Following fate in Portugal; My Favorite Place
By Jennifer DeRose
Special to the Sun
Portugal's southern coast is packed with resorts popular with sun-starved German and English tourists, but we flew into Oporto, to the north. Touring around in a rental car, we soon felt more like time travelers than tourists. In the Portuguese countryside, peasant women still wear coarse black dresses and head scarves. In the town of Coimbra, university students proudly sport full-length black cloaks indicating their status as scholars.
Although Portugal is part of the European Union, we felt worlds away from the cellular phones, high fashion and bullet trains of France and Italy. We honeymooned in the Old Country.
The concept of fate, fado, is important to Portuguese culture, and we traveled in that spirit, allowing chance to shape our days. Sometimes fate made an excellent tour guide, as when a tiny old woman beckoned to us from a doorway in Amarante. She led us into - of all things - a small museum of Renaissance art from Madeira. Apparently the caretaker, she conducted us through three rooms packed with gleaming, jewel-encrusted chalices and moody Crucifixions.
Each painting and artifact, while ordinary in general, was strangely beautiful in its details. In one painting, an angel, her hair tied up with red ribbons, floats on rose-tinted wings. She offers a delicate crown to a moon-faced Mary, whose skin glows as if painted with pure bronze powder. Mary holds her stiff blue cloak tightly across her shoulders, staring upward in awe. Behind her, an African man in a red robe looks on somberly. We wondered about the people living on that island outpost of the Portuguese empire, hundred of miles from the African mainland. Was it the artists' isolation that inspired such melancholy art?
On another occasion, fate brought more mystery. Searching the hilly neighborhoods of Oporto for the museum of folk culture, we noticed several people heading down a narrow alley. We followed, finding a crowd of perhaps 30 in a cul-de-sac, whispering to one another. The door of a dingy stucco house opened, and two policemen brought out a body on a stretcher, not moving, perhaps dead. The crowd fell quiet. Once the stretcher was gone, the debates resumed, now vigorously. Was it murder? An accident? Illness? As we turned to leave, a man in a blazer and a greasy black fedora looked directly at my husband. He slowly raised his index finger to his face and pulled down one of his lower eyelids, revealing its moist, crimson interior. Lowering his hand, he turned away.
What did it mean? Some have suggested, "Stay alert," others "Beware the evil eye." We never learned for certain.
Our honeymoon was mostly conventional: days spent hiking, evenings dining in fine restaurants, lazy afternoons lingering in cafes. But the times that remain with us most vividly are those when we stepped off the beaten path, and let fate show us how far from home we had come.
Jennifer DeRose lives in Baltimore.
Rainbow street in Italy; My Best Shot
By Nicole Ritterstein, Owings Mills
While vacationing in Italy with my family, I visited the beautiful and unique island of Burano, located about 40 minutes north of Venice and easily accessible by boat. This island, a photographer's paradise, made me feel as though I was walking through a rainbow. Each street, with houses painted different vivid colors, created a perfect picture.
Just Back From ... Paris
Max Frazier, Baltimore
"This is a picture of me. I am in Paris at the Eiffel Tower. I went to Paris with my mom and dad and Jackson, my brother. I really liked seeing the Eiffel Tower because it is very big and I like big stuff. I loved running around and watching the birds fly at the plaza in front of the Eiffel Tower."
Susan Mannion, Baltimore
"Our Southwestern vacation was otherworldly. At Sunset Crater Monument, near Flagstaff, Ariz., black chunky lava radiated from the thousand-year-old volcano. Fifty miles away, Wupatki pueblo ruins baked red in the sun. At Lowell Observatory, an arm of the galaxy made its milky way across Flagstaff."
Let us hear from you
We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your memories, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:
* Tell us about your favorite destinations. Our current question: Where is your favorite place to ski? Please answer in 50 words or less.
* In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150)
* Give us your best shot - a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. Include your name and phone number along with the print. (Cash value: $50)
* Just back from - in 50 words or less, tell us where you've recently visited and what tips you can pass along about your trip to other readers.
Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned.
Send by fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.