Cushion, bobbins, pins, pattern and thread. Lace in the making.

Although lace isn’t necessarily a fabric I jump at the chance of wearing, there’s no escaping the fact that it takes great skill to create and can be truly beautiful and surprisingly versatile. During a trip to Vila do Conde to visit the national craft fair, I learned a lotRead More →

carved, painted wooden ox yoke from Portugal

Portuguese farmers replaced their ox-drawn carts and ploughs with tractors a long time ago but much of the traditional farming equipment, including wooden cattle yokes, can still be found in their sheds or decorating restaurant walls up and down the country. Some of the farmhouses which have been converted intoRead More →

Curved red thigh tiles on a roof in Elvas castle

You might be wondering what on earth thigh tiles are. If you come to Portugal and look at the roofs of older buildings, chances are you’ll see some. They’re the long, curved terracotta or clay tiles that were once made by hand. And leg. If you look closely at anRead More →

Coat of Arms, Casa da Calçada, Melgaço

My first experience of staying in restored Portuguese manor houses came about by accident and now I’m hooked. These lovely old buildings allow me to indulge fantasies of living in stunning historical settings and to find out more about Portugal’s past on a very personal level. Solar is Portuguese forRead More →

Changing of the Guard ceremony, Lisbon

I arrived in Belém one Sunday morning, curious as to why the roads had been blocked off and crowds were lining the pavement opposite the pink walls of Belém Palace. As I got closer, the navy uniforms of the brass band and the showier costumes of the stern-faced national guardsRead More →

wooden shields and fake weapons

Whenever I stand on ancient castle walls, I find myself trying to imagine what life was like when the castles housed royalty and their grounds contained thriving marketplaces buzzing with people, produce, livestock and flies. When I visit Óbidos during its annual medieval fair, however, I don’t need to stretch my imagination veryRead More →

Jazz musicians

I grew up thinking that all jazz was jarring to the ears and a musical genre that was best avoided. Now that I’m a bit older and have more experience of the different forms of jazz, I really enjoy its softer side. I don’t know if I’ll ever learn toRead More →

Iberian Mask Festival Lisbon

The last thing I expected to see in the grid of shopping streets in Lisbon’s Baixa district was a couple of men in hessian suits wearing blood red devil masks. They weren’t alone, either. A very odd couple with distorted, bubble gum pink faces danced past me and the otherRead More →