Making love last

Mangerico

In Portugal, June is devoted to celebrating the popular saints. In Lisbon we celebrate Santo António on the 13th, in Oporto São João on the 24th, and in Sintra São Pedro on the 29th.

There is an old custom of writing a verse and offering it with a “manjerico” (a pot of miniature basil) to our loved one. According to tradition, if we smell the manjerico with our nose, it dies quickly. We should instead pat it gently with our hand and smell the hand. Then, the manjerico will last and, presumably, so will our love.

The art of seeing

Pedras na praia

We can be artists without drawing, painting, dancing or playing music. All we need is to see the world with child-like wonder. Here’s how Lourdes de Castro, a great Portuguese artist, demonstrates the art of seeing:

“When the tide is low, I hear the sound of the waves pouring over the stones, rolling them day and night, for years, centuries until pieces of basalt become smooth. A pebble is a work of art!”

Portugal’s landscape is an immense canvas inviting you to become an artist. Come and see!

A romantic proposal

AB 2013_382- Casa do Gato Cinzento

Perhaps you found your true love and would like to propose in a romantic, unforgettable way. If, after watching numerous black-and-white movies you still have no ideas, we have a suggestion.

Invite your loved one for a weekend in Lisbon. Without revealing your intentions, drive to the location in the photo in the end of the afternoon, an hour or two before sunset. Take a bouquet of flowers tied with a ribbon that has two pieces of lead (one to use and the other to keep as a memento). Each piece of lead should have your two initials carved.

Find the perfect moment to say: “When ancient Greeks made eternal vows, they threw a piece of lead in the ocean and promised to keep their vows until the lead floated. I want to do the same; I’ll love you until this lead floats.” Throw one of the pieces of lead in the ocean with a dramatic gesture. Take some beautiful photos and celebrate with some great Portuguese espumante.

The gazebo in the photo is part of the Casa do Gato Cinzento estate, located between the Consolação and the São Bernardino beach. It is private property, so please ask the caretaker permission to let you in. 

Writing your story

A do Mar_147F

Peter Mayle, a British advertising executive, moved in the 1980s to Ménerbes, a tiny village in Provence. There, he wrote “A Year in Provence,” an entertaining account of his experiences that became a global bestseller.

Frances Mayes, an American writer, moved in the 1990s to the Tuscan country side to renovate Bramasole, an old villa. She told her story in the inspiring, bestselling “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

The success of these writers reflects their ability to put the reader on location, feeling the thrill of living in a place where every day is a new adventure.

There are currently so many Portuguese houses in great locations selling at very affordable prices. These beautiful homes are waiting for the right person to come along and make them part of their story. Hurry up!

Farmers markets

D. Natividade

We really enjoy going to farmers markets. We always imagine we are in a museum and study the whimsical shapes of the vegetables, the exuberant colors of the fruit, and the amazing aromas.

Most of these fruits and vegetables cannot withstand long distance travel or extended stays in supermarket shelves. But what they lack in endurance they more than make up in taste and smell.

We love talking to the fruits and vegetable vendors. They always have interesting insights about their produce as well as about life. So, if you see a sign saying “Mercado,” follow it. You’ll find food for your body and wisdom for your soul.

The photo shows three generations of wonderful fruits and vegetable vendors: Dona Natividade, her daughter in law and her granddaughter.

Driving in Portugal

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Lisbon in the rear view mirror, Maria Rebelo, digital print file, 2012.

Portugal has one of the world’s best highway systems, so it is easy to drive around the country’s 36,000 square miles. But driving in the two largest cities, Lisbon and Oporto, is a different story.

Lisbon has wide avenues, built after the 1755 earthquake, as well as many new tunnels and overpasses. But, whenever the Lisbon soccer teams lose, drivers are irritated and drive in aggressive, erratic ways. Since the Oporto soccer team wins most of the championships, it’s a bad idea to drive in Lisbon. It is much better to use public transportation, the subway, buses, trams, and taxis.

In Oporto, drivers enjoy the serenity afforded by their soccer victories. But the medieval streets in the center of Oporto were designed for vehicles with only one horse power. Driving a car requires constant care and attention. Here too, the subway, trams, buses and taxis will take you reliably everywhere.

There’s another reason why city driving is a bad idea. Every moment focused on traffic lights and road lanes, can be better spent contemplating the aristocratic beauty of Lisbon and Oporto.