The University of Coimbra is the Harvard of Portugal, except it was established in 1290. university
Another exception is that upper classmen wear academic robes.

Upper classmen at Coimbra

Upper classmen at Coimbra

The day we visited we saw students in traditional dress parading down the main street of Coimbra singing Fado (traditional music). IMG_1355
Freshman however, and everyone else, dress in street clothes.

Coimbra townies

Coimbra townies

another townie

another townie

A shop in town had a pretty strange display:

student?

student?

townies?

townies?

We came across what I would call freshman initiation rituals. This brought back memories of the first week of college, getting up at dawn and having to duckwalk across the athletic field, of getting hoses turned on us and many other humiliations. But freshman initiation only lasted a week. In Coimbra it goes on all year.
The tradition is called Praxe, started in Coimbra in the 14th century. It’s a wonder any studying gets done. Well, that sounds familiar, now that I think of it.

Advertisements

Greetings from Porto, Portugal.  postcard porto 018 (2)Why take photos when you can just buy postcards. Porto is down stream from the oldest dedicated wine making region in the world.

Rio Duero region

Rio Duero region

You would think we would have done some port tasting here porto 035but managed to only have an espresso. I finally had a glass of the local with this great meal. IMG_1354 The wine cost $0.90. It wasn’t bad either. So if you were thinking you would be getting a fine bottle of hand picked port for christmas, well, guess again.
We rented a room in a lovely 4 bedroom home in the city dating from the 19th century, with high ceilings and a front facade covered with tile, typical to the area like these houses porto 031 and this church porto 023 (2) We had the house to ourselves the whole time, which was great until we blew a fuse and the whole house went dark. After much groping we finally got a call through to the owner and found the circuit box.

I always thought the Camino de Santiago was a single pilgrim’s route skirting around the Pyranees, through the Picos de Europa and on to Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain. The truth is there are a myriad of ways caminos de santiagoIn fact a pilgrim’s way starts wherever you start. So we took the North Wales to Santiago pilgrim’s route, assisted by a few motorways 002 and a ferry, and guided by a star of Galicia.006 Along our route we often saw the Camino trail markers caminos symbol the sign of the scallop.
The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages, together with those to Rome and Jerusalem. The route saw a decline in the last few centuries but has become popular again in the past 25 years. A pilgrim party was happening non-stop in the plaza outside the cathedral.santiago007 While we were in the plaza four or five groups showed up from as far away as Japan and the Ukraine.

Japaneses pilgrims with matching knee braces

Japaneses pilgrims with matching knee braces

Saint James, according to Spanish legends, had spent time preaching the gospel in Spain, but returned to Israel upon seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary. He was martyred there. So much for visions. After James’s death, his disciples shipped his body to be buried in Santiago where he occasionally does the miracle of two.

The saint is out of the office today

The saint is out of the office today

Off the coast of Spain, a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, however, it washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.
I LOVE scallops, with garlic and olive oil, YUM. Off to the tapas bar… then on to Portugal

Snowdonia is in autumnal flames and I had a front row seat on the beginning of our winter migration.llanrwst fall We are headed more or less down the prime meridian for Morocco.
We’ve pulled out the stopper for this trip. We upgraded wheels from the old French Citroen 003 to a newer Czech Skoda.001 I’ve also brought along my own chaufeusse. Well actually I was rejected for insurance on the new car, only because I had been driving illegally for two years, without a UK license. Can you believe it? So I’ve been consigned to the passenger seat, nose on the window watching mid-Wales turn autumn colors.santander 024 Things could be worse.
The Last Boat: On our last day in UK we had a lovely family visit in my favorite southwest town of Exeter. We were off early next morning to catch the ferry. Motorhomes lined up beside Plymouth harbor like snow birds on a wire waiting to board the last ferry of the season to Spain. Four hundred years ago pilgrims waited in the same harborside for the first boat to the colonies. santander 028 Our ferry was delayed due to a medical emergency. Some poor pensioner was taken off the boat while his car was somewhere below and bound for Spain.
Dolphin Sightings:dolphins Last month friends of ours kept their promise to take us to Newborough, their favorite place on Anglesea, the island in the northwest of Wales. There’s a magic sense to Newborough. A religious colony habited a small, high tide island just off the shore. The magic for me was my first sighting of dolphins in the UK. Dozens of them turned the waters off the island into Sea World. Back on the ferry, at dusk we sat at a window on the port bow and opened a bottle of Spanish wine to celebrate the crossing. Just for a joke I pointed out to sea and yelled “look, dolphins”. As if brought forth by my words two dolphins jumped a few yards off the boat. Magic? The last we saw of them they were headed straight for us, probably trying to catch the bow wave.
brittanyWe’re now in the port of Santander languidly watching the ships come and go. The languid part is due to the fact that they can’t get the bow door open for us to disembark. They are now about to turn the boat around to see if the rear can do want the front can’t 🙂 One of the problems of taking the last boat to Spain, I guess.

These days the sunsets are skidding south along the Irish Sea. 016

003
The summer has slipped south too. With the summer weather came a lack of motivation to be stuck in a studio so Radio Free Walesifornia shut down for the summer.

