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Post Magazine
This Week: Travel in Portugal
Hosted by Liza Mundy
Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, March 10, 2002; 1 p.m. ET

"It's fair to say that my notions of Portugal were entirely unconceived, 100 percent contracepted," Liza Mundy writes in Sunday's Spring Travel Issue of The Washington Post Magazine. What she found when she visited is a country that is off the radar screens of most tourists but is full of intriguing history and quirky surprises.

Mundy was online Monday, March 10 at 1 p.m. ET, to field questions and comments about her article "Off the Charts" and about what she discovered in Portugal.

Mundy is a staff writer for the Magazine.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Lisbon, Portugal: I would like to thank you for probably the nicest article I've ever read in a foreign newspaper about my country.

If you visit Portugal again please visit Porto (Oporto) in the north. I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Liza Mundy: Thanks very much for that comment. We very much regretted not having the time to see Porto; we came close to driving north toward the end of the stay, but decided instead to devote an extra day to Sintra. Porto would definitely be a priority for our next visit. I'm glad you brought up port; I didn't speak much of it in my article, but the port--along with the wonderful, inexpensive wines, and wonderful, inexpensive fish dishes--was a great part of the pleasure of travelling in Portugal. I particularly like the tradition of chilled port before dinner and room temperature port afterward.

Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: How could possibly go to Portugal and not visit Porto in the north?!

Spending an afternoon under the Eifel-designed bridge, watching the port lodges' skiffs go by, and drinking lots of free port samples is one of the better days one can spend travelling anywhere in the world.

Liza Mundy: Look, we had the kids parked with the grandparents and there is only so much time you get when that is the situation! An eight-day itinerary couldn't include everything! But point well-taken; see above comments.

Springfield, Va.: We travelled to Portugal several years back for two weeks. Started and ended in Lisbon for a few days, rented a car and drove throughout the country. We loved every minute of the country. Would you do anything different if you went again? We have thought we would have a base on the coast North of Portugal and take trips from there since it is such a small country.

Liza Mundy: Well, obviously at this point if I went again I would, uh, visit Porto. I would also spend more time in Sintra. And I would not set foot in the fancy palace there that is supposed to be such a great place to stay, the Palacio de Seteais. If you like stuffy formality this is the place for you; our itinerary included one night there, and I wouldn't go back. I would stay instead at wonderful Lawrences, adn I've also heard that the small Quinta des Sequoias (sp?) is great. I'm very glad we had the three days at the outset in the Cascais/Lisbon area and would do that again. And I would make sure to visit Lisbon on a day the Gulbenkian is open.

Oh, and I wouldn't sleep through one of the Albatroz' breakfasts, as we did, tragically, one morning, thanks to jet lag. I am still regretting the chocolate mousse not eaten.

Washington, D.C.: I was delighted to read your article regarding one of my favorite countries. By chance, The Smithsonian Journeys is offering a tour next month to all the places you mentioned and more! The dates are April 24 to May 4, and people can read about the tour by going online to "SmithsonianJourneys.org" location: Portugal. The tour will be offered again next spring.

Liza Mundy: Good to know. Thanks.

Bethesda, Md.: Well Liza, you must go back to Portugal! While I agree with you that one of its charms is that you don't feel like you must check out a top 10 list of sites, I can only feel infinitely sorry that you didn't get to visit the Gulbenkian museum. It's absolutely astonishing, incredibly varied (Roman coins, Persian tiles and carpets, Asian pottery and screens, furniture, excellent paintings, sculpture, jewelry). And everything's magnificently displayed. Another gem are the "estufas" -quente and fria, hot and cold-, which are tropical botanical gardens that put to shame the one in DC. And yes, they're pretty much unmarked.

In October 2001 I canceled at the last minute my honeymoon to Rome and Florence, after the State Dept. issued the first (no way I'd cancel today, after a zillion alerts) terrorist alert for Italy. Instead we decided to rent a car and drive from my hometown in northern Spain to Lisbon, stopping on the way in Salamanca, Cáceres and other historic sites. The... carelessness, so to speak, that you attribute to the Portuguese regarding the preservation (or lack of) and marketing of their national treasures is common in many parts of Spain, too.

