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Mark Benham

In Foz do Arelho there is one Pastelaria with an ocean view, Doce Mar. It sits atop the cliffs on the northern side of the lagoon and looks out over the crashing waves as they attempt to break down the barrier of the dune. Ruth and I spent a month or so in Foz before we ever ventured in. Our first time there we met Sergio, the proprietor of Doce Mar and had our first encounter with Mark Benham.

Mark fundamentally changed our experience in Portugal. As a fellow artist we shared a special bond. Mark also provided an introduction to many other wonderful people, including his wonderfully exuberant partner, Jeannie. We spent an intentional moment in a cafe to ask him questions for this interview but there was so much we got to know about Mark through our time together.

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Mark grew up in Hampshire, England he currently lives in Bath. ‘From the age of 18 I knew that I wanted to travel but I worked in various design jobs before leaving to travel the world in my 30’s.’

Since we are in the midst of our own world travels, we were eager to hear a few details about Mark’s.

Mark- ‘The plan was to spend a year travelling, ending up in Zanzabar but that leg of the trip wouldn’t happen for another 10 years. I began in Toronto, Canada and rode all the way across the country to Vancouver. From there I made my way to Seattle, then drove to San Fransisco and on to LA visiting design firms as I went along. My next stop was Fiji which was highly enjoyable. On through Australasia before flying to Thaliand where I took an 18 hour train ride from Bangkok to Panang. In Thailand I ran across several young Buddhist Monks on a 9 hour bus ride on my way to Phitsanulok. New Zealand had some freelance work for me. I have an interesting story about New Zealand.’

 

And you have to understand that any time Mark is speaking we are entranced by his fantastic British accent. So attempt your best British while reading through the rest.

Mark- ‘The New Zealand landscape is beautiful. I took some time to hike Mt. Aiken and Arthur's Pass. With my sketchbook and days worth of time the trails became mine - each day I would sketch the amazing things that I saw. On one particular day I got lost and it was beginning to get dark. The sun was going to be lost behind the horizon soon and I didn’t know how to get back. I tried to cut across a valley, but that made things worse because I ended up even more lost! After slipping into a river, which I figured would help me find my way down the mountain, and becoming more disorientated, I found the path I had come in on by pure chance! The thought of sleeping on that mountainside wasn't enticing - I still remember it well

Detail with energy. Limited edition ink drawings and bespoke commissions. See more  Mark Benham

Detail with energy. Limited edition ink drawings and bespoke commissions. See more Mark Benham

After spending a large part of his life working as a designer, Mark has ventured into the worlds of professional photography and drawing.

Mark- ‘I always loved to draw and when I went on my world tour I was given a sketch book which I promptly filled. Then I filled several more.’

 

The Caldas Community Arts Center in Portugal showed a selection of Mark’s drawings that we had the pleasure of viewing. In addition to the drawing Mark seemed to always be wandering with his camera. Everything was viewed from the perspective of his camera. Ruth and I were so excited when we had the chance to purchase a print of one of his photographs for our private collection.

Mark- ‘Photography is still new for me but I love it. I need to figure out how to have an income from the work. After so many years in the Design industry, with all of the marketing and selling it is nice to just create what is beautiful to me. That is where it get’s tough, trying to sell my work without selling out, without going back to the design for marketing mentality.’

Here's a look at the beautiful image we have the pleasure of owning.

Here's a look at the beautiful image we have the pleasure of owning.

We are so thankful to Mark for enhancing our experience in Portugal by sharing his time, wisdom and talent with us. Check out his photography at markbenham.co.uk and drawing at markbenham-art.co.uk.

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Elizabete e Miguel

Sitting down with Elizabete and Miguel was a real joy. Ruth and I have learned and experienced the hospitality and the patience of the Portuguese- Elizabete was no exception.

Shortly after our arrival to Foz we discovered her Pastelaria Beta along the main road, Rua Fransisco Almeida Grandela. Ruth was excited about the fresh bread, I the coffee and both of us were excited about the fresh pastries. Our Portuguese is mostly limited to hello and good day and Elizabete matched our Portuguese with her English. When we had the chance to sit down with her it was fortunate for us all that her son Miguel was available to translate.

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Sentar-se com Elizabete e Miguel foi uma verdadeira alegria. Ruth e eu temos aprendido e experimentado a hospitalidade e a paciência do Português - Elizabete não foi excepção.

Logo após a chegada a Foz descobrimos a Pastelaria Beta ao longo da estrada principal, na Rua Francisco Almeida Grandela. Ruth estava animado com o pão fresco, eu, o café e nós dois estávamos animado sobre os bolos frescos. Nosso Português é mais limitado a Olá e bom dia e Elizabete acompanha o nosso Português com o seu Inglês. Quando tivemos a oportunidade de sentar com ela foi uma sorte para todos nós, que o seu filho Miguel estava disponível para traduzir.

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As Elizabete and Miguel were bouncing between serving customers and answering questions we wanted to begin with a broad idea. What does it mean to be Portuguese?

Elizabete- ‘That is hard for me to put into words. I was born in Portugal, in Foz. That is what makes me Portuguese.’

Miguel- ‘It is a great responsibility to be Portuguese. There is so much history. We are a happy people. We like to talk, to party, to spend time with our neighbors- we are very hospitable. Portugal used to be really big but even though that has changed our way of thinking has not. We are always helpful, always making people happy.’

