Week 179 September 2, 2017

When Loren and I left Rio Caldo, Portugal, we drove on a gorgeous, long, windy road up a mountain to Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres, which is a border park to Spain’s Baixa Limia Serra do Xures Parque Natural. We are uncertain if our four hour hike across seven bridges – and one natural bridge that I found – took us over the border, but for certain we drove through the park in Espana afterwards, for a shorter route to reach our AirBnB, Casa do Preto – House of Black, in Portugal. There was no need to show our passaportas anyway, as both countries are within the European Union.

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Contrary to what our friends Marisa and Vieira advised about Pitões das Junias: “There is nothing there!” – we enjoyed visiting a growing community. We understand from new hiking friends there that in the past few years it has been named among the top 10 villages of Portugal. On our first day in Pitões (said p-tosh) we took a long day hike – down one mountain and up another, to see an igreja – church and back. On the way there, we stopped at a swimming hole where Loren dove in for a refreshing respite.

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The next day, a group of more than thirty members of the nearby Vila Real city hiking club showed up en masse at the restaurant at our overnight accommodation.


Loren befriended them and we had the fortune to join in their day hike to an abandoned mosteiro – monastery, a cascata – waterfall, and then a little bit more walking with them around Pitões. I counted 217 stairs on the way back up from one of the viewpoints of the cascata.

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Afterwards, they bestowed us gifts from their club and a pair of hand made hiking poles, saying this represents a connection between America and Portugal. Very special!

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Loren and I took another, shorter walk before leaving Pitões, then drove on to the Douro region. It was like driving to Napa in California, except that the vineyards are planted on extremely steep, terraced mountainsides, offering dramatic views into canyons with each turn of the winding road. We drove through Alijo, stopped in Favaios for a tour and tasting at Cooperativa Adega winery, then, drove on to our AirBnB in Pinhão (peen-yow).


Our studio apartment here was in a home high on a steep incline from the main street where we had parked our car. I counted 69 stairs back down. We were greeted with the news that “This week will be tropical,” and learned how lucky we are in that their recent heat wave of 50 degrees celsius, which is 122 degrees Fahrenheit, had just passed with the day’s thunderstorm. We were grateful for the abundance of ripe, flavorful figs and several green bell peppers offered to us from the rear yard. The tomatoes sadly were scorched in the heat, and the pears and peaches not quite ready to enjoy. One day we hiked way up a mountain behind our house to Quinta do Jalloto, (Jalloto Winery), after enjoying a cup of Galone (coffee light) at our hosts’ cafe.

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On our hike, Loren picked ripe grapes that were growing alongside the road, then he found sweet peaches for us to taste! We also collected some ripe almonds that were popping out of their skins to take back to crack open later. Olives, apricots, and citrus trees were plentiful too, though the olives and fruits were not yet ready other than some of the oranges. All these varieties are familiar to us from the San Francisco Bay Area. At Jalloto, we tasted more wine varieties. My question is: How does one taste wines, find a flavor one likes, and not buy oneself a bottle? Even with the hiking here, and the Bikram yoga and hiking that we did in New England and New York, I am still carrying too many excess pounds… no wonder.


On our last full day in Portugal, we were slow to leave the apartment, which turned out to be a good thing… There came a knock at our door from one of our hosts who asked if we were ready to leave. Leave? She then told us that we had agreed to move to a different apartment for the last night, and she needed us to move within the hour as new guests were arriving! Loren vaguely remembered that he had agreed to this some time ago, but I was totally surprised. I had completely settled in… Fortunately with traveling light we were moved in an hour, and, to our pleasure the second accommodation seemed a bit nicer. We had only 49 stairs to the main street front this one.

Even with our delayed departure for the day, we still had time to drive a lovely windy road from Pinhão to the town of Regua, then on to the city of Lamego where we had a delightful afternoon observing and participating in some activities for Festa Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. We parked our car, hiked down to the city center, then up the few hundred steps at the far end of town to the Santuario Nossa Senhora dos Remédios cathedral.

