On a sunny yet cool Sunday afternoon at my grandparents’, I decided to take my sister for a little stroll around our homeland. What’s the point in venturing around the world when there are so many hidden gems to discover right under your nose?
We began with a visit to the main church of an unassuming town not far way, named Válega. It would be an ordinary church, just like hundreds scattered around the country if it wasn’t for its gorgeous facade! Covered in bright colourful tiles, it depicts various religious scenes and floral motifs.
The sightseeing did not end here though.
Soon we reached Avanca, my father’s hometown. No, we were not going to pick up oranges from my dad’s house backyard. Instead we drove to find ourselves in someone else’s house. The one who once belonged to Egas Moniz.
Egas Moniz, born as António Caetano de Abreu Freire de Resende on 29th of November 1874 in the town of Avanca, was a doctor, professor, politician, writer and best regarded as a neurologist – he developed the technique of cerebral angiography and his continuous interest in the brain lead him to develop the surgical procedure known as leucotomy (lobotomy in current days).
His uncle and father-in-law, Caetano Sá Freire, insisted on him adopting the surname Egas Moniz because he was convinced that the family Resende had a direct lineage to Egas Moniz, the tutor of Afonso Henriques (who became the first King of the Kingdom of Portugal).
We were guided through the house by a woman who was quite passionate about the legacy left by Egas Moniz. She talked with great enthusiasm of his achievements as a doctor, as well as how the house got to be built in this particular location. She also mentioned a curious, yet dire episode of Egas’ life as a physician: in 1939 a schizophrenic patient came into his office and shot Egas 8 times and one of the bullets, housed in his spine was never removed.
Fun fact: the manor house has 154 chairs! A lot of cleaning needs to be done…
As we walked around Egas’ home, we could find some unusual artefacts, such as an elephant paw (used as storage space, I guess) or a set of dinner plates, hollow inside where hot water could be poured into, that could keep the food warm. Ingenious.
Such an inconspicuous building, lost in the countryside, that houses some beautiful and intriguing stories of a man that undoubtedly became one of the greatest in Portugal’s recent history.
Before writing anything else, I have to thank T. for introducing and taking me to this play yesterday evening. If it wasn’t for him, this would have slipped under my radar.
Introductions aside, let’s get down to it!
Avenue Q (locally translated to, you guesses it, Avenida Q) is a musical first presented on Broadway in 2003 and given its popularity, it has ever since been produced in various countries worldwide. Portugal was no exception, having Avenida Q first performed earlier this year. The Lusitanian season has been renewed due to the public continuous interest in it.
So, what is Avenue Q?
Imagine Sesame Street and “The Real World” having a baby. It would be Avenue Q. The show mixes human characters and puppet characters interacting with one another. The actors who give life to the puppets are not concealed, instead they have an on-stage presence alongside the other characters.
The story evolves around Luís, a recently who moves to Avenue Q because he can’t afford to live anywhere else. In that place he ends up finding others who struggle with life in one way or another. We can easily very easily relate with the characters or with bits and pieces from each one of them. The difficulty of growing up is smartly conveyed throughout the show. And also the importance of celebrating our failures. We are humans, after all.
The Ursinhos das Ideas de Merda (loosely translated to Little bears of shitty ideas) were my little guilty pleasure. Who wouldn’t love to have two cute, strident teddy bears by your side ready to instigate you into bringing out your worst. No rules, no boundaries, no limits. And then there is Paula Porca. A sex-bomb that cannot be overlooked.
I can honestly say that despite not being a fan of the whole “musical” concept (I mean, on what purpose do performers start singing so perfectly synchronised with great choreography?), Avenue Q was created with the finest ingredients: snarky sarcasm, humour and enough irony mixed with catchy songs. Enough to head home with a smile on my face.
Ever since I can remember, my mother (who is the one that dictates things at the house!) had always been reluctant about having a pet. We live in an apartment, so there’s not much space for an hypothetical animal to live within walls. Bodas came to our family quite unexpectedly. My mom began giving hints that she would like to have a cat and soon the five of us became very excited about the idea!
We came across a pet shop in the neighbourhood with a few kittens up for adoption. A cute little that we found there melted our hearts.
My father soon came home with a few bags of cat food. The layette was ready for our “newborn”.
A few days later, my mother went back to the shop to finally adopt the kitten. The employee informed her that the adoption came with a few requirements, meaning that she had to spend €30+ on food and other (un)necessary goods for the cat. A questionable practice, no doubt!
So we waited patiently.
On the 5th of October, in Oeiras, the municipality where we live at (2780 zip code!), a pet fair was held at the local park. Cats and kittens could be found there, ready to get a new home.
This cute little yellow one caught our attention. He had to be the one.
As strange as it might sound, the name Bodas pays tribute to my parents 25th wedding anniversary. Traditionally, when a couple hits the 25th mark, the celebration is called a “silver wedding anniversary”, which loosely translates to Portuguese as: “bodas de Prata”. Hence the “Bodas”, which sounds cutesy enough be his name.
Another foray into the underground world of not-so-legal restaurants in Martim Moniz. I ventured into a new place, right at the main square. Look for number 12 and don’t fear having to walk upstairs from the entrance door, you’ll find it easily. I came to try out a €5 Chinese noodles soup, with a pork chunk drowned on a beautifully flavoured broth.
Once we entered, the place was not so crowded and we were the only westerners in there. That’s always a good sign! 😉
The biggest challenge was deciding how to approach the soup: chopsticks, spoon or fork. We had all these at hand and within an hour of hard labouring I finished most of the bowl. Despite not having a sweet tooth, I shared a plate of fried banana to finish our travel through the East.
Portugal is not only made of postcard-like cities, pristine beaches and breathtaking natural areas unspoiled by men. Every summer of every year, wildfires ravage the country, engulfing trees, forests, animals, villages, people… It has become such a commonality that people are no longer surprised, like the news of another shooting somewhere in the US.
This year was no different. Besides what was lost as part of the ecosystem, more than one hundred lives were taken alongside. O.N.E. H.U.N.D.R.E.D.