It’s The Food!

The food in Portugal and Spain is spectacular. The freshness is just not possible in the US with the way exurban areas have lost their farms and been converted to suburbs. And the American methods of fishing, ranching, and farming further separate the food from its roots. In a country like Portugal, seafood tastes like it came from the ocean. It is often served simply, without strong sauces, because the inherent flavors are preserved. The seafood section in the largest supermarket in Lisbon would be embarrassed to offer pre-cut fillets except from the largest tuna and salmon.

Lisbon seafood

Tapas are served everywhere. One supermarket we visited had separate stations where fresh tapas were prepared: one for smoked seafood, one for cheese, and one for sausage. Wine was served along with the tapas, even before noon; drinking alcohol before lunch (in moderation) is common.

Tapas in Lisbon

And then there’s “ham.” Americans tend to think of dry cured pig leg as prosciutto, but it’s made in Portugal and Spain also. In Portugal, it’s called presunto, in Spain, jamon (pronounced ham-ohn). It’s freshly sliced from the leg in restaurants and bars and people buy whole legs to take home where they slice it themselves.

Presunto in Lisbon

Travel to Lisbon

Lisbon was an important destination for us. A possible future home, a place to live a different life in what seems like a different time despite all the signs of the modern world around us there. One huge difference between home and Portugal (and much of Europe) is the transportation. Trains are more comfortable than planes, the tracks maintained, the stations clean. We took the three hour ride from Faro to Lisbon on the train and wound our way north to beautiful skies.

Faro to Lisbon

Arriving in Lisbon in the evening, a train in the station took on a surreal look from the platform. I was attracted to a Dali-esque clock but it was just one piece in a liquid series of reflections.



Always on the lookout for detritus of any sort, we wandered through the older parts of the residential district. Most cities have areas where some abandonment has set in as newer, shinier neighborhoods are built and people move on. The most interesting find was an escalator to nowhere in a mini-mall that had no tenants. The top of the escalator, which was outdoors, was sealed off.


Many people, especially here in the states, consider these areas to be depressing blight. An alternate view is that they show us the past and give us clues about migration and social change. They also show a willingness to adapt as there are people and animals living here. One building in the old quarter had milk and food bowls set out for feral cats wandering the streets. The cats fled when we walked down the street but the bowls in front of the decrepit doors were still out.


And an alley with a boarded-up house provided an interesting contrast between a new cosmetics ad and the peeling paint. Past and present, crud and glitz, the never-ending changes in culture.