From Spain to Portugal
June 24, 2007
Today is a travel day as we depart Spain for Portugal. The weather is beautiful. Chris in now 100% and all is good. We board our bus at 8:00 after another 6:30 wake up call and buffet breakfast.
We traveled along a highway in the midst of eucalyptus and cork oak trees. We learned how cork oak is harvested and after our lesson I fell asleep! So unfortunately I can not tell you very much about this portion of the trip other then while sleeping I dreamt of playing golf. I did shoot well however.
Chris and Cathy also fell asleep. Chris has commandeered the back seat of the bus so he actually had a very comfortable “bed” to stretch out in. In fact he fell into such a deep sleep that when we stopped for “technical” (bathrooms) he was hard to rouse.
Speaking of bathrooms it is time to learn a little about the Spanish bathroom. Unlike our trips in Italy the bathrooms in Spain are all brand new, well lit and very clean. In Italy the toilet seat is a figment of the imagination as they are all stolen so they are not replaced in the public toilets. In Spain however this is not the case, all are with a seat and in working order. This makes for a very pleasant experience. We only have seen one Turkish toilet so far.
The Turkish toilet is a porcelain hole in the floor with a place for your feet, no seat, and no bowl. It requires excellent aim and significant balance in order to use the Turkish toilet. Fortunately this experience was not a common one for us so we just took a few photos as a memento.
Portugal is the first place we had to pay to use the toilet. They have a great way to get you to spend money. We take our tour bus to a small shop with souvenirs and food. In order to use the bathroom you have to buy something! Brilliant plan. If you buy something you get a receipt and a bathroom receipt. You must take this to the turnstile and then it will open. If you try to use it again it will not work. Cathy buys a water and Chris a coffee. I had to pay extra to go to the bathroom an additional 50 cents as I did not buy anything.
We arrive into Lisbon the capitol of Portugal about 1:30 in the afternoon. We cross the Tagus River on a very special bridge. As we approach the bridge you get the feeling you are in San Francisco because the bridge looks exactly like the Golden Gate Bridge. In fact it is, for you see the bridge was built by the same builders and designers as the Golden Gate so they just used the same plans.
Our 5 star hotel is on the outskirts of the city and is absolutely beautiful. We arrived a little early so not all of our rooms were ready, in fact three rooms were not finished, and Cathy and I had one of the three! The hotel offered our entire troop a free drink as an apology for not having the rooms ready. That was very nice of them.
About an hour later we got our room and decided to go shopping as there is a mall next door to the hotel. Mall may be a little overstatement as there were only about 10 stores most of which were cell phone stores. A quick walk through proved we would not need to spend much time here so we headed back to the hotel.
It was still about 80 degrees, very pleasant so we decided to head to the pool while Chris decided to go to his room and do more home work. Some of you may recall Chris is taking classes in Greece for all of July so he still has much preparation to do before classes start on July 1 so he uses this resting time to catch up on school work.
So Cathy and I head to the pool. The pool is located on the second floor and is virtually empty. We set up some lounge chairs and an umbrella and settle in to read and rest.
After about 20 minutes Cathy was freezing. Although it was 80 degrees there was a slight breeze. She moved from the shade into the sun to no avail. She decided to go back to the room.
We discovered an interesting effect Cathy has on hotel keys. It seems that if she touches a magnetic hotel key she kills the key. We first thought it was the key because it happened earlier in the trip so we got a new one. Well it is not the key it is Cathy. I gave her the key when she left the pool and remained reading my book for about an hour. It was time to get ready for dinner so I headed back to the room. There outside the elevator sat Cathy reading her book. The key did not work and she did not want to co down stairs in her bathing suit. Well I had to go down in my bathing suit and get a new key. We get into the room and decide that the key is now my responsibility.
We shower and get ready for our excursion dinner in Portugal.
Down to the bus we take a quick tour of Lisbon as we head to the ferry for a ride across the Tagus River. This is the same river we saw back in Toledo in Spain. Here however the river is very wide and is actually at the end of the river as it flows into the Atlantic. We take a 15 minute ferry across the river to arrive at our port restaurant.
Dinner was a special fish dinner of all fresh fish prepared in the local style. We began with a plate of Prawns or very large shrimp. These were huge about 6 inches each. The plate must have had 15 on each plate. The prawns all had their head on so some people could not look at food that was looking back at them! You break off the head, peel off the shell and enjoy. Excellent.
Next we had a plate of several fried portions of hot pockets filled with different fish. Some were shrimp, some cod and one was just potato. Following this we had a hot soup of fish and shrimp and prawns. This also was excellent. By now we were stuffed but there was more to come.
Following the soup came the main dish of cod in a noodle dish. We also had rice with shrimp as the starch. All you can eat was the order of the day so we ate very well. All of this was accompanied by bread and red, white and sparkling wine. Beer, water and soda were also included.
After the main course we had a dessert of fruits and cream with coffee. It was now near 9:00 pm and we were just finishing dinner. We left the restaurant and boarded our bus back to the hotel. It was about 10:00 and time for bed.