Ericeira is Pedro's ancestral town, though he grew up in Lisbon, where his mother and sister live. He and Michelle are refurbishing a house that will be spacious and quite spectacular with its ocean views and painting studio. In the meantime, they have been living in a beautiful apartment up the hill from the town center...formerly Pedro's bachelor pad, ever-so-sensitively converted by Michelle into a colorful and comfortable showcase of exquisite artifacts they picked up around the world.
Michelle gets her daily work-out(s) pushing the baby stroller down and up the hill in order to enjoy the town and the many inhabitants with whom she is already like an old friend. Our casual hotel was conveniently on that path.
As Pedro puts it, "Michelle is a perfect mother!" With only 3-1/2 months' experience, it is amazing to witness her organization, engagement with Luca and uninterrupted engagement with the world. Michelle is a natural 'can-do' person, so the baby fits into whatever is going on because his mother instills such confidence that "everything going on here is life!" Credit is also due to Luca, who was born with traits that are calm and welcoming to strangers. He is a dream.
I love this 'nap shot!'
Our first dinner of, yet again, unimaginably great seafood, was one of several to come in our four-day visit.
|Fresh Portuguese sardines|
Ericeira has a bustling nightlife of restaurants and bars. When it was time to tuck Luca in, Pedro took Newton and me to Hemmingway's Bar, where the craze is all manner of gins and tonics from around the world. Each combination is embellished with its signature apple, cherry, etc..
|These are all gins|
Here is a plaque describing the ships that sailed from Ericeira to an Ericeiran colony in Brazil.
This is the marker of the point furthest west of continental Europe:
We visited the medeival São Jorge Castle, originally a Moorish fortress:
|You can see how I missed the target every time in high school!|
|Knight of São Jorge|
|Time for a change|
When I first visited Portugal in 1977, I was becoming a "Brazil Nut" in New York, what with my weekly Afro-Brazilian dance class with a wild Baiano teacher and live musicians, and the strong penchant among my group of friends for Brazilian jazz clubs. The gorgeous, urbane Brazilian night club, Cachaça, was just down First Avenue from my apartment. I had not yet visited Brazil. My Portuguese friends took me out to hear fado in Lisbon - the traditional music of Portugal. A woman was singing depressing songs in a dark corner with a black shawl over her; I was not impressed. The contrast was just too dramatic, set against this lively force of nature that was the Brazilian culture with which I was falling in love. The experience left an impression of a stodgy old country.
The biggest difference about Portugal now vs. then is in the very air, now crackling with youth and dynamism in such a palpable way. My favorite detail of this phenomenon is the devastatingly beautiful fado Pedro and Michelle took us to hear in the vibrant Cidade Alta neighborhood. In a tiny packed club two young men were playing mandolin-like stringed instruments while a beautiful, sexy young woman sang fado in a spotlight, wrenching the heart with the sheer beauty of her voice and the emotions evoked.
Pedro's mother, Jena (Luca's actual Grandmother!), took us to a remarkable Sunday afternoon event in Lisbon. A cultural organization invited chefs from various ethnic restaurants to set up buffet tables in a park. They added a beverage center, tables and chairs for the pre-ticketed attendees, and we ate and ate, from Iran to Africa to India to China to Italy down to the Brazilian dessert of Canjica. It was a fabulous idea and made quite a happy civic gathering.
Another outstanding day was spent in the historic, hilly town of Sintra. It is full of charming shops and beautiful homes.
|Notice the Moorish castle atop the hill|
|My mother was famous for her chicken figurine collection. When in Portugal, I cannot avoid thinking of her with their national symbol everywhere. This shop caught me off-guard and afforded me a true moment of grief.|
The Pena Palace in Sintra is one of the stranger structures I've encountered, although the nineteenth century is famous for bequeathing many hodgepodge style combinations to architecture. Michelle simply described it as 'a Disney Castle.'
|The Moorish elements post-date Moorish rule by seven centuries.|