Spain and Portugal

Let’s catch up since we last left Madrid.


The time spent in Valencia de Alcantara was good. In my last post, I had just arrived and get straight into the woodcutting. There was a lot of that over my time there as it was still winterish and the big house with high ceiling was heated by fire.

After all that painting in Laos, it was good to run an chainsaw and swing an axe (while ruining both pairs of pants with gasoline and oil).

Other tasks included dismantling and moving a good amount of fencing and digging drainage ditches then filling them with big rocks.

The work was good and the hours easy. Chris and Jill are archetype hosts: not too many hours, respectful of your talents and are happy to provide excellent home-cooked meals in a cheerful welcoming environment. My room was great and the internet plentiful.

I spent the afternoons reading or practicing my drawing. As spring rolled in, it got hot on the back patio and it was a nice heating/cooling cycle of reading outside and then retreating into my too-cold room.

As I am learning, it’s easy to get stuck on the farm and not see the area. I need to get mow proactive about getting out.

My last tasks were fun and artistic. Chis is a singer in a rock and roll band and I busted out Illustrator and made some band posters for him and the band. Nothing like Live Trace to make you look like an accomplished artist. So that was fun and helped to expand my growing art repertoire.

But Spain was only supposed to be a short visit before heading up to France.

Since I was only 9km. from the Portuguese border, I thought it wise to head over and check it out.



So I left Spain on Thursday and took a bus to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.

It is a cool, old city, steeped in history. For a time, they were the powerhouse of the seas, and therefore Europe. Many famous navigators, the names of whom are well known, sailed from this very harbor. The wealth it brought is still evident in the castle that dominates the tallest of the many hills of the city. The palace and the great buildings and squares attest to the power of the county. And it leaves a lovely city in its wake.

While I didn’t spend enough time there to get to know the whole thing, I went to their famous art museum, and was pleased to see many masterpieces, including a portrait by Ghilandario, who was Michaelangelo’s teacher. The maritime museum was cool, with rooms full of boat models, old maps and navigation equipment (mmm…ornate brassy machines…). Next time I will have to hit the royal coach museum.


Porto is an amazing town. Very hilly, with winding and twisting roads, built on banks of the river, it’s very picturesque. The old center has been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage area. There are hundreds of tiny houses with nice patios and banisters. Tiles seem to be a big deal there and many of the facades are covered with excellent tile work. They have a shiny new, nicely run metro system. And finally, a good use of RFID, the disposable metro cards can be reused and recharged as needed. A deal for 1 euro ($1.41). To compare, the London tube is 4 Sterling, which is $6.40 today, for one trip!


Porto is famous for the eponymous Port wine. Many many major manufactures are right across the river and most provide tastings and tours of their ‘caves’.

Thousands upon thousands of oak barrels stacked in old old buildings, quietly doing their thing. It’s always nice see places where things actually happen.

So Porto is a great town for just walking around. But the weather had other plans and my last day was spent indoors or underground, avoiding the rain.


A few trains (including overnight) and I am now in Bayonne, France, making my way to Tarbes.

My next hosts live in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. They are are artists and have people stay with them and learn painting. They have a good lift of tasks and I will take every opportunity to work on my painting/drawing.

Until next time, cats are keeping an eye on you!



  1. The cat picture is freaking awesome! Can that be my first album cover, please?

  2. I really like your writing style, wonderful info, appreciate it for putting up :D. “Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility.” by Johathan Edwards.