Monday, January 31, 2011

crazy snow

Oh, to have many irons in the fire... To invest in a number of possible outcomes and anticipate that at least some (maybe all?) will come to pass – ah, that’s satisfying!

But, it means, too, that time zips by with the speed of falling snow.

And there is a lot of falling snow right now. Madly swirling. I take note fleetingly on my walk home from the bus stop.


Only fleetingly. At home, I have work to do, irons to put into fires.

Or, in the alternative, I can finish my work and put the feet up and watch a late show. And pick up on the irons and the fires another day.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

the return of color

It’s fine and well to sing praises for a cloudy sky, but truly, it cannot be that all photos from this month are not too far from being almost completely black and white. What happened to the bright Midwestern sky? The stunningly clear expanse of sky that casts long blue shadows on fresh snow?

Today, the clouds went off somewhere to the sidelines (gathering momentum for the snows that are heading our way) and the world became a place of color again.

True, I had the usual work and Sunday cleaning to keep me housebound early in the day, but even at home, things looked a lot brighter. Helped by the tardy Christmas cactus that decided to explode in color just now. Like leaping  swans, only in red.


In the afternoon, I go down to the farmette to inspect the first stage of farmhouse improvement: the replacement of ten windows. I know you can’t tell from the outside, but oh my, what a difference a good window can make to a home! (We still have to stain the wood, but that’s a project for a warmer month.)


It is a good day to admire windows. Looking out at a blue sky from windows that are delightfully fresh and solid gives hope – as if all other issues that the house has (and there are many) can, too, be someday a thing of the past.

Since the county park is a mere five minutes from the farmette, we take our skis for a quick spin by Lake Waubesa.


It wont be long before this will be virtually in my back yard. Slowly, step by step, I am getting used to the idea.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

the perfect winter day

Late last night we went to get Ed a replacement shoe. [For the ski shoe he lost, who knows in what fashion, back in December.] And no, you get no discounts if you only need one shoe. The clerk hopes that when he next loses a shoe, it will not be from the same foot. There’s not much you can do with two shoes without a mate.

Ed wasn’t totally ready to give up finding the old one. He had every intention of calling the Dane County parks to see if perhaps... What can I say, the man’s a dreamer.

But it no longer matters because today, we woke up to a 32 degree day. Positively a heat wave. A perfect day for outdoor winter play. Could Ed say no to using his new shoe? He could not.

We drive out to Indian Lake. It is a test by fire: Ed hasn’t skied since the sprained ankle. He’s thinking of maybe doing an easy run to test his capabilities. But how can you go for the flat and boring when you can have the delightful hills around Indian Lake County Park?

It is such a beautiful day to be outside! There, look at the landscape heading out of town!


Okay, so we don’t have the clear blue sky. But the temps shoot up to thirty and this is just perfect for any kind of winter sport!


Indian Lake County Park is probably my most beloved local place of refuge. This is where I took daughters when they were freshly out of diapers (in my recollection of things). And this is where today I can enjoy a week-end day without an agenda.


No rush. No place to be, no list to work through.




Friday, January 28, 2011


It’s time for a break. Too many hours glued to a schedule. Too many days that look like not much of anything. Late Friday afternoon, Ed and I set out to reconvene with nature.

We aren’t thinking of a significant reconvention. Ed had been skiing daily (when I had been in Poland in December) in a county park by his farmette and we're thinking it would be a good reintroduction, given the sprained ankle situation (his, not mine), for him to go back there now.

We pull up to this park that borders Lake Waubesa. It’s cloudy outside, and daylight is fading rather fast, but still, I’m thrilled to be stepping out into layers of a white countryside.


I'm zipping up my shoes, Ed reaches for his own.

Where are they?  There's one. Where is the other?

No use. It can't be found. Ed recalls his last ski outing. December. Many snowfalls ago. He looks around just in case... No, no second shoe lying about at the side of the road, waiting to be reclaimed. (What a surprise.)

Ed goes back home to scout around there, I head out around the lake on my own. Toward the railway tracks, over the place where the Yahara streams into the lake.


It's quiet here. Very pretty in a monochromatic sort of way.

I push forward and then eventually turn around and head back. And every now and then I pause and consider this: how can one lose a shoe??


Thursday, January 27, 2011

home town

If you live in a city, a town for, say, ten years – is it then your home town? What about twenty? Thirty? Surely thirty?

