Living in a Material World

 

Self-Discovery

I’m not sure when it happened or why it happened, but at some point I decided to give up just about all of my earthly possessions. Have you ever wondered what you could live without? Two years ago I had the opportunity to answer that question. I either sold or gave away almost everything and now I know the answer. As evolved as I thought I had become, I still like things.  This is a list of what I cannot live without (not in order of importance):

  • a comfy mattress
  • good bedding (Portuguese cotton sheets, a down comforter, and 3 down pillows)
  • good pots & pans
  • well made kitchen tools
  • a high definition, smart TV
  • 100% cotton underwear
  • an iphone with a screen that isn’t cracked (it’s not about the label, it’s about quality and efficiency)
  • sunglasses that protect you from UV rays
  • a four wheel suitcase
  • a comfortable sofa
  • good martini glasses
  • silicone ice cube tray
  • a MacBook
  • an iphone (I have the 7S and it’s fine)
  • novels, lots of novels
  • a watch (I’m obsessed with time)
  • Alexa — I love answers to questions without any effort
  • a bicycle
  • a practical wardrobe (includes good shoes)

When I look at this list I feel pretty good. There are a few luxury items (i.e., Murano martini glasses, Apple products); however, I’m certain it could be a lot worse. No judgment if your list is longer; to each his own.

The flip side of this revelation is what I can live without and that list is unfortunately, much shorter:

  • cargo shorts
  • Nike sneakers
  • Cashmere
  • expensive artwork
  • expensive watches (I once owned over 50 watches)
  • fine silverware and wine glasses
  • a car
  • a KitchenAid mixer

Am I a better person for having learned these things about myself? No. What I am is more realistic and less bogged down. I now know that I can easily get rid of almost everything and start fresh. I can walk away from that ceramic bowl I thought I was in love with and never look back. I can give away that Burberry jacket and not shed a single tear. I can survive without a Bertazzoni stove (I do miss my stove).

When I look at the list of things I cannot live without, it seems longer than I thought it would be, but in reality, it’s not that long. There are a few items on the list that I certainly could live without, however, I choose not to. I have come to learn that I love and want certain creature comforts. What I found interesting was the process of acquiring new things. When I arrived to Portugal, my mindset was somewhat unrealistic. I thought that I could wear what I brought with me and only buy new clothing when it was absolutely necessary — holes in my socks sort of thing. I had always cared a great deal about quality clothing; this new business of a minimal lifestyle was foreign to me. I learned over time that it was unrealistic to stay away from shops. I need to feel good about myself and part of that is to wear nice clothes and present myself in a positive way. I’m sixty years old now (61 in a few weeks) and I don’t have the physique I once had; therefore, what I desire these days is a comfortable, practical, classic wardrobe. I occasionally purchase a colorful hat or watch, just to brighten things up. It’s more for my own psyche than to impress someone else.

In a very healthy way, I have come to accept what I look like. I am hoping I care about my appearance until I die. I think it’s important to love and accept yourself physically, spiritually and mentally. When you stop caring, you begin to decline in every way. I have observed that older women in Europe (mostly the cities) seem to embrace this philosophy. I see so many women in their 70s and 80s wearing beautiful clothing and owning their look — unfortunately, men that age do not seem to care. I’m afraid tobacco and alcohol have done some major irreparable damage. There are exceptions of course.

Apropos of nothing, I was talking to my niece Nicole this week and she brought up the scaling down process in her own life. She’s raising twins on her own and she’s figuring out a way to financially make it work.

I told her that I was writing this piece and she said, “You only need one coat, so long as it’s a good coat.”

I laughed because she and I are spiritually connected and that philosophy is exactly where my head has been lately. I have only one coat in Portugal, but it’s a good coat.

 

My Home

My nest is probably in the top three most important parts of my life. It has to be clean, contemporary, and warm. It does not have to be super expensive and posh. Before I moved to Portugal and decided to purchase in Faro, I looked for an apartment with clean lines. I wanted a place I could keep clean with minimal effort. Faro doesn’t have dust build-up the likes of which I experienced in New York and Maine. I assume it’s because there are fewer automobiles and a constant breeze off of the Ria Formosa. It’s nice not to have to dust daily. I mention this because keeping the things I enjoy out in the open gives me pleasure. So even though I have fewer “things” sitting around on shelves, I don’t have to work very hard to keep them looking nice. Sticking to my decision to remain minimal has been easier than I thought. I guess once you go through the process of shedding everything, you never want to accumulate that much stuff again. If I decide to move, I won’t have quite as much stuff to cart around.

 

What is all Means

I can never help stepping back and analyzing what it all means for me and my life. I think that is what I love most about writing; put it down on paper or type it into your computer and it becomes reality. Sometimes you like what you read and other times you are appalled. You can make a conscious decision to change what you don’t like. I have found that if I start with awareness and then gradually make small changes, after awhile, I come to realize that whatever it was, is no longer present.

The car is a good example. I sold my car in Maine a couple of months before I moved to Portugal. I wanted to test life without a vehicle. I’ve had a car my entire adult life, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I even owned a car when I lived in Manhattan. I recall getting up to move it every morning. I found it damaged numerous times; often, I had to park it a mile or more away from my apartment, but that didn’t deter me because I couldn’t imagine life without wheels. This test would not be easy, but it’s the challenges we face that make us stronger and more determined. Cycling and walking have always been favorite pastimes for me, even more so now.

By the way, when people ask about my desire to reduce my carbon footprint, some of them raise the issue of the number of flights I take (and then they laugh). To this I say:  I take a train or a bus whenever I possible and I only fly when I absolutely have to. Sometimes I think doing the best you can do, has to be good enough. On a recent trip I took Amtrak from North Carolina to Boston stopping at various locations along the way. It was a great way to get from point A to point B.

 

A Recent Comment

I love honest conversations and I had one at the gym today. Someone I have known for a few months told me that my blog reads like a diary. He was not being critical, he was sharing his perception. I could hardly argue with his assessment. I do share a great deal of what I’m feeling at any given moment, with my readers.  I actually do keep a journal; I have for almost forty years. What I write in my journal is just as honest and straightforward, but much of what I write privately, is never meant to be shared. I write about perceptions of individuals, fears, hopes; all very personal. I imagine you might be questioning what could possibly be more personal than what I include in my blog . . . I guess you’ll just have to trust me; we all have demons and dark thoughts.

 

The Coronavirus (COVID-19)

It was very difficult to concentrate on anything other than COVID-19 this week. So many things are up in the air and the news changes by the minute. The entire country of Italy on lockdown and Spain is not far behind (they’re only 40 minutes away); it’s difficult to imagine. And then there is the choosing who to save thing.

I woke up in the middle of the night concerned about Paco getting the virus. His immune system is currently compromised and I was acutely concerned. I got out of bed and grabbed my laptop and learned that dogs cannot contract this particular strain.  One less thing to worry about.

Expat Life in Portugal Two Years In

“It is wiser to find out than to suppose.”

— Mark Twain

 

 

 

It’s been close to two years since I acquired my residential visa and boarded a plane to Faro, Portugal. Three bags containing all that I chose to keep and my furball companion, Giorgio. I had no idea what awaited me, but what I did know is this:  I knew that life in Portugal would be extremely different in just about every way, I knew there would be challenges to overcome, I knew that it might at times be lonely, I knew that because I was too young to “officially” retire,  I would be living on savings for quite a while, I knew that good friends would come to visit, and I hoped that I would never experience another snowstorm or see my nextdoor neighbors in Portland — the ones I shared a condo wall with. There is nothing worse than bitter, unpleasant, holier than thou, neighbors.

What I didn’t know:

  • that the weather in the Algarve is near perfect.
  • that fish straight from the ocean could be that good and so affordable.
  • that Portuguese wine is delicious and a true value
  • I didn’t know what social democracy looked like.
  • that if you look hard enough you can find just about anything you “really” need.
  • that your neighbors could be so kind and caring.
  • that out of despair can come truth.
  • that people in your life who truly love you will be there for you no matter how far away you are.
  • that you can live on a whole lot less than you ever thought possible.
  • that there are toxic people who will make their way into your life no matter where you live or how hard you try to keep them away.
  • that you can do just about anything you put your mind to.
  • that forgiveness is the best medicine.
  • that it is okay to miss what you once had so long as you embrace what you currently have.

 

The Best Parts of Living in Portugal

One of the things I didn’t realize before I moved to Faro was how perfect the location is for travel. Portugal is your first stop in Europe and from here, you can travel to many different places. There are several budget airlines flying in and out of Faro to different parts of Europe. I hate connecting flights, so I try my best to visit places where I can take a direct flight. I’ve been to some beautiful cities in France, Great Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. It’s quick and easy and my cell phone still works in all of these places. Apparently, there are some pluses to being a part of the European Union. I’ll be traveling to Manchester soon and I’m not quite sure if Brexit has spoiled my cell service there. I’m sad about Brexit for reasons I won’t go into here. I’ve enjoyed conversations about British and EU politics with my British expat friends in Faro. The United States is not the only place on earth — I wish I had been more aware of global politics in the past. Our influence is vast and more significant than I had ever realized.

I knew that the cost of living would less in Faro than it was in Maine; however, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that certain taxes were very reasonable. For example:  my property taxes on my 1100 square foot, two bedroom, three bathroom condo, are 350 Euros a year. I paid more than that per month in Maine and my apartment was smaller. I cannot help but wonder why that is. What does your money pay for in the U.S.? Taxes are automatically added in at the grocery store, restaurants, department stores, etc.; therefore, you don’t really feel it as much. Groceries are usually about a third lower than what I paid in the U.S. even with the added taxes and in some cases, food cost even less. Fresh fish is inexpensive; therefore, my diet is much healthier and tastier. Fresh vegetables are, for the most part, local and free of toxins. It’s great not having to break the bank on organic food. Laws prohibit antibiotics in animals raised for food and green growing methods produce grapes used for winemaking that is far better for you.

