Last night at sunset I wandered down the narrow cobblestone path from our flat toward Salema beach. The light glowed off the whitewashed buildings and the waves pestered the stretch of sandy shore that extends 200 yards in each direction from the central town. Wes - my 9 month old travel companion - and I stopped to talk to a Portuguese woman who was out on her veranda tossing leftover pasta to the pack of cats that roams the town. She and Wes had the same number of teeth and they became fast friends. In my (very) broken Portugese, I asked her about life in this coastal fishing town. She was born here, in the very same house she and her husband stood in front of. She’s lived here 81 years and counting and says it hasn’t changed all that much, though I’m betting there weren’t as many beachside cabanas with Portuguese “beef cakes” serving sangria in the 1930s. (Note: Matt and I are keeping careful track of the beef cake sighting to bottles of vino verde consumed ratio. It may seem an arbitrary number to follow, but it keeps us entertained.)
Portugal is simply lovely. It’s absolutely impossible to feel rushed or stressed. I spent the bulk of today bobbing up in down in the waves like I used to at Monterey Bay as a child. The biggest decision of the day was whether to choose the white cabana with green curtains or the brown cabana with white curtains. As is always the case when I travel, I take careful notes on the pace of life, the goals I have, and the ways in which I will endeavor to maintain this laissez faire lifestyle when I return home. I crave a souvenir of mindset to bring a bit more slow purpose back into the every day. I still hold out hope that it is possible. Perhaps I can become more like the two-toothed velho grandma from Salema; sweeping the porch at sunset, smiling at passersby, overlooking the same sea she has since she was a child. Now that’s the sweet life.