Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lost and Found in the Old World

Found. . . a generous Portuguese spirit named Pedro Rodrigues on the flight from Paris to Lisbon. Although tired from the flights, we quickly recognized we had been given the gift all travelers hope for - a friend who knows the country. Pedro has a warm heart and an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Portugal. He regaled us on the flight with details of the revolutions, earthquakes, crusades, kings and art of the country. By the end of the flight Pedro had generously offered to be our personal guide through Sintra. We quickly accepted, with gratitude and excitement.

Found. . . a wonderful house and welcoming hosts - for 10 glorious days in Sintra. The quinta, Portuguese for compound or estate, is on the top of a steep hill bordered by an ancient forest. We have spectacular views of castles, palaces, villages, beaches & the sea from the stone terraces surrounding the house. In this private retreat, we feel like we're in our own little world. Our hosts Diego and Lynn are world travelers themselves and could not be more entertaining, generous and gracious. We have found them to be kindred spirits.

Lost. . . ourselves. . . many, many times. The supposed 30 minute trip from the Lisbon airport took 4 hours. By now we are getting the hang of the serpentine cobblestone roads and the obscure landmarks. A time-lapse video of us going round and round and doing figure eights through Sintra with all of us talking at once and pointing in different directions would be hilarious. Poor Rick having to deal with narrow roads, fast Portuguese drivers and three back seat "know it not at alls"!

Lost and Finally Found. . . our friend, Ed Szaniawski, who flew in from Toronto, Canada to spend just two days with us before heading on to meetings in Lisbo. Through some sort of snafu, he arrived at the quinta while we were out and could not get into the grounds. We missed him by minutes, and the problem was complicated by the fact that Diego's cell phone was down at the very time he arrived. Exhausted from the flight, Ed went back to Lisbon with the driver. Meanwhile, we sent emails across the globe trying to find him. We finally did and toasted each other repeatedly to celebrate as in the photo depicting one such moment. (Ed's personal challenge to us is to sample as many brands of Tequila as possible throughout our travels; we tried at least three in just one day with him.) Needless to say, we enjoyed his company immensely.

We are getting the hang of the good life in Portugal . . . lazy mornings, long lunches, unrushed sightseeing. We are eating & drinking perhaps too well. Portugal is famous for its seafood and we have done our best to try as many of the local specialties as possible. .. Acorda de Gambra is their version of shrimp and grits - downright delicious and oh so fattening. Another delectable specialty famous in Sintra is Queijadas - tiny cupcake-like cheese pastries.

Pedro spent a day with us, guiding us through castles, palaces and museums and treated us to a fabulous lunch at a famous beer house in Lisbon, the Cervizeria di Trinidade. We spent another day just walking the narrow winding streets in our tiny village and eating with the locals. We've visited the beaches and small towns nearby.

Diego and Lynn have been very gracious - they took us to lunch at a wonderful seaside restaurant in Cascais and on another day Lynn delighted us with a fabulous home-cooked meal - treating us to more Portuguese specialties as well as great company and conversation. We're all in agreement that our time in Portugal has been the perfect start to our world tour!