The weather in the Algarve is absolutely phenomenal; 300 days a year of sunshine phenomenal. Even when the weather is bad, it’s good. Summers are warm, but there is a wonderful breeze off of the Ria Formosa (the body of water near my home), with fall comes relief from the warm temperatures; a bit of rain; when it comes you want more, winter is cooler, but a sweater is more than enough to warm you, and spring (now) is glorious:  birds chirping, warm sunshine and a sense of renewal. When we do have humidity, it’s during the cooler months so you welcome and embrace it. I cannot overstress the power of all of this vitamin D and the joy of not having to shovel snow. No wonder Portugal has been the #1 place to retire for a few years running.

The warmth and sincerity of the people is not to be taken for granted. There is a reason there is so little crime and and virtually no homeless people in the Algarve:  people here take care of one another. I think that this pretty much sums-up social democracy:  people take care of people; they don’t gripe about it or show any signs of regret, they genuinely care about humanity. Sure doctors make less money and people in general pay more taxes, but the quality of life is so much better for a greater number of people. That is not to say that they don’t care about humanity elsewhere; I can only speak to what I have experienced here in Portugal.

Portugal is not a wealthy country. There are pockets of wealth, but I chose to live in Faro, a working class, mostly Portuguese city. I have never for a second regretted this decision. When I want a bit of luxury:  Quinta do Lago, Vilamoura, Porto, I go to those towns. For the most part, it’s the gastronomy that might draw me to these places. This is not to say that Faro isn’t a beautiful city with great food; plainly speaking, it is special in its authenticity — there is no pretense or putting on of airs. There is history and culture in Faro and it is preserved, however, not widely promoted. The food is fresh and fairly priced, and as I mentioned earlier, the location is ideal for travel. In so many ways, that is just about all I need.

The morning has been glorious for me in Faro. Early morning has always been my favorite part of the day. I find it to be peaceful and hopeful. Every day is a new day after all. Aside from the ability to sit out on my terrace with a cup of Joe in the morning almost year-round, there is the fact that the United States is five hours behind and I rarely, if ever, hear from anyone from back home until noon at the earliest (except for my brother Leo who calls at any hour). It’s almost like being in a state of meditation; I can breathe, think, and enjoy the quiet with little interruption. I feel so much healthier not having frantic morning telephone calls due to work or family issues. Then there is the morning walk with Paco in the park across the street from my apartment; I rarely see another soul as the sky goes from fiery red to bright blue — it’s poetic and sublimely peaceful.

 

The Challenges

Language remains a bit of a challenge for me. I have learned a great deal from Memrise (a language app), a tutor at my home, and Portuguese subtitles, but I still have so much to learn. Although many people speak English well, I believe strongly, that if I am going to reside here, that I should speak the language as much as and as often as possible. I’m at a place where I get by with my limited Portuguese. I’d like to be able to watch the news in Portuguese and have a clearer picture of what is happening in Portugal. I’ll get there; however, getting over my shyness about pronunciation is essential. I need to realize that when I say something and someone laughs, they are not laughing at me; they are more than likely laughing at the meaning of the word I just uttered by mistake and there is a big difference. And if they are laughing at me, so what. My neighbors and friends are delighted that I have committed to learning Portuguese and most people are helpful.

I have to be careful about how I talk about middle aged men in the Algarve. Careful, because the last thing I want to do is offend the people I am living among. Generalizations can be unkind and unfair; therefore, I want to express my thoughts without prejudice. What I have noticed are merely my own observations — they should not be regarded as fact. Some men have a difficult time with me; questioning who I am and why I am here. I am careful in how I approach men I do not know. The gym has become the easiest place for me to learn more about the culture and why I am sometimes misunderstood.

Women here are very open, friendly and genuine. They have been gracious toward me and helpful in so many ways. Of course there have been exceptions. As a sociologist, what I have observed is mainly cultural. Men here seem to be very masculine and reserved; women seem to be more progressive and open to societal changes. I believe that behind the scenes they are quietly persuading men to be more tolerant and modern. By seeing it through this lens, it helps me to understand that when I sense a barrier or resistance, it is probably not due to anything I have said or done.

Older and younger men are similar in their dealings with me; however, I have less interaction with these two groups. I have often complained (when blogging) that young men smoke too much and overuse cologne and I stand by these thoughts. I live next to a high school where my sample group gathers daily.

[This is one of those times when I have to tell myself not to be judgmental.]

You know how much I love to complain about food; please, please, please bring more ethnic (world) cuisine to Faro. I just keep telling myself it will come. Too few countries are represented here. However, I have noticed things are changing in a more positive direction.

Pastry is sublime. It’s not quite as decadent as it is in France, but I love it just the same. What I like most is that a good deal of the baked goods here are not terribly sweet. It’s dangerous to be around so many bakeries. I have blogged about the bread so I won’t belabour the point. What I will mention is that I love French bread and it’s not that easy to come by in the Algarve. I have to go out-of-my-way to snag it and I do — in fact I’m going to Loulé today and I intend to pick up a baguette. This bread freezes well, which makes having it when I want it fairly easy. I’ll be in Toulouse in two weeks and I’ll load up on some good bread before I leave France. Portuguese people love their bread; I respect their opinion and I have found some Portuguese breads that I do like. This one will definitely get me in trouble.

Portuguese people are proud and stubborn and often refuse to admit that they might be wrong. I was at a self-checkout counter at the grocery store recently and the machine flashed a “printer not-working message.” I left the machine and walked to another. A staff member came over to me and said, “Please use the machine where you started.” I told her that the printer was not working and she said it was. Sure enough when it was time to get the receipt, which you have to show before you leave, the printer was not working. When I went over to her to inform her, she shrugged and went to the machine to fix the roll of paper for the printer; offering no apologies. I know this kind of thing happens everywhere, but I noticed it happens a lot in the Algarve. There is some expat resentment.

 

The Surprises

I had no idea that Portuguese cotton was so cool and soft. One of my three suitcases when I arrived had two sets of cotton sheets; one set for my bed and one set for my guest bed. I have been searching for the perfect set of sheets my entire adult life. Egyptian cotton is usually a good bet; however, this bedding can be very experience and sometimes a higher thread count doesn’t necessarily translate to comfort.

Giving up having a car in Portugal was a big, scary decision. It was the one thing I was truly concerned about. Using public transportation has been easier than expected. It’s certainly not perfect, but neither is being in a car. Reducing my contribution to the carbon crisis is rewarding and fiscally smarter; although Uber has benefited greatly. The walking and cycling are also beneficial to my overall wellbeing. There is a fairly long and steep incline when returning to my building from shopping or walking. I consider the health benefits as I climb; the sweets in my bag seem less threatening. Still, there will always be guilt.

I will not lie and say that I do not miss the city. Cluttered sidewalks, honking horns, packed public transportation, and the odors of an ethnically rich urban city, remains one of the great loves of my life. When I’m feeling the loss of grit and sirens, I board a train for Lisbon and I am at once returned to my city roots. I have learned how to mitigate any yearning that rears its head — feed the beast and it will simmer down.

Gay life has been a bit challenging, it gives me a reason to travel and I know that it will improve in time — Portuguese men in my part of Portugal are more closeted than what I’m used to.

There’s more . . . but there are some things that I prefer to keep to myself.

 

To Sum Up

I am hoping that I have conveyed that the pluses far outweigh the minuses. Living in Europe was a dream I never imagined possible. My friends and family often remind me that I took a risk and they are proud of me for it. When my visitors walk out onto my terrace and light up, I know that I made the right decision to be in Faro. I also know that I can leave whenever I choose to do so. On my walk with Paco this morning, I noticed how fresh and fragrant the air was. I took in the light, the sounds, and the scents and I embraced my good fortune. I’m not sure how long I will remain in Faro, but I know that for the first time in my life, I am at peace.

 

What Happens When Your World Expands

Travel to faraway places expands your mind; how could it not. You see and experience things that you might never have imagined possible. The impact this has on your thoughts and beliefs should not be underestimated. We are the sum total of our experiences. You can read it and hear about it your entire life, but until you see it up close and touch it, you cannot appreciate its effects.

 

 

 

 

Looking Ahead

I need a hobby. It used to be poker and now it’s not — and not because I don’t want to play either. I refuse to play online, I need to look into the eyes of my fellow players. Paco is helping to fill my day in wonderful ways:  walks, playtime, training. I’ve always been a voracious reader and the ability to sit with a good book for hours at a time has been a true gift. Then there’s the improving of my cooking skills:  24 Kitchen is a 24 hour cooking channel here in Portugal and I love it for so many reasons. I especially like the Portuguese shows, they don’t have all that yelling and screaming I used to experience. They’re quiet, instructional programs. It’s a great way to learn Portuguese because the chefs and home cooks speak slowly and it’s fairly easy to follow. When the say “faca,” they pick up a knife, so you learn that faca means knife.

A part of me believes I still have another big move left in me. I have dreamed of waking up to the sound of ocean waves and I believe I can make that dream come true. I guess I need to see how life plays out; so much can happen between now and whatever lies ahead.

A crazy world full of languages — “panda’s holiday” is a series of posts for when...

 

Paco Update

Paco has now had three visits to the Vet in less than two months. He is up to six pounds, but still way too thin. His immune system is so badly compromised, there is not much he tolerates.

The vet recently informed me that the Portuguese government has to be sure no one is looking for him before I can officially register him as mine. This angers me because he was clearly abused as a puppy. No dog who had love, kindness, food, disease prevention, etc. would have been found in his condition. I was told that if someone did come forward, I’d have to battle it out in court and I would.

