Saturday, April 30, 2005

Running Around Town

DM and I are now home, as I wrote before, and we're rested up. We ended up crashing at about 8:30 Minnesota time, the jet lag kicking us down and the fact we'd been awake for nearly 40 hours with only a couple of minor naps on the planes. We figured out that we had taken over 4,000 pictures in Portugal. Yes, we may be a bit insane, but our scrapbooks are going to be killer.

One of the first projects we started once we got back was to figure out which pictures to get developed right away. These are the ones we want to have to show everyone that we see over the weekend and the next couple of weeks. We did narrow it down to 165 images. I have a disc sitting next to me labeled Best Pics of Portugal 2005 and we're going to head down to the photo developing place soon to get two copies of each picture and then grab some food.

Going through the pictures just kept reminding us of how utterly fabulous this trip was. I don't know if I could say enough how wonderful the time was. Little moments piled together to create an adventure of a lifetime. We met a fantastic person in real life, we experienced a different culture, and we lived out a dream. As hard as it was to believe that we were actually there it is now just as hard to believe we're home.

Here are five more pictures from the trip, ones from the disc of best pictures that we are developing.

ocean coast
Ocean Coast

ocean 1
The Ocean

johnny at cafe
Johnny at the cafe

beth at ocean
Beth at the ocean

beth and dana at ocean
Beth and Dana at the Ocean

Friday, April 29, 2005

Back to the Hustle and Bustle

We made it home. I have notes about the flights and still a couple of posts to write about different days, but we're home. A teary goodbye was said and we made it onto our flights.

It is good to be home, although bittersweet. There is always an upside and a downside. I just want to thank Johnny yet again for the time of our lives. Dana (Deya, DM) and I had a fantastic time and we will cherish the memories forever. The invitation always stands for you to visit. The end of August would be a great time, hint hint again.

Now it is back to our lives. We each have a few more days off to recover (DM goes back on Monday, I go back to work on Tuesday). There will be karaoke this Sunday and many more days and nights of adventures, but none with quite so magnificent of a background as Lisbon.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

I Bought Boots!

Our final day in Portugal was a busy one. There were a few sights left we wanted to make sure to see before we left the country. The alarm was set again for us to get up, but not as early today. We heard the beeping of Johnny's mobile at 10 am and we did have the option to snooze a bit. By 11:30, we were ready to go!

It was the same walk to the Metro and we bought the tickets, boarded the train, and headed to Rossio, a stop on the green line. The stop opens up onto a square where hundreds of pigeons walk around amongst the people rushing to catch the subway, trolleys, cabs, and buses. I watched as Deya found herself surrounded by the birds. A few started flying around, circling the square, and I briefly saw myself in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The taxi stand was on the other side of the square, so we headed over, pausing to watch the man feed the birds, and asked the driver, without using English, I might add, to bring us to Belém, a district in Lisbon (Lisboa) where we could see the St. Jerome Monestary, catch a glimpse of the Monument to the Discoveries, and hopefully see the 25th of April bridge, the Cristo Rei, and the Torre de Belém.

The driver brought us to the monastery, and it was magnificent. The architecture is amazing and the building goes on and on. Deya's camera was sans battery power today, so we have pictures from my camera. The day itself was over 500 pictures! Don't worry, they are not ALL the monestary, I will also share what else we were able to see.

After leaving the place of worship (where we saw the devil, standing with his red face and smoking! Inside a holy place! I have a picture), we wandered past a public gardens to see if we could catch photos of the bridge, the Monument to Discoveries, and hopefully the Torre de Belém and the Cristo Rei. We saw the Monument, it is large and near to the monestary. Views of the bridge and the statue of Christ were a bit more difficult, but we do have a few images of each from different days. We skipped walking down to see the Torre de Belém, mainly because the day was our last and it was a long walk! We wanted to get as much of Alfama in as possible and maybe do a bit of shopping. There were still a couple of gifts to pick up.

We caught another cab and asked the driver to take us to Alfama. The man was very helpful and even told us about where to go from where he dropped us off. The Porties are extremely helpful and have made our stay a dream come true. We decided against visiting the castle, only because it was an uphill walk. There was a little kiosk with sandwiches and soda where we stopped and of course, we had to have a bite to eat. The "Coke" was not as advertised. But the sandwiches were fairly good and Deya had a blast hand feeding pieces of the bread to a little sparrow who kept flying over to us. We would watch the sparrow fly off to a tree and return again and again. The tree was a part of the amazing view we had of Alfama. The red rooftops showed us the classic character of Lisbon and kept screaming Europe to each of us. Even now, as we are just a few hours from leaving, we still find it hard to believe we are actually in Europe. Maybe I am just a silly American speaking, but traveling to another continent is a fascinating experience.

Pictures were taken at the different overlooks and our path headed down a steep hill. We found an open door and a friendly elderly man offered us to enter the church. It was the Chapela de Santa Luzia and he walked us to the different displays and statues. The chapel was small and in comparison to the monestary, not what I would call extravagent, but utterly charming. Deya and I both agreed, the man showing us the different things made the chapel amazing. His smiles and excited voice tone was terrific.

We kept wandering down the hill, making our way to the Sé, famous in Lisbon for its Rose Window (I will get to that), and we found a couple of little souvenier shops. Of course we stopped to buy those last minute gifts. Satisfied with what we are going to share with everyone back at home, we continued on and found the side of the Sé. Walking around to the front, I captured the moment on film and we headed inside.

The Rose Window is a large, round stained glass window, vibrant with color. It was stunning. I would call it a highlight of our day. There was a man outside, selling watercolor pictures as we exited the cathedral (the Sé is a small scale cathedral). Both Deya and I bought some of the art, continuing my tradition of buying art while on vacation. It happened in Vegas and now Portugal. Luckily, this is a little smaller and actually FITS in my suitcase.

All the walking, viewing, and Lisbon sun made us both thirsty and when we saw another little café, we stopped in for Coca-Cola, the real kind in a red and white can. There were some pastries in this restaurant and it was a sweet treat for our palettes before we tried to find the Metro again.

There is a tram that heads up and down the hill of Alfama. Trams have tracks on the street. We used this as our guide to find the Metro station. On the way, the buildings and windows called out to us to check out the different items being sold inside.

Along the street back to the station, my attention was stolen by a shop selling fantastic shoes! I bought two pairs of lovely high heel tennis shoe boots. They were under 15 Euros each!

Deya and I got back to the subway station and took a crowded ride back to Johnny's. Once off the Metro, we stopped at a little park on the way to Johnny's that we visited each time returning or going to the subway. It is a small little escape from all the buildings and hectic nature of a big city. There are only three benches in the park and the common area is covered in cobblestones. Trees and bushes line the outer rim, providing a bit of shade to weary passerbys.

Tonight was our last time to stop in this place, a place we've come to identify as a special part of our trip. There were four children playing in the park with a few parents on the nearby bench. The youngest one, a girl that had to be under three years old and still wearing a diaper, was climbing a portable slide and sliding down the plastic, again and again. Watching her was a pleasant experience. The other three children were sitting on the ground near a part of the cobblestone that is open to dirt and ground. The eldest boy was clacking two rocks together, over and over, and the other two were watching fascinated. Then he made all of them smell the rock.

Deya and I looked at each other, trying to determine if smelling rocks was a Portie custom (which we figured it was not) or just something children were doing. The kids got up and ran around, picking up sticks, pestering the parents for newsprint, and pulling bits of dry grass up to use as thatch. Great! We were watching Portuguese children try to make a fire.

The parents sat idly by as the kids kept trying to create a spark onto their pile of burnable items, but we never did see them make a fire. Deya and I were both happy to know that the children, curious but maybe a little bit misguided, were unable to start a fire in our presence.

We got back to Johnny's and packed up our stuff. In about two hours, we will be heading to the airport and starting our 13-hour journey home.

During the day, Deya and I made a top ten list of what Portugal was to us. This is list is in no way complete, to share all the joys of Portugal, we need more than 10 spots. But these are some favorite moments.

10. My boots. (For Deya, it was having a sparrow take food right out of her hand)
9. The Rose Window at the Sé
8. The Oceanarium
7. Finding out how friendly Porties truly are and how helpful (the fact that we could holiday here without speaking the language)
6. Évora, the bone chapel, the Roman temple of Diana, and lunch
5. The Monet at the Gulbenkian Museum
4. The Monestary of St. Jerome
3. JIP, Hum-Hum, and Papoila
2. Seeing and playing in the ocean
1. Meeting Johnny in real life

It is sad to leave. There are many things about home that I do miss, but this has been a fantastic vacation and meeting Johnny was worth every moment of planning, running around, worry about travel, and traveling itself. Our homes are open to her to visit any time, we are hoping she will come to visit in late August (when Minnesota is not unbearably chilly).

Life may not provide material for daily updates when we get back, but I am sure the daily grind will still show us fun times and good people. I am going to miss Johnny, JIP, Hum-Hum, Papoila, and the amazing country. I am thankful for the time I was able to spend here and the friend that I have finally met. The next time I will be writing, I will be back home, sitting at my computer desk and dreaming of Portugal.

Oh, and it was the worry about the vacation that caused my eye to twitch. I just noticed now that it has not twitched in over a week. I did need the break from real life.


As I was typing this post, we discussed the Portie children and the fire. Here is Johnny's direct quote: Any self-respecting Portie should be an accomplished pyro-maniac.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Time Keeps Marching On

It can't be true. We can't be down to 28 hours left in Portugal. What? We have to sleep for part of it? This can't be true.

