Obrigado Portugal

Aktualisiert: 16. Aug 2019

I know one word in Portuguese: Obrigado. Thank you. I can’t seem to say it enough. The Portuguese are genuinely welcoming people. They are generous with smiles and patience; willing to share their time, food, and wine without a second thought; and, through it all, kind.

We camped for three days in a picnic area outside of Alcaria, a rustic town of 244 people in the Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros. On the second day of our stay two cars loaded with four elderly women and three men stopped. We didn’t look hungry, or out of sorts, in fact I think we were relatively clean and relaxed that day (which isn’t always the case in our caravan adventure). But they brought course after course of their picnic to my son and I. A loaf of homemade bread, six fish croquets, three dinner plate sized pieces of lemon cake, four pears, and seven apples. Using signs and smiles they insisted we share their food, happy to see Baby Paul Thor smile with a hunk of bread in hand. It seemed to pain them when I turned down a bottle of wine they wanted to gift us as they left. My son waved goodbye while I stood under the pines and blue sky, bewildered by their generosity.

Our next camp was by the Ceira river at the end of a dirt and gravel track. A place we probably should not have dared to tow our caravan (this has become a common theme in our travels). We arrived in the afternoon along with thickening clouds. It had been sunny for three weeks so we didn’t really think Portugal could have bad weather. And then it rained.

The rain came on strong then turned to hail. After another day and night of nearly relentless storms the dirt track was a quagmire. The forecast was grim – at least four more days of wet weather – and we really did not want to be stuck for another week or two waiting for the path to dry. We decided to try to escape. The situation was bad. Our two-wheel-drive car could not pull the caravan out. We got stuck halfway up a slope, like a cork stoppering a wine bottle, with runoff flowing over the saturated earth, between the wheels, and down the side of a steep (caravan destroying) drop, an arm’s length off the mud road.

As we detached the car, hoping to extricate our home with our recently installed electric caravan movers (these things are a lifesaver), a well-dressed man approached. He could have turned around, taking an alternative path with his four-wheel drive jeep. Instead, for the next hour he pulled, gave advice and encouragement, and didn’t once add stress – in the rain. At the top of the hill, when we were unstuck, he clapped my hand, hugged me, got in his car and continued home.

A restaurant owner dumped a bowl of corks on the floor so Baby Paul Thor could play while we ate; a shop owner filled our tank because we asked where we could find water; a mechanic replaced a broken jockey wheel we had bought a week before without a question (or charge) apologizing that something had gone wrong; a man invited us into his three hundred year old home in the historic center of Porto and shared a bottle of wine with us because we said it was beautiful. Acts of kindness have been so frequent I have begun to lose track. And, as we travel with a little one, who wears our nerves down, the generosity, patience, and general friendliness of the Portuguese is a treasure. Characteristics I would do well to emulate. Thankfully, the Portuguese are happy to teach me, like good parents, through example. Obrigado, Portugal.