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8th best beach for kids?

In a classic Portuguese-style news item this week TVi reported that Tavira (South-Eastern Algarve) has been awarded 8th position in Maureen Wheeler’s top ten beaches in the latest edition of Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.

I couldn’t work out if this was considered bad news or good news. 8th? They vox-popped some families on the beach who endorsed the recommendation by saying “it’s not polluted”. (There it is again: trying to say something positive, but it coming out all wrong. One would expect that NO beaches in Portugal are polluted 😕  ). If I was the boss of Portugal Tourism, I’d be asking why isn’t it no. 1? If I was the boss of Portugal Tourism I’d be on the phone to the director of news at TVi giving him an earful, (or rather, I’d be taking him out to a nice long lunch to share my wisdom about tourism related coverage).

What are you looking for in a beach for kids? Shallow sea with no big waves, sand not pebbles, no big crowds, no syringes in the sand or poo in the water, space to park a big shade without irritating anyone…Portugal ticks all those boxes.

It made me curious to see what else was on the list, and how Australia rated. Here it is:

1. COSTA DEL SUD, SARDINIA, ITALY. Interesting no.1 pick. You see how it could be Portugal? And the Atlantic is much nicer than the Mediterranean…

costa del sud


3. DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA. These two are very similar. Spot on choices. Safe, calm, lovely.

4. KARON BEACH, THAILAND. Go Maureen for encouraging families to go off the beaten track.

5. KAUAI, HAWAII, USA. Can’t imagine this being very crowd free, but I haven’t been there…

6. AITUTAKI, COOK ISLANDS. Exactly what I would expect to be on the list – I’d say there are plenty more like this in the Pacific Islands… Just watch out for poisonous urchins and other pesky sea creatures…

7. NOOSA, QLD, AUSTRALIA. World’s most boring beach. Expensive, artificial, and perfect for kids. Sorry for the grownups.

8. TAVIRA, PORTUGAL. Hooray! A round of applause!tavira

9. SAYULITA, MEXICO see Thailand.

10. SANUR, BALI, INDONESIA see Cook Islands. Bali is paradise itself. Perfect for the parents too…

And there you are – nothing from Greece, Croatia, Spain or France: Too small, too pebbly, too crowded. Nothing from the USA or UK. Portugal, you could fill up the whole 10 if you could sell yourself … but do we want that? Who wants to invite the seething masses? Let’s just keep Portugal a nice little secret for a bit longer…


Manyana NSW Australia, my favourite beach.


Walls Built: 1 Injuries: 0 (!)

And now for the weather:


Yes it’s a royal flush of sunniness; we are having a very proper summer and so far, not many fires. Being an australian I am paranoid about bushfires. The smell of dry eucalypt reminds me of the apprehensive summers in Sydney of my childhood. When I ask sweetly if the neighbours wouldn’t mind cutting the scrub on their land they snuffle and shuffle and say there won’t be any fires here, like they’ve had a message from god. Bloody hope they’re fair dinkum, or we’re all up shit creek.

I built a wall


I’ve built another drystone wall in the garden. I’ve finished the drainage on one side of the annexe and have started on the other side. I’m stacking up bags of lime ready for some serious wall building next week. And I’m on the search for decorative iron gates.

mao and wookie

“Drunk-tired on heat, the pets are happy.”


“The rabbits have bunnies and the dogs have puppies 

but the guppies just have little guppies.”





rafael bordalo pinheiro

When I was 19 I shared a house with three crazy girls. The house was filled with eclectic stuff collected from op-shops, a wild collage of housewares that had accumulated from years of rental since paleolithic times.

The only things I’ve kept from those days are some dear friendships. I know of only one object that endures from the same period: a large porcelain crab, The Crab, as it’s known to us. Its purpose is mostly decorative but when called upon could used to serve dip from its shell-lidded body while its legs make spaces for crackers, celery sticks and the like.

Some people might mistake The Crab for a piece of 50’s-60’s-70’s kitsch, but it’s my belief, that The Crab has Provenance. I don’t mean it’ s an antique, but it has a story and heritage that elevates it from being just a quirky piece of china.

Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro

It all began in Portugal.

Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro was born in Lisbon in 1846 into an artistic middle class family. He rapidly became an accomplished caricaturist and made his name first in Brazil then in Portugal as a satirist, writing and drawing for the major publications of the time.

Rafael became quite famous for being a pain-in-the-arse. He was against conservatism, conformity and corruption. He had a wicked sense of humour in creating a little man called Zé Povinho, a peasant and everyman whose most famous pose means “Up Yours!”. Through him, Rafael took sides with the powerless and the poor, in all their apathy, ignorance and discontent.