The last few days have been absolutely jam packed. I have been taking notes galore of all that we're doing, but I have not had much time to blog. I haven't had time to read blogs either. Believe me, when I get home, there will be a ton of catching up to do!

I still have notes and partial posts written about Monday and Tuesday, but I do want to share a bit of what we did today.

The alarm on Johnny's mobile was set for 7 am. Did you read that correctly? 7 AM! I have gotten over the jet lag and my body has settled into its natural time zone. Night owl. You would think a 6 hour time difference would put me falling asleep at "normal" people hours, but no. I am back to my work schedule. But I don't have to work, so being awake at 3 in the morning does me no good here.

Deya and I got up when the alarm went off. I got ready quickly and Deya hopped in the shower. We were ready to leave Johnny's flat by 8:15 to hop on the Metro and get to Oriente station (the last stop on the red line). We had plans to visit Évora today, a walled city a two-hour + train ride from Lisbon. Évora is in Central Portugal and this was exciting for us. All of our other adventures have been in Lisbon itself.

Once at the Oriente Station (built for the World's Fair in 1998), we figured out that the train station is just two stories above the Metro! This was awesome, since Deya and I are terrible with directions. We bought the tickets to Évora and boarded the train. We had a transfer at Casa Branha and managed to get on the other train successfully. The second train was much bumpier and my notes from the ride are all over the page. We watched as the Portie country side sped by outside our windows. I made use of my iPod again, jamming out to Bryan's CD yet again.

The train arrived in Évora and Deya and I stopped at a little café next to the station for Cokes. Once we were refreshed (Beba Coca-Cola), we headed up the Avienda to the center of town. Our cameras got a work out today, there are actually over 1,000 pictures between the two of us from our day trip. Don't worry, we will be consolidating once we get home. The beauty of digital cameras is the fact we can just keep snapping and snapping, not worrying about the bad pictures at the time. It saves holiday time and let's us make sure the perfect shot is obtained. We'll pick through the pictures for the best ones to post on our sites and to put into our scrapbooks (although there still may be many, MANY scrapbooks).

Inside the city walls, we found ourselves wandering through a public gardens and ordered, can you guess, Coca-Cola from the little kiosk (spelt much differently than we are used to in English). That Coke did not taste as good and after I found a spider crawling on me (freaking me right the heck out of my skin, at least I didn't scream. I jumped out of my chair and danced around, shaking out my clothes, but I didn't scream. It was only a minor public distraction) we left the park and headed to the Church of St. Francis.

Évora closes up all the churches, museums, and chapels during lunch time and we were there at the perfect time for lunch, so Deya and I found a charming little restaurant just off to the side of the Church of St. Francis. Now, I know the question burning on your mind. 'Did they serve Coke at this little restaurant?' You bet they did!

Our server was a young boy (probably about 22) and absolutely darling. He was wearing blue jeans and we had a table right near the stairs he had to keep climbing to get in and out of the kitchen and Deya may have snapped a picture of his bum. Yes, we're terrible. The food was delicious though.

After lunch, the church was open and the main attraction was ready for viewing. We bought our tickets (1 Euro each) and paid the ,25 Euros (I love that they use commas instead of periods for cents in currency) to be able to take photos. The chapel is made of human bones. Three Franciscian friars dug up bones from different graves around the city to build this chapel, hoping that people would worship and find a way to be humble surrounded by death. The chapel is über-creepy and yet, I found it utterly fascinating. I do have many pictures (as does Deya) and we will be putting some up in a few days (once we're back in the States).

We checked out the sanctuary of the church and again was surrounded by beauty. Then we got completely lost.

Want to know how to get lost in Europe in 5 easy steps? I can tell you.

Right foot forward. Left foot forward. Stop to take a picture. Walk three more steps. There, you're lost. Évora is a small city, it is HARD to get lost in it, yet we managed. Jeez, you would think that large landmarks like cathedrals, massive museums, and Roman arches should have helped us! No, no they didn't. We joked that it was like the Hokey Pokey, put your left foot in, put your left foot out, put your left foot in and shake it all about. You know what you get? L.O.S.T.

To add insult to injury, we got lost on an uphill direction. So every step in the wrong direction exerted extra energy! We were puckered completely out. Then we saw a Gelatto shop. Time for ice!

The gelatto was delicious. We both had a scoop of caramel. Deya had a scoop of cinnamon and I had a scoop of mulberry. I. Heart. Gelatto. The water closet in the shop was also quaint. Deya will probably post another bathroom adventure (including the water closests from the trains! Yuck!)

As we were wandering the streets of Évora, completely lost inside the walls of the city, Deya started getting attacked by little bugs. I do not even know what kind of bugs they were, but they loved her. We both wore sleeveless shirts today, but I brought a hoodie with me for the day. Deya had on capris (to my blue jeans and boots) and with the extra skin from the arms, she was a target for a bug fest. I felt so bad for her. She also managed to get a bit of a sunburn from wandering around the city. Her arms are a bright pink, still much later in the evening. The back of her neck is a red color and I can imagine how bad it feels. My face is a little pink, but not bad. It actually just looks like I'm wearing blush.

The streets in Europe are much more narrow than back at home. This goes double for Évora. Europeans drive smaller cars, I love this, and even the smallest vehicles were tight fits down some of the corridors. There were times when Deya and I found ourselves hugging the walls (hey, we're wall-hugging hippie freaks! Adds a bit more than the tree-hugging kind!)

We found ourselves in a dead end and kept trying to go. Deya suggested we try to ask the first person we saw for directions. At the bus stop, there was an elderly man wearing all black (in that heat! Oh, it still makes me feel uncomfortable, wondering how much he overheats). Deya approached him to ask the question.

Now, we speak about 10 words of Portuguese and they are not very helpful in asking for directions. Being able to say the equivalents of "Hello", "Rat bastard", "Thank you" and "You're welcome" does not tell us to turn right or left. The man did not speak a word of English, but seemed excited to point at our map and point down the hill to the right. Then he made circle gestures with his hands. The man was very friendly. I figured he told us to turn right, spin in circles and then pick another direction!

By heading right, we did find another little café and they sold, we all know by now, Coke. The server spoke English rather well and was able to point us in the right direction so that we could find what we were looking for. Our destination was the Temple of Diana, a Roman temple still standing by a nearby cathedral.

It took resting a couple of times, but we finally made it to the cathedral. I wanted to check around the corner, hoping that a large Roman temple would be easy to spot, but it waited until we rested. After the break, I walked 10 paces to see the magnificent structure standing, pillars reaching the sky.

A hundred and five pictures later (no, I have not counted them, but this is probably not an exaggeration. Actually, it may be a conservative figure), we were ready to find a taxi to take us back to train station, which in turn would provide the train to take us back to Johnny's flat.

How does one find a taxi in Évora? One asks the absolutely gorgeous cop! He told us something in Portuguese, but pointed us in the correct direction. We walked a bit, downhill this time, and found a post office. Oh, that might be a good place to get directions!

Inside, a woman was willing to help us find the taxi station. She directed us outside (away from the nice air conditioning inside the post office) and told us where to go in Portuguese. After a few blank stares, she listed off different languages that she spoke. I recognized Deutsch and told her in my broken German that I spoke a little of the language. Fortunately, it was enough to recognize left, right, street, and numbers (how many streets). The charades helped too.

We followed the directions and found the taxi stand. The cabbie was helpful and figured out where we needed to go. Quickly, we were back at the train station, an hour early for our departure.

With an hour to kill, what else is there to do than order those precious red cans of cola and watch a bit of C.S.I. with Portuguese subtitles in the bar off to the side of the station. Unfortunately, the little red cans were NOT Coca-Cola, but a "drink" called, "Snappy Cola". It was advertised as "Novo" or new. I can say this, the cola? I don't think "snappy" would be a word I used to classify it.

While watching C.S.I., we noticed that DNA is abbreviated as ADN in Portuguese. We learn something new every day.

The train rides back to Lisbon were peaceful, we watched the sunset and arrived in Lisbon to see the city lit up.

I do have to say, Évora was charming and fascinating and an adventure, but give me the grid system back! I am horrible at directions and having roads that do not follow blocks throws me off way too much. If anyone does visit Portugal anytime in their lives, I do recommend a trip to Évora. It is worth your time.


While I was writing this post (and battling Blogger!), this is the conversation between Deya and myself:

We are watching VH1 Classic Hits (pleases me for music, Deya likes the music and sometimes watches the videos). A Rolling Stones video from 1981 starts to play.

Deya looks confused.

B: It's the Rolling Stones.

D: Yeah, I guess I never noticed how much they all look like roosters.

VH1 classic hits is a joy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I have notes for two separate posts saved on Blogger, but the time to write them is scarce. I would do it tonight, however we are planning on visiting Evora tomorrow and need to go to bed early. There's an odd thing for me to say. Going to bed early.

I will write up these posts soon. I promise. Mainly for myself. I am finding that blogging our experience is a great way to keep a travel journal.

We had a busy day, again, and I filled up almost ALL of my memory cards for my camera today. We went back the ocean. Can you blame me for filling the cards? I think not.

Got to get ready for bed! More posts coming, I promise.

Monday, April 25, 2005

More Pictures!

Deya and I have some things planned for the day, but before we go out, I'd like to share some more pictures. These are all from our day at the Gulbenkian Museum.

