Portugal Trip: Day Two


For the first full day in Lisboa, my sister-in-law arranged a tour by tuk-tuk.

Curious what I’m talking about? They’re motorized tricycles with a limited number of seats, and they look like this (scroll down to the gallery) http://www.tuk-tuk-lisboa.pt

Ours wasn’t quite like those. It was an electric vehicle, it seated six (including the driver) and it had four wheels. It also had no doors at all, was very narrow, and had a top speed of, like, 25 mph.

And man, did we go up and down hills and through alleyways while the driver told us about the history of the city.

Our first stop was the location of a large, incredibly important peaceful revolution that took place in my lifetime that I personally knew nothing about. Like, zero. I kept nodding while the guide spoke, as though of course the history of his country was crucial knowledge for an educated American, but I felt distinctly like a student faced with a pop quiz after a long night of partying. Then we moved on to more distant past, and phew for that.

It seemed that Lisboa was originally built by Arabs, and the streets were narrow and twisting. A massive earthquake in 1755 destroyed the old city and killed about 10-15% of its inhabitants. When the city was rebuilt, the mayor of Lisboa defied the power structure and had the city constructed with wider, straighter avenues.

According to our guide, at least. Wikipedia tells its own story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1755_Lisbon_earthquake

He took us to beautiful views of the city, ancient downtown buildings, and the Praça do Comércio, which he assured us is the largest public square in Europe (although Wikipedia says it’s not even the largest square in Portugal). After, we went to Docas for a late lunch. I had a Prego, which is a traditional sandwich (ingredients: a roll, some beef, some garlic, that’s it).

My son had shrimp, which were served with the heads on. He ate none of those, although our tuk tuk driver assured him many times that it was no big deal and that he should just pull the heads off and suck out the brains because they were so tasty.

Guess how well that worked.

The driver was an interesting guy. We couldn’t trust half of what he said on his tour. He drove us through those “Arabic” streets that were so narrow my wife and I could have held hands and touched the walls on either side without fully extending them. He stopped in at a little tchotchke store where the owner gave us each a shot of ginjinha https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginjinha a sour cherry liqueur, and of course we bought a couple of things (that we wanted anyway).

But he also brushed off any talk of Portuguese colonization as nothing more than a search for trade and women. He dropped the “n” word a few times, informed us (with a touch of pride) that his people invented the term mulatto, talked about the Porsches and BMWs he saw on the road, and elbowed my ribs when he saw a beautiful woman on the street. Like a lot of places, Portugal is full of beautiful women.

I don’t often meet guys like that. Basically, friendly, toxic bros who know less than they think but who are completely charming otherwise. Plus, it was a gorgeous city, and he was so proud of it.

Overall, a weird day, but a great day. Have some pictures.

Portugal Day Two

Click the pic for more images. Can’t see it? A link.

Portugal Trip: Day One


The first day of any vacation is the actual traveling. I don’t much like flying, and I certainly don’t like waiting around with luggage piled beside me. This trip we did a lot of both.

We flew British Air, which was a pretty good choice, and we arranged our travel so there would be several hours between our non-stop from Seattle to Heathrow and Heathrow to Lisboa. Turns out, that was a good idea.

The first leg was yet another red-eye, which is a habit we just can’t seem to break. However we were smart enough to upgrade ourselves to rows with a little extra space. I don’t even remember what we paid, but I’m glad we paid it. We had extra leg room, space to stand and move around, and TV screens inset on the seats in front of us so we could entertain ourselves with some video on demand during the flight.

I watched KINGSMAN, which wasn’t nearly as cute as it thought it was, then TERMINATOR: GENISYS, which was way too far up its own ass. After that, I was tempted by RUN ALL NIGHT, but after flying all night, I was really tired, so I went with a comfort viewing of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, which I liked more the second time than the first.

Unfortunately, my 13yo son, traveling with us, came down with a serious cold just before we left. He went through five travel packs of tissues on the first leg, and that’s only because the Nyquil hit him hard and he slept most of the way. Me, I can’t sleep on planes.

