Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Walking Tour and Jewish Karaoke


So, Coke comes in cans that are 330 ml. The cans are a bit smaller than what we get back in the States, but I can live with that.

What was a shocker was the fact that to buy 24 cans it cost over 22 Euros! Yes, that's right. A case of Coke cost over 22 Euros! And the Euro is stronger than the dollar.

Holy cow!

The Coke adventure came after our fun-filled day and educational evening.

When Deya and I awoke today, we had plans to visit Bairro-Alto and Alfama, old time parts of Lisbon. We got ready and headed to the Metro station to catch our trains. Again, I was able to buy the tickets from the machine again and we were on our way. We headed to the Baixa-Chiado station and then switched lines (linhas) from green (verde) to blue (azul) and rode one more stop to Restauradores.

Once we exited the station, we found ourselves in an open area with lots of people wandering back and forth. A map was sighted and I headed for it. Deya was stopped by an older woman and she called me back. I had tried to avoid being pressured into purchasing anything from street vendors, but Deya had attracted this woman to her and called me back. The woman gave us stickers with carnations on them and then had to pay the woman 4 Euros! Well, at least we have something for our scrapbooks now (as if we didn't already have enough!)

Today was the 25th of April, Portugal's independence. It is called the Carnation Revolution because of the peaceful way the revolution happened. The people put carnations into the barrels of the guns to signal a peaceful independence. I think it is a lovely piece of history.

Once in the square, Deya and I spotted a familiar sight and had to head over for some food. On the way, a little gift shop was calling to us and we purchased more post cards that we had originally planned. But we will have charming additions to our scrapbooks!

The sight that had drawn us to the other side of the avenue was a golden circle with English words, prompting images to "Save the Planet" and of classic guitaring. That's correct, we found Hard Rock Cafe. I don't know what it is about Hard Rock, it is a horrible cliché but I still adore it.
Inside, we had a little table surrounded by rock artifacts and the music was blaring. Deya kept a list of some of the videos playing, this way we can make a CD of the day, a little soundtrack to our adventure. Life always has a soundtrack to me. I adore music and so Hard Rock is a place I enjoy, even if the food is nothing sensational.

Our waiter helped us out quite a bit and spoke some pretty decent English. Since neither of us were going to be driving in Portugal and we were not in Vegas, we both ordered an alcoholic drink to go with our massive meals. Deya got a Pina Colada and I had a Hurricane. The souvenir glasses were washed out and given to us at the end of the meal.

We had ordered an appetizer for the meal, a large thing called the Jumbo Combo and it had just about anything you could want in an appetizer. Deya had a classic burger and I got chicken fajitas for our meal and we could barely make dents in them after the Jumbo Combo. But we did have a decent meal and our full stomachs were ready for the walking we would be doing soon.

There was another server there, a petite woman running around full of spunk. Watching her enhanced our experience at the restaurant and we certainly enjoyed her singing at the top of her lungs with the videos playing on the big screen next to us. We wanted to get a picture of her, so she reached over and grabbed my sunglasses from my shirt and posed with each of us.

Hard Rock is always full of memorabilia and the Lisbon Hard Rock is no exception. Deya enjoyed seeing k. d. lang's guitar and I liked being able to check out Seal's guitar. We hit up the gift shop as well. I bought a t-shirt, a hoodie (which came in a lot of handy once my long sleeve shirts ran out), and a couple of shot glasses (one is a gift). Deya got an adorable little shirt for her nephew, Josh, that says, "My first Hard Rock Cafe shirt." He's going to be a rocker. A stop was made at the restroom and I checked out a phone on the wall with email capability. It was pretty cool.

Now that our stomachs were full, it was time to take a walk. The Elevador de Gloria was nearby and we paid the 1,10 Euros to ride the furnicular up to the top of the steep, steep hill. At the top, we started to follow Rick Steve's advice (a tour guide book) and found it to be a great walk through the older part of Lisbon. We turned right and entered the Miradouro de Sao Pedro Alcantara (I no longer have a foreign keyboard to add the correct accents). In English, this is San Pedro Park belvedere. There is a magnificent view of the city from this park, views of the castle and the cathedral and authentic Lisbon buildings. Rick Steve's is great in pointing out that the rest of the walk is all downhill from this point, a plus in our books!

