The Air Travel Battle Within

 

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Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on Pexels.com

I have been struggling with something for years and I’m afraid a recent situation has caused my concern to come to a head. My issue is air travel. No doubt many share my uneasiness and much has been written on the topic. Here’s my take:

Air travel sucks big time! Unless of course you have a private jet and “people” to handle the details of your travel. I’m not in that category of flyers and I doubt I will ever be. I had an incident a few days ago at Edinburgh airport that still has me in cold sweats. A flight delay of over an hour led to an unfortunate domino effect with my connecting flight and had I not advocated for myself, I would have either had to spend the night in either Cardiff or Lisbon. Eight hours sitting at the airport was gruesome and disturbing, but an overnight at some airport hotel would have been more than I could bear on Sunday. It’s happened before and it’s never a pleasant experience.  What troubled me most was the airline’s handling of the problem. Their first solution was to put me on three flights which would get me home sometime after midnight — this was being negotiated at 1:00 p.m. I was fairly certain that with three flights pending, a delay or cancellation was almost a guarantee.

I asked about a direct flight I knew was scheduled later Sunday afternoon. “Oh no, that’s not possible,” I was told. When I questioned the denial of my request, I was told that the airline going direct was, “not a partner airline.” The one great thing about being a New Yorker is that you are taught to never accept an initial “no” response. I gently pressed and was told that I had a good case because my handler was having some trouble getting me on the Lisbon to Faro leg. A tiny corner of my brain was hopeful. There were at least 10 people behind me on the customer service line. Several of these troubled individuals even made their way to the counter to beg for assistance. When I heard some of the issues being presented I thought that my own issue was rather insignificant. I even allowed one woman to remain at the counter so that her problem could be resolved before mine (I knew I was not going anywhere, anytime soon). She was traveling to Australia; she somehow misplaced her boarding pass, and was being sent to several different help desks for a new one. This particular help desk did not have a printer and sadly, this distraught and panicked air traveler missed her flight. She had a family of four waiting for her arrival and I could not shake her justifiable despair.

I forgot to mention that my help desk person was mild-mannered and persistent. She asked me to stand in front of her so that no one else would interrupt. She was put on hold with my airline (I won’t mention the name until this is resolved) for a very long 10 minutes. She was able to get the airline to “sort of” commit to a refund of my ticket. She went ahead and booked me on the Ryanair direct flight. Some of you may read this and wonder if Ryanair got me home. To be fair, Ryanair has become a more efficient, friendlier (I may be pushing it) airline. I was grateful despite the fact that my flight was seven hours away. It was direct and there were five or six nice bars at the airport. I knew that I was about to have a real martini in a real martini glass — still haven’t found one in Faro.

A really great thing happened at the bar I chose to visit. I had been having major iPhone issues over the past week and I asked my neighbor if he knew how to force close an app. My Waze app was doing flips on me and I couldn’t erase it. He tried to help and we both failed; however, he asked me if my screen had been replaced recently. I said that I had replaced it a few weeks back. He asked me if I had gone to an iphone store and I laughed because that store doesn’t exist in Faro. I told him about this Chinese repair shop near my apartment and he said, “I hate to tell you this but you got a bad screen.” If I’m going to be truthful, I thought his diagnosis was wrong. Turns out he was right. They replaced my screen with a new and improved screen and all is well in iphoneland . . . for now. My airport angel strikes again! Kenneth took my mind off of the delay for 90 minutes and now I have a London acquaintance.

Anyway, I digress. This kind of delay can cause more anxiety than a fourth cup of coffee and I am once again questioning air travel. After all, I can take a train or drive to several other countries and I can walk to my own local paradise. There are obvious advantages to remaining closer to home:  save money, eat healthier, less stressful, do not have to leave Giorgio with a dog sitter, explore local sights you may not see otherwise, and countless others. Still, my hunger to see and experience as much of the world as possible while I have the energy and the means, is not an easy urge to resist.

Prior to opening my laptop to write, I researched the airfare for Sicily. I also have not been able to shake the idea of an African Safari. That should tell you the should tell you the clear winner of this battle.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

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Last night’s sunset from the back patio of my apartment. I should probably have opened the window before I took the shot. Two glasses of Sangria in, I really wasn’t thinking straight.

Exploring Edinburgh and Other Random Bits

One of the many reasons I moved to Portugal was to be closer to the rest of Europe so that I could travel more easily from country to country; and that includes countries on the African continent. I will get to Edinburgh in this piece, I promise.