But I'd like to speak in their defense, or at least share my experience: we had no trouble at all finding open everything we were interested in visiting. We just checked, about two or three days in advance, that the places we wanted to see would be open that day and what the schedule was. In fact, I think it was the smoothest trip I ever made, we got to see pretty much everything we were interested in -and it was a lot- and at no point felt any pressure or hurry. After reading your article, which brought back many sweet memories, I nevertheless felt you were portraying the country somewhat unfairly, as if visiting Portugal was an at-your-own-risk adventure where the tourist must try to overcome -and invariably fail to do so- the capricious obstacles set by the locals, who don't care that much about laying out their attractions for him/her. Not my experience. I think it was bad luck in your case and that's why you should go back. That, what I mentioned in the first paragraph and, of course, the food.

Liza Mundy: Point well-taken, but see below.

Silver Spring, Md.: Though I loved traveling in Portugal, I, too, found it frustrating to find things unmarked, unexplained, and run-down. But I think it is important to mention that even though Portugal is in Europe, it is still a very poor country, especially compared to other European destinations like France, Italy and England. Those countries have had the money to create excellent tourist infrastructures, but Portugal has not. The years of dictatorship, particularly, took their toll. Things have improved somewhat since Portugal joined the European Union, but the economic situation in Portugal is still quite difficult. However, I found the kindness and gentility of the people I met there to far outweigh any frustration I had. I'd go back in a minute.

Liza Mundy: I'd go back in a minute, too, and your points are also very well taken. I tried to learn as much as possible about the Salazar dictatorship but couldn't find as much as I would have liked. And of course you are right about the poverty. I wasn't criticizing the country; just sort of wistfully wishing there was more preservation and curation.

Tellingly, before writing this piece I did a "profnet" search looking for experts, in this country, on Portuguese history. I got exactly ... one hit. That was Patricia Seed at Rice, who was most helpful. But I think it does drive home the point that Portuguese history just isn't much taught, not in the States at least.

Alexandria, Va.: Just commenting...Thank you for your wonderful article on Portugal. I visited Lisbon for five days in February of 1999 and loved every minute of it!

When telling people of my overseas travels, I mention that I've visited Portugal. Most people ask "really? What on earth possessed you to visit Portugal?" It's an unknown little gem, though, isn't it?

When I went, there were four of us. We were in our mid- to late-20s, attracted to Portugal for its affordability and charm, and wanting an unconventional European vacation. That's sure what we got!

We didn't travel nearly as extensively as you did. We stayed in Lisbon and only took a day trip to Sintra. Wish we'd gone to Caiscais, though.

Now I'm wishing I could go back. I'll just have to convince my husband!

Liza Mundy: I agree on all that. I have not talked to anyone who visited Portugal who didn't like it.

Washington, D.C.: Did you have an opportunity to see the walled city of Obidos or any of the other venues near Sintra (ie. Mafra/Fatima)?

How do you rate the Portuguese people in relation to those of other EU countries in relation to friendlyness towards Americans?

Liza Mundy: We didn't see Obidos, but did see the walled cities of Evora and Estremoz. We wanted to stay in Obidos; there is supposed to be a fabulous pousada there, but unfortunately it was full. And time pressed. Nor did you see the areas around Sintra that you mentioned, but if/when we go back you can bet we will.

Washington, D.C.: Ms. Mundy:

As the American-born daughter of Portuguese parents, I found your recent Travel section piece on Portugal to be extremely offensive. Instead of providing The Post's readers with a unique perspective on an often-overlooked travel destination, you merely further perpetuated the ignorant outlook that many individuals have unfortunately adopted regarding Portugal. Thank you for eventually honoring the work of the Nobel Prize winning Portuguese author Jose Saramago -- after you spent much of your introduction focusing on Portugal's utter lack of recent successes or laudatory cultural or political pursuits as a nation. Apparently a national legacy as one of the leading centers of exploration, discovery and scientific progress in the 15th and 16th centuries is no longer relevant or worthy of respect if the nation in question has "not, in a long long time, contributed something sufficiently great or terrible to warrant world notice, or even a long article in the newspaper."

Indeed, Portugal is not part of the "threat traffic" that streams through the U.S.' intelligence hubs -- largely due to the fact that Portugal has long-served as one of the U.S.' primary strategic partners in Europe. The U.S. military facility on the Portuguese island of the Azores was among the U.S.' primary points of protection for itself and its allies during the Cold War -- and it remains in place to this day. Portugal has also remained stalwart in its support for the U.S.’ war on terrorism and, in these days of shifting alliances and growing anti-American sentiment in Europe, it has served as a strong proponent of the Bush Administration’s strategy to disarm Iraq. And Ms. Mundy, in response to your query, yes -- Portugal has been a member of the European Union since 1986.

