Vila Franca de Xira

Dauntless Finds a Real Town

A Real Anchor
A Real Anchor

Portugal has been a mixed bag so far.  Wonderful, warm people, always trying to help, who sound like they are speaking Russian to my English ear.

The Market
The Market

But the two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto, coupled with the location of the marinas in those cities has been a disappointment.  I know I should know better.  My mantra over the years to anyone who will listen is to always avoid the large cities of Europe if your goal is to really see the culture and people of any given country.

Doesn’t matter if you are in Ireland or Italy,

The Market
The Market

Dublin and Rome are more about the tourists and their expectations than the locals.  This became even more evident last year in the Baltic.  I saw the same tourists in Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Tallinn.  Between Ryan Air and the high speed ferries, they transport the same group from city to city.  And the effect is that the food and expectations in those places start to look more and more the same.wp-1472724194208.jpg

Much like the street fairs of NYC.  They used to be a celebration of the neighborhood in which they were located: Italian in Little Italy, Greek in Astoria, Polish in Greenpoint, etc.   But about 20 years ago, the City in a move to further commercialize, tax and regulate, increased the number.

Looked good on paper to the politician’s, wp-1472724195010.jpgprobably even looked good to the clueless who just arrived in the City from the hinterland, but to New Yorker’s, the damage was done.  We now have the exact same vendors every week in different parts of the City.  New York, known as a city of neighborhoods, is becoming a city of Blahness.  Every place you look looks the same.

OK, moving on.

The Park next to Dauntless
The Park next to Dauntless

The above is why I have not written a blog post in the last week.  Oh, I’ve written plenty of drafts, I’ve started at least four.  But they have all digressed to a point in which even I don’t see the point.

So, ignoring my own advice, since getting to Portugal, Dauntless and I have spent 90% of our time in Porto and Lisbon.  And both marinas have been relatively expensive ($45 per day) and a half dozen miles from the

The train station of Vila Franca de Xira
The train station of Vila Franca de Xira

town’s center. People have been wonderful, especially in Porto, where the marina people made me really feel at home and we managed to make a number of new friends.

Now Porto does have different feel than Lisbon, but still.wp-1472900790670.jpg

So, when I found out about a little marina about 20 miles upriver from Lisbon, I jumped at the chance.  The home of my new found friend Diogo (the star of another blog that’s yet to be published), Vila Franca de Xira, has been a wonderful little spot.

On the river, attached to a little park and only minutes away from town, it’s like being home; and I just got here.

The park
The park
Next to D
Next to D

Numerous cafes, European bars, simple restaurants and an indoor market, full of fish, meat, poultry, vegetables and fruit stalls, it’s the kind of place that makes Europe, Europe.

Very few people speak English, I get by with my few words of Portuguese, a little more Spanish and when desperate some Italian.  The other day, for my main meal, which is early afternoon, when the waiter asked my desire, I just pointed to a nearby table and made the international sign for “everything he is eating and drinking”.  That sign by the way is waving one hand in a big circle, while smiling foolishly and saying, “Si” (yes).

It worked and ended up with my normal 375 ml white wine, a mixed salad (tomatoes, onion and some lettuce, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar) and a half dozen little flat fishes.

I ended with a café and a grappa like drink.

It’s great to finally be in Portugal.

 

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Portugal Grows on Me

And not like a fungus.

Lobo Do Mar, Seisi
Lobo Do Mar, Sesimbra

That’s a good thing.

I have three blog posts drafted, but for all three they are incomplete as each one has gone wildly off on tangents.

Very frustrating.  I like communicating.

I had an adventure this past weekend driving all the way to A Coruna and return, a total of 750 miles.  But that blog post went off about driving cars and the best car of my life.  Then, as I thought about how to resurrect it this morning, it started going off on the infamous trip to Romania in 1980.  Needless to say, I got out, of Romania that is.  But it was an experience of a lifetime and pretty much ended the few leftist thoughts that I had left after having lived in Europe the previous 4 years.

A wonderful Dinner
A wonderful Dinner

I loved the people of Romania though and it’s such a beautiful country, I must make the time to go back.  Maybe next winter, that’s winter 2017-18, when if all goes to plan, Dauntless will be in S.E. Alaska, resting up for the next leg of the journey.

So yesterday, not having to return the rental car until nightfall, I decided to check out the three marinas on the south side of the river, across from Lisbon.  I’m paying 40 Euros ($45) per night here and that’s expensive.  I really must stick to the budget this year knowing that as I go south, the prices will only go up.

Lobo Do Mar, Sesimbra, Portugal
Lobo Do Mar, Sesimbra, Portugal

So I drove to Setubal. No room there, but the port captain was very helpful and gave me some more ideas. Next stop Sesimbra, a smaller, vacation town. They had room, but the price was 39 Euros.  But she did give me a great recommendation for a restaurant.

Yes, when your plans are stymied, go eat.

The restaurant was Lobo Do Mar, Wolf of the Sea.  When you enter, there is a large counter of fresh fish, the counter man asks what you would like and you pick the fish or fishes you want for your dinner.

I got three mackerel type fish. Everything seems grilled on a wood fired grate and they were delicious. With a salad, I washed it down with a half-liter of Vehno Verde.

Sesimbra harbor
Sesimbra harbor

After an espresso and a dessert, the only disappointment of the afternoon, I paid the bill of 14 Euros ($15) thinking that I had finally found the real Portugal, that even my Spanish friends had told me existed, but I just couldn’t find.

Great food and wine at an inexpensive price.  Once I leave Europe, I will certainly miss it.

In the next day or so, I will check out another place, further up the river, but with a dock close to town which more often than not is not the case.

To be continued.