Europe · 75 Days · 44 Moments · May 2017

Tanya's Tour Of Cafes, Wineries and Pastry

14 August 2017

Ok. Last night. Tomorrow's my flight. I am a mess. Sadder than I thought to end the trip and happier than I thought to see everyone. I am dealing with it in the best way I know. So for now, Tanya's journey is over and out. Well, this one anyway. Who knows where the next one will take me? And maybe some of you will join in. Yahooooo. Will see you soon.

13 August 2017

12 August 2017

This is it. A rooftop, sunset farewell to Istanbul. And an end to an 8 month journey. One might ask how much wine has been consumed, coffees enjoyed, pastries eaten and temples visited. Or how many gallons of sweat was shed, miles walked and air miles logged. Answer - uncountable!!! I keep getting asked by people I meet what my favourite country is. That answer is unknowable. Every one has been unique and challenging and funny and heart breaking and stunning in its own way. I am grateful for each lesson, every smile and all the kindness that was extended to me. Thanks to everyone for your support, your love and your laughter. The biggest challenges of this trip have been grappling with fear and with loneliness. It is easy to fall into a pit of paranoia when you are lost and wandering the streets where you can't read the street signs, no one speaks English, and you are in a vulnerable position. Your emails/messages kept me a anchored and kept me going. With gratitude, Tanya
While it'll take time to process all I've seen, here's what I learned: People are people the world over and while their circumstances vary greatly, most just want to be fed, housed, and loved. Humans search out sacred places and once found, they remain sacred for thousands of years. As a white traveller, I'm seen as a money machine. Just by the fact that I am travelling in another country, I have more money than most locals I meet. And the lesson is to handle the constant requests for cash, negotiations and inflated prices with grace and patience. You can't reach for a better world when you are hungry and all you want is food to feed your children that night. Poverty is the greatest illness we need to overcome. The world is profoundly beautiful and the people who inhabit it, do so with as much grace as they can. Smiling and laughing are the best things we can do, for ourselves and others. If something smells bad, chances are it's your own shoes. The world needs more wine and pastries.

11 August 2017

Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country and the Ezan, or Call to Prayer is broadcast from every mosque throughout the city six times daily. You hear it everywhere. The exact time of the Ezan changes from day to day and from place to place, according to longitude and latitude, sunrise and sunset, and geographical relationship to Mecca. Although it's not required that prayer take place in a mosque, it's felt to be more appropriate to gather in the sacred space with other Muslims. The Ezan proclaims God to be Great, and while not a religious person, I think there is something about a daily reminder that is important. Not so much about God, but a calling out, across the city to be kind. To love. To take care of each other. It would never fly in the West, as it would likely be considered something nefarious, created by "Big Brother". But I feel there is something in a daily communal reminder, to step back from our computers, look into our hearts and be grateful. And have a cookie. Or three

9 August 2017

Istanbul has been inhabitated since 2,000 BC. It has had several different names and been conquered by everyone - the Persians, Alexander the Great, then a few different Romans, the Byzantines the Arabs, the Barbarians, the Crusaders and the Ottoman Turks. Jesus. Renamed Islambol, (Turkish for the "City of Islam"), the city was the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Between 15th and 16th centuries, and sultans built mosques and public buildings. It was a major cultural, political, and commercial center. The name evolved into "Istanbul" and is now home to over 14 million people. It is one of the top five most populous cities in the world, having grown rapidly over the past one hundred years. Istanbul has remained one of the largest cities in the world for most of its long history. In fact, Istanbul (then Constantinople) had a population between 400,000 and 500,000 in 500 AD, pushing out Rome as the largest city at that time.

8 August 2017

It happened. Not quite a Bedouin on a donkey, but still, with a tall, dark and handsome Persian man. I sense a "Tanya Type". Anyways, all a bit unexpected. So there I am, wandering the alleys of the Grand Bazaar, when I pop into a stunning light shop. A fine young man comes over and in two minutes we are talking Trump and all the idiocy. In five minutes, he suggests we go for coffee and closes the store. In a fabulous old coffee and she-sha place, where the pillows are steeped in old smoke and coffee stained, we sit, smoking she-sha and drink Turkish coffee for two hours. Then he takes me to an amazing rooftop eatery, overlooking the Bosphorus, and we eat and drink traditional Turkish raki and tequila. Tequila????? OK. Who was I to say no? Things get a little fuzzy but 2 more she-sha places and lots of raki later, I abandon all pretence of propriety and our friskiness knows no bounds. Suffice to say this old gal frolicked her brains out amidst the pillows and smoke of ancient hookahs.