I’ve been in Madison now since 1979 – so almost 32 years – and yet, at no time have I felt so much as if it were home as perhaps tonight.

It was a no big deal day. At work -- teaching in the morning, teaching in the afternoon, meeting students – all that usual stuff until the sun sets.

By five I am done and walking along State Street. A different kind of evening – one where I am to attend a political fund raiser followed by a dinner out.

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So I walk along State Street and I think – my, there are new stores here. How did I miss this one? Ah winter! I’m never out in these parts when it turns cold outside. Give or take a couple of months and I’ll be rambling again. On my red bike. Up and down.

And it strikes me that life will continue in this way: spring will come, I will take out my bike and not worry about bus schedules again. Yesterday will have merged with tomorrow. How satisfying!

I reach the political fundraiser and Ed joins me as well and between the two of us, there’s enough history in the room to make it a very interesting little place indeed. (The political candidate who is running for office is a Madison fixture: he has been in and out of city politics for as many years as I can remember.)

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Tonight, I hear someone say – I’ve never enjoyed a social event as much as I have enjoyed coming to these rallies in support of (our candidate)... I can understand it. It’s like going to your college reunion in ten year increments, only without the hang-ups. No one cares how you look or how little you’ve achieved in your waning years.

I run into a lawyer friend who used to practice alongside me when I did abuse and neglect cases in Dane county court. I think – the shocking thing is that I remember him and he remembers me so well. Madison. It’s Madison’s fault, isn’t it?

Then Ed and I and a colleague/good friend go out to dinner. At the Costa Rican place around the corner. There isn’t really room for us even as the waitperson tries to squeeze us in, but to do so she must cut into the space of someone else. And so we compromise: we pull tables together to form one big whole, but we keep our separate discourse, and I think yet again – ah, Madison... you are so perfect.

And maybe I am sentimental, what with the end of the week drawing near and the political fundraiser tonight, but darn it all, this is such a good little town in which to mark the days and sunsets!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My farmers sent me the usual email reminder – this is the day to pick up my CSA spinach. Okay, I remembered anyway. And I was pleased that I had this forced detour because the window for pickups on campus is tiny: between 3:30 (their delivery) and 5 (when the building closes). Meaning I will have to leave my office before dark and I will have an excuse to walk a little, rather than hopping on the bus and hurrying home.

Yes, you might say it’s a colorless walk...


...but not without hidden sweet chirps and chortles.


A walk. Good. But there is another reason to smile at the message. The farmer/author wrote that right now, the spinach is frost sweetened (and wonderful). Think about it! Something is made better, tastier, sweeter by horribly frosty weather.

Too bad it’s just spinach. Too bad it’s not you and me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

light matters

There is an up side to getting home when it’s good and dark. I know there is. I just haven’t found it.

That’s the trouble with winter – it doesn’t give you any time to enjoy daylight.

I walk in the dusky light that would be beautiful elsewhere, but not here, not on the way from my office to the bus stop.

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I approach University Avenue and I see the bus pulling toward the next stop. I chase it, even as I wonder -- why? Is it that I want to get somewhere before it is completely dark? The driver waits for me. I am ridiculously grateful.

I ride the bus with a great number of others and it is a short ride. (Even as others waste not a minute of it.)


After, I emerge, at the stop by the grocery store and it is nearly dark. And by the time I’m done shopping for dinner, there’s not a shred of light left.

But I’m okay with January otherwise. Really. (How many more days?)

Monday, January 24, 2011

without the jelly

So the day is long. Not unpleasant. Merely long.

I have resolved to eat more at midday, so that I can keep up the energy (my classes do not finish until 5:30). Peanut butter and bread. I haven’t pulled out a jar of peanut butter since I moved to the States nearly forty years ago. Then, I grew to love that stuff so much that I couldn’t stop eating it. I became fat on peanut butter, mixed with honey. I had reason to lay off of it thereafter.

But I’m older and smarter, one hopes, and peanut butter on multi-grain sounds cheap and healthy.

I eat it five minutes before my final two hour class. And then I realize that the mouth feels gummy afterwards unless you have a good beverage. I have a good beverage – tea. Unfortunately, I spill the tea on the teacher's desk before me.

These are small details, but my day is composed of small details, most surrounding work and peanut butter sandwiches.

