Saturday night at the Asia Bar (under the hardware store), listening to ZÉ GUIA & RICARDO OLIVEIRA, sing Sting’s lyrics, “I’m an alien I’m a legal alien I’m an Englishman in New York” I changed the words to “I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Americana in Salir”. We have moved out of the “big” city and become villagers and every Saturday night the Asia Bar is the place to festa in our village home.
Salir do Porto is small enough to have sheep and chickens as neighbors. It perches on the hillside up above the Tornada river. But it’s not really a river, more like a big tidal pool. São Martinho Bay, depending on the tide, flows in to fill up the “big pool” for swimming or fishing up by the ruins. When the tide is out the beach is there to walk, dig for clams and climb up the cliff steps to the mineral spring.
Saint Theresina’s Refuge and Lounge, as I call my casa is a perfect apartment with a large terraço. The name comes from the mosaic made of tiles above the front door. Most of the homes have a mosaic above their door with an icon or the name of the casa, all different and all hand painted. These are not anything from any do-it yourself superstore.
My views from the terraço are out of a post card. The bay with majestic cliffs rising from rocks scattered with old ruins, across the bay are the high rise buildings of the brassy tourist resort town, São Martinho, it’s wide sweep of beach dotted with bright beach umbrellas. Look the other way, red tile roofs of the village houses and the Miradouro rising behind the church steeple (the steeple has real bells that ring out the time each hour, twice). On the top of the hill is a large white cross and a bench. At night, the lights of São Martinho reflect on the bay like glitter and the cross glows. I can hear the waves from the Atlantic Ocean pounding the shore just on the other side of the hill. Magic, pure magic.
We have our basic needs covered. One mom and pop grocery where we can get our toilet paper, sponges, wine and the tuna in cheaper than anywhere else. Four cafes each with it’s own specialty be it the cable channels, the patio, the view, or the pool tables, three restaurants in town, and two more a short walk away. The Asia Bar and the hardware store, a church if you are so inclined and like a good Portuguese Catholic Mass, and a beauty salon. The city hall has the post office, the town bulletin board and a free internet room, every city, town and village in Portugal has a place where people can use computers for free, like the library but more accessible and friendly.
A “Disco-teria” has an obnoxious klieg light that cuts through the sky like some dull butter knife. Someone I know said it is also a place to find “company”, Eu não sei (I don’t know). We haven’t been to the disco yet, we will have to go, just need to be in that disco mood.
A very large swimming pool built with public funding next to the beautiful beach that has a sand dune almost 49 meters high (a third of a mile). I haven’t see anyone use the pool and it’s closed all winter. It is expensive and we are dying to find out the whole story on how that big ole fancy hole in the ground that no one in our little village, including us can afford to use happened to be built. It does have a good bathroom for the public, they could have just built that and forgot about the pool.
There is a really large recreation and cultural center with card room, pool table, auditorium, badminton, a tennis and futbol court. Badminton Wednesdays are very popular and draw some fierce competitors’; the Ingle-terras (British expats) are wild for it. The center doubles as another café and town communication (gossip) center, the group of women and the group of men (no mingling among genders) sit and talk over the current events. The village festas are all done there, grills filled with sardinhas, musicians playing, dancing and vinho flowing! We got a big four day festa coming up across the bay in São Martinho, St. Anthony’s festa, I know there are grilled sardinhas involved so I will be there. I love me those grilled sardinhas!
We do have a small fresh fruit and veggie market near the village square most mornings. Every day the bread truck comes by honking it’s horn. You go out and shop for your daily fresh bread out of the back of the truck. Great pão integral, whole wheat bread with all the seeds and bolinas, perfect size rolls for a nice fresh tomato, cheese and olive paste sandwich to take to the beach. The fresh fish truck parks up the hill a bit and has a selection of everything from sardinhas to octopus. In the summer an ice cream truck that also sells fish apparently is very popular…hmmm.
As far as transportation, we don’t have a car. Auto accidents account for the majority of deaths per year here. Portuguese even admit they are crazy drivers, imagine all these people racing around in their Smart-Cars. They may be fuel efficient and as green as Kermit, but they still take the curves of steep mountain road without a guard rail at silly speeds. I have been a passenger and I buckle up and close my eyes…seriously, they scare the shit out of me!
If we need to go into the big city, Caldas da Rainha, for things we just have to have, like dried fruit and nuts and cheese from the Praça da Fruta, we have to plan ahead. There are 3 trains: 8am, 1pm and 6pm, those aren’t the exact times, but coming or going, those are the options. We also have the bus three times a day, around the same times. If you miss those count on a twelve Euro (about $16) one way taxi fare.
São Martinho is a lovely four kilometer (2.5 mile) stroll on a wood boardwalk around the bay. It has a nice fresh market, fish market and a big supermarket. We bring our backpacks and bags, and then take the train back to Salir, loaded with our supplies, trudge the eight blocks up the little hill to the casa. Unpack and we are all set for a while with Weetabix and things we can’t get here in our village.
Such a small life might seem boring, but I have a to-do list as long as the Tornada “river”. Right now I need to stroll up to the little market for milk and a garrafa of vinho branco, then see how the swallows are doing building their new nest, then I will probably go say Boa Tarde to the Senhoras at the community center before I visit the one ATM machine.
For a little place it gets busy here.