As I write this particular entry, we are on our way from Lisbon, Portugal to Sevilla, Spain before we head down to Morocco. The Portuguese countryside is full of cork oaks and olive trees, as well as the traditional white stucco houses with a solid color that `frames´the house along the bottom and the corners. Traditionally, these colors are blue, green, or yellow, but occasionally you see a different color such as lavender or gray. I wonder: are the owners of these houses secretly chastised by their neighbors for going against the grain? Probably not. The Portuguese seem much more laid back when compared to Americans.
The houses look practically abandoned this time of day (3:00 pm) as their inhabitants have retreated inside to enjoy their afternoon siesta, a tradition in Portugal as well as Spain. Since that means people-watching is out, there is always the landscape to focus upon, which is more than enough to occupy oneself when the hilltops are punctuated by the occasional Moorish castle—the vantage point from which the towns were protected centuries ago.
Sevilla is in the Andalucia region of Spain, which is warmer in climate. And when I say warmer, I really mean it´s HOT. And it’s bound to get hotter as we move south toward Africa. As someone accustomed to cooler northern temperatures, that isn’t something I am looking forward to.
A passing driver reminds me of an important note for those who ever plan to travel to Spain or Portugal: don´t drive. Public transportation is far too good to rent a car and brave the crazy streets (and sidewalks) of these countries. Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way here and sidewalks are just another place to park. Technically, it´s illegal to park on the sidewalks, but the law is ignored by the locals and when they receive a ticket, they simply move the car to a different sidewalk. Car horns are not used just for emergency situations, but for all situations: passing cars, signaling to pedestrians that they are taking too long to cross, letting everyone in town know that you are stuck in a traffic jam…everything. This constant barrage of horns just adds to the din of inner-city noise. I´ve often heard people complain about crazy Oregon drivers, and although I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment, I don´t think these people have been to Europe.
On a side note, the grapes in Portugal are huge. More like small plums, really. I´ve never seen anything like them.