Friday, April 22, 2005

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.