In your piece, you successfully eluded many of the most unique facets of Portugal -- its cuisine, its literary tradition dating back to the famous poet Camoes, its hand made textiles including world renowned rugs and pottery, its language, its music -- (even in Lisbon, where fado is omnipresent, you yet again managed to miss an essential element of Portuguese life and tradition), its amazing natural beaches and coastline and its overwhelming sense of history -- which serves as the true inspiration for the development of the pousadas rather than a desire to "find something to do” with all this real estate as you so succinctly stated. Perhaps in place of focusing on Portugal's medieval history, you would have been better served by highlighting the nation's 20th century struggle against a dictatorship which suppressed the company's internal and external development for thirty years and eventually culminated in one of the most peaceful turns towards democracy in modern European history. It is clear that you benefited from the enormous generosity and kindness of the Portuguese people during your travels there -- as highlighted by your spontaneous trip to Conimbriga -- yet your article, unfortunately, did not convey any of this sentiment in return. On behalf of the thousands of Luso-Americans in this region, I regret that The Post chose to publish such a narrow minded and ignorant depiction of a country that deserves so much more.

Ana M. Lopes

Liza Mundy: Thanks for your reply. Obviously you're entitled to your opinion. Funny, though: everyone I know who read this piece reacted by saying, "I want to go to Portugal immediately." so something positive must have come through.

And yes, I know that Portugal is a member of the EU. And yes, I know that Portugal is a strategic ally of ours, even now in this difficult period.

And just as a sort of rebuttal I'll post an email I received today from Jose Bandeira, a political cartoonist for several Portuguese newspapers. I let him know that I might be posting it. He didn't seem to find the article offensive at all, and further provides some fascinating history--history I would have loved to have when we were travelling. Here's his post:

Dear Lisa,

I read your article on my country, Portugal, with great interest. I would say it is quite fair and accurate in its conclusions.

I hope you don't mind if I try to shed some light on two or three points you comment on the article.

The bones at the 'Capela dos Ossos' are said to belong to the roughly 2/3 of Campo Maior population that died when a lightning stroke a gun-powder warehouse at the castle in mid-eighteen century. Other theory claims that the jesuit monks piled the bones of their own dead, but this is less likely.

The Tomar convent was built over the old Templar castle (some of its ruins remain). Its octagonal 'charola', said to be unique in western Europe, was directly inspired in the charola at Constantinople and was being restored the last time I visited the convent, about six months ago. There are rumors as whether there are treasures hidden under the convent. I heard of at least a german expedition that was unable to get authorization to probe (with ultra-sounds, if I remember well) the dungeons.
I hope you did get to visit the Almourol castle (a moor construction and a Templar defensive position) a few kilometers south, standing in a small island in the middle of the Tagus river.

The 33 liberals were killed at the Pousada da Rainha Sta Isabel during the civil war between the liberals (which supported a constitutional regime) and the Absolutists (which fought for the absolutist regime) as a revenge for the taking of Lisbon by the liberals.

Finally: there are many reasons for the decline of the country's power. One could speak about the mis-use of Brazil's fortunes or the spanish rule (1580-1640), which led to the destruction of the portuguese maritime power: the country's ships were destroyed with Spain's 'Invencivel Armada' in their war against England. It probably started there. Not being an historian, however, I can't be categorical about it.
In the XX century, however, I believe Portugal suffered from its isolation, both geographical (Franco's Spain on one side, the sea at the other) and political (a 48 year-long dictatorship, the absence from World War II and its consequent exclusion from plan Marshall, the colonial issue). The country evolved a great deal in the last 28 years, though (after the 25 April 1974 revolution and its entrance, in 1986, in the EU).
The problems portuguese have with their past are, I believe, related to this recent history: in some ways, it is a process similar to the one eastern europeans are experiencing right now. The urge for modernity and development may lead to dismissal of historical heritage. Things are getting better, though.

PS: you might also find it interesting to know:

The tower of Belem (portuguese name for Bethlehem) was once at the very
middle of the Tagus river; it protected the city against invading ships. The
city gradually conquered space to the river, and that is why the tower now
lays at the shore.

