Chamusca, the heart of Ribatejo

Chamusca lies along the south bank of the Tejo, in the heart of the highly agricultural Ribatejo. The City Hall harnessed this geographical claim as a promotion tool for the tourism in the region. “Chamusca, the Heart of Ribatejo” is the new message that they’re sending out to the rest of the country, basing the campaign on the town’s rich gastronomy, fervent cultural life and strong traditions. The mayor himself is a sketcher, so the City Hall invited the urban sketchers to visit Chamusca and have a go at their sights and colors.

A Chamusca fica na margem sul do Tejo, no coração do Ribatejo agrícola. A Câmara Municipal tomou para si esta assinatura geográfica como uma ferramenta de promoção ao turismo na região. “Chamusca, o Coração do Ribatejo” é a nova mensagem que pretendem enviar ao resto do país, baseando a campanha na riqueza da gastronomia, na cultura fervilhante e na força das tradições. Sendo o próprio Presidente da Câmara um desenhador, a Câmara Municipal convidou os urban sketchers a visitar a Chamusca para retratar as suas vistas e as suas cores.


From high up on the hill where the small Nossa Senhora do Pranto chapel sits, the Tejo wetlands and the town sitting on the foothill were ready to be sketched. Seemed like an ordinary wetlands town from there, but what was extraordinary was the very fact that we could gaze at all of it from above. Chamusca sits at the end of the Tejo valley and at the beginning of the wetlands which only stop at the Mar da Palha, and that gives the town an unique vantage point. The climb up wasn’t hard. The Town Hall bus brought us up. Our legs and appetite brought us down. Town Hall had prepared a veritable banquet in a local restaurant. We tasted all the different foods of the region, sided with a fado singer and guitar players.

Do topo da colina onde fica a pequena capela da Nossa Senhora do Pranto, o Tejo e a vila no sopé dos montes posavam para os desenhos. Tudo parecia indicar que esta era uma vila agrícola como tantas outras da lezíria , mas o que era extraordinário era o facto de a podermos observar assim do topo, com a vastidão da lezíria defronte. A Chamusca fica no fim do vale do Tejo e no início da vasta lezíria que termina no Mar da Palha, e isso faz com que seja um lugar único, onde as colinas do vale ainda permitem ver a vastidão fértil do Tejo. A subida não foi difícil. O autocarro da Câmara tratou disso por nós. As nossas pernas e o nosso apetite trouxeram-nos de volta à vila. A Câmara preparou um verdadeiro banquete num restaurante local. Provámos as diferentes iguarias regionais, guarnecidas com fadista e guitarristas.


Well nourished, it was time to spend a semi-lazy sunny afternoon sketching the historical center of Chamusca. The town is peppered with buildings related to agriculture, usually cooperatives and early to mid-20th century state institutes, bound at the time on controlling and taxing both the farming population and the agricultural elites of old.

Bem nutridos, estava na altura de passar uma tarde solarenga meio preguiçosa no centro histórico da Chamusca. A vila está polvilhada de edifícios relacionados com agricultura, cooperativas e edifícios de serviços do estado da primeira metade do séc. XX, lançados na tarefa de controlar e taxar tanto a população agrícola como as elites agrícolas da altura.


Besides the great feast and the tour up the hill, another great gift the Town Hall had for us was a set of high quality paper folded sketchbook, all of them locally handmade by artisans Linha28. I got from it the best reaction from my Rembrandt watercolors that I’d seen in a long time! And it gave me a chance to wrap up one sketch meeting in one sketchbook. OCD victory!

Para além do lauto banquete e da viagem à capela, uma outra oferta da Câmara foi um conjunto de cadernos desdobráveis com papel de alta qualidade, fabricados à mão pelos artesãos locais Linha28. Dele tive a melhor reacção das minhas aguarelas Rembrandt que tinha visto há muito tempo! E deu-me a oportunidade de fechar um encontro num único caderno. Vitória do TOC!

Funcheira junction

The railroad track heading south from Lisboa rests for a few minutes at Funcheira. There are almost no houses here. It was built from scratch to serve as the railroad junction for the track heading northeast towards Beja. There’s a couple of run-down buildings and switching yards and an old rusted watertower. The landscape around it is scorched by the sun and nothing much seems to happen here. The cork trees lean with the wind, the straw shines and the rocky walls of the trenches by the track rust away.