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We had been told that there are nearly 700 steps up to the cathedral, but, they seemed way too easy – I was sure it was maybe 200 or so. However, later I confirmed it online to be almost 700. Inside the church was beautiful. We took a peaceful dirt path back down to the city center, bought some delectable cheese, olives, beans and pastries, then hiked back up to our car for the delightful return drive.


On our way to return the rental car, we took another exquisite scenic drive on roads so full of curves that I could barely take my eyes off the road or even shift out of 2nd gear – I would no sooner put the car in 3rd then have to immediately downshift for the next curve. I am leaving Portugal with – as is true of almost every place that we have traveled – a hope and desire to return. For now, what I take with me is the memory of how friendly, kind, honest and helpful the people are. I also have the new knowledge that Portugal is the largest exporter of cork in the world from the bark of their cork trees. And, that Portuguese is among the top 10 spoken world languages, per lists topped by Mandarin, Spanish and English.


A quick afternoon bus ride has brought us to Spain – I say quick because it arrived in Tui or Tuy – it appears that you can choose either of these as your preferred spelling, same as with Porto or Oporto in Portugal – more than an hour earlier than scheduled, and no, the driver was not exceeding the speed limit. We hiked a quarter of a mile uphill from the gas station where we were dropped off, with all our belongings strapped on us or carried in our hands.

We have two nights at Arturo’s AirBnB; from here we will begin our weeklong sojourn on a part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela – the Walk to Santiago of the Field of Stars, also known as Saint James Way. We spotted our first scallop shell image in Lamego, Portugal, being one of the yellow directional pointers which we will be seeking many more of during this coming week. It is said that the lines represent the different routes that people travel from all over the world, to arrive at the end point: the believed tomb of Saint James in Santiago, Spain.


Week 178 August 26, 2017

I discovered this meaningful quote and translation on the back of the tickets from our visit to the Tower of Belem last week, and thought it worthy to share this week:

   Gil Eanes, Navegador
      Valeu a pena? Tudo vale a pena
      Se a alma não e pequena.
      Quem quer passar alem do Bojador
      Tem que passar alem da dor.
      Deus ao mar o perigo e o abismo deu,
      Mas nele e que espelhou o ceu.
         Was it worth doing? Everything is worth doing
         If the soul of the doer is not small.
         Whoever would go beyond the Cape
         Must go beyond sorrow.
         God placed danger and the abyss in the sea,
         But he also made it heaven’s mirror.

On our last day in Lisbon, Loren and I went on a long, full day tour. Of all the tours we have taken, this one appealed to us the least. So, we acknowledged our disappointment to ourselves and made the best of it. We visited Obidos, where we walked the wall around a medieval town and had a view of an ancient Roman aqueduct, then Nazaré – where we ate lunch in a touristy fishing town, on to Batalha – to see a cathedral, and, the famed Fatima – where three children had experienced an apparition of the Virgin Mary. An impressive new cathedral with elaborate grounds celebrate it. Earlier this year Pope Francis came to mark the 100th anniversary. Loren and I appreciated returning to Lisbon even more because we learned how really hot it can be inland – I am still suffering from an itchy prickly heat rash on my calves. 

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That evening we were still able to be on time for a classical guitar concert in the Cloister of Se Cathedral, the one we had had tickets for on the previous evening but was canceled. It was well worth making it an even longer day to attend it.


Loren and I then took a train to Aveiro for three nights. We needed help with finding our AirBnB, and Marisa, owner of a cafe with her husband, Vieira, came to our rescued. We developed a friendship with them both, and enjoyed an evening out to dinner together. Loren and I tasted our first Leitao Assado – suckling pig, at their suggestion. It was good!


Aveiro’s nickname is “the Venice of Portugal,” for its many bridges over the water that runs through town, and, the many gondola-like motorized boats for tourists to enjoy.


Loren and I preferred to spend our time walking and bicycling in Aveiro’s quaint streets over riding in a boat. We found that the townspeople grace their overhead walkways, and even some of their bicycles, with colorful crocheted images of fish among other designs, as well as painting some of the benches around town with delightful artwork.