7 August 2017

Ah, the wonders of Istanbul. It's smelly and chaotic and dirty like Delhi. But rather than getting run over by a cow or Tuck-tuck, you are more likely to meet a swift death by getting run over by a car or truck. Traffic rules operate the same way as they do in Delhi, in that there are none. If the surface is relatively flat, the cars will drive on it, regardless of what the intended use of that space was. Sidewalk, park, bench area, you name it. It doesn't matter. But because, like Delhi, Istanbul's history is extraordinarily deep and rich, and it pulses with life and chaos in all its glory, I love it. Especially the hammams, or Turkish bath house, where a girl can lie in a steamy room on hot marble, then get scrubbed and lathered and massaged and hang out and drink tea for hours. The treatment has it roots in Roman times. You see me lounging in one that's 600 years old! Other pics are of sweets (Turkish Delights), streets of the Old City, the Grand Bazar, cool cafes and cats.

5 August 2017

Goodby Bulgaria. There's alot to be said for Bulgarians. Very straight forward and matter-of-fact, with zero tolerance for polite, dance around the bush talk. Take my fine Bulgarian waiter, who watched me struggle through a menu one morning. "You want Bulgarian breakfast?", he asked somewhat impatiently. With all the wholesomeness of a Canadian traveller I said "oh yes please". To which he replied "Breakfast - beer and two cigarettes". Oh my. But as I looked around, I saw that that was indeed the case. Or at my last accommodation, when they arranged my massage. My masseuse was a big sturdy Bulgarian bloke. He motions me to lie down. Gingerly, keeping my towel wrapped around me, I comply. He whips off his shirt, removes my towel, and with thumbs hooked onto both sides of my panties, says "Proh-blem"? To which I reply with the only answer possible "No proh-blem". Off came the panties. And he proceeds to pulverize my body. As I found out later, he was also the hotel maintenance guy.

30 July 2017

Latest news - hanging in Plovdiv until Aug. 5th when I will bus back to Sofia. From Sofia, I fly to Istanbul on the 7th, a change of plans. In talking to students at the dig, I realized that I had the time to see Istanbul. I am so excited. I will be there until the 13th, then fly to Bucharest to catch my flight home on the 15th. In Istanbul, I'll be staying in a cute little boutique hotel called Peradays. As some of you know, I have been having problems with my Yahoo account, so haven't been able to access email for a few days. My friend Lisa is trying to help me get it all back in order. In the meantime, you can reach me at Here are some photos of Plovdiv. It's been inhabited since the 6th millennium BC when the first Neolithic settlements were established. Plovdiv was conquered by Philip II of Macedon conququered it in the 4th century BC. It's been invaded by Persians, Greeks, Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgarians, Slav-Vikings, Crusaders and Turks.

26 July 2017

After Sofia, it was onwards to the next dig, in Bulgaria, at a site called Pistiros. In comparison, it was heaven. I had MY OWN ROOM. Which meant more dancing naked to Cold Play. Until I found out that the kids from Oxford had a great view of my gyrations from the pool. If they weren't experiencing anxiety, depression and tension before, they sure as hell are now. The dig was easier. Because it was an older Greek site, the "digging" was by trowel and brush, rather than by picking at the earth for hours on end. It wasn't as hot and the work days were shorter. But I was beat. In mind, body and soul. And despite the great accommodation with a view of the vineyard, I was done. So I left the dig a week later, to hang in Plovdiv Bulgaria, one of Europe's oldest cities. They've got an old Roman theatre here, still much in use for festivals and plays, and a museum with the most amazing glassware, much from the 3rd century BC. And yes, that is a glass penis from that time. Not to scale.

23 July 2017

With the dig at Stobi over, I had a couple of days in Sofia again, as a rest before moving on to the next dig in Bulgaria. Sofia has done an amazing job of incorpating its Roman history into its current architecture. The main metro hub is built on top of a main Roman Road hub and the entrance to the subway station is actually the main Roman gate to the old city, with the floor, the actual old Roman Road. This all dated between the 1st and 5th century AD. Once again, it astounds me how uses continue. A transportation route from 2,000 years ago continues to be a transportation route today! Sofia, Macedonia's capital, is also home to basilicas and cafes and as you will see in the pics, sometimes they are combined! And what was really cool, is that scattered throughout the outdoor cafe were old Roman stone inscriptions. Anyway, fuelled, finally, by good coffee, I wandered the streets and the pics show the new and old of Sofia, as well as beautiful Greek Orthodox churches and frescos.

