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For Patsy, traveling requires research

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Patsy Pridgen

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By Patsy Pridgen
Telegram Columnist

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Being the Type A person that I am, I have always done my homework. Currently, I’m researching an upcoming trip to Spain and Portugal. Since I’m pretty sure I will never pass this way again, I intend to get as much out of my visit as possible. Knowing something about where I’m going before I get there helps me do that.

The first question I’ve researched involves languages. How different is Portuguese from Spanish? My Spanish is rudimentary, but I do have a few phrases I can throw out. Does “Buenas Dias” work for good day in Portugal? “Gracias” for thank you? The answer, in case you’re interested, is the two are similar, making it easier for a fluent Spanish speaker to learn Portuguese. But no, good day in Portuguese is “Bom Dia” and thank-you is “obrigado” for men and “obrigada” for women. I’ll have to practice these.

The trip will start in Madrid, “renowned for its museums, stately royal palace, and vibrant night life,” according to the tour brochure. This little bit of information means I’ll google the Prado, which I’ve already learned is one of the world’s most famous museums, to determine which paintings I need to see. I’ll find out the name of the royal palace and whether it’s open for visitors. I would probably forgo the night life, being the age that I am, except that the trip comes with a dinner and a flamenco show. What exactly is flamenco?

From Madrid, the tour goes to Toledo (not Ohio) and a university town called Salamanca, where, according to the brochure, “Columbus sought advice before sailing west.” I’ll investigate both, finding out what to eat in Toledo, which has been declared Spain’s 2016 gastronomic capital.

Most of the trip is actually in Portugal, where my group will board a riverboat, my favorite means of travel. For several days, we’ll cruise the scenic Douro River, visiting small Portuguese towns I’ve never heard of: Castelo Rodrigo, Pinhao, Lamego, and Amarante. I’ll research each little town, along with the Douro River.

Porto, the hub of the Port wine trade, certainly deserves some study. There are UNESCO-designated neighborhoods, enclosed by 14th century walls that I would like to learn more about. In Porto, our tour group leaves the riverboat and we’re again back on the bus, heading south to our final destination, Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.

Lisbon, the brochure says, is full of “glorious historic architecture” reflecting Portugal’s “Age of Discovery” when the Portuguese owned the seas. I know Brazil was a Portuguese colony, but where else did the Portuguese empire extend? What caused it to collapse? My inquiring mind wants to know.

My husband is a just show up at the airport kind of traveler. Having no expectations, he says whatever he sees will be fine with him. And it is true that a downside to researching the sites is that I am open to disappointment if I don’t get to everything I’ve read about.

Still, I feel compelled to do my homework. So it’s off to the library to search for a Frommer’s Guide to Spain and a Rick Steves’ Handbook on Portugal.

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