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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Tale of Two IPads

At 1:30 in the morning the younger brother makes a phone call to a friend who may know where two American women might be staying in the Alfama neighborhood where his store is located in Lisbon.  He apologizes for waking him and explains he is trying to contact the two American women who stopped by his family's neighborhood store for a carton of milk about ten that night and accidentally left behind an IPad.

By the time we discover the iPad is missing, it's almost nine in the morning and the younger brother is still trying to locate us. Inside the cover of the IPad he as found a handwritten note with a telephone number. He phoned the number in Porto where we stayed earlier in the week at an AirBnb. While I walked the three blocks to see if the IPad was at his store, our host in Porto texted Susie to tell her the IPad had been found. I left my phone behind in the apartment, so I didn't know the IPad was located.

I show him my IPad as I walk in from the narrow, busy street. He smiles and says he has the missing one, but to please wait five minutes for his brother. He says his brother will need to talk with me to be sure the iPad belongs to me. 

A street repairman buys a carton of orange juice and a bottle of wine. Two Spanish tourists need supplies for breakfast. An American doesn't have enough money for both toothpaste and a toothbrush, and the younger brother behind the cash register says "It's OK." The American promises to return. 

Then the older brother walks up the street carrying apricots and tomatoes to place by the doorway. I had bought a half dozen apricots from him on our way home two nights ago. 

After a few more customers are helped, the brothers turn to me and In their limited English and my equally poor Portuguese we start chatting. I show them my IPad again. The older one says they had tried reaching us. I thank him. I ask if he'll accept some Euros in thanks. He shakes his head and asks,"You have two IPads?"  "We do," I answer. "We were very worried. Thank you for keeping it." 

He hands me the missing IPad and I press the money into his hand and hug his shoulders gently. He smiles briefly and says, "We are Muslim. We are not thieves." 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Lunch of a lifetime

Our Tuk Tuk Fun Tours driver Joaquim, a world traveler, like his Portuguese ancestors, took us to his favorite restaurant Adega das Merces, to eat lunch today after our first day touring the neighborhoods and 2300 years of Lisboa: 

Served family style with ample wines:

Bread with butter and sardine pate and tuna pate

Two mixed salads with marinated onions and grilled peppers

Salad with peppers and onions

Fried, flattened and marinated then breaded sardines
The size of a small saucer

Rice with fish and shrimp, tomato and cilantro

Bacalao cod fritters with green rice with greens in strips and onions

Pork like carnitas in clam broth with Manila clams, topped with crisp French fries

Chicken cooked in its blood, in rice

Fresh cod stew with potatoes

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Minor miracles in Portugal

The climb out of the Portuguese village of Pinhao is steeper and longer than we would have guessed or dreamed of in our wildest fear induced imaginings. We are all over 55 and mostly out of shape and not ready for the continuous climb from the Duoro valley to the next village, which, by my calculations is a climb of some 15 football field lengths vertically from where we are and about 8 miles away. Susie's Fitbit logged 23,000 steps and 156 flights of stairs.

We are game Americans, the six of us, too proud to say this is more than what we can handle. We keep marching up the rocky path, keeping our chins up, if only to scan the path ahead to avoid tripping.  

We have walked for over four hours and inched our way up more than five miles. Now we are tired, hungry and almost out of water. Then comes the first minor, but no less amazing, miracle: a tall, orange tree along the road in the field below us, one of its branches bearing a lone orange fruit stretched just far enough toward the path for me to reach it with my walking stick in order to reach Susie's waiting hands, tag team citrus picker style. We rapidly peel the orange and each of us shares two slices of the sweetness that our bodies yearn for.

 About a mile later is our second miracle: Around a curve on the path we come across an old cherry tree covered in fruit, nearly all of it half ripe, but with plenty of sweet, plump, red cherries ready for our happy fingers to pluck. Over the next four days we'll encounter a hundred other such trees, but none with so much as one near-to-ripe fruit. My chemistry regains its land legs after two or three fistfuls of delicious cherries. 

About a mile later, we stop at a public fountain along a vineyard wall that seems at least a few hundred years old. Here is our third miracle. We drink to our fill, wash our hands and faces and thank the people from centuries ago who built this traveler's oasis and watering station for vineyard laborers even more tired than us. We stand marveling at the free-flowing fountain, feeling our bodies hydrate and our spirits push us forward to follow in their footsteps.