The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991

By Michèle Levy; Alfred H. Mendes | Go to book overview

Appendix B

FROM ALFRED TO ELLEN MENDES:
LISBON, 24 NOVEMBER 1950

Then into Portugal and believe me, my darling, I was quite strangely moved by finding myself for the first time in the land of my forefathers. Never have I seen such beautiful country. We crossed the Spanish‐ Portuguese border at Fuentes de Oñoro and moved through the Mondego valley: deep gorges bridged for the train, streams coursing at their bottoms; villages and hamlets clinging to the hillsides in precarious fashion, the hillsides marvellously terraced; vineyards everywhere, and cork trees, and pines tapped for their resin, out of which turpentine is brewed. What industrious people the Portuguese peasants are! Everywhere you see the men, women and children toiling in the fields in the cool air, the women in sombre colours with shawls on their heads and shoulders, barefooted. It is easy to see how poor they are ... For hours we rolled over mountainous country, the train now labouring up a steep incline, now speeding down a decline, the valleys everywhere green and terraced, the hill tops bare and eroded. Some of the views ravished and delighted. Finally we left the mountains and valleys behind and in a great burst of speed came to more even and level country, and lo and behold, there rose Coimbra, the university town, on a hill, the white buildings mounting tier upon tier from the base to the top ...

We drew into Lisboa station at 7 o'clock ... The temperature was mild — above 60F — the sky clear, a small breeze fanned the air. How beautiful is Lisboa standing upon hills, with the broad Tagus running

-157-

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