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Como Elizabete e Miguel foram saltando entre servir os clientes e responder às perguntas, queríamos começar com uma idéia ampla. O que significa ser Português ?

Elizabete - 'É difícil para mim colocar em palavras. Nasci em Portugal, em Foz . Isso é o que me faz Português .'

Miguel- 'É uma grande responsabilidade ser Português. Há tanta história. Somos um povo feliz. Nós gostamos de falar, de nos divertir, de passar tempo com os nossos vizinhos, somos muito hospitaleiros. Portugal costumava ser muito grande, mas mesmo que isso nao mudou a nossa maneira de pensar. Estamos sempre prontos a ajudar, sempre fazendo as pessoas felizes.'


The process of translating was a bit slow and at times there were no words in English to define the Portuguese. But we moved forward and started to dig a bit deeper by asking why Elizabete lived in Foz.

Elizabete- ‘I was born in Foz, in one of the houses. My roots are here’

Miguel said she was ‘True-Foz.’

Elizabete- ‘I got married and moved to Lisbon for a while where my sons Hugo and Miguel were born. Then we moved to the United States. After some time there we came back to Portugal, near Foz in Nadadoro. We owned a restaurante called Tropicana and brought the Fado to the area for the first time.’

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O processo de tradução foi um pouco lento e às vezes não havia palavras em Inglês para definir o Português. Mas nos mudamos para a frente e começamos a aprufundar um pouco mais perguntando a Elizabete porque morava em Foz.

Elizabete- 'Eu nasci em Foz, em casa . Minhas raízes estão aqui.'

Miguel disse que ela era 'Mesmo da Foz.'

Elizabete- 'Eu casei e mudei me para Lisboa por um tempo em que os meus filhos Hugo e Miguel nasceram. Mais tarde mudamos para os Estados Unidos. Depois de algum tempo voltamos a Portugal. Nós tivemos um restaurante chamado Tropicana entre a Foz e o Nadadouro e trouxe o Fado a esta zona pela primeira vez.'


Everyone has a story and we were really getting a broad look at Elizabete. There is just so much about people you can’t know without stopping to ask. We still hadn’t arrived at the present and how she came to run the Pastelaria Beta and the story only broadened from there.

Elizabete- ‘Twenty four years earlier I had run the restaurante Tropicana. Since then I have worked as a seamstress from home and at different Cafes. To help a family member I partnered to open up the Pastelaria Beta but then I had to run it on my  own. Once we began I had to see it through.’

Miguel- ‘I help out on weekends and holidays. The Pastelaria is open every day of the year and I help out where I can.’

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Todo mundo tem uma história e nós realmente obtemos um amplo olhar para Elizabete. Há tanta coisa sobre as pessoas que você não pode saber, sem parar para perguntar. Nós ainda não tinhamos chegado ao presente e como ela veio a ter a Pastelaria Beta e a história só ampliou a partir de lá.

Elizabete- 'Vinte quatro anos antes eu tinha tido o restaurante Tropicana. Desde então, tenho trabalhado como costureira em casa e em diferentes Cafés. Para ajudar um membro da família unimos para abrir a Pastelaria Beta mas no fim eu tive que executá-lo sozinha. Depois que começamos tinhamos que acabar.'

Miguel- 'Eu ajudo aos fins de semana e feriados. A Pastelaria está aberto todos os dias do ano e eu ajudo sempre que posso.'

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My coffee was almost through and the chocolate cake and bola berlim we ordered were staring us down. We wound down the conversation by asking what Elizabete’s favorite foods are.

Elizabete- The 'Cozido a Portuguesa' is my favorite. It is a traditional Portuguese stew made of meats and vegetables. Portugal is known for the Pastel de Nata but my favorite pastry is the 'Trouxas de Ovos'- an egg based pastry sheet rolled into a log.’

We finished the pastries, had final sips of coffee and left with kisses and hugs.

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O meu café quase tinha acabado e o bolo de chocolate e a bola berlim que pedimos estavam olhando -nos. Acalmamos a conversa perguntando quais os pratos favoritos de Elizabete.

Elizabete- 'O cozido à portuguesa é o meu favorito. É um cozido Português tradicional feito de carnes e legumes. Portugal é conhecido pelo Pastel de Nata, mas o meu favorito é a trouxas de ovos, e um doce feito de folhas de ovo enroladas.'

Acabamos de comer os nossos bolos e bebemos o pouco cafe que tinha sobrado. Saimos com abracos e beijos.

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Sergio Quaresma

In A Flash!

Sergio Quaresma
-Proprietor of 'Doce Mar,' -a Pastelaria overlooking Lagoa de Óbidos and the Ocean
-Loves to eat Octopus cooked in a traditional Portuguese style with potatoes, garlic and olive oil.
-Relaxes in the cool weather of Autumn and Spring.

Sergio happens to be the brother of Miguel (look down one post and you'll see Miguel and Gillian). Ruth and I walked into Sergio's Pastelaria, Doce Mar upon the suggestion of an acquaintance. At the time we were unaware of our single degree of separation. We took a seat in the slightly raised seating area next to a large window overlooking the ocean. The view is gorgeous and it would be egregious of me not to mention the insanely delicious chocolate cake. We have had the opportunity to get to know Sergio a bit during our time here in Foz do Arelho and wanted to share him with you.

When you visit Foz and step into Doce Mar say hello to Sergio for us!
 

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