Claire and I stopped, panting, at the metal rod that closed a narrow road to traffic. We had given detailed directions and followed them closely but were lost, struggling to find the home of Ivory and Vitor Mascarenhas or a small fishing village that apparently surrounded it.
My mother’s friend Eugenia, not far before our trip started. I contacted her, hoping (as budget travelers) that she could accommodate us for a few days. She said she could, at her home in Lagos, and her parents, who live in Cascais, just outside Lisbon, might be as willing. Ivone and Vitor Mascarenhas are her parents.
I felt somewhat ridiculous, wandering through the traffic in Cascais without a map, searching for a couple in their early eighties, who had never met and not entirely sure could speak English.
After retracing my steps, I found a short walk from the house where I had left Claire and the bags and rang the bell. I introduced myself – Ivone to shake my hand, insisting that I down and kissed both cheeks – and darted off, exploding that I had to fetch my girlfriend.
We were immediately fed ham and cheese sandwiches. Vitor plied us with beer and, feigning reluctance, told us their story. Maputo, in Mozambique (which they are referring to as Lorenzo Marques), Mr and Mrs Mascarenhas, married and built their lives there. They lost three houses when the communist government nationalised most of the property. Deported for arcane reasons, they moved to Johannesburg but soon allowed to return, after Vitor’s powerful golf buddy was intervened.
But they still pronounced “Africa” with an intoxicated roll of “r” and accentuated the final “a.” They felt alienated from the Portuguese, despite having retired to the country about twenty years earlier. Their only attempt to return to Mozambique since the move, because it was abandoned because Vitor required an emergency medical treatment.
Ivone and Vitor were privately dubbed Mr. and Mrs. M by both of us. We were unsure how to be taken, across generations and a culture. And we are worried about forgetting, at some crucial moment, the unfamiliar surname.
Mrs. M cooked us steak that evening, ignoring our bumbling offer to buy our food in town, and Mr. Chased us out shortly after supper. In a six short days Claire and I was through Portugal, visiting only Lisbon and Lagos, the country two bus stops stops. Mr M was a little bit more comfortable, we would have stayed longer, arguing that our short visit would be completely inadequate, and when we loitered at the house, we would like to have a headache in it
A full moon had risen above Cascais, lighting the table filled streets. People sat hurriedly cracking and tearing at seafood-laden platters. Away from the pedestrianized center, traffic moved quickly through a confusing network of one-way streets. A recent suggestion, to upgrade the Cascais from the village to the city, it has been rejected by its residents. Claire and I sat on the shore, debating the finer points of European ice cream, watching flicker reflections on a calm Atlantic.
We slept late on our next day, tired from our exertions in Galicia. After breakfast we were again chased from the house by Mr. M, towards the station and a train to Lisbon.
The track closes to the water, through a few tunnels. I looked straight into the sea from the elevation of my seat as if I was in or above it. A bearded man in a cowboy hat kicked my feet, grumbling, when I stretched out, poking my legs underneath the seat in front of me.
The land eventually appeared on the opposite bank, just discernable through a thick mist. We have entered the vast mouth of the Tagus River, the existence of Lisbon. The city is prime property and has passed through the hands of Europe’s empire builders. The Carthaginians established a trading post here, after defeating the native Iberians. Rome followed, and it was decided to be replaced by the Visigoths and then the Moors. The Christians, with early ideas of nationalism, arrived most recently, during the Reconquista.
Lisbon became the center of a business trading world after Bartholomew Diaz, a Portuguese explorer, rounded Africa at the Cape of Good Hope in 1487. Enjoyed a brief golden age. After the country was conquered by Spain, in 1580, decline set in quickly.
A massive earthquake in the city in 1755 and many of the built-in relics of its long past were presumably lost.
The train’s near the Preça Commercial, an intended gate to the city. We strolled to the square past ferries departing for Madeira, which we whimsically discussed catching, before entering