Friday, January 05, 2007

I returned to Nantes the 26 after 10.5 days in Portugal and one in London. All went well. Portugal is a beautiful little country, and for a small country it has a lot. It would kick Belgium’s ass in a beauty contest.

My mother and I started in Porto, Portugal (the name of the country comes from this, portugal’s 2nd city) And spent two relaxing days there. It’s a diamond in the rough. Sprucing it up would send tourism into crazy mode, since its has an array of spectacular churches, picturesque backstreets and grand squares. im actually quite glad they’ve let it be the working town that it is

Then, Coimbra, where I ended up with a nice tee shirt. There was a beautiful old university there, and with it, amazing baroque Versailles-style library. I ended getting to go up inside it and the guy working there showed us a book from 1560 something. Pretty sweet.

I heard Fado, traditional Portugese music, at the local house of fado in Coimbra. It was striking music, evocative and bittersweet, consisting of a small guitar ensemble (maybe 2 or 3, Portuguese guitars of different types) and a singer. In Coimbra its traditional a male who sings, but elsewhere its usually a woman.

Lisbon Followed, and we spent some 5 days there. It was a great city. Surprisingly. it reminded me a lot of San Franciso, and even felt like san fran does in the winter. Sun, clear skies and high 50s. Not terrible by any means but not particularly warm. We were there during a cold spell so it didn’t really get to the 60s, which, for me at least, was disappointing. Better than Nantes though, or back home.

Saw the good sites in Lisbon, Some beautiful old neighborhoods. Went out to Sintra for some fairytale castles, it was spectacular if a little bit ridiculous. Saw a overly-restored Moorish castle. I at least I saw a few authentic walls.

Went to Evora for some Alentejo scenery. God it reminded me of California. The vegetation (palms, washingtonia Filifera and a few washingtonia robustas, and many phoenix species, as well as oaks, cork trees, open grassland and eucalyptus) Very sparsely populated for western Europe. Gorgeous landscape though. A warm sun, but not real warm temperatures, and an authentic roman temple, or whats left of it, as well as ruins and an old roman gate and tower. The town itself oozed the picturesque from its whitewashed, blue and yellow trimmed walls and red tile roofs.

I think I like the Iberian Penninsula.

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