20 July 2017

Dear everyone. Once again, it is with heavy heart that I pass on distressing news. I grieves me to announce my breakup with Josh. The relationship had run its course and it was time for me to move on. I wish I could say the issues were with me but really the issues were with him. Too inflexible. Poor boy - he couldn't live without me and jumped out my purse to his death on the hard earth. I think it's a sign that when I laid him to rest, I was more broken up about the demise of my shoes than I was of his passing. At his request, I laid him to rest in true Thracian king style. Buried with the best pottery, finest coins, and candy (for sustenance as he journeys to the afterlife), he is buried next to a Roman palace at Stobi. I only hope that years from now, when he is unearthed, he will be given the kind of reverence he deserves. I am sure you share the sentiment that he was a bright and shining light, even for such a brief time.

15 July 2017

14 July 2017

After weeks of listening to the kids talk in great detail about menstrual cramps and degrees of pain, the different meds one can take for anxiety, depression, ADD, and tension, what the coolest online war games are and which characters are the best, and how fraught their relationships are with....well...everyone, I got out of Dodge and took myself to Ohrid, a city on Lake Ohrid. Like most of Macedonia, it has a rich and long history. It also had 365 churches, one for each day of the year, and has been referred to as a "Jerusalem (of the Balkans)". I stayed at a great BnB, overlooking the lake and paraded around naked, dancing to Cold Play for hours. In my room. Not in town. The next day I toured the town and saw a Gutenberg Press (supposedly one of only 7 in existence) at the place that made homemade paper. Quite cool and there is a pic. The churches were many and the Greek Orthodox know how to create a gorgeous space. And then it was off to the hooka bar. Just me and all my buddies.

13 July 2017

9 July 2017

Lessons from history - in the end, even the greatest, the richest, the biggest and the best are reduced to dust and a few jumbled stones. Take the ruins of Pella, Greece, which we visited over the weekend. In antiquity, Pella was a strategic port but the harbour and gulf have since silted up, leaving the site landlocked. In the beginning of the 4th century BC Pella was the largest and richest Macedonian city and flourished as a centre of government. It was the birthplace and seat of government of Philip ll, in 382 BC and Alexander the Great, his son, in 356 BC. The finds in Pella are incredible. I've got pics from daily life - the mosaic floors and terra cotta figurines used to decorate their sanctuaries. A pic of me in one of their public baths. And then the finds from the cityโ€™s cemeteries, some showing child burials. The pics also show artifacts in 24 warrior graves from approx. 350 BC. So cool. And then there is the earliest known Playboy mansion. My personal fav.

8 July 2017

Cleaning the excavated Roman road that ran through town, I found an older street layer beneath it. ๐Ÿคœ๐Ÿ‘My supervisor was so excited because this may change what we currently know of the history of Stobi. I am sitting on the porch drinking a glass of cheap Macedonian wine to celebrate. Unearthing something that has been buried for close to two thousand years is an incrediable feeling. To think of all the feet that walked on that pavement, all those people with their hopes and dreams, walking to the Roman version of a Starbucks and having heart to hearts....... I just love that sense that so much has changed and yet so much hasn't. There were stores, there were gathering places, there were spas. Those people knew how to live. Even in a little town like Stobi, at its height, 30,000 people, had two public baths. Except that their toilets were communal, so everyone sat in a big room, sitting side by side facing each other and pooping. It's enough to want to permanently clench ones sphincter
Living in a cabin with 19 to 24 year olds is an experience. Almost all are taking meds for depression/anxiety/migraines/chronic pain, or some combo of the above. And the lads in the other cabin are also struggling. And it is all discussed in some detail. It makes me wonder - were we that fragile? Were we that depressed, anxious, scared and frustrated and were our bodies already breaking down when we were that age? Did we just not talk about it? Are we made of different stuff? Did we just manage it differently? Or is this the result of a generation raised by divorced, guilt-ridden, hard working, exhausted parents? I'm curious what you think. Surprisingly, all the ailments that kept them off the dig site during the week had disappeared by Friday night and we went into town to groove, get tanked and listen to electronic hip-hop. I STAYED UP UNTIL 2:30 showing these kids how it's done. It's amazing what happens when they let us 50 year olds out of the old folks home.

