Friday, 29 September 2017

Portugal - An Engagement and a Christening

My daughter was proposed to a couple of months ago, and the couple thought it would be a great idea to get married in a civil ceremony in front of the whole family that would be in Portugal at this time for the Christening. 
Unfortunately her French partner was unable to organize his paperwork in time, so instead they arranged an engagement party for the family and some friends.


The engagement party was  held on Saturday 26th August at the Quinta da Lontra where we were staying.
The owners were most gracious in allowing us to do a big get-together there for about 30 people, and we used the lounge/dining/kitchen area for that. It was perfect! 
I organized the cake and desserts - which were made by a friend that lives in the area, and my daughter organized the food and drinks. 
The party was a success and everyone helped with cleaning up and disposing of the rubbish and recycling generated, by taking it to bins in the village the following day.

You'll notice the cake says "engagement party #1". This is because they intend to have 3 other parties with friends in Amsterdam (where they live), in Marseille (where his family and friends are, as well as they lived in nearby Martigues for a few years) and in Paris (where they met while working there and where they also have friends). 
The reason for the various parties is that they just plan on having a tiny wedding next year but at least they can celebrate with friends before.

Karina & Thomas engagement cake


The following day Sunday 27th, we all got dressed up and drove to Santa Comba Dao, about 25kms away where my grandson's baptism would take place. This town was the birthplace of Antonio Salazar, the dictator that ruled Portugal from 1932 to 1968. 
The ceremony was performed at the 18th century baroque church. I forgot to take photos  inside, but it's got an interesting painted ceiling and a beautiful carved wooden altar. 
On the stone wall bordering the church there are tiled murals, one of them depicting the house where Salazar was born.

Igreja Matriz Santa Comba Dao - main church of St Comba Dao and tiled panels

Baby J's Christening outfit

After the ceremony we drove back to Carregal do Sal, where the commemorative lunch was held at Casa do Zagao (rural accommodation and function rooms). It was a lovely lunch and family and guests enjoyed themselves.

Desserts Table
After lunch we raised a toast to baby J with a glass of bubbly while we ate a slice of his christening cake. 
Afterwards the obligatory photo session took place and here we have a photo with my side of the family (17 plus 2 babies) and a photo with my husband's side of the family (an extra 4 people).

My side of the family

My husband's side of the family
After the party was over and the caterers had removed everything some of us went for a drink at a cousin's house who lives in the area and my sister's and I decided to reproduce a photo of the 3 of us originally taken in 1972 (black & white photo). The next time we were together was in 2012. Hopefully we will reunite again in the next couple of years and take another one.

The 3 sisters - 1972, 2012 and 2017
And sadly the 4 days soon came to an end and it was time to say goodbye to the family that was driving to Lisbon, as with the exception of my parents and middle sister and husband who live in Portugal, the others would be departing on the 29th to Johannesburg, San Francisco and Luanda.

My husband and I, our daughter and partner were staying behind and driving to the northern city of Porto. Before leaving we drove to the hill next to the "Quinta" where we stayed. There was an oscillating rock (and yes, it rocked) and great views of the river below and we stayed a while breathing in all that beauty.

Oscillating rock, Mondego river views
Our former apartment building in Carregal do Sal
Before driving to Porto we stopped for a coffee and pastries at the Cafe below the apartment building where we lived for 10 years in Carregal do Sal. I was  happy to see the building had been repainted and was looking great.The Cafe esplanade is also new. Our duplex apartment was on the second floor on the right side above the Cafe. Good memories...                                                                                                                                                                                                         
See you in Porto next!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Portugal - first days - Leiria & Quinta da Lontra

On the 24th of August, after an uneventful 7h flight from Perth to Dubai and then an 11h flight from Dubai to Lisbon we landed in Lisbon 30 min ahead of schedule. 

Because I don't sleep much during flights I spend time watching movies, and on the trip there I watched 7 movies.
I can recommend two of them: "A United Kingdom" an historical romantic drama and the romance "Paris can wait".

Lisbon from the air - Christ statue, 25th April Bridge, Edward VII park


On arrival, we were picked up by my middle sister and niece and headed to Cascais where my sister and my parents live, to join the rest of "United Nations family" already there - my younger sister, brother in law and 2 nephews from South Africa, my niece, husband and baby from San Francisco and my niece from Angola, we had lunch and then spent the afternoon catching up.