At the end of the day, I step outside and admire Bascom Hill at night. Nice.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

time well spent

This is the first time that I pack a bag and head down to visit my younger one in her new Chicago home. Since I’m thinking, guessing, hoping that such back and forths will be commonplace, I want to feel how “big deal” they are in terms of travel burdens.

Visiting my girls on the East Coast was a big deal. Not only the time spent traveling, the cost of the whole gig and the feeling of distance that flying somewhere always produces, but the advanced planning that had to go into it – both theirs and mine.

Taking a bus down to Chicago (and then the El to her place) is, in fact, easy. Oh, sure, there are the hours on the bus. Good reading time, you might say.

Still, she felt burdened by work this week-end and you could ask if, therefore, another time would have been better.

And the answer, I think, is no.

There was the mini birthday celebration, of course.



But even had there been none of it, sometimes it’s good to just drop in and share a meal, even if it’s a simple pizza (the second night, at the New Haven-like Piece)...


...and then resume your normal activities – no special outings, no complicated adventures, merely time spent working, all of us, affirming that this ride down is good despite life's encumbrances. A no big deal trip. So that the distance, too, feels like no great distance at all. A subway ride, then a bus, heading up now on the return, just a little to the north and to the west. That’s it.



Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chicago works

I suppose it is fitting that both my daughters and I have a work-filled week-end. Here we sit, in a city (Chicago) pulsating with entertaining possibilities and we can do none of them. All three of us are preoccupied with work demands. And that’s a good thing, because to get to the pulsating possibilities, you need to step outside. And there’s only so much of the “stepping outside” one can enjoy in typical January weather.

I went out once, for an espresso and to run some errands for one poor girl who has way too much work on her plate to attend to mundane errands.

A bus ride down North Avenue, then a walk further east...


(...then eventually a bus ride back.)

They’re different, these city buses than, say the buses of Madison. Our buses, at least the ones going in and out of the isthmus, are packed with graduate students who tend to favor living away from campus. And occasionally we have the person whom you know is riding because there isn’t much else that can fill his (sometimes her) day.

Chicago riders are more goal oriented. Pick up groceries, get on bus, get off bus. Take kid to doctor by bus. Ride over to Comcast to stand in line (this was my first destination) so that you can try to mend your a.) TV service, b.) Internet service (my purpose for being her) or c.) to pay a bill for any of the above. [One person in the long queue says – this is just like the DMV, except that it isn’t the DMV. I appreciate that comment. The DMV in Madison, too, has ridiculously long waits.]

From there, I crossed some river or other (what river?) and found myself at the Best Buy to exchange/question/replace some portion of a TV set purchased here (not by me) not too long ago.

And then – to the new Whole Foods. Where you can sit on a stool and sip a wine or a beer and watch a game. Or carry your drink and push a cart. I was tempted, but I had work to do and groceries to buy and a cake to bake back home.

And flowers to put up on a mantle place.

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Celebrations have to be in little spurts inserted in a free moment here or there. Last night at the dinner table...


Tonight, over home-baked cake. I should go check on that cake.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Initially, my thought was that I would engage winter more. Love that cold winter day! That snow! The light! Ah... seasons. I live in a state with four fully defined seasons. (Well, three actually; sometimes spring forgets to show up.)

But in January, you have to tune it all out, I think. You wait at the bus stop and count the seconds as the wind makes your eyes water and then form little ice crystals around the edges. Walking over to the store seems so painful that you do without. A supper of soup with crusty bread becomes soup only.

That state of tuning it all out, focusing on things in the day that don’t require a confrontation with the elements, makes you rather insular and closed off, too. Should I be social? Wait until after January. Want to stroll down the hill for a midday espresso? No thanks.

It’s a shame that right about now, January seems very long.

In other news, I'll be taking the bus to Chicago later today for a postponed celebration of the little one’s Wednesday birthday. I have twenty-six years of guilt for giving her a January birthday. What was I thinking??? Ah... whatever I was thinking, it was an April thought, long after January of that year had fizzled away.

(At 7 a.m., when I took this photo from the rooftop, the thermometer registered  –16 F outside)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I don’t know, it seems to me that there are fewer people on campus. Fewer people walking up and down Bascom Hill, fewer in the secret little places where you can get coffee and treats and snacks.

It’s an illusion of course. I know from my bus commutes that there are more rather than fewer riders. (I try hard not to cough loudly and when I do, I look very apologetic.) It’s just that, in between,  people do not linger/stroll/walk outside unless they have to..