2 July 2017

You may wonder what the heck is there to dig here? Again, with apologies for geekiness ๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“๐Ÿค“, here is a brief history of Stobi (and some pics of my humble abode and some of our finds). The ancient city of Stobi lies at the confluence of the Crna and Vardar Rivers, and was an important urban, military, administrative, trade (mostly salt) and religious center of the Roman and early Byzantine empires. Thought to have been first inhabited in the sixth century B.C., significant urban development and demographic expansion occurred from the first to third centuries A.D. and Stobi continued to develop and expand until it was abandoned around the turn of the seventh century. The archaeological remains within the city walls occupy 27 hectares; suburbs and cemeteries are located outside the city walls. The site contains 26 exposed buildings, including a theater, synagogue, palaces, houses, basilicas, and baths, and has been excavated for nearly a century. See? That wasn't so bad....was it?

1 July 2017

On the weekends the Field School organizes trips for us and our first one was to the town of Bitola, the site of Heraclea Lyncestis and a bar I found. Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city and was part of the official trip. The bar I found was not. HL, as us hip archeologist call it, was an important episcopal and trade centre in the 4th to 6th centuries. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with some of the world's best preserved mosaics. There is also one hell of a well endowed statue here and I hope you enjoy the pic. I'm pretty sure it wasn't used in the church. But really, who gives a shit about all that? Let's talk about the bar!!!๐Ÿ˜œI wandered off from the group and down this little back alley and found the world's coolest bar. Built into an abandoned 600 year old mosque, they played amazing tunes and served icey G&Ts. And so, cocktail in hand, I toasted the statue, and danced to the Jackson 5 and Culture Club and rocked the Casba, or in this case, the mosque.

27 June 2017

It's been one week. One week of working six hours a day in 42 degree heat. Picking at dirt. Shovelling dirt. Scraping dirt and then wheelbarrowing the dirt away. The upside is that I found a 6th century bronze Roman coin. The downside is that I was so sick from the heat I almost vomited all over it. Puking on your finds is frowned upon in archeological circles. Apparently it ruins the chances for conservation. Because 6th century Roman coins are a denarii a dozen (get it? Denarii a dozen? I am being witty here), I won't become famous and I won't get an honorary doctorate. I asked. But it was a thrill for me and I have a pic of it. There is also a pic of a beautiful statue they're restoring. Honestly, I could have been the model for it but will leave it with you to see the resemblance. I don't want to prejudice you. And one of these pics is actually a piece of window glass from the 2nd cent. AD. Blows my mind that someone 2000 years ago may have looked out this window at a sunset.

26 June 2017

Hello from the very glamorous dig site in Stobi Macedonia. Indiana Jones never had it so good. Here is my morning: - wake up at 5:45 in my shared room after a night of little sleep because I am worried I will snore - wait for the other 8 girls in my cabin to use one of the two showers and pray there is hot water - wait for everyone to leave so I can go to the bathroom..... because, and no pun I intended, I am anal about that sort of stuff. - eat cereal and milk, drink shitty instant coffee and walk to the site to be there at 6:45. - get assigned to a trench and start picking, shovelling, wheelbarrowing, and sweeping 10 tons of soil and documenting &@$@&)@$)><โ‚ฌยฅ~>]|=ยฃ~]{*#^] fifty billion pottery shards. - do this for 6 hours in 34 degree heat and listen to a) 20 year olds talk about fights with their boyfriends b) 20 year olds talk about how much they want to drink and c) 20 year olds talk about computer games. - at 1:00, stop work and go to lunch
My afternoon: At this point, I am a sweating, filthy, hallucinating mess of a woman who just wants to have Port and pastries and doesn't care what century that piece of glass is from. Let's say 2nd century and call it a day. Jesus. - All meals are prepared by very strong Macedonian women, who ladle it out. It's communal eating, so I sit with the kids and try not to face-plant in my plate of pasta - we are free from 1:00 to 5:00 and spend the time chiselling off the dirt baked onto our legs, arms and faces - I do a little ab and butt firming routine, meditate and then nap. By now it's 40 degrees - 1st lecture at 5:00 and another at 6:30. Examples: "Archeological Photography and Principles of Digital Photogrammetry; Mapping in 3 DM Analyst" or the always fascinating "Typology and Chronology of Roman and Late Roman Pottery from Stobi". - Dinner of dry, roasted gristle, I mean, chicken, cabbage and potatoes at 8:00 - go to bed, read paper, think about Port and pastries - fart and die
Here are shots of my lovely accommodation, and where we eat, where we work, where we break and what I look like after a day of digging. How the mighty have fallen. No ๐Ÿ’„, no nice ๐Ÿ‘ , no clean clothes but the worst is the lack of decent coffee, booze or desserts. The coffee is Nescafรฉ, there isn't a bar for miles (and the Macedonian national drink is something that smells like tequila, looks like brandy and tastes like diesel fluid and rotting fish) and they don't do desserts at this dig site. Fuck me. I may have to sneak out in the middle of the night and catch a ride back to Portugal.

