Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Cycling With Lucy

We picked up a couple of bikes from BikeIberia, down by the ferry terminal. Not planning on climbs, we opted for the Standard Hybrid, as opposed to the Front Suspension Mountain Bike, the Comfort Touring Bike, or the Carbon Road Racer. I'd forgotten about Avenida da Liberdade, a steady climb once we cleared the clumps of tourists at the bottom.
We'd promised ourselves plenty of rest stops. This was one, in Lucy's pic looking south toward the river. We carried on past the Roman aqueduct--It survived the earthquake of 1755! I told Lucy, as if I'd built the thing.
That got us into the Monsanto green space--yes, that Monsanto. The friendly young woman at BikeIberia had warned us to stay along the outside, if we didn't want to be climbing, in our Standard Hybrids. That meant a long, slowish perimeter journey, with significant climb to it anyway. We stopped to eat lunch.

From the Monsanto summit, as it seemed to us, we cruised in the Standard Hybrids downhill to the river, all the way to the tourist enclaves of the Torre of Belem and Padrao Dos Descobrimentos. By this time our bums needed relief. We stopped for Italian, then dropped the bikes off at BikeIberia and walked home.
Lucy paused to consider the salmon.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

My Book of English Exercises

(Found today at a flea market in Lisbon.)

The king appreciated his journey very much.

The bridegroom entered the drawing-room with his _________.

Is this your bag, Frank?

Please give me some more pudding.

The boys will paint the flowers in their books.

We should have seen beggars in the streets.

This boy has a fine horse.

Hours are short periods of time.

Neither explanation was good.

Every man must die.

Monday, 21 April 2014

After Yesterday

I didn't see much Easter Sunday church-related activity yesterday, as I was saying. Not that I'd recognize it. I do remember sunrise services decades ago in Herbert, when mom would troop us up to the Lutheran church at the east end of town--at Easter, I think--not into the church but to the far hillside to witness, somehow, the rising sun. It meant a good breakfast, that much I knew.
What did seem religious yesterday was the public ecstasy when one of Lisbon's football teams, Benfica, won the league championship. Ending at about 20:00, the game incited mass celebration among Benfica believers, who behaved as if delivered to some promised land. I caught the end of the game in a fado club which, once the champagne was sprayed, photos of children holding the trophy taken, and busty medal-presenting young women escorted out of sight, became a fado club again, serving a couple of sets of fado with tapas and wine. This was house variety fado, strictly amateur, but enough to effect that powerful sense of meeting, audience and song, toward fulfillment of both.
All of that was already in the past (where else could it be) 15 hours ago when I rode the metro to the airport to meet a certain Miss Lucy from Regina. She slept for 4-5 hours when we got back to the apartment. After that we hit the streets of Alfama and beyond in a traveler's first day, when she begins to build a sense of where she is and where she might want to go tomorrow.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sunday

Cloudy, chance of cruise ship, said the forecast which, as I read it, 08:25, came true when the Costa Fortuna--who came up with the name?--slid into sight. That's 900 feet, 13 decks, 3,700+ passengers and crew, 150,000 tons worth of sliding.
I'd been woken at 02:00 by singing. Slow harmonies--an Easter procession? One of these displays of hauling a Christ-on-the-cross through the streets, which I'd seen in Sevilla? The Portuguese are known for their religious festivals. What else would Easter have in store?
Not many stores, as the day turned out, one of the quietest days I've seen here. A few bells, straggles of tourists, announcements from the CF, in five languages. I got pretty quiet myself, not working much. Later I got stuck into Blue Sky, with Jessica Lange (fabulous) and Tommy Lee Jones (tentative). Portuguese subtitles for today's language study.
By now I can tell when cruise ships are leaving. At about 19:00 I went down to watch the CF. Unlike the Azura, this ship fired its stern engines sideways--crude ship talk, for sure--and rotated its rear end counter-clockwise, putting me squarely into its bow webcam for a few seconds.
About three minutes later, I could see the captain reach down and put her into drive and sail off, as I did, over to the grocery store to buy flowers for MY DAUGHTER LUCY WHO ARRIVES TOMORROW!
Closed Easter Sunday, said the grocery store.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hanging Clothes to Dry

Stains, wrinkles, the life of grime—just a memory, now that I’ve hung my clothes to dry. Anybody can see what’s out there. From left to right, the quick-dry shirt (a tourist special), the Cougars running shirt . . . well never mind. See for yourself!

I’ve got the right day, when even the river seems to lie back and love the sun, which in turn loves my laundry. The last time I had a thrill like this, not counting my last radish and cheddar sandwich, was when a bunch of us were trying to create text and image presentations on an Apple IIe—this was 1981-82 in Nelson, a town about as far up the edge of Kootenay Lake in southeastern B.C. as I am right now above the Tagus in Alfama. I’d worked out a sequence of commands for a screen that would say, in crude early computer font, the supreme joy, over a piece-at-a-time assembly of a primitive car, of perfect motoring. I loved the effect.
So, the supreme joy of hanging clothes to dry, liking the thought of what I get later: my stash of river breeze up the pantlegs and down the sleeves. Re-delicate undies! Never mind later, I like it now, the flag of my undies and socks and the full kit, pinned loosely on the line, as they do it here. A breeze keeps things cool. The sun bides its time. While the clothes hang, I’ll head out for a little dangle in the breeze of my own.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Alfama: Good Friday

Yes, good Friday for another cruise ship, the MSC Orchestra.

So you’ve got eight hours top get back to the ship. You’ve read about Alfama. You’ll get over there on one of those three-wheeled conveyances, get the driver to cruise along Remedios and stop when you see a great photo, which you take from the seat of your conveyance, down some set of stairs.


This is grab-and-run tourism, that treats a neighbourhood as their amusement park (and river their parking stall, waterfront their audio field, city their mall, but let’s keep the focus local). So they tour up and down the streets, gawking. No photo op = no interest, no interest = don’t give a shit that people live there. The walkers get their bodies in gear, at least—cradling the lens of their camera in their left palms, hungry for the next shot. There, a playground. Let’s lean on the fence and take pictures of the kids playing!

These tables need some serious turning. For my part, I’ve glared at tourists, talked to local business owners about tourists, stood watching and taking pictures of tourists. Next, guerrilla action against the conveyances, and a stern talking-to I’ll deliver to the bridge of the Orchestra by sundown.

To be fair (about time!), I’m a tourist myself. And these small linguistic pics/tics I offer are my version of grab and run, usually more of a sit and watch. I’ll take my pics home and edit them a bit, I suppose, as they will theirs. I did feel a moment of fear for the tourists, when I saw a local guy bomb downhill on his motorcycle, his kid behind him, no helmets, along the route the tourists prowl.

Why should I have to hear the ding-dong that precedes on-board announcements on the Orchestra? Why, in Alfama, should people have to feel that their lives are on display for the consumption by a few hours’ worth of a visitor?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Alfama: Elevation in 12 Steps

The sea is said to be level. Everything else is up and down.





On cruise ships at anchor they line the railings to watch your step—this one up, this one up, the next four down, a couple up, ten more down.



You can swallow that bite of pastry but it won’t stay down.



You can drop a coin at your feet, pick it up at your ankles.



A newborn’s first journey in Alfama is the 15cm ascent from crib to change table.



One kid kicks the ball past another. By sundown it's ridden an ebb tide out to sea.



The trees don’t know which way to grow. I stepped on a leaf the other day!



Your shoes age erratically.

If your mood is rising, it’s likely, around the next corner, to descend.



Last night, turning over in your sleep, you woke up three feet lower.



You’re always lower than you used to be.


But this is the closest you'll be to bottom.