Portugal Trip Day 6 (Friday, Sept. 21)

Lack of repair up summing

Majestic plumbing
long broken by think numbing
no flight becoming.

It was sunny with a gorgeous blue sky in Évora when Karen and I went to get the car which we’d parked near the Capela dos Ossos because heaven help us if the Opel rental were found there before the 9AM tours started. We parked it outside the ancient walls once we figured out how to navigate the narrow roads, most of which were one way.
Peter and Nadine were both up and we walked up to Praça do Giraldo and parked ourselves in front of a flustered agent in the Tourist Center there. He gave us some much needed guidance as to how our day and the next should go.
The Roman Temple to Diana dedicated to Augustus (first century A.D.) is hard to miss as it was only a few blocks away in the center of historic Évora. It’s difficult to understand the hows of this but the columns and other stonework were preserved because they were embedded in the walls of a butcher’s shop. Beside it is a nice park fronting a view of the lower city which is worth the short walk. You can see where some of the aqueducts still stand from the height.
We split up at the Sé de Évora and Karen and I took this magnificent cathedral in. Évora was definitively reconquered from Arab hands in 1166 by Geraldo Sem Pavor (Gerald the Fearless), and soon afterwards the new Christian rulers of the city began to build this cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This first building, built between 1184 and 1204, was very modest but was enlarged circa 1280-1340, this time in early Gothic style. The cathedral received several valuable additions through time, such as the Gothic cloisters (14th century), the Manueline chapel of the Esporão (early 16th century) and a new, magnificent main chapel in baroque style (first half of the 18th century). It is the largest of the medieval cathedrals in Portugal, and one of the best examples of Gothic architecture.
The tour is definitely worth paying for as you get to hike up the long circular stairway to the roof for a stunning view of the surrounding city. Wonderful! Also including are halls wherein one can see a great number of historical religious art.
Afterward we walked down to the Capela dos Ossos which is a Franciscan chapel and a fantastic lesson for life. It is literally made with bones. The land for several graveyards was needed and some Franciscan friars decided that the bones should be used as a memorial rather than shunted away or reburied. A reminder of the inevitability of death for the wealthy and other inhabitants of Évora. A stark message can be seen above the chapel door:

“Nós ossos que acqui estamos, pelos vossos esparamos.”

“We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”

It’s a somber, thought provoking and, I feel, a deeply spiritual place. For the most part you can’t touch the bones although one of the shields near the door allows a crack that many have reached through. A skull there has a near glossy shine which is proof that while many may not like to be reminded of death there are some who remain fascinated by it.
The price of admission included many wonderful exhibits including the largest display of nativity sets I’ve ever seen. These are in all kinds of style and forms including some wildly imaginative dioramas.
The Chapel is beside the much larger Igreja de São Francisco (built between 1475 and the 1550’s). That is home to wonderful side chapels including a very cool room dedicated for meetings of Third Order Franciscans with monastic style seating around a circular table.
As Karen and I returned to our accommodation we stopped to shop in a nearby market for some local cheeses, meat and bread and then in a wine shop for some vinho branco to share for lunch with Peter and Nadine.
The Castelo de Arraiolos is a 14th century castle on a hill in the town of the same name. It was a short car ride away and we walked part of those battlements and looked at the keep. Then we strolled down the hill and checked out two places that made Moorish style rugs with jute and wool by hand. Beautiful examples of work. One large and beautiful rug cost over a thousand euros. But that’s not a bad price considered it had taken the artisan three months of work.
That was enough of a day so we decided to go back to Évora and buy ourselves supper at a Pingo Dolce. We shared Churrasco Chicken, salad and cooked vegetables with three different kinds of wine including a ‘dessert’ of port I’d purchased in Lisbon with a blue cheese and some chocolate. A wonderful meal with great company!

Vinho: (Port,Porto): Ferreira – Dona Antonia Tawny Reserve Port

Portugal Trip Day 5 (Thursday, Sept. 20)

Montemor show me mo

From our walled hilltop
lands peopled forever slope
to future eloped.