Back on the air Sunday 6-8pm GMT at 107.8FM and streaming at tudno.co.uk

We’re now back on the air Sunday 6-8pm GMT at 107.8FM and streaming at tudno.co.uk

What we did do
Llandudno: Today we hopped a double decker for a tour around the Victorians sponsored by Llandudno Arts Festival, hosted by a drag opera queen. Lots of fun.005

London:  We traveled south to the capital, and made well overdue visits to friends and family. We also saw rodents

Rodent mural in Shoreditch

Rodent mural in Shoreditch

trees (I think)

Tree? in Shoreditch

Tree? in Shoreditch

galleries with scary silver monster mollusks

Whitecube Gallery

Whitecube Gallery

buildings so big that they would never fit in North Wales

Is it me or does this building look like a 1980s cell phone?

Is it me or does this building look like a 1980s cell phone?

We hiked in my beloved Snowdonia. The biggest was 7 miles from the coast at Penmaenmawr, up over moorland tracks to Rowen in the Conwy valley.  We passed feral ponies

Wild ponies of Snowdonia

Wild ponies of Snowdonia

and feral royal mail delivery vans.

Feral Royal Mail Van forces Erica into hedgerow

Royal Mail Van forces Erica into hedgerow while speeding for the coast.

Funny enough the first vehicle we saw after trekking 6 miles over the moors and down into Rowen was the same Royal Mail van and driver, wearing a sheepish smile.

Other lovely hikes included the Snowdonia peaks of Moel Siabod and Tryfan

017 Went to a country fair and were frightened by vampire bat sheep.

Egwysbach Fayre

Egwysbach Fayre

Went camping in the Lake District and were frightened by extraterrestrial bird poop, lake district 002and sheep playing chicken.lake district 003 Had many lovely opportunities for tea. lake district 031

lake district 029 I would add to this blog but I hear the kettle boiling. Ta

BLOG UPDATE: Alas Gullible the baby gull has gone. Last seen walking the roof ridge like a tight rope. He was only a fraction of his sister Patsy’s size and in the end was almost nothing but feet. 012Meanwhile Patsy is thriving and getting quite vocal, testing everyone’s nerves.

BLOG UPDATE -BREAKING NEWS: Gullible the baby gull is flung from nest by sister Patsy. Caught red handed on CCT:gullible

IMG_0965 (2)

This week the BBC told the story of an English family who had moved to an uninhabited island near Tonga, in the South Pacific to ‘be alone’. They were asked if all they wanted was to be alone why they hadn’t just  moved to west Wales. There are certainly more sheep and seabirds here than people.

It’s high season for nesting on the cliffs of our Little Orme, seabirds circling and calling in the midnight light of the summer solstice. 
IMG_1111
Out on the Isle of Anglesey we explored along the cliffs of the South Stack IMG_1112where I saw for the first time a puffin with its beak in the high color of mating season.

thank you google images

thank you google images

Back at home we’ve been nest watching some gulls just across the street and are proud to announce the arrival of two hatchlings, Patsy and Gullible.292Lots of cute baby gull shots to come. Happy bird watching.



One hundred years ago passenger lines were at their peak, carrying thousands between America and Britain. This last week marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania on route to Liverpool. 1,200 lost their lives.

RMS Lusitania

RMS Lusitania

A German U-boat sank the Lusitania just as it entered war zone waters. In firing on a non-military ship without warning, the Germans had breached the international laws known as the Cruiser Rules. The Germans had reasons for treating Lusitania as a naval vessel, including the fact that the British had also been breaching the Cruiser Rules since the ship was carrying war munitions. The idea that there was such a thing as a Cruiser Rule seems so arcane now.

This May bank holiday weekend Cunard Line will be celebrating its 175th anniversary with a rendezvous of its three Queen passenger liners, Queens Mary, Elizabeth and Victoria in Liverpool harbor.

3 queens

Queen Mary, Elizabeth and Victoria cruise ships

Fifty years ago Cunard Lines bought out White Star Line and soon after terminated service from Liverpool to Philadelphia. An end of an era.

 
image1

When I was 7 the last of the White Star Line traveled the sea routes from Liverpool to Philadelphia. I have no memory of it, but my Norwegian grandfather, who worked the Philadelphia shipyards likely saw those liners pass as he took his lunch and maybe a pipe on the Delaware docks.
Sometimes I wish I could step from the Merseyside docks onto the deck of one of those old White Star liners and not touch ground again for a week or so, until we’ve entered the mouth of the Delaware.
Now I live down the coast from Liverpool and watch the cargo ships pass in and out of her port on the Mersey, but no passenger liners from Liverpool to Philadelphia.
Sometimes behind closed eyes, in the gray murkiness I see the contours of a White Star liner passing this North Wales head of land that is my home. I dream it defying the west wind’s waves, its yellow string of cabin light pearls winking out as it disappears on the long down hill run to Philadelphia.
But if I were in Philadelphia the dream would play out in reverse. So it’s for neither shore that I’m yearning but the mid-Atlantic middle and for a kind of ship that is no more.