Sunday, November 9, 2014

My Portuguese Vacation

(Figueira da Foz, Portugal)

Something I tell most people as soon as I meet them is that I am portuguese. 

Since I was basically in the womb up until the age of 16, my parents would take my brother and me to Portugal.

Most of my family lives over there, so what seemed like a vacation for me and my brother was really a reunion for my mom and dad.

In the beginning we would go for the whole summer, and slowly it narrowed down to just 4 weeks.

Up until this year, my junior year of high school 2007 was the last summer I was able to experience going to Portugal.

My brother and myself were older, had our own friends and had responsibilities that wouldn't allot us so many weeks away.

Well this summer 2014 we finally returned for 3 weeks.

There were tears of happiness and joy as many relatives have passed since 2007 and new ones born into the family.

But regardless, I've never seen my parents happier. That's what matters.

And I got a beautiful tan in the process.


Around 2001 my parents decided to sell our condo in Coimbra and move to 
a condo in Figueira da Foz. This is the view from our porch. 

One of my favorite things to do every morning this summer while vacationing 
in Portugal was hop in the car and head 5 minutes down the hill to the beach.

Perks of living in Figueira da Foz.
Here is a picture of the beach and some cafe's and beach-side property :-)

Our first weekend in Portugal, we drove down to Coimbra where my aunt lives. 

Downtown on Saturday night was the procession for 'Rainha Santa', or Queen Saint. 

Her real name was Elizabeth of Aragon.

She is celebrated July 4-July 8.
Reinha Santa comes down from the convent in a procession, across the Mondego River, on the first day. She stays in the church for 4 days and returns to the convent on the last day.
We celebrate her because as the story goes...
Elizabeth married King Denis of Portugal in 1288.

After the marriage, Elizabeth continued to quietly pursue her religious practices and was devoted to the poor and sick in Portugal.

Elizabeth would take food from the castle kitchens and feed the hungry. The King discouraged her from doing this.

One afternoon, when she was getting ready to feed the hungry, the Kind caught her with her skirt folded over, heavy with something inside.

When the Kind demanded that she show him what she was hiding, suddenly flowers fell from her dress. She had turned the food into flowers and the King walked away. By doing this, she was able to continue feeding the poor.

Elizabeth passed on July 4th, 1325. She was buried in the Convent of Santa Clara in Coimbra, in a magnificent Gothic sarcophagus. After frequent flooding by the Mondego River in the 17th century, the Poor Clares moved her mortal remains to the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova (also in Coimbra). Her body was transferred to the main chapel, where it was buried in a sarcophagus of silver and crystal.

She was eventually canonized by Pope Urban VIII on May 25, 1625.
Many boys and girls dress as the kind and the blessed queen.
And some adults do too!

The fireworks how lasted 20 minutes. 
Here she is.
Reinha Santa.
Of course, she's standing on a bed of roses.

How beautiful are the streets in Downtown Coimbra during this celebration!?
Absolutely Amazing!

Downtown Coimbra, where my Aunt lives, is always full of of the most amazing smells from restaurants, old architecture, modern art and diverse people!
During feasts and celebrations, they light old downtown with decorations that lead the way for patron Saints, Folklore dance groups and tourists to follow.
Here is a "Rancho" dance group. Each village/county in Portugal has a representative Rancho dance group. Each village or county also has special folk dances and songs. 

The Ranchos perform these as tribute to the past times when these dances and songs were performed as entertainment.
They dress in traditional garb and carry props that were also traditional and specific to each village.

A fishing village may have nets and cod as props and the garb may be less flashy as opposed to a village near a city, where women wear gold necklace layered upon more gold necklaces and the finest in clothes. 

One may sing about finshing while the other sings about being married off.
Recently, the city of Coimbra build a foot- bridge that 
crosses the Rio Mondego connecting both sides of the city. 
While standing in the middle of the foot-bridge, I took this picture. This is the whole downtown of Portugal. The layering of buildings hides the many steep cobble streets connecting the historic sectors to the new. 

The tower in the middle and the surrounding large building at the top is the University. 

Students travel from across the country to attend University in Coimbra. 
Because both my parents (as well as many parents and children) studied in Coimbra when they were younger and also because my Aunt lives in the city, we were hear a couple times a week.

Let's get back to Figueira da Foz :-)

My parents :-)
I tried to really make use of my time in Figueira, especially because we live in a beach town.

Buarcos is my favorite part of Figueira to go to the beach!
Low tide!
Just casually looking for crabs...

Downtown Public Garden in Figueira

Figueira's open air market downtowns was totally renovated this past year. 


One of our stops along the way was my dad's village Seixo da Beira. 
It's about an hour through the valley of mountains to get there.

We went a few times, visiting mutliple families and friends.

We also got a chance to attend my parent's god daughter's (Amanda) dance recital.


Me and Amanda & My brother and Amanda :-)

My parents and Amanda.

 Later during my stay in Portugal, we returned to have dinner with her, her parents and grandparents.

Back to Figueira.
We drove up the mountain side one afternoon as the sun was setting over the town and ocean.

I caught some great images!


Next stop on the list was driving 3 long hours through the "big mountain' and Serra de Estrella to get to my mom's village.

We stayed in Aldeia de S. Francisco overnight.

This was our drive there...

This is carved into the side of the big mountain. We stopped and my brother decided to climb down the rocks and up the stairs. 

Can you see him?!

Then my mom decided to CLIMB UP the montain to pick a flower... she needed a hand to get down...

Me and my brother

After a LONG car ride, we arrived in Aldeia de S. Fransisco.

This is the house my grandfather built and my mother grew up in.

Enjoy some pictures of the the folliage, old buildings and scenic views.

My grandmother would clib up these stairs and keep her chickens and turkeys up there.

The village ovver was a HUGE mining village. 
This is all the silt the miners would dump after mining. Now, its a safety and health hazard.

How can such a hazzard be so beautiful?

My mom's relatives and friends actually use to live in those houses.

My brother siting outside my mom's childhood home. 
That whole white building is her house.

My grandmother's kitchen

Me and my brother on my grandmother's stoop.


Stopped to look at the view.

Had to photograph the rent-a-car OBV.

On the way back from my grandmother's village, we stopped by my dad's to visit more family.

These two women are sisters. 
They come from blue blood.
They never married.

The woman in the pink took care of my dad when he was a child.

She was the live-in nanny.

You see, my dad came from money.

They had a cleaner, a chef and a nanny.

This woman tokk care of my dad and his younger brother.
Bathed, fed and watched over him.

So every trip to portugal, we visit them atleast twice. 


On our final day in Coimbra, the day before out returning flight home to Boston, we payed one last visit to the foot bridge.


Here, you can see Coimbra, and the University tower and buildings right at the top.

Much better photo of the University

Hope you enjoyed!
Highly recommended trip!

Until next time,