Paco is one of the sweetest, most appreciative pets I’ve ever encountered. He wants to shower me with love and kisses whenever I allow it — his wet nose is very cold. He’s super smart:  he’ll learn a trick on the second try and repeat it the next day without review. He’s never once made a mistake in the house and he doesn’t mess with my things. He knows his toys and loves sunning on the terrace. I sense his loving gratitude. I know that he wants to stick around for awhile and he’s trying his best to recover . . . I’m convinced he will.

A good article on why yelling at your dog is a bad thing:

http://www.you.co.uk/never-shout-at-your-dog/

We’re in the training phase of our relationship. Paco was clearly traumatized early on in his young life. The best thing I can do is show him lots of love and patience. Gaining his trust is essential for good behavior. Learning tricks is good for dogs; they want. to please you and they love treats. He’s testing me right now — he’s exploring how far he can push me and how much he can manipulate me. When I show him that I make the rules, he becomes passive and loses his alpha male persona. In my world, there is no other way. Fortunately for Paco, he’s 100% on board.

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May 21:  Paco is fully recovered, weighs almost nine pounds, has been neutered, and he couldn’t be happier and of course, that makes me happy.

Why I Chose to Move to Portugal (reblog)

I will be rewriting an update for my almost two years living in Portugal for next week’s blog.

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Magnificent architecture in Faro:  Moorish, Roman & Gothic throughout the city.

When you make a big and unexpected decision in your life, people are curious about why you went in a particular direction; it’s a reasonable curiosity. I’ve spent a bit of time on why I moved to Portugal in previous blogs; however, I thought since I am frequently asked this question, I would answer it thoroughly.

One of the most important things I learned throughout my career is to question “why” before you do anything. You want to start a business? Why? You want to get married? Why? You want to move overseas? Why? Asking this important question and answering it thoroughly and honestly, will help to insure that you are doing whatever you are doing for the right reasons — well most of the time.

So when I started to feel that U.S. politics were the cause of a good deal of my anxiety, I asked myself why I was wallowing in pity rather than working to change my situation. I had done some letter writing and personal campaigning for Hilary and then of course, I blamed myself for not doing enough. After a lot of soul-searching, it occurred to me that it wasn’t just that Hilary lost the election, it is the direction politics in general is going in, in the States. I’m not going to do a deep dive into politics; however, the big issues for me are gun control, healthcare, taxation, greed in Washington, and the negative perception Americans have of democratic socialism, www.dsausa.org/what_is_democratic_socialism. The conclusion that I came to was that I had to move to a country where the values of the government and the people more closely matched my own. In other words, why stay in a country where values will not be changing anytime soon.

Some “Why” Questions:

  1. Why am I leaning in this direction?
  2. Why is now the right time?
  3. Why is my heart telling me to do this?
  4. Why am I struggling with this decision?
  5. Why not?
  6. Why am I questioning the status quo?

 

Why Overseas?

Politics in the U.S. has become more conservative over the past few years. Some say it happens whenever you have a power base in office that leans in a particular direction (surprise, I lean left), the majority will tend to swing in the opposite direction the next election — that certainly is what happened in November 2016. This is likely to occur in any democratic society; however, in many European countries liberal policies and attitudes have a strong foundation, therefore, the bar is set higher.

The other reason I decided to move overseas is that I have never resided outside of the United States. I tend to agree with those who believe that life is not a dress rehearsal; this was an opportunity I may not have had again.

 

Why Portugal?

I have considered many other countries over the past few years. At one point I was certain I’d end up in Concon, Chile. I had been there a couple of times and fell in love with the coast and the lifestyle. Well then they had a big earthquake and read that there would be others. Sure enough, a short time later they were hit with a second large earthquake. I thought I had tempted fate far too many times to buy a condo in a high-rise there. I’ve thought about Italy because it is my father’s birthplace. I love visiting Italy; however, the instability of Italy’s government and economy concerns me. The Caribbean is too humid and has those pesky, life-threatening hurricanes; Norway, Sweden, and Denmark make it very difficult to reside there; and frankly other places were too expensive or too risky.

I had read a good deal about Portugal and decided to check it out. I’ve been told that it is dangerous to decide on relocating to a place having only visited once. Knowing that some advice is sound advice, I decided to do my homework. I read articles about retiring in Portugal, I joined a couple of expat groups on Facebook, I had several conversations with individuals who have made the move, and I returned to spend more time here.

 

Why Faro?

Most expats who decide to live in the Algarve DO NOT choose Faro. I discovered on several trips prior to moving to Faro that there are expat communities in many towns all along the coast; however, most people see Faro as a place to land or switch trains. I do not mean this in a disparaging way, so I hope no one takes it that way:  I did not want to be in the center of a tourist destination. Don’t get me wrong, tourists visit Faro; however, compared to other towns in the Algarve, Faro is not overrun. In fact, there are very few Americans in Faro.

The following are some of the wonderful things that drew me to this beautiful city:

Culture — music (Fado), theatre, festivals, food, ceramic tiles, history and art.

Portuguese — A majority of the people living in Faro are Portuguese or immigrants from struggling countries. I recently learned that when the European Union decided how many migrants each country should take based on their population, Portugal said, “We’ll take double that number.”

Faro is not as much a tourist city as say Lisbon, Porto or other parts of the Algarve. I’m happy about that.

Restaurants — I can find traditional Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Indian and several other ethnic foods and the quality and value is outstanding.

The Market (Mercado Municipal) — in a huge open space (indoor) close to my apartment, it is probably the gift I will never take for granted.

Walking city — I can walk to just about every place I need to go.

Access to everywhere else — Faro is the capital of the Algarve; therefore, the airport, trains, buses, and highways, can get you just about everywhere and quickly.

Architecture — Preserved, historic, eclectic, and beautiful. Everything is understated.

Government offices — all of the Portuguese government offices I need to deal with are here in Faro.

What more can I ask of a city?

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Catholic Cathedral in Old Town — a short walk from my apartment and where the outdoor market is on Sundays (stock photo)

 

I took these photos when I was walking to the ferry yesterday — beside Faro Castle. This is Old Town, Faro and it dates back centuries. It’s a 15 minute walk from my apartment. I come here often to read, walk and eat. Some of the remains are from the 9th century.

And by the way . . . that blue sky is real (no touching up or color added). There is no smog to speak of here.

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There are several islands off the coast of Faro that offer spectacular beaches.
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Farol Island’s lighthouse is just a ferry ride through the Ria Formosa. A 5 Euro round trip ferry ride is a great way to go to the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remaining Positive . . .

Or Shaking Off the Negative

 

Around the time that I decided to move overseas, there were a good many disappointments in my life. My 50s were not that great. Frustrated. Feeling trampled on. Left behind. Poor me. No, no, poor, poor me. I struggled with feelings and thoughts that are so foreign to me now, I’d have to dig deep to recall what most of them were . . . and that’s a good thing. I have learned that you can’t run away from your thoughts; however, you can learn to put them into perspective and focus on what truly matters.

I did not move across the pond in order to escape life in Maine. Moving to Europe at some point in my life was a dream and it happened to be as good a time as any to realize that dream.

New beginnings and distance from relationships, helped me examine satisfaction and happiness in my life; where I wanted to be versus where I had been.

 

Goals and Objectives

Objective:  a measure of progress

I have been goal oriented since I decided that peeing in a teeny toilet was far better than sitting in a wet diaper. Seriously, I have always made a list of goals. Early on it was a “to do” list; however, I later learned that there were things I needed to achieve that were more complicated than a daily task. For example:  finding a part-time job when I was a teenager was a way to achieve independence. Buying a home was a way to earn equity; I have often wondered why people who could afford to buy a home, give money to a landlord. It seems counterintuitive to me, but to each his or her own.

Setting goals helps you to feel that have direction; you get a sense for where you want to go. So much more productive than dwelling on negative circumstances in your past.

Current goal:  To learn Portuguese

Objectives:

  1. Set aside a certain amount of time each day to study
  2. Use an app to reinforce vocabulary
  3. Purchase a textbook to assist in the learning process
  4. Work with a tutor twice weekly
  5. Practice, practice, practice

Just an example of what you can do to reach a goal. Don’t forget to periodically check yourself to be certain you’re on track for success.

I went to the grocery store to buy a steak on Monday. I decided I would only speak Portuguese to ask for the steak. The butcher I have been going to for two years, smiled and said, “Excellent, you sound Portuguese.” You have no idea how good it felt to hear those words. Patting yourself on the back is an great way to reinforce the work you’re doing toward achieving a goal. It made me want to learn more so that I can someday have a conversation with him in Portuguese . . . and I will.

I have come to realize that important things in our lives don’t just happen. We have to plan for them, work towards achievement, and reward ourselves when we get there.

 

Dreams

Dreams are very different from goals; goals being more practical and easier to attain. Dreams are big and bold and sometimes seem far into the future. They require out-of-the-box thinking and intense self-empowerment. Neither is easy and we all know that is true.

Sometimes our dreams become reality by luck and good fortune and other times they are shattered and destroyed. Once we accept the ups and downs and highs and lows of life, everything becomes just a little easier. The thing the keep in mind is:  just having a dream is very positive.

Have you ever had a dream come true? When it happens (and it can and will), there is nothing else like the feeling of joy you have when you come to that realization.

I had always dreamt about crossing the finish line at the New York City Marathon. I pictured myself running in Central Park and hearing the crowds cheer me on. I imagined the support from friends and family. I even went so far as to make a space on my dresser for my medal. The day that dream came true was like nothing else I have ever achieved. The elation, the high, the sense of accomplishment and the pride, cannot be measured or fully explained; what you feel is absolute euphoria. The byproducts are even greater:  the knowledge that your dreams can come true, the desire to keep dreaming, and the willingness to do the work.