My first country outside of Portugal to visit was Scotland. It’s was only a three-day trip because Giorgio is still getting acquainted with his new home and I don’t want him traumatized further by not having me around.

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Perhaps I’m over thinking Giorgio’s state-of-mind

The great thing about living in Faro is that you have easy access to every form of transportation and getting around is inexpensive. I had to drop Giorgio off by his sitter and I was cutting it close for time, so I took an Uber to the airport — less than ten Euros. I’m here on a temporary residence visa until my SEF (the immigration office) appointment in August, so of I was somewhat unsure of the complexities of travel from one Euro country to another. The border patrol asked questions about my visa status; however when I shared that I had an August appointment they believed me. When I arrived home last night when I told the border patrol officer I had moved to Faro, he actually said, “Good that you got away from Mr. Trump; smart fella.” It was almost midnight and I was spent from a day of travel, but I said to him, “How could you have known that one was of my reasons for leaving the States?” It was a wonderful welcome home.

I am not going to make this a travelogue about Edinburgh, but I have included a few photograhs and I will say this:  if you’re looking to travel to a city filled with history, incredible architecture, welcoming people, great restaurants, fantastic museums (mostly free), great transportation, many Airbnb options, and the desire to have hassle-free fun, Edinburgh is the place to go. Old Town, where I stayed, reminded me of the East Village in New York; filled with ethnic restaurants, young people and grit. I cannot say a negative thing about this Scottish treasure. If you would like more details about anything I am sharing, please write.

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This was a Japanese restaurant in the Edinburgh airport where your food passes by you on a conveyor belt. I had never seen anything like it. The dishes were  color coded according to the price. It was fast, delicious and what I thought was a brilliant concept (especially in an airport).

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This not-so-attractive bridge in the city centre was a good spot for a photo. The wall was a bit high for good pictures of the city, but if you leaned over, you got to see some great sights. I got the hat for four pounds at a thrift shop; it still at the original price tag on it.

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The Scotland Royal Museum is always free, open seven days a week and had some beautiful exhibits. This was a fashion exhibit — loved it.

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I walked into this sweet little coffee shop and the owner was being very playful bantering back and forth me with about what I’d been up to the night before. I didn’t expect it t all and really enjoyed his company. It truly felt like you were visiting an old friends home and his latte was perfection. If I lived in Edinburgh I’d return to The Coffee Mill.

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I discovered this grave on a guided tour. If you ever want a quick overview of a city, do a guided tour as soon after you arrive as possible, then you get to see where you want to spend your time. This is the grave of Grayfriar’s dog Bobby. When Grayfriar died in 1872, Bobby went to where he was buried and refused to leave his grave site. Although stray dogs without a license were normally put down, Bobby was so loved by the locals, a license was purchased for him and a dog house was constructed so that he could remain near the grave. He lived to be 16 years old and was loved by all in the neighborhood. Today there is a statue of Bobby and a pub named after him next to the cemetery. I’m hoping that all of this story is true. A tombstone erected where Bobby was buried and visitors lay fetching sticks at his grave.  If you don’t love this story, we are no longer friends.

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The Edinburgh Castle (click for more info), dates back to the 1100s and has so much fascinating history, I could not pretend to do it justice — go see it.

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These little stairways and courtyards exist everywhere and one is more interesting than the other. You just have to walk and discover.

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The Royal Mile is commercial, but closed to traffic, filled with happy people and historical sights. It takes you right to the base of the castle.

 

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I climbed “close” to the top of Arthur’s Seat for a truly magnificent view of Edinburgh. Admittedly, it wa quite the workout, but I’ll bever regret the sweat and time it took it do it. I also got to meet a lost jugger. I helped her find her way and she was great company climbing down. Random strangers can make your day. This video may give you a glimpse of this spectacular vista.

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The view of Arthur’s Seat from my Airbnb. I had no intention of climbing to the top, but it beckoned me and I could not refuse the invitation.

I’ll wrap up by telling you that choosing Edinburgh was not a long, thought out decision. I knew that a getaway would be good for me and it was just that. I came back with a true appreciation of the new home I have chosen. As I passed my new neighborhoods in Faro, I marveled at its history and beauty. Edinburgh and Faro look and feel nothing alike, but isn’t that the beauty of the planet we inhabit.

