Portugal dreams and tears… and Ciao.

Fallen angel… let it all go.

I still dream of Portugal and the time my wife and I stayed there for two weeks some twelve years ago. We were in Espinho (pronounced esh-PEEN-yo), just south of Oporto on the Atlantic Ocean. Beach town. Some tourism, but no Americans that we ever saw. I wrote abut Portugal earlier, but didn’t include mention of one key moment that got lodged under my skin and has stayed with me for years.

The setup for it is the tableau on the beach. Older women frocked in long black dresses slowly strolled the promenade above the beach. On the sand there were umbrellas and sun shelters and blankets and on this sunny weekend day the beach was crowded with family. Portuguese families tend to be modest and quiet, but also very close. They often lie together, touching each other. I saw identical twin boys, about age 13, on adjoining blankets and one was picking away at his brother’s back. My wife took note: “He’s picking his brother’s zits.” Maybe. But it was the kind of family intimacy I had never seen back home in the U.S. From family to family strewn for hundreds of yards along the beach, the peace and affection were palpable.

Some of the pix we took at the beach that day:

Part of the beach at Espinho.






The twins.







Family on the promenade.






Father and son.








Young accordionist on the promenade, playing for pennies. I forget his name…






And yet I sensed an overlay of sadness. Times were tough in Portugal then, with their economy in near shambles, and life was not easy. I admired them all for their closeness to each other, but I also somehow felt their sorrow and struggle.

So the “key moment” happened at this beach bar and restaurant, below:

We were sitting at one of these tables, and our young waiter (Pedro was his name) took our order. I heard music from their stereo. The song  got my attention right away. I asked Pedro in my primitive Portuguese,

“Pedro, por favor. A musica. Quem canta?”

He nodded, said “Gabrielle,” and a minute later brought me the CD case.





I wrote the CD title down – “Play to Win.” And the song was “Fallen Angel.” When the song ended, Pedro went to his stereo and replayed it for us, and again it floored me. Here it is:

Wounded spirit, troubled soul / Fallen angel, let it all go

My eyes teared up as I scanned the wide swath of humanity on the beach. (I’m a writer – I get that way sometimes.) A terrific song can do this to me because I play some guitar and piano and easily relate to the emotional power of music. I felt those words –Wounded spirit, troubled soul – spreading down the beach as if they were a new layer of understanding, a breath of comfort and solace for these wounded families and kids. And so Portugal became for me a two-act drama: pre-Gabrielle and post-Gabrielle, because of this one song.

For the rest of our trip I saw Portugal, and perhaps the rest of the world, through an altered lens. Love, caring, respect, physical closeness – these things dominated, they smoothed over the friction of hurt and sadness, they stuck inside me, they prevailed.

So it’s been for twelve years. It’s never left me.


Let it go, troubled soul, let it go.

And farewell.

Writers tend to have troubled souls. Just like many others who are not writers. Perhaps you. Maybe this song by Gabrielle has some meaning for you.

Western Kansas, nearing the Colorado line.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.

– T. S. Eliot

This blog began as a tribute to the lure of the open road and to those people, like me, who had no choice but to travel it. I’ve driven in 49 of our 50 states, many of them several times, always looking forward to the next adventure, however great or small. But I’m happy to stay put for awhile, here on the shores of our tidal cove. Maine is the perfect place to stop roaming. The memories are cleanly etched, and that’s sufficient.

The blog has never been just about food (I’m not that great a cook, really), nor travel stories nor humor nor made-up characters like Henry and Margaret, it’s been about whatever felt right to write about on any given week. I’ve had nearly 300,000 blog visits since I started in December 2013, including some 120,000 in just four days when I wrote about the tick-borne Powassan virus that killed our good friend up the street, Lyn Snow.

But after 205 blog posts over 4 1/2 years and 248 loyal subscribers (whom I deeply thank for their support), I need to move on. This blog will stay active on the BDN for awhile yet, but there won’t be anything new.

Still, I do have my favorites and invite you to explore them:

And a few others about physics and science and weirdness and terrific people – people like Duane Lammers (bison walker), Michael Weber, Olympia’s “ashtray kid,” scientists David Bohm and John Mack, Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein, and my late cousin, chef Joe Hyde.

Thanks also to the crew at the BDN for hosting me: Patty Reaves, Tony Ronzio, Sarah Cottrell, Dan MacLeod.

I want to leave you with a 4-minute music video that features only my photography and shots of people and places across America and elsewhere and is dead-on in the bull’s-eye center of what I care about most and I hope is reflected in much of what I’ve written about in Journeys Over a Hot Stove. The woman jumping in the air with a heel-click in front of a setting sun (Jekyll Island, Georgia) is my wife Carla, who appears also in the last image of the movie (Sapelo Island, Georgia). The photos are from more than two dozen states and parts of Maritime Canada. Carla is integral to so much of what I’ve experienced, what I’ve done and felt, and I dedicate this last post to her.


There it is. Thanks, all, for a really good ride.


Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.