Yes, I am boasting a bit. I am proud of this achievement and I believe as long as I don’t wear my metal around my neck and rub it in your face, it’s okay to occasionally share my pride with others. I don’t have a partner, supervisor, or fanclub to tout my achievements. It’s my responsibility to puff myself up and show those around me that I am enough. Clearly, you shouldn’t have to run a marathon to know that you are, but the reality is that we live in a world of measurements, standards, and comparisons. Perhaps it’s just human and it will always be this way. You either go along with it or you’re left behind.

I like dreaming big. I enjoy manifesting my dreams and making them real. I embrace the sense of achievement and pride that comes with having a lofty goal become reality. What is that famous quote, “Shoot for the stars and land on the moon?” I looked it up and found 16 versions of the same idea.

 

A lifelong dream:  Someday I’d like to own a home where I can wake up and see the ocean. I can currently see the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Ria Formosa, but what I’m talking about is seeing and hearing waves. I’m not ready to give up on this dream. It’s not world peace; it’s much more realistic and personal.

They (the experts) say, “If you can see it, than you can have it.” I’m beginning to see it.

 

Impulse

Being more impulsive has been one of my more difficult goals to achieve. Stubborn personality traits can sometimes win out over our more whimsical desires. I always wanted to be the sort of person who wakes up in the morning and decides to drop everything and take a flight to Puerto Rico (or some other faraway place); this is unlikely to happen. I am just way too practical and my “to do” list has always been my priority. I’m taking baby steps by booking trips without spending much time weighing the pros and cons. The flip side of being more practical, is the ability to achieve goals by planning; setting aside the funds to have what you want in the future, rather than spending it all on impulses — balance is key. There are some who will laugh at this and wish they were less impulsive; our differences are part of the human condition.

 

The People You Surround Yourself With

I believe that of all the lessons I have learned in life, learning to walk away has been the most important. Toxic people cause us great harm and often, emotional pain. It is difficult to confront a person you have known for a long time and to share your truth. Often you know the kind of response you will get before you even have the conversation. Most people avoid confrontation. These same people have a difficult time with criticism. They become defensive, angry and lash out. I’m willing to give it a go, just to test the waters. However, these days after one failed attempt, I rarely go back for more. You need to weigh the pros and cons to determine how important it is to have this person in your life.

This attitude can seem cold, harsh, and uncaring. Actually, I think it’s love on the highest level; it’s a love of oneself — a love we must embrace. It’s a path to staying positive. I’ve shared this struggle on several occasions, proving to myself, that it remains a struggle.

 

Is Moving Away the Solution?

The answer is no; however, taking a step back in order to gain perspective is key. If moving away means running away and not addressing the issue, then no, it’s not a solution. Stay put and sort things out; if you still want to relocate after you’ve moved on emotionally, then and only then, would a major move be positive.

Leaving New York and moving to Maine was probably a “run away” scenario — I’m certain my close friends would share that belief. It was painful and difficult to address the issue I was dealing with from over 300 miles away. Fortunately, I was committed to facing and getting past the thing that was gnawing away at my psyche.

 

When the Past Revisits You

Many people come in and out of our lives without much fanfare. They are good people who make us smile, teach us lessons, and enhance our lives. Much of the time we’re too busy to stop and truly notice.

This week, I received a call from an individual I worked with in the culinary world 15 years ago. He told me that he’d come across my name and was curious about how things were going in my life. He shared his own success and we talked about the past. He was very generous with his memories of me and my contributions. Two things stuck out about his call:  first, we sometimes make a positive impression on an individual and never get to learn about it, and secondly, we dwell on relationships that are/were difficult, rather than focusing on the ones that enhance(d) our lives.

This individual helped me to remember some very positive events happening in my life at that time. Clearly, when I consider my past these are not the memories that surface for me. What I learned from this unexpected call, is the importance of recalling the positive memories; these memories will add perspective and hope to your current situation. I am very grateful to this individual for unknowingly teaching me an important life lesson. We have the ability to recall significant accomplishments in our past that shaped who we are and informed where we ended up. I would not be happily living in Portugal had it not been for my past experiences — why not reflect upon the happy memories and allow them to add to our current happiness.

 

A Few On-line Resources:

The Power of Positive Thinking

21 Ways to Create and Maintain a Positive Attitude

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/positive-attitude-leads-success-happiness-dr-sanjay-prem/

 

What’s Coming:

Traveling to Toulouse (return trip) in a few weeks, Manchester in April, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina in May. Look for observations, thoughts, opinions, and travel tips.

 

 

My Last Meal Imagined

Some people will find this thought morbid or difficult to digest (sorry). Not having a fear of death allows me to consider my last meal if, and that’s a big if, I was in the position to choose said meal. The photos below are not the actual dishes I would order; just having fun with stock photos.

 

My Choices

I will not go over possible scenarios that might get me to a place where I know that my last meal is a foregone conclusion. Let’s just imagine that it is a possibility. I think about these things, I do.

By the way, I won’t be cooking my own last meal. Although I like my own cooking immensely, I would rather imagine that a professional chef is part of my fantasy.

I’m going to order more than one appetizer, entree, and dessert because this is my fantasy and I can. I have a few thoughts about each savory dish:

  1. The food will be uncomplicated.
  2. It will be fresh.
  3. It will be mildly spicy.
  4. It will be served at around 6:00 p.m. I don’t like to go to bed with a full stomach and I assume I’ll want a full night’s sleep before I die.
  5. I will have a white tablecloth and white soft cotton napkins.
  6. I will have one person dining with me. I am not revealing who I would want that person to be (unless you’re a really close friend and you promise not to say anything). I can tell you it would not be a politician or religious leader.
  7. It will be hot; cold food can be delicious, but not for my last meal.
  8. There will be no photos taken.

No rules for desserts.

 

Appetizer

I love appetizers. I like that I can take a few small bites and I like knowing that there will be a break before the next course. I usually allow myself to indulge in something richer knowing that it will only be a couple of forkfuls of deliciousness. Of course for this fantasy — I know fantasy seems more like a positive, but since none of this is real — I’m well enough to enjoy food in this fantasy. Who knows, I might be 95 years old with a great appetite, deciding that I have had a good run and it’s time to rest. These are the dishes I might hope to be served:

Selections:  pan seared foie gras with some sort of fig compote on the side, grilled garlic and scallion marinated king prawns, fettucini arrabiata, Korean style chicken wings (drumettes), chicken based broth with ramen noodles and other goodies (paitan), and baked clams oreganata. They would be served with some time to savor and digest in between servings.

Caveat:  I may change up or a add a dish or two. I want to leave things fairly fluid knowing that anything can happen between now and then.

Fettuccine arrabiata

 

Entrees:  Grilled T-Bone (dry-aged, grass fed beef). I love that you get two cuts of beef:  a strip of top loin and tenderloin. I want it charred on the outside and medium rare on the inside (just salt and pepper). Perhaps a fresh rosemary rub prior to grilling. I make no apology for my choices.

How to grill t-bone steak

More entrees and sides:  A whole steamed lobster with clarified butter for dipping, creamy mashed potatoes and parsnip with a little bit of roasted garlic, sauteed broccoli rabe, turkey stuffing cooked in the cavity of a roasted turkey. I want the crispy part that was exposed during cooking. Buttermilk fried chicken — a thigh please. I might ask for seafood paella, I’m not sure yet. Not because I don’t love it; there are capacity issues to consider.

Dessert:  white cake with dark chocolate frosting (accompanied by a glass of whole milk), Toll House chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, pistachio ice cream — two scoops with nothing on top. I usually like to end the meal with something lemony. I’m thinking either lemon meringue pie or a French lemon tart topped with fresh whipped cream. I’d probably be happy with either. If key lime pie is possible, I’d go with that, also with fresh whipped cream. I know, it’s a fantasy, I should be able to have anything I want. I cannot help being practical; even when I fantasize.

By the way, I would do tastings; I wouldn’t want to be so full that I can’t eat dessert.

 

To Drink:  

I would start with a palate cleanser:  Ouzo with ice cold water

Paired with Appetizers:  a chilled French Sancerre

Entrees:  Louis Latour Corton Domain Gran Cru — the best vintage to found the wine sommelier I have employed for this occasion. If this is to be my last red, it had better be the best. I would be open to suggestions. If you’re reading this and judging my choices, you would be wise to keep in my that this is my fantasy and my taste buds; consider your own selections if can go there.

Dessert:  A very small glass of Italian Moscato d’Asti (lightly sweet, gently effervescent and low in alcohol, is mainly produced in the hilltop town of Asti, and in the nearby provinces of Alessandria and Cuneo in the north-western region of Piedmont).

When everything has been cleared away and right before I retire to my bed:  French Armagnac — the best available; I’m not that fussy. Served in a large brandy snifter.

Image result for brandy snifter glass

 

I have to say this was more fun than I thought it would be. My mouth watered the entire time I was blogging. I came to this conclusion:  I should eat these dishes more often than I do. Although I always go back to one of my college professors who started each lecture with:  “All things in moderation.” I wouldn’t want to hasten my demise.

 

What I Vowed to do this Week and How it Played Out:

I find myself very angry and upset with social media and the news. I get all caught up in drama with family and strangers over words; words worth fighting over, but it takes its toll. I decided to give myself a week away from all social media and the news.

It’s day two and it’s not working. I’m afraid the Corona Virus and American politics keeps me wanting more. I turn it on for a few minutes and then turn it off. It’s an addiction I cannot deny cold turkey. I’m telling myself that smaller doses are probably better for my state of mind. I spoke to friends over the weekend who are in a similar place. I cannot help but wonder what will come of this.

Day three:  it’s getting easier. I guess like any addiction, time and patience will prevail. A little bit of news because of the virus and the democratic primaries, but I’m rationing myself.

Day Seven: Unsuccessful experiment on the news side; I couldn’t stay away. Definitely a lot less social media and that was a good thing. I feel like I experienced less angst. I’m going to try to cut back. I’m going to cut back.

