Wow… It’s been a while since I updated everyone! I guess I’ve been having too much fun! Let’s see… when I was last seen I think I was checking out Santiago de Compostela, Spain and thinking about heading South to Porto, Portugal. I spent a few days in Porto. It is a very quaint river town… along the banks of the River Douro. I did the usual “tourist” things…. Rode a tourist bus around town, took a river cruise and crossed the river to where Port wine is made and “aged” in vast “cellars” of oak barrels. Of course there was the mandatory Port tasting. Port wine was invented in Porto. I didn’t think that I liked Port… apparently I don’t like the stuff I’ve tasted in the US… THIS port was very nice. I DID refrain from buying any… I’ve got enough to carry without adding liters of liquids!
I do find that as lightly as I had THOUGHT I had packed… I STILL wish I had brought less! Some things have been dropped along the path!
My last day in Porto was extremely pleasant! I had wandered down to the port in the morning and was surprised when it began to rain suddenly. I ducked under an umbrella of one of the few cafés open so early… I figured I would sit and have some tea until the shower passed. Well… a young British woman had exactly the same idea at virtually the same moment. Briona and I became fast friends! We sat for HOURS drinking tea and later sharing lunch… a strange Portuguese snack that translates as “a little French thing”… a toasted beef sandwich with melted cheese over it and swimming in Tomato soup! Oh… and a mass of French Fries topped the whole thing off! I’m glad that we elected to SHARE one… it was plenty! Shortly after lunch we were disturbed in our laziness by a small band that set up in front of our café terrace and proceeded to “blast” us out of there with music too loud to talk over. We paid our bill and wandered over to a quieter section of the water front and proceeded to sit and drink tea THERE for another couple of hours! We finally moved to yet a third section of waterfront for a delicious and languid dinner… as the night time colors of the river banks came into full bloom. It was a MARVELOUS day! Perfect! We were the LAST people to leave the restaurant… we were having SUCH a good time!
From Porto I spent 5 or 6 days in Lisbon, Portugal. I LIKED Lisbon! You know that I am a “city girl” at heart… Lisbon was a cool city! I had fun just wandering around town… and I visited three of the MANY museums there. I particularly enjoyed the National Tile Museum. Portugal has a long history of decorative tiles dating back to the era of Muslim rule. Many historic buildings are clad in decorative tiles on the outside… and adorned with decorative tile murals on the inside. The museum chronicles the evolution of decorative tiles in Portugal throughout history to the present. A REALLY nice exhibition! I have made some handmade decorative ceramic tiles myself, so I can really appreciate the artistry and workmanship! The bus ride to the museum was a “trip” as well! I had the whole bus helping me chose JUST the right stop at which to get off and then directing me how to walk the block or so from the bus stop. What beautiful people, the Portuguese!
It was “return to university” week in Lisbon. The university students there wear formal school uniforms… much like they do in England… so the streets were filled with students in what in the US would be considered “formal evening wear”. For men that was a white dress shirt, black tie, black vest, black pants, knee length black jacket (tailored much as a tuxedo jacket would be) AND a full length black cape! I’m not kidding… the black cape was essential equipment even though it was much too warm for it… most wore the cape slung over one shoulder. The women’s outfit was more along the lines of simple woman’s business attire… they would not have looked out of place in a modern office… except for the black cape!
Really… I kept expecting the students to produce their magic wands and shout a Patronus charm! But… I’m just not USED to university uniforms! There were many gatherings of students in public squares and a LOT of good natured shouting. I asked about one gathering and was told that the school was a “Hospitality” school… the students were all learning to work in the tourist industry. The students in the black formal uniforms at this gathering were the second-year “doctors” (“doctor” seeming to indicate nothing more than sophomore status) and were ritually “welcoming” the freshmen (dressed in informal white uniforms and generally painted and adorned to humiliate). Obviously an age-old hazing behavior. It WAS interesting!
***It seems that my two and a half hour first class train ride from Madrid to Seville includes FULL lunch service! I hadn’t expected THAT! I’m on my second (individual) bottle of complimentary wine and REALLY enjoying the ride! LOL!***
From Lisbon I needed to return to Madrid. It turns out you can’t GET from southern Portugal to southern Spain without returning to Madrid (at least not by train)! So I took a night train from Lisbon to Madrid. The only option WAS the night train… I usually prefer to travel during the day and watch the scenery go by, but that was not an option. My choices were to get an individual sleeper cabin for $100 Euro or a berth in a 4 person shared cabin for $30 Euro. You know I chose the shared cabin! My only cabin mate was a young French-Canadian who WHINED the WHOLE time we were awake (thankfully most of the ride was while we slept!). Life is too short for whining! (And thank you to my childhood friend Elizabeth who points out that it is NOT too short for “wine-ing” however!)
I arrived in Madrid in the morning and I spent a pleasant day wandering around. I said hello to my artist friend, David Ubaldis in Plaza Mayor. It was good to see him! He is a gentle person with a beautiful soul! I was hoping that he would tell me my Buddha painting was done and I could see it, but alas… not yet! I’ll have to wait until I return to Madrid in late November to get to see it. I just KNOW it is going to be beautiful! I could tell when I had proposed the painting that he had an understanding of “Buddha Nature”. He was a bit reluctant at first to take the commission, as he had never attempted to paint the Buddha… but I could see a smile come over his face as he gave it more thought. “Yes”… he would paint me my Buddha!
My next stop is Seville, in southern Spain. I’ve booked five days in Seville… to start with. I rarely have plans… I just sort of “wing” it… and this is no exception! I may take day-trips from Seville to Cordoba and Granada… or I may spend time in these cities individually. We’ll see what happens.
You know what I always say… Life’s a TRIP!
See photos of Porto and Lisbon at http://summerthor.phanfare.com/4852507
Once again… I’m a little late sending this blog out, but I wanted to wait until I have the photos posted and captioned!