23 June 2017

So here I am in Macedonia. A new country, recently coming into existence in its current state as a democratic Republic in 1991. It's borders have been redefined hundreds of times over thousands of years. A landlocked country, the Republic of Macedonia has borders with Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west. The capital and largest city, Skopje, is home to roughly a quarter of the nation's 2.06 million inhabitants. The majority of the residents are ethnic Macedonians, a South Slavic people. Albanians form a significant minority at around 25 percent, followed by Turks, Romani, and Serbs. It became a member of the United Nations in 1993, but, as a result of an ongoing dispute with Greece over the use of the name "Macedonia", was admitted under the provisional description the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. These pics are of my hotel, a converted ship, on the Vardar River is Skopje.
Weddings seem to be a big thing here. There are whole streets dedicated to wedding dresses, bridal party outfits and gold jewellery. Lots and lots of sequins and big, billowy skirts. I had Josh come along with me so I could drop some hints about future nuptials. Given that he can only bend at the waist, I doubt he can go down on blended knee. He remained however, curiously silent, even for the dark, handsome quiet type. But still. A girl can hope.๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐ŸปHanging in one of the windows is a red pleather and taffeta bridesmaid dress that I think many of you ladies would look lovely in. There are even rhinestones in the nipple area. Check out the bald chick in the yellow dress. Is that a "come-hither" look or what???๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ‘€
I am comforted to know that the world over, people are dedicated to the one universal activity that predates the historic record of humankind. I am talking about shopping, of course. We like to think that places like Granville Market are unique and cool, but the truth is, these kinds of bazaars or open markets have been going on for over 2000 years. It's just the currency that's changed. You'll be pleased to know that I finally found a shoe store that I could get behind. You'll see the pic. The other pictures are of random street scenes in old Skopje and of the bazar. Alert for cat lovers - found some cutie-patooties for you.

22 June 2017

So many emotions when you travel. The joy of finding a piece of old Roman wall as you walk along a modern road. The sense of awe when you enter a 600 year old temple and witness the devotion of young monks. The hilarity of having a three way conversation between a Portuguese masseuse, a German hairdresser and a befuddled Canadian traveller. The exhaustion of being on the move, finding places to stay and trying to navigate around a new city every few days. And then there is the sheer tedium of travel. Sitting with your thoughts in an airport during a six hour lay over and you can't access wifi. The little hamsters in your head, asleep when you woke up 3:40 AM to catch a taxi to the airport, are suddenly awake and running furiously on the wheel. And you go with it. That chick is skinnier than I am. That one is fatter. If that kid doesn't stop crying I am going to throw my Diet Coke at him. Before I do that, should I have a chocolate bar? Which one has less calories? Snickers or KitKat
Internal conversation continued: Or is a cookie healthier? Man my feet stink. If I bought a bottle of port at the duty free would I be allowed to crack it open in the airport, and drink with a straw? That chick is definitely fatter than me. Why is she with a really hot guy? Hello Hot Guy!!!! Yes, I am undressing you with my eyes. Wait. Should I have a chocolate bar before or after I undress you with my eyes? I'm going to kill that kid. I gotta do something about these runners. Man, that guy is hot and maybe the fat chick is his sister. Why don't I just buy a bottle of booze, get two straws and ask the hot guy to join me? Half the women in the waiting room are taller than me and have better eyebrows. And bigger boobs. Should I keep dying my hair or just let it go grey? What's the name of the currency in Macedonia again? Do i need to do hand wash today or can I just wear my underwear inside out? Internal conversation continued below:
Is there duality in the universe and we exist in a parallel dimension? ( I didn't think this but just want you to think I'm deep) Or maybe I should just go platinum and do the edgy thing? Wait! What the hell????!!!! Why has the Hot Guy kissed his sister on the mouth? And why is the kid running towards the Hot Guy screaming "Daddy" at the top of his lungs? And suddenly the hamsters stop. My mind is clear. There is no doubt. Snickers. New shoes. Duty free port. One straw.