I have also developed some sort of ache in my abdominal area. I’m not sure if it’s psychosomatic or real.  The anxiety has to live somewhere; my head and stomach seem like obvious hosts.

Admittedly, I could not write about food when my stomach was bothering me. The good news is that I think I figured out that it was a machine I was using to stretch out my back at the gym. One of the staff members showed me an alternative machine that I believe will do less damage to my abdominal area; I’ve switched machines. It might also be a hernia — I’ve had two and it’s uncomfortable surgery to repair them.

 

Paco Update:

Paco has been with me for over five weeks now. He has completed his pack of antibiotics and his tail rash is getting better (difficult because he wants to lick the area and I refuse to put a cone on his head). He’ll have bloodwork done in 10 days to determine whether or not he beat the virus. On his last visit, his red blood cell count and all other readings were normal. He is animated, playful, sweet, has a great sense of humor and eats well. When he first arrived he was anxious and skittish; for the most part he’s a well-behaved,  “normal” pooch, with above average intelligence.

He a bit overly generous with kisses; a habit I may have a difficult time breaking.

I imagine I will always wonder if the people (person) who abandoned him will resurface and want him back, but I worry less each day. I have grown quite attached to my 3.5 lb. roommate.

He’s quite handsome, is he not? I intend to spoil him rotten. My

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The Value of Education and What I Have Learned

Has My Ph.D. Paid Off?

I was going to subtitle this piece:  Is a Ph.D. Worth the Time & Money? Then I realized how personal and subjective this question is for each individual who has one; therefore, this piece is about my degree.

neon signage
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi

 

When people learn that I have a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration, they are often surprised; that should bother me a bit, but it doesn’t. When my self-esteem was at an all time low a few years ago, the one thing I did not doubt was the significance education has had in my life. I am not a scholar, I will never be a scholar, and I never wanted to be a scholar. What I am is curious and ambitious. If I must put myself in a box, these are two boxes I don’t mind being in.

My ambition, from as far back as I can remember, was to make a difference in the world and be better than what my birthright dictated. My mother was a barmaid and my father was an immigrant who worked in a restaurant. As a result of our socio-economic situation, the messages that were relayed to me as a child, were clear:  you will never amount to anything. I should be clear that those messages did not come from my parents. I was fat, closeted and of average intelligence; therefore, my existence was discounted. I did not come from parents who valued education; not because they looked down on it, but as a result of their own upbringings. They didn’t understand it, but I like to think that by the time they passed, they got it.

One of my favorite stories about my dad says it all. My father retired to Florida and lived in a very modest condominium complex with mostly former blue collar North Easterners. They were good, hard working people, proud of their heritage and happy with what they were able to carve out for the later part of their lives. I would visit my father as often as possible. I enjoyed the weather, the environment, and I loved seeing my father relaxed and happy. One morning I was doing laps in the condo swimming pool and my father was sitting near the edge of the pool with his friend Charlie. This was a community of like-minded people who enjoyed meeting the friends and family of their neighbors.

I wasn’t paying much attention to the two men as I concentrated on my laps. Over the sound of my arms slamming the water, I hear my name called out; first softly and then louder and more startling. I raise my head out of the water and see my father motioning me to swim to the far edge of the pool where he and Charlie were sitting. I swim over somewhat frustrated, however, always obedient.

My dad bellows, “I was telling Charlie here about your P.h.C.”

“I don’t have a Ph.C. dad, I have a Ph.D.”

“Oh,” he says, “Is that better than a Ph.D?”

I’m not sure my father ever realized how much his boasting meant to me. The fact that my father didn’t truly understand what my degree meant, did not matter in the least. You might wonder if perhaps he was joking. Although not formally educated, he was not a stupid man. The reason I am fairly certain that he did not really understand my degree, is that he gave me a pretty hard time about continuing to go to college after I completed my bachelor’s. Even though I worked throughout my education, my father thought that I was missing opportunities to make “real money.”  My explanations about wanting to specialize in a specific discipline were, for him, an excuse for staying in school. I believe at one point, he thought that I was avoiding “real work.”

When I finished my Ph.D., he watched me graduate on stage at Carnegie Hall with all of my doctoral regalia; I am fairly certain, it was one of the proudest moments of his life. He might not have understood the educational system and how it worked, but he did know, that his son achieved something worthy of pomp and circumstance.  Having both my parents cheering for me that day, made it all worthwhile; I had always sought their approval and in many ways, I still do.

My mother often embarrassed me by telling my story to anyone who’d listen. I resented her boasting because each time she told the story, I had either acquired awards I had never been awarded or job titles I had never achieved — she embellished without apology. I realize now that for my mother, it was all about living through me. Any success I ever achieved should have been her own success; the only reason it turned out to be me, is that she had many children and that had gotten in her way. My mother thought she was smarter than anyone else and that anything I achieved came from her gene pool. We argued about this a lot. I wonder if she might have ever imagined that it was my own intelligence and ambition that might have gotten me there.

 

How My Degree Changed Me

Well into my five or sixth year of working on my terminal degree, I went into a deep funk. My dissertation advisor was concerned about me and asked me what was troubling me. I told Dr. Smith that I felt as if I was doing hours and hours of research for nought. His response has remained with me throughout my entire adult life.  He told me that in truth, he would probably be the only person who would read every word of my four hundred page dissertation. Actually, he also said that my mother would read it, but he was very wrong about that. He said, “You’re not writing so that you’ll be published or so that you prove your hypothesis, you are writing to document what you have learned and that acquired knowledge will always remain with you. The purpose of this requirement, is to teach you how to think critically. You need to question everything you believe and prove yourself right or wrong.” His words apply to so many things in my life:  my politics, religious beliefs, relationships, values, to name a few.

My family would argue that my education made me part of the liberal elite. Of course I can’t be certain about what they think since they don’t really share their thoughts with me. I get an occasional compliment; usually passive aggressive and back handed. You know the saying, “That which doesn’t kill you . . .”

The biggest part of doctoral work is research:  considering a hypothesis, completing required studies, investigating and reviewing the academic and scholarly perspective, reading and embracing the literary canon. You learn patience and perseverance, you learn laser focus, you learn to trust yourself, you learn how to listen, you learn that small rewards keep you motivated; I had a carrot that dangled in front of me throughout my studies. I wanted to be Dean of Students at a major university and I know that without that degree, it would never happen. After awhile, it wasn’t just a goal, it became an obsession. I imagine in many ways, it was an obsession that might have been applied to something a lot less positive and for that I am grateful.

It didn’t hurt that I was studying at a prestigious university in the middle of New York City. At the time, New York University was highly regarded in the field of higher education administration and I have always felt fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. Had I not been employed at Hofstra University, just outside the city, I may never have learned about a position at NYU which eventually led to my acceptance in the doctoral program.

 

Time

Time is life’s most precious commodity and I’ve often wondered if the time I spent working on my doctorate was time well spent. I have to remind myself that during that time in my life I had a devastating breakup; it was my studies that saved me from going down a deep, dark hole. By keeping my eyes on the prize, I was able to endure a great deal of emotional pain — running helped too. The answer is:  yes, I believe it was worth my time.

 

Opportunities

I am certain that had I not acquired a doctorate, I would have never been hired by the French Culinary Institute; a position that married food and education and turned out to be an opportunity of a lifetime. I was able to practice my craft, work with tremendously talented people, travel extensively, and live in New York City. Opportunities come your way when you make the effort and prove your worth. In our society, a terminal degree opens doors.

 

Money

This is a difficult one to quantify. Clearly, I made more money in my life as a direct result of my doctorate. Would I have been as successful is something I will never know. While I pursued my Ph.D., I had about nine years where I did not earn to my fullest potential –because I was at University. You cannot put a monetary value on education. The time I spend studying may not have been profitable in terms of financial gain; however, all of the less tangible gains add up to something far more valuable than money.

My tuition at NYU was waived because I was employed by the University. If I would have had to pay for my doctorate, the total would have been close to $160,000. If you look at it that way (and I do), I came out on top.

 

Would I Change Anything?

I would have studied less and partied more. I don’t think it would have hurt to get a few more Bs and a few less As. I put way too much pressure on myself and I continue to do so.

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

 

“It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts.”

Adlai Stevenson

 

Image result for college party cartoon

 

Why I am Telling My Story

I’ve been thinking a lot about education lately:  why it is so undervalued, who controls who gets to be educated, what one does with knowledge, why we repeat history, etc. I am concerned about the powerful elite who are doing everything possible to prevent a certain sector of society from being educated. Without going into theories which can be debated and debunked, I believe that education is being used as a tool to keep the white elite in power. Power means control and wealth and those who have both, will never freely give it up.

I was born during a time when education was valued by change makers. I was provided with opportunities which no longer exist due to economics and the people in power (i.e., full tuition remission, federal grants, low interest loans). However, knowing what education can do to open your mind and broaden your perspective, makes me sad for those who are no longer provided with these opportunities.

Education should be right up there with healthcare and climate change, as a top priority. Denying basic rights to humankind will be our undoing. If we keep this up, in the end, nobody will win.

 

Two Endnotes:

I am getting a bit of grief for speaking out about what I believe are political crimes. Admittedly, I don’t like that kind of attention; however, I am exercising my free speech rights and hoping to provide some of the facts for those who are willing to listen.

A shout out to Mitt Romney for being true to his faith and to the American people. I disagree with him about most political issues, but in the end what matters is truth. Thank you Mitt; you’ll be remembered for this.