Funcheira, depot, railroad, Algarve, Lisboa, Portugal

A linha de caminho de ferro do sul, partindo de Lisboa, descansa por uns minutos na Funcheira. Quase não há casas aqui. Foi construida de raíz para servir como entroncamento da linha que segue para nordeste, para Beja. Há uns edifícios desgastados e uma velha e enferrujada torre de água, não longe. A paisagem em torno está batida pelo sol e nada parece acontecer. Os sobreiros inclinam-se com o vento, a palha brilha e a terra rochosa das trincheiras da linha enferruja.

Celebrating biodiversity

biodiversity, Gulbenkian, Lisboa, Portugal, flora

The 23rd of May was a day to celebrate biodiversity in the grounds of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a lush park in the heart of Lisboa. Designed by landscape architect Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles in the late sixties, around an iconic building complex, the park holds several flora and fauna species, as well as a few sculptures, an amphitheater and a central pond. Two art museums and other art and cultural infrastructures are connected by several paths through the park, in a carefully designed and intricate network of art, leisure and nature. During the warmer weekends, Lisboetas flock to this public but safeguarded park seeking coolness, silence, outdoorsy leisure and a place to meditate.

biodiversity, Gulbenkian, Lisboa, Portugal, flora

The biodiversity day celebrations motivated several activities in the Gulbenkian grounds, including an Urban Sketchers Portugal sketch meeting. The job was to focus on flora alone. Not being a specialist, I chose my subjects by aesthetics alone. Would be nice to have a specialist insight on the species in the sketches. Volunteers anyone?

Around the Sado estuary

hotel, patio, Azeitão, Portugal

A couple of friends were spending the weekend in a hotel in Azeitão, in the Setúbal peninsula, the large land platform between the Tejo and Sado estuaries. It is a complex territory, known for being heavily industrialized, but strangely enough, also for its vineyards and for being a haven for sun-seekers and nature-lovers. There are all kinds of small towns and villages, each with its own quirks and traditions.

Comporta, beach, sea, coast, sun, Portugal

Further south, either by driving around or by crossing the Sado estuary, lies a strip of shiny thin sand more than sixty kilometers long, starting in the Tróia tourism resort and ending in the port town of Sines. Comporta beach was rich in iodine. The air was thick and fresh. Tróia was dry and silvery, the Arrábida range sheltering it, and the mouth of the Sado from the north wind.

Tróia, beach, sun, sea, coast, Portugal

The night was falling on the way back to Azeitão. Our friends took us to the surprisingly affordable Quinta Vítor Guedes, which had a lovely patio and a large dining hall, and served “The best old fashioned duck rice of the world” or, the dish with the longest name in the menus of the world. It was indeed tasty, laden with chouriço and bacon besides the blend of roasted and juicy rice and the dark threads of duck meat. The fine local red wine matched in perfection with the meal. A tiny glass of moscatel in the town’s center heralded the time to head back to Lisboa.

duck, rice, duck rice, food, Azeitão, Portugal

Agriculture 2.0: back to the roots

Grela, Poço de São Tiago, bridge, Vouga, farm, farmhouse, rural

Ana and Zé are two former city-dwellers disillusioned by life in the concrete jungle. A year ago they made the move of going rural, becoming part of a small group of youngsters that are going back to the roots and to a simpler life. It takes a hairy set of cohones and a good warm wardrobe to pull it off, as the nights in the farmhouse by the Vouga river are cold and humid, but they might just pull it off. The foodstuffs are growing fast and lively and they easily mix the study of the elements and its patterns with all the might of the theory, so easy to come by all over the internets. Learning-by-doing is backed up by careful planning and the research skills acquired in their formal professional lives. It’s a sort of agriculture 2.0, where ancient techniques are improved by permaculture notions and a sustainable lifestyle that recycles everything that comes out of the kitchen. It might be the future that they are tilling there.


granary, Grela, Vouga, carnival


In the sloped terrain that they’re taking care of in the small location of Grela, stand a couple of Espigueiros, small typical granaries made of wood, stone and ceramic tiles to keep the grain nice and dry.

The people on the right-hand side are a good friend from Sweden and his daughter being welcomed into the Portuguese carnival tradition of dressing up weirdly and face-painting. They performed wonderfully!