On another note:

The piece below was purchased quite a few weeks ago. I haven’t mentioned it because I was waiting for it to be hung in my bedroom and then I was going to snap a shot of it and show it off. I’ve been searching for a tile tradesperson willing to hang it on my wall (the way I want it to be hung). I’m closer to finding “that” person. What I love about this piece is that the original artist made one of the figures ambiguous. When I first looked at it I thought for certain it was two women. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter and that is preciously what I love about it. I love the posters from the early 20th century; I especially love this one. I probably should have made sure the tiles were straight before I photographed it — you can see why I love it.

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16 Tiles, painted and then fired; original poster circa 1920. I met the artist and was thrilled to discuss where and I how I intended to hang the tiles. From a ceramic shop in Olhão. I promised her I’d send a photo of where it will live. Artists care a great deal about how their work is displayed and why shouldn’t they.

Lastly, we lost one of my favorite celebrity food personalities this week. Anthony Bourdain was a complicated person; he was candid, intelligent, creative and paved the way for so many. I had the good fortune to meet him and work with him at The French Culinary Institute. He was a gentlemen and truly enjoyed mentoring students. He will be missed by many.

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Not to be Chasing the Next Opening

The culinary scene in the United States has been pretentious and ever-changing for many years; however, the last 20 years has been explosive; not only in the States, but all over the world. While working at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, I felt obligated to stay on top of the restaurant industry; knowing everything I could possibly know about the latest and greatest chefs and places to dine. Everyone in my work circle was an expert. If you were unaware of the last Michelin star winners or had no idea who was nominated for a James Beard Award, you were considered unambitious and not very highly regarded by your peers and superiors.

When I moved to Maine and started a restaurant consulting business, nothing changed for me. In fact, it was only amplified a notch or two. Portland has a very competitive culinary scene, and boasts the second highest number of restaurants, per capita, in the country; second only to San Francisco. I’m certain there are other cities in the States that would dispute these numbers. The number of monthly openings and closings in the restaurant business was staggering for a small city. This known fact, kept writers and critics scrambling for the next scoop. I did not like how pretentious and cut throat it felt. Some writers thrive in that environment and others, like me, are repulsed by it.

I made a decision to leave all of that toxicity behind when I moved to Portugal. Faro has a good many terrific restaurants and some of them are exceptional, but for the most part, what you find here is delicious, fresh and reasonable. Perhaps because I spent so many years eating at the best restaurants in the world, all I want now, is good, honest food.

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This is a simple mozzarella, tomato, basil, and olive oil dish from L’Osteria in Faro. I could have done without the bread sticks, but the chef used them to hold the layers together — oh well.

Faro restaurants are easy to like. There are many traditional Portuguese eateries everywhere. I’m finding the food fresh, inexpensive, and delicious. There is nothing fancy about it. It’s more about traditional cooking and eating with friends. Lots of thin paper napkins, but I assume this is meant to keep the cost down.

I have tried several restaurants in Lisbon, Sintra and more than a dozen in Faro and so far, I have not paid more than I thought I should for a meal. I did splurge, more than once, at a seafood restaurant in Lisbon in the Chiado district. Sea Me had the most beautiful local shrimp I had ever seen and they were not cheap — still, less than you would pay for lobster in the U.S. I’d do again in a minute.

There have been a few disappointments:

  • I have not been crazy about the beef. With the exception of a steak I had at a small restaurant in Tavira a few weeks ago. It was Brazilian and the meat was tender and flavorful. I also had lunch at a gaucho style restaurant at the mall here in Faro and that beef was pretty tasty. Must be the hormones they inject in the cattle back home.
  • They tend to serve french fries with many of the dishes. You can often ask for boiled potatoes and these are delicious and better for you. I drizzle them with olive oil, and a little salt and pepper.
  • They often have dishes they call soup and they arrive without broth. Still not sure what that’s about.
  • Why do I have to ask for no carrots in my salad wherever I go. I had the same problem when I lived in North Carolina and South Carolina. Just not my thing.
  • Meat is often pulverized (flattened out). I assume this is done to tenderize it, but again, I prefer they not beat it to death (you know what I mean).

Wine in the U.S. is often marked-up way up. Wine lists in the States are more complicated than my college economics class. What I find here are beautiful Portuguese wines that are very reasonable and delicious. I can order a nice bottle for under 10 euros and bring home what I don’t drink. In the supermarket, I can buy good everyday whites and reds for three or four euros. Nothing like the repulsive two buck chuck you could once buy at Trader Joe’s. And cocktails at restaurants and bars are also priced well. The café at the base of my buildings serves cocktails for a little over two euros.

I’ll save my critique of the pastry in Portugal for another post. I still have a lot of research to do.

