Posted tagged ‘Portugal’

“Sunday is the core of our civilization, dedicated to thought and reverence.”

April 14, 2013

The day has potential. The sun is working its way from behind the clouds so every now and then I see light which gives me a bit of hope. A patch of blue also appears then disappears so I’m thinking maybe a nice afternoon might be the order of the day. I think a lovely Sunday afternoon is the best of all. During the week most people work so lovely goes to waste, and Saturday is generally chore and errand day so though we may get out into the sun we don’t get to enjoy it. It’s just the backdrop. Sunday, by tradition, is the quiet day, a day with no ambitions, a day to be enjoyed.

Tomorrow is a holiday, Patriot’s Day, when we commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Paul Revere and William Dawes will make their way on horseback to warn everyone the British are coming. This time around, though, state troopers will escort the riders. There is also a reenactment of the Battle on Lexington Green which begins around 5:30 and later, at 9, is one at the Old North Bridge in Concord. Tomorrow is also the marathon. This is the first year in a long time I haven’t worked it, but my back prevents it; instead, I’ll watch the Red Sox. Their game begins at 11 because of the marathon.

This is April vacation week for kids. When I worked, I always went to Europe for the week, to one country or city. They were adult trips: no backpacks or hostels or sleeping on night busses. Usually we rented a car and travelled all over. Portugal is still my favorite trip, but I did love Belgium and the Netherlands. The scariest ride was in the fog through the Black Forest. I couldn’t see the road more than a few feet ahead of the car, and I’d have been doomed if not for the white line. The prettiest rides were through the Ardennes and in the Netherlands with its windmills. My parents were my fellow travelers, and they were great fun. My dad and I played cards every night after dinner while my mother worked on her crossword puzzles. They were amiable travelers and didn’t really care which road we took. All of if was new to us. They never balked at any restaurant and were willing to try new foods. I drove and my mother was the navigator. My father thought he was, but he butchered every language so my mother would repeat the city where we were going, and it never ever sounded even close to what my father had said. He never caught on.

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

March 2, 2013

Today I’ll be at the MultiCultural Festival most of the day. We are having a Peace Corps table and taking turns passing out literature and answering any questions. The event opens with a parade of flags at 9:30, and I’ll be there with the Ghanaian flag. All day long there will be performers from a variety of countries, an international cafe’ and tables selling goods from other countries. I’ve been hankering for a bit of shopping, and this may be just the time.

I have favorite countries and favorite places in other countries. Mind you, all of these do not include Ghana which is, after, all my favorite country second only to home. Today the travelog is my favorite country, Portugal.

We drove as far north as you can go without crossing into Spain. Going through some villages, I had to wait for the green light as the road fit only a single car. Oxen pulled carts were driven on the small roads, and I had to pass them with the utmost caution. The roads were so windy we could see where we’ve been from where we were. I saw Iron Age ruins and Roman ruins still in the process of being excavated. The food was wonderful, and I remember a small restaurant on Easter Sunday where I ate kid. We stayed one night in Nazaré, a fishing village. Women, widows, dressed in black sat along the side of the walk. Dinner was at a restaurant by the water, and through the huge front window we watched the ocean splash over the rocks and the reddest sun go down behind the rocks. Dinner was a whole bowl of shellfish.

In Obidos, we walked the top of the wall surrounding the small village. All of the houses in the old part of the village were white with red roofs. We wandered the narrow streets where we saw small houses covered in colorful flowers.

The town I loved the most was Miranda do Douro, in the northern most part of Portugal. From my room I could see the lights of the Spanish border station. The town reminded me of one in an western movie, one with dirt streets and small buildings close together bordering the road. In the church was a statue of the Christ Child. It has a wardrobe of different outfits, and his clothes are changed periodically. Bougainvillea covered the fronts of house and overhung the wooden fences. Everyone of them was in bloom.

I have always said I won’t visit a country twice (except, of course, for Ghana), but I might just make an exception for Portugal.


“Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.”

July 2, 2012

Monday still carries a bit of gloom about it even though I’ve been retired for so long. The Monday horror of the alarm abruptly pulling me from dreamland after two glorious days of sleeping in, the tiny Monday papers and the start of yet another work week dissipates slowly. It took 35 years for the weekday resentment to build, and the older I got, the more difficult  it was to drag myself out of bed. I loved my job but, on Mondays, I loved it the least.

I am not a morning person. I love the late nights when I am the only one awake, and everything is quiet. When all the houses around me are dark, I feel as if the night is mine. I’d probably be a great vampire if they really existed. I’d have no problem sleeping all day; however, the biting and the blood would be drawbacks. In Ghana, I actually liked the mornings and didn’t need an alarm clock. The roosters worked just as well, maybe even better as they didn’t need electricity or batteries. It was in the mornings when my school compound came most alive. I could hear the swishing sounds of brooms as students cleaned and swept the grounds then I’d hear the water from the taps splashing into their buckets and the clangs as the students hauled their buckets to the stalls where they’d take their bucket baths. Little kids walked by on their to the primary school and greeted me as I sat outside to drink my coffee. The morning air was always the sweetest and the coolest.

