Sé de Lisboa


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At the foot of Castle Hill and in one of the oldest part of Lisbon near the Alfama neighbourhood is the Sé de Lisboa or Cathedral of Lisbon. Tram #12 passes right by it and stops at the Church of Saint Anthony few a few steps away.

The Sé is dedicated to St-Mary Major, construction of the cathedral began in the year 1147, the building has been modified several times and survived many earthquakes. It is nowadays a mix of different architectural styles, Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque. It has been classified as a National Monument since 1910.


After the period of Visigothic domination the city was conquered by the Moors and stayed under Arab control from the 8th to the 12th century, although Christians were allowed to live in Lisbon and its surroundings. In the year 1147, the city was reconquered by an army composed of Portuguese soldiers led by King Afonso Henriques and North European crusaders and not to forget Martin Moniz taking part in the Second Crusade. An English crusader named Gilbert of Hastings was created bishop, and a new cathedral was built on the site of the main mosque of Lisbon.

Earthquakes have always been a problem for Lisbon and its cathedral. During the 14th and 16th centuries there were several of them, but the worst of all was the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which destroyed the Gothic main chapel along with the royal pantheon. The cloisters and many chapels were also ruined by the quake and the fire that followed. The cathedral was partially rebuilt and, in the beginning of the 20th century, was given the appearance that it has today after important renovation.

photo of the archeological excavations

In recent years the central courtyard of the cloister has been excavated and shows signs of the Roman, Arab and mediaeval periods. Excavations started in Cathedral Cloister in 1990. They have revealed a Roman road with shops on either site. A part of a Roman kitchen and a “cloaca” (sewage system). and traces of later Visigoth buildings. A very visible part of a Moorish building with red walls related to the former Mosque that once stood on this site was also excavated.



Now for the treasures of the Sé, on the second floor are the Offices of the Archbishop and beautiful objects can be found.


The meeting room of the Cardinal Patriarch and other clergy. The Cardinal Patriarch sat on a throne not unlike the Sedia Gestatoria of the Pope with ostrich feather flabella. This room is no longer used nowadays but illustrates the authority of the Church in Portugal prior to 1974. It is thought the privilege of the portable throne was granted by the Popes to the Cardinal Patriarchs of Lisbon due to the financial support provided them by King Joao V of Portugal.


This Monstrance in solid gold with diamonds and other precious stones was a stunning piece of jewellery. Monstrance are used A monstrance, also known as an ostensorium, is the vessel used in Roman Catholic churches for the exhibition of  the consecrated Eucharistic host during Eucharistic adoration or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.


This Cardinal’s mitre with semi-precious jewels. Cardinals in the presence of the Pope wear a mitre of white linen damask. The auriphrygiata is of plain gold cloth or white silk with gold, silver or coloured embroidered bands. The mitre originated as a ceremonial head-dress of ancient Jewish high priests.


This I thought quite funny, it is in the sacristy of the Cathedral, painted Portuguese tiles showing on the right God the Father with a triangle, in the middle the Holy Ghost and on the left God the Son, Jesus all three in conversation. Ok 3 persons in God but it looks like God is talking to himself. You wonder what is he talking about anyway, I mean he would not be talking about religion to himself. And if God is Eternal why is he shown as an old man? Should he not be ageless? I am going to get such a smack from the good nuns for asking such questions.




Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, Belem.


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When in Lisbon the monastery of St-Jerome is a must. Located in the neighbourhood of Belem on the Tagus River, it is a marvel of architecture and an important historical site in the history of the Empire of Portugal and its many navigators.

The site of the church/Monastery has always had close ties with Portugal’s great explorers. The original Ermida do Restelo hermitage was created by Prince Henry the Navigator in 1450 and was a site in decline when Vasco da Gama spent his last night on land before leaving to find a sea route to India (1497). The church of Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was originally constructed to commemorate the safe return of Vasco da Gama and his men. The ground work of the church started during the reign of King Manuel I (1515-1520) and it was he who gave it to the Order of monks of St-Jerome.

When the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos was original built it was situated on the banks of the River Tagus and overlooked the docks of Belem. Today the waters edge is 300m further south than it was 500 years ago and provides space for the beautiful Praça do Imperio gardens.

Since the area was the Port of Lisbon, all sailors who left for a sea voyage considered to be dangerous at the time, spent his last night at the Monastery praying, attending mass and performing a last confession as if he would never return, life at sea was that uncertain then. The Monastery could accommodate crews of sailors and their captains.