16 June 2017

Ok. Here is where I totally lost my mind and embraced my not-so-inner-geek. The Prehistoric Rock-Art Site of the Cรดa Valley is an open-air Paleolithic archaeological site in Portugal. In the 1990s, rock engravings were discovered in the valley during construction of a dam. They include thousands of engraved rock drawings of animals, human and abstract figures, dating from 22,000 to 10,000 years BC. The sites were reviewed by archaeologists and local and international support grew for preservation of the site. The dam project was cancelled. The first drawings date between 22-20,000 years B.C., consisting of outlines of horses, aurochs, deer and mountain goats, chipped with a quartz pick. Between 20-18,000 B.C., a secondary group of animal drawings included examples of muzzled horses. There was greater elaboration during 16-10,000 BC with infilling of the outlines with lines scored on the rock with schist stones. And then there's me having a bath in an old Convent. Life is good.
I think what astounded me the most about seeing the rock art is the ongoing human need to express ourselves. In rock carvings, paintings, graffiti, film, statues, we seem to need to show ourselves or aspects of our life. We need to share our thoughts. We need to graphically display this idea of "I am". Whether that be of a god, or goddess, the animals we use or hunt, the landscape we see or the people we love, we have this desire to express. To stand where a human stood thousands of years ago and see how they painstakingly carved out an image of incredible grace and movement, over hours or days or weeks, with no thought that this work would be found long after everything he had known was gone and the world had been transformed ...... well.... there are no words. But there is a feeling. One of gratitude, that someone on some sunny afternoon by the river, perhaps fresh off a hunt, or after preparing the meat, or as part of a ceremony of thanks, decided to take tool to rock and share.
It's amazing what you find is some of these little villages. Some of these pics are taken in the cafe and pool hall of an ancient village, population 237. It is the funkiest thing. And then in another village, way out in the middle of nothing and nowhere is an old church whose alter is a huge boulder. If the squeeze your way all the way around it, it means you are not full of sin. You will be pleased to know that Josh made it all the way around without touching the rock. He's absolutely sinless!๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

15 June 2017

There is something to be said for having your friend Alan rent a BMV convertible, doing your best Audrey Hepburn (or her more solidly built twin) and galavanting around the Douro Valley in Portugal. ''Tis the land of sunshine, port wine, lovely villages, friendly people and extraordinary beauty. And for all you Josh fans, please DO NOT worry. My little Pookie was fine with having Alan along as a third wheel. He knew who I was coming home to night after night. And so we toured to our hearts content. Some days were full on and some were pure laziness. But always, there was Port. And upon Alan's insistence, there was chocolate. And there was walking. Dear God. Portugal is nothing but uphill, in 38 degree heat. There are no downhills. It's a geologic phenomena. Every church, every castle, every cute village, every freakin' Roman wall is at the top of something steep. I have never walked so much in my life without barfing. Must be the port. Stabilizing force.

9 June 2017

Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and has a population of 2.1 million. Located along the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European centres, and its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Its settlement dates back many centuries, when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Its combined Celtic-Latin name, Portus Cale has been referred to as the origin of the name "Portugal". One of Portugal's internationally famous exports, port wine, is named for Porto. In the 14th and the 15th centuries, Porto's shipyards contributed to the development of Portuguese shipbuilding. It was also from the port of Porto that, in 1415, Prince Henry the Navigator started Portugal's age of discovery.

5 June 2017

Evenings of Fado music. In Coimbra, sung by students or ex-students (hence the black robes in some of the pics), this music is haunting and typical of Portugal. This style of singing started in the early 1800s, and was popular among the dispossessed. Songs recount the hardships of the poor, sea life and love lost. There are two main varieties of fado, namely those of the cities of Lisbon and Coimbra. The Lisbon style is more well known and usually sung by women, while that of Coimbra is traditionally linked to the city's University and its style is linked to the medieval serenading troubadours who were men.

