It’s Thursday afternoon and I sort of feel like I am dug out of the things that piled up while Brenda and I were in Portugal. It’s amazing how much mail piles up in a month, and that’s in a world where nothing of value comes in via “snail mail”. And, I won’t even talk about all the bills that needed attending to. And, to make matters even “better”, our credit card was compromised while we were away so I had to contact all of the vendors that we do business with via card and change the number to the new one. I think that it’s the third time this year we have had to deal with a new card. And, the list of companies to contact is especially long and fun as we also handle bills for Brenda’s and my mothers.
Oh yeah, and our yard was piled high with leaves too. Now that was a treat worth coming home to.
With only six weeks at home before we head down to meet up with Pandora in GA for the rest of the winter, we don’t have much time for catching up and getting ready for the holidays. And, of course, everything that goes “up” for the holidays has to come down, and PDQ, as we are headed to MD to visit our son Rob and his girlfriend Kandice a few days after Christmas. “Quick, put the tree up. No wait, time to take the tree down.”
Just thinking about all that has to happen between now and the end of December makes me feel a bit overwhelmed. However, before I feel too sorry for myself, at least I don’t have to count “work” as part of the mix.
Well, Portugal was wonderful and being away for a month made it possible for us to take our time touring around much of the northern half of the country. Yes, we had a great time putting 2,000 km on the rental car. I will say that by the last week I was getting a bit tired of packing and unpacking dirty clothes. “So Brenda, what pair of dirty jeans should I wear today?” Hmm…
So, what were my favorite parts of the trip? Thanks for asking.
Taking our sweet time was nice as we were able to stay for several days, sometimes 4-5 in a single place. All around us were folks that were on a week long holiday and they would race from hotel to hotel, always on the move. We didn’t do a lot prior to the late morning, which was very nice.
The scenery of the country was fabulous and never deciding where we were going next until a few days before we were going to be “homeless” was very nice. By taking this approach we were able to do some exploring beyond the normal tourist spots and take the advice of locals on what would be interesting. The good news is that we never had problems finding a nice place to say, even with just a few days notice.
For sure, we did plenty of the things that tourists do, such as seeing some of the fabulous museums and castles. Did we ever see castles.
Perhaps the best one was in Sintra, a short distance from Lisbon. We stayed in this fabulous inn outside of town with a magnificent view of the castle from our room. The places we stayed were so wonderful. Perhaps the beds weren’t always as comfortable as a top hotel in the U.S. but they were certainly more scenic. We had the corner room in the tower of this. And, our view was the photo above. Really amazing. And, when you got close, it was breathtaking to see the level of detail in the castles, built hundreds of years before our country was even founded. We loved having an opportunity to meet real local folks. A highlight was our visit to a “factory” that makes traditional pottery. The owner spent an hour showing us around his place. There were only 4 working in the shop and they were all members of the same family. I should note that we heard about this spot, which has probably never had a tourist visit, from the owner of a restaurant that we ate at. I wrote more about our visit in this post, if you missed it. We purchased more than would fit in our luggage to bring home. Unfortunately, this piggy didn’t survive the trip. Too much jammed into our luggage. Perhaps we will have to order a replacement. So nice to meet someone that is really proud of their work.
Another highlight was our visit to a bobbin lace school and museum. Brenda is very interested in this technique and has been studying for a few years now. To visit a real working school was wonderful. It’s worth noting that there are precious few places like this anywhere and none in the U.S.
In this school young girls, some as young as four years old learn the traditional techniques. Brenda was in heaven. It was fun to watch the “girls” compare notes. They spoke only a little English but way better than we spoke Portuguese. Never the less, there was a common language in lace. Lace making is impossibly complicated. Well, at least to me. However, like everything else, it looks easy when an expert does it. To manipulate dozens of bobbins as fast as the teacher is stunning to watch. She has been doing this technique since she was a young girl. It shows. As they say, practice, practice…Language barrier or not, there was a very personal connection for Brenda and it was fun to watch.
I loved the boats we saw. No, not enough posts about boats for a blog dedicated to sailing but hey, not bad for a “land trip”. So much color. In a world of “plastic boats” these were very refreshing. And octopus. The lovely pottery jars that they catch them in. Watching the fisherman unload bins of octopus, or should I say octopi?And, best of all, me eating them. Yum… What’s the world coming to when we take pictures of our meals? I loved the food and wine. Perhaps the most memorable glass of wine for us was sitting on the wall of an ancient castle in Lisbon with wine we purchased from a “food cart” called ‘Wine with a View”. Not something you’d see in New York, that’s for sure. Imagine buying wine on the street from a cart? You can not beat this view.
Yes, food, it was terrific. Better than that was the scenery that went along with the food. This nighttime view in Porto was the best. Wine, cheese, olives and bread. What a magnificent evening. We stayed in some really amazing inns like this one that had been in the same family for several hundred years. The “barn” was 900 years old. That’s several times older than our country. And the family that owned it treated us like family and even gave us a wonderful bottle of port while we were there. When we left they all lined up on the front porch for a family picture. I do hope that they visit us here in CT someday. We’d like that very much. And the Douro valley in very northern Portugal. Breathtaking. The place we stayed here was on the top of a mountain and had been in the same family since the 1700s. That’s hard for me to relate to. My house was built in the 1970s.
The Douro valley is in northern Portugal and by early November it was beginning to get cold. However, with all the walking we did we managed to stay warm while we were out. We did a LOT of walking each day or our trip.
We just loved walking through the vineyards. The highlight of our visit to Douro was our picnic in the vineyard. Yes, perfect. Yes, we had a great visit to Portugal. Even with a few rainy days thrown in. I could go on all day about what fun we had but it’s sufficient to say that Portugal is worth the trip. The scenery, food and people. Really great.
Well, enough of Portugal. Time to think about sailing and it won’t be long till we are aboard Pandora. I won’t think about the fact that St Mary’s is currently in the 30-40 degree range. That’s cold. I am told that it’s not normally that cold.
Let’s hope not. We are trying to avoid winter, after all.