My daughter and partner would arrive around dinner time from Amsterdam, and after their arrival we had our first loud and lively family dinner.

The purpose of our visit to Portugal was for the Christening of our grandchild and with a lot of planning we managed to be able to join the whole of my immediate family, plus 2 of my husband's 3 brothers for this special occasion - a grand total of 21 people! 
It really was special as the last time we were all together (minus a few of the new members) was 20 years ago!!

Our son, daughter in law and baby boy had also flown from Perth to Portugal 2 weeks ahead of us and were staying in the center of Portugal with DIL's family.

                                                             * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

The following day the adventure started with the family divided into 3 cars for a 1 1/2 hour car trip to Leiria,  a town about 30km from Fatima - a Catholic pilgrimage site, home to the Sanctuary of Fatima. Here we met up with a group of friends and some cousins for lunch.

The group after lunch in Leiria
After lunch, we got back on the road for another 1 1/2 hours ride to our final destination. 
I was dropped off at a Cafe in Carregal do Sal, a village where we had lived for 10 years before moving to Australia, and where I was meeting up with some lady friends for late afternoon tea. 
The rest of the family drove to Quinta da Lontra - the riverside country estate where I had booked accommodation for 16 of us, so they could check in, unpack and rest.

The ladies meeting in Carregal do Sal - I'm at the back in the center

Tasty desserts for afternoon tea - Chocolate mousse, Rice Pudding and my favourite Sponge cake with runny Serra da Estrela cheese, made from sheep's milk

Quinta da Lontra - (Otter Farm) - this ecological farm is situated in the countryside, 1,5km from Póvoa de Midões on land bordering the Mondego River (which was quite dry due to drought). The farm is accessible via a dirt road and is off-grid, but electrical needs are provided via solar panels.
The English owners, Toby and Nina were very friendly and welcoming. Two dogs and a cat completed the idyllic setting.
Breakfast and dinner is available on request for an extra fee and the owners use their own organic produce or locally sourced produce when possible.

The yurts and domes (top), a bedroom in the dome, the blue house with the top and bottom apartments
The accommodation is made up of a bricks and mortar house with an upper apartment that sleeps 5 and a lower apartment that sleeps 3, both houses have bathrooms. Then scattered thorough the property are a couple of big domes and yurts that sleep 2. Two composting toilets and 2 showers made up the bathroom facilities for the domes and yurts, and were located just above the Kitchen/lounge zone.

The Kitchen/eating/lounge area was everyone's favourite and enabled the whole family to be together while cooking, playing games, talking, or eating...  Built on the higher part of the property it was a functional but cosy area too - the kitchen was well equipped, comfy sofas, books and music were available and there was a long table that could accommodate all of us.
Just outside there was a table-tennis table that the younger crowd used daily and an outdoor sitting area around a fire pit.

I was surprised when my young nephews - 18 and 21 years old, told me that they thoroughly enjoyed their time away from their mobiles (cellphones) and had fun playing cards and  walking along the river chatting to each other. 
The only drawback was that due to the uneven terrain,  it was a bit challenging to walk from the domes up to the Lounge area at the top, my parents in their 80's also found it a bit tiring but coped.
I think we all got a bit fitter from going up and down the whole day anyway. 😉😉

The main house - bedrooms, lounge, kitchen, deck

Dining room, fire pit area, Sitting room //  Kitchen/lounge area seen from the bottom, kitchen, playing table tennis
The outdoor toilets and showers
The Mondego River - very dry due to the drought
Views over the river Mondego, Bridge over the river, Swinging boulders
Another beautiful view from the mountain top to the Mondego river

Check out this youtube video of Quinta da Lontra.

Hope you enjoyed the photos of this idyllic place. You can get more information about Quinta da Lontra from this website:

Monday, 25 September 2017

Monday Mural - Mondego River

I've just returned home after 4 weeks away in Portugal and France and my mural today was the first mural I photographed in Portugal.

Our family group of 16 stayed for 4 days at a country estate owned by an English couple - Quinta da Lontra - in the centre of Portugal, to celebrate the christening of our grandson.

As I walked around the estate towards the Mondego river I came across this mural painted in one of the buildings that is used as an art retreat - it depicts the sun setting over the river, the  huge boulders surrounding the river and a canoe.

For other murals from around the world please follow this link - Oakland daily photo.