Flowers outside the Gulbenkian Museum
Flowers outside the Gulbenkian

Bird of Paradise at Gulbenkian Museum
Bird of Paradise at Gulbenkian Museum

Mihrad: Molded ceramic tile

Star Tile at Gulbenkian Museum
Star Tile

Star Tile up close
Star Tile detail

Bowl at Gulbenkian Museum

Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty "bowls"


Detail of screen
Detail of screen

Detail of screen
More detail of screen

Portrait of Old Man
Rembrandt: Portrait of Old Man

Hands of Old Man
Detail of Rembrandt Painting: Hands of the Old Man

Tapestry: The Dance

Detail of "The Dance" Tapestry

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Pretend Karaoke

Instead of explaining that we're missing karaoke right now (which we are, but because we miss our friends even though Portugal is fabulous!), I will leave you with some more pictures from our trip. This is in hopes that Keem will check out the blog and I don't have to send them individually through email.


Beth 002
JIP, one of Johnny's cats

Beth 035
Deya at the ocean

Beth 037
The ocean

Beth 039
Johnny at the ocean

Beth 041
Papoila at the ocean

Beth 046
Deya and Beth at the what? That's right. The ocean!

Beth 128
Deya and Mica

Beth 133
Beth and Mica

Beth 143
Mica - isn't she a darling?!


It is Sunday (or was, I guess the day has turned here). We are starting to have karaoke withdrawals, if we were back home we'd be going out in two hours. DM realized today that she was right, only Bobby can pour a good Diet Coke. That may have to do with the fact that Coke Light tastes like Pepsi, but I am partial to her theory. It's all Bobby's abilities.

We had an adventure today, as we have had each day we've been here. Today's agenda included going to the Oceanário, Europe's largest Aquarium and the second largest in the world.

To get to the Oceanário, DM and I needed to take two different subway lines and then try to determine exactly where the Oceanário was located. The subway was not a problem. Figuring out where the Oceanário was located was a problem. We kind of went the wrong way. But we eventually figured it out after many breaks to stop and rest.

We purchased our tickets (mine had a penguin on the back!!!) and entered the exhibit. There are species from four oceans and then an enclosure that houses a tank designated as "One Ocean".

Again, we took a ton of pictures and I'll be posting them all when I get home. I figure an additional website may be good for holiday photos. I'll link to it.

The entire exhibit was fascinating, but of course my favorite part was the penguins! They are soooooooo adorable! I was able to see them without a piece of glass blocking the view. It was a great moment for me.

On the way back, DM and I stopped at Pizza Hut (yes, we're bloody Anglos, what did you expect?) and split some garlic bread with pepperoni on it, a bacon lover's pan pizza, and then for dessert we had Profiteroles. They are cream puffs! And they came with pretty good vanilla bean ice cream and hot fudge on top. I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but they were pretty decent.

Heading back to the metro, hoping that the drugged out man would not make another appearance, we stopped at a couple of little shops in the mall. DM was able to find a great gift for Jeff, her roommate. We both also bought some cool items (to go with all the stuff we bought at the Oceanário gift shop). I got three necklaces and an "egg". It is a rock, shaped like an egg, but it is decorated and painted. It is a fun, little knick-knack to put up on a shelf at home. I have too many of these type of things already, but I do have a lot of shelves and a lot of bookcases, so it is all good.

We did make it back to Johnny's flat without any incidents, feeling a bit proud of ourselves for not getting lost on the way home. I was able to purchase our return subway tickets from the machine, without the help of English options! I'm proud of myself!

More adventures to come!

Saturday Night is Alright

Yesterday started as a lazy day, perfect for a vacation or holiday. I slept until 2 in the afternoon and DM (Deya) had taken a nap starting at 1 and ending around 7 at night. Johnny hade mentioned to us that her friend, Becca (unsure of the spelling, I know her name is Elizabeth, but it may be spelled differently) wanted to know if we were up for a night out on the town.

Now, those who DM and I know that we're not big partiers, but there is something about being in a foreign city, wanting to experience the night life. We said, "But, of course!" And that is how we ended up in a bar called "Hemp House", listening to techno (and later rap), drinking flat Coke with heart-shaped ice cubes!

The bartender, whom DM thought was a little bit attractive (she has a thing for bartenders), was from Germany, which was good because I kept slipping from English to German. I have this problem, you see, I tend to mix up languages. I used to answer questions on my German tests in Spanish and visa versa. This is a bit of a pickle. (Or Gurke - I don't remember, does Gurke have an umlaut? And I know that Gurke is cucumber, not pickle, but it's a horse apiece.)

The streets of Lisbon were packed during the night. Johnny told us that the people here tend to get their money on the 23rd of each month, so that is the busy nights out on the town. Although it sounded like the summer time may be a bit busier where the bars were. There were times we were stuck in traffic, wondering if the cars would ever move. And the cars are so tiny here! People can shoot through corridors and I know that I drive a little car and would wonder about some of the tighter spaces! Okay, not some, MOST of the tighter spaces.

Johnny found a parking spot along a steep incline. The Porties trust their emergency brakes here! It reminded me of what I picture San Francisco to be like. I know Duluth has some steep angles, but jeez! We trekked up the hill towards the bar and Johnny's friend. On the way, we saw volunteer firefighters and more beautiful buildings around the town.

Once we were inside the bar, we meet Becca and greeted her the Portie way. Kisses on both cheeks. DM wants to try this at home, but some may look at us oddly. But who doesn't, right?

Johnny and Becca went off to find "ciggies" and DM and I stayed behind, sitting in these oversized plastic chairs from Ikea. When they returned, they had another friend with them. his name was Pedro.

We sat talking until after 2 in the morning. The bar had closed and the bartender escorted us out. Outside, we said our goodbyes the Portie way and took the "hike" back to the car. We passed through crowds of people and enjoyed the atmosphere. The walk back to the car was downhill and it helped make the trip a bit faster.

When we got back to the flat, Johnny headed to bed, first giving us directions to our destination today. DM and I stayed up for a bit, watching Leno and VH1. It is fun to see so many videos from the 80's. We've both heard songs that we infrequently hear back home and laugh at old memories.

It is now time for us to get ready to go on today's adventure. I am quite excited and will be posting more!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Little Differences

Part of taking a vacation to a foreign country is to find all the little differences around yourself. We have been captivated by the minor differences, popping up in all the similiarities that surround us.

One thing I noticed the other day while DM and I were eating at the coffee shop (and also when we had been at the mall eating with Johnny). At different fast food and á la carte places, we will get food and it will be served on trays. This is common back home as well. What I have found interesting is that when people are finished eating, they leave the trays sitting on the tables and leave. We have cleaning staffs back at home that will wipe down tables, but most Minnesotas, at least, if not Americans, would think it inconsiderate to leave a tray sitting on the table.

We have been told that to signal the end of a meal here, it is proper to put your utensils together on the plate at 5 o'clock. This helps waiters to realize that you are done and they can take the plate away. Back home, I'm familar with just putting my napkin down on the plate and pushing it away a bit.

The light for Johnny's bathroom is outside the bathroom. This is hard to get used to.

Few of the windows I have seen have screens in them. Johnny does have some netting over part of her windows in the living room, but not the other windows in the flat. I am so used to having the screens to keep out bugs and I am surprised to see an open window with nothing blocking the view.

The Porties do not end phone conversations the way the Americans do. I hope you understand what I mean. We as Americans end our conversations with, "Talk to you later" or "So we'll meet at such and such". The practice of saying, "Goodbye" to signal the end of the conversation has fallen to the wayside. Porties end their conversations with the Portugese equivalent of "Kisses".

On the TV, a series of commercials (time killers to the next show really) play music videos. The funny part is that the names of the song and artist are not shown. There is a note on the bottom of the screen that tells the viewer that they can call in and pay a few Euros to find out the artist name and song. Johnny has told us that this is a new development, something being used to make money.

In watching TV, I have also noticed something about shows. American shows play with regular frequency here, but the commercials are shown less. The screen will blacken, cutting to commercial, but then resume the show. It is like they only show commercials once or twice during an hour long show, versus the every 13 minutes Americans have become so used to (unless it is a pay-channel cable show like The Sopranos).

The shows on the telly are shown in their original language. British and American shows have Portugese subtitles. DM is learning how to read some Portugese this way.

And tonight? Tonight we are going out on the town. I am excited, I am not a big fan of nightclubs or dancing, but I do like to see the differences and how others have fun. It should be a wild and crazy time!


Fellow bloggers, I pose a question to you. I did not know the proper answer when DM asked me so I beg for your help:

"Do you think anyone would notice if I started wearing a pink feathered mask?"

Beth + Kitchen + Oven = Bad Cake

Remember how I don't cook? There's many reasons for this.

#1 - My mother is a fabulous cook. I could never create the amazing dishes that she does.

#2 - My grandma is an even better cook! My mom learned from her and has acquired recipes over the years.

#3 - I'm just too lazy and I live alone. Living alone makes it hard for me to cook gigantic meals, because I feel like most of the food will go to waste. So I don't shop or cook.

The other day, we stopped at the grocery store and DM found quick, simple, fool-proof cake mixes. They are simple, just cut and pour. The hardest part of making the cake is the buttering of the pan.

Sounds like something Beth could do, right? You underestimate the power of Beth's cooking inability.

I got the cake ready and Johnny heated up the oven for me. Then the pan was placed inside and I checked the clock. It was 35 after and the cake was supposed to cook for 40 minutes. Alright, I'd check at five after, just to be sure.