Fado was long dismissed by intellectuals and the such as an outdated,
non-artsy, non-modern form of culture, perhaps because during the
dictatorship it was kind of a 'regime', non-interventive, traditionalist
music (the country was best known then for its soccer player Eusébio and the
Fado singer Amália Rodrigues). Fortunately, a new generation of young
singers (some, like Marisa, are being internationally published) gave to
Fado a new, stylish, cultural look that appeal to young generations as well
as the old.

The best thing about Portugal: So few Americans! Really, it's refreshing not to run into fanny-pack-wearing tour groups in a European country.

Lisbon is a European city without the crowds.

Liza Mundy: So true. Our first day in Cascais we found ourselves dining at an outdoor couple next to a German couple who, like ourselves, were travelling without their children, and we spent a pleasant hour discussing the pros and cons of that, a conversation that sort of inexplicably segued (the German man was an architect) into American versus German building materials. They were far more knowledgeable than we about Portugal and recommended several contemporary fado groups--Madredeus is one, though I am told by Jose Bandeira that that isn't, strictly speaking, fado--as well as the movie "Lisbon story" by Wim Wenders. (As for other things cultural, upon returning to the States I enjoyed reading "A Small Death in Lisbon," a crime novel set in the Lisbon/Cascais area that includes a lot of fascinating 20th century history).

On the topic of American visitors: One nice thing for Americans who do make it to Portugal is the high prevalence of Portuguese people who speak English. (Too much to hope, of course, that Americans would speak Portuguese.) There is a strong, long connection between England and Portugal, which I assume is responsible for this. The British connection is particularly strong in Sintra, I guess in part because of the Byron connection.

Washington, D.C.: Dear Ms.Liza Mundy,

Your husband was right: Portugal was indeed the right choice for an "unconceived" journey, the one you so pleasantly describe in the last edition of The Washington Post Magazine.

Thank you for the comments and magnificent words about my country, that we appreciated so much. I am sure now that Portugal will soon become "terra cognita" for all your readers, not only with the "discoveries" you made but also with those you will make in the near future.

Next time (I promise you!)I'll manage for a special visit to the magnificent Palácio da Regaleira -- hopefully on time! and for revealing so many other pearls of our glorious history, a past that we really praise and care.

A second visit will be even better! Please accept our gratitude and congratulations

Manuel Silva Pereira
Press and Cultural Attaché
Embassy of Portugal

Liza Mundy: Thank you so much for that nice message. We loved your country and talk all the time, wistfully, about returning. (Appropos of nothing, I was talking the other night to a young Mormon man who did his overseas mission in Portugal, and his reaction was exactly the same.) And thanks for the offer!

The good and the bad: Liza,

You are a great writer ("piled smiles" is one of my favorite turns of phrase in a while). You captured so much of Portugal that it made me want to go back right now!

Two things that seemed to receive scant attention in your piece, though, are two of the things I enjoyed most about Portugal: the people and the food. The people were some of the most friendly Europeans I've come across, and the food was downright fantastic in every level of restaurant I visited.

Liza Mundy: Thanks. I did have several paragraphs devoted to the food, which my editors found, um, unnecessary. So let me just write an ode, right here, to the slice of grilled swordfish, with boiled potatoes and salad, that I had in a tiny delightful restaurant in Coimbra, complete with three-dollar bottle of wine.

And I believe I have now made clear my conversion to port.

Linthicum, Md.: I went on a tour of Spain, Portugal and Morroco two years ago. I told everyone that Portugal is the only one of those places that I would go back to. I found the people a lot nicer than the other two countries and the places just fantastic. Did you go to the place near Coimbra where the two twins appeared? It is a holy place for Catholics and as a non-Christian I found it very interesting, a lot of pilgrims were there when we were visiting. I just want ed to know if it is better to go there in spring than summer, I was there in August. Thanks.

Liza Mundy: No, we didn't see the place you mentioned, and it sounds fascinating. (There is a great Portuguese guidebook to be written, I'm sensing.) As for when to travel, maybe somebody else could write no. We, too, went in August, and it's my suspicion that other times of year would be cheaper, and that the weather might still be propitious. You'd just have to consult the existing guidebooks. Myself, I'd try spring or fall next time.

Lisbon, Portugal: Hi Liza and everyone,

I must say that I can understand the views of Ana Lopes: as a cartoonist, I'm often confronted with readings that are the exact opposite of what I intended to depict. living in the U.S., it is only normal that she feels sad for the lack of recognition of the country's rich history and culture. That said, I didn't read the article the same way she did.

