Wednesday, 31 August 2011

What I Ate on my Summer Vacation

A week ago I was stretched out on a lounge chair under a cocoa-fiber umbrella, dozing in the heat of a Portuguese beach. The hiss and roar of the Atlantic muffled the children´s shouts and the tak-tak of the paddleball players, and the calls of the boliña vendors -- "Boliñas! SUCH boliñas I got!"

In the Algarve part of Portugal, beach food is not hotdogs or sno-kones. It´s boliñas, berliners -- big cream-filled doughnuts! I can´t imagine anything I´d like less after a hard day of sun-bathing, but apparently at Praia Altura there are people making their living that way. I did not yield to the temptation.
Filipe and Lobster Cataplana

I think it was the only culinary offering I turned down in my entire stay there. Filipe, like many Portuguese, is a superb cook, and Altura is home to a small local market with excellent fish stalls, vintners, and truck-garden vendors ... So. Imagine what we ate and drank each day and night, out on the rear terrace -- cataplana cookers loaded with sea creatures, veg, and green wine. And when I trimmed the lemon tree, we made a fragrant barbecue from the sticks, and roasted lamb chops and red peppers and marinated octopus over the coals. It was days of wonderful excess, with some of the finest company in the world. And best of all, a week ago tonight, I looked into the night sky to find Cassiopeia, and instead saw a shifting, silent V of pink flamingos.


I drove the car this time. It gave me the flexibility to pay a visit to Tracy, a camino friend, author, and hypnosis therapist who lives on the Spanish coast. We met up in the mountains, hiked a beautiful green arroyo in Grazalema, ate local trout in the dark, and drove a massively long and twisty mountain road down to Ronda and into the great coastal Babylon of Marbella. Tracy lives in a palatial villa there, in a palatial gated enclave surrounded by golf courses, swimming pools, and spas. She has a beautiful balcony garden, a massive collection of books that I want to read, two superb cats, and a soft rabbit. But Tracy would much rather live in a stone house in rainy, gray Galicia, taking care of pilgrims. (how bizarre!)  
sundown over Andalusian mountains, north of Ronda

It was very very hot there. I did not stay very long. I drove on east to Torremolinos, where part of Patrick´s family lives. It was hotter still there, humid, crowded. We ate Indian curry, talked about the past and the future, real estate, funeral arrangements. The heat drove us north, back into the mountains, where we spent an afternoon in a cool reservoir lake, playing with Sam the adorable and sassy step-grandson. I learned that Matt, Paddy´s second son, lived up there in his 20th summer. In a cave. (Matt made a great video of the event, which I hope to post here:

back in my own house!
I headed home on Monday morning. It was a long, long journey, punctuated at the end with a minor accident: a rock flew off the back of a passing truck and into my windshield. The safety glass held up, but I was sprayed with tiny shards, and an impact the size of a baseball was right there above where I needed to see out!  Insurance paid for the new windshield. I got home just fine (in spite of my Garmin Nüvi 225W SatNav, which was worse than useless). I was very glad to arrive, because...

After two weeks away, Murphy Cat came home! He is missing one of his toes, but it does not seem to bother him much. He is as demanding and luxuriant as ever. I was so happy to see him, and the rest of the howling horde, I almost cried.

I wondered, stretching myself out on my own bed in my own room in my own house, what could have possessed me to ever leave this place. 



laurie said...

Ah, Reb, We are so glad you are back. I am not a foodie, and I don't know much about gourmet this or that, but for me, there are few culinary pleasures that rival the Portuguese seafood cataplana.

Summer is winding down here in the hot midwest, but I would so much rather be on the Camino! You are one lucky peregrina to have it right out your door.

Yeebaa Discounts said...

It was lovely seeing you Reb but... too short a stay. Next time we go to Málaga City and visit the CAC (Modern Art Museum) the Picasso museum... etc.
Glad the vid works! XX

Anonymous said...

I am relieved to read that Murphy is back. The missing toe/claw suggests a fight or a snare or trap? The answer will never be known.

Another of his nine lives used up, but still in there!

Martea - lil sis said...

You live the charmed Life my sweet sister! Wish I was there!