Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dennis Severs & John Soane

I managed to tick 2 more things off my London 'to do list' when I recently visited two small private museums. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside either place, so I only have photos of the exterior.

Dennis Severs' House

18 Folgate Street, Spitalfields.
This 5 storey house is a time capsule. Dennis Severs (1948 - 1999) lived in the house and lived there in the same way that the early 18th century occupants might have done. We are told these were a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724 to the dawn of the 20th Century. It was Dennis Severs’ intention as an artist that as you enter his house it is as if you have passed through the surface of a painting, exploring with your senses and imagination the the sights, smells and sounds of the house.

The house is open to visitors for 2 hours on a Monday. A few people are allowed in at a time, and there is total silence. The house is dark, lit only by candles, firelight and limited daylight from the windows. The 10 rooms are mostly jam packed with items as if the inhabitants, the Jervis family, were still living there. There are different smells and different sounds, such as ticking clocks, church bells. Photography is not allowed. £10 entry. See more on Dennis Severs' House official site.

Whilst I was out I passed the memorial to Sun Yat-Sen. He was the founding father of China, born in 1866. He became leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, having overthrown the Qing (Manchu) dynasty. After a plot for an uprising in Guangzhou failed, he went into exile overseas for 16 years. This included London, in 1896.

He was detained by a Chinese legation in London, but the British Foreign Office intervened and Sun was released from captivity. See more on Sun Yat-Sen.

John Soane's Museum

On another day I went to John Soane's Museum at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields. This is the historic house, museum and library of distinguished 19th century architect Sir John Soane. At Soane’s request, the house has been left untouched since his death – almost 180 years ago. It is packed full with artefacts as well as drawings and models from Soane's life as an architect. Photography is not allowed.
Admission is free.
Official site. Also a Wikipedia page.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Storks in the western Algarve

Last year, 2017, in the western part of Portugal, I saw a few storks nesting on poles, electric pylons etc. But I wasn't able to get any photos. This year I saw lots of storks in the western Algarve. They are the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia). They are white, with black on the wings, and red legs and beak.

The first time I saw them in a town was in Silves. They were nesting on many buildings, as well as chimneys and trees. It is quite an amazing sight to see such big birds with such big nests so high up.

Storks are protected in Portugal and it is possibly a sign of good luck to have storks nesting on your house. Note the stork on top of this building with the nest on the corner and a close up of the bird -

The storks breed in Europe and spend the (southern hemisphere) winter in Africa. The storks arrive in Portugal Oct/Nov and the eggs are laid in Mar/Apr. The chicks hatch about 5 weeks later. Then they all leave for S. Africa around July, as it gets too hot in Portugal and the rivers dry up and there is not enough food. They eat  insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and small birds. It must be quite a sight to see these large birds flying in the skies above the town. 

However this blog suggests that the storks no longer migrate, as there is enough human rubbish for the birds to feed on. They now visit landfills and rubbish sites and are eating fast food. 

As it was the end of March, there were baby stork heads peeping up from the nests -

Storks are monogamous. These 2 appear to be mating

Parent and chick on a nest atop of a chimney -

Couple on nest on top of a building site -

Driving up towards Monchique, in one area along the river valley there were hundreds of storks nesting. Some were on tall electricity pylons, some were in trees, others just in the tops of bushes and some were even on the ground. It was like stork city. Apparently the storks return to the same nest each year.

The storks in Spain and Portugal are the most stable populations in Europe.

See more on these storks on Algarve information.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Western Algarve, Portugal

A quick tour through the western Algarve.

First stop was Silves.

Silves is the old Moorish capital, dating to the 8th century. The castle was built in the 12th c. after the King of Portugal conquered the town. The town was then re-taken by the Muslims, but was taken back in 1242 and the great mosque was changed in to Silves Cathedral.

Looking towards the cathedral and castle, from the River Arade -

The streets are narrow and cobbled. Shops are shut on a Sunday.

There seemed to be more storks than humans in the town. See my blog on storks of the Algarve.
Note the nest on the top of this building -

We then went up into the mountains to Monchique. On the way we passed an area in which hundreds of storks were nesting. Monchique is a market town, again with narrow cobbled streets. Oranges are replaced by lemons higher up in the mountains and there are many cork oaks. A fire water liqueur is made from the arbutus (strawberry tree) and good quality honey is produced.

Monchique is a spa town. The Romans built baths using the natural spring waters. Bottled mineral water -

We went on up to the highest point of the Algarve, Mt Foia, 902 m. As we went up, clouds came down and when we got to the top, it was thick cloud and a cold gale force wind. And of course zero view. In good weather there are great views down to the coast. This is a view from lower down looking towards the mountains - the cloud typically cleared after we left!

Next stop was Lagos. Lagos has always been a seafaring town, and during the 15th century was the base for the 'voyages of the Discoveries' instigated by Henry the Navigator. African slaves were brought back from the voyages and Lagos had a big slave market. The city walls were built in the 16th c.

Cape St Vincent, the most southwesterly point of mainland Europe. It was known as the end of the world. The wind was the strongest I have ever experienced. It was quite a challenge to take these photos as it was almost impossible to stand still.

Looking east towards Africa
Looking west, no land between here and America

Onto Sagres, passing the Fortaleza, that was the 15th century home of Prince Henry’s School of Navigation. Before then Sagres wasn’t inhabited as it was believed to be a place where the gods went to sleep at night. Sagres means sacred. Even now it only has a small population and mostly exists for the surfing tourism. We stopped overlooking the Baleeira fishing harbor with great views over the cliffs. 

I was amused to see a condom dispenser alongside an ATM

Crossing the River Arade and looking towards Portimao, the 2nd largest town in the Algarve, after Faro.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Portuguese food

Last year, 2017, I blogged about Portuguese egg tarts and other cakes. This year I will show some of the other food I ate. I'd forgotten how many meals are served with chips and rice and no veg. Pork seems more common than fresh fish. But first, an egg tart photo -

Thin pork steak with chips, rice, egg and gravy
another pork steak, this time with rice and 3 salad
Friday was a day for fish

A 3 course meal in a restaurant -

 Another day, paella which was packed with seafood and meat -

In 2017 I had a plate of sardines in a market -

Codfish cakes in Lisbon -