Beyond the flowers and sea-foam, there is always a wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee smell coming from the cafés that ring and define the harbor, and brief puffs of gasoline from the delivery vans and Vespas that go by . . .
Sitting here, a person without any employment except to look, I have an uncanny sense that things here in this light, the world itself and all its haphazard parts, have a way of coming together to form something—the sun, the lick of the morning air off the sea, the ruined medieval château on the crown of the bluff across the harbor almost effaced in the light, insubstantial but enduring like the past as it recedes and enriches itself in the mind. (186-190)
We leave and meander until we're lost in the Alfama: the labyrinthine historic Arab quarter. You'd need to drop stones to find your way back to where you started. Arm's-width streets twist, climb, double back, drop. Whitewashed houses with flowering pots and crumbling ruins with gaping courtyards open to small plazas with birds competing in the trees for the best song of the morning--a soulful neighborhood for spending your days. If I lived in Lisbon, I would choose to live here. . . Open this door and find the memory of a Muslim mathematician consulting his astrolabe, pass this walled garden and imagine the wives of the house gathered around the fountain under the mimosa. . .
Colors: Islamic turquoise, curry, coral, bone white, the blue layers of the sea. The scents of baking bread, wet stones, and fish frying at outdoor stands. The aromas of coriander and mint and big stews and roast pork emanating from the small neighborhood restaurants, the tascas. As we wait, I admire a walnut cake with caramel frosting served to a man across from us. He sees this and reaches over for my fork, handing me back a large bite of his dessert. The waiter brings platters of fish fried in a gossamer, crispy batter, and a spicy eggplant the old Moors would have loved. We are astonished. Here's the real local food. (83-4)
|This is kind of scrapbooky/dorky, but I always stick postcards in my journal of the places I go, which you can see on the left-hand page, so that I have a reference point for what I'm writing. Maybe it's cheating, but it helps me remember.|