At five to, Johnny said, "Does something smell like burning?" It couldn't be. We went into the kitchen to see the room filled with smoke. Opening the oven door revealed a blackened lemon cake. Now, I've heard of blackened pepper chicken breasts, but blackened yellow cake is not my first choice of a dessert.

We tried it again, it is actually cooking now, but I did realize what the problem had been. The clock that I used to check the time? Yeah, it doesn't work. Oops! This time, I'm watching the clock on the computer.

Foreigners and Johnny's kitchen do not mix.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bloody Anglos, Liking all that Art*(**)

Today's adventure was originally a plan to visit Johnny's parents' beach house, however Mother Nature thwarted the brilliant idea. This left us wondering what we should do.

After all the different travel books I bought, DM and I had a couple of ideas. We mentioned the Gulbenkian Museum. Johnny dropped us off near the entrance and DM and I were in for a treat. Once we headed inside, we purchased tickets for the different museums. Who knew we would only make it to the first exhibit and not even to the other building?

One of the things I love about DM (or Deya, as she is now going by), is the fact that she can appreciate art just as much as I can. We both enjoy exploring exhibits on holiday (ah, yes, the bloody Queen's English is infecting my hick talk - oh wait, I'm from Minnesota, maybe just my o's are getting shorter). This time was no different.

We were able to purchase tickets (thankfully most Porties speak English. This is helpful because rat bastard, bacon, and thank you do not get you very far.) The exhibit had displays from the Ancient Egyptian era, the Greco-Roman era, Oriental eras, and European eras. It was fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

One of the attendants nicely answered our question about cameras. As long as we didn't use the flash, we could click away to our heart's desire. Believe me, we did! DM's batteries died part way through the exhibit so I had my trusty digital and kept snapping and snapping. She would occasionally point out a display and ask for a picture or two to be taken.

I loved the displays. The ultimate highlight for me though was the Claude Monet painting, The Ice Break. It was not behind glass and I could walk right up to the painting, seeing the beauty of individual strokes that create such a gorgeous painting. I was able to use my camera to capture the moment, to show how I like to focus on individual parts of the picture. Our trip to Las Vegas last year was amazing and I know my favourite highlight was the Monet exhibit at the Bellagio, but postcards and prints of the pictures do little justice. To admire Monet, I feel the need to look at the strokes that make up the whole. And I was able to do this again today with the bonus of capturing the moment the way I like to view the paintings.

DM took many pictures before the batteries passed out (she's working them to the bone! Or maybe she's whipping them to work and they will bleed battery acid. Something like that.) Her photography is brilliant and she grabs moments I would not think to record for posterity. As I viewed the pictures later, I saw how "pale" I truly am. Some may say I'm ghostlike, or partially invisible. Maybe I'm just the fastest woman on the planet.

Enjoy! These are all pictures DM took today at the museum.

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I'm heading Back to the Future and history is changing. Oh no, my leg is disappearing! How ever will I wear my fabulous red boots again?

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It's the Flash! I have become the fastest woman on the planet. Even humming birds have nothing on me!

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Anyone up for Poker? You know, come on, let's play some Poker Guys! Or we could watch a scary novie with ghosts and crazy antics. Who wants to be the dumb blonde running through the woods with a mid-riff and big boobs? No, Matt, you can't play that part!

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These are figures created by the Chinese. The detail is amazing and this is really a great picture taken by DM. She does have an eye for photos, it is just once in awhile the shot is a bit out of focus.

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And here are more items on display in the Oriental art section. The entire exhibit is quite stunning and brilliant and worth the time and Euros.

After we checked out the exhibit (with more pictures coming, but probably once I get home), DM and I stopped at the coffee shop downstairs. It was an á la carte little shop with delicious pastries and bread. We sampled a couple of the different items and ate healthily by getting yogurt and fruit and Coke Light. Coke Light tastes like Pepsi. Once we had filled our tummies, we wandered over to the gift shop and purchases a few fun arty items (bookmarks, postcards, posters, and I bought a book on the museum.)

A very pleasant guard explained to me that there is another exhibit, free of charge, featuring 700 years of Persian Art. We made the time to check out that exhibit and drooled over the beautiful artifacts.

Our day at the museum was topped off with our adventure to make it back to Johnny's flat. We were to take the subway back and this was an experience in itself. First of all, we had problems finding the subway entrance! It only took asking three separate people for directions before we finally found it. It is not that anyone's directions were wrong, but no one actually gave us distance. It's good to say, "Take a right," but if you don't know after HOW far to take the right, you have a problem. But we did find the M that signalled the Metro.

Once inside the station, we purchased our tickets (better believe they've been saved for scrapbooking!) and waited for the train to arrive. It did and we hopped aboard! We actually had a transfer and made it safely home. How amazing is that?!? Because DM and I are both known globally for our senses of direction. Yes, that's the ticket. Thankfully, subway trains really only have one path. They don't veer off randomly like buses do. (That reminds me, sometime I will write about my bus experience in Germany. The one where I got to use the phrase, "Ich bin ein Foreigner und ich spreche nicht gut Deutsch" (please forgive the horrible spelling, my German is a bit rusty and I have no clue if the gender is correct in that sentence anymore)).

On the second train, a man entered and DM and I experienced a panhandler. He boarded with speakers and an accordian. Yes, I typed accordian. He played classic songs, such as "My Way", and collected a few coins from passengers. He got off at a stop sooner than us and I caught DM smiling inwardly to herself, just as I had been.

Our stop arrived (also it is easy to find the correct stop when it is the LAST stop on the line). Before we had left the subway cars, I found myself thinking of Carol. For a few moments, we each had to strap-handle for balance. We left the car and headed up to ground level. Then it was time to make our way back to Johnny's. She had drawn us a map and it worked! We were able to find the flat, even though we were not entirely sure we exited the subway station on the correct side. But we had!

Once back at the flat, we relaxed and ate a delicious dinner. It is getting late and we're off to bed. There are more stories from the day to tell, but we'll get to those later.


*Johnny keeps calling us Anglos.

**Do you realize how hard it is to get used to a keyboard set up for a different language? The first couple of posts and comments, DM and I both used the accent key instead of the apostrophe key. Oops. It took me a bit to find the asterisk key. But I did! Yea me!

Days Two and Three

(This post tells the continuing adventure of DM and myself here in Portugal. Yes, I know I posted a couple of pictures and wrote a post below, here is the more detailed version.)

Day Two, Wednesday

Jet lag set in and DM and I awoke on Wednesday morning, not bright and early. The first time we awoke, it was still nightime and the world was quite outside the window. That is when I was able to write up the first post of our vacation. Then it was time to rest again, our bodies are still adjusting to the difference in time zones.

We awoke at 11 am Portugal time. When we got up the second time, we headed into Johnny's charming living room to talk with Johnny. She told us that we could go to a quaint outside cafe for some hamburgers for the afternoon. By about 3 pm, we were arriving at a beach next to the ocean, both wide-eyed and loving it. The cameras were out and we had been snapping picture after picture of all we could see. Papoila went with us and ran, free and happy, in the sand. She would blend in at times.

We found a table in the sun, listening to the sounds of the waves hitting the rocks and elevator and then jazz music overhead. The cafe we ate at recycles everything. Batteries are collected in a container near the counter and a sign explains how many trees have been saved since the bar/cafe has been established.

Our waiter (see the post below) was excellent. We all enjoyed him visiting our table to serve us with a smile. What a lovely smile. The meal was hamburgers with cheese and onions. To soothe our throats, we drank strawberry milkshakes. The taste was different than my American taste buds were used to, the shakes were sans sugar. And although it tasted different than I was used to, the drink was delicious.

We sat there, basking in the warmth of the sun and being cooled by the ocean breeze, realizing over and over that we are in Portugal. Waves of reality hit me at times and I realize I am not at home, I am in a foreign country, experiencing differences and finding similarities and loving every moment.

After the meal, we had a treat. Cocoa was ordered that made DM and I each sigh in happiness. The cocoa was not like a hot chocolate that we expected, although we've been told that hot chocolate that is more liquid-like is available. It tasted like hot chocolate pudding and clung to our spoons until we took in each spoonful.

Papoila was antsy, being so close to her wonderful play area and only being able to watch from the deck of the cafe. DM offered to take her and let her run around in circles in the sand. I watched from the table as DM took off her sandals and let the sand push up through her toes. Her smile lit up her face and I could hear her laughing. Of course, I kept snapping pictures of Papoila running around her.

We sat in the sun a bit longer and then headed to Johnny's Tweedle's home to meet her, Graça is her name. When we met her, we were able to practice the custom (new to us) of greeting people by kissing both cheeks. How fabulous!

The reason that we stopped by Graça's home was to visit a baby. I am referring, of course, to a kitten, barely large enough to not fit perfectly into my hand. The baby's name is Microbe, but everyone refers to her as Mica (pronounced like Micah or Mee-ka, not the element). She is absolutely darling. Johnny helped feed her formula from a tube and then everyone watched as the kitten ran around, playing with Papoila and climbing.

Graça's dog, a small breed that's name has escaped me at this time, strolled over to me as I sat in a high backed wooden chair, watching everyone fuss over the kitten. She stood up and I felt as if she was just begging to be held. I picked her up and put her on my lap where she sat for quite a bit of time.