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My favorite shrimp in Portugal are very large and very red. I cooked some a few weeks ago and turned a white cloth napkin, pink. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

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Stuffed squid, frites, salad, and a beer a few hours before dental surgery. I discovered this place while walking around my still newish neighborhood. The entire meal with chocolate cake for dessert was eight euros. I’m still shaking my head.

 

Edinburgh, Scotland on Friday . . . stay tuned. Reservation at Angels With Bagpipes in Old Town.

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When in Portugal . . .

How a Change in Routine, Can Lead to Greater Self-awareness

Yesterday I misplaced my wallet and today I spilled a cup of coffee; careless and frustrating. These are the things that happen when your daily routine changes and you’re not paying attention. There is danger in trying to recreate your old life in a new environment. It’s like trying to put up a tent when the wind is blowing at 50 mph; it just doesn’t work.

Portugal is a beautiful country with wonderful people, but it is not the United States. It’s land boundaries have not changed since the 13th century (Portugal has a fascinating history); that’s a lot of time to establish yourself. Still, in many ways, it feels like a young country.  I’m sure that has a great deal to do with independence, the European Union, difficult economic times, sharing the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, its size, and a host of other considerations.  It is the country I chose to reside in and now it is time embrace its riches.

I have noticed some things about the Portuguese culture that I love and admire (these are generalizations I’m willing to defend):

  • People are extremely quiet in restaurants. A crowded restaurant in the States is loud; very loud. It almost appears as if people are trying to be louder than the next table. The Portuguese people are aware of the volume of their voices and they are very considerate. I’ve also noticed that background music is just that, it’s in the background. Eating in restaurants is very pleasant.
  • Your neighbors are very private and do not try to get in your business. This was something I loved about New York City; however, I did not find it to be true in Maine, North Carolina or South Carolina.
  • Public festivals are very calm, clean and the people are happy to be there.
  • I have been noticing that older people (70 and up) are out and about and that many of them are impeccably dressed. Women wearing skirts and jackets and men in sports coats and often wearing a tie. Lots of smart hats and interesting walking sticks. I guess that I’m paying more attention to the older population as I approach 60 (rapidly).
  • People still use cash!
  • Patience seems to run rampant here.
  • Items are well-priced. I have not seen any price gouging; I don’t think the Portuguese would tolerate it.
  • Whenever you ask, “Fala Inglês? the Portuguese reply, “A little bit,” and then they often speak beautiful English and they are extremely helpful. Very gracious people.
  • The streets are clean wherever I go.
  • I was never exposed to Portuguese olive oil in the States; there are many varieties and it is as good here as it is in Italy and Spain.

The point is, I am adjusting to my new surroundings and I am falling in love with Faro. I have had to abandon some of my old practices and ways of thinking. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I was going to spend the rest of my life in Maine. Funny how life is, you never, ever know where it’s going to take you. Still, we live our lives as if we know what the future will bring — strange that. I have a better understanding of what was meant (click for more info) by the old adage, “When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do.”

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A food festival in Faro at a beautiful public park. I was struck by how calm it was despite the many people. The food was local, delicious and cheap! Note the tile on the ground — it’s everywhere!

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Beautiful architecture throughout Faro. I would have loved to have seen it in its heyday.

 

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Beautiful and quiet beach in Almancil. A bit of a walk to get there, but very much worth the effort. It’s a short bike and train ride away (20 minutes).

 

A day in the beautiful town of Loulé, where there is a whole lot more worth experiencing than IKEA and an outlet mall.

 

 

Giving Up My Car

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My love affair with the bicycle goes back to my paper boy days in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. I was ten years old and I went to my dad and asked him for a bicycle. My dad had nine children and he was a blue-collar worker, so asking for anything made me feel guilty and ungrateful. This was different, I told him that I had applied for a paper route and I needed a bike to deliver newspapers in South Brooklyn. My dad had a very surprised look on his face; wondering if I could rise before the sun and handle the elements. Looking back I realize just how much faith he had in me.

I got a shiny new red bike with a big basket in the front for my papers and I started earning my own allowance. I held onto that bike for a few years, but clearly it was worse for the ware and by the time I was a teenager, it was time for a new bicycle. My sister Debbie and I ended up at a bingo hall one Saturday night. I can’t tell you how we were allowed to gamble at ages 14 and 15, but we were and we did. I managed to win the big jackpot of the evening: a whopping $75 and with my winnings, I bought my sister and I used bikes. Mine was a yellow Schwinn with a white seat and my sisters; well I don’t recall. That Schwinn took me to Coney Island, our neighborhood bowling ally, the community pool, and on really hot days, for a bag lunch under the Verrazzano Bridge — that had to be the coolest spot in all of Brooklyn.

