Friday, August 20, 2010

The Leap

The Leap

Because Homer asked nicely.
For Shutterday--Games People Play.
This young man asked his friends to take some shots of his flying leap but I got the better photo. Seen in Madrid, Spain.

I'm on the road again. More about Portugal and Spain in a few days.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


A Helpful Hand

The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.
Diane Arbus

So you knock on a strangers door (or in real life ring their buzzer, another loss to technology) and they show you in, offer you a bed, show you their town, take you to a craft market and feed you a wonderful seafood dinner. You fall into bed late ready to really hit the big city (Porto) the next day. What could be better?
Food was in a lovely setting--a seafood place that overlooked the shore. Unfortunately the paella we had was oversalted. We all agreed on that. Then dessert and a friendly fight over who had to eat the last piece of cake. If you can squabble over cutting a little piece of pastry into increasingly small fractions, think one-fourth, then one-eighth and so on, all the while laughing, you know you're among good people.
Unfortunately for the rest of my tale, I have to go to work.
Tomorrow I see my family in Seattle. I'm barely over my first bout of jet lag and I'm off to a plane again. But it will keep my camera happy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

So how was Portugal anyway?

Oh, the colors

I think I just need to start typing because the coherent words just aren't there. I was in Portugal for less than 4 days and missed what my friends say would be the highlight which is Lisbon but I saw enough to be sure I want to come back. My opinion is biased though. How can not love a foreign country when you have hosts who take you in, spoil you and show you the town? I probably would have loved Akron, Ohio too. No offense intended to the no doubt lovely inhabitants of that city.
It's a long story. Portugal started as an impulse. Shortly before my trip to Spain I started scanning the maps to plan our trip. Madrid was our starting point, and Salamanca a necessity since that was where my husband had his meeting. Spanish sights started falling into place, Avila, Toledo, and Segovia became the big three after our start and end points. But look! Portugal is only a few hours away from Salamanca and I have never been there. My sum total of knowledge is from a few pictures I've seen on Flickr (all lovely) and my grandparents mentioning some 30 years ago that they adored Portugal when they went there. How could I resist adding another country to my life list? Plus I had an intense craving to go to the ocean and this was probably the quickest route to sun, sea and adventure.
So plan made. My husband would sit and confer for 5 days and I'd speed my way into Portugal. Any reservations about solo travel into a place I didn't know with zero words of the language? A few but that was also part of the appeal. I've had to make do in Hungarian, Russian, Finnish (a non-issue since apparently all Finns speak impeccable English) and Greek, so Portuguese should be easy. One just needs to learn to deal with feeling intensely stupid nearly all the time and being lost the rest.

Have a Seat on the Duoro River Tour

Enter a fabulous blogger friend. Who would have thought that a friend I've never met in person would e-mail a friend she's never met in person, in Portugal of all places, and arrange an introduction? Who would have thought that the friend-of-friend would invite me to stay with them in their apartment a bit north of Porto? Two e-mails later I had a host in Portugal. I had the usual reservations--guilt about imposing, worry about compatibility, and, last minute after enduring the heavy smokers in Madrid, what if she smoked?
I'm making this post too long so I'll quit here but not leave it a cliffhanger. The stay turned out amazing and no one smoked. I'll share some details of my adventures in food, fun and friendship when next I sit down to post. Enjoy the photos.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Adventures in Port

Little Church in Porto

Not a cruise nor a drunken binge a la Charles Dickens, merely one of the highlights of my vacation to Spain and Portugal. I've been back since Sunday night, a mere 4 days, and the jet lag is still affecting my mental status. Hopefully I haven't made any major clinical mistakes since I've been back to work for 3 days. I still fall asleep too early and feel at times as if I've just pulled an "all nighter." This is keeping me from writing about my experiences and, of course, sharing all my pictures.
I'm saving the highlights, including some wonderful friends I made in Portugal, for a day when my brain feels less muzzy. I'll be back to tell you all about it before the Alzheimer's sets in and I forget all the details.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Eu nao falo portugues

Guarda, Portugal

I don't speak Portuguese! This is totally obvious. I feel like my younger son must have felt at three when he was having language difficulties. He knew what he wanted to say but just couldn't deliver it! Portugal is lovely. I have a Spanish-Portuguese phrase book which is helpful if really slow since my Spanish is far from fluent. Plus I have no clue how to pronounce the Portuguese!
I probably know nearly half the words in my Spanish-English phrase book from independent study and many trips to Central America. I probably sound Mexican to the Spanish since I forget to lisp the C on "gracias" which sounds to me more like "grathias". Of course, this is the least of my worries here in Portugal.
I just got here last night and am heading to the beach to feel sand on my toes in a few minutes. I don't know the word for beach in Portuguese and can't find it in the phrase book but I know how to point the front of my car to the west. Of course, last night that just got me lost in an estuary.

River at Sunset

Monday, August 02, 2010


Roman Aqueduct

So we felt a bit like each city in Spain was more lovely and historic than the next. Then we got to Segovia. I don't really have the time to do it justice but the Romans sure knew how to build an aqueduct.
We're currently in Salamanca and tomorrow I plan to head solo to Portugal for a few days of touring and total language failure. I'm already speaking a pidgin version of French, Spanish, Italian and English. Now I get to really mangle Portuguese! Wish me luck.