Time got a bit short and we had to head back to Johnny's flat to drop Papoila off before we went to dinner. Then it was off to a charming restãurant with pork ribs and fish hanging in the windows. Before the meal, we had bread and olives on the table. DM was daring enough to try this type of cheese (I did take a bite but it's texture is a bit off for my taste buds). We each drank Coke, and I'm thrilled to report that the Coke in Portugal is very close to the Coke I'm used to from Minnesota. It is much, much better here than what I had in Germany.

Johnny ordered grilled fish eggs from codfish. She ate them drowned in melted butter. My meal was similar to hers in the fact we each had a salad with our food. The lettuce and onions are eaten here a little differently. Instead of using a premade dressing, Porties will drench the lettuce in olive oil and salt and a little bit of vinegar. This was very good and I added just a little bit of pepper to mine (because those who know me IRL know that I adore pepper and garlic as seasonings).

My main entré was pork ribs and I was happy to see that I could have them without barbeque. I do enjoy spare ribs back home and I always feel a bit disappointed when I'm out and want ribs. The problem with BBQ and eating out is that it is messy. The ribs were fantastic and I ate up.

DM's meal was veal brought to her with a hot slab where she cooked each piece to perfection. Her meal came with fries (not termed French or freedom, but called Chips, like the British (or people were just being nice and speaking English to us)) that were light and airy and perfect. The fries (and the veal!) beat anything McDonald's has ever served. We all enjoyed the meal. I even tried the fish eggs (um, not my favourite) and a bite of the sardine pâté (which I really won’t be eating again). But I did try them both.

During the meal, Johnny noticed my red skin. I sat in the sun for three hours and it was later in the afternoon, but still my Swedish heritage showed up and my skin fried a bit. My left arm has a white patch of skin that was hidden under my watch and my upper chest has a bit of pink (I was wearing a V-neck shirt). My face also has a line where my sunglasses blocked the sun. The burn has faded already to a glorious pink (no tan for this vampiress). DM got a little pink as well, so maybe it’s not only the Swedish skin but the fact we’re from Minnesota and not prepared for the sun at this latitude.

Once dinner was over, we headed back to the flat, planning on stopping for Coke at the store. As Johnny pulled into the parking lot in front of her building, we hopped out of the car and DM reminded her, “Um, Johnny? Weren’t we going to get Coke?” It was back into the car and on our way to the store.

Eventually, we returned to the flat and enjoy conversation, reading blogs (because we’re all bloody addicted), drink Coke, relax, watch TV, and upload the massive number of pictures DM and I took throughout the day onto the computer and then onto CD-RWs. Way after midnight, we headed to bed.

Before we hit our respective sacks, I had a little bit of an adventure. While DM and I were shopping, frantically for the trip, we discussed my picking up power adapters for the trip. Thinking about how my iPod powers up and where the adapter for that was sitting, I said, “Why don’t I bring a power strip?” The theory was that with a power strip, we would only need one adapter and we could just plug everything into that. Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it?

If you want to know what happens when you plug a power strip into a power adapter and connect it to the outlet, blow out all the fuses at your flat/house. Do it at night for the added effect of total darkness. Johnny reset the fuse and the overhead lights turned back on. Let there be light! Tests were done on the different lamps sitting around the flat and low and behold, none of them were working.

This is the point where I started to cringe. I was sure that I had damaged the electrical system of her flat completely. Luckily, Johnny went back to the fuse box and found that two fuses had actually been thrown. She was able to reset the fuse and then the lamps started working. Good fortune was on my side and the brilliant idea will not be repeated.

Occasionally, cultural differences will hit us like a Mack truck. Little things I have noticed:

The lack of SUVs and pick-up trucks - there are so many little cars here and I adore it.
Licking your fingers is a very bad habit and not admired by natives
The doors open the opposite way. Actually, I noticed this while I stayed in Germany, but am reminded of it when we exit or enter different buildings. Back home, the doors open outward, not into the building. I have been told this is for fire reasons. It does make sense to me.

Day Three - Thursday

Today was a laid back type of day, perfect for a holiday. The British English (or Queen’s English as DM refers to it) is slipping into my vocabulary now. We slept über-late and then hung around the flat for a bit. Hunger pains started in and we headed out for a meal and a bit of shopping. Johnny took DM and I to a place inside a mall that served us each a Shwarma. It is pork wrapped up in bread that reminded me of pita bread. DM commented that it reminded her of a gero. We were given a garlic yogurt to pour over the meat and it was marvellous.

Lunch was followed by ice cream cones from Baskin Robbins - DM and I were both excited because even though there are a few Baskin Robbins left back in the States, we find them hard to discover. I had a banana-strawberry ice cream and DM had Perils in Praline. Yummy!

Taking a trip back down the flights of stairs at the mall, we found our way to a charming little shop called “Loja do Gato Preto” or also known as The Black Cat. The place was filled with wonderful household items with cats on them. I know quite a few people back home who would adore this place.

Our adventures outside the flat continued when we went to the grocery store. We were set to find food we would eat and DM and I wandered the aisles, looking for goodies. It was an interesting experience to buy food when we kept trying to understand the words on the packages and signs. Meat, luckily, has pictures of the animal printed on the package and fruits and vegetables are pretty universal.

We are now back at the flat (obviously, since I’m writing this) and watching TV, eating candy, and watching TV. Tomorrow should prove to be another fascinating day in Portugal.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sitting at an outside cafe in Portugal

"I don't mess around with things like that anymore!"

We are having a wonderful time, like I haven't said that already. The quote from above is DM last night while we were sitting talking with Johnny. Johnny made a comment, "Oh God, that was a small projectile spittule ball." Then DM responded, "I don't mess around with things like that anymore!"

This is when Johnny and I both started laughing.

Yesterday was beautiful. We started out the day by going with Johnny and Papoila (her wonderful dog) to an outside cafe next to the ocean. Lunch was delicious burgers and strawberry milkshakes. We finished off the meal with cocoa, thick and hot chocolate that reminded DM and I both of chocolate pudding.

The view was fantastic and DM and I both kept marveling over the ocean and the atmosphere. I plan on writing more about the day later, however I do want to share a few images from the day.

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The last picture is the beautiful waiter who served us our food. I have a sunburn from sitting in the sun for the few hours.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Adventure in Amsterdam

(This post is part two of our adventure to Portugal. I will eventually have a category for this trip.)

We´ve made it past the first part of our trip. The plane landed and we exited and found ourselves surrounded by a foreign airport. The signs are in English and Dutch and announcements are made overhead in both languages.

Hunger strikes and cravings remain, so we find ourselves sitting in a little cafe/bar on the second floor. A lovely woman approaches us and takes our order. Not being overly experienced, we both recognize the word, "Cappacino" on the menu and order the grande sizes (although the word is actually large here, we still use the Spanish word we see so commonly in America). Tengo hambre is something I remember from high school Spanish, useless here in Amsterdam. I also remember Ich habe hunger from German class. DM and I both order warm sausage rolls, meat wrapped up into a pastry. We each take a bite and realize our tastes do not favor this type of food. I order again, getting myself a chocolate muffin. I choose chocolate because it is familiar, but I forget to remember that I do not actually like chocolate and chocolate cake is a taste I´ve never acquired. We sit in the little cafe for a bit. Then we decide we should at least find our gate.

After walking for what seems like eons, we pass through security and our passports are looked at. Not stamped, just viewed before we pass through yet another metal detector. Without any problems, we continue with the other sheep being herded through the building and find our destination. It is gate C5 and the attendants behind the counter are working for Air France. They do not have the version of Minnesota nice we are used to and we don´t decide to stick around, waiting at the gate. Traveling a bit farther, we find a little bar that serves Coca-Cola and Coke Light. The chairs around the little tables are vibrant orange, yellow, red, and blue. We park ourselves in the oversized chairs and relax, still awestruck by the fact we are in a foreign country.

As we are sitting there, taking in the moment, an attractive man asks to sit at one of the empty chairs. His name is Sveinole and he is from Norway. His final destination on his trip is St. Martin in the Carribean and we sit, talking with him for about a hour. He tells stories of visiting California (sky-diving even!) and tells us what a wonderful time we will have in Portugal. He reassures us that Porties are wonderfully pleasant.

The man then shows me his boarding pass, why I have yet to determine. I do not know if he was trying to prove his trip or if he was hoping to share information about himself that we would not have the courage to ask. It does not matter. We laugh at the jokes he makes and enjoy the pleasant conversation. It is our first true experience on this trip talking to someone from another country. Speaking with someone whose life experiences are not our own.

Then he asks us for our contact information. Being the polite Minnesotans we are, we do share our emails. He gives us his email as well. He pulls out his passport to show me. I notice his date of birth (because I have a thing for numbers) and realize he is only one year older than DM.

Over and over he tells us how cold Norway is during the winter. We nod our heads in agreement, understanding how chilly it can be to venture outdoors when all logic tells you to stay in bed, wrapped up in the warmth of blankets, gigantic pillows, and a comforter reading a great book.

At one point, the man starts hitting on us. It is amazing to watch him compliment us both over and over, being overly friendly, and then inviting us to go to the Carribean with him! We do decline the offer, nicely. He then hands me his bank card and starts telling me his PIN over and over. He asks me to buy biers (yes, a little bit of the spelling has carried over already) for our table. DM and I are not drinkers and I do my best to not take his cash card. Finally, he realizes that I do not want to go to the counter to buy bier (which he asked to make sure I was over 18 - I guess this is a compliment?) and he heads up to make his own purchase.