This would be the day we would say goodbye to the silent house as we were scheduled to pick up the car P & N had rented at the airport in the afternoon. We did some packing and then, as time was our friend, we wandered down to the Museu Arqueologico do Carmo. The original church itself, whose construction began in 1389 through the efforts of the great hero from the Middle Ages D. Nuno Álvares Pereira was a victim of the 1755 earthquake like so many other buildings in the greater Lisbon area. That and the subsequent fire destroyed nearly all of the building which was where Constable Pereira was buried.
The destruction was particularly devastating in this church as many worshippers were attending All Saints Day mass at 9:40AM on November 1st during the earthquake and the building was so large: it was said to rival the Se on the Castelo hill and that’s massive. An unknown number were killed by the stone and then the many candles used in the feast day would have set any wood or cloth aflame. Horrific. I don’t know if they were effected by the tsunami as well so high on the hill but that did kill many inhabitants of Lisbon subsequently. Just thinking about walking through that eerie place makes me shudder.
Reconstruction began the year after but was halted by another upheaval in 1834, this one political, when the Religious Orders were banned in Portugal. I wonder if the Carmelite nuns rebuilt elsewhere. Some of the orders were allowed to stay as long as they didn’t recruit new members, others were just banished.
Most of the current arched supports are from the rebuilding phase that still stand, some have plants growing thereon. The place remains open to the skies and now this location is being used as a repository for all kinds of stonework from all over Portugal. In the back are rooms filled with many archeological artifacts that were more precious and would be threatened by the weathering. Some of these include stone, bone and metal objects from the stone age and rare artifacts from other ‘countries’ too.
But they say all good things must come to an end and our time in Lisbon for this leg of our trip was finished. There was still lots to see but since ‘they’ had spoken who was I to argue.
The rumble of baggage wheels over the cobble is a common enough sound in Portugal and Karen and I definitely made some of our own as we descended the hill to Praça Rossio and then down into the subway station there. P & N had backpacks fore and aft so they looked like lower case t’s but silent ones. We drove the Opel out of Lisbon over a beautiful bridge over the Tagus. Karen commented that the posts at the side of this bridge had what looked like sails and I tried to describe what they were to Peter. Then Nadine took over. It’s hard to describe something visually appealing to a blind person but I think he got the ‘picture’ in the end.
What struck me most about the landscape on the yonder side of the river was how dry it was. You’d have trees and then just sand. Yet in the highway median were plantings of tall rush like grasses and beautiful flowers. So with some water and hard work this region of Portugal, called the Alentejo, is a great place to grow cork oaks, olives and grapes. In fact some of my favourite red wines for the trip were from this region.
On the way east to Évora we spied a castle far up on a steep hill and we decided to go take a look. The place was called Montemor-o-Novo and its Castel was very old. Some of the buildings are from the 14th century but, as is common throughout Europe, archaeological digs are showing many pre-existing structures. Walking through the ancient town on the hilltop was surreal and fascinating.
We tried to get some lunch here but learned that in the countryside people take their ‘lunch time’ seriously. This one place we walked into the proprietress basically threw us out of there with a smile and some broken English. The next place we went to, although the door was open, was also closed but the owner did feed us before sitting down with his cook to eat his own lunch. Later on we found that in cases like this we were often charged more for interrupting their siestas just because we are so spoiled by restaurants. We learned to avoid eating establishments in the countryside between 12 and 4.
One of the reasons I was keen on going east to Évora was to catch a spectacular historical site called the ‘Cromlechs of Almendres’ which is on a long and very dusty road through a large cork plantation outside of the village of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe. There you can find the largest groups of menhirs or standing stones on the Iberian Peninsula and among the largest in all of Europe. They date back to the Early Neolithic or the 6th millennium BC which makes them a stunning 8,000 years old.
There are 95 granite monoliths in two or three concentric circles on a hillside facing east. It’s thought that, like Stonehenge, this was an astronomical observatory. We also stopped at another location to see a few more, solitary (probably didn’t get on well with group dynamics) menhirs along the way back.
Everything in Europe is wrapped in an historical context so much older than ‘human constructs’ here in North America. A sixteenth century building here, a wall from the fourteenth century there but these stones, fully 3,000 years older than Stonehenge, give one serious pause. If I live to be 80 years old, which might be a miracle in itself considering my current health, my lifetime will only have been a hundredth of the time since those stones were erected to map seasons on that dusty hillside.
Évora isn’t on as dramatic a hill as the castle at Montemor-o-Novo but it is on one none-the-less. This was the site of a walled Roman town centuries ago. They built a very long aqueduct, parts of which still stand, to supply water to the place. We drove through the wall just as evening descended and found our Air B&B, Monica’s Place. Monica met us at the place warmly and gave us keys and had advice for a place to eat too.
Though the walls of the place are very old the interior was quite modern and cosy. The only problem was parking as the streets are very narrow and the places are all claimed by people that reside there. But there was free parking outside the walls and it wasn’t too difficult to walk back and forth once you knew the lay of the land which we didn’t until the next day.
The Cafe de Tiborna is a new restaurant just up the road and it served excellent food and really good Alentejo wine. A little restless, Karen and I walked alone up to the Praça do Giraldo and then down to the Capela dos Ossos chapel before returning to our rooms and bed.

