Heading home

After a final concert at the Santo Antonio Church in Lisbon. (Video to follow when i return to the States), we spent a final night in Portugal.

Now, we are heading home.

Things we learned:

  1. The Portuguese word for Facebook is Facebook.
  2. Cobblestone streets are always slippery
  3. Portugal can have some very nice weather
  4. The USA is lacking in castles and Roman ruins. How can this be corrected? ☺
  5. Variations students are always wonderful ambassadors of the college, Tennessee, and the US.

I will post more later but signing off for now.

Your blogger

Your friendly, Portugal blogger






Today, we went to Óbidos, which is a small village about 40 minutes from where we are staying in Lisbon. The name comes from Latin for “fortified city”. It is a walled city with a castle at the highest point.

I kept humming “narrow streets of cobblestone” from the Simon and Garfunkel song Variations is singing on this trip while we were wandering through, well, narrow streets of cobblestone.

After a brief orientation, we were able to wander on our own to find lunch and shop. The town is known for its medieval market and many festivals. In fact we were one month early for the chocolate festival. I might just stay.

The choir performed at a school outside the walls of the city for a group of teachers and students and others. It was a nice ending to a great day. We are all a bit tired but ready to spend a day in Lisbon exploring one of the great cities of the world.


A tale of two towns: Wednesday

Yesterday, we headed south crossing the longest bridge in Portugal – about 9 miles in length. It reminded me of the Cooper River bridge in Charleston, SC.

First, we went to the town of Evora, which is a walled city complete with Roman ruins of a Temple to Diana from 200 BC! We were all struck by what it must be like to live in a city when you walk by Roman ruins everyday to school. What does one think? “Oh, that old thing?”  🙂

The choir sang in the music conservatory which is located in a former convent so the performance space was the former sanctuary complete with gold decor. The conservatory’s choir first performed a few songs for us, including an American spiritual. It was delightful.

Variations sang to a packed house then and everyone really enjoyed the show. Then, we toured a bit more of Evora and boarded the bus to our second town: Portel.

We were greeted by the town’s mayor who then treated us to a traditional dinner including bread soup (a thin broth made from fish stock, olive oil and LOTS of garlic and bread, some fish, a poached egg and coriander, which is the local herb). That was followed by pork (both white and black pork) and a bread pudding that was savory rather than sweet. Dessert was rice pudding. This area was very rural and poor so bread was the main sustenance for so long. That is why it is a key ingredient in their food.

After the dinner, we waddled back to the city auditorium where we were treated to some traditional Portuguese folks songs by a men’s chorus and then another concert from Variations. The concert didn’t start until 10 pm as dinner in Portugal doesn’t usually start until 8 pm and is fairly leisurely consumed. That is why it was a late night for us all.

Today, we head off to another town for more adventure!


Variations and Chaperones in Evora at the Temple of Diana

Variations and Chaperones in Evora at the Temple of Diana


Bread Soup


Portugal children singing in Evora Conservatory of Music






Portuguese Folk Singers in Portel



Today, we headed south to Evora. The second concert didn’t start until 10 pm and it is almost 2 am here now. We had a good day but we are all very tired.

I will add double pictures tomorrow.

Tuesday: Sintra

Variations must be on tour! There are posters everywhere about it.

Variations must be on tour! There are posters everywhere about it.

Today was another two concert day. And we visited Sintra in two ways.

First, we went to the International Preparatory School, located outside of Lisbon in a nearby town.

Variations performed in the school’s sunny atrium for 1st through 3rd graders. There was fun interaction between the children, Bill Brewer and the choir.

After that concert, we boarded out two smaller buses (we found out why we had to use smaller buses as we started up the next roads!) to go to the Park and Palace of Monserrate. After a climbing, windy drive, we ended up at the point of the palace where we were able to take a short walk through interesting trees, succulent plants and flowers. Spring is definitely on its way in Portugal!

The Palace has a music room so of course Variations has to take a moment to sing it in and then continue on the tour.

From the tour, we drove to the top of Sintra, the mountain. There we were at Cabo da Roca – the most western point of Europe. The point is on a very tall cliff with the Atlantic crashing down below. And, it was VERY windy.

Time for Sintra, the second way. We headed to the town of Sintra where Variations performed for a group of about 75 in the Church of St. Martinho.

Tomorrow is another long day so I will update when I get a chance. Enjoy the photos!


Monday: School Day

I should have gone to bed earlier last night, it was a SCHOOL night after all!

And, thus, we have two concerts at two different schools today. In fact, I am borrowing wifi from the first school to get a few pictures uploaded. I will write more as we have time but we must scoot for now.

Our first concert was at the Carlucci American International School of Lisbon. Variations demonstrated how they warm up for the high school chorus of the school. Then, both choirs performed for each other. The highlight was singing Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” together.

The concert was for first graders through fifth graders who were taking music. They enjoyed the concert and had a short Q and A session after. Some of the questions the students asked included:

      What was the language you were singing in the first two songs? (answer: Latin)
      How do you remember all those words? (answer: practice)

Lunch found us at Cascais, a coastal town near Lisbon. We were able to spend two hours there eating lunch (many tried the local speciality: roast chicken with french fries), walking along the coast and shopping for souvenirs.

After lunch, we headed out for St. Julian’s School, which is another international school. The students filled the auditorium and Variations provided another fine show for them.

Tomorrow is another busy day with a late concert (9:30 pm over here) so I will post when I can but it take a little longer than usual. Enjoy what we have so far!