We have hit the road, or should I say the skies, and left a chilly Oregon for the hopefully warmer climates of Portugal and Spain. The plan is nine days in Portugal (primarily Lisbon) and then a nine day cruise up the western coast of Spain, ending in Barcelona.
Currently, there are thousands of people having demonstrations in Barcelona. I just watched a news report showing a group of people literally throwing themselves upon a grown tree on a street, rocking it back and forth until it was uprooted. I hope it is a bit more peaceful by the time we reach there!
We arrived yesterday afternoon, exhausted from a 16 hour (two flights) travel time. Generally we have been pretty lucky, but we had the joy of being seated near screaming toddlers for both legs of the journey. I felt sorry for both mothers and children, and knew that short of pouring the complimentary wine into their bottles, there wasn’t much that could be done.
George doesn’t like to move from his seat, and it has to be a national bladder emergency to budge him. It’s difficult for him to get up and out of the seat. His old bones won’t cooperate. I’m always worried he will develop a blood clot, and I try to get him to do isometric exercises while we are flying. I’m sure our neighbors were concerned to hear me sternly telling him to “Clench your buttocks George! Now hold and squeeze…..”
Lisbon has a great subway system, and we took the Metro from the airport to our hotel in the center of Lisbon’s historic area. I excitedly explained all the money we were saving as we hauled our luggage through an unknown airport without a clue where the subway station was to be found. George kept muttering “Or we could take a taxi” under his breath, but obligingly limped along behind me. He has chronic gout and his poor feet constantly hurt. Highly fortified with steroids and pain killers, he is trying his best.
Despite the fact I overpacked and we have way too many bags, we made it to the metro stop outside our hotel. Literally, it is less than a hundred feet to the hotel. So why can’t we find it? We walk up the block, suitcases clumping over the cobblestones, and then back down the block. Cross the street and try that side. George is ready keel over, but was incredibly calm about it all. You have to love the anger repressive quality of pain killers. I haul out Google Maps and it walks us two blocks in the wrong direction and then the little blue ball suddenly does a massive readjustment. No drugs in my bloodstream, I was ready to scream. There a lot of old buildings built in the 18th century that all look alike, and none have the name of our hotel, or have an address posted on them.
There is a wonderful old obelisk in a small cobblestone covered park in the middle of the road. Standing in the center, with a 360 degree view, I finally found our hotel. Totally covered in mesh, they are cleaning the facade. I was so busy looking at the buildings that I didn’t notice the one covered. Relieved, George threw himself on a couch in the lobby while I checked us in.
Lisbon was totally destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1755. The entire city was rebuilt. Including our hotel. Our room is on the ninth floor, and I am sincerely hoping there isn’t any seismic activity happening in the next week.
We have a small apartment set of rooms with a kitchen and wonderfully deep bathtub. Good thing the tub is so nice, or I might have done a terribly stereotypical American gaffé and tried to soak my aching feet in the bidet. It conveniently faces the toilet, and it would be easy to stick feet, rather than another part of the body into it.
George wasn’t moving any further, so I hit the streets to find some dinner. There are tons of eateries everywhere. I’ve been doing a Portuguese language self study course, and screwed up my nerve to use my food ordering abilities. Ha! Let’s just say the young man was extremely kind, and with lots of hand gestures and eye rolling, I came back with cod baked with spinach and a cornmeal crust, curry soup and Libon’s famous custard pastries for dessert. It’s been a long day and I’m not counting calories. We almost lost it when I tried to say in Portuguese that I only needed teabags and not the cups of hot water. I swear I said “Eu não preciso agúa” (I do not need water). But from the horrified look he gave me, I probably said I had just peed on his floor.
We turned in early, and now I am wide awake at 4:30 a.m. I think we will try to take an easy day tomorrow and get used to the time zone and shake out the jet lag. Lisbon is famous for its pastries, and I’ve already staked out a good place to try one. I’m ready now, but will have to wait for them to open!