Vinho (Tinto,Alentejano): Monte da Ravasquiera – Seleção do Ano 2017
Licor (mint Mentha pulegium): Poejo Montemorense

Peter Butchart’s Party

Mr. Peter Butchart, so ill fated to be
a Scotsman marooned as a La Guayra settler,
was married to a labourer’s child, Elspeth Livie
May 3rd, 1821. He was trained as a tailor
and, like many, not suited to carving out
a life in the shallow soils of coastal mountain
so they switched from C to C Company about
and eventually arrived hopeful in Guelph certain
of a chance for better health and prospect.
But now onto April of the year 1829
where my history and this poem does intersect.
After their long debt was paid condign
Peter wanted to celebrate in some style
he’d sold ten suits in as many a week
and to the Priory, brooking no denial,
applied to Jas Benham for how to sneak
through the rationing at the Company store.
Jas was amenable to be hale and hearty
and let on, quiet aside, that he did adore
the idea of Butchart’s celebratory party.
So on that warm Spring day, the seventh of April
Peter agreed to invite his partner and witness
and so ordered flour from MacDonell Gristmill
showing Jas’ slip to the clerk, Mr. Dennis.
Then thirty-seven and a half pounds of pig
from the butcher for pick up on the 13th.
Easter Sunday, then, was on Neeve St. so big
despite a grey sky and light rain beneath.
Peter, Elspeth, other La Guayra friends and the children
celebrated a serendipitous great and good fortune
for their long migrations did finally wend
to where their toil was desired and opportune.

Inspired by a short blurb found in an old copy of a newspaper clipping in the Guelph Library:

Allowance to Peter Butchart for April 13th, witnessed by Jas. Benham on the 7th day of April, 1829.
12-1/2 lbs. flour at 3d/lb. cost: 3s, 1-1/2d
37-1/2 lbs. Pork at 7-1/2d/lb. cost: 1£ 1s 5d

This blog posting:


and other research. I’ve tried to put forth the facts with only some slight embellishment.

Standing Stoned

Naom-Ghrian has passed through
the Spring door,
what remains of it,
five thousand and ninety-three times
as I linger here
tied to my belief in stone.

Much of that time was quiet
and in peace
with none coming to the forgotten
Hanging Clach
but lately
they come to the remains
strangely garbed
and with stranger ideas.

Many defile the Spring rite.

I absorb moments of their odd lives
and am shocked that they think
we were druidic
or archers
and other things
from places that didn’t exist
when I breathed–
but I keep my secrets to myself
and watch the years
waiting for the rock
finally wear down
and release me.

Canadian Railroad Travesty

I’ve enjoyed the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” by Gordon Lightfoot during much of my life. It spoke to me in many ways about my youth and that of our vast country. About the great effort it took to unify a land that not only necessitated the invention of time zones but actually has six of them. I worked in the woods for three plus summers and can attest to the hard work that takes. Still, now that I’m older and possibly wiser, I find myself thinking of these lyrics in different ways. But before I start in on that I want it to be clear that I am a Lightfoot fan: though it took me weeks and I never did it well I learned “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” on a guitar with a green arborite top as a youth (the guitar worked well as a cheese cutter though). And I think that songs such as “Sundown”, “Carefree Highway”, “Rainy Day People” and “If You Could Read My Mind” are some of the best songs written anywhere and anywhen.

So background. Well you can read that for yourself but it seems that the song itself was commissioned for a CBC “special broadcast on January 1, 1967, to start Canada’s Centennial year”. Interesting: I’ll get back to that. So, I’ll quote from the lyrics below but they’re easy to find on the net if you to look at them yourself.

I would object that the mountains or dark forests were alone or too silent long before the white man or the wheel. Was the wheel tossed in there as a nod to our aboriginal brothers and sisters? There is evidence that they also invented the wheel around 1500 BC on these two continents so I don’t get it. What does ‘too silent to be real’ mean anyhow? A beautiful and useful idea to paint with words but that has nothing to do with what’s real. It’s so anthropomorphic to think of forests, or mountains for that matter, not to have sound just because no human or ‘white’ human is there. Until ‘they’ came to this verdant country. Back to knocking Canada’s aboriginal heritage. And verdant? That really means ‘green grass’: sounds more like modern day Ireland to me.

What about time having no beginnings? It has tons of beginnings. And middles and ends. All that, like history having no bounds, is all purely a matter of context.

Gord goes on to say ‘they built the mines the mills and the factories for the good of us all’. I don’t buy that. ‘They’ built those for their own European economic self interest and certainly not for us all. Ask those who had to work in those mills about how good they were to work in. The ‘young growin’ land’ is all about colonization once again.

I agree with the part about ‘tear up the trails open ‘er heart let the life blood flow’. That’s a fitting way to talk about the colonial western European impact on North America nature. Of course, if it hadn’t been done then I wouldn’t be here, or most of me anyhow; the way I figure it I’m 12.5% native. That’s approximately my head and one of my legs. The rest is, I tink, français, eh?

Anyway. I still like the song: I just don’t think it represents Canada very well. Maybe that’s why it was a centennial thing which is also a colonial thing. So perhaps it should be the Colonial Railroad Trilogy instead. Remember where the word ‘Canada’ came from. The Huron-Iroquois ‘kanata’ which was supposed to mean ‘village’ or ‘settlement’ was first introduced to the white man in 1535 by the two Aboriginal youths talking to French explorer Jacques Cartier. To them it meant the village of Stadacona where the City of Québec now stands. In my opinion, Bruce Cockburn’s “Stolen Land” is a more realistic representation of our country’s history though they both share very catchy tunes.