For the first time, I do one of those awkward Clark Kent numbers whereby I shed my outdoor regalia (including boots, because, well, they were too fuzzy for classroom teaching) and transform myself into the likes of a person who never even noticed how it was outside.

It has come to this.

(from my office today: how can anyone pause for a conversation outside?)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

this day

I hope my youngest girl is having a good birthday. She’s twenty six today and working a long day at her Chicago firm. Her closest people cannot be there with her. It’s a curse to have a birthday on Wednesday and to have everyone so far away. No one can ignore their own work to travel there and spend the late hours of the day with her.

It’s cold in Chicago, as it is in Madison. I should know, I paced the bus stops and reminded myself that next time I need to study schedules carefully. There’s no reason to show up at a stop a minute after a good bus has passed and fifteen before the next one rolls along.

You, who do not live in the Midwest, probably haven’t any idea what a bitter cold world it is up here. Let me help illustrate it – on my walk from the bus stop to school (what lovely soul thought to build a snowlady in back of our building?):


...and this, just steps away from the stop where I wait for the bus home:

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I know my little one is warm. Her office has heat after all. Just as the hospital was warm for her when she finally decided to make an appearance so many winters ago – on a January 19th that was, that year, the coldest day since records have been kept.

At the Law School I ran into a colleague who commented that I looked tired. I thought for a second and I admitted that I was that. I’d gone to bed late and gotten up significantly before dawn to do work. And after a class, followed by office hours, I need a short spell to recover. I was in that spell.

Maybe I’m just bracing for the cold – I noted.

I don’t mind the cold – she said. I hate the wind. It would suit me just fine if no one ever again mentioned a wind chill. It freezes me just to think it. I hate the feel, and even the sound of the wind!

I thought – I could never hate a cold, wind chilled day so much. My girl was born when it dropped to a negative fifty degrees (F), if you considered the wind. Her doctor came in especially to deliver her, even though it was his day off. Might as well – he told me. Can’t do much of anything else on a day like this.

I hear he retired from practice, sold his home in Madison and moved to live on a boat on the Caribbean. I hope going out to deliver my girl wasn’t what pushed him to finally leave his practice. He was such a good doctor!

Happy birthday, little girl!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

tumult on a quiet day

Isn’t it the case that you feel upheaval much more when you are standing in a tranquil spot? That you notice imperfection more on the days that have few of them, that you feel the bumps on a smoother road?

So that, for example, when we were leaving Paris on a sparklingly fine weather day, we would feel mystified as to why one should sit on a plane at the gate and move nowhere at all for two hours? And then, because it was all so otherwise smooth, it should feel somewhat upsetting to be told that one and only one (of the needed five) ground crew members showed up to load luggage, and so it took a tad longer to get it all on board?

And isn’t it true that after a period of unrest, when peace comes, you appreciate the outcome all the more? So that if the flying skies over Paris were unfriendly in December, now they appear sublime, just because no one’s bags were lost and no one's flight got canceled?

Today I received an email from Air France apologizing for the endless December inconvenience and promising some small compensation for it. What else can you ask for but that some one noticed your inconvenience and cared to say something about it. That’s all.

In other news, it was cold and snowy in Madison upon my return, but not nearly as cold as it will be tomorrow. Landing in Madison leads you to expect this.

But it’s still somehow jarring to come face to face with so much winter stuff all around you. Do I really live in a place so... frozen? People riding to work, to school, they're hidden behind so many layers of wool that you cannot tell if they're smiling or bitterly disappointed with the day.


Ah well. I tell my students that all that separates us from a beautiful spring day is a class or two, or fifty-four actually (because there are fifty-four classes in a four credit course) and it all goes so very quickly anyway.

Monday, January 17, 2011

sixteen hours in Paris

An Ocean reader noted a few days back that it must be so much harder for me to come up with a daily photo in Madison than, say, in Paris.

Let me explain how this is not always so. When I am in Madison, I spend much of the day working. Like most anyone I know, I follow a standard route to work, I return the same way and often that’s about as adventurous as I get for the day. So often I tell myself – there’s always the lake... surely I will see it in some fresh way today...

If the photo appears ordinary (I know the good bends in the bike path that will always give me something, but if I take the bus, it’s a photographic wasteland), then I try to give more thought to the story for the day. Some days I stare at the screen late at night for a good hour and I tell myself that the next day I should think about posts earlier, when I am less tired. But the next day will be the same – no time until late, no thoughts until I am too tired to think well.

