|PORTO, JANUARY 22, 2007|
To best understand my views on Portugal, it seems right that I first share with you my travel experiences prior to coming upon this lovely country. I was brought up in New England, born and raised in Connecticut but spending time with family in Maine and Massachusetts in my early years. My father was involved in professional baseball, so Brooklyn became one of my favorite places, and later as a teen, New York City was the place to go out dancing and listening to great music. I grew up with the real sense of New York, with its diverse populations and entrepreneurial spirit, as the capital of the world. I headed down to the Caribbean, where I lived for seven years, exploring its jewel-like islands from boats or a tiny plane, and visiting other places in the Southern hemisphere on good old Pan American Airways. Returning to the States, I spent summers in Paris and traveled from there throughout France and to various cities in Europe, from Amsterdam to Zagreb. I especially love Amsterdam, Barcelona, Stockholm, Cracow, Sardinia and places in between. And traveling through Eastern Europe -- Poland, Russia, East Germany -- when it was still under Soviet control, and then later after the rise of Solidarity and the fall of the wall, delighted with the fantastic energy released with freedom gained. I always return to Paris, which had so captured my heart as a young girl.
When our daughter moved to London in 1998, I began visiting this fascinating city, a cross between the elegant and intellectual Boston and the vibrant, edgy New York, but with an ethos all its own. I have discovered how short the trip is from home here in Old Saybrook to London by taking a train right up to Boston to Logan and a short hop (less than six hours) to Heathrow.
And then I got a Podengo. Things changed. I started to go to this little country on the end of the continent, a place I had only heard about because of its great beaches. But, not being a sun worshipper, it was not on my list, I had never been there. In early 2001, my husband Kip and I took off for Lisbon, where we spent a few days roaming its charming streets, visiting historic places, being immersed in a place redolent of the past and hip to the future. We heard Fado music in the Chiado district, walked through the hilly Alfama neighborhood to Castelo San Jorge, explored Bairro Alto, and shopped in Baixa. We went out to Belem to the Center of Culture and the Monument to the Discoverers, where we discovered "bica", the tiny cups of black coffee we came to drink throughout the day. We took a train out to mountainous Sintra with its historic castles and charming old town. We discovered grilled sardines and caldo verde and fresh cheese. I learned that when you walk about looking at fascinating places and people, you look down too, because every street is a work of art tile work, mosaics, colors, and patterns.
From Lisbon, we traveled through Estoril and Cascais up the Atlantic coast to Obidos, a sweet walled town of 600, staying at a lovely small inn and discovering that there are more ways to prepare bacalhau than there are days to the year. And everywhere we met people who shared their views with us, were open and friendly, kind and generous.
We traveled north, stopping in wonderful seaside towns, turned inland and headed up to the lovely central town of Leiria, to the home of Miguel and Guida Sabino. There, at Miguel's Viamonte Kennels, we were to pick up our little puppy that had taken me two years to track down.
We were welcomed into Miguel's gracious home, and drove about town, Miguel pointing out the sights, had a delightful lunch, and then spent time with Podengo mama Beca and her three puppies Chicharro, Carapau and Corvina. We headed back to Obidos for some more sightseeing, learning that the town dates back to 308 BC and returned to Leiria two days later for another delightful visit and to pick up Chicharro and Corvina (who was going to New York) to bring on board the plane with us to the United States. We got back to our hotel in Obidos after midnight and fed the hungry little Podengos some corn muffins. All at once these docile little creatures started climbing up the velvet curtains, zipping about the room and smiling and having fun. After a few hours of sleep we packed the car, went to Lisbon and took our flight back to Newark.
Since then we have journeyed back many times, sometimes to the Monografica (World Podengo Show), sometimes to other events, always making new discoveries and always learning more. Now we are looking for a small home away from home on Portugal's Atlantic coast, in one of its lovely small sea towns.
I find that when you share something of a country with its people, you get a richer sense of the country and sharing the love of the Portuguese Podengo is an affirmation of that experience. We are looking forward to our next voyage!
Highlights of this first trip and our travels to Portugal, from 2001 to 2007, appear on these pages. We will also be adding photos of the places we visit in Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean and vignettes about these places, the people and the culture. Stay tuned!