That bike was stolen a couple of years later and I was so angry about the theft I refused to purchase another bike. I guess I realized that this personal protest was not hurting anyone but myself, so I decided to upgrade to a really nice blue ten speed. I don’t recall much about this bike except that my tire got caught in a trolley track and I went down hard. In fact, looking back I have had three or four bad bicycle accidents throughout my life. Still, bicycles have been a means for me to do great things and see so many interesting places.

I did the Boston to New York AIDS Ride three years in a row and was able to help a great cause and meet new friends. I did a week-long bike ride through Provence I will never forget. Biking through Tuscany was fantastic and the list of places goes in. Despite the aforementioned serious accidents, I am committed to riding for as long as I possibly can. In order to stay healthy in the Algarve and reduce my carbon footprint, I have decided not to get a car and to do more cycling and walking. Buying a used bicycle has not been easy in Faro. I ended up buying a mountain bike last week, only to hear from the owner of a bicycle I really wanted the next day. A bike rental shop in Tavira was selling 10 gently used bikes and the style and price were exactly what I wanted. I decided to buy one of these used bikes and sell the one I had just purchased. I must have had good karma last week because the owner of the bike agreed to deliver the bike to my apartment and when he arrived he said, “I brought you a new one.” Honestly, brand spankin’ new, right out of the box, and I got myself quite a deal (see photo below).

I’ve learned my lesson, albeit the hard way, and I have purchased a good helmet. I’m excited to see Faro and the Algarve by bicycle. I’ve already mapped out a route to the beach and the cinema, and I’m certain I’ll be using it for trips to the mercado.

Not having a vehicle is sometimes frustrating:  waiting for trains, complicated transfers, the loss of spontaneity, the freedom of mobility and the joy of a stick shift. If I’m going to be honest with myself, I love having a car and I love driving a car. However, this is a time in my life where being practical and smart, takes precedence over convenience. Truthfully, I can and will survive without a car. Waiting for the train will teach me patience; I can plan trips to IKEA and the mall; walking and riding has far greater health benefits; and the money I save on gas, insurance, and maintenance will help take me to places far more exotic than the grocery store — a short walk or ride from my apartment.

Riding in a foreign country is a bit scary, but fear can get in the way of true adventure and I won’t allow this to happen.

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The mountain bike I purchased for 70 euros and then sold two days later for sixty euros — not a very lucrative proposition.
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My new Orbit. The right price, the right height, the right color, perfect handlebars for an old guy, fenders, kickstand, a light in the front, a cool bell, and a rack above the back tire. I’m good to go!
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Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com
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Photo by Daniel Frank on Pexels.com

Far Away From American Politics

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Student Protest on Avenida 5 de Outubro, Faro. There were hundreds marching on Monday afternoon.

I thought I would leave the U.S. and stick my head in the sand — well that’s not happening.

BBC World news is a great source of global news for this expat. On one hand what is happening back home is extremely important to me, on the other hand I don’t appreciate news outlets like MSNBC or CNN because they focus almost exclusively on American leadership.  The United State’s influence on the world is vast and substantial; however, there are other governments, economies, climate changes and so on, making news. Covering Donald J. Trump all day, every day, is fueling the divide all over the world and an hour with Stormy Daniels is just one hour too much.

There are a few other reasons I enjoy BBC world:  The commentators don’t usually get into pissing matches — they tend to listen to one another and remain professional. I love the way they cover weather all over the world; sometimes pointing out even the most remote locations. And the graphics are phenomenal. It also feels less political; this may be because everything seems over-the-top political in the States these days. The humor feels authentic and the British accent is easy on the ears. Admittedly, the countdown for the Royal wedding is slightly annoying.

The point I’m making is that cultural differences usually show up in the media. I can’t say much about Portugal’s news networks because I’m not yet at a point with the language where I can comfortably watch the news. It is however, my intention to watch the news here in Portugal sometime in the near future and it is actually a good way to learn Portuguese. From the little I have seen here, soccer dominates. The following are some of my observations based on “real life” situations:

I have been meeting Portuguese natives nearly every day and none of them ask me why I moved to Portugal. It was the first question anyone I met in Maine five years ago, would ask me, “Why Maine?” It almost made me feel that now matter how I answered the question, I’d be offensive or say the wrong thing. I remember deciding just to say that I was ready to leave New York (my sense from living in Maine was that many did not appreciate New Yorkers). The Portuguese don’t really seem to care why I came here, they’re just glad I did. I never get the sense that I am not welcome here. There may be some expats, however, that would disagree.

