Monday, March 30, 2009


Today my parents spent most of the day in Azeitao, a very small agricultural village about an hour from Estoril.

Azeitao is known, to the extent it is known at all, as the home of Azeitao Cheese, a very rich, very sweet and very expensive dessert cheese made from goat’s milk, and Moscatel, a sweet, fortified dessert wine.

The day began, for tour participants, with an hour-long Portuguese language lesson. The ostensible purpose of this exercise was to assist tour participants in dealing with merchants in Azeitao. Myself, I think that the language lesson was intended to let tour participants know that they were expected to buy things.

In Azeitao, the first stop was a visit to a Portuguese tile factory. Visitors were escorted through the factory and shown how Portuguese tile is made. At the conclusion of the tour, visitors were escorted to a showroom, where many different types of Portuguese tile were on display, all available for sale.

My mother said that most of the stuff was wretched. However, my mother said that one tile stood out for its beauty and quality: a large single-panel tile with a hand-painted bouquet of flowers in blue and white, resembling a blue etching against a white background. My mother bought it for my sister-in-law—my mother says it will be perfect for my sister-in-law’s new kitchen.

I know the tile must be beautiful, because my mother has exquisite taste. I also know she would never fall for someone’s salesmanship.

After the tile factory, tour participants had a couple of hours to wander the streets of Azeitao and have lunch. Azeitao only has a population of 2000 persons, so there were not many streets to wander. My father said that the town looked like a discarded movie set from an old Western.

My parents found a place to have lunch—there truly were not many choices—and after lunch the tour proceeded to an old winery, one of the oldest and most distinguished in Portugal. Tour members were escorted through the entire winemaking operation, which was sort of impressive, or so my parents said. At the conclusion of the tour, visitors were escorted to a showroom, where different wines were on display, all available for sale. Many members of the tour purchased wines; my parents did not.

The tour arrived back in Estoril in the middle of the afternoon, with the rest of the day free.

My parents marveled anew at the views from their balcony, and took a long nap. In the evening, they went to dinner with six other members of the tour group, including the couple from Rochester.

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