So yes, Madison days can be difficult for posting purposes.

During teaching days, I look forward to the week-end, when Ed and I will inevitably try to bike, camp, ski, build trails, take out a kayak, an iceboat, a canoe, plant a garden – and on those days blogging is a charmed effort. The photos set the story for me and the story adds value, I think, to the image.

And then there is blogging heaven -- when there is a chance to go far away. A travel story emerges and the story takes on elements of a “petit” ethnography of a distant place. A snapshot of people elsewhere doing nothing especially grand, but being so exceptionally interesting anyway, because their path to work is so different than mine.

But here’s the exception: Paris. Paris is hard. Far more difficult than the bike path to work in Madison, and immeasurably more troubling than Portugal or Poland.

For one thing, these days I don’t spend much time there. I take the train in from the airport (and it is a dismal train ride, through Paris’ saddest neighborhoods) and most often, by the time I am in the heart of the city, the light has almost entirely disappeared. And I have so few waking hours left! And there's an agenda! A dinner to eat, a walk to take, a wine shop to visit. The camera is there, but I am in a hurry and it’s getting dark and I stay in the same neighborhood time and again – and the expectations are so much higher!

I forgive myself if I take a bad photo on a busy day in Madison. But Paris! The place begging for good photography -- how can you fail in Paris?

The truth is, it’s easy to fail. There are very few original stories to be told in a photo of the Eiffel Tower. Or of people in a café. Or of bridges over the Seine and of friends and lovers on park benches. Of women biking in high heals, or little dogs in warm coats doing their pee pee against a Parisian building. Of Notre Dame, of the Louvre, of cheeses in cheese stores and pastries in pastry stores – indeed, in my small way I have, over the years taken all those photos (except the dog and the pee pee, but I’ve come close) and repeating them is such a cheat.

So, on this long return from Portugal to Madison, when we stop for just sixteen hours in Paris, I know it will be hard.

I’ll offer just a handful of photos and a handful of explanations. And yes, there’ll be yet another attempt to show the Eiffel Tower in another light, but I tell you, even as I am standing there on the bridge, I have next to me another photographer trying for a similar shot. With a tripod and a sophisticated camera, and time, too. And maybe it will all come together for him. Maybe. But it will be hard.

Okay. This time, I have sixteen hours in Paris. A train ride in, with the magic, stunning moment when I alight at the RER Luxembourg station and see the park before me. And today, because it’s sunny and in the upper forties and a Sunday no less – the world is there, trying to take in those vitamin D rays of a glorious sunshine.


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(I tell Ed that perhaps him walking around in merely a polo shirt is not right for January, and he nods his head and says “yes my love,” because he knows that I’ll say nothing more after that.)

We come quickly to our hotel and Ed stretches his ankle and I take off “just for a quick minute” to buy a bottle or two or three of wine over at Nicolas. Which happens to be in the busiest corner of the 6th Arrondissiment. Which is grand.


Then it’s dark. Ed is willing to go out for a longer walk and we try to get the guy who sells oysters at his usual place off the St Germain to sell as just a couple but he says he is too busy now and we should come back later. Ah, later. There is no later for us.

We pause then at a café, which seems okay – not too busy, not too empty, and it has terribly expensive glasses of wine and water (Paris is not Portugal), but I have one and Ed has the other and he shows me how I can more effectively use some features of my camera. (Ed has long remarked that if he would have taken on photography, he would have actually used the features of his camera – to which I say “yes my love” and then he says no more.)


We continue. To the river, to Les Invalides, to the bridge with the magnificent view of the Tower.


And then through the quiet streets of the 6th, so quiet that even the cafes seem quiet. As if those there are engaged in the most important conversations and they need the silence to help them think through the more difficult ideas and arguments.

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We want simple food, cheap food, well, relatively cheap food and so we go back to the place where we last ate a meal together in Paris – at the Cremerie Polidor, just in back of our hotel. It’s the kind of place where a sign says “we have not taken credit cards since 1845” and so you have to have the cash and you have to sit at long tables and you would think this last requirement would turn Ed away, but it doesn’t. He likes the food and the simplicity of the setting.


