Archive for the ‘Portugal’ Category

Past meets present in Portugal

October 6, 2008

Having lived in Portugal in 1987-88, this was a particularly enjoyable piece for me to write. I loved that the sisters went on this journey to discover more about their father’s life, and of course their own.

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Sept. 14, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

John Charest, Diane Charest, Stan Cheika, Carm Provost, Pam Trett at the Port Wine Institute in Lisboa

John Charest, Diane Charest, Stan Cheika, Carm Provost, Pam Trett at the Port Wine Institute in Lisboa, Portugal

WHO: Diane and John Charest, both 56, of Fitchburg, Mass.; Pam Treet, 45, of Fryeburg, Maine; and Carmina Provost, 58, and Stan Cheika, 54, both of Chicopee, Mass. (The women are sisters.)

WHERE: Portugal

WHEN: One week in April

WHY: “For years my sisters and I have wanted to visit Portugal, particularly the small town where our dad grew up,” said Diane Charest.

OPEN ARMS: Jose Valentine is from Caldas da Rainha, an hour north of Lisbon. At 16, he moved to Chicopee, where he still lives. He turns 85 this week. “My father founded the Portuguese American Club in Chicopee,” Charest said. “We called him the Portuguese godfather because everybody who moved there from Portugal would go to him for advice. He still goes to the club to watch soccer.”

Carm Provost (left), Diane Charest, Pam Trett standing in front of their father's childhood home in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal

Sisters Carm (left), Diane, and Pam standing in front of their father`s childhood home in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal

TOWN TOUR: The sisters stayed in downtown Lisbon, at the Hotel Mundial, and took day trips. Lena and Jose “Joe” Ribeiro, friends of their father who had lived in Chicopee but retired to Caldas da Rainha, gave them a tour of the town of 13,500. “It really was like a time warp,” Charest said. “I almost expected to see a horse and buggy go down the street. Joe took us to my father’s old house. That was very emotional for me. We also went to my great-grandmother’s grave. She would visit us every summer. All the graves have pictures on them, and when I saw it I remembered her.”

Diane and her husband John in front of Obidos castle

Diane and her husband, John, in front of Obidos castle

MEDIEVAL MASTERPIECE: Their father’s hometown is just north of the popular tourist stop of Obidos, a walled 12th-century town with a castle. “That’s where he went to school. He and Joe would walk up the hill there every morning. We saw the building, and it’s now the welcome center. That town is like going to Brigadoon. We didn’t want to leave.”

OUT AND ABOUT: The group toured Lisbon as well as other spots, including Fatima and Sintra. “I was moved by Fatima,” Charest said. “We looked around the church and shrines and did the walk of the stations.” Lisbon reminded her of New Orleans, with its balconies of wrought iron. “I was amazed at how the whole country was tiled,” she said. “Every night we ate outside – always fish – and we took the funicular to the Port Wine Institute.” The only downside, she said, was the number of beggars and homeless people. “That surprised me.”

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES: The daughters gathered with Dad after the trip to view photos. “We did a slide show on TV so we could all see them and my dad kept telling us about everything in his town, saying, `Oh, that’s this, this is that.’ He loved seeing his house.”

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Madeira Island, a Portuguese pearl

August 22, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Aug. 3, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

Having lived in Portugal for a couple years in the mid-1980s, I’ve always been curious about Madeira and the Azores. So far, I’ve experienced neither firsthand, but enjoyed traveling vicariously through the Gordons. Obrigado!

David and Terry Gordon on the peak known as Pico do Facho, with a view of the port of Machico, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

David and Terry Gordon on the peak known as Pico do Facho, with a view of the port of Machico, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

WHO: Terry, 54, and David Gordon, 56, of Hollis, N.H.

WHERE: Madeira Islands, Portugal.

WHEN: One week in March.

WHY: “I’d always wanted to go,” Terry said. “My parents had been – they were both really into horticulture – and they said it was beautiful. I took their word for it, even though it was 45 years ago.”

PARTLY PAMPERED: The couple, who are regular hikers, signed up for a self-guided walking tour of Madeira through Wales-based New Experience Holidays. The outfitter arranged the route, accommodations, meals, transportation, and luggage transport. The Gordons were happy with the logistical work but not always with the lodging, which was quite basic and not in a town center. “It was budget accommodations without prices to match,” Terry said.

David walking on one of the levadas of Madeira

David walking on one of the levadas of Madeira

CHANNEL CROSSING: They walked about six hours a day, for about nine to 12 miles. “The walking was great,” David said. “Most of it is on levadas,” which are irrigation channels going around the mountains. About 1,000 miles of them crisscross the island, with walks alongside them. “Although all the island is very hilly and steep, you can walk for hours on those and it’s all level. It’s really more walking than hiking.” The island also has hundreds of tunnels cutting through the rock. “You need a headlamp for those,” Terry said. “The terrain was fascinating. I’ve never been in a place where there’s no level land.”

Terry and David at the Northern cliffs of Boca do Risco, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

Terry and David at the Northern cliffs of Boca do Risco, Madeira (Click to ENLARGE)

CLIFF WALK: “It’s a great trip for people who aren’t really hikers,” Terry said. “Only one day was difficult, but there was a way to do it that wasn’t.” On the walk from Machico to Porto da Cruz, “you’re on a cliff following the coastline and it’s absolutely gorgeous, but there are places you’re actually putting one foot in front of the other. That day really made the trip for me.”

COUNTRY COOKING: Except for an outstanding dinner at Armazem Do Sal, housed in an old salt factory in Funchal, their meals were better forgotten. “Outside of the capital, the groceries were really primitive, like root vegetables and dried fish,” Terry said. “Where we stayed they ate like peasants, with boiled potatoes, boiled rice, and what they call macaroni, and they give you all three every night. And they always have espada. It’s the ugliest fish I’ve ever seen.”

FLOWER SHOWER: The horticulture lived up to its billing. “It was amazing,” Terry said. “I’d never ever seen orchids growing wild. People have orchids like we have geraniums, everywhere. And the protea, I saw fields of them. A cab driver told us one lady had 200 varieties of roses in her yard. It just must be a paradise in the summer.”