What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Galo de Barcelos


The brightly coloured rooster is called the Galo de Barcelos and is one of the national symbols of Portugal. Apparently the Galo de Barcelos symbolises honesty, integrity, trust and honour; everyone should have one in their house to bring them luck. Artesanatos (pottery shops) and tourist shops are filled with the brightly coloured Galo de Barcelos rooster souvenirs such as pottery models, printed tea towels, table cloths and key rings to name a few. So when you visit Portugal you can’t return home without one!
The legend of the Galo de Barcelos has been passed from generation to generation and while there the stories differ, the ending is always the same.

These two are my favourite:

A pilgrim from the Spanish Province of Galiza was passing through the town of Barcelos when a crime was committed. The authorities, not having any other suspects arrested the pilgrim and sentenced him to be hanged. The pilgrim asked to see the magistrate who had condemned him in order to plead his innocence. An audience was granted and the pilgrim was taken to the magistrate’s house while he was having a banquet. However, despite the pilgrim’s desperate please the magistrate remained unconvinced as to his innocence.In a desperate attempt the pilgrim pleaded again and then pointed to a magnificent roasted rooster on a silver platter waiting to be served to the guests.

“Lord God” said the pilgrim “as Peter, your servant denied you at the cock’s crow, would that you show my innocence as your humble servant by this cock’s crow?”

Much to everyone’s amazement the cock came to life and started to crow and the pilgrim was immediately released.

An alternative ending….

In desperation the pilgrim pointed to the roasted rooster on the banquet table and said

“As surely as I am innocent will that rooster crow if l am hanged!”

The guests and the magistrates roared with laughter at the pilgrims claims and he was led away to be hanged. The guests, however, lost their appetite for the rooster and it remained untouched on the platter. The hangman applied the noose and as the pilgrim was being hanged the rooster stood up and began to crow. Realising he had made a grave error the magistrate rushed from the table to stop the hanging. Luckily the noose was faulty and the pilgrim survived and was released.

Many years later the pilgrim returned to the town of Barcelos and erected a monument to the Virgin and St James (San Tiago).

It seems everywhere I go there is no escaping those hens!



I also enjoyed many refreshing al fresco cups of tea at Grandma’s with my new hen mug

(Bought in a shop called “the Cat Shop” (loja de gatto)

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Holidays are bad for you, it’s official!