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Another style of art that we have seen in several places in Portugal are the beautiful intricate tile sidewalk designs,

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and, we have seen impressive blue tile artwork that grace the outside of homes, churches, and buildings. The tile is both decorative and practical in that it needs less maintenance than other forms of building materials.

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We so appreciate how many people speak English. Loren recognizes how many more people do these days compared to during his travels here of 40 years ago – he remembers, “No one spoke English!” We are also especially grateful for Loren’s fluency in Italian and Spanish, because even with some English speakers, it makes such a difference in learning more about the people we meet and the local cultures. In addition to a few Portuguese words, we learned a saying from our new friends: mano da vaca – hand of the cow, which means one does not like to spend money, and, the belief that, “Seeing a spider is a sign of money.”

On one of the other two evenings we saw a memorable sunset over the salt fields. The other evening we rode a bus to Costa Nova to see the colorful Pahleiro – former barns for hay for horses, or for housing boats, that are now converted into decorative homes.

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Then we rode the train to Porto and took the metro to the airport where we rented a Peugeot. We first drove north to see Guimaraes. At the suggestion of Marisa y Vieira, we visited the Castle from the time of the birth of Portugal where Afonso the 1st king of Portugal’s life is detailed, and, the Paco dos Duques – a palace residence of former Kings of Portugal. We also stumbled upon an outstanding jardim – garden.

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I have been working on a poem about Portugal which is still in the works and perhaps I will post here when it is done. I was also inspired to write this Haiku:

My Prominent Portuguese Memories
   Blue tile, Castles, and
   Coastline; Cod and Cork, Custard
   Pastry, Pork, and Port
Claire Adalyn Wright

Today we will be leaving Rio Caldo after an overnight stay, where a chorus of church bells and a cage of chatty birds at our accommodation have added to our enjoyment. We are on our way to visit the mountains for a few days. While what I write next in ending this week is not a proper farewell, it is a phrase that I learned from a friend in the Bay Area with Portuguese heritage: Beige meh cou! or, Kiss my a.. Why do we often learn the bad words of another language first? Really, what I am trying to say but do not have the Portuguese words for and will send via another painted bench image, are our affectionate kisses to Portugal!


