Portugal and our first art residence

We arrived in San Sebastian from Bilbao by bus, to take the overnight train to Coimbra in Portugal. When the train arrived (on time) at around 10:30 we were ushered to our torture chamber, I mean our private room aboard the train. The private enclose was two inches larger than tiny. They did have a shower with plenty of hot water. Immediately we went to the dining car and had supper. The food was pleasant and we almost finished a bottle of  very nice white wine. I did think that an egg omelet was a surprising appetizer selection at 11 p.m. We then retired to out room for a pleasant night’s sleep. Sleep on a train? No bloody chance. It bounced, banged, wobbled and every part in the cabin squeaked.

In the morning I got our first look at Portugal as we clicked and clacked along. It was  dry, dusty and there were olive trees and fruit trees everywhere. Morning breakfast was, as opposed to the luscious supper,  plain continental— coffee and bread and jam. I could have used the egg omelet I ate the night before for an appetizer.

We finally made it to Coimbra and stayed one night at the Oslo (Don’t ask why the name) Hotel. It was clean, and thank God very quiet. Coimbra is a Portuguese college town—-fortunately or unfortunately the kids were not in school. We wandered around strangers in a strange land. Our knowledge of Spanish did help us read the signage but speaking or understanding the spoken word, forget it.  The Portuguese understood the Spanish, but answered in Portuguese which we couldn’t understand.Generally the difference between Spanish and Portuguese words is about one or two syllables, but the words are pronounced totally differently.

The next day we took a bus to Tondela Portugal where we were met and taken to Lobao da Biera,  the village where the ArtTerra artist residence is located. We were now in a very small village in the countryside of Portugal. The village name is translated as “big wolf.” Many years ago they had wolves and the local joke is anyone who does not show up for an appointment, or the kids are absent from school were eaten by the wolves.

The Portuguese people here in our little village are down to Earth — In more ways than one. All the houses have big yards and I mean EVERY person has a garden with grape vines, peach, apple, pear trees, Brussel sprouts, orange trees, olives etc. etc, etc.I am told the grapes are used to make homemade wine or sold to the local winery. The Portuguese drink wine. This is not a beer or distilled spirits culture.

The ArtTerra art residence is quiet — I’m talking 6 cars a day roll by on the street not counting the many tractors. The ambient noise of the village reminds you of Mexico in the early morning — Roosters, barking dogs, and church bells.

Food in Portugal? Plenty of fish, salted Cod and sardines. We had BBQ sardines last week and…and…well, I like salmon better although the sardines on the bbq weren’t bad and they are much larger than the canned variety. The hostess also cooked clams and they were wonderful.

Anita and I have been working our artistic butts off daily and enjoying the time creating. In this small town we really don’t have much else to do so we work on our art with little distraction. We alternate cooking lunch. She is trying to turn me into a rabbit, we have a salad with every meal she cooks and complains if I don’t make salad with EVERY meal I do. I draw the line on a salad with breakfast however. The woman who runs the place is a joy. Besides running the residency she is an actress and does voice over work in Lisbon. Her husband, like most young Portuguese who ARE working, (unemployment is high) has three jobs—he works on weekends as an accountant, works most days in an auto body shop and manages to work as a sound technician when he can. There is a small sound studio here at the residence. With all the gardens and an organic farm close by the vegetables and fruit truly have been wonderful and unbelievably flavorful. Now we know how veggies and fruit really should taste. We also try to take daily walks around the village which we find quite quaint and charming.

This past week we spent several days in the city of Porto, Portugal’s second largest city and in the north west part of the country on the Atlantic Ocean. Porto is responsible for the Port in Portugal and of course port wine. The city is a World Heritage city and (see pictures) very beautiful. The downside of the city it has been hard hit by the economic recession and every block has several houses for sale or a house falling down.  We wandered around for three days visiting a nice art museum, taking a boat trip on the river and walking along the Atlantic shore.  If you come to Portugal see Porto. They also have the world’s fanciest McDonalds (see pictures.)

Our next stop is Lisbon for a week and then on to another art residence in Mertola, which is in the far south part of the country and highly influenced by a Moorish presence.

Peace, love and red wine. Michael and Anita

To see the photos go to:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151002738246516.420565.667416515&type=1&l=401b12fb86

One Response to “Portugal and our first art residence”

  1. Stacy Says:

    Enjoyed hearing about Portugal and really liked the pics. Seems like a real quaint city.

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