Graffiti in Lisbon — Photo by Arthur Vallin Creative Director HarleyandCompany

Few Americans have yet to discover Portugal. We went recently to visit my British family in Vila Nova de Milfontes in the South. Our journey started in Lisbon where we stayed in an apartment in the central part of Lisbon. Our airfares were inexpensive and our accommodations through Airbnb even more so (we never paid more than $100.00 a night).

Lisbon is a beautiful old city with a large Moorish section that wanders up into the hills behind the pastel colored, red-tiled houses that line the cobbled streets.

Moorish Section of Lisbon – Photo Arthur Vallin Creative Director HarleyandCompany

It has numerous beautiful squares and monuments and is scenically situated at the mouth of the Tagus River. If you are a foodie like us, it also has many inexpensive world class restaurants and markets scattered throughout the city in which to enjoy grilled octopus, ceviche, mackerel tartar, lamb chops, codfish cakes, cheeses and all manner of potatoes, salads, and gazpacho. How I love the different varieties of this tomato delight that to me represents the essence of summer.

Cape Verdian singers www.facebook.com/nosraiz
Paw Patrol to the Rescue in Lisbon

It is advisable to take a ride on one or other of the red, yellow and green trolleys that go all around the city and learn Portuguese history. Ancestors of the Portuguese include Lusitanians (Indo-European speakers), Celtici (Celts), Calaicians, Coelerni, Cynetes, Narbasi, Tapoli, and many other tribes. Of course the Portuguese were great maritime explorers, mapping the coasts of Africa, Canada, Asia and Brazil during the 15th and 16th centuries.

For me however it is Portugal’s Moorish past that I find intriguing. During their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula starting in 711, the Moors brought an vital and unique culture with them. In fact many Arabic words still permeate the Portuguese language like Arroz for rice, and El-Gharb for what is now known at the Algarve.

Street Trolley Lisbon – Photo Arthur Vallin Creative Director HarleyandCompany

From the teaming city of Lisbon we travelled South to Casa da Dina, a delightful bed and breakfast about thirty minutes from the seaside town of Milfontes.

Family dinner at Dina’s

Dina cooks traditional dinners for her guests and her husband Walter, a talkative and informative Uruguayan host, complements these with an unusual variety of Portuguese wines and cocktails. This place won’t come close to breaking your budget, affordable and absolutely authentic. It’s situated down a long narrow, dusty country lane surrounded by wheat fields and cork oak forests. The small village of Malavado nearby hosts a bar in which you can drink beer and watch soccer with the locals.

While staying at Dina’s we easily visited the Atlantic coastline and its spectacular beaches located in the South West Lengejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. This 100km of coastline, stretching from Porto Covo in the Lengejo to Burgau in the Algarve is stunning, and it is a place where surfers can ride some of the best waves available in Europe. There is a wide variety of beaches, including long stretches of sand and small coves nestled between the cliffs and rocks, which sport a repertoire of forms and coloring caused by centuries of erosion.

Beautiful rock pools perfect for swimming in
Dina and Walter and Carlotta their dog

Here’s a recipe directly from Dina’s kitchen, to yours. Grill Cod then mix in a bowl with boiled potatoes, homegrown tomatoes, cucumber, grilled green and red peppers and chopped garlic — season generously with the best Portuguese olive oil, salt and ground pepper, and some wine vinegar.

Bedroom at Dina’s

We ended our trip to the mainland of Portugal with a family reunion of three generations at my cousin’s house. Their rambling white villa is set in the South West Lengejo and the Vicentine Coast Natural Park on the tidal river of Mira, a ninety mile stretch of fresh and salt water, which meanders lazily down and up from the coastal town of Milfontes. Their property was once home to the local miller who tended the now abandoned rice mill next to it. Legend has it that the original owner lost the property many years ago to a neighbor in a game of cards. An honest judge however gave him half back!

Hammock time by the old rice mill!
Ben swimming against the incoming sea in the river Mira – Photo by Arthur Vallin
River Mira at Dawn – Photo by Arthur Vallin
Sunrise looking up the river Mira — photo by Arthur Vallin
Family Love – photo by Arthur Vallin

I thoroughly recommend Portugal as an inexpensive and exciting place for middle class families like us to travel to. It costs no more to get there and spend a two week vacation than it does to rent a three bedroom house on the Cape or the Carolinas in August! Accommodations are cheap, the airfare is affordable from the East Coast, and food and wine are a fraction of what one would pay in the US.

In our family we have always skimped on buying and owning things in order to travel the world, to get out of the US and to understand first hand that the machinations of American politics have little relevance to others who share the globe with us. It was fabulous to learn about an important and different history and culture, to hear a different language, and to have the luxury to take time out of our busy lives to concentrate on family and the ones dearest to our hearts.

Please consider reading my book The Burning Years

This brilliant book gripped me from beginning to end. The author has extrapolated a vision of the future that is based on her extensive scientific research. This illuminates her vision with plausible future scenarios that both fascinate and alarm. Thank you Ms. Harley, for this journey into a dystopian future that also weaves hope in the resourcefulness and creativity of your finely drawn characters, while at the same time awakening your readers to the present day urgency of climate activism.


How to Help an Author …

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

Buy/Borrow, Read, Promote to other readers
… those books you enjoy.


Never expect the author to give you a free copy. But, if they offer to do so, you shouldn’t feel you are under any obligation to either read the book or give it a rave review. Unless you truly enjoyed reading that book. (As far as I’m concerned, I’m always thrilled to death with the thought that someone else may be reading my book!)