DM and I are shocked by the fact he just leaves his wallet and his carry-on bag at the table. The wallet is sitting out in the open and we are amazed at how trusting this man is. Neither of us touch his belongings and I know my radar went up to watch his bag as I watch my own in airports.

He returns to the table and has brought us both bottles of Coke. We smile and thank him and know it is now time to go back to the gate and wait to board our plane for the final destination. We had joked about the influence of the Scandavian languages on the Minnesota dialects and I kept thinking about the joke a former banker would make at work. Whenever asked to do something, he would lay the Minnesota accent on his native Indian tongue (he was from Bombay) and say, "Ja, sure, you betcha Wally!"

On the moving walkway back to the gate, DM and I laugh together. We have had our first adventure on the trip and it was one we never expected. All the people around us are very friendly and we enjoy people watching from our seats at the gate.

An announcement is made overhead and we have to switch gates. We are now departing from C8, not C5. It is still within view so the trek over is not a long one. We need to talk to the attendant behind the counter and DM walks into a sign that informs travelers that the line is for priority passengers. The sign topples over and we both turn a bit red.

We take our seats at the gate and a group of travelers sit down in the same section where DM and I have made camp. They are returning to Portugal after a convention for Herbalife - ´Lose weight now - Ask me how!´ One of the young men is involved in an animated argument, we have no idea what the topic is, but we do know that he is passionate about it. We sit, people watching, and this beautiful young woman says to us in English, "He always has to be right." We smile and laugh under our breath.

As we are boarding the plane, we are still near this group of travelers. The young man is still stressing his point. DM says to me, "Why don´t we have friends like that?" Then we realize it. We do. We have our own passions and our own friends who will stand up and be heard. And I´m more and more excited to take-off, land, and meet Johnny than ever!


Our flight is wonderful. It is only 2 and a half hours long and the ride is smooth and quick. The food service on this flight is fantastic. We are given fresh bread with cream cheese and red bell peppers. The hot noodles served are covered in delicious spices and taste like a home cooked meal. The sweet part of the meal is a fluffy dessert with a tropical fruit jam on top. It reminds me of a dessert my mom makes that our family just refers to as, "DESSERT". My dad always looks at it wide-eyed, knowing what a treat he is in for.

During the flight, we both try and get some sleep. My neck gets cramped and the plane is a bit chilly. I want to moisten my throat so I go to open the bottle of Coke the Norwegian gentleman bought for me. It explodes.

There I am, sitting in close quarters with DM, and we´re both covered in soda. I feel horribly embarrassed and cold. It is close to time to land and this I am grateful for. The take-off and landing were smooth, maybe some of the best flying I´ve witnessed on a commercial airline, but we are both ready to be done traveling.

We get off the plane and head towards the baggage area. I scan all crowds of people, knowing that Johnny will be waiting after customs, but keep thinking maybe I´ll spot her. We stand at the luggage carrier for awhile and finally we see the familiar bags being carried around to us.

The sign for customs is nearby and we head over, taking the "Nothing to Declare" line. We don´t think bringing tons of books through will cause a problem. And then we are through the line and no one even looks at our passports. The hallway opens up to a lobby and there, sitting off to the side in a green shirt, is Johnny! This is when reality hits me. We are here. We are in Portugal and we are seeing a friend who we know so well through blogging, but we´ve never met in real life. It is fabulous. It is absolutely amazing.

We bring our bags to the car and Johnny takes us to her place, both of us watching the sights pass before our eyes. She stops for Coke (LOVE HER!) and soon we are at her flat, meeting her pets and having a grand old time.

The jet lag sets in about four hours after we have landed and we both struggle to keep our eyes open. A nap before heading out to dinner sounds like a blessing. After quick showers, we both turn in. An hour later, Johnny knocks on the door, trying to see if we´re able to go out. DM never even wakes up.

We sleep until about 4 am (Portugal time) and now have set up in the living room. I found it a quiet time to blog about our adventures and I´m watching the sky light up outside. The insects were chirping earlier and now the birds are singing their lovely songs. Occasionally, I hear a car pass by on the road or a dog bark. Portugal is starting to wake up.

JIP, Johnny´s lovely cat who has become my friend, keeps wandering in and out of the room. She sits on my lap sometimes as I type, purring softly and kneading my leg. She is a beautiful feline and so full of love.

I do not know what we have on our agenda for the next 8 days, but I know it will be wonderful. I´m having a wonderful time here. Thoughts of work are a million miles away and I am perfectly fine with that. I am on an adventure and loving it!


Notes written while traveling:

I do not have an aisle or a window seat for this trip, but at least DM has an aisle seat. I´m actually in the middle of the plane and our seats are behind the wings, so the roar of the engines is constant.

Our flight was scheduled to depart Minneapolis at 3:20 pm. We finally took off at 4:05, due to a problem with one of the engines not igniting. But the problem was fixed and we´re on our way.

It´s amazing how these contrapions make it off the ground. In no time at all, we are soaring away, looking down on the clouds. Once in awhile, I get a glimpse from the corner of my eye. Big, fluffy billows of clouds create a blanket beneath me and my fellow passengers. The think cloud cover changes my perspective and it feels as if we´re only 100 feet up in the air, not 10,000.

And yet, above that endless gleaming white, I see a clear blue sky. The reality of this dream trip has yet to set in. I told people, over and over for the past three months, "I´m going to Portugal!" I received many, many, "Take me in your suitcase!" and "I´m so jealous," and "That is exciting!"s. But belief is still far off for me.

Am I really on a plane, cruising above the clouds, listening to rock and roll, and being whisked away to Portugal? It seems like a dream come true, but still I look for someone to pinch me awake.

We are given sodas and pretzel braids for our first snack on the flight. DM ripped open her bag of pretzels and I have opened mine in a way to scrapbook it later. She looks at mine and then looks at the woman next to me. I know what her thought is. "No, I´m not asking random people for their trash." DM will find other little reminders of the experience to scrapbook.

(Note: there are pauses in when this was written. I am notating them this way.)

We´re flying high and it´s okay to have electronic items playing now. We´ve both broken out our iPods and I decided to set mine to random for a bit. I´ve kept a list of the songs that are playing, to see if any will become a starting block for a post or an observation. (The list is at the bottom of this post.)

Tom Petty sings to me, "You don´t have to live like a refugee!" I don´t think I do, yet the line hits me in a different way today. I am flying away from home, starting an adventure with my best friend, and hoping to land in a foreign country where I speak almost nil of the native tongue. I feel a bit like a rebel, a bit like I´m fleeing, but I feel excitement.

I´ve had to show my passport six times already today and have yet to have a stamp put into it.

The woman next to me on the plane seems to overheat quite a bit. On the runway, she kept fanning herself with a magazine and it kept flashing light and dark into my eyes. For a bit, I wondered if I had entered a disco reality on the plane, complete with strobe lights. Now that we are in the air, cruising along at 600 miles an hour 10,000 feet up, she has taken to spreading her legs and fanning her crotch. This seems oddly rude to me. I wonder if it is a cultural difference, but she is fluent in English and speaks like an American (I found out later that she was from Hawaii, but that still seems like an odd stretch.) I figure she just doesn´t care about whafting her stink our way.

Bob Seger sings to me, "You were a lioness, tall and lean," in the song, "Real at the Time." It reminds me that we´re off to meet The Lioness. The title still seems like a foreign aspect to me. Reality is all around, yet I still don´t believe it. The idea of being away from home still seems far off, but it is right here with me all this time.

(Pause again.)

It is nighttime now. We´re heading into the future and time is passing by so quickly. We´ve almost reached the halfway mark on the first leg of our journey. My watch, and body, are telling me it´s 7:40 pm right now, but it looks more like 10:40 out the window I sneak peeks at.

I´ve never had problems with flying. Usually, the service is fine, the food is bland but bareable, and I never hear those around me. Not this flight. This flight meets all the stereotypical horror stories of flying. There´s the screaming infant up front, whose piercing cries makes me glad I have my iPod. There´s the horrid food service, complete with mush. And DM is singing country music next to me. But that last one is not an irritation. It´s an excitement. The crotch whafter from my left has disappeared. I don´t understand how she could disappear on an airplane, yet she has. Maybe she is hanging out near the restrooms at the back of the plane. She has also now returned.

Outside, I can see the wing of the plane. It is dark outside and the right light is blinking. It reminds me of a time flying with my mother.

On a trip to Arizona to visit my grandma, the "Cookie Queen," Mom saw the light outside the window. She kept watching it and after two hours, she turns to me to say, "What could that landmark be that is so high up that I can still see it?" She will never live that moment down.

I called my grandma the "Cookie Queen." She has always loved cookies, not matter what kind. She´ll prepare the biggest family meal and only moments after the dishes are all cleaned and put away, she´ll say, "How ´bout a cookie?"

Grandma is in the hospital now. She needs a stent put in so she can eat. They have been giving her nutrition though an IV for over a week now. She has surgury today, while we´re in the air.

Grandma has been sedated, but sometimes she comes out of ´the fog´. She keeps asking my aunt Lollie for cookies. "Lollie, could you just get me one cookie from the pantry?" She can´t eat one, yet she wants one. The story is breaking my mom´s heart.

I am continually hoping that she makes it through. I keep hearing talk about final moments care (or the other term, "End of life options") and then she pulls through. She turned 90 this past January. I hope she makes it, for my mom´s sake. I can´t be there to comfort Mom right now and I know it´s a hard time for her.

