The package store up the street from where I work is dark, dank and very musty. People often come in to pay for whatever it takes to get them through their day/morning/afternoon/hour in pocket change; I've on a couple occasions been followed in by tough guys who have had to been escorted out by the even tougher shopkeepers. I can't imagine going anywhere else, though: in tintos and verdes on the shelves and mielhos and anisettes behind the counter they seem to have all of Portugal represented.
Me? I'm a kid in a candy shop there. Often, I have absolutely no idea with what criteria to judge what's in the bottle I pick up (Is it like that porto wine you find in the cheese in the supermarket? Then it's okay by me.), so let myself be led by the eyes and buy based on a pretty label.
Yesterday, after my crummy week which culminated in lunch at dinnertime, I stopped at the shop to pick up little bottles of vinho verde (Pavão - the label had a big, angry, stupid pavane on it, just like my mood that day, so thought it a propos) for Karen and my colleague for having to put up with me. Also decided to try my luck with another tinto from the Dão region, so chose this, based on the label art, of course.
One of the loiterers on the block who'd been attempting to engage me in conversation for a few weeks now had entered the store and, on seeing me, went into raptures over my choice: "Now she gets a bottle with a great Medieval Portuguese painter! Good girl! Pretty and cultured! Aahhhh..." I thanked him and rolled my eyes at the one shopkeeper, a Samoan looking man built like a tank who shooed the over-the-top art historian out the door.
"You know him?"
"Heck no! He followed me in off the street."
"I can watch in here, but not out there. Be careful."
(Did my heart good to know that this cashier was so concerned about the well-being of his customers.)
Made it back to the office without incident. Something the fellow who followed me into the shop said kind of got to me - Medieval painter? Hmm. Don't know how well you can see this image, but take my word for it, not too medieval-looking. Something later, perhaps?
A google search netted me a little information on the painter Vasco Fernandes, otherwise known as Grão Vasco - that he was a leading religious painter in northern Portugal (Dão, in fact) in the early-mid 16th century.
(Here's a better view of his work - it's a detail from his "Annunciation.")
And they say that wine kills brain cells. For crying out loud, that's the first actual brain stimulation I'd had all week.
(In case you're interested, here's a neat little blog on Portuguese painting I found in my search for more on Fernandes.)