I have read comments on expat Facebook sites about government workers who are dealing with visa applications. There have been numerous comments having to do with resentment toward foreigners. Individuals stating that they are being treated poorly in government offices. I cannot say I have had this experience personally, but I can say, like most governments, there seems to be a great deal of red tape — I’m not sure that’s related in any way, to expats.

 

Photos:  The town of Tavira, about 30 miles east of Faro not too far from the Spanish border, artists, bars, and a great place to walk, pop. 25,000

 

I recorded his video for a media company in the U.S. It’s rough around the edges and I sound like Kermit the frog, but I’m including it for those of you I haven’t met and for my American family members who believe I have been taken hostage:

 

Keep the comments coming; they are much appreciated.

This Will Take Some Time and Patience

 

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The view from the Hotel Faro, my favorite watering hole

Whoever said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” did not live in Portugal. I knew some things would be different and in fact, I looked forward to change. In truth, I haven’t even been here three weeks and I hesitate to start complaining, but heck, it’s my nature to piss and moan so why wait.

I purposely decided not to purchase a vehicle for several reasons:  1) I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint, 2) I was hoping I’d get more exercise by walking, and finally, 3) I figured I could save a little money (more in the bank for food). I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying the Faro bus schedule. It’s complicated, convoluted and I have no idea where buses end up in the city. There are at least 10 different bus lines very close to my building, but I can’t figure out how to get from A to B. So I decided to go to the mall Saturday. The schedule clearly said that the number 5 goes to Forum every 30 minutes on Saturday. I took my time and meandered over to the bus stop; there I sat for over an hour. You guessed it, no bus. The good news is that Uber is cheap and a car arrived in minutes to whisk me off to the mall.

Intervalo is intermission in Portuguese and if you love film, be prepared. I recall now that this same thing did happen to me in Spain a number of years ago, but frankly, I wasn’t expecting it and I was startled. I was watching a dumb American film at the mall last week and the film stopped mid-scene for an “interval.” Although it is clearly a minor issue, I have several problems with it:

  1. If you’re going to have an intermission, why do it in the middle of a scene?
  2. Part of the excitement of a film is anticipating what is coming next and I’d rather not have interruptions. Holding it in because the film is that good, is a good thing. It’s two hours and easy to prepare for, no?
  3. Because I had time to kill, I felt compelled to purchase a snack and although candy at the movies is a lot less expensive in Portugal (1.25 Euros or $1.55 for a pack of M & Ms), I don’t need the calories.
  4. I’d rather not be thinking, “I like the way we do it in the States better.”

I guess I needed the comfort of an American film as part of my adjustment to a new home abroad. It worked, I felt better, and I don’t see it happening again anytime soon.

The good people of Portugal do not pick up their dog’s poop! I’m serious, I have to look down everywhere I go. After living in Maine where you rarely see poop on the ground, this has been difficult to deal with. Poop bags are on every other lamp-post and they still don’t pick it up. What makes this insane is that the Portuguese recycle everything. There is a bin for just about every kind of trash and people are psychotic about sorting it, but they leave the dog shit right there on the sidewalk. If it kills me I’m going to be THAT guy that calls out every pet owner in Faro who doesn’t pick up their dog’s poop.

Gyms don’t open until 9:00 a.m. and they’re closed on weekends; now how silly is that? People here do not workout before work. Back home, gyms were full by 6:00 a.m., and how can they be closed on weekends? Isn’t that when you catch up on workouts you may have missed during the week? Perhaps it’s when you extend your workout a bit? I’m a big believer is providing employees a good quality of life, but as far as I’m concerned, if choose to be employed in a gym, you should expect to work weekends; sort of like restaurants and grocery stores.

Shocked, stunned, bewildered, and frustrated, that I have not received a single piece of Portuguese mail in my mailbox. I’m getting packages from Amazon and even a couple of forwarded pieces of mail from the U.S.; however, no Portuguese mail. Perhaps the post office knows I can’t read the mail anyway. My bank here will not allow me to change my U.S. address until I show them an official piece of mail with my new Portugal address. Considering I have owned my condo for over four months, it doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss my AARP junk mail. And by the way, I don’t have a U.S. address Mr. Banker.

So what I am about to share is very embarrassing:  my attorney contacted me and said, “Have you checked your mailbox?”