(Pause again.)

The plane is starting to make its descent. My ears again fill with pressure and pop. I was in the lavatory when we started to decrease our height above the ground. It is an interesting feeling, to be standing still and knowing that you´re traveling at 600 miles an hour. When the plane decreases speed to drop a bit, you feel yourself want to keep moving forward. I get back to my seat and write this down. The big board, that I can hardly read from way back here and with the man´s gigantic mellon in front of me, tells me we should be in Amsterdam, on the ground, in 20 minutes. My body knows from flying previous times that we´re getting ready to land, and to confirm my instincts, the pilot announces overhead that we´re coming down.

The sun is rising in the Netherlands. I see it outside the left windows. That seems like the shortest night of my life. The sky is pink and a big ball of yellow is waking up the jet lagged passengers.

It is almost midnight back home. If I were still there, I would be going out with Char and Tom, most likely. I hope they are having fun adventures. Tom made a comment a few weeks ago that we should start taking vacations together (meaning him, Char, DM, and I). They are the coolest people and I´m sure more adventures will be in the future. I am hoping that all went well today with my grandma. I´m hoping that our flight to Portugal flies by. In about 7 hours, we´re going to meet Johnny IN. REAL. LIFE. We´re going to hug her until she turns blue and we´re going to start the adventure of our lives. Reality may strike me, anytime now.

iPod shuffle
Celebrity - BNL
Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
Papa Don´t Preach - Madonna
We´ve Got Tonite - Bob Seger
Mysterious Ways - U2
Get in Line - BNL
Long Time Gone - Dixie Chicks
Don´t Turn Around - Ace of Base
Wonderful - Everclear
Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye - Steam
Refugee - Tom Petty
Twist & Shout - The Beatles
Real at the Time - Bob Seger
Let My Love Open the Door - Pete Townshend
Roxanne (Live & Acoustic) - Sting
Testosterone - Bush
Standing Still - Jewel
Miles Away - Marc Cohn
Upside Down - BNL
Hells Bells - AC/DC

Monday, April 18, 2005

Leaving On A Jet Plane...

All my bags are packed, and I'm ready to go...

Except for the iPod and digital camera (both charging over night), everything is packed up. We're back at my place from karaoke (stories to be written on the plane and then typed up once we're in Portugal). We may be starving (we skipped going out for food after karaoke because TIME. IS. GETTING. SHORT. But I have to do a quick post before bed (DM is getting ready for bed right now and I'm ready to hit the sack for a few hours of zzzzzzzz's).

There's a thunder storm going on outside. Lightning is flashing and it's brilliant. Last night, the fog was thick and made the lights cast awesome shadows. I took this picture from the parking lot of my apartment complex.

fog light 2

We shopped until we dropped (getting essentials for the trip) and DM is putting the final purchases into her bag right now. And in less than 12 hours, we'll be in the air!

If anyone wants to keep in touch while we're on the trip, you can email us at:


We'll both be posting to our blogs during the vacation. Look out world (or just Portugal), here we come!

Friday, April 15, 2005

What a Team of Characters

What I should be doing right now is getting ready for work. Am I? Obviously not, I'm sitting at the computer, reading blogs and checking email. I've gotten 6 emails from my mom in the last day and two voicemail messages from her. My grandma is in the hospital and there's a long story there.

Yesterday was my big day at work, thanks for those who crossed fingers but it turned out like I thought it would. It's not news then.

Tonight is my last night of working before my vacation. I actually get 17 days away from NABABNA (11 days of vacation time and six weekend days). I have so much to do at work tonight and I know I'm going to go insane. It's possible for me to leave an hour early, but the more I think about it, the less likely this seems to be. There are a bunch of people I have to sit down with tonight and coach and then there's the sad part of my day I'll need to get past.

Three of the bankers on our team are leaving the call center. Each one is moving on in their lives and I'm thrilled for them, yet a part of me is sad. I go through this every time someone leaves, especially those who I've worked with for a lengthy time.

One of the bankers, Jay, is starting his own business. This is very exciting for him and he'll be successful. He's got the talent, the smarts, and the drive to do it. He's also a banker that I've know for a year and a half and admire and enjoy his company. His last night working with me was on Wednesday. I spent the last hour of his shift talking with him. No work was really done (we covered the business of that meeting in the first 10 minutes), but I am glad I took the time to chat with him. I was doing fine and saying goodbye and then I saw him walk away.

Well, that's when I lost it. I started crying quietly at my desk, happy for him, yet thinking it would be a little dreary in my world without him.

Tonight may be even harder to deal with. I have all the preparing for vacation to go through but I also have to say goodbye to two bankers on our team.

Jordan is a guy who has been on our team for about 6 months now. That's not a long time in the grand scheme of things, yet I feel like I've known him forever. I remember when he first started and he sat in a desk right next to mine. He's young and full of energy and he loves to make those around him laugh and smile. He is extraordinarily talented and brilliant. That's why he's leaving. He was offered his dream job by another company and that company is moving him to London. It is truly the opportunity of a lifetime for him. But I'm going to be sad to see him leave. He's a great performer, yes, but that's not why I'm sad. We can get more talent and more wonderful people, it's the fact that he's part of the team and a reason for me to smile each day. I'll miss him.

Barbara is a woman who I've been working with for two years. She's leaving our team for another department of NABABNA and she's going to excel at the job she's being given. She's also the one banker on the team who works the exact same schedule as I do. Every Tuesday, she asks me about my weekend, eager to hear fun karaoke stories and she tells me about the time she spent with her grandchildren. She mothers all of us on the team, bringing in treats and making each person feel special.

When Barbara had been working with us for about three months, she said to me, "Beth, how many hours a week do you work? You're here ALL the time!" I had to laugh a little and then explained that she and I have the same schedule. I work the same hours as she does, I just managed to get there about five minutes before she did each day. She thought I was there for eighty hours a week! And she's going to be moving on now too. I'm going to miss her.

I'll miss each one of these three. Not for the fact that they are great bankers and help our team with numbers. I'm going to miss each one because they are great people and I feel privilegded to work with them. I feel good to have had the opportunity to get to know them and see them develop and grow and laugh and smile and make friends. It's still going to be a great place to work, just different without them. And I do end up losing it each time I have to say goodbye to someone moving on to something thrilling and exciting in their lives. It's a bittersweet happiness.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Can I Go On The Camel Diet?

This is just some of the stuff that's going on in my working life. I'm going to end up gaining weight after this week, I know it.

On Tuesday, I get to work and realize that I have 5 hours of meetings and over 20 calls to listen to (I listen to the quality assurance calls for our team to see if they are scored correctly). This is a long day. I had a wonderful time at work and at three of the meetings, food was present. I was given ice cream at the first (Dairy Queen Blizzard - Butterfinger). The second was a training meeting and there were chips and dip. Then our team meeting had a BBQ complete with hamburgers and hot dogs.

On Wednesday, I arrive at work, remembering a pot luck our team is having. Then the big, big boss walks up to me and explains that he's taking over the meeting I'm running for the team leads and taking us out for pizza. So I get pizza for lunch. When I get back, our team is sharing chicken, chili, deviled eggs, chips, soda, four cakes, and about nine pounds worth of pasta salad. So I'm full when I'm offered cookies and candy at the pool hall later on.

Today, Thursday, should prove to be another big, free food day. A guy on our team challenged the boss man (Andy) that if the team had a night over a certain percentage that we'd have pizza ordered in. So we're getting pizza tonight. I'm also going out to dinner with my boss and my boss's boss.

I'm not going to have to eat for a year! (Exaggeration, obviously.)

Char and I went to play pool last night. I've gone to RC's every night this week now. On Monday, I went with Tom and Char met us after work. (I went somewhere with Tom beforehand and bought DM a present! I'm not telling! I'm not telling!) Char and I headed out for ladies night on Tuesday (free pool! Who can pass that up?) We weren't going to go last night, but of course, ended up there. And we got about three hours of free pool. We also got an invite to come back and play tonight.

The guy at the pool hall is very nice to us. He lets us play and wants to play the game with us (I'm sure he wants to play with us for more than the game, but that's our line to stick to).

Okay, I'm half awake and I need to get ready for work. I'm not overly creative this morning. It's just that staying out past 5 in the morning is starting to wear on me and I don't have time to blog when I get home at night. This will change soon, hopefully.

Today is a big day. I should be getting news on something, one way or another. Cross your fingers for me, even though I'm thinking the worst.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Pure craziness

Okay, this week may prove to be the busiest of my life. That has a lot to do with my lack of new posts or seemingly lack of new posts.

I really should be going to bed, but I feel like I have to write something. But it will be meaningless drivel. Maybe not, but just more FYI stuff.

DM - I finally arranged our rides to and from the airport. Surprised the heck out of grandmother when I called her and then telling her I was going to Portugal set her back a bit. Pretty fun. I also bought you a present.

Matt - We talked and Sunday is good. Can't wait! You knew this already. I'm losing it.

Johnny - BIG HUGS to you. You deserve them. Also, I did make a mistake with the calendar. We are leaving on Friday, April 29. We'll be there at night on the 25th. What is Seder? Did you look into cars? Should I rent one from here and have the reservation ready? What days would be good for that? Also, should we exchange our money here for Euros?