I love mornings in other places, wherever I travel.  I remember Santa Fe and getting to the square early in the morning where I sat and drank my coffee and  watched the Indians set up their wares in front of the Governor’s Palace. I watched store owners sweep the walks in front of their establishments and realized sweeping is a universal. In Portugal I watched trucks unloading fish and produce in front of shops and stores. I ate fresh rolls and drank strong coffee as I walked. Most places are best seen in the early morning when people are going about their business and the day is unfolding.


“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

June 19, 2011

This is from 2010: All I can add is how much I miss him still, each and every day. I cried a bit today filled as I am with memories of my Dad.

Father’s Day gives me the chance to use my whole posting to talk about my Dad. He was the funniest guy, mostly on purpose but lots of times by happenstance. We used to have Dad stories, all those times when we roared and he had no idea why. He used to laugh along with us and ask, “What did I say? What did I say?” We were usually laughing too hard to tell him.

I know you’ve heard this before, but it is one of my favorite Dad stories. He, my mom and I were in Portugal. I was driving. My dad was beside me. On the road, we had passed many piggyback tandem trucks, some several trucks long. On the back of the last truck was always the sign Vehiculo Longo. We came out of a gas station behind one of those. My father nonchalantly noted, “That guy Longo owns a lot of trucks.” I was laughing so hard I could barely drive and my mother was roaring.

My father wasn’t at all handy around the house. Putting up outside lights, he gave himself a shock which knocked him off his step ladder. He once sawed himself out of a tree by sitting on the wrong end of the limb. The bookcase he built in the cellar had two shelves, one on the floor and the other too high to use. He said it was lack of wood. When painting the house once, the ladder started to slide, but he stayed on his rung anyway with brush in hand. The stroke of the paint on the house followed the path of his fall. Lots of times he set his shoe or pant leg on fire when he was barbecuing. He was a big believer in lots of charcoal lighter fluid.

My father loved games, mostly cards. We played cribbage all the time, and I loved making fun of  his loses, especially if I skunked him. When he won, it was superb playing. When I won, it was luck. I remember so many nights of all of us crowded the kitchen table playing cards, especially hi-lo jack. He loved to win and we loved lording it over him when he lost.

My father was a most successful businessman. He was hired to turn a company around and he did. He was personable and funny and remembered everyone’s names. Nobody turned him down.

My father always went out Sunday mornings for the paper and for donuts. He never remembered what kind of donut I like. His favorite was plain. He’d make Sunday breakfast when I visited: bacon, eggs and toast. I can still see him standing over the stove with a dish towel over his shoulders. He always put me in charge of the toast.

If I ever needed anything, I knew I could call my father. He was generous. When we went out to eat, he always wanted to pay and was indignant when we one upped him by setting it up ahead of time that one of us would pay. One Christmas he gave us all $500.oo, not as a gift but to buy gifts.

My father left us when he was far too young. It was sudden. He had a heart attack. I had spoken with him just the day before. It was pouring that day, and I told him how my dog Shauna was soaked. He loved that dog and told me to wipe his baby off. I still remember that whole conversation.

“Grin like a dog and wander aimlessly.”

April 15, 2011

The day was perfectly lovely yesterday though still a bit cold. Today is the same. The breeze is slight but it keeps the temperature at 43° despite the sun. The cat and dog are jockeying for position in the sun on the rug by the front door. I’m thinking I should join the fray.

I did it. Yesterday I found my flight to Ghana and booked it. I leave on August 27th and return on September 11th. With the two back surgeries and the length of the flight, I went business class. I decided comfort was more important than money. On the way back, I go first class-that’s just the way the routing worked, but I’m not complaining. I figure I’ll load up my iPad with books and be all set. I’m already excited and it’s months away.

Last night was trivia night though trivia is hardly the word for the questions which had answers such as ziggurat and a bonus round of match columns of words and definitions which none of us had ever seen before but we managed to get all 10 right by looking at the prefixes and other hints. We don’t do well on music as most of it is current and we are all stuck in the classical or 60’s mode.  It is always a wonderful night out with dinner and good friends. Did I mention we won?

Next week is April vacation around here. When I taught, I’d always go to Europe that week. I’d choose one country, rent a car and drive all over. Several of the trips were with my parents and my sister joined us once. They were always great trips. My dad kept us laughing with some of his comments though that was never his intention. Portugal is still my favorite of our trips. We traveled to the north as far as we could go. From my window, I could see the lights of the Spanish border station. The roads were so narrow that in some villages a light gave us the go ahead to go through the town while the cars at the other end waited for their green light. We saw Roman ruins and iron age ruins. I had kid for Easter dinner. My favorite stop was Miranda do Douro with wisteria growing all over its walls, a beautiful old cathedral and an old section with dirt streets. My parents and I wandered through the small town and stayed at a wonderful posada right on the river. On some of the roads we had to pass wagons pulled by horses and a few by donkeys. It felt as if we had gone back in time.

The weekend is open ended-no plans except for my usual Sunday breakfast out. I do have to go and buy dog treats at Agway as Gracie would never forgive me if I had none, and we’re close to that now. I just started a book and I want to work on my Ghana slide show so I do have stuff to keep me busy. That’s seldom a problem. Did I mention an afternoon nap?