After about 20 years of stirring up trouble, Rafael abruptly pulled up stumps in Lisbon and relocated to Caldas da Rainha.


Rafael and his much less famous brother opened a ceramics factory dedicated to both utilitarian homewares and artistic endeavour. Rafael continued to apply his sarcastic and political wit in his work as a ceramic artist and sculptor. The high quality of their products became world renowned and as well as directing an arts school Rafael produced large scale commissions, imitating all kinds of fashionable art styles from Art Nouveau, to revivalist Manueline and Palissy (a 16th century French ceramicist who made plates piled with dead things). With clay, he lampooned well known society figures and expanded his family of characters, including Ze Povinho, into 3D. His work was prolific and extremely varied.

Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro

Somewhere along the line came the cabbages. As a part of the kitchenware range he designed a range of tureens, bowls and plates styled on cabbages. In Portugal, the cabbage is a symbol of rural life, of peasant life. You don’t normally see it on restaurant menus but cabbage is grown in every kitchen garden north to south. Caldo Verde, a cabbage soup, is a national dish. So you might say Rafael’s cabbages were yet another ambiguous smirk at society. Perhaps he fancied the irony of a bourgeois Parisian housewife with a plebeian cabbage as her table centrepiece. From the cabbages came all kinds of other horticulture, plates of fish for fish, and hence, crabs, I suspect, for crab dip.


It took only 10 years after Rafael’s death (in 1905) for a museum to be created to celebrate his work. Today there are two museums under his name and various others housing private collections. The factory, Faianças Bordallo Pinheiro, was recently saved from bankruptcy and continues to make beautiful ceramics both very stylish and very funny.

Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro

If there is further proof of his talent, endurance and timeless fashionability, Rafael imitations can still be found for sale on the other side of the world. Here’s what my sister found in a Sydney furniture shop on the weekend…

marys plate

the best bola de berlim in portugal

I consulted the Portuguese pastelaria encyclopedia www.fabricoproprio.net to see where the experts say the best Bolas de Berlim can be found…and my place already has been discovered, and it rates with the Portuguese too. Naturally. (Natário in Viana was where my berlim initiation/problem began. Yes, I agree they are very very good. But I now know better.)

Leitaria da Quinta do Paço

You only have to look at me to know how much I love bolas de berlim. I have been testing the berliners of Portugal since my arrival, so that’s now thousands of them I have put away, so I surely know a good one, especially as I have also tried berliners of Berlin, as some kind of starting point, and can say with some authority that they are crap.

bolas de berlim

The Leitaria da Quinta do Paço can be found at Praça de Guilherme Gomes, (bit of a mouthful… it’s in ‘Vitória’ up towards the Igreja do Carmo)  in Porto. It has recently had a groovy makeover that reflects its own history (as a milk factory) and its commitment to quality. I love this about modern Portugal: more and more it recognises itself in context of history and the wider world. This place says; we were a little milk factory for a hundred years which treated its workers well (check out the photo of the 1959 staff excursion) and took pride in the quality of our milk (there’s a shot of their display at an Expo). Now we are a café with charming old photos on our walls. We have a humble history, we believe in quality, we are proud.

And they have the best bolas de berlim in Portugal.

bola de berlim

Google maps link Praça de Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, Oporto 4050, Portugal


swine flu. gripe A. H1N1. etc, etc.

Breaking news in Portugal… de de de dedede… Guess what? Gripe A isn’t fatal! You wouldn’t know it from watching Portuguses news. My Aussie Visitors brought me the real news from the Antipodes, where tens of thousands are infected because someone forgot the check the cruise ships. Oops. But nobody cares. They’ve stopped counting. They’ve stopped reporting. Because they’ve discovered it’s not the virus that’s killing people neccessarily, it’s old age, cancer, AIDS, pneumonia, asthma, diabetes and whatever other nasty things people have before they catch the pig-bug. The virus itself is a bit piss-weak actually when you compare it to other viral epidemics. Not as contagious as spanish flu, not as powerful as bird flu. So there you are, Portugal. Panic over.


Visitors. Can’t stop them coming, can’t eat them. Filth-making, freeloading, floppers. Still, they do bring quality teas. And chocolate. And they teach the dog tricks. That’s good. And they build compost heaps. They make cups of tea. That’s good too. Oh, alright then. Visitors are ok. But they make you FAT. All those bolos de berlim I had to have! All those pasteis de nata!

Anyway, now that they’ve gone back to where they came from, I’m back to work on the house. OMG. It’s been months now, enough time for the trenches I’ve dug to have filled in again and grown weeds. Let’s see how my vertigo likes hard sweaty work…


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