You know that feeling when you are first falling in love? The giddiness? How the whole world looks better because you have this awesome warm glow all the time? That may be how I feel about Portugal. And this guy below – St. Jorge.
This was my first long trip in over 10 years – when I say long – I mean a trip over two weeks. Investing in the time and money to get to Europe from the west coast of the U.S. is substantial and I have made several trips over the past 10 years – they have been at most 11 days. Which just isn’t long enough. Two and a half weeks isn’t long enough.
But it was long enough to fall in love with Portugal. The people, the natural sights, the beaches, the churches, the food…. if you only go to Portugal to eat Nata’s it will be worth it.
Our first night in Lisbon we walked through the lovely Alfama neighborhood up to the Caste of St. Jorge (I love the Portuguese spelling by the way). And that’s where this guy hangs out. He is the king of his castle and master of his domain.
The castle is impressive and always brings out the 13 year old make believe child in me. But the views are better. You can see across the huge estuary of the Tejo River – ferry boats criss crossing and Lisbon has several impressive bridges – including a Golden Gate look a like suspension bridge. Red roofs as far as the eye can see, which at sunset glows like no other city I have been to. We watched the sun say goodbye to Lisbon from the castle walls – our faces smiling and glowing with the magical color of the Portuguese sun.
A great moment but the walk down after sunset was even more memorable. Tiny curvy streets with cute little hole in the wall restaurants and bars. Laughing Portuguese families and couples – I want to move here. We had a great meal in one of these that caught our eye – great wine, olives, cheese, bacalao (Portugese national dish), a little more wine.
Then a long saunter down through the neighborhood. We stopped to listen to a Fado singer – and peered into numerous lively restaurants – “we have to come back here…” we exclaimed. Happy Lisboetas wandered with us as we got lost and found again on our way back to our apartment. Is this really Sunday night in Lisbon?
For those of you who don’t live in the Pacific NW of the US, we have a mini-empire in our little corner of the world called McMenamin’s. Named after two brothers who started with a small beer and sandwich spot in the produce district of Portland in the late 1970’s – and from that grew an empire of over 50 restaurants, hotels and brewpubs throughout Oregon and Washington.
McMenamin’s have their critics but I encourage you to check out their website – because they have done some amazing and creative things – all in the pursuit of good beer, good food and community. They support artists, history, restoration, they introduced the concept of brewpub movie houses – they have taken some abandoned schools and hospitals and restored them into hotels, restaurants, golf courses, what I like to call amusement parks for adults.
And I credit the brothers for bringing good beer to the northwest. It is easy to stand in today’s Portland, which overflows with creative brewers and amazing food and scoff at McMenamin’s but 40 years ago it was Coors Light and Bud. And Mike McMenamin helped change that (along with the Widmer Brothers and many others).
The clever folks at McMenamin’s have created the concept of the McMenamin’s Passport (see below) listing all their properties. You get a passport stamp every time you visit a new pub or property and you win prizes along the way. And when you fill your passport completely (which would be pretty hard to do) you become one of the legendary “Cosmic Travelers”. Brilliant!
I was settling in to do all those chores that keep the house functioning. And clean. I looked outside and saw that the light was perfect – but changing quickly. I am fortunate to live close to this beautiful place – Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland.
A great way to spend the end of a rare rain-free winter day – and I was not the only one with this idea. It was nice to walk through the garden and see others, like me, trying to capture this beautiful winter moment.
I like this shot with this stranger taking an iPhone shot of the creek and bridge. With the drapery of that weeping willow surrounding him in this kind of veil of nature.
For one brief second – this stranger and I shared this park, this winter beauty. We are not alone.
Sometimes it is absolutely ok to call in well – and spend the day just as you wish.
Taken in 2009. Found this church at the end of a dirt road while trying to get lost among the vineyards of the Luberon in Provence, France.
This video and National Geographic story came out a few years ago – but I was reminded recently of the absolute grandeur of the redwoods and nature in general. And this short video demonstrates that sometimes it takes a whole year to adequately capture what nature does every day. People can sometimes disappoint – but nature never disappoints.