ilhavo, portugal

9 Sep

Oh Ilhavo! You are so crazy with your slow, steady movement, your baked goods and your tiny town feel. The people here are happy and they are even happier when they find out you are staying with their neighbour. “Come, come! You have coffee with me tomorrow. No, you don’t leave Portugal yet, you stay.”

*Tonight we are in Ilhavo, Portogal. We started our day late and decided to make it a beach day instead of exploring Aviero. When Lucas brought a load of laundry next door to put into the washer, (for goodness sake, it got stank up in here), Lucas told Fernando, our happy host, of our plans:

“We’re going to head up to Costa Nova to have a beach day today.”

“No, you stay here. You can go around town, have a coffee, maybe go see the river but you stay in town. You stay and you eat with my family and we drink. We will go see the fireworks later.”

“How late will this go?”

“I don’t know, 11pm? 4am?”

Fair enough, Fernando. You, your friends and you family out weigh, by far, any beach that we could go see.

First, we showed up for dinner a bit late but everyone shows up late in Portugal so it’s relative. And besides, there was enough of them that you could’t really notice us anyway. Wait, what am I saying? We were two white people coming in, smiling, yelling, “Hola!” and waving. Who waves at people at a dinner table? wtf?

When we first sat down there was a few moments of awkwardness for me, the introvert: do we get up and get our own food? That means that I’m placing my armpit right by someones head. Do we pass our plates down? That might be too presumptuous. It didn’t matter: they took our plates and filled them. And refilled them. And refilled them and because the main dish was lamb and beef, I had a lot of potatoes and rice (because who doesn’t want delicious Portuguese starch with delicious Portuguese starch?) and these incredible cod cakes with onion, flour, cilantro, cod, salt and pepper. They were amazing. Fernando called them fish cookies because you could just scarf them down like cookies. Instead of milk and cookies, I had fish cakes and wine. I wasn’t saying no.

Fernando’s brother in law brought out a guitar and started playing and singing Fado music, a beautiful, traditionally sad music that is home to Portugal. There is a difference between Lisbon Fado, and Coimbra Fado: In Lisbon, there is a snail like shape at the top of the guitar and men and women can sing. It’s also more sad in nature. In Coimbra, only women traditionally sing and there is a tear drop shape on the top of the guitar. Fernando’s brother was excited enough by the fact that Lucas and I could play guitar that he left and returned with a second guitar and an amp. Heaven.

As the wine poured, the bubbly was poured and people poured into the ground floor deck we were sitting in. Ah, pinch me!

As the guitar was being played and the snacks were being nibbled, I suddenly realized that I was the only woman out on the deck and that all of the women were inside. I asked, “Is it usual that the women stay inside together after a meal and the men come out to drink?”

“Yes. You are lucky to be here with us. You’re a guest so it’s ok.” They laughed. I smiled. Tread lightly, Tana.

“Yes, but we are outside; the guitar is here, the sun is here, they should be here too?”

“They aren’t being separated, they are being protected.” Somehow coming from Fernando’es brother-in-law this seemed sweet with his soft accent.

“I am sure they can handle it. The women sitting in there are strong women, yes?”

“Yes, but we run things, still!” This was said by a lovely Portuguese business man who just moved back from living in Australia for 20 years.

I threw my head back and chuckled. “Your women make you think you run things. It’s the way of the world!”

They laughed, I laughed and we played guitar and at that moment, the women come out and it was the most beautiful night of my travels yet.


*I wrote this almost a week ago but could only post it now.


2 Responses to “ilhavo, portugal”

  1. ddcleve September 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    I could feel the warmth of the evening through your words.

  2. kimsnider27 September 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    Loving the posts, Montana. These ‘unscripted’ moments of travel, the ones you least expect, are the most memorable!

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