Postcard from Portugal
by Patricia Thayer on 08/22/20
"Do you have any news from home?" We ask this question as we sit on the hillside terrace of a small inn above a fishing village in southern Portugal. While my friend and I relax on the terrace overlooking the vast blue-green sea, more weary American travelers arrive and we invite them to share our snack of bread, meat, cheese, and wine. Having arrived early in the day, we are the unofficial greeters. Each new guest, upon hearing American voices, asks the same question, "Do you have any news from home?" We are all strangers, but not. We come from California, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, and New York, but we share the same "home". We have all been traveling the back roads and grand cities of Europe for many weeks and on this day, by coincidence (or providence), only Americans have booked rooms in this house converted to a hotel. Or, is it now a hotel converted to our house?
The owner, an Englishman, tells us that he and his wife are going out for the evening and that we can use the kitchen! We are excited as we make menu plans and discuss what food items are available at the local market down the road. I announce that it is my birthday so I am deemed the guest of honor. A flurry of activity ensues: some leave to shop for food, another unpacks a tablecloth, a souvenir from Spain, and sets the table for our party of ten. The two young girls don traditional dresses, souvenirs from Portugal, and decorate the table with flowers. I provide the wine. The cooks work their magic and prepare a spaghetti dinner that we all agree is the best we have ever eaten. I receive a birthday card signed by all my new friends and we all talk and laugh by candlelight well into the night, sharing travel stories, but always returning to news and thoughts about "home". Why do I travel? To share stories with fellow travelers, knowing we are our way to new adventures, or almost home at the end of a long journey. (June 2000)