Week 177 August 19, 2017

I have had one foot in family genealogy this week, the other foot in packing and preparing to again leave the United States. It has been a very full week. Loren and I took a break from packing to see part of a Bruce Springsteen tribute band concert in a local park while we were still in New York. We arrived to find little parking, but a policeman I asked who was standing near several cars parked near “No Parking” signs said they were “Overlooking the signs for a couple of hours, so long as cars are not blocking traffic.” “Great,” I thought. We spent less than an hour enjoying our picnic dinner, only to find a ticket on our car when we left! We decided to stop in at Police HQ to complain, and, later that evening the officer called to say that he had ripped up his copy of the ticket. Nice!
Our final errands included having Flu shots… thanks to my cousin who insisted we should have them. Have you had yours this year? We read this in an email from an MD: “Patients who don’t get the flu vaccine have more heart attacks, strokes, and other serious illnesses.” That said, the wildlife we saw in New York included: bat, muskrat, and wild turkey. I must mention how Loren was keenly aware of the multitude of cicada singing and cricket chirping – pointing out sounds I rarely notice for their continual background presence throughout my childhood. Farewell, New York, for now.
After a last evening with my brother and his family, we rode in an Uber taxi to JFK airport. Here we found our packing work had paid off: Loren’s checked backpack was an allowable 21kg, while mine was just 18kg – less than 50 and 40 lbs respectively. I was grateful for the onboard movies as I could not sleep on the overnight flight. I enjoyed United Kingdom and Wild. I highly recommend them both! A gorgeous Mediterranean day greeted us at the edge of Lisbon, Portugal. From the airport we took a bus to walking distance to our AirBnB – which is coincidentally off Rua de Sao Jose – San Jose Street.
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We checked in, then quickly walked the several blocks to arrive just in time for our scheduled e-bike tour. Lisbon is similar to San Francisco in that it is near the ocean and hilly in parts. It was my first electric bike ride. It was dangerous -only- in that I would like to have my own e-bike when we return home. The appeal is for the boost it has for climbing hills. On our outing, guides Yann and Philippe took us and four fun young adult Persians who now live in London, to our first miradouro – terrace with a view: Senhora-do-Monte. We also rode up and down through the very, very narrow streets of Alfama – the oldest section – meaning neighborhood, because it survived the 1755 earthquake, and resultant fires and tsunami. We also saw other less noteworthy sites of their Lisboa.
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Loren pre-booked several outings for us to start off being in Europe again. The next day we took a Walk, Food and Wine Tastings tour. I learned so much more, and spent the good part of a day with another great group of people. I especially learned from our guide Pedro (said P-eh-dro, not the usual Pay-dro, or P-a-dro), about the Carnation Revolution, Portugal’s recent nearly completely nonviolent coup to end the longest dictatorship of the twentieth century. The event is memorialized by the 25th of April bridge, designed like San Francisco’s Golden Gate because of its ability to withstand ‘quakes. I was also introduced to The Lusiads, an epic poem of Luiz de Camoes to celebrate Vasco de Gama’s discovery of a sailing route to India. And, we learned that Nossa – meaning, to us, or, Saúde – health, are the ways to toast our Portuguese drinks.
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Over the course of a few hours we had the equivalent of a progressive meal – beginning with tasting Portuguese coffee. Fortunately a dear cousin’s friend had warned us of the strong espresso and pointed us to a lighter alternative called Galone. This we had with the bakery’s best pastry. We also tasted Ginjinha – Cherry Port, served with “Romeo and Juliet” which a square of white cheddar-like cheese topped with a square of cheerful marmalade made of quince fruit, which provided a delectable sweet and savory complement to the wine. Later we enjoyed a glass of Bohemia – an historical beer. We finished with a glass of champagne to go with dishes of shrimp and tasty beans.
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That evening, Loren and I saw a Fado performance. The advert describes it this way: “Fado is Portuguese and was born in Lisbon. A symbol of the nation, it tells stories of the sea, the people and nostalgia.” Another quote, more melancholy, that was displayed during the performance by Domingos Goncalves Castro also touched us:

   You ask me the meaning of
   Nostalgia, to you I say
   Nostalgia is what is left
   When all has passed away.
The next day we had a tour to Sintra, which we already knew had mixed reviews: Lord Byron in the 18th century wrote that the town was, “Perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe.” Maybe that was the case then. A friend of ours who visited more recently suggested it is, “Crowded with tourist buses, warnings about pick pockets, and very noisy.” I think our experience was in between those two reports, and, again we had a lovely group of co-travelers with our competent and very knowledgeable guide, Filipa escorting and educating us. We first visited Parque Pena to see the elaborate castle there. Then, we walked through Quinta do Regaleira – I wish my grandfather had been there, as it is full of Freemasonry symbols, and included an “Initiation Well.”
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We also stopped at Capo da Roca, where the R in the Portuguese language is pronounced much more like an H, to see the westernmost point on continental Europe. Last, we were at Cascais, (said Cash-case) to soak up a walk along the beach with gelato. Loren and I later finished our day with pork ribs that simply melted in our mouths and Bacalau – a type of cod found only in these Portuguese waters. To conclude our week, Loren and I rode a tram to nearby Belém to see the magnificent Jerónimos Mosteiro – Monastery.
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Afterwards, we had a snack of famous custard pastry that a friend had suggested we try, at Pasteis de Belem. And, after that, we saw the Tower of Belém, for another miradouro.
Sadly our guitar concerto at a church that evening was canceled due to a car accident, so we hope to go tomorrow instead. Our trip to the cathedral was not all in vain as we saw two different memorable views of the setting sun over the 25th of April bridge.
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I have enjoyed hearing the calls of what must be a neighbor’s exotic bird – our AirBnB apartment butts up against buildings on either side, and our windows and outside patio are very close to the neighboring buildings on the opposite side of a quite narrow street. So, the echoes of muffled conversation and other sounds are quite delightful and entertaining – except when dogs fight or a neighbor has a party, like was the case this past Friday night. Wishing you Boa Noite – Good Night, for now!


REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.