by the most gorgeous homemade strawberry smoothie made by Mr Postcard and ably assisted by the smaller members of the family.

 
On one of our drives to explore the local area we witnessed the sight of a shepherd striding out into the road, bringing the traffic to a standstill. He had a few goats among his sheep as well as a couple of weary looking sheepdogs.

   
My floral appreciation has continued in the Algarve. I have been very disciplined and only chosen a couple of the many pictures I’ve taken for fear of boring you!

 
 

I thought this plasterwork on the side of this building looked stunning.

  
   
Goodbye Portugal, thank you for having us to stay. We’ve had a wonderful time and hope to see you again one day!

 
Thank you so much for stopping by. Until the next time…