Portugal for Dummies--an Odyssey -
Departed Seattle Very early in a shower of sparks, new suit case groaning at the seams, and threatening to 'pop' like a tick. Soon we were airborne and DH settled in,' 'splayed' out in his business class seat, and I furtively swallowing the 'magic' pill that is supposed to guarantee an interval of sleep. So I dozed off, safe in the knowledge that I was in good hands.
Woke once or twice as DH seems very restless--left eye twitching, snapping open and shut rythmetically; and on closer observation, noticed that the stewardess was offering him tiny bits of 'Turkish delight' on a silver tray as she passed by.
So I sez "what the heck is wrong with your eye?"
He sez "I think I got a nervous tic.!"
"Oh right, and I'm the Queen of Sheba"...."Knock it off and go to sleep".
We got a terrific little "Golf" VW from Avis and were on our way to Obidos..and to stay at the 'castle Pousada", an imposing medieval structure that we have visited before, eaten a meal or two in their dining room, but never stayed overnight...I think they only have about 6 rooms, most always booked. We had a good chat with other weary travelers waiting in the lounge for the dining room to open, and I was reminded of the last time we visited here, at least 8 years ago, when I met an enchanting Spanish woman, who demonstrated for me, while waiting, about 8 different ways to tie up your hair with a scarf.!!
We ate some very bony dish or other, sitting in the special castle window that looks out over the entire medieval town...cobbled streets and quaint shops, churches and alleys. I lit a candle in church for all my departed loved ones, and we proceeded back to the castle to our little bed...and I do mean LITTLE!
When I ask him if they had a larger bed, he said "this is the size beds ARE in Portugal.!!I
I thought "the heck you say', but we had not choice but to settle in.
Since electricity seems very expensive there, we stumbled around in the half light for awhile until I detected my 'sleeping' garments in the muddle of my suit case. Had to chastise DH severely a few times during the night for "Failure to Yield" the center line.
Once I almost tipped him off the mattress completely, but he stubbornly hung on and threatened, "do not force me to ring the little bell" on the night stand that the attendant showed us when he left (in case we needed anything). After turning on the light to see a very hurt look, I promised to 'do his nails" when we got home--toe nails that is; The little long beasties that were raking my thighs all night. (got enough stripes now to masquerade as a zebra)...Little does he know, I'm "doing his toes' with the garden shearers.!!! Sort of a final solution, as it were.
Still, he reminded me that he is the keeper of Our Hoard Of Chocolate, meant to last the entire trip, so I decided to "make nice" and peace descended on this tiny bed in Portugal.
lots of pigeons, and stray cats
very safe, wherever you walk
road signage very good, parking hard to find
Heavy food, lots of pork, fish and mysterious stews
Town roads cobbled, often with small, flat but circular stones.
Ladies of a 'certain age' wear black...socks, skirts and head scarves
Everything is embroidered, linens, etc.
people tend toward small, sturdy, dark hair and eyes
kids seem well behaved in restaurants
They eat much later than we do
young ladies love high heels...teetering everywhere very confidentially on needle high shoes
Next day we drove north to Penhao...right in the heart of the Douro Valley wine country, that boasts a wonderful little train station just on the river, with some of the most amazing Portuguese tiles...world famous. (will try to include pictures). Had a sort of strange lunch at the Ponte Romana cafe..(do not order Pulvo in Portugal, unless you like spliced squid).
We proceeded up the mountain road toward Casaldelovios, a fondly remembered quaint little Quinta guest house in the little village of Lovios clinging to the side of the mountain.. We had been there before and promised ourselves to 'go back 'someday" and thus, we traversed some mountains roads, ever higher and scarier, that would cause even a race car driver to blanch? This house has been in the Sampio family for about 4 hundred years, and is full of antiques, old treasures, and history. Owner is a jewel of a gentleman, who was very kind to us when we were there many years ago. We ate dinner in his huge dining room, the only guests, and it felt sorta spooky.
The path to get there is narrow, just up, up, where even eagles dare not fly, tortuously curved, no visibility, all cobbled (with many missing stones), and so narrow that I felt that we had at least two wheels off the road most of the time. Of course, this was just this village, and when you finally arrive at the top and look around, you can see that this is just one of many little villages dotting the wine terraces, where life doesn't change much from year to year.
Our host was very glad to see us, swore he remembered us and built a huge fire in the 'lounge' so we could watch CNN and the election activity. (no central heating, of course, but an array of space heaters and fire places); sadly, he was quite diminished, due to some cancer or other, and we were the only guests in the house at that weekend--where normally he hosts over 1200 guests a year. One day we braved the roads to go back in to Penhao and take a little train up the river and back. The entire region is dotted with old, and sometimes abandoned quintas, and grape terraces, from the riverside to the top of the mountains, as far as the eye can see. Many have been there since the time of Christ, and they produce many different kinds of Port wine. Upon departing, Mr. Sampio offered us, as a parting gift, a very expensive bottle of his best Port.
We proceeded north along the river route (DH said) that proved to be a very windy tortuous mountain road, up and down hair pin turns, over several mountain ranges...maybe the river was somewhere, but I didn't see it. So I insisted I had had enough scenery and want to find the "toll" highway.
I kept yelling "are we there yet?", and he sez, holding the map up to his only good eye, "Its not on this map, for some reason."!!
