My MacBook Pro has been experiencing some connectivity issues and it took me forever to get it figured out. I haven’t been able to post for a couple of days. It seems to be working right now, so fingers crossed….
The Lisbon trip has not been turning out as expected; or at least how I envisioned it when we first started planning (and paying) for it several months ago. Part of the enjoyment of travel is the anticipation and preparation. There is an article I read once that said the majority of people enjoy trip planning on an equal basis compared to the trip itself. Anticipation of a wonderful experience is rewarding in itself; at least for me!
When we travel, I spend months figuring out where to go and what to do when we get there. This grandma has read articles on dozens of Portuguese towns, made 3×5 reference cards on cities and sites, and signed up for two online Portuguese language courses (Babbel and Duolingo).
Today, I ordered my decaf coffee with milk, extra hot, completely in Portuguese – from the Hello, How Are You? to the Thank You, Have a Good Day. No English, I promised myself. I keep trying to keep my conversation to Portuguese, but always whimp out and toss some pleading (and apologetic) English in there. Today, I marched up, tried to look confident and went for it. Haltingly, I got through it all. The girl stared at me, rolled her eyes, and then responded in perfect English “Decaf latté, extra hot. Go to the end of the counter.” Oh well, at least she understood me. Rick Steves guide to Portugal swears the locals will appreciate linguistic attempts. Hmmmm. I do have “sorry!”, “excuse me!”, and “thank you” down pat.
George has just not felt well this trip. He is on some new medication that seems to be zapping all of his energy. It has been very difficult for him and we have had to scale back the trip. He wasn’t feeling good when we left, and I figured we would have to throw most of my 3×5 cards on towns away. He’s tried hard, and I love him for it, but he’s happiest sitting in our room. He gets out for a few hours to see one location if there isn’t a ton of walking involved, but then it is back to the room.
I’m trying hard to not be disappointed – or show it. On the trolley yesterday I chatted with a lady who was in Portugal for a week. A kindred spirit, she had over-scheduled herself and has been all over the country. She named a couple of towns that I wanted to visit, and loved them. She kept asking if we had been to such and such, and I had to say no. By the time we parted, I was kind of depressed. George can’t help it, and our roles could easily be reversed. And I know how understanding he would be; probably more than I am feeling right now. But I also know we are so lucky to be here, no matter the circumstances, and it isn’t like I am sitting in the room watching him nap. We have almost 40 years invested together, and this is one more chapter in our book of life. So we are sorting out the dynamics of it all. Fortunately, exploring Lisbon on my own doesn’t bother me, but there has been a lot of solo time, which is a bit sad for us both.
Lisbon has one of the the best mass transit operations we have experienced. And fun. San Francisco cable car look alikes run throughout the city, as well as city busses, the subway metro and five different train stations. Which is good because the city is built on seven steep hills.
We are able to do one outing a day together. We took the trolley to a fresh food market. One of my favorite visits in cities is to check out local indoor/outdoor food markets and grocery stores. This adventure involved taking the funicular up the steep (very steep) hill to catch the trolley to the Mercato de Campo de Ourique. In a moment of complete idiocy, I decided to walk the hill while George took the funicular, which takes a long time to load up and inch its way up the hill. My not original theory of “Use it or lose it” compels me to take stairs and apparently walk up steep hills.
Half way up my heart was pounding and I’m gasping for breath. Of course, younger mountain goat-like people keep passing me, breathing easily. I’ve also decided that I have to beat George up the hill. Thank goodness, the funicular hasn’t left yet. The last half of the hill, there are large art platforms set up for local graffiti artists. Graffiti is a recognized art in Lisbon and there are exhibits everywhere, which keep the buildings much cleaner. If you have ever been to Athens, the buildings are covered with random grafitti and it gives a sad, soiled appearance. In Lisbon, they have made lemonade out of lemons and embraced it. Hiking up the hill, gasping for air, I had a sudden love of graffiti art and stopped at each platform to snap a picture. Rest stops! The panels are each about 20 feet long. Perfect distance to gasp, take a photo and move to next panel.
I did beat the funicular and had just enough time to stop wheezing and fake like it had been a breeze. George saw through me, of course, but was impressed I had made it. We had to walk a few blocks to get to the trolley, and I started feeling guilty about dragging George out. He was already looking tired.
It’s great fun to ride the trolley and go through new neighborhoods. We talk about how it would be to live there – where to shop, have coffee, cultural events, walk to parks. There are not a lot of individual houses, but lots of apartments to choose from.
The market is one short block from the trolley stop. Beautiful fruit, veggies, fish, candies, pastries and food stands. George sat at a table and I cruised the aisles. Ohhh, I wish I had my kitchen! All these beautiful foods….
I didn’t take pictures of the meats because it seemed sort of sad, but there were also piles of plucked whole chickens – with heads attached. They thoughtfully tuck the head into the poor little plucked wing, but you can see the red comb and beak sticking out. They look embarrassed to be caught naked. Also rabbits, but thank goodness the bunnies didn’t have heads. Oh dear, my vegetarian proclivities are showing.
There were several restaurant stands, all with delicious food at higher tourist prices. The locals may shop here, but they don’t eat here, I’m sure. But it was tasty and we enjoyed it.
Back to the trolley stop, and George was really dragging. The trolley is crowded, and I was hoping that he could get a seat near the door and not have to stand for the 20 minute ride. Plus we have to walk uphill back to the funicular and ride it down the hill again. Lo and behold, a city bus pulls up and the sign says it is going to the stop by our hotel! We jumped on it and in less than 10 minutes, the bus pulled up directly in front of our hotel door. Wow, if I had known that we could have taken the bus in the first place.
George was completely done in, our adventure the day before to Belém had been too much and he needed to recover. He went straight to bed and I headed out on my own. I decided to avoid texting and walking, which kept me in better neighborhoods and I didn’t trip over any drug users. Whew.
The mile long park near our hotel had a mile long craft fair going. The entire length of the park was filled with tables of goods for sale. Everything you could imagine! Antiques, home-made yarn stuff you would see at a church bazaar back home, baked goods, coins, watches, china, jewelry, clothes. A cornucopia of choices for the undiscerning shopper.
Of course, there were lots of pastries to choose from. I am not proud of my pastry consumption since arriving in Lisbon. With a heavy heart, and an even heavier hind end, I decided to terminate my love affair with the pastel de nata. Each day is a new beginning, and I’m proud to say the day began, and ended, without a pastry. Perhaps I will not have to seek professional help or a support group.
It was my tourista duty to check out each and every table in the park. When I got back to the room a few hours later, George was still sound asleep, holding the cell phone on top of his head.
By evening, George felt well enough to go out for dinner. He is not loving Portuguese food. We saw a show about their love of salted cod. Indeed, at every market that are huge fillets of salted fish piled up. Somehow, this sort of horrified him, and he posted on Facebook that he does not like their dishes containing salted fish. This would assume that he had actually tried a dish with salted cod. Or fish. Or any kind of seafood. He has consistently refused to have any type of fresh water or seafood.
Actually, this isn’t surprising. He takes to new foods slowly. The first two times we went to Italy, he had issues with their pizza. He insisted they didn’t know how to make it, which was disconcerting, as we were in Italy. For some reason he kept wanting Chinese. Now he loves their style pizzas. So he has been eating a lot of Italian food since we came to Portugal. It’s okay, he will start eating Portuguese food when we go to another country.
He had pizza, I had fish stew (great salted fish, by the way) and then we went to bed.