An interesting issue was raised: the economic situation of Portugal and its influence on their inhabitants culture. I think this is a key question. Portugal is not a rich country by any standards, but this sense of poverty is much inflated by its physical proximity to very rich countries. Still, it holds (last time I checked) as #31 in terms of wealth when accounting all countries in the world. Now that should makes us all think.

Portugal is (competing with Greece on this one) the poorest of current EU members, but it will be middle-way when eastern candidates make their way in.

Liza Mundy: I think this may be Jose Bandeira writing in; I don't get to see the name of the sender on my screen, but since it's coming from a cartoonist in Lisbon, I'll assume it's him. Thanks for all these insights. They are points well-taken, and thoughtfully delivered. Thanks.

Annandale, Va.: What is the name of the castle on the cover of the Post Magazine?

Liza Mundy: That's the tower of Belem, in a suburb near Lisbon. Jose Bandeira provides some useful information on it in his earlier post.

Springfield, Va.: A little in defense of your piece. I thought it was a well done somewhat light article on Portugal. I am of Portuguese descent, can't imagine why anyone would take offense. It certainly did not present itself as an in-depth piece. I thought as I read it -- BRAVO! As I've been trying to sell Portugal ever since our previously mentioned trip. When places were closed, it was because we had not checked in advance. There was no secret as to the schedule of closures, etc.

Liza Mundy: Thanks. I'm sure you're right, that the openings and closings of certain institutions are no secret, but we did find the schedules of others to be a little bit opaque.

Vienna, Va.: Lisa

I have rented a villa in Santa Catarina, just outside of Tavira in August.

I was wondering where I could find a better fare for an airline ticket than the one quoted to me for around $950?

Are there any "deals" out there for getting to Portugal?

Liza Mundy: I'm not a travel agent; they'd be your best bet about rates. I agree that that plane fare sounds high! I can recommend our own agent, Jan of JET travel, here in the District. Jan goes to Portugal a lot and knows it well; we relied on her for a lot of advice. Their number is 202/547-3007, or 800/453-2229. The web address is jettravelinc.com.

And that's good to know, about the villa.

Harrisburg, Pa.: Your observation that a sort of national inferiority complex has limited the Portugese sense that they need to preserve some of their national treasures. Do you think increased tourist interest would spark a drive towards preservation, or would increased tourism only further damage many of the aging buildings?

Liza Mundy: Good question. Implicit in my article, and some of these postings, is that inescapable travel writer's (and restaurant reviewer's) conundrum; do you really WANT more people to discover this wonderful, somewhat overlooked place that you yourself so enjoyed, in part because it IS overlooked? Do you want it preserved, marketed, overrun? Doubtless there is a moderate compromise. It seems to me that there could be a good, productive combination of preservation and tourism that would benefit everybody, most of all Portugal. For example, when we were touring the Capuchos convent, near Sintra, it was sad to see how many of the altarpieces there had been removed, presumably stolen. And in general I was just always wishing there was more information available about some of the places we visited. Perhaps EU membership will bring the financial resources to accomplish some additional preservation. Or perhaps someone who knows more than I will write in.

Rosslyn, Va.: I second (and third) the positive comments about Portugal. I went there for nine days last June and loved every minute -- weather, food, wine and people. Stayed in Estoril. My boyfriend and I ate at the restaurant(Sol e Mar) shown in the picture of Cascais. Fantastic. Evora and Sintra were wonderful also.

Liza Mundy: I'll just post this.

Somewhere, USA: Please allow me to rant a little.
Western Europe is a big place. Some parts of it are wealthy and have developed mass tourism to a high art. London, Paris, for example. Others are not so wealthy, and the tourist who goes there doesn't have the same support infrastructure. Portugal, for example. Or northern England, for that matter.

I hope Portugal continues to become a more wealthy country. If it does, the tourist infrastructure will improve. More important, so will the lives of the Portuguese. In the meantime, however, some of your readers need to get real. You can plan your vacation around perfectly-restored areas with perfect hotels and tons of tourists. Or you can go to a place where things aren't so well preserved, but prices are lower and tourists are fewer and more informed.

Either choice is perfectly reasonable. But it's not reasonable to ask for both.

Liza Mundy: Point well-made, well-taken. I think my article made pretty clear that the lack of mass tourism is plus in visiting Portugal. That said, I'd like to see the altarpieces replaced at the Capuchos convent, and I imagine you'd agree. I also think it would be fascinating to see a great museum about the earthquake. To take a couple of examples.