And I do too. I have lentil soup and veal stew and tart tatin and I remember how last March we ate pretty much the same thing and I worried because I had left my purse on the plane. This time I have no great worries. Just Portuguese sniffles. And the waitress reassures me that the wine she is about to serve me well takes care of any sniffles.

In the morning, we have a little more time. My usual flight to Chicago leaves early, but this time we’ve routed ourselves through Detroit -- a later deal, and so we can have our breakfast in Les Editeurs, even as it is still not quite light outside.


I watch the delivery vans come to the café – first the vegetables, then the coffee.


The delivery people are friends with the waiters, with all the café staff in fact, and it is a wonderful thing to hear that quick but sincere exchange of morning greetings.

And then it’s time to get the RER train back to the airport. We walk past the Luxembourg Gardens, with one last look at the people doing the usual on this morning. Biking to work on their normal paths. That’s all. Nothing more.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

rough waters

Saturday. Last day in Sintra. In Portugal for that matter. Castle, or the ocean?

Not hard. The ocean.

Ericeria is up north some, and because I have a childish belief in the wisdom of guide books, I believe it when the book tells me that Ericeria was and continues to be primarily a fishing village. Men, paying the rent by catching fish. (I have never seen a woman taking out a small boat to fish for a living in these fishing towns. Ever.)

Well yes, but Ericeria has grown and expanded significantly. Fishing boats? Plenty. But nothing about Ericeria is remote, small, or quiet. This is the place where, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, many Portuguese come for a good meal (of fish and of Ericeria’s specialty – the Portuguese lobster). Ericeria has in recent years called itself the seafood capital of Portugal.

I did not know that when we found the proper bus to take us there. It’s not a long ride from Sintra (fifty minutes maybe) and I merely wanted to end our stay with a day on the coast. Listening to waves lost in our own thoughts, lost, too in the maze of narrow streets of an old fishing village.

As it happens, the village had long ago expanded into a town. But no matter. It still has the lovely old town center, the fantastic rocky coastline, the thundering waves, the foamy rough waters.




And it certainly has the fishing boats. Out of water today. With men fixing nets and making small repairs.



Ericeria also has a jetty made of boulders and cement and I suppose there are days when the waves are not so large and you can stroll to the end and back. Today, though, there is a warning sign that the waves are dangerous and can knock you down flat.

I stay off. Ed (you are not surprised to read this, I’m sure) walks the breakwater, wistfully almost, as if all that’s beautiful on this planet can be found in the crashing waves.

No wave knocks him down and indeed, he seems pretty dry when he returns. Me, I spend the time thinking about what to have for lunch – the small local lobster or a seafood mixed plate. Like these guys.


I’ve been eating vigorously in Portugal, but not nearly as vigorously in the mornings as Ed, who has loved the abundant breakfasts we’ve had in Sintra (and, too, in Evora). At the Casa Miradouro, if you stay for five nights, one of them is free – hence the decision to base ourselves there (as in Evora, less than $100 for two, morning meal, taxes, services, WiFi included). We’re the sole visitors at the guest house now and our hostess, Ziza, and her assistant, each dressed in starched, embroidered aprons for the morning ritual, prepare an abundant breakfast of eggs, salmon, cheeses, salamis, fruits, cakes and breads. After all this, Ed insists we do not deserve lunch. I don’t disagree, but I cannot say no to enchanting light meals in new places and especially by the sea places, and so at lunchtime he’ll nurse a fizzy water while I eat a second meal. Traveling in harmony requires making room for the whims of your companion.

We join a jovial roomful of diners and after much anguish and deliberation, I choose the small lobster (it actually is more like a very large prawn).

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With it – warm, crusty bread, some local wine... my God, is it a good lunch!

We walk some more then, and I shop a little – a bottle of port to take home. Some chocolate -- which doesn’t even make it back to Sintra. More olive oil. Edible things that will recall for me these days by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea...



Late at night we wander up to Sintra’s palace, the upper square, we poke our noses into a few recommended eating establishments and reject them all. Too formal. Too pricy. Too calm. We choose instead a tavern-like place all the way down by the train station where a lively crowd is eating unfussy food.

Portugal is fantastic in its unfussy spaces. The pastelaria where you can get the simple pastries with custard. The wine shop where the great wines are never a great fortune. The little trains and big buses that zip people from one village to another. The fishing boats and the men who fish from them. The rough waters pounding away as we watch, listen, contemplate.