Often times I feel like I am that person in the action photo, the photo taken so fast that there is a trail of blur around them. Can you picture it?
Our culture is constantly on the go, whether it is 24 hour access to everything, prepared food galore, or drive through cities, we try to cram in as much as possible in the least amount of time. And to be cliché, we do not, for a second, stop to smell the roses.
I know that is why our recent travels in Portugal were so refreshing. Portugal is a country that still celebrates a slower pace of life, which closes shop from 1-3pm for lunch, has a cafe on every corner, and whether it is morning, noon or midnight, there is time to sit down and socialize with your neighbor, always with coffee or a ‘midi’ beer and the most amazing pastries and snacks. The culture is created around these premises.
Public architecture was designed before the advent of cars and frames the Portuguese culture with large town squares and glorious churches for people to gather. Sidewalks and streets beckon to be walked on with elaborate decorations. Restaurants spill out onto patios where people gather and enjoy the breeze. Everything in the town is walkable and people young and old are seen in the streets.
Personal homes, whether they are in the city or countryside, all have eatable gardens. Growing your own food, tending to the crops and animals, takes time and is an important pleasure. Vineyards abound with wine being drunk more than water. Here everyone makes their own drink, or has a friend that does. Grocery stores are small and sell food from local farms. Meats too, often come from personal stock. My children ate ‘Arroz con Pato’ or rice with duck, from an uncle’s suburban backyard (suburban as in Arlington to DC), and thought it was the best thing ever, even after visiting the adorable baby ducks that graced their plates.
Here in the Washington ‘burbs we are trying ourselves to get back to the old culture with farm to fork initiatives, CSA’s, farmers markets abound and new construction of walkable town centers and communities. I have had a few clients of late in a new Loudoun community that has its own working farm on property where you can stop at the farm stand on the way home and buy produce from its fields.
My family is trying hard to not lose sight of the ‘go a little slower’ memory from abroad. Why can’t we feel that same way at home? Or can we…?