 

Being Less Cynical/Shiraz Has Arrived in Faro

This week, I would like to explore the topic of cynicism.  I hear this out of Chris Cuomo’s mouth as I type, “You are so cynical.” He’s talking to Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. They’re in the middle of a playful repartee about the impeachment trial. I turned up the volume to hear what they had to say. Two intelligent and refreshingly sane men, talking about the current state of political affairs in the United States. Americans, people in general, have always been cynical, however, it feels as if cynicism is currently at an all time high. I’d like to explore my own cynicism and how I might become less so.

sky clouds cloudy earth

 

This is a difficult time for many of us. Sorting through truth and lies is never easy, but it seems as if conflicting news dominates the airwaves. Listening to individuals you thought you could trust, spin lies, makes it difficult to believe in justice and honesty. Trying not to be political here, because in truth, I’m not certain this is about politics. I think the problem is systemic and I can’t help feeling like we might be headed for the moment in time when it all comes to a head. I ask myself if what I am feeling is cynical or mistrust and what is the difference.

cynical
/ˈsɪnɪk(ə)l/
adjective
  1. 1.
    believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.
  2. 2.
    concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted standards in order to achieve them.

I cannot help feeling that a lot of what I’m hearing from our leaders is rhetoric which promotes a personal agenda. I don’t want to believe this; I want to see the best in people and believe they are sincere.

Image result for cynicism quotes

 

Why I Care 

When people say derogatory things about me, they probably say I’m controlling, opinionated, way too liberal, stubborn, talkative, dismissive, and possibly that I am self-indulging. I’m not sure I could argue about these character traits when they are applied to me. I’m being honest with myself; it’s not cynicism, I know who I am and I know that I can be controversial. People cannot truthfully say that I am cynical and I’d like to keep it that way. And I don’t mean occasionally cynical; there is a difference.

I am concerned about my own health and wellbeing. Doubting other people’s intentions stresses me out. It causes worry and anger and none of that is good for me. When I erase these doubts and tell myself that people are inherently good, that we all go adrift or make mistakes, I tend to feel better. It’s obviously a defense mechanism, but we possess these tools so that we can work on ourselves and be happier people.

When I start to think unpleasant thoughts about friends or family members, it changes how I feel about food, drink, travel and the rest of the things I love — my taste buds are soured and all things become tainted. I’m not as profoundly affected when I’m cynical about politicians; these days I almost expect them to lie and push their own agendas, no matter what the cost.

 

How Do I Prevent Myself From Becoming Cynical

If I have learned anything since I relocated overseas, it is that I need to be patient with myself. With good intention, I’d like to think that I can be a better version of my former self, if I truly put my mind to it. What it takes is practice and patience. When you repeat a behavior or practice over and over, it will become part of your automatic, natural reflexive, go-to, inventory of responses.

For example:  I’m at a dinner party and a friend announces that she is going to organize a fundraiser for children with cancer. She talks about a grand venue and the “who’s who,” who will be invited, the table centerpieces, etc. My mind might go to the reason she is planning this event. One might cynically believe that she’s doing it to make herself look good. It’s unfortunate that this is where your mind might go. In truth, does it really matter? If the end result is that a million dollars will go to help those children and their families, how you got there (as long as it’s legal) is irrelevant. I’d like to instead, go straight to the positive and praise her for her good work. We never truly know what motivates people, so why not think the best of them in all most cases.

 

Next Steps

Mindfulness — awareness of a problem or issue is a huge part of correcting the problem. Now that I am aware of my unintentional cynicism, I can work on moving toward a different way of being:

  1. Identify the pattern that causes a cynical thought or response (e.g., questioning another’s motives).
  2. Break down the cause. Did you ever discover that someone you cared a lot about, had self-serving motives? Did those motives affect the final outcome?
  3. Explore your feelings. Not as easy as it sounds; it means facing your skepticism and demons.
  4. Try out alternative responses and find one or two that serve you better; cause you less heartache or discomfort. Create a toolbox and learn how to retrieve those tools.
  5. When you immediately go to cynicism, push that thought away and use one of your new tools or thoughts. This tool is extremely effective — give it a try.
  6. Practice this over and over again until you go in a positive direction without having to think about it. Practice, practice, practice.
  7. Take inventory of your responses every so often. Sometimes we take two steps back without realizing it — as you well know, old habits are hard to break.
  8. Consider how your positive outlook and behavior has influenced others. How has this new way of looking at life affected your health and well-being? How has this affected your relationships?
  9. Celebrate your success.

If you have another way of dealing with this issue, I’d love to hear about it.

 

When People Are Just No Good

Sorry is that sounds cynical. Seriously though, there are people in this world that are just plain evil. I’ve come across a few in my life. When you discover this to be the case, my advice is walk away and don’t look back. We are sometimes cynical for good reason. Bad actors usually show their true colors over and over again. Cynicism can be a useful mechanism for defending yourself against these individuals.

 

Shiraz Has Finally Opened and You’ll Want to Visit

Shiraz Restaurant in Faro, Portugal (Pre-opening visit previously blogged)

Just a reminder that I am not a food critic and that my intention is only to promote good food.

I love the food in Faro, however, I often complain that there is not enough variety here. Prior to eating at Shiraz, I had never eaten Iranian (Persian) food; or at least I don’t believe I have. I have eaten dishes from that part of the world; however, as you well know, each country has its own unique cuisine.

Shiraz adds another interesting dimension to the Faro food scene and that makes me very happy. When the Portuguese locals experience how good it is and see for themselves the number of tourists eating at Shiraz, they will be more open to other ethnic cuisines coming onto to the scene (e.g., Korean, African, Malaysian, Turkish — to name just a few).

Shiraz has been plagued with issues that prevented an on-time opening. I have heard that it’s difficult to open a new restaurant in Faro:  work permits, old infrastructure, contractors, etc. Mr. Thomas, owner, persevered and I belief his tenacity will pay off. He recently shared that it took him three years to make it happen. I only met Mr. Thomas a few months ago, however, I find his patience and positive attitude refreshing. He is pleased to be working with Chef Ram.

Chef Ram specializes in Kababs and there are several to choose from on the menu. There are a few different preparations and meat choices featured. Simple dishes such as basmati rice topped with saffron are delicious and beautifully presented. I had a Kabab Negini (pictured below) which is made with chicken and grilled tomato sauce. The Baklava, which I learned is made with 21 layers of puff pastry, was the best Baklava I have ever tasted. Toasted almonds, pistachios and a caramel sauce made this delicacy a standout dish.

Chef Ram is extremely talented and has a smile as big as his heart; stop by the kitchen and say hello.

 

Social Media Has Me Flummoxed

It’s nice to know I’m not alone. And now you will know everything (well, almost everything).

 

As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I cannot help but contemplate the impact social media has had on my life. I am a frequent user; very frequent. Daily. Always before 6:00 a.m. and sometimes after midnight. Not the kind of addiction that might send me to rehab, but when I add up the hours, it does give me pause. Outlining the benefits, the pitfalls, the pros, the cons, and the dangers, is a good exercise for any addict.

The Good

I’ve said this before and I feel it in my heart and soul, I love social media simply for the fact that I can easily keep up with friends and family all over the world. A quick text, an email, a post or even my blog, allows for contact that keeps us connected, however vapid a connection it might be. I truly hate being on the phone for more than a few minutes; therefore, the thought that the telephone might be our only means of staying in touch is not even a remote possibility. For this, I am grateful to social media. I’ve had over twenty friends and family visit Portugal and I am certain that social media helped make that happen. I’ve only posted the best of my newish home; I keep the unsavory parts to myself. Deceptive? Yes, but effective nonetheless. Once you get here, you’re free to see for yourselves.

Another great love of mine is photography. True enough that these days almost anyone can take a good picture; actually I’m okay with that. There are still creative and talented photographers out there that blow me away. Still, allow us amateurs to have our fun. I for one enjoy seeing what people are up to; it allows for a glimpse into the lives of the people I care most about and it’s a bit of fun to be a voyeur; a sneaky voyeur at that. Our smartphones enable us to take some pretty cool photos. The professionals will continue to dazzle us with their talent.

Social media and the smartphone has given me a gift that I will not take for granted. I have always hated waiting. I’m chronically early for everything, which has meant a great deal of idle time my entire life. Nowadays, I always have my smartphone which means that I can pass the time playing with social media and reading emails and articles.

I am noticing some incredible creativity on Instagram, Tik Tok, YouTube, Facebook, etc. The ability to have your work and talent be viewed by so many people is remarkable. This aspect of social media exposure was just not possible only a few years ago. The ability for individuals to shine publicly is a very positive benefit. I am also noticing on Tik Tok and other sites, that people are working together to create content. Since I have always viewed social media as a lonely endeavor, I’m thrilled to see this happening. I think there are and will be more and more applications designed to encourage social interaction and creativity.

Social media has also provided a broad platform for individuals to share their travel and dining experience. Admittedly, you have to sort through the garbage out there; however, once you learn how to be discerning, you will find a great deal of content in this area helpful. There are places I would never have visited had I not viewed a video on YouTube or photos on Instagram. I can now research spots prior to travel, knowing what to do and where to go before leaving home. Magazines and brochures targeted a very specific audience in the past and frankly, I’d prefer to listen to those who are sensitive to my discretionary income.

I recall a while back  when people started having these brief reactions on Facebook. I’m fairly certain I didn’t like it. LOL (which I thought was “lots of love” for the longest time), LMAO, TMI, BFF, and so on, I hated all that; I thought it was all silly and vacuous.  That is until I started abbreviating my own feelings. Suddenly it was fun, cool and easy. I started watching for reactions to my posts — all part of the addiction. Did people give me smiley faces or type little pictures like this: :p? Was it a trap or was it a passing faze? If it was a faze, it sure does have a lengthy shelf life. I bet most people can’t even recall a time when we didn’t have emojis and abbreviations as part of our vernacular.