Buying or borrowing a copy from the library is the best show of support. (And if your local library does not have the book in their collection or the bookstore doesn’t have it in stock then this is a good time to mention the book to them. Did you know that most libraries encourage their patrons to recommend books that may be added to their collections? Both print and eBooks in most cases ……

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beetleypete’s A-Z Film Challenge … The List: A-L

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

During the Merrie Month of May, I discovered (through friend Felicity Harley’s reblogging of it) a series of posts by a new-to-me UK blogger, beetleypete, titled A-Z Film Challenge. I was late coming into the challenge with my own suggestions (I didn’t begin commenting until around the “L” post, I think), but I was pleased to see that Pete’s series had already attracted a great deal of attention and further recommendations from his blog’s readers that it seemed as though a real online “party” was going on! I also discovered in short time that Pete has an extensive knowledge of World Cinema (which I particularly enjoy) and had many of the same experiences of seeing films for the first time when he was growing up in England as I had growing up in Canada. Turns out we’re just about the same age. While Pete and I mainly agreed on…

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A-Z Challenge: Day 26


So, the final day, and ‘Z’. Look out for not only my extra post, Day 27, but also my blogging challenge conclusion, which follows that.

‘Z’ is a little lacking for titles. I will leave out the Costa-Gravas film, ‘Z’, as too obvious, and go with my own few picks for this letter. I will also be omitting the terrible, ‘Zardoz’, not one of Connery’s finest hours. Feel free to mention it, if you like it.

Just a few then, and a pretty obvious top pick, if you have worked out my taste so far.

I could never have left out ‘Zulu’ (1964). This famous epic not only launched the career of Michael Caine, it covered one of the great moments in British colonial history so well. A small detachment of defenders must hold the mission station at Rourke’s Drift against the attacks of almost 3,000 Zulu warriors, in 1879…

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A-Z Film Challenge: Day 25


I had a top pick in mind for ‘Y’. Some readers have already guessed it, and others might well suspect what it might be. You will be pleased to know that you are right, and it will be the one you thought.

On the way there, I had some real problems with this letter. I could only scrape up three more to feature, and they are mostly well-known. Well maybe not this first one…
‘Yol’ (1982) is a film made in Turkey by Yilmaz Guney. Amazingly, he was in prison when the film was made using his instructions, and unable to edit it for showing until he escaped to Paris. Because of his opposition to the government, Guney’s film was banned in his home country for many years. This powerful and often touching film follows the travels of a group of prisoners They are allowed out of prison on leave…

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A-Z Film Challenge: Day 23


‘W’ is a real treasure trove of great titles. My original list was up to more than forty, when I decided to once again to stick with mostly little-known titles, and to leave it wide open for your comments. My top pick is quite famous, but I had already decided to go with it.

I will start with two well known epics that have always worked for me. Sergei Bondarchuk is involved with both, and the Russian director knew his stuff. ‘War and Peace’ (1966) is a detailed adaptation of the Tolstoy novel, lovingly recreated in over seven hours of film. It is so long, it was originally shown in instalments. You can still get the multi-disc original on DVD. It is magnificent.
In 1970, the same director brought his skill to the film ‘Waterloo’. With Rod Steiger as Napoleon, and Christopher Plummer as the perfect Wellington, this wonderfully accurate…

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A-Z Film Challenge: Day 22


I was looking forward to ‘V’, as I had a top pick chosen well in advance. Quite a lot to choose from here, so there should be plenty left for you to comment on.

David Cronenberg has made some very unusual films in his career. They can be visually challenging, and often contain a message about society too. James Woods is a competent actor who has also played some controversial roles, and is known for giving 100% to every part he plays, however small. Put these two together, and you get the fascinating ‘Videodrome’ (1983). This is a comment on modern television, and the potential excesses it can sink to. Add some stunning ‘body horror’ effects, and you are left with a unique and unforgettable film, in an uncertain genre. And Debby Harry is in it too!

Vampire horror is a subject that film makers keep returning to. There have…

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A-Z Film Challenge: Day 21


Phew! ‘U’ is really hard. I had my top choice in mind, and ended up sticking with it. But there’s not much to leave for you, except a couple of obvious ones. Good luck with ‘U’!

I don’t laugh at many American comedians in films, no secret there. Adam Sandler leaves me cold, and though I might occasionally grin at Ben Stiller, that’s a stretch too. I have never watched ‘The Hangover’ films, and failed to raise a chuckle at anything involving Owen Wilson. Even ‘Dumb and Dumber’ left me checking the weather reports, for something more interesting. And don’t get me started on the legion of ‘buddy’ comedies. OK, I did laugh at ‘Bridesmaids’ (2011). A little bit.
One American comedian who always made me laugh was John Candy. Something about his smile, maybe his huge bulk, but he got to me every time. So, my first choice today…

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A-Z Film Challenge: Day Twenty


Even leaving off ‘The’, there is still a large number of films beginning with ‘T’. My top choice was once again exactly what you might expect from me, and I make no apologies for that. As usual, I have tried to leave out the better known films, including that one about a New York cab driver. I will concentrate on the more unusual ones, and leave the field wide open for comments.

Starting with a film I rarely see discussed. Eric Bogosian is the epitome of the fast-talking opinionated character seen in many American films. He was never better than as the obnoxious radio talk-show host Barry Champlain, in Oliver Stone’s film ‘Talk Radio’ (1988). Bogosian is just incredible as the outspoken radio presenter who specialises in putting down the callers, and cutting them dead with sarcasm and rudeness. Events take a dark turn when he upsets someone too much…

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