Dauntless Finds a Real Town
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.
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,
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.
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, probably 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 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
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.
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.
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.