 

The Bad

I’m going to list these in order of how much these things annoy me, starting with the most annoying first:

  • You’re sitting at a table having a meal with family or friends and they spend most of their time either staring at their phones or texting. Hello?
  • I truly despise dating sites like Match.com or Tinder. The days of having a cocktail at your local bar and meeting someone for a pre-date conversation is long over.
  • People post the stupidest stuff that no one cares about. Sorting through the good and the bad takes time and can be frustrating.
  • There are many lies on social media and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between truth and fabrication.
  • Society’s young people are the most impacted by social media. I have nieces and nephews who spend most of their day locked up in their bedroom.  Social media has replaced person-to-person contact and that’s very dangerous. Texting and playing with Tik Tok, Snapchat, and Instagram, will never replace the up close and personal. I sound like an old person.
    Snapchat and Instagram Are the Most Popular Social Media Platforms among American Teens.
    • 76 percent of American teens age 13-17 use Instagram.
    • 75 percent of teens use Snapchat.
    • 66 percent of teens use Facebook, essentially flat from 2015, when data showed 71 percent of U.S. teens using the site.

I have friends who have given up on their children, claiming there is nothing they can do to stop the behavior. Is that true?

 

The Ugly

  • No matter how you slice it, lies are bad for everyone.
  • A false sense of beauty can damage one’s ego just as easily as a belief that one’s self is unattractive. A person posts a picture of themselves and they get 1000 likes and just as many flattering comments. They walk around thinking that they are superior and that false sense of superiority affects everything they say and do; eventually it backfires and then you have the crash. I’m seeing it with a family member and there is little I can do to remedy the problem. It becomes a perpetual cycle. I think it’s as bad as any ailment or illness.
  • Selfies are problematic. A selfie with friends every so often is harmless; however, I’m seeing individuals who are taking dozens of selfies a day. What are these people looking for?  Is it acceptance, flattery, feedback? Is it narcissism at its worse? Whatever it is, it’s unhealthy.
  • Individuals are losing perspective on life. Some see everything through the lens of social media. That reality is distorted and dangerous because it’s not real. Some individuals get all of their information this way; unfortunately their decisions are based on what they read and see on social media; little good can come from that.
  • Hours and hours of one’s life can be lost surfing the net or playing silly games. People are becoming more isolated and often restless because they are sitting staring at a screen. Like everything else in life, moderation is key. The question is:  what is moderation when it comes to time with social media and how does one cut back or modify their daily routine.
  • Woke (/ˈwoʊk/) as a political term of African-American origin refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice and racial justice. It is derived from the African-American Vernacular English expression “stay woke“, whose grammatical aspect refers to a continuing awareness of these issues (wikipedia). When I first heard the term I wondered what could possibly be wrong with being “woke?” The issue seems to lie once again in how we judge one another and this is where it gets ugly. If someone is not as woke as you’d like them to be, does that make them a bad person? How do you really know how woke someone is? Are you judging yourself or others harshly? Social media has sparked this movement and it feels counterproductive.

 

The Future

Self-discipline is difficult. I’m experiencing it right now as I try to learn Portuguese. It’s so easy to play with my phone or laptop instead of focusing on learning. I can justify idle time to myself in a million different ways:  my brain needs to rest, I have all the time in the world to learn a language, I need balance in my life, I have to stay fresh and relevant and social media can help me do that, and so on.

No “smartphone” zones are already a thing, but I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. I imagine a world where it will almost be like “no smoking” areas and they’ll be everywhere. I have made a habit of leaving my phone at home when I am going out to dinner with friends. There has been a time or two when I couldn’t get an Uber home, but I can think of worst things than having to walk off a meal.

I have mentioned creativity a couple of times throughout this blog. I’m certain that what we have seen on our tiny devices is just the beginning of a creative and cultural revolution. I’m looking forward to this part and I hope that you are too.

New ways of reigning in young people and their use of social media is a big consideration. I don’t know where society is going with this, I only know that it cannot continue to move in the current direction.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Resources:

Is Social Media Bad for You? The Evidence and the Unknowns

Eight Dangers of Social Media We Are Not Willing to Admit

Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society?

 

PACO

For those of you following Paco’s health issues, his red blood cell count is now normal and he’s gained some weight — the antibiotics are working. He’s nearly out of the woods and I couldn’t be happier.

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Paco already has his favorite spots for relaxing at home

Meet Paco: Adopting A Pet

Adoption is the only way to go. It reduces the number of animals being euthanized and provides a home for those in need.

 

This is Paco shortly after he was found shivering in a storm in the hills of Estoi, Portugal. The generous and compassionate Scottish couple who found him, shared that he was in a state of shock, hungry and badly matted. It appeared from his skeletal, tiny body that he had not eaten for some time. They took him to the vet to have him checked out. He had a serious eye infection, he was starving, and he had worms. The vet told them that he is less than a year old. He also had a chip, however, his information had never been entered in the system — it appears that he was abandoned. The couple’s dog Deano, did not really care for Whisper (a friend of theirs named him) and tried to attack him several times. Clearly, keeping Whisper was not an option, but they were quickly becoming attached.

The friend that was helping them cope with the situation posted a plea for adoption on Facebook and I responded immediately. I had a conversation with the friend and explained that I could adopt Whisper, but since I had a pre-planned trip to Spain with my friends Michelle and John, I could not take him home until I returned to Portugal. She said that would not be a problem and she asked me to please come and meet Whisper. My friends were joining me in Faro a few days later and I had hired a rental. I committed to going to Estoi directly from the car rental. John and Michelle are dog lovers and they knew Giorgio his entire life (my dog that passed from a heart valve problem a little over a year ago) and they were excited to meet my potential new pet.

I arrived and spotted Whisper behind a gate a few feet away and knew immediately that he would be my new companion. He is now called Paco. He looks like a Paco and he is my Paco. I have a deep fear that the previous owner will return and snatch him away from me. It’s a fear I will have to live with for awhile. The lack of data attached to his chip leads me to believe that there is a good chance he will remain with me — we’re destined to grow old together.

 

Our First Day Together

Paco has been through the horrible trauma of being abandoned. I cannot imagine what he is feeling right now. He has been with his foster parents for a few weeks and he has grown fond of them; after all, these kind people rescued him. And now they are leaving him with me. I was sensitive to his fears and apprehensive feelings.

 

Settling In

The hand-off wasn’t easy. I was excited to have Paco see his new home, but his foster mom was very sad and had a difficult time saying goodbye. We sat at a café wondering when would be the best time to leave with Paco; there was no best time. She’s gone back and forth about whether or not she wants to see him or hear about how he’s doing. I’m going to give her time and she can decide. She left me with articles of her clothing so that Paco would have her scent. She also left a piece of her heart.

 

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Michelle and I walked him home. Paco was noticeably skittish; not very familiar with traffic noise and these new surroundings. We got to the apartment and John was sitting out on the terrace. Paco ran outside and went straight for the railing where there are slats that I am certain he can squeeze through (he weighs about five pounds and he’s tall and thin). I screamed for him to stop and he froze. I know it scared him terribly, but it was my only option. We decided that I would need to cover the slats with mesh — this had never occured to me before he arrived.

We stayed outside where he was obviously much more comfortable and Michelle calmed him down. He eventually settled. Soon after, Michelle began cutting some of the knots from his coat; he’s very badly matted from the time he spend in the hills searching for food, water and a safe home. Most of the matting is close to his skin and will need to grow out before it can be cut. I’m going to give it some time. Michelle leaves for home in a few days and I can’t help wondering how I am going to manage without her patience. Paco responds to her kindness and soft voice. Thus far, I have been a distant observer. Part of me feels as if I am betraying Giorgio and the other part wants to love Paco.

The mesh has been added to the terrace, so it is now safe for Paco to be outside without supervision. He slept most of his first day with me. Michelle got him to eat and I took him out a couple of times. He walks with coaxing, but he’s obviously uncertain of his new surroundings. I know it will take time. He is alert and responds to my commands.

He slept quietly through the night in the bed his foster mom brought to me. She had also given me his eye medicine, a lead, collar, and hand written notes about the time he’s been with her and her husband. When she found him a little over two weeks ago his eyes were infected and almost completely shut. They are now open and healing; we have an appointment with my vet tomorrow.

Our first morning walk was difficult. He peed outside, but he really didn’t want to walk; clearly still not sure what this is all about. When I hold him, he tucks his head under my chin. I keep wondering what is going on in that frightened little head of his.

He seems to be house trained. It’s hard to tell because he’s spending so much time curled up in his bed.

Day Two

A soothing bath and some cutting off of the matted hair; not all the matting, just what is no-so-close to his skin. He doesn’t seem to mind being pampered.

 

 

First Vet Visit

Paco tried to run out of the vet’s office and slammed into a glass door. It was the first time he had run away from, me so I was startled by it. Good thing the door was closed because he would have run out into traffic and I’m not sure my heart could take the possible outcome.

My vet was concerned about how thin he is and said he needed to take blood. Ten minutes later he had bad news for me. Paco tested positive for two tick borne bone marrow viruses; apparently common for dogs left outdoors to fend for themselves. He really frightened me by telling me that not all dogs recover for this type of illness. He’s on antibiotics and I’ll know in 30 days whether or not he’ll fully recover. My vet said that if he’s responding favorably to the antibiotics, I will notice it. I asked my vet why he doesn’t bark and my vet replied,

“There are enough dogs that bark in Portugal so consider yourself lucky.”

 

The Next Day

Paco had another night of sleeping soundly. He’s very well behaved, but I have to keep in mind that he is in a constant state of discomfort because of his illness; apparently a low white blood cell count and arthritis are the reasons he sleeps most of the time. We were able to deal with the heavy matting so I think he is more comfortable now. He loves the sunny terrace and his dog bed. Sometimes he curls up next to me and stares at me intensely; I think he knows I’m going to take care of him.