Austin, Tex.: Not really a question, but a thank you to Liza and to all the others who have added so much to the discussion. We have scheduled a trip to Portugal -- our first -- in May. But, since reading this, I am already planning a second visit!

Liza Mundy: I envy you.

Washington, D.C.: Having enjoyed visiting Portugal last year with my wife and five children, I was interested to read Liza Mundy’s article, "Off the Charts." We found the same delightful mix of quirkiness and charm. I write, though, because I think Ms. Mundy exceeded her scope of expertise –- which is forgivable -– if it were not done with bigotry to boot. She would have been well served to visit the spiritual and cultural heart of Portugal in Braga and the northern regions she regrets not having had time to visit. Had she done so, perhaps she would not have left Portugal with the same anti-Christian bias and historical ignorance portrayed in the article. Despite all their crude faults, western civilization owes a great debt to the reconquista knights, the crusading orders, and the great navigators and explorers of the Iberian Peninsula. Her cheap intimation of medieval Portuguese Christians as equivalent to modern-day Muslim extremists is insulting on many levels; I hope not too many Portuguese read this article and think all Americans to be so culturally arrogant.

Liza Mundy: I wasn't dissing medieval Portugese Christians. I was just pointing out that some of those Christian crusaders--from all over Europe--led quite a bloody, quite a fascinating, quite an alternative life. And I do think there are some parallels. Among some Crusaders there was a very single-minded "kill the infidel" mindset, and I don't think it's offensive to ask whether the parallel to modern-day Muslim extremists exists. Which is why I led that section with the quotation from Monks of War.

Washington, D.C.: For anyone visiting Portugal, I would highly recommend at least an afternoon in Obidos. It is a charming city enclosed entirely by a stone wall. If time permits, the Pousada Do Castelo in Obidos is a delightful place to spend the night.

Liza Mundy: Duly noted.

Lisbon, Portugal: Actually, Liza, Belem is not a suburb, it is part of the city (actually, one of its limits). For anyone travelling to Lisbon, this is a must-see site, not only for its monuments, but its cultural and historical significance.

The tower of Belem was actually located in a small island in the middle of river Tagus and protected the estuary. Later land was conquered to the river and the tower now rests at its shore.
The Jeronimos monastery is a mix of styles (including a portuguese exclusive, the 'manuelino'). Its construction started at around 1500 but it took a long time to complete. It houses the Museu de Marinha (naval museum), the children's museum, and the Planetario.
Close to this complex is the Belem Cultural Centre, (CCB), a recent construction that caused a lot of controversy (cost, environmental impact, etc.) but is now regarded without discussion as one of the best portuguese cultural structures.

The square that encompasses these monuments and buildings is called Praca do Imperio (Empire Square). From here departed the expeditions of Vasco da Gama, for instance.

Also close to Praca do Imperio is the official residence of the portuguese President of the Republic. You can immediately spot it for its rose/pink color and the fancy guards at the entrance.
Jose Bandeira
(sorry Liza, didn't sign the last one)

Liza Mundy: Thanks; also duly noted. Personally, I think that anyone travelling to Lisbon should look up Jose Bandeira.

I've heard great things: Ooooh...

Can you tell me a little more about the food?

Liza Mundy: Inexpensive, wonderful wine, and the waiters don't mind at all if you order a little half-bottle rather than a full one; many varieties of port, served both chilled and warm; fresh shellfish; grilled sardines, often being cooked by men and women on streetcorners, one of whom told me that the sardines should be cooked WITH salt but WITHOUT olive oil; fresh swordfish; no sandwiches or fast food, but instead wonderful, light, satisfying sit-down lunches consisting of something grilled, along with salad and boiled potatoes.....so much grilled food, in fact, that in gas-station-mini marts they sell these little aluminum porta-grills for picnics, sort of like a lasagna pan full of coals....fresh cantaloupe served with a complimentary splash of port....and a special Portugese pastry whose name now escapes me (Jose Bandeira will known) but which I'm told is particularly good when bought in Belem...and now....on that wistful note...I'll sign out. Thanks, all! I had no idea that commentary on Portugal would fill a whole hour, but I'm glad it did. I hope the embassy and travel agencies are subsequently deluged, and I very much appreciated the graciousness of those Portuguese citizens and emissaries who wrote in.

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