I realized I need to do tuition reimbursement ASAP from work. I have a pile of stuff to do at work building up and getting ready to be gone for 15 days is strange. But Char will be there and my boss, Andy, will do a great job while I'm gone. I have a fierce loyalty to our team and was told today that I shouldn't be corresponding by email with my boss while on vacation.

While I'm gone, I'm going to use my gmail account. It's brooksba AT gmail DOT com. So if there is anything major, please email me there. I should also be able to check this site and hope to have a few posts during our trip. It's good for posterity.

Okay, had to get up early today to go into a meeting and now staying up way past my bedtime, but need to share a couple of more things.

I went to play pool at RC's tonight with Char and Tom. Ran into Dennis from my days at Bugs. I don't know if I've told the story (I don't think I have) about the New Year's Eve party and Dennis, but I will one of these days. It was a little strange to see him.

My brain just shut down. Good night (good morning to most people). The birds are singing, it's time for me to get a little shut eye.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The "IN" Crowd

Or maybe this should be titled, "Is this the crowd we want to be IN?"

Karaoke last night was fantastic. It was one of those nights that makes me glad we go every week.

Matt introduced us to karaoke about three years ago. Before that, I always cringed when someone mentioned the subject. I really did. But then it was decided that after work we'd meet up at this small bar in downtown Saint Paul called, "Wild Tymes". This is where DM and I met Bryan, Liz, and Dean. That first night of karaoke, I finally tried a song at the very end of the night. I tried, "Son of a Preacher Man." This is the song I usually warm up to now. I remember standing up by the equipment and shaking the entire time. Matt talks about the rush he gets from singing and I didn't feel it at first. I was scared and timid and barely made any noise, but then realized I was having a good time.

Long story short, we kept going. We got to know Bryan, Liz, and Dean at Wild Tymes. We didn't go every week, but we had fun every time we went. We found out that Bryan hosted at The Chalet on Thursday nights. This brought us out to The Chalet for karaoke. As times and work schedules changed (everyone's but mine), we started to show up at The Chalet on Sunday nights. The first couple years of going to The Chalet were less regular than now. It was the exception to show up at The Chalet.

Back in September, DM and I had a conversation about karaoke. We made the decision that it should be the exception when we DON'T go to karaoke on Sundays. We haven't missed a week since. We're going to miss one while we're in Portugal, and that's fine - it's a pretty darn good reason to miss a week!

We used to (and still do) get excited when Bryan, Liz, and Dean talk to us. We feel like we're part of the "cool" crowd. They're great people and we enjoy their company. There are other friends of theirs that show up towards the end of the night each Sunday. (This would be James, Barry, and sometimes Stephanie.) This group has started to sit at our table and conversing with us.

Before I get into the conversation from last night that I want to really share, I should explain the rest of karaoke. There are other stories!

When we got to The Chalet last night, Cowboy Joe (I'm going to link the story where he kept asking about the duet, but I can't find it) was there with a group of people. Now, here's the thing. This group makes the Clampetts seem classy. There seemed to be some problem in their lives this week and the group would randomly started bawling. I did my best to avoid looking at their group.

Bryan didn't want them to start becoming regulars and the regulars didn't want them to start as regulars. So the karaoke machine conveniently broke for the first hour of the night. This was fine, DM and I played darts, sat and talked, and listened to our tunes on our iPods.

The show did have to start and the group sang a couple of songs each, but then left, feeling dejected when the crowd didn't give them standing ovations. After they left, they called back and yelled at Bobby because Bryan was a "jerk" (add some other colorful words there too!) to them. All the people in the bar thought he was a hero.

Before Dean, James, Barry, and Liz arrived, DM purchased something that I unfortunately cannot explain at this moment in time. But it lead to a long discussion with the group when they got there. When James, Barry, and Dean are sitting with us, this is the resulting conversation:

Me: [Asking special favor of the guys.]
James (J): Okay, but why?
DM: Because we blog about you. Don't worry, it's all good stuff.
J: Why would you blog about us?
DM: Because you're cool!
Dean (D): But we read comic books.
Me: But we like you guys.
DM: And we feel like we're at the cool table when you join us!

We get very weird stares. We had a fantastic time last night and after the show ended, it was great to sit and talk with the group. They're a cool bunch of people and the interactions are the reason why I love going to karaoke each week.

Here's a picture from the night. It's Bryan and James. This looks scary and I hope everyone understands it is in fun. It's a posed picture, but totally fun! (And maybe the reason why I have the second title...)

Bryan and James chair small

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Countdown to Portugal

Wow! The time is going by quickly and it seems like soon DM and I will be in Portugal visiting Johnny! I'm so excited. I may have mentioned this before.

Here's an idea of the time and what needs to be done before we go (DM feel free to send me things to add if you want):

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Plans for the day: Go to dad's, go to karaoke, go to Perkin's with Char and Tom for a server's last night

Monday, April 11, 2005

Plans for the day: Dentist appointment at 3 PM

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ladies night pool with Char?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Thursday, April 14, 2005


Friday, April 15, 2005

Talk with DM to see about getting together at night (after her event after work)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Shop with DM
Dinner at Chipotle and dessert at Coldstone
Visit Michael at Michael's for karaoke

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sleep really, really late
Go to karaoke with DM, Char & Tom
Get a few hours of zzzzz's

Monday, April 18, 2005

Go to grandparents house? (They live three minutes from the airport)
Get to the airport VERY early
We depart from the Minneapolis International Airport at 3:20 PM Central Standard Time

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

We arrive in Amsterdam (layover) at 6:30 AM and wait until 11:00 AM to depart again (this layover seems longer than I thought)

We arrive in Lisbon at 12:55 PM in the afternoon

Total travel time: 15 hours and 35 minutes

Have a ton of fun until Friday, April 25, 2005.

Depart (sad face) Lisbon at 6:00 AM (ouch!)
Arrive in Amsterdam at 9:55 AM
Depart Amsterdam at 10:45 AM (not as long of a layover!)
Arrive in Minneapolis at 12:35 PM

Total travel time: 12 hours and 35 minutes

iPod shuffle

It's time for another list of shuffle songs.

Adlib 2 - BNL Play Everywhere for Everyone (PEFE) (This is actually from the concert DM and I saw last year)
Journey to the Past - Anastasia soundtrack
Let My Love Open the Door - Pete Townsend (Grosse Pointe Blank Soundtrack)
The Diva Megamix - A bonus track from Pure Disco 2
Only the Good Die Young - Billy Joel (GH Vol. 1)
Gemini Dream - The Moody Blues (Gold Disc 2)
The End - The Doors (GH V. 2)
One Week - BNL PEFE
Barbie Girl - Aqua
My Stupid Mouth - John Mayer
You Spin Me 'Round (Like a Record) - Dead or Alive
I Wanna Sex You Up - Color Me Badd
The Bad Touch - The Bloodhound Gang
Go Home - BNL - Maroon
Bicycle Race - Queen (GH V. 1)
Vox - Sarah McLachlan (Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff album)
It's My Life - No Doubt
Strangers in a Car - Marc Cohn
Silver Thunderbird - Marc Cohn
Callin' Baton Rouge - Garth Brooks (Double Live disc 1)
Lullaby-Isabella - Medium, Mechanical Bride (Bryan's CD!)
Pinch Me - BNL PEFE
Gallileo (Live) - Indigo Girls
Bad Girls - Donna Summer
Rattled - Traveling Wilburys
Say it With Love - The Moody Blues
Leaving to Stay - Jonny Lang
War Pigs - Ozzy
It's So Easy - Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story cast recording
Get Down on it - Kool & The Gang
McDonald's Girl - BNL (Cover)
Crazy Love, Vol. II - Paul Simon
War on Drugs - BNL PEFE
Drops of Jupiter - Train
Mr. Roboto - Styx
Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
Moon Sammy - Soul Coughing
Don't Stand Too Close to Me - Sting (...all this time album)
Maybe Katie - BNL PEFE
Fashion - Medium, Mechanical Bride
The Late September Dogs - Melissa Etheridge
On the Street Where You Live - Harry Connick Jr.
Wild Thing - The Troggs (70 Ounces of Rock & Gold)
Running on Faith - Eric Clapton
Here Comes Horses - Tabitha's Secret
All I Need (Live) - Matchbox Twenty EP
The River of Dreams - Billy Joel (GH V. 3)
Goodbye Letter - Jonny Lang
The House that Jack Built - Aretha Franklin - 30 GH
Cell Block Tango - Queen Latifah & Lil Kim - Chicago soundtrack
Amazing - Madonna - Music
Spider in My Room - BNL - Born on a Pirate Ship
Underneath Your Clothes (Acoustic) - Shakira
Knockin' on Heaven's Door - Eric Clapton
I Can See Clearly - Johnny Nash (Grosse Pointe Blank Soundtrack)
What Do You Do For Money Honey - AC/DC - Back in Black
When There's No One Around - Garth Brooks
Only One of Us - Cowboy Mouth - Mercyland
Somebody Love - Queen (GH V. 1)
Santeria - Sublime
Changes - David Bowie (Best of Bowie)
Hello, I Love You - The Doors
Hand Me Down - Matchbox Twenty
Senseless - Cowboy Mouth - Uh-Oh
You Outta Know - Alanis Morrisette
I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That - Elton John (GH V. 2)
Long Time Coming - Jonny Lang
Fool's Gold - Bree Sharp
Nights in White Satin - The Moody Blues

I'm noticing that BNL shows up a lot. That might be because I have over a day's worth of total play for them. I am a little bit addicted.