Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Circular Thoughts

Back home, having come full circle from where we started 3 weeks ago. We could have stayed longer. This trip had all the elements of a great adventure and mind expanding experiences. There are some of us (read Richard) who have no desire or interest in reflecting on the past, but I'm not like that and I'm writing this blog. For me, words and pictures help me remember the times and laughs and add color to the experience to be savored later on. So this is for those who enjoy remembering the journey.

Monday - September 15th 2008 - Lisboa Airport

Our last night at Quinta da Luz was spent relaxing with Matt and packing up for our return home. Somehow, somewhere I picked up a vicious (good description) head cold that had the effect of tempering my normally very good and easy going disposition. Matt gave me some drugs before bed (a combination Claritin and Sudafed) that along with prestigious amounts of wine, olive oil, piri-piri and bread, had absolutely no effect. I am more impressed than ever that Zach was able to be his sparkling self while battling the same at the beginning of the trip.

Our last morning, I took some time to sit on the veranda. Have I mentioned the veranda? It is perfect. Built almost as a lean to off the end of the house, this exposed beam space deserves more attention. Accessed by french doors off the great room, this outdoor room commands a view of the pool, and down the hill to the praia and ocean. It has a southern exposure. The masonry wall that forms three sides is hollow and filled with various flowering vines, plants and herbs. There are parsley, mint, ice plant, and pepper trees with green and red fruit. The inside walls have built in bench seating all the way around and a hammock swings in the corner. This is where we have spent most of our time, and where I write in my journal. I sat there looking out at the same Atlantic view that Infante Henry, Diaz, and Columbus shared as they sailed looking for their circles. It is thrilling. Goodbye to the Algarve, you beautiful, palm treed, lush corner of the world.

Our drive to Lisboa airport was quick on almost deserted roads. We had an interesting discussion about cork trees, wondering about the life cycle of both the trees and the men (and women maybe?) who spend their lives stripping it's bark. We were rewarded with a close up view of cork bark as we passed a fully loaded truck making it's way through the Alentejo.

At the airport we returned the car and bid a fond farewell to Matt. More than anything I hope he didn't catch my cold. With hours to kill before our flight, we found a drug store for some also ineffective (and according to the counter clerk) super strong, one every 12 hours only anti-histamine. Bah. I like drugs you can take more often. While Kat did some souvenir shopping I sat outside in the strong sun hoping to absorb some health.

At 2:00 we ambled over to the SATA check in positions for our 6:00 Boston flight. Since there were two positions manned, I stood behind the yellow line at one of them and was surprised to have a short, stocky, balding, Napoleon-complexed Lisboan drop the DB tag on me for "cutting the line." Hello, where did that come from. He poked me in the chest with his fat little finger and told me that the Portuguese are very mild mannered on the surface but when wronged would not tolerate being taken advantage of.

In my doped up state, rather than Clint Eastwood crush his finger, I simply apologized for the perceived slight of his manhood. Looking to the side I realized why he was in such a foul mood. He was with his very ugly wife, and top of the Rock of Gibraltar Den-Baby, and figured I'd cut him a break. I was able to mention to him that up to that point the Portuguese people we had met had been very nice and he was the first rude one that we had run into. I just hoped we weren't sitting near them for the next 7 hours.

We weren't. We had the pleasure of sitting next to the front lavatory that was in almost constant use throughout the flight. Almost every user of the little room was non-English speaking, north of 70 years of age, and clearly struggling through their first experience with bi fold doors and a slide lock. Invariably they would pull the door out of the track on top, then go in and use the facility with the door not completely closed or locked. At one point we almost had two octogenarians in there at the same time, saved only by Kat's quick intervention. Between her, myself, and the guy in back of us we probably fixed the door 15 times. They also found the mystery of where Airbus hides the little flush button too much to overcome. Plus I think that ventilation thing only works if the door is closed, so between the smell and my cold, no solid food was going to be consumed. Have I mentioned my extreme dislike for Airbus planes. I find them noisy and uncomfortable - maybe I'm just in a bad mood.

Boston. Yup, nothing like those cheerful, helpful, polite, well intentioned Logan customs agents to slap a smile onto your "two o'clock AM body time" face. Oh how I miss the Azores. 57 Degrees is the coldest we have been in a half year. We courtesy bused over to the Revere Marriott for a nights sleep before our 11:00 am flight to Richmond.

Tuesday - September 16th 2008 - Studley, Virginia

OK, back in a good mood. Still loving Virginia and though the birds have deserted us due to empty feeders, the flowers, herbs, et al, have survived our absence. Our little hibiscus looks pitiful after the Azores. A good time to reflect on our trip and log some random thoughts:

There are fewer circles more enjoyable than the family circle. Other than that, my favorite was the large one Infante Henrique built at his navigation school.

After a couple of years of not watching the news, I realize that I haven't missed anything. Seems the same talking heads saying the same things.

Seemed to us that the Europeans are smoking more, clearly not intimidated by the big and not so subtle "SMOKING KILLS" imprint on the side of each pack.

We found in general the Spanish people speak loudly, often and seem impatient. Of course we don't understand what they are saying but we could read the body language.

Our best meal was the first night on Terceira, where we had the traditional family style dinner. The hostess, the company, the food were all exceptional.

Driving was generally good, though expensive on the toll roads. We liked stopping at the little roadside rest stops (much more interesting than our Burger Kinged ones here). It was a little disconcerting though to watch some of the truck drivers slugging down a shot or a beer for breakfast. Thank goodness there was a sign that said that no one under sixteen would be served.

Researching family history was much more difficult than I had anticipated. The language barrier didn't help, but the shear volume of records you have to dig through to find that one nugget can be daunting.

We stumbled across very few Americans while on this trip. I wonder if it is the time of year or the exchange rate of the dollar. Even the plane ride coming home had few Americans.

Olhao was my favorite Algarve coastal town. It sparkled with hidden gems. We didn't get to see Salema in the light however.

One particular favorite moment was watching Zach and Maria, Matt and Sarah get out of a cab at Lisboa airport.

I don't get the whole bull fighting thing. Sorry. Like soccer, it seems a waste of good oxygen that could be better spent aiding in the fermentation of something.

I will not soon forget that circle road around the lakes of tears and Richard's masterful navigation of it.

This fashion statement made by a young Azorean women seemed typical. Big circle wristwatch and sunglasses and let's not forget the Betty Boop handbag. Nice.

And finally, the three islands we visited were beautiful and I sense that we just scratched the surface. I would liked to have gone into one of those Sprito Santo buildings. There are flowers everywhere, and the people we ran into were gentle and life loving. We will come back.

ps. February 2009 - Watching the Anthony Bourdain show on his trip to the Azores I learned that those little buildings are not chapels to the Holy Spirit but community buildings where families can celebrate with Soupas dinners. Cool.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

WOnderful....enjoyed reading abot your trip - feel almost like I've been there....but still anxious to plan a trip there soon (Terceira)!