I was extremely insulted and fired back, “Yes I checked my mailbox.”

I was shown my mailbox on move-in day and used my key and the mailbox opened. I thought, “Good the key works,” and I have been checking the mailbox everyday since; as I shared earlier, no mail. Last night I met the head of the condo association in the lobby.

She said, “I  will put all this in your mailbox,” and looked to her right. I thought that was odd because my mailbox was on the left. Well, today I went to the mailbox she sort of turned to and alas, it was my mailbox. I have been checking the wrong mailbox for three weeks. How my key worked on another person’s mailbox, I haven’t a clue. Further, how is it that my neighbor has not gotten any mail? So now you know what it might be like living overseas.

My quest to find San Marzano tomatoes has begun. I started cooking with these delicious Italian canned tomatoes over 25 years ago after taking a cooking class with Grace Balducci in New York City. They’ve been readily available to me throughout the years — that is until I moved to Portugal. It doesn’t make sense being that I am so much closer to Italy than I have ever been. I’m sure it has something to do with Italian migration to the United States and other countries. I know that I am fussy about ingredients, but if I have to take a train to Italy to find my tomatoes, then that’s what I’ll do. If you’re reading this and you know a place in or around Faro (75 kilometer radius) that sells these tomatoes, I’d be happy to end my search. Better yet, it’s a good excuse to travel to Italy soon.

There are no Walmart stores in Portugal, however, we do have Chinese discount stores. You can expect to find just about anything other than food (save for American candy) at these stores and they are everywhere — like Rite Aid in the U.S.. You have to be a discerning shopper, because no doubt, some products will fall apart before you take them out of your shopping bag. If I’m going to be honest, most products I have purchased at these stores are a great value. For example aluminum foil:  most of it is crap no matter where you buy it — the brand I always purchased in the States is not available here — our local grocery store has a decent size roll for a little over four euros. Four euros is a lot of cash for foil and that’s why a one euro roll of foil at the Chinese dime store works for me. I double it up and still save money. And this is how I spend my time.

Martinis are hands down my favorite cocktail. It’s the combination of the amount of alcohol, the three olive garnish (considered a snack), and the classic martini glass it’s served in. I’ve been ordering martinis since it was legal for me to imbibe. Well, it’s a bit of a problem in my new home country. The Portuguese drink an aperitif bottled by Martini, Martini is a brand of Italian vermouth, named after the Martini & Rossi Distilleria Nazionale di Spirito di Vino, in Turin.  I ordered a Martini straight up on two occasions and I was served this vermouth chilled — not what I wanted. I have found a couple of places that serve it just the way I like it; however, I’m still looking for a bar with the glassware I prefer. These are the things in life that truly matter and I am not above bringing my own glass to a bar.

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Pictured: the perfect martini!

Finally, life in Portugal has far exceeded all of my expectations. I will probably mention this often, but the people are welcoming and wonderful, the weather would be hard to beat and the food is in some ways, almost too good. I love knowing the differences one experiences when living somewhere abroad; hence my reason for sharing.

 

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The shrimp here are really THAT BIG

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Photos:

  1. Sitting on the roof deck of Hotel Faro in the marina (Old Town). It has become my favorite watering hole.
  2.  The view from the bus stop outside my apartment — Avenida 5 de Outubro. Strangely there is a good deal of exotic vegetation on this avenue, but you don’t see any of it in this photo. Palm trees, succulents, etc.
  3. The back of a ceramic tile shop in Olhao. I met the ceramic artist after purchasing a tile wall piece I’m excited to have plastered to one of my walls. I’ll post a photo when it’s done.
  4. Shrimp and octopus right out of the Algarve Atlantic (click for Chefe Branco). Dinner with Brenda Athanus; I need to go back soon
  5. Caprese salad at L’Osteria, an Italian restaurant way too close to home.
  6. The foliage outside my building that I referred to in #2.

I know that last week I wrote that I might have some exciting news . . . It’s getting closer. Patience please. Your feedback has been much appreciated; keep it coming.

 

 

 

Papagni Pages Launch

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Expat Defined

I am most comfortable with the word “immigrant:  a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.” My father immigrated to the United States from Italy and now I have emigrated to Portugal. Why Portugal? Simple answer:  finances. There probably are parts of Italy where I could enjoy the same lifestyle, but there were quite a few boxes to check off and Portugal offered me the best value for my retirement dollars. Most of my ancestry are rooted in Europe; Western and Eastern Europe, so as long as I am in Europe, I am content.