Sailors of the era were notoriously superstitious and the significance of the church swelled as sailors prayed with the monks in the hope that they would return safely. When gold and riches started to flow into the city on the back of the spice trade money was channeled into funding the extravagant building works of the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.

The architect Joao de Castilho, given the generous budget for the construction, was able to design an extravagant building. The Mosteiro dos Jeronimos is the only monastery of the era to be constructed around a two tier cloister.The ornately carved grand entrance of Mosteiro dos Jeronimos rivals any of the great cathedrals, the stone is intricately carved with the images of saints and riotous patterns of fruits and flowers from the New World with the statue of Vasco da Gama atop of the central door way.


The two tiered cloister, you can see how large the area is by looking at the people who are dwarfed by the architecture. The elaborate stone carvings on the walls inside and out.




Across the street from the Monastery is large gardens and the Torre de Belem and the Monument to Prince Henry the Navigator. The entire area can easily be visited in one day, there are restaurants and direct public transport to downtown Lisbon.


The perspective here you can see how far the monastery extend. The street today was the river then and the ships docked here. The river Tagus is now 300 meters further.


Here is a view inside the Church and Monastery


The main Altar and Royal tombs to king Manuel I and his family on the side walls.




The Sacristy with wall paintings on the life of St-Jerome. This central pillar reminded me of a similar pillar in the great Hall of Parliament in Ottawa, similar design in the ceiling.


This was the dining Hall of the monastery, the walls are decorated with painted tiles telling the story of the Joseph and his amazing multicoloured coat. When the Monks still occupied this complex meals were taken in complete silence, only one monk seated in the middle of the room read aloud for the congregation passages from the Bible, it was their entertainment.


Tomb of Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa, (1888-1935) commonly known as Fernando Pessoa, was a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher, described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language.


Tomb of Luís Vaz de Camões (1524-1580) is considered Portugal’s and the Portuguese language’s greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil and Dante. He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas, telling the story of the Portuguese people and their great explorers.


Tomb of Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, (1460-1524) was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and therefore, the West and the Orient. He died in India but his body was brought back to Lisbon for burial.



Torre de Belem, built 1514, the ceremonial entrance to the City of Lisbon on the Tagus river, the Atlantic ocean is just off in the distance. It is simply a beautiful symbolic monument, nothing to see inside at all.


The monument to Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) is in front of the Monastery and next to the Torre of Belem. The bridge in the distance was built in the late 1960’s and was named after the dictator of Portugal at the time António de Oliveira Salazar who served as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968, he died in 1974. The Red Carnation revolution of 1975 gave the bridge its current name 25 April.

The bridge connects Lisbon to Almada across the Tagus River.



After all this walking by the seashore and visiting all the monuments we were hungry and had lunch in this typical Portuguese restaurant just steps away from the Monastery on Rua da Belem. We had the best lamb stew ever, it was so tender, just like butter in a beautiful sauce. We also had big grilled sardines, they are the size of a small trout. Good wine list, very nice service.


La Fête des Rois Mages


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Well today is the 6 January, the last day of the Christmas festivities. Again at dinner time we were listening to Radio Canada from Montreal and Monique Giroux the host of the music show had a special 1969 French Song of that year. It was a great year for French songs in Canada and in France, many hits for sure and some duds. I was 12 years old in 1969 and the Host Monique Giroux was 6 years old. It was so strange to hear all these old songs, many made me smile remembering Montreal then, we lived in Snowdon and the big street was Queen Mary Road name after the wife of King George V.

My father was the manager of the Bonaventure Hotel which was operated then be Western International, the hotel part of United Airlines, my Mom was in real estate in Westmount, then a really expensive stone mansion was $50,000. For some unexplained reason this Holiday Season I have been thinking a lot about my parents and my childhood years in Montreal. Our Prime Minister then was Pierre E. Trudeau, the father of our current PM Justin, who was not even born. It was also the year before the October Crisis which would see Martial Law impose for 6 months with the army occupying the streets. Being in Quebec, despite our young age I remember how aware we were of the political events.


This beautiful mosaic in the cathedral of San Vitale in Ravenna of the 3 kings dressed in the Gaul style with pants and the red phrygian caps bearing gifts to Jesus. 

