On Easter Sunday we took a trip to Fátima, and went to mass on the site where the apparitions occurred. Click the link for the story. https://portugal.com/portugal/cities/fatima/fatima-travel We were able to hear the mass, see a procession , and light candles . At Fátima , they do it BIG! No votive candles in sight! For about a Euro visitors can buy candles of various sizes . We saw people carrying armfuls of candles to the “pyre,” which is located behind the Chapel of the Apparitions. It burns brightly with thick black smoke rising above the square and the smell of burning bees wax filling the air. Because the fire is so hot most people throw the candles into the inferno. Diann and I lit our candles and set them in and watched them melt before our eyes. I’ve never seen anything like it. We walked the plaza and enjoyed our visit to this holy site that attracts thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. I thought about my grandparents during my time in Fátima. The apparitions occurred in 1917 while my grandparents were living in Vila Nova de Gaia. I wondered what it must have like for them, and what they thought of the events that occurred.
A Unesco World Heritage site since 2001, the Douro Valley is a spectacular wilderness, one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Traditionally, the wine was taken downriver in flat-bottom boats called rabelos, to be stored in barrels in cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia (where most all of my family is from)The Douro River and the Douro Valley are known primarily for Port, a sweet wine that has been produced here for two thousand years. This is where the next connection to family roots comes in. My great grandfather was a cooper, (barrel maker) and a great aunt that was a Barqueira, (a worker on the rabelo boats that brought the port down the river). Our day visitng the Douro Valley was filled with breathtaking views, and a tour of 2 working, family run Quintas(Wine producing estate). One Quinta where port wine is produced, and the other where olive oil is the specialty, and small wine production complete with the six generation family label. We experienced nice wines from the valley, and fantastic views from above the river. Our day ended below at the river for a river cruise. In my happy place!
Diann and I loved strolling along the river each evening. I loved how each Port Lodge had a section of the river to display replicas of the rabelo boats. These boats were the kind used to transport the wine in barrels down the douro river during 1700’s up until the 1950’s to the Port Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia . Here is a link to show how it was done . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV7ZlLoXWG8 . A little side note here, my grandmother had an aunt who was a Barqueira, the name for someone who worked on these transport boats. Today these Port Lodges are like wineries. They offer up tastings and tours. Many of the Lodges are perched high on the hills and have a spectacular view of the river and Porto. Top Lodge names are Cálem, Croft, Graham, Sandman and Taylor. On our last night in Vila Nova de Gaia, we made our way along the river. We watched the sunset and admired the boats along the rivers’ edge. It was then that I noticed the boats in the picture below. Talk about chills.. The little blue boat has the name Jose Moreira(my father’s name) on it and the barrels on the rabelo boat have Taylor on them. Wow! perfect way for me to say ” tanto tempo por agora Porto (So long for now Porto). parte do meu coração vai ficar aqui (part of my heart will stay here) .
This restaurant was recommended for more traditional Fado. Fado is a Traditional Portuguese song with a melancholy theme accompanied by my favorite, the Portuguese guitar. One of our singer’s name was Cristiana Moreira. I think I will be creating my own Fado when I have to leave.
Today was a very special day for me. It started with a trip to the St. Eulalia church and cemetery. This is the church where archival records indicated that most all of the family were buried in this church yard. I knew it would be a long shot but I hoped and prayed that I would be able to find my father’s three young sisters who passed away before my grandmother came to the states. Sadly it was as complicated as I thought perhaps it would be. Our guide Francisca was able to explain how graveyards were arranged . Francisca, Diann, and I looked for dates and names in three different directions. We were able to find my grandmother’s older brother Mauricio but sadly not the girls or other siblings. Next we went to the office of the cemetery. The women in the office searched for their names but told us that they are probably there but in an unmarked grave. The only way to find out more information is to have permission of the heirs, proof that you are the heirs and a Portuguese citizen. I took comfort in knowing I was in the right cemetery and that the family was in this church yard. Sent from my iPhone
I love how small the world really is. Our first day of real sightseeing began with meeting our guide Francisca. When she met us at the train station she asked us questions about the family history search. I asked her if she was willing to make a call to my cousin who I had not yet met. When I told her the name, she got a curious look on her face. She said that the last name Manahu is not a common name and that her father was friends with a very well known Race car driver with this name. I told her that that was the son of my cousin which makes him a cousin too. Long story short her parents know my cousins. What are the chances of that? To add to this story, when we booked her in February, I chose her because her name was Francisca ( my Va’s maiden name) and she was an architect like Brieanne. One more blood connection.
When both of my parents passed away, I realized a significant part of my family story had been lost. Our parents hold our family history, they are the story keepers. Like the weaver that adds the weft threads to create the color changes in a tapestry, our parents are the ones that add the color to our history.
Through pictures and childhood memories we do our best to piece together what we know, what we can remember, and what we were told. The frame work is finished and now it’s time to restore and preserve the canvas that tells our story. I have dusted off the loom, picked up the thread, and now it’s time to weave more color into our family tapestry.
In this blog I hope to start by retracing the story of my emigrant grandparents.