Deciding on a specific location requires a complicated answer. I will simplify my response by naming my top eleven criteria (it would have been ten, but Giorgio was a big part of my decision):

  1. The weather — at this point in my live being in a warmer, not-so-humid, environment was a must.
  2. Food — fresh seafood was a must. It was essential to be located in a place where local food is readily available and accessible.
  3. Water — My bucket list has long included seeing the ocean from my terrace. I was fortunate to look out over the East River in New York City for a short period of time. The Atlantic is right beyond the Ria Formosa (a river leading to the ocean) and I can see it clearly from my terrace.
  4. People — I want to be around progressive, liberal-minded people; who care about the planet, one another and preserving their culture.
  5. Accessibility — the ability to easily travel from my location without a vehicle is important to me. I have worked toward a smaller carbon footprint for a long time. There is no need to own a vehicle if you can easily get from point A to B.
  6. Affordability — I need to rely on my savings. That is not to say that I will not earn money while living overseas; however, depending on future income is an easy way to get into trouble. I am assuming nothing; Maine taught me that much.
  7. Healthcare — quality and affordability
  8. Safety — Crime stats and safe for older folks
  9. The Environment — where does the country stand on global warming, regulations, philosophical posturing, etc.
  10. The People and Culture — Are people friendly and welcoming? Do they like Americans or resent them? Do they hold onto and observe tradition? Are the arts celebrated?
  11. Taking a Pet — quarantine would be a deal breaker.

I would have to say that most, if not all, of the above were non-negotiable. I did not list them in order of importance, although some criteria are a bit more important to me. Several were easy to research and others required a visit and a gut feeling. I would imagine that everyone’s list is different and that is completely understandable. I was able to make this decision independently; add others to the mix and it becomes slightly more complicated.

Keeping in mind that few things in life are permanent helped me make the decision to leave the U.S. I have moved a dozen or more times, and therefore I know that moving once more would be manageable. Better to sort all of this out before I’m unable to. One of the many lessons I learned is the satisfaction one is provided when shedding material “things.” We accumulate so much that we do not need and it does nothing more than burden us; bog us down.

And then of course there is the great unknown:  What if I don’t make friends? What if the anticipated earthquake happens while I’m living in Portugal? What if my money runs out? And on and on . . . A have a wise friend, John Mclaughlin, who often says, “Palms up to the universe.” I have been far too concerned with every “what if” for far too long. Allowing life to be more organic and spontaneous is a lesson we can all learn.

It’s been two weeks today and I have made a couple of friends, the earthquake hasn’t happened, and most of my fears have remained silly notions. No doubt that I have a lot to discover and learn. But in the meantime, I’ve eaten well, enjoyed a jazz concert, started spinning (cycle exercise) again, sharpened up my awful Portuguese, had a visitor from Ireland (Alison), partly furnished my condo, helped Giorgio settle in, went to see an American film (not dubbed; they don’t do that here) and started a blog. Not a bad start to the next chapter.

Future blogs will be all about adventures, observations, strange but candid thoughts, and whatever you the reader might request. There may be big news coming. I won’t know for a week or so; therefore, you will have to wait.

Link to a piece I wrote about my dad a few years ago for The Phoenix in Portland, Maine is at the bottom of the page. Formatting will improve as I get better at this. It’s sort of like learning a new language — oy vey.

Is the red background with white text too difficult to read? Weigh in please. Other thoughts?

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pastel de nata
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The typical appearance of the pastel de nata, in this case, produced in Macau
Alternative names Pastel de Belém
Course Dessert
Place of origin Portugal
Region or state Santa Maria de BelémLisbon(originally); produced worldwide within the Lusosphere
Created by Religious of the Monastery of the Hieronymites
Serving temperature Fresh from oven, with cinnamon and icing sugar
Main ingredients Egg yolks
Variations Regional
Food energy
(per serving)
298 per 100 grams (3.5 oz) kcal
 Cookbook: Pastel de nata   Media: Pastel de nata

Pastel de nata (Portuguese pronunciation: [pɐʃˈtɛɫ dɨ ˈnatɐ]; plural: pastéis de nata), is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, originally from Portugal which can also be found in Brazil and other countries with significant Portuguese immigrant populations

Photos: 

1-Jazz on a Saturday night very close to home

2-A sample of the famous Portuguese tile work you see throughout the country

3-Pastel da nata–a delicious pastry/custard dessert you quickly learn you cannot live without

 

The Phoenix piece I wrote about my father: about