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Thursday, December 12, 2019, 22:36 | No Comments »

The synagogue in Belmont

Belmonte synagogue

We are once again in the Beira Baixa town of Belmonte, home of the man who had brought about the evangelisation of Brazil. ( But Catholicism was not the only religion deeply held in Belmonte, Judaism was there too and, just up the hill from the statue of Pedro Álvares Cabral, is the old Jewish quarter of the village.

What I am about to tell you is a story of deeply held faith and extraordinary, almost incredible, tenacity. It starts more than 500 years ago, at the time of the reconquest of Spain by the Catholic Kings, Fernando of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, contemporaries of that same king who had favoured and then forgotten Cabral; Dom Manuel I.

To read the extraordinary story of the Jews of Belmonte, click here

Thursday, December 12, 2019, 21:54 | No Comments »

The castle on the hill at Belmont

You can see Belmonte with its imposing castle from a long way off. Dominating the region with its 360° view, it was once an outpost built and manned by Portugal's early rulers to defend the state against invasion from Spain. However, unless Portugal's much more powerful neighbour was showing serious aggression, it is unlikely that any Belmonte resident ever met the king or any members of his court - or indeed anyone else from further afield than a few kilometres around - because the settlement was so remote and difficult to reach.

Despite its historic isolation, however, Belmonte is not without history. There is a fascinating reason why we chose to make a special effort to go to there and a curious fact that we discovered upon arrival. To find out first about the curious fact, click here.

Sunday, December 8, 2019, 17:29 | No Comments »

Smoke rises from the village of Esmorigo as people clear up after the harvest.

The year is almost over and the land in the Minho is being cleared of the detritus of last year's harvest. Whippy strands of grape vine, bereft of leaves, are being swept into piles and set alight. This evening, in the hamlet of Esmorigo, I counted seven spires of smoke coming from fields and gardens. Most of the time, the air being still, the smoke rose straight to the sky, looking like sacrifices made by Abel. In this picture, one or two fires seem to have been set by Cain!

To see more of my thoughts as I walked past Calheiros and Esmorigo, click here.

Thursday, November 28, 2019, 20:32 | No Comments »

The Radium Hotel built below the crest of a hillThe Radium Hotel from afar
Though the ruin is large, I almost missed it because I was looking for the wrong shape in the wrong place. I had been told that it could be mistaken for a castle, which seemed quite likely as Portugal boasts hundreds of ruined ones atop outcrops with a good view of the surrounding countryside.

The ruin I was searching for, however, turned out to lie well below the crest of a granite hill and to look more like one of the abandoned mills of my native Yorkshire than a castle.

To find out more about this ruin and its curious history, click here.

Monday, November 4, 2019, 04:49 | No Comments »

Posters campaigning against lithium mining in the Serra d'Arga

Between our house and the sea there's a long, rounded mountain ridge. Though its lower slopes are clothed with eucalyptus and pine, it's a bald mountain, the bare granite crown enlivened with just a little scrub in between the boulders. It looks inhospitable, as though no one would choose to live there, yet as we drive through the foothills and start to climb, we see a homemade sign: "Em Cabração, Lítio não." Translated, that reads as, "No Lithium in Cabração."

Cabração is one of several villages that subsist in the Serra D'Arga, villages which though modernised in many ways, still cling tenaciously to tradition. And none of them is happy about the idea of mining on their mountain.

To read more of the Serra and one of the villages which are fighting a threat to mine lithium, click here.

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