First published by Constance Houck, May 2012.
Salir do Porto
Living in the tiny Portuguese village of Salir do Porto for two-plus years has taught me important things that I forgot while living in the U.S.
A visiting friend described it as, “living in a postcard”. Multicolored cliffs rise from the water of the only natural bay on the Iberian Peninsular. Ruins line the beach, the best pool art I have ever swam with.
The Spring of Santa Ana flows from a pipe, the residents swear by it’s healing properties. Being so near Fatima, I can only guess some of the Senora's water is diverted to our little village just for us.
Each morning the bread truck winds around the village, honking us out to buy our fresh bolinas and febras for an euro. Three times a week, Helder brings fish to Salir fresh off that morning's catch and always undercharges us for our salmon or sardinhas. We have a market, small but well supplied for most anything else we need. Four cafes, a bakery, a hairdresser, two restaurants and there you have the business community of the tiny village.
We have learned to grow our veggies, although the nearby “big city” Caldas da Rainha has the most wonderful fruit and vegetable market every day except New Years Day. Once every couple of weeks we take our cloth shopping bags and hop the bus to do our large shopping. We shop the fruit and veggie market, Lidl (a great discount food market) and Pingo Doce, our favorite supermercardo. Loaded up like burros we head home five hours later on the afternoon bus and back into village life.
Time moves slower here, with only three buses a day to the nearest medium sized cities that has proper shops and a mall (no buses on weekends) leaves plenty of time to see the sun to take it’s colorful daily plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. I learn from the church bells if there has been a death among us, the bells ring nine times after the noon bells chime. Soon, from my terraco, I will see a gathering of mourners in black at the walled cemetery with it’s elaborate crypts. The bells ring often as the elders fade away, not many of the Portuguese youth want to live a quiet village life.
St. Antonio’s parade (there was a festa!)
As the sons and daughters leave the village for work in Lisbon, England, the U.S. and beyond, more and more of the family homes stand empty, waiting for their families return back for a month in the summer. Or, for the inevitable installation of the Vende, or For Sale sign.
My consumer crazy life in Florida with TIVO, DVDs, Big Screen TVs, Swimming Pools, Hot Tubs and a very big car was nice. Always bombarded by advertising telling me I need more was annoying. Since I sold or gave away nearly everything I own and now live on the other edge of the Atlantic. I can watch my broccoli grow from a tiny seed to a beautiful little green tree on the end of my fork. I appreciate the world more. The sky is clearer and the stars can be counted, most nights one flies across the sky for me to wish on.
Leaving your home country is daunting, your friends will tell you it is crazy. But after almost three years in tiny Salir do Porto I have learned you can’t put a price on a peaceful life.