Lisbon, Portugal - May 14, 2012
I tried to send this off from Lisbon just before I left but ran into the classical Catch 22. Like I said, nothing is easy. The hotel didn't have any internet, but I found that I could buy internet time from a local wireless provider. I bought some yesterday with no problems through PayPal but I used it all up. So I went to buy some more but now PayPal is asking a security question regarding my bank account number. I don't have that information with me but I can get it from my on-line banking. Oh, but I can't get past the provider's log-on page because I haven't paid yet to get online. So I can also pay by credit card. I try the credit card route. But it is administered by PayPal. And PayPal won't let me use the credit card because it recognizes it as belonging to an existing account, so they want me to log into my account. Well, I can't because of the security question. So the wireless provider allows for some time gratis. I figure I can use the free time to check my on-line banking, then get back into PayPal, answer the question and buy more time. But the free offer doesn't work because it recognizes my computer as having already had some paid time and so won't give me any free trials. Screw it. I'm exhausted. I'll send this out late next time I get a connection...
The Old Fort, Lisbon
Anyway, it's Monday night and I spent the last two days wandering around Lisbon. Lots of places were closed on Sunday, but some of the Museums were free until 2 PM. So I saw the Coach Museum with 17th and 18th century royal coaches (very cool) and then went to the Maritime Museum. You can easily get overwhelmed by all the ship models, as some are quite large... like up to 8 feet in length. They were used for training in naval schools. They were quite functional, although designed for specific tasks. So a student would have to demonstrate things like how to raise the topsail or something by manipulating the proper lines, etc. Very neat thing.
The Carriage Museum
Inside the Maritime Museum
I took one of the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses again to get oriented. This was a different company than what I've used in the past... no frog logo on the side. It wasn't quite as good. I think it was narrated by Vince, the Sham-Wow guy. Didn't have a lot of things to say sometimes. Imagine, in the most breathless, enthusiastic and melodious voice..."Stop number four. Next, stop number five!". Yikes, that got old quick. But I did get around the city, and decided from that where I wanted to hang out.
Went down (or up rather) to the Castle today and then just roamed around downtown in the older section... mostly rebuilt after the "devastating earthquake of 1755" as Vince kept reminding us over and over. It's a nice city... not on my list of top cities to come back to though. It could be a romantic city to hang out in I suppose. But no romance here for me. Guess sometimes less is more.
Had one fantastic dinner the first night I arrived. Some of these places really look like nothing from the outside and you just have to take a chance and go in. Your only guide is a menu outside... sometimes unreadable by me. This one was down a basement. I figured that the fish should be good here, being right along the coast and all. I ordered the grilled salmon. So the waiter walks over to a refrigerator case, pulls out the biggest salmon I've ever seen in my whole life and carries it off into the kitchen. A few minutes later, he's back with the salmon. Guess he took it into the cook who chopped off an inch and grilled it. That was a lot of salmon. Anyway... looking back, I realized that I had eaten nothing but coffee and toast for the two days that I had been in Portugal and so I made sure to eat all the vegies that came with it. Ordered a glass of wine too. I like the way they fill the glasses to the very brim, so that you have to sip some out before you can pick up the glass.
So the last two nights I've just had grocery food in my room and some Portugese (like made down the street) vinho tinto (green wine). It's not really green, just newer red wine. The stuff is cheap as all get-out. You can buy a one-litre tetrapak for less than a dollar. Actually, it's not bad. Just tastes like homemade stuff. And it's cheaper than homemade.
Portugese is very a very interesting language. When you read it, it's quite similar to Spanish or any other romance language and so is fairly decipherable. I can get the gist of most signs. But to hear it spoken, it sounds very much like Russian and nothing like Spanish at all. Lots of sch sounds at the ends of words and other multiple consonant combinations like Russian. You wouldn't get the Portugese pronunciation from the spelling at all. Funny how those two aspects of the language have diverged.
Trolley in Old Lisbon
Anyway, the bike is holding up OK although the rear brake has developed quite the squeal. It is just piercing at times and at some point I will have to pull the rear wheel and do some work on it. It works OK... just gives pedestrians a heart attack when they hear me squealing to a stop for them. It's like I'm screaming at them. But to work on the rear, I have to remove the front wheel, tip the bike forward, then remove the rear. Sounds like a camp job. And did a little reorganizing of the wiring related to the lights and now I think all is as it should be. Not like what the wiring diagram says at all! And very grateful for my horns. Coming into Lisbon the other afternoon, some guy in the lane to the left, moved over in front of me almost clipping my front wheel. So I gave him some double Fiamm highway horns. Just so happens we were entering a tunnel so it was an incredibly loud blast. What drama! He absolutely went ballistic. He had both fists up punching me in his mirror, he was going wild. What a spectacle of pure testosterone! It was a great thing to watch. Anyway, he almost hit the wall of the tunnel as he was glued to the mirror and not the road and only jerked it back at the last. It was classic. Love those horns. And fortunately, since entering Portugal, I've gotten to use them quite frequently. The drivers are much worse here than in Spain.
Leaving Lisbon tomorrow... hopefully camp tomorrow night, then I have a place for two nights in Toledo, just southwest of Madrid. After Toledo, I'm just heading east across France (looking for laundromats), northern Italy and then into Slovenia. I think the trip will become more interesting from that point on. Hopefully I can get into Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia easily with the bike. Have the insurance thing to sort out. Those could be interesting places.