Today is Thanksgiving, which of course, means absolutely nothing here in Portugal. I got up early and got on a bus to Nazare, on the coast about 2 hours from Coimbra. I will take a bus back this afternoon and should have just enough time to get to the train station to catch my train from Salamanca, Spain. It is a beautiful day, blue sky and sunshine and although it was pretty chilly this morning when I left, it is downright warm here in Nazare.
The bus ride was mostly on the freeway, passing through the Portuguese countryside, which is covered with pine and eucalyptis trees, small farms with crumbling stone houses and rows of cork, olive and orange trees, and vineyards with the grape leaves turning gold and orange. A very pretty site. There are some chestnut trees here and there turning gold and brown, but not much else in the way of Autumn color. The ride was very relaxing, quite a bit differant the bus I took yesterday to 'Conimbriga', about half an hour outside Coimbra, where there are some Roman ruins. The bus took small, winding back roads the whole way, passing through small towns with narrow streets barely wide enough for one car, let alone a big bus, which flew the whole way, barely missing parked cars and the occaisional pedestrian who happened to be in the road. It wasn't a very relaxing ride to say the least. At one point, the bus nearly took the door off a car as we came around a corner, swerving just in time and nearly hitting a dog crossing the road. The ruins themselves were interesting, but if you have already seen ruins in Rome, they are not really worth the visit. There were some pretty cool mosaic tile floors, which were still in remarkably good shape, the remains of some fountains and columns, and a museum full of artifacts.
Nazare is a nice little town, very touristy but pretty empty this time of year. When I got off the bus, I was instantly swarmed on by several little Portuguese women dressed in black shawls, big, puffy skirts and knee socks. I had read about them in my guidebook so was somewhat prepared, but was surprised at how fast they swooped in on me. I had barely stepped of the bus when I was hit by a barrage of voices speaking at me in broken English - 'I have nice room, very cheap, you see now, yes?' They are all over this town, and are very cute. I managed to sneak a few pictures of a few of them while I was sitting in the square having coffee, hopefully they turned out. I didn't want to get in their faces and be rude, so I did it rather non-chalantly. This used to be a big fishing town. You can still see racks of fish drying in the sun along the beach, but it mostly a tourist destination now. There is the main town, spread out along the beach, and the upper town, perched up on top of the cliffs. There is a funicular that takes you up to the upper town for some beautiful views. I took the funicular up, then walked down a winding little cobbled path back down to the lower town. The sun was so bright, esp. reflecting off the white buildings, that even with my sunglasses I was squinting the whole way.
When I got down into the main square, it was swarming with Japanese tourists snapping pictures and buying souvenirs. I sat down on a bench to try and sneak a picture of a little Portuguese lady roasting chestnuts, who must have felt like a fashion model, all the Japanese taking pictures of her. She had on the typical puffy skirt with bright turqoise kneee socks and a matching shawl with with a bright red skarve on her head (she was quite a site). Suddenly, a Japanese man came up to me asking if I spoke English. He was looking at my camera and asked if it was Japanese. I said yes, it was a Fuji, and then he got really excited, calling his wife over and told me that he worked for Fuji. He started chatting with me in broken english, asking me how I liked the camera, how much I paid for it, where I was from, etc. He wanted a picture taken with me and then one of me with his wife, then one of me with his friends. I said sure, but only if I can take a picture of you too. He said no at first, and starte laughing, but I said, then you can't take one of me, so he relented. It was very funny.
For my Thanksgiving dinner, I definetely won't be eating turkey and pumpkin pie. They mostly just have fish and seafood here, so it looks like I will be having 'arroz com camaroes' (rice with shrimp). That, or maybe a mock-hamburger (the Spanish and Portuguese don't have very good burgers - small and grayish, blech). At least I can have a 'pastel de nata' - a little custard tart, which are VERY good and the closest thing I will get to pumpkin pie.
I hope all of you back home are having a good Thanksgiving!