Come December and smiles start getting wider on faces in London. It’s the favourite time of the year and nobody can keep calm. For me, it is also a reminder to finish off annual leaves and seek slightly warmer, sunnier avenues.
So off we went to Portugal for a small quiet holiday. For better weather, to relax after a hectic year. We are now so used to travelling in Europe that I have given up researching the places before and take the best out of moments itself. (Yeah! I know, the 30s probably)
We landed in the northern city of Porto and stayed in a lovely apartment by the River Duoro. The city is so small that you could cover the historic downtown’s cobbled pathways in a day.
The potterhead in me was thrilled to visit the oldest bookshop in Europe – Livraria Lello for apparently J K Rowling was inspired by its spiral wooden staircases and the stained glass ceiling. It’s a bit touristy now but its totally worth it for Eur 4.
So, we spent most of the evenings lazing around in the apartment, reading a book and overlooking the river and the famous Ponte Louis bridge, designed by Théophile Seyrig, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel.
Of course, the real reason for visiting Porto, was sampling the famous Port Wine. After all, Port Wine is the first alcoholic beverage I have had! (Thanks Dad) Its synonymous with Goa, after Feni of course.
|Port Wine tasting at Grahams Wine, Porto|
But Port Wine has been a Kanvinde family favourite especially on a Sunday afternoon after a fish curry or mutton. Glorious childhood memories.
So, we crossed the River to the neighbourhood of Gaia where all the warehouses of all the famous Port Wines companies are based. There we did some sampling of the popular after dinner wine.
|View of the Pena Castle|
We also did a day trip to Sintra, to visit the must see Pena Castle. The bright yellows and oranges surrounded by Moorish fortified walls, surrounded by lush green parks is a remarkable place indeed.
Straight out of a fairy tale. The gorgeous sea views were a bonus and a trek down from the hills was a great way to end the day.
|At Pena Castle, Sintra|
The next city stop was Lisbon, the crown jewel of Portugal situated on seven hills. The upcoming IT hub as per husband’s trivia. The city is quite densely populated, and the old town’s narrow winding streets add to an old world charm of an era gone by.
There is so much to see in Lisbon that perhaps we may need another trip to give it complete justice. Not to forget, gorging on as many Custard de Natas (Custard Tarts) as possible from the city’s many Pastelerias. Of course, as a dutiful wife, I saved husband’s day by asking him to not eat a certain appetising looking pastry. It was actually a raw egg and I spat it out with passion before he took a bite. (For those who know Aditya’s love for eggs)
|A feast of savouries and Custard de Natas at Pasterlia de Belem|
Our picks for this trip in Lisbon, were riding the famous Tram Line 28, walking on the breezy sea-front, and visiting the stunning Jerónimos Monastery.
The Jeronimos Monastery is the resting place of Vasco Da Gama. Lisbon has several monuments dedicated in his memory to acknowledge the great voyagers contribution to the world. Some may think otherwise and indicate the Age of Discovery leading to colonise many regions worldwide.
|A Memorial to mark Vasco da Gama's voyage at Lisbon|
But to a millennial me, I look at how one country’s culture influenced the other and the beautiful amalgamation that we experience today in Goa. Goa, the Kanvinde family’s ancestral land. The reason for migration of several families during Portuguese rule. The bright yellows and oranges and stained glass paintings make today's vibrant Goa due to the Portuguese influence indeed.
Pao, Batata, Tomato are the staples of everyday India today and several loaned words in Konkani and Marathi have Portuguese roots. Some of the spices in Indian cuisine are thanks to the Portuguese. (Of course, I am still clueless on the many Balchao curries in Goa. For Balchau in Portuguese means salted cod fish which is available in many recipes.)
As I stood by the Belem Tower which is strategically located near the confluence of River Tagus and the Atlantic, I had a saudade for Goa. A place which I visited every year without fail. I also wondered how a small nation influenced the world and also left a powerful impact on a smallish coastal region in India. I also thanked the sea for bringing into my life all those wonderful people, who have taught me something or other, a friend, a teacher, a relative who have left lasting impressions. Some whom I have lost due to Fado whilst some whom I long to see yet again.
Saudade: A Portuguese word for a deep longing.
Fado : A Portuguese word for Destiny or fate. Also, the local form of music to Portugal.