The Weekend in Mina de São Domingos...

Mina de São Domingos  was my home for four nights and I was surprised at how much I loved this small village in the middle of Southern Portugal.  It was very attractive with its cobblestone streets laid out in a gradual curve on both sides of a road that goes through the middle of the village.  I could understand why our friends, Jean and Malc, called it home for so many years.

This site is one of the volcanogenic massive sulfide ore deposits in the Iberian Pyrite Belt, that extends from the southern Portugal into Spain. The Romans mined in the São Domingos area for gold and silver for about 400 years. Mining stopped here when the Romans left.  Mining did not begin again until the 1800s and that is when this town really began to begin (when the demand for copper grew during the Industrial Revolution).

It is truly a town built for mining.  In its heyday, 5,000 people lived and worked here.  The mine closed leaving unemployment and water contamination and yet, many of people stayed.  A warm and embracing group live there, amongst ruins and natural beauty. 

My time with Jean, her family and her friends, was diverse and unforgettable.  The laughs, tears, great conversations and amazing camaraderie will forever mark my birthday as one of my most unique experiences.

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Celebrating in Style...

My #49 was spent seeing the local towns and being surrounded by new friends.  Dancing, eating, laughing...all while wearing blinking bunny ears...does it get any better than that?

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One of the delights of travel is seeing sights you have never seen before.  For me, on this trip, it was the spring flowers.  There were miles of fields of tiny irises and my favorite, the European yellow Lupine, Lupinus luteus - called in Portugal 'Tremoçeiro'.  I wanted to stop in every meadow and just be in them.  Spectacular doesn't do it justice.

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Saying goodbye...

Along the side of an idyllic lake, friends of Jean and Malc gathered Sunday, to say goodbye.  Jean was surrounded by friends and family and the sense of what this couple meant to this tiny Portuguese community was felt by all.  

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Savoring the flavors of Portugal...

Food, on this trip, came from a variety of places...the Saturday market, bars, the corner café, and even bread trucks making their rounds... all was delicious and extremely affordable. 

One of the very nicest things about life
is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing
and devote our attention to eating. 
~Luciano Pavarotti

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Look who's 49 and feeling fine...
Our British friend, Laurie, wrote a delightful poem for my birthday.  He has a way with words so I thought I'd share it with you!  

There was a girl named Denise
Who had a husband she loved to please.
She adores his smile when she is kind,
But now she's planning to leave him behind.
Her birthday in Portugal will have plenty of bloggin'
But without Steve, hopefully no snoggin'.
We jest!
She's so tall and so lovely,
A mixture of fun and glasses of bubbly.
One thing in Portugal she's going to miss,
Is Steve's specially lone birthday kiss!

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Saying Goodbye...

Eleven years ago, our family spent almost a month at a campground on the Algarve.  While there we met some wonderful people but only two remained our friends after all these years, Jean and Malc. 

In May, the plan was for all of us to have a reunion in Italy.  Tragically, we lost Malc before we could be together again.

Today we said "Goodbye" to Malc as his ashes were released into the warm ocean breezes of Portugal, his winter home.  He was a kind man who truly lived, fully succeeded and will be missed by many.

Because You Have Lived
To laugh often and much.
To win the respect of intelligent people,

and the affection of children.

To earn the appreciation of honest critics.
To appreciate beauty.
To find the best in others.

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
or a garden patch.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

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Portugal for my birthday weekend...

Tomorrow, we depart at 2 AM Italy time.  Steve is driving me to Rome for a very early flight to Portugal.  I will be celebrating my birthday and the life of a lost friend... a bittersweet weekend.

It will be four days of reunions, introductions, and sadness but also a whole lot of love... The escape will be blogged when I return but in the meantime, enjoy this flash from the past... the family photo is from Dec. 2000 in  The Algarve.  More when I return!

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Our Greek adventure... 10 days in four minutes...
I have blogged the trip, but for a real "taste" of Greece, watch this slide show, with music on. Wonderful!

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Nafplion for the last three days...

We took a ferry to Athens and then rented a car and drove... based on this Rick Steve's recommendation, "The Peloponnesian port town of Nafplion, two hours southwest of Athens by car or bus, is small, cozy, and strollable. It's a welcome relief after the black-hanky intensity of smoggy Athens. Not only is Nafplion itself fun, but it's a handy home base for exploring two of Greece's greatest ancient sights: Epidavros and Mycenae.

Nafplion's harbor is guarded by two castles, one on a small island and the other capping the hill above the town. Both are wonderfully floodlit at night."

The town itself is very international feeling.  Beautiful town squares with delightful shops and delicious restaurants.  What interested us most was what lied beyond the "tourist" town, the historical aspect of this area.

Epidarvos was a very developed site in 5th century BC.  It was a center for health and theater (built 2,500 years ago to seat 14,000).  We were amazed at being in such an ancient local until we went to Mycenae the next day.

This was the capital of the Mycenaeans, who won the Trojan War and dominated Greece 1,000 years before Socrates. As we toured this fascinating fortified citadel, we marveled that these people were as awesome to the ancient Greeks of Socrates' day as those Greeks are to us. The classical Greeks marveled at the huge stones and workmanship of the Mycenaean ruins. They figured that only a race of giants (cyclopes) could build with such colossal rocks and called it "cyclopean" architecture.

Our ten days in Greece were incredibly diverse:  full of great food, exceptional history, and warm Greek hospitality.  All we could have hoped for and more!  μέχρι την επόμενη φορά... until next time.

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Naxos since 3000 BC

The largest of the Cycladic islands, it is full of history, goat traffic jams, a Venetian castle and ancient marble statues just lying alongside of the road.  They say you use what you have, and Naxos had marble allowing us to explore temples built in 500 BC. 

It is an island with the most diverse countryside...orchards, rich gardens, vineyards and little villages.  Wild crags, Venetian watchtowers and ancient sites are around each corner.  We rented a car to explore and were impressed by its history and beauty.

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We left our hearts in Santorini...

We flew from Rome to Santorini and spent a magical four days there, nestled in the village of Oia.  We weren't prepared for the powerful impact this small, volcanic island would have on us.

I was surprised by so many things, the greatest being the true colors of Santorini.  The bluest of blues contrasting with the purest white.  Each year, the weather elements are devastating on the town, and with Spring being a time of renewal, the town is renewed as well.  We were so off-season that most mornings, it was only Steve, the renovation workers and me meandering through the peaceful, quaint, marbled passageways.

Oia is home to the most amazing sunsets.  It was the one place we found the hardest to leave and the one that we long to return to most.

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One of the biggest surprises for us was our love of the "flavors" of Greece.  Each new taste was a sensation.
Wrap it in phyllo and I'd eat it!
Large beans and feta!  Wow. Our favorite!
Mousakka, Greek Salad and bread... we didn't want to leave.
Greek coffee was an interesting experience...once.

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