Kids ask the funniest things!
While spending the day at Elvas’ public outdoor swimming pool with family, João, the nephew, munching down on a famous Maria biscuit, casually threw into the air the question: “Why are there Maria biscuits but not Manel biscuits?” (where Manel could be the unofficial male counterpart to the name Maria).
Meanwhile, the sketching activity drew the attention of Maria (the niece, not the biscuit), who soon after became my new sketching best friend, sharing tools and colors!
Lisboa’s outskirts are peppered with suburbs of different shapes, sizes and styles. They range from forest parks to densely packed residential districts, from slums to industrial areas, from bourgeois waterfront mansions to medieval towns that have been absorbed by the city’s ever expanding grid. Queluz is one of those suburbs. It is home to Queluz National Palace, built in the 18th century as a summer home for the royal family. It is but a dwarf variation of the great Rococo palaces of Europe like Versailles. Right next to it rests a tiny urban settlement of old houses and narrow streets. I’ve always admired how in Lisboa great buildings of power are offset by projections of the humbleness of common people. Another example of this is the National Parliament of São Bento and the vernacular buildings that face it. It is in that space between that most political oriented demonstrations of Lisboa have their final checkpoint.
Then, there’s Magoito, a village by the beach in Sintra. Still close enough to be a candidate for the title of suburb of Lisboa, but far enough for people to feel as if they are spending holidays away from the city, if they happen to sleep over. The farthest people in it were engulfed in a thick sfumato of dust and iodine, and the smell of the salty water was instantly invigorating. The sun was hidden behind clouds, so we had to be extra careful not to get burned without noticing. The layers of blue and grey almost melded on the horizon and the body-boarders peppered the waves. The sand was not yellow nor white but in shades of brown and shadowy brown – contrasts lowered by the wind and the clouds. I always get drowsy in the first days of going to the beach.
During the match between Holland and Costa Rica, there was, of course, time for more snails and bifanas and beer.
If snails had headlines, today’s would have sounded like this. Their deaths were not our direct responsibility, mind you, but were indeed warranted by our craving!
Portuguese have the knack of snacking hundreds of tiny delicious beings such as snails and fish eggs. Snails are rendered edible by being boiled in different herbs and vegetables, such as onion, garlic, mint or chili, and of course, their own goo! They should be washed down with beer. Fish eggs are boiled, cooled and turned into a yummy salad with onion, garlic [glitch in the matrix], parsley and olive oil. Octopus can also be turned into salad in the very same way, but the octopus must be frozen before being boiled, lest it turns into rubbery unchewiness.
Our waiter was telegraphic in his requests from the kitchen, seasoned by many years of the same orders being asked for. Few words, few letters even, were used to convey the message to his colleagues: “um caracol, uma manga, fino, café” (one snail – meaning a tray of them – one mango – meaning a mango flavoured ice-tea – fino, a shorter word for a small beer – coffee).
This Renault 5 TL was just outside our doorstep in Benfica. The exercise was inspired by Lapin’s sketches sitting on the sidewalk one meter away from the bumper.
This unknown brand rusted down van was parked outside a falafel place in Möllan in Malmö. My poor travel companions had to endure the finishing of all the rust in the sketch even after everybody had eaten their falafels.
In our first and second days in Lisboa, we ended up being invited to birthday parties that we didn’t know were going to happen in the first place. We just happened to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. Diana had her birthday celebration at home with a few friends. Simple and delicious salmon pasta went around, garnished by guacamole. Books were passed around and shared and taken note of. Germany won its match against Algeria
The next day found us snacking snails, bifanas and beers, then crashing another birthday dinner party and following after the small crowd to a house for drinks. I for one was delighted that the Márcia, the birthday girl (plus a few of the guests) was from Portimão – the town right next to my home town. This way I got to hear that heavy accent they have over there and enjoy regional booze from Monchique: the notorious medronho and the less known (unknown even to me) melosa. The former is strawberry tree moonshine, bitter and warm, which Márcia explained that it is expensive to acquire, but almost every household has a bottle and that it is customary to be offered a drink of it as a guest in the standard Algarve home. The latter is liquor, sweet and mellow, distilled out of honey.