by Ron McGinty

In the late Middle Ages, the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal rose to be a world power and built its immense empire.

Their possessions spanned over five continents. For the following two centuries, Portugal was able to keep most of its colonized territories. Ultimately, they began a slide and lost most of its wealth and status as other European countries took an increasing share of their businesses and lands.

By the 1800’s millions of Portuguese relocated to Brazil and other countries.

I say, “I am not a shopper,” but am I honest? Portugal is a bargain for buyers even with their currency being the Euro.

The street vendors sell quality handmade products. Shopping the street vendors with many diversities of personal items was a hoot. Incessantly looking to bring back a small gift for the female Foster Children in my No Barriers Program made my day.

I found each a leather diary, a purse and a crucial unique key chain that clips onto their backpack. Vendors are quite anxious to help you based on the age of your recipients and never hesitated to refer another stall down the street.

The only hiccup is the ancient cobblestone streets… to no avail, I told myself, be careful. Now I say, “who’s going to remember the knee hole in my pants twenty years from now?”

The most picturesque region of Portugal is the south in the Algarve region. Here you will find beautiful hotels on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Below these cliffs, you will need a boat to grasp the unique caves of limestone etched into the mountainside.

My advice would be to take a small private boat enabling you to stop, swim and visit the exclusive beaches of the caves. Due to scheduling, our boat could only do a drive by.

Our hotel was the best of the trip, the Tivoli Carvoeiro. It sits a top a mountain viewing the ocean, the blue water coves with incredible views from any viewpoint. I could have stayed longer given the exceptional exquisiteness.

Now, let’s have a glass of port wine in Porto! We arrived at our hotel in Porto, and sitting in the lobby was a small table with two bottles of port and glasses, just help yourself.

My first thought was remembering what Gomer Pyle would have said, “surprise, surprise, surprise.”

I already love this city. Port wine uses the grapes from the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal making it one of a kind.

During fermentation, Brandy can be induced to produce a stronger taste and alcohol content.

Porto was the most picturesque of the towns I visited. The beauty and charm of the old countries are the historical buildings.

After World War II, the United States helped war torn countries rebuild replicas of what was there before. The style of homes here, in Naples, is changing architecturally.

In Portugal, there is no difference. Their newer buildings are becoming more and more modern. The thought-provoking key to people around the world is… we are all alike.

I missed having the personal interaction of the locals because this was a fast-moving group photo tour. Those of you who follow me know I prefer to be submerged in individual relationships with locals to learn their culture.

My last trip to Bogota, Colombia was only a tour; consequently, I am returning in March. My single focus will be to talk to the artists who paint the world-renowned graffiti of Bogota. Stay tuned!