This being the Feast of Epiphany, La Befana brought me a gift. In Italy she is the old lady who gives gifts to children on this day, there is NO Santa in the Italian tradition. BULGARI  is my favourite.



Will also made Peanut Butter cookies, they are very good but not the 22 dozens the recipe called for.


Home at 04:10 pm with the sun setting in the West.


In the cards this year


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The great Karnak the diviner par excellence of Arizona AKA Dr. Spo read my Tarot cards for 2019. He is a delightful fellow for doing so. He put out his planet table cloth and let me choose the deck of tarot cards I would like. He has a collection of tarot card decks. I chose the Radical Faeries card deck.

So here month by month is what the cards say;  January would be a month of decisions on projects, February a month of inaction or vacation, March, April, May months of lots of action open to new ideas.  June could bring conflict, July could be a month of worries or a month where I overcome difficulties. August and September are months to apply knowledge or lessons learned, October is the best month of the year. November new worries and December could bring some lost or bereavement of some kind.

Overall 2019 the cards say is a good year busy, happy, going forward, self-growth. I can live with that.


The year 2018


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I was reminded this morning that on 28 December 2012, some 6 years ago I retired from the Foreign Service, time flies when you are having fun as they say. In that time I started to work as a volunteer at the National Gallery in Ottawa, then some 3 years ago we moved to Charlottetown, PEI. We had been looking for some time for a place to retire and the condo we were renting was up for sale, we had to move. Only on the day the new owners took possession which was also the day we moved out,  they told us why don’t you stay,  the new owners had no plan to move in, in the foreseeable future.

We moved with the old puppies and 4 tons of furniture to PEI some 1100 Km away and one time zone Eastward. We have made a new life for ourselves here, involved in a myriad of volunteer activities.

In November 2017 I floated the idea that I might want to run for Office at City Hall. This is a considerable challenge, first I was unknown here in town. I was also warned that not being born in PEI was also a handicap. This is a small Island Province with a total population no bigger than a neighbourhood in a large metropolitan area. It is an Island and though the mainland of Canada is only 12 Km away and visible, it often feels like we are in another country. The Islanders are a friendly bunch but being a small community they are weary of foreigners even if they are fellow Canadians. The Island still operates on the idea that they are a Summer resort which is a shame since there is so much to do year round.

I started my campaign in February 2018 for the seat of City Councillor in Ward 1 in Charlottetown, I met tons of people, made 7 YouTube videos on issues, attended all manner of events around our Ward, knocked on doors, talked with people, participated in a candidates debate, gave interviews to the press etc. It was a huge learning experience, my neighbours are chatty and will give you their opinion on any topic. Many have lived here all their lives, some were even born on the very street the now live on in old age. Some rarely leave the City, let alone cross the river to visit Stratford which is 2 minutes away.  I really enjoyed the inter-action and talking to people, I met and had coffee with other politicians, got advice from other city mayors, councillors in other Wards, Provincial politicians, everyone seemed interested in my campaign, many told me I was a brave soul to throw my name into the hat.

During the Summer, in August I took a small vacation and we visited with our friends MCR & DAW from Phoenix the Province of Nova Scotia which is about 90 minutes away from our home. We met in Halifax, a great city with wonderful attractions and restaurants. Designer Cocktails are all the rage and quite fun. We then drove leisurely towards Annapolis Royal which at one point was a bouncing ball between the French and British Empire with a hostage population of Acadians. This small town is an object lesson in how Empires can mismanage their colonies when distracted by other events in Europe. We then proceeded to Wolfville a college town on the Bay of Fundy and Grand Pré the celebrated Acadian settlement with its museum. The area is dotted with vineyards and good restaurants not to forget the beautiful scenery.

I never realized how much work campaigning was all about. In the end I did not win but did get more than 10% of the vote, which for an unknown like me was an accomplishment. Many people have since asked me to stay involved in City politics and I remain involved and have met with our new Councillor several times since election night. But I was exhausted and quite happy to take a Holiday to Portugal which I really enjoyed. It was a celebration, since Will and I were celebrating our 40 years together.

Finally in the week of 17 December Parliament in Ottawa ended its Fall Session and this will be the last in the Old Central Block of Parliament. The House of Commons is moving to the West Block next door for the next 15 years and the Senate will move across the street to the old Train Station. The Central block built between 1917-21 is undergoing the first renovation ever of all its mechanical system and the entire building will undergo a great renovation to bring it up to the modern age. This means when it re-opens again all the Members sitting in the House will be retired and the same applies to the Senators. The cost of renovating the buildings of Parliament is estimated at $3.1 billion dollars. Already the West Block alone cost $250 million in renovations and the old Train Station was another $210 million.