We followed the main street down, looking at and taking pictures of the old tile work and iron railings on the different buildings. One of the stops I had wanted to make was at Sao Roque Church, unfortunately we got there a bit late and missed going inside. In the little square in front of the church, we saw many pigeons and other touristy views. We kept moving, following Rick Steve's advice, and found ourselves in the Largo do Carmo. The Convento do Carmo had closed already (actually, it may not have been open at all that day due to the national holiday), but we were able to see through one paneless window the remains of arches supporting nothing but the sky. During Lisbon's earthquake in 1755 the church was destroyed. Marques de Pombal directed that the Gothic arches should remain to remind everyone of the event. (Rick Steve's gives a bit of history in the guide book. I would recommend him to anyone traveling to Europe. But avoid his pronunciations in the different books for phrases.)

There is a one block uphill part of the tour, but it brought us by a theater that had a play about Einstein (and others I think) going on. There were Einsteins all around the building, one was riding a bicycle on Christmas lights. We crossed the street and found a nice place to rest, right next to a building with fantastic tile work depicting Terra and Aqua. I had the impression that the women in the tiles were to signify Mother Earth and some goddess of water. Don't worry, we got pictures!

Continuing down the hill, we found a pedestrian zone on the Rua Garrett. The zone was packed with people, hustling and bustling in their daily lives. We saw the Cafe a Brasileira and saw the statue of poet Fernando Pessoa sitting in the square, next to the tables full of caffeine junkies. A man was playing an instrument in the square and we decided it was time to catch the Metro back to Johnny's. Alfama would have to wait for another day (which we did get to on the last day there). Before hopping back on the tube (I just like the term Johnny used for it), we did see the lampposts that depict the symbol of Lisbon. It is a ship, carrying the remains of St. Vincent, and two crows (or ravens). I have a fantastic picture of this, complete with a woman peeking out the window off to the corner of the image.

The walk through old Lisbon was fabulous and an experience I will cherish. We rode the subway back to Johnny's (the stop had four separate escalators to get into the depths of Lisbon) and got ready for the Seder.

We met up with Johnny and we headed to the synagogue. In Portuguese the word is synagoga. Deya and I both enjoyed recognizing a word. Deya wrote a great post about the evening, It's Jewish Karaoke, and I am not going to repeat everything she wrote. I especially enjoyed helping sing the songs in Hebrew. Johnny helped us out by writing some of the lyrics out phonetically for us and we loved it. The food was an experience. I found it amusing after the ceremony to see the Rabbi smoking under a Nao Fumar sign. We both snapped pictures of the synagoga after the ceremony and then we all headed back to Johnny's flat.

There was one quick stop on the way back to a petrol station (BP - we were able to share that it stands for British Petroleum with Johnny). That is where I bought the most expensive Coca-Cola of my life. Heck, the shoes I bought the last day of the trip were cheaper than the case of Coke. We also got some batteries for Deya's camera, her charger had been too heavy for the adapters and that didn't work on this trip.

Back at the flat, we rested up, watched Kingpin on TV, a horrible movie that I love probably because it is about bowling. Johnny headed to bed and Deya and I watched VH1 again. I got caught up on emails and then we headed to bed.

Our Monday in Portugal was a great day, full of exercise, fantastic views and photos, and the opportunity to see a Jewish ceremony. I also enjoyed the fact that besides being called bloody Anglos, Johnny called us bread and butter carrying Americans. What can we say? Bread and butter tastes great!

The beginning of this post was written while in Portugal, however time constraints made it have to wait until I got home to finish it up. I did want to share the story while it was still fresh in my memory. I also have notes about our adventures on Tuesday which I will share within the next couple of days.