13.10.2010 - 24.10.2010
Well the kettle finally packed in. We turned it on last night and it tripped the circuit breaker out on the site. It had been playing silly buggers for some time, so we knew it hadn’t long to go. We’re on our third toaster too.
The city of Lisbon is fabulous and the weather’s been brilliant. I know I’m biased because I’m half Portuguese, but I’m buoyed in my opinion by Ann who thinks the place is wonderful too. She’s ranking it next to Paris as her favourite city, although she still has reservations about New York in second spot.
We’re loving it. The first night we were here we got talking to an Aussie couple, Colin & Pam, in their late sixties. They seemed pleasant and friendly, but not what you’d call deep or intellectual. After chatting to them for a couple of hours, they seemed keen to stay in Lisbon another day and join us for dinner the next night.
We went out as planned and had a nice meal at quite a posh restaurant in the Chiado district. Colin seemed to find everything about everything “wonderful” – the food, the architecture, the history – and he was quite right. However it soon became apparent to me that he and Pam were a bit like the stereotypical middle-aged American tourist couple who travel the world finding everything ‘wonderful’ and ‘fascinating’, but always fall short of admitting that anything is better than what they’ve got at home.
After dinner we wandered the Chiado district which was alive with people – it was great. We found a small ‘adega’ (cellar) which advertised ‘fado, the unique-to-Portugal style of singing. It’s usually sung by a woman backed by a couple of guitarists; and the songs are often laments regarding the sea, lost loves, tragedy or yearning for the homeland of Portugal. The songs are always intensely passionate, and seeing it live you quickly become swept up in the passion.
There were five singers at this adega (called ‘Caldo Verde’), doing their own sets – two women and three men. The men were dressed simply but smartly, but the women were beautiful, elegantly turned out, and sang fado in the way only women can.
It was a great experience, spoilt only slightly by Colin who was loud-drunk, being demonstrative and a bit embarrassing the way only drunks can be. By the end of the night I was quite happy to see the back of them. We headed home close to 1pm in a taxi with me, the driver, and three very pissed people in the back seat!
The next morning we (happily) said goodbye to Colin and Pam. Nice enough I suppose, but boringly mediocre. The day started slowly (Ann was feeling a bit wretched) but we later went into town to take a look around. The next day, Saturday, was a laundry day; so we stayed put, having a cheap lunch at the campsite café.
Sunday we went into town in the afternoon, taking a tram ride around the city. The modern trams, along with the buses, do the general commuting work; but the old-fashioned yellow iron workhorse trams do all the climbing around the steep narrow hills of the city – a wonderful way for tourists to experience Lisbon.
Monday we went into town early and after walking through the hilltop districts of Bairro Alto and Chiado descended the long stone steps leading back to the centre of town. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a tiny eatery, the sort tourists don’t much frequent because it’s in the back streets. We sat for lunch with the ordinary workers and had an enormous lunch for the ridiculously low price of eleven euros and fifty cents – for the two of us! It consisted of a mixed salad followed by spiced chicken with home-made chips and rice. We also shared a carafe of red wine and two coffees. The same meal on the many trendy café strips in the city would have cost three times as much. And the atmosphere in this place was great.
The rest of the week was spent simply, either travelling to markets on the trains, walking the town or staying put and Skyping our mothers. Disappointingly I had tried to contact my mum’s old school friend who lives in Lisbon. After many abortive attempts I discovered that she was staying at her sister’s place after undergoing surgery. Never mind, next time.
There’s been nothing much else on the news here except for the State Budget, a subject that seems to have brought out all the political knives from the opposition parties. I can’t seem to get much else on telly apart from woeful Portuguese and Brazilian soap operas; and for some reason only on analogue TV stations. If I try to search for digital channels, the TV reports that the “video type is unsupported” - whatever that means.
Tomorrow, Monday the 25th October, we leave Lisbon heading south to the Algarve. There are two huge bridges heading our way that I’d love to travel on; the 25th April suspension bridge (looking much like the Golden Gate) and the fabulous Vasco da Gama bridge, a sort of hybrid ‘cable stay’ bridge that’s apparently 17 kilometres long – the longest in Europe (by far I should think). I don’t know if we’ll be going over both, but we’ll see. We’ll stay in the Algarve a couple of weeks before moving to southern Spain.
Oh, I meant to say that, at about 1:30 am at the campsite, on the night of our fado, I heard a racket coming from a motorhome containing a number of young men. Have a guess who they were? - yep - it was those bloody Aussie yobs that we’d encountered in Porto, making a nuisance of themselves - again! There was music playing, and they were talking and laughing, paying no attention to the neighbouring campers (thankfully, we were beyond earshot). Why can’t they just stick to going to Bali with all the other bogan scumbags!