What will 2019 bring, well I do not know. I will continue with my volunteer activities and will follow developments at City Hall. Our New Mayor is a progressive guy with good ideas and vision for the City, which is a relief and an improvement on the past.

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Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of PEI, the Honorable Antoinette Perry and I at Government House. Every year the public comes to pay their respect on January 1 at the Annual Levée on January 1. I will be on site volunteering on that day and greeting people.


Wishing all a very Happy New Year with all manner of good things. 

Bonne et Joyeuse Année 2019.


Canadian Coast Guard wharf, Port of Charlottetown, December 2018 the number 9 has been put in place. 

Sister Wendy Beckett


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I just learned that this afternoon Sister Wendy died at the age of 88. She rose to fame in the early 1990’s. She was hired by the BBC to present Art and she did so in front of a camera, without any script or notes in the most natural way. She was an Art historian and had an in depth knowledge of Art and she spoke well, bringing Art to people in a simple manner, inviting you to observe and get the deeper meaning in what the artist was trying to convey. She spoke on all kinds of Art works did so in an intelligent enlighten manner.


I often looked at her video on YouTube to get inspiration for my own presentation in the Art Gallery or when speaking with school groups. She was a gem for the Art World and for us all. She lived at the Carmelite Convent of Quidenham in Norfolk. You can see Sister Wendy on one of her presentation. YouTube has many other videos on her presentations.

Thank you Sister Wendy.



Another Christmas 2018


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We had friends today for Christmas Lunch, it took me about an hour to set the table. I had polished all the silverware a few days ago and all the linens had been ironed.

The menu was classic French Canada fare, tourtières, Ragoût de pattes de cochon avec boulettes, a breast of turkey. For dessert we had mulled wine jellies and Plum Pudding flambé with brandy, a great meal.

Later I watched the Christmas Day message of the Queen, her messages are well crafted and never say more than need to be said on this day. The photos on the desk are related to what the Sovereign is saying, they also convey the message of continuity. This year a photo of her father as a young man in the Royal Navy during the First World War, not yet aware that one day he would become King. Then a photo of a young bride and husband with their first child, the Prince of Wales, who one day will be King. The group photo is of her son HRH Prince Charles on his 70th birthday with the Duchess of Cornwall surrounded by his own children and grand children. Continuity, the Queen is a great-grand mother now. The one absence today HRH Prince Philip who at 96 has retired from the public eye.

Today on Radio-Canada Christmas programming the host tenor Marc Hervieux spoke of his childhood and played this great classic of the Midnight Mass in parishes in French Canada, Ça berger, assemblons-nous. ( Shepherds let’s gather) the singer was one of the very great operatic tenors in Canada in the 1950’s  Richard Verreau (1926-2005). He was a neighbour in Montreal for about 10 years. A wonderful voice with a tragic ending. The Choir is Les Disciples de Massenet, a group with a 90 year history.


Such sacred music is muscular and sounds almost like a martial air. It says come let’s go now, nothing is more important, leave your flocks to look after themselves, the Messiah awaits you. There is no greater calling.

Ça bergers assemblons-nous
Allons voir le Messie
Cherchons cet enfant si doux
Dans les bras de Marie
Je l’entends, il nous appelle tous
Ô sort digne d’envie

Laissons là  tout le troupeau
Qu’il erre à  l’aventure
Que sans nous sur ce coteau
Il cherche sa pâture
Allons voir dans un petit berceau
L’auteur de la nature

Ça bergers assemblons-nous
Allons voir le Messie

Cherchons cet enfant si doux
Dans les bras de Marie
Je l’entends, il nous appelle tous
Ô sort digne d’envie

Que l’hiver par ses frimas
Ait endurci la plaine
S’il croit arrêter nos pas
Cette espérance est vaine
Quand on cherche un Dieu rempli d’appas
On ne craint point la peine

Ça bergers assemblons-nous
Allons voir le Messie
Cherchons cet enfant si doux
Dans les bras de Marie
Je l’entends, il nous appelle tous
Ô sort digne d’envie


Something I learned today


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The Maritime Provinces of Canada are part of what is the ancestral homeland of the Mi’k Maq people. CBC PEI interviewed Elder Bernie Francis who was raised in Membertou, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and asked him how do you say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in the Mi’k Maq language. Elder Francis is a linguist and he explained how it came about. The two holidays are foreign to the Mi’k Maq people and in living alongside French Acadian settlers they came in contact with the celebration of Christmas and New Year. They simply used their own words to do a simple translation into their language.