We finished the day at the Posauda in Viana Do Costello, on top of another mountain overlooking the city of Viana, and a huge old sanctuary, that almost rivals the Taj Mahal in it's majesty. Lots of religious people and tourists there...but the economy seems quite deflated--one of the banks in Lisbon had just been nationalized. This with the weather and lateness of the season, meant that we had most places to ourselves, not many crowds. We had a lovely room, overlooking the mountain of the river and the ocean beaches and went in to the bar for a glass of wine. No body around. Ate a sandwich and tried to talk a little to the waiter who looked lonely too...was friendly but he didn't speak English. So we retired to our larger bed.
Next day we walked down to the 'sanctuary" of St. Lucia, from the 16th or 17th century, beautiful stained glass windows, but suffering quite clearly from the effects of air pollution--grey and discolored.
Next day we drove into Viana and walked around the old town, went to the "3 Pots", same little restaurant we had dined in twice before on other trips, and the same waiter was there, in the same shirt....(I think he washed it a time or two--looked faded), and ate another heavy meal...Veggies and salads seem to be less appreciated in Portugal, and soon I felt so heavy and bloated that I was uncomfortable.
Our last stop was in Coiembra, at a lovely little posauda in the middle of nowhere...but lots of English speaking folks...had a nice meal at a local restaurant and then to bed.
Last day in Portugal, we drove to Lisbon thru cork plantations, (they harvest the cork from the trunk every several years, and place a plaque with the date it was harvested, so as to leave it undisturbed until next time. We passed lush green fields, eucalyptus forests and white houses with red tile roofs, to deliver the auto to the airport and on to the pier to board the Windsurf to cross the Atlantic.A grand Sail Away party, introduced ourselves to the 120 other passengers, met a few I thought might be worth knowing better, and departed to our Suite...as we sailed under the bridge in Lisbon, it looked like we cleared it by about 6 inches,!!
The Atlantic Ocean
Mostly the same--blue sky, white sails, good food and calm water...for 14 days.!!! A little owl joined us as a 'stow' away for a few days, and sat forlornly up on the mast...people put out meat and food for him, but sometime during the third night, he flew, or was blown away.
I spent my time studying some of the folks closely--one lady with an elephantine jaw who snapped and popped her gum with such nauseating vigor that she set off magnetic sound waves that set the giant sails to lofting.!!
Another woman, who was so pretty and fun, refused to be seen eating in public, said it was against her religion, and she was so thin she hardly cast a shadow. She could be seen any hour of the day or night frantically trotting on the treadmill.
Other fine travelers had wonder full tales to tell, so we kept each other amused for long periods...lots of reading and reflecting. We all exchanged e mails and promises to write...yeah!
Days at Sea: Something like this is
1 sleep late, donuts and coffee on the deck.
2 Watch the ocean
3 Play cards or bridge games
4 Lunch on the veranda - lots of wine
5 work out in the Fitness center
6 Dip in the pool
7 Shower and nap
9 dinner in one of the 3 restaurants
10 dancing under the stars
11 sleeping soundly with DH keeping me safe in his special combination of a "Head Lock" and a "double Nelson", snorting sweet "nothings" ..much, in in my ear...and me with a sleepy response, murmuring with something about a 'headache"
12 Repeat steps 1 - 12 above
Off to our little hotel a few miles out side of Bridgetown..Place. It was truly superior and had a fine restaurant...everything is very pricy there, but food was good. Sat on the beach a few hours, As I write this, last day in Barbados, we are poised beneath a huge Banyan tree and gazing out to sea. Lots of colorful sail boats and catamarans drifting about...sand is like white sugar, and water is a very pure azure blue. DH is wearing a red shirt and it's hard to tell where his shirt ends and his sun burn begins. Couple of kids wolfing down a sandy sandwich...oblivious to the grit, as only kids can do. Still wondering if there's time to get a dreadlock or two...and do they charge by the braid, or by the whole head....no matter how t thin your hair.'
Couple of cute young things cavorting in the surf and one very large native lady, in a chartreuse bikini, a few sizes too small , evidentially, as she seems to be developing a serious 'wedgie" as she lumbers along in a very determined way.
(Note for Suze: (she sometimes thinks I am critical'. Any similarity to real people. either living or dead, is purely accidental, and DH is really a lovely man who has, thru no fault of his own, ended up with me...a 'tiger by the tail.")
Last day we walked into the local fish market where you can get any kind of fresh fish; tuna, marlin, king fish, etc....Since I don't eat dolphins, settled for a chunk of BBQ chicken, which I was forced to share with several aggressive pidgeons..and struggled to eat with a very limp plastic fork and knives.
To Miami to Dallas on AA after leaving at 4:30 a.m. First leg, the flight attendant is a "Bajan" (native of Barbados) and has the most amazing amount of curled, twisted and piled high, braided hair.!!! Looks like she has been cultivating it for many years and is very proud of it. I am passing the time by studying it in great detail--where it starts and ends, sort of like a medieval maze, different colors in different spots.
She is obviously taking care, and turns her head very slowly, coyly, and carefully so as not to disturb the masterpiece ( There might even be swallows nesting in there, for all I know. I swear, when she sneezed just now, there was the ever so slight hint of feathers in the air.)
BUT wait!!! is it my imagination, or is it just her head that's turning, while her amazing coiffure stands still...---a wig?????
No!! it can't be. Maybe I am so tired that I am beginning to hallucinate.!
So it's goodbye to all and back to the puddles and muddle of ordinary life'hope this hasn't tired you out'.
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Portugal for Dummies--an Odyssey -