As sure as one report tells you that coffee drinking is good for your health, within a couple of cups of the brown stuff there will be a damning report warning imminent death from caffeine. So for the sake of balance today’s post is why holidays can be bad for you.
Paradoxically, it’s when we start to relax away from the stresses of everyday life that we might fall prey to infections such as cold and flu. Even on your last day at work, you might notice the tell-tale tingling nose and sore throat starting.In everyday life, our body produces hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which help keep our body in balance at times of stress and maintain normal immune function.
However, once on holiday, our stress hormone levels generally decline, which might lead to a weakening of the immune system and an increased susceptibility to infection. This would help to explain my father’s annual dose of Christmas ‘flu.
Add to that travel sickness, upset tummies, prickly heat, itchy mosquito bites and sunburn it is no wonder that when I open my case at our destination I feel like a travelling pharmacy with lotions and potions for everything including possibly the Black Death.
On day 8 in our Portuguese paradise here are some of our petty complaints-
Bugs not generally bother me. But maybe it’s the heat here makes them stronger, harder, faster, noisier, more menacing. Mr Gillybirds caught a magnificent black iridescent bee complete with 1cm stinger this morning. On one of my many lengths of the pool a 8cm bright green grasshopper floated tranquilly past me, which fortunately I didn’t swallow. The wood lice are armour plated. And don’t start me on the ants. Of all sizes and speeds. And they all bite. The teeny tiny ones seems particularly nippy. I read that the combined weight of all the humans on the planet is equal to the combined weight of all the ants on the planet. I believe most of them have come here to vacation.
How I wish there was a machine in the airport like a body scanner that doused children in sun cream which lasted for your entire holiday. It is a constant battle to protect the Gillyboys lily white skin from the harsh sun especially when they are in the pool so much. As well as medicine I have pretty much every sun factor cream/spray from factor 10 to factor 50, waterproof, sand proof, for face, for sport, hypo allergenic, non greasy…the best investment is solar shirts which are factor 50 skins which they wear in the water to protect their little white bodies. Despite wearing factor 30 cream littlest Gillyboy is scoring highly on the Freckle-ometer! But they look so cute.
To my shame even though we have been holidaying here almost annually since 1999 my Portuguese vocabulary is extremely limited to hello bom dia, thank you obrigada, milk leite, various food items necessary to survive. My favourites are cogumelos(mushrooms) and Peru which is turkey in English. Amusing that it is the name of a country as well. Add to that saida or exit and that is about it. I do remember many years ago when littlest Gillyboy was a cute chubby baby and Portuegues old ladies would pinch his fat cheeks saying multo gordo which we discovered when buying milk means full fat!
Little Drives
Mr G has always been a great one for taking detours off the main road just to see where he will end up. I don’t share in his exploratory whims. A trip out the other night ended up fifty minutes and 30km in the wrong direction away from our destination, with the chilly atmosphere in the car not entirely due to the air conditioning.
I’m not homesick, but leaving two young men at home just as one is starting his first proper job has, on reflection, not been the best timing. On the plus side they are managing to feed both themselves and the hens, and the oldest Gillyboy has had to learn to iron shorts for work. I can track their movements on social networking sites as well as phone calls. And there have been a few Instagram pics of the Gillybirds too. Thanks Miss L for those.
It has been a lot hotter here than usual. Even the locals are complaining. A least we are on holiday and can cool off by wearing as little as modesty allows and swim to cool off. They have to keep working. Even at night there is no relief. Ironically at home they are having a heat wave too. I can predict it will come to a rainy end as our plane lands back home on Sunday morning.
As with every tourist destination there are shops on every corner selling cheap tat irresistible to boys with pockets full of euros. Yuk.
A good cup of tea
Obviously I am hard to please. As some of you know I am fussy about mugs (must be white inside) and fat content of the milk (as little as possible). So there won’t be a good cup of tea until we get home. Enough said.
So is there any benefit to going on holiday at all?
A Dutch researcher Nawijn says: ‘The maximum benefit of a holiday is two weeks after coming home. After that, people are not any happier than they were beforehand.’ People who have holidays booked but had not yet travelled tend to be happier than people who had not gone on holiday. ‘People who have a great holiday may start to remember why they’re alive, only to be thrown back into the living death known as working life,’ says clinical psychologist, Oliver James.
So looking forward to Monday morning then…..


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Grandma gave us Dinosaur Toes for lunch

Here is a photo of a happy piece of Portuguese bread for my vegetarian blog readers. Sorry to tell you despite looking so jolly he was spread with butter and eaten. Now go read something else…
For my omnivorous readers, let me tell you about our trip to the Loule market and what Grandma made us for lunch.

These weird crustaceans are delicacies from the rocky coastline of the Western Algarve and which can be sold for up to £100 per kilo. We bought them in the local fish market for a fraction of the price, grandma boiled them in a pot for a few minutes, filling the kitchen with the fresh salty smell of the sea, and then we pulled them apart and ate them. Delicious!
These are percebes, or for those of you not fluent in Portuguese, goose neck barnacles. To eat them you pull off the end bit and gently pull out the tube of flesh, running the risk of being showered in pinkish salty water if you are too enthusiastic. Even Gillyboy number 4 tried a couple.
Charlie Skelton a writer for the Guardian newspaper describes them thus –
The goose barnacle has to be one of the most beautiful foods on the planet. The bright enamelled head with its ruby lips sits atop a snakeskin sleeve which pulls away to reveal a glossy, lucent finger of flesh, marbled and grey at the neck, bright orange at the tip. They’re the punks of the crustacean family. They thrive in violent waters, in their leathery jackets and studded collars, their heads a shock of colour.
They taste just like fresh sea water, soft in texture, a wonderful rosy pink in colour on the inside, once you get past the prehistoric aggressive outside.
No wonder kids call them dinosaur toes.
And they weren’t the scariest thing we saw for sale on the fish counter either!


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