Per example seeing Midnight Mass, the Mi’k Maq of Nova Scotia will say Etawey Wli Nipi Alasutman or Happy Midnight Prayer, while their cousins in New Brunswick will say Wli Newelewin based on the French saying of Joyeux Noël.

As for New Year seeing the French say to them Bonjour, Bonne Année and extending their hand to shake the Mi’k Maq simply translated it into  Pusu’l Punane. The Mi’k Maq are all around us here in the Maritime Provinces and their ancient history mixed in with the Acadians in the 17th Century.

A fun fact to learn.

Towards Xmas


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This week listening to Radio-Canada in the morning I heard some old Christmas favourites from my childhood. One was Mon Beau Sapin, Roi des Forêts known in English as O Tannenbaum. This was the song the second wife of my maternal grandfather, we called Tante Fernande would sing each Christmas at lunch at my grandfather’s house when all his children and spouses and us grandkids would gather for the traditional meal, gifts and benediction. It was an old, I dare say a very old tradition going back several generations, the family patriarch would bless is family for the New Year. Tante Fernande would have cooked a turkey it was always an excellent birds and very juicy, serving peas and mash potatoes and cranberries which she called Atoka, dessert would be a mix of chocolates, Bûche de Noël and other sweets. I always thought that Atoka was the real name for cranberries but it turn out that Atoka is a Quebec recipe for processing cranberries after they are harvested. It gives a much sweeter fruit and has none of the tartness found in canned cranberries. Tante Fernande was a cook who did everything from scratch including her cranberries. You could not buy canned cranberries back then or if you could it was not done on good homes.

The dishes used to serve the Christmas meal was on two dinner sets, one was white with a dark blue and gold rim, the other set was their wedding dinner set which I have now.

There were other songs and my aunts knew one each, a favourite, one was Petit Papa Noël, my Mom use to sing that one. It is not an old song, the melody is taken from an old Ukrainian song and the words written in 1944 were about a child asking Santa to bring his father home for Xmas from the POW camp in Germany. After the war the words were changed erasing any reference to the war to what we hear today. It is a song that you would learn in school and my mother knew it well.  It was part of every Christmas music recital at school in French Canada. Tino Rossi premiered this song in 1946 and it became his Christmas signature song. Radio-Canada played it today as part of their weekend Christmas show it brought back a tidal wave of memories.

On this score the French service Radio-Canada is doing a much better job with their Christmas programming than the CBC who is playing a mix of commercial music. Tomorrow 23 December, the CBC will have an all day Christmas concert as they do every year from the European Union broadcasted live starting at 9am. Radio-Canada will have its programming, vintage shows from the 1940 to 1970. Despite the fact that such programming might be speaking to an older generation, it is still enormously popular.

Maybe it speaks about a time when Christmas was not about shopping and stress. The Media today puts a heavy emphasis on how stressful and unpleasant it is, with those awful relatives. I wonder why it has to be this way, not to mention the trove of bad news. It sounds almost perverse.

Gifts use to be in my mother’s childhood an orange which was a luxury then, books, clothing like a scarf or a sweater. For us it was books, sweets or the dreaded Fentex slippers your gradma knitted for you, some small amount of money like a $5. bill new and crisp or a board game. The adults were not stressed, no one was driving around shopping in malls, it was a nice holiday with a focus in Roman Catholic Quebec on religion and midnight mass recalling the traditions of Old Canada and France.

The other popular song and remains so to this day is J’ai vu maman embrassé le Père Noël sung by Line Renaud who is 90 years old. This 1956 version is one you will hear on the radio. Renaud was and remains one of the great French singer of her time.

Well we avoided the stress of Christmas and it is something I never quite understood why so many people whipped themselves into a frenzy.  I think that a lot of the stress is made up on false notions about gifts and having to please other people, it is somewhat artificial. I hope you all have lots of fun and enjoyment out of the Holiday Season.

My Best Wishes to You!