 

Day four

I’m an early riser and Paco is not. He slept in the first few mornings, but alas, I think he’ll be a morning pooch by the end of the week. He slept in my bed last night, curled up at the base of my back. I believe that lots of nurturing and comfort is going to give him the will to heal and stay alive. He’s a quiet dog; sleeps soundly and doesn’t stir when I get up to use the bathroom. He gets out of bed and lets me know that he is ready for breakfast. Standing by his bowl is a fairly good indicator. I feed him a mix of wet and dry food and he eats it all. I will eventually switch him over to all dry food because I think it’s a better diet for his stomach and his teeth — his vet agrees.

Giorgio, my last pet, was always more concerned about going out than eating; however, Paco seems to be quite the opposite. He eats and then takes a morning nap. I’m walking him at about 7:00 a.m. It allows us both time to ease into the day. He does his business moments after we hit the grass. It’s as if he’s reading my mind — I’m not fond of long walks.

I’m noticing a big difference in his disposition; he’s less skittish, more confident and more alert. I assume it’s a combination of being comfortable with me and that (hopefully) the antibiotics are working. I’m pretty certain he is house trained since he hasn’t gone to the bathroom inside — time will tell.

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Paco today; looking a whole lot better than when he was found.

On day five Paco actually did a complete twirl when I put his food down. His personality is starting to come through. Being alone with him has been good for both of us; we’re finding our way without distractions.

Paco found his voice yesterday and responded to a barking dog outside; he sounded like a puppy. After three woofs, Paco looked over at me and sighed.

 

The Future

It is obvious to me and to Paco’s vet, that he was traumatized prior to being rescued. I’m not sure if it was his original owner(s) or the time he spent abandoned in the countryside. Whichever it was, I’m going to do everything I can to get him to trust again. I’m already sensing a strong bond between us. I was fortunate to have found a pet so full of love.

His rescuers have reached out to me, anxious to know how he is adjusting and the status of his health. They are not invasive and have offered to do anything they can to help. I’m feeling more confident that the people who abandoned him will not be showing up at my door. Honestly, since there was a concerted effort to locate these folks over the last several weeks, they’d have a fight on their hands if they did show up.

 

How I Found Paco

If you live in the Algarve in Portugal, check out Algarve Dog Rehoming, a fantastic group on Facebook. That’s how I found Whisper (now Paco). You will find many, many people who will want to assist you in finding the right pet to adopt.

 

Helpful Pieces Before You Adopt

Ten Questions to Ask Before Adopting a Pet . . .

Eight Things You Need to Know . . .

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor, possible text that says 'lesen DONT BREED OR BUY WHILE SHELTER GAN ANIMALS DIE S I bet I won' t even get one share.'

 

 

Córdoba, Spain

 

Friends were visiting from the States and it was their first trip to Europe. Over the past few months we have spoken about what we might do together during their time in Portugal. It probably would have been enough for them to stay local, however, it wouldn’t have been enough for me. I wanted them to fall in love with my country and that meant seeing the country that borders Portugal to the east. We decided on two days in Sevilla (two hours by bus — see blog from 2019) and two days in Córdoba. Why Córdoba you might ask?

Not too long ago I made a decision that has proven to enhance my life and make for a better experience for my guests. Whenever friends or family visit me from the States (or anywhere for that matter), we go someplace I have never been. If I keep going back to the same towns and cities, I will resent my guests and be bored to death. Don’t get me wrong, there are places I love to visit over and over again:  for example Tavira, a town about 30 minutes away from where I live — a French bakery, La Baguette Artisan Boulanger Français, and a pottery shop, Aroma Ceramics. These two places alone make Tavira worth a visit. There are also several restaurants I never tire of. My guests are rarely disappointed; of course, that makes me happy.

So Michelle, John and I did some touring around Faro first. They arrived New Year’s Eve day. To my surprise, the long journey from New York to Faro did not stop them from wanting to explore and sample the food of Faro.  I cooked, certain that they’d want to remain home to rest. The idea of staying up to bring in the new year seemed out of the question. I was shocked to see that they were perky and eager to stay awake and enjoy their first New Year’s celebration in Europe.

They dragged me kicking and screaming to the Faro marina where a lively band played and a fireworks display did not disappoint. I was surprised to see a few thousand locals enjoying the night together.

 

 

Being the morning person that I am, I’m not sure how I managed to stay up for the count. I spent last New Year’s eve in Morocco with friends and I still can’t remember whether or not we brought in the new year together. I’ll have to call Patrick and Sue to ask them.

Back to Michelle and John . . . After a few days staying close to home, we headed for Spain. I won’t be blogging about Seville because I have been there several times and although I love the city, I do not have much to say this time. I will mention that it was colder there than I thought it would be (close to freezing at night) and that Airbnb Adventures offered a paella rooftop experience that was outstanding. We had a challenging time leaving our Airbnb to get to the rooftop location. Our key got stuck in the door and we had to figure out a way to leave the key in the door, leave the door open and escape through another opening. I’m not sure why these things happen to me, but I’m beginning to wonder if I bring them on myself. No matter, we got out safely, made it to our dinner on time, and dealt with the lock issue later in the evening. I must admit I was a bit cranky, but my friends know how I am and put up with me.

 

Córdoba

The first thing I want to say about Córdoba is that everyone should visit this magnificent city. It has a rich history, it is walkable, it is breathtakingly beautiful, and it is very affordable.

 

 

We took a bus from Sevilla to Córdoba. It is an easy and comfortable two hour ride at about 24 euros round trip. The bus takes you to the city centre and then you can either walk or Uber to your destination. Google maps showed that we were about 23 minutes from our Airbnb by foot, so we decided to walk. Technology is only great when it works and this time it did not; we were taken about 1.5 kilometers from our Airbnb and I had to find another means of getting there. About 10 minutes later and none the worse for the wear, we arrived at our Airbnb. This two bedroom, two bath apartment was on four levels. We had a cozy living room and kitchen on the first floor, a bedroom and bath on the second and third floors, and a rooftop terrace on the forth. Honestly at $217 for two nights (all total), I think the place was a find (click for listing).

 

Salón con muralla Romana auténtica

Casa de diseño a 200m de la Mezquita

Casa de diseño a 200m de la Mezquita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That stoned wall you see in the first picture is actually the original wall built by the ancient Romans — it is the wall that borders the Jewish Quarter and built in the first century; how’s that for experiencing history.

I will once again reiterate that I am not a travel writer, therefore, I will not share the history of this beautiful city or everything we did while visiting. There were some highlights in our 2.3 days in Córdoba and I am happy to share those with you. Part of the reason travel is so much fun for me, is that I do not chronicle every moment. I am happy to pass along details to any of you, please ask.

Staying in the centre of Córdoba, in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, was a good call. We were minutes from everything you’d want to see and experience while visiting. Arriving on a Sunday made it somewhat difficult to shop for groceries (eg., coffee, milk, wine), but with perseverance, we did find a Chinese all-in-one shop. To our pleasant surprise, the shop even had an Iberian paté we all three thoroughly enjoyed. We were also smart enough to bring some cheese, jamon and crackers from Sevilla. We were hell bent on enjoying our rooftop terrace while the sun was shining and we could experience the tiny bit of warmth we had left. It was all glorious:  our friendship (over 20 years), the view from our terrace, the historical significance of the place, the sun, and the fact that we’d made it there. These are the moments in life we live for.

We had tickets for a genuine Flamenco concert — music and dance — that evening and we were priming for it. We had dinner at a beautiful tapas restaurant close to our Airbnb. It wasn’t the best meal I’ve had, but I certainly enjoyed the atmosphere and the Spanish wine John selected. The Flamenco concert,  was to be performed within the Arab baths of Santa María dating over one thousand years.

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The concert was about 90 minutes in length, the performers were all sick with a cold (except the guitar player), and we had front row seats (there were only 9 people in the audience). I have often wondered if I would enjoy a Flamenco concert and it would be unfair not to comment:  I will say that first of all, I’m glad we did it and second, I would not do it again. I might also add that John caught whatever germs were spread that night.

The next day was very special and truly unforgettable. It would be our only full day in Córdoba and I was determined to make the most of it. I woke up early and went straight to The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba (Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba).

 

If you do nothing else in Córdoba, you must visit this significant landmark. It dates back to the 12th century and it is Islamic, Roman, Byzantine, and Christian, all rolled into one truly magnificent place of worship. You can spend hours and hours exploring this historic site. Afterwards, I ventured out to see the city by day.

The Roman Bridge may have been my second favorite site.

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The bridge flows over the Guadalquivir river; grand and gorgeous is all I can say about it (last photo from stock pics on the internet).

After a bit of lunch back at the Airbnb, I walked about three minutes to a hammam where I had an appointment for a warm bath, a sauna and steam, and a massage. The Hammam Al Andalus, is one of the most beautiful I have ever been to and worth every euro I paid (70).

 

I returned to our Airbnb just in time for a pre-dinner cocktail. We had reservations at Casa Mazal Restaurante Sefardi; Middle Eastern, Jewish, Spanish and very authentic. We did the tasting menu and once again John chose the wine — I can pick a good wine, but John knows wine better than I do. The restaurant was quaint and the service excellent. I would have to say that I enjoyed the appetizers far more than the main dishes, but overall, this restaurant did not disappoint. My friends usually claim that they will only take a small taste of dessert and more often, eat at least their share; I’m used to that.

It was an unusually chilly night is Spain, so we hustled back to our apartment and headed straight for bed; very comfortable beds I might add.

Córdoba is a place I will someday return to. I could have spent a week walking, exploring, eating and drinking. It’s only four hours for me by bus (3.5 hours by car) and I know there was more to experience. The history and the melding of so many cultures over the last two thousand years, makes Córdoba a city to behold and cherish. It’s Unesco World Heritage Centre will be forever etched in my travel memories.

 

Paco

This is Paco, my new companion. Paco is a rescue dog; I will be officially introducing him to you next week. The importance of adopting a pet, rather than purchasing one, has been an urgent message I have been wanting to relay for quite some time.