We landed at Heathrow on time, which was great. But the tunnel wouldn’t connect to the plane, so they had to drive in a set of stairs. That’s half an hour, for some reason. Then the guy driving the stairs got into a collision, so we needed another one. The flight was over 9 hours, and we spent an extra 45 minutes cooling our heels on the plane.

Then we had to get from terminal 5 to terminal 3. The envelope our boarding tickets came in said this took NINETY MINUTES, but I thought that was nuts. It wasn’t.

First you walk all over hell’s creation. Then you get into a bus. The bus goes to terminal 3, but don’t get off the bus here, this is the part of terminal 3 where they pick up more people who need to get to terminal 3. Then we rode the bus all over the goddam airport, for at least 20 minutes. Once they dropped us off, we still had to walk down endless corridors, up stairways, down stairways… It was ridiculous. I’d like to see a map showing the path we had to walk, because that was some bullshit. There has to be a better way.

At least we got there with just barely enough time to eat a meal, buy more tissues and run for the connecting flight… which was also delayed. Once we were loaded aboard, the pilot announced that another plane had spilled jet fuel all over the runway. We sat for 30 minutes while they cleaned it up.

The flight from Heathrow to Lisboa was cramped and unhappy, except for the view out the window. This was my first trip to Europe, and I enjoyed seeing the countryside, the coastlines, the mountains, and of course, Lisboa, as we circled the city. It was beautiful.

My sister- and brother-in-law have a great apartment in the city. She’s an artist. He’s a musician. As you would expect, their home’s beautiful and funky and extremely comfortable. I’m glad my wife and her sister are close, because we get to stay with them and ruthlessly exploit them as tour guides.

Also they had a little cafe on the corner of the block. That’s where we learned that when you want coffee in Portugal, you get espresso. No drip, just espresso, maybe with some milk added or something.

Plus, the pastries are very very sweet.

And Portugal, we’re going to have to talk about your electrical outlets.

Portugal Day One

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For Halloween, the Chapel of Bones in Evora


I feel bad about being so behind on everything, so here’s a Halloween preview of the Portugal blog posts to come:

In Evora (that first “E” is supposed to have an accent above it but life is short), they just reopened the Capela dos Osso after spending a fortune refurbishing it. That is, obviously, the chapel of bones, a largish room where the bones of the fully decomposed dead were put on display, to remind us all of our mortality.

Sometimes I think that’s the real value of Halloween: not the scares, not the candy, not using the costumes to pretend to be someone else. It’s the reminder that one day, we all must end.

Capela dos Osso

NaNoWriMo and Portugal


Portugal posts have been delayed, obviously, because I got sick as soon as I got back to Seattle. Also, our shitty internet means that the online backup issues we had while we were away are taking forever to resolve.

Soon, though. Soon.

Additionally, it looks as though I’m going to jump on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon this year. After my vacation, which was supposed to be a working vacation but absolutely wasn’t, I’ve been having trouble getting momentum going on One Man. I doubt I’ll reach 50K for the month (not with the holiday right at the stretch) but that doesn’t matter if I can get this book going again. And I’m not going to sign up on some website to post my progress; I’ll do that here.

And now I’m off to get started on today’s work.

New blog series: I went to Portugal


I have recently taken a “social media vacation” that lasted about a month. I wasn’t completely gone, but I wasn’t posting much, wasn’t reading much, and barely responded to people. The reason was simple:

I was on a month-long vacation in Portugal with my family.

My wife’s sister and her husband have lived in Lisboa and Porto for over ten years, and this was our first visit. We set aside a whole month at the end of the tourist season, late September through October, to see the sights, drink cafe on the sidewalks, and generally hang out and get to know the country. We did some things designed for the turista and some that locals do.

And yeah, the trip has been a secret, mostly, because I don’t think it’s wise to tell the world when the whole family is going out of the country together. It’s not that I’m afraid people would rush to my empty home to rob it, it’s that they’d rush to our home to rob it and find my niece living there, house-sitting for us.

So: trip reports, with pictures, coming up.