Recently, we've been a little closer to home. But oddly, 2 of our kids went to Portugal within a 6-month window--1 to Lisboa, and 1 to Porto.

What's the first thing that comes to mind, "a sense of place", about a destination?

20240121 082229 COLLAGEWhile some of my thoughts turned out to be valid, others were way off base. For Portugal, I thought 💭

  • Mediterranean
  • Oranges
  • Ports with gorgeous pastel houses clustered as far as the eye can see
  • Hand fans
  • Olives

When my son came back after presenting in an engineering conference, what he talked about the most was the port wine and beer. (Ah, "Porto," I hadn't put two and two together.) When my daughter returned from her University trip, it was all about the palaces, tiles everywhere and the pastéis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) she had each morning for breakfast.

Now, looking at their pictures, I could definitely see the ports with gorgeous pastel houses as far as the eye can see. I'm wondering whether the tile I picked up at an antique shop years ago is Portuguese or Dutch. And, I'm questioning why cork is still such a big thing, when I--perhaps erroneously--thought that a shortage of cork was what drove the substitution of plastic corks in wine bottles. (The castle postcard above is made of cork.)

Screenshot 20240121 090450And will I finally solidify in my mind what the Mediterranean really means? Portugal isn't even on the Mediterranean! In my mind, it went from Gibraltar in the West to the Syrian/ Palestinian/ Israeli coast in the east, filling in all of the openings around Spain, Italy, and Greece, bordered in the south by Africa. A map like this one doesn't really contradict my faux impression. Now, the Alboran, Balearic, Tyrrhenian, Ionian, Adriatic and Aegean Seas are belatedly becoming part of my geographical vocabulary. All of which is rather beside the point, since Portugal is on the Atlantic Ocean...just like Virginia, the state where we live.

And yes, there were pictures of oranges on trees right next to the streets. (But apparently they are less sweet, tasting more like lemons.) At least part of my mental picture was accurate. But now, I think I need to go there myself--just for research purposes, of course. And to see whether I can find a Portuguese hand fan.