Saturday, June 19, 2010

To Croc or not to Croc

I always swore that I would not buy a pair of Crocs, I know people love them, but I never understood it. My reasons for swearing never to buy them were:-
1) They are ugly
2) They remind me of working for someone that wore them into the office
3) I never had any need for them (high heels moved to flats when I moved to Jersey, but never to Crocs).
4) It seemed everyone had them
5) I hate those awful Croc jewels that people put in them (ref #2)
6) I had a lovely pair of jelly shoes which Sarah brought back from India for me
So, numerous reasons. When Peter bought his:

Blue ones, from Jersey. But bought with the intention of wearing them in the garden here in Portugal, I resisted....OK, OK, I did look at various pairs of fake Crocs in the shops...I toyed with it, but mentally listing all the reasons 1 to 6 in my head I did not make a purchase.
Since getting to Portugal though, I have tried out different shoes...I fell down the garden steps and hurt myself in my Moroccan slippers (now they languish at the bottom of a bag), flip flops leave my feet open to ant bites, lovely jelly shoes are sadly falling apart after 5 years of summer wear, my Nikes are too good to get muddy (well actually they make my feet smell so I don't wear them as often as I thought I would). So I thought about it, discussed my fears with my next door neighbour 'you're a farmer now' she said to me. I tried out Peter's....they are quite comfortable...I felt the change coming upon me.....then I lapsed, a moment of madness in the supermarket....I bought some (stylish?!) brown ones.....I know, I shouldn't have, I know. I simply cannot fathom what happened...but only yesterday I was out in town with Peter, I looked down and there they were....Oh god, it's happened - Yes my name is Helen and I own a pair of (fake) Crocs....and the worst thing is, they are currently my most worn shoe (I have them on now) - THE SHAME.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bull Fight

A Portuguese bullfight differs from a Spanish one, firstly the bull is not killed, it's mostly done on horseback and it seems that only six attempts at spearing the bull are permitted.

It was with some second thoughts that we made our way over the mountain to Miranda Do Covo for the bullfight. Set in a temporary rotunda stadium just out of town, the bullfight is part of the national heritage here. We'd decided to go for the experience - it was an experience.

It seems that most bullfights are just a lot of posturing by the men (mostly in tight trousers)! Lots of clapping, cheering, music and trumpets sounding. You know instantly that it is steeped in tradition, even from the way the spikes are handed to the horsemen to the calls for the bull to appear.

As soon as the bull came into the ring I felt that it was wrong to be there. I just couldn't look at it. I was not sure I could stay...while Peter took hundreds of photos of the bullfight I looked away. The first team did there thing, you fear for the bull and for the horse but not for the man. Then an unexpected (well for me) thing happened, the horsemen left the ring and a line of 10 men appeared. Calling to the bull the men walked forward in a perfect straight line looking straight into the eyes of the bull. The bull charged, the men stood still, then the lead man hoicked himself onto the horns of the bull! Such a strange site to see, this man over the front of the head of the bull. Quickly others crowed the bull, held onto it's tail and formed an exit, two, three, they jumped off leaving one left with the bull. So strange, strangely fascinating, strangely exciting.

In Portugal they have a very famous lady bullfighter, she is loved across Portugal as she is the only lady fighter. One she came (more blooming clapping), the crowd made a lot of noise for her. The bull took ages to come out into the ring, the anticipation builds, I could actually feel it, my eyes came back to the ring to watch...the crowd carry you along.

I wouldn't say I enjoyed it, I felt the horror of the cruelty to the bull (to the horse maybe as it was charged at by a bull), but I watched it fascinated. I am not sure how I feel about that, it's been a couple of days and I still cannot decide how I feel about the fact I watched it fascinated by the spectacle.

It is part of their heritage here, families attend bull fights with children. Flowers are thrown to their idols and bands play in honour of the fight. The photos Peter took are fab, take a look

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Road Trip

'Pack some things' he said. So I did! Got a little concerned when I saw the tent going in the car along with the sleeping bags, but never mind - in the spirit of adventure I'm willing to try camping again.

We're off on a road trip up to Northern Portugal and beyond...well into Spain actually! We headed up to a town called Viana Do Castelo, a town where the bridge was built by Mr Eiffel (of the tower fame) and the most Gothic looking building I've ever seen sits on top of the hill.

Lunch was had in a back street place, now don't get the wrong idea here, I say back street but alas it was blooming expensive for Fish Rice. A quick trip around the town before we head to the coast for surf! Cloud coming in though as the inlet means it's hot hot hot, but cloud covers the sun. A surf had (I had a sleep on the beach behind the wind break) and we head for a seaside town called Villa Praia de Ancora. Hotel found we went exploring, a fantastic seaside town with lots of places to eat and drink. And guess what there was a Sardine Festival starting the very next day! Quite common in Portugal I hear, since only last week some town somewhere near here broke the World Record for amount of Sardines eaten in a day (oh my that's a lot of fish).
Smoking still allowed in some bars over here, and you guessed it, those bars are always busy. Woke up smelling of smoke but it was strangely nice being in a smokey bar again!

So, did we stay for the Sardine Festival?


Just a few miles north was Spain and the Gallicia region - a wonderful rugged coastline of inlets and rocks stretching for miles. Full of hotels just random on the cliff edges the area must be really popular in the Summer. We stopped briefly at Oia to take a look at their church and the harbour. They make fancy churches the Spanish!

Shortly after we hit Baiona, a Spanish Monte Carlo by all accounts. Hundreds of places to eat and drink, but hundreds of coach tours stopping at the fort for people to get off and spend spend spend. We took a tour of the fort, paid our 2 Euros (only people that did, but you know me I like to support the heritage).

We walked up to the fancy Pousada hotel called Parador de Baiona, right nice! After two beers (served in wine glasses) I went to ask the price of a double room.....234 Euros a night. I didn't turn it down right away, well it was a very nice place. But then we paid 12 Euros for 4 beers (served in wine glasses!) and we decided it was beyond our means.

Onwards we went, slightly fractious since we did not know where we were going and I needed to pee! Peter pulled another winner out the bag and we went to O Grove on the coast. Set on a salt lake O Grove is lovely. We explored as soon as we'd found a hotel, and soon learned that because of it's location at the end of the Peninsular O Grove is THE stop on the tour bus route, there were so many tour buses and so many Spanish people getting off them. All that tourism puts the prices up in O Grove. Tapas for dinner, along with these peppers - a local speciality where these mini peppers are flash grilled with salt and oil. Only one in every 12 peppers are hot, so you have to hope for a hot one!

The next day we headed home. Via Carrefour for shopping. Watching Peter choose chorizo and hams from a selection of too many was a sight to behold! We ended up with a fair few in our trolley, so I know what we'll be having for dinner from now on!