4 June 2017

Random scenes of beauty from a few days of big three hour walks. A couple of the above pics are from Penedo da Saudade, a beautiful park on the edge of town. According to legend, this was where an aristocrat used to come to mourn the death of his beloved wife, Inรชs de Castro. It is said that this mourning and sadness gave this place its name โ€“ Penedo da Saudade (Rock of Nostalgia). Many centuries later, it became a place where students came to "get romantic" and express their love. It was here that Coimbra Fado was born, and graduating classes from the university began the tradition of etching their emotions on plaques. These plaques represent the feelings of many generations of Coimbra students and lovers. The last pic is one of Coimbra with the university on the hilltop.
I fell in love with these figurines, made of clay, in the Sunday craft market in Coimbra.

3 June 2017

Move over Josh. Well, not really. I'm not that callous. Fado. My new great love. Gorgeous guitar music sung by soulful, dark and handsome Portuguese men. It's usually sad, "my soulmate died in a fire, my dog drowned and now I am alone" kind of stuff. And then you drink port. Which is perfect. Get 'em while their drunk and vulnerable. This has necessitated a discussion with Josh about having a more open relationship. Which works - he has a thing for those plastic Barbie types. I will apologize in advance for the "geeked-outedness" of my photo captions. I LOVE history. I am fascinated by how places are built on top of places without people even knowing it. Why do we choose the same spots as sacred sites over and over again? Why do we choose the same areas to live, despite changes in cultures, languages, and economic needs? And then the truly Big Question - why can't we be more Portuguese and drink port at lunch and hang out with family for two hours and then go back to work......maybe?

2 June 2017

Conimbriga - settled since at least 200BC. Like many archaeological sites, Conรญmbriga was evolved sequentially and built up by successive layers. Before the Roman occupation, the Conii peoples occupied the settlement around. The Conรญmbriga designation came from conim, used by pre-European indigenous to designate the place of rocky eminence, and briga, the Celtic suffix meaning "citadel". Around 139 BC, Romans began arriving in the area. At the time, Conรญmbriga was already a built-up settlement. The Romans introduced the formal organization of space to the settlement. Between 69 and 79 AD, new urban programs were initiated. Judging by the capacity of the amphitheatre, by this time, the city had an estimated population of approximately 10600. This picture is of a home of a wealthy aristocrat. The green area is the centre of the home and would have been an open courtyard with a fountain. The mosaic you see is the floor of the dining room and was laid in the 1st century AD.
The house of Cantaber is the biggest private residence of the city, with an area of 3260 m2. It was built in the 1st century AD and survived until the abandonment of the town in the Middle Ages. The house had 40 rooms, being distributed in five distinct sections of the house, each with its own courtyard (peristyle). It even had its own bath house, with furnaces for steam rooms, "hot tubs" and cold baths. That's what I took a picture of.
House of Fountains - Built in the 2nd century AD, this house has a huge central courtyard which was a water garden ( as shown today) and some beautiful mosaics, still visible today. It amazes me that these mosaics can last, in the elements for 2,000years.

1 June 2017

The street where I live - just off the main pedestrian walkway, go right and up the hill, and you'll find my little apartment. Air B&B. Love it.
Cambria is a university town and you definitely feel that vibe throughout the city. The university was established in 1537. The class rooms are stunning, with glazed tiles from the 1700s, rosewood panelling, pulpits and high ceilings. Wish I had gone to something like this instead of good old Carleton U. Many of the students still wear the traditional black capes as they stroll arm in arm through town, and in the back street by the university, you see a lot of creative statements like this one (second photo), which is student housing at its best. It was 10 in the morning when I snapped this picture of student housing. A very drunk student from the upper floor leaned out and told me he loved me. Bless. I remember those days. It's been ages since I last did that sort of thing....... at least two days.
And just across the street from the student housing ......... Churches are like Starbucks here. One on every corner for rabid sinners who need to confess case every block or so. ๐Ÿ˜›And a lot of gold, baby. This is the church of the Jesuits, who also believed in poverty......... for other people.

31 May 2017

In case you were wondering if I was eating enough fruit. I am.