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Portugal Nov. 2006

  • Submitted by: Ash Luloff, United States
  • Submission Date: 24th Feb 2007

Well the flight to Lisbon wasn’t so bad as I got an emergency exit aisle seat and had plenty of leg room. Meal service was a cold lunch and drink service as well. Again the flight arrived 30 minutes early and since I didn’t have to wait for my luggage to appear on the luggage belt I was able to head directly out to meet Grace. Given how early I was I was a bit surprised to see her waiting but there she was waiting with a smile and a bouquet of flowers, what more can a jet lagged exhausted traveler ask for when arriving at her final destination? (well besides getting the belated news that she won the lottery at home and having a cadre of good looking men accompanying said friend and hostess).
After getting a bite to eat and resting my poor shoulder by depositing the carryon at her mother’s we headed back out into the warm but slightly wet day and caught a cab to the bus station. Well , as much as I’d like for things to stay the same some things just change without consulting anyone. One of those things is the bus stop in Sao Martinho do Porto. It had previously been a block from Grace’s home but now its about a 10 minute walk away right by the train station.. So in difference to my exhaustion and Grace’s still recovering shoulder she decided that we would take the bus to Caldas which is the next town over and then catch a cab from there to home.Very nice and never has there been such a welcome sight as the three flights of stairs that led up to my home away from home for this vacation.
So after a short bit of time and my unpacking we finally discussed where we would visit while I was here. I had originally hoped to visit Tomar and Conimbriga as well as Peniche.Well the bad news was that Tomar was out of the question. So we planned for going to Coimbra and Conimbriga on Wednesday and Peniche on Thursday, Lisbon to celebrate my birthday and rest on Saturday and Sunday before I left on Monday. Good plan all around. If we’d listened closer we’d have heard the Goddess of Travel laughing at us over the sound of the waves.

Wednesday, Nov. 22nd
5:50am- Grace came to tell me that the alarm didn’t go off and that we wouldn’t make the 6am bus to Coimbra. Ok, Plan B Peniche back to bed we both go.
So, the bus to Peniche leaves after 11am so we can both recover from my arrival yesterday. We purchase the tickets at the new ticket shop for Peniche and also the tickets for Thursday to Coimbra (which we have to make now that we’ve paid 20 euros for the tickets). On the way to Peniche I noted the sad fact that they’ve started to build up the land around Obidos. One of the things that Grace had wanted to do while we were in Peniche was to take a boat out to the Islands off the coast which are said to be lovely. When we got to the bus station we got some bad news, this time of year the boats don’t go out to the islands. Ok, plan B isn’t working out so well. So we head into the Marina area to get a bite to eat and then wait for the bus that will leave at 5pm. Well, the Luloff is ever the optimists when it comes to these sorts of things. I spotted a sign that said Tourism, tourism they might know of some things to do. Well, we stopped on the way to ask directions at a coffee shop because frankly we’d never have found it otherwise, in fact it was so well hidden we almost didn’t find it WITH directions. So, it had just closed 2 minutes earlier for the lunch hour. Thankfully they had a map up on the window and I spotted the Municipal Museum, well it may not be a trip out to lovely islands but its better then staring at the four walls of the bus station.
So after coming to an agreement that this would most likely be a good place to kill some time we go across the street to a coffee shop to find out if its open all the time or if it closes for lunch. We were told that the museum is always open and that if we take this one road it will end right at the fortress and that its not a very steep climb. So we head on out with something resembling optimism . Ok, well we ended up on the wrong road it seems because the road we ended up on wasn’t what I’d call a level walk and it didn’t end at the fortress. So we went down one street and found the proper road that had a very slight incline and yes ended right at the fortress ( oh what’s that sound that I’m hearing is it someone laughing? It must be). We went up to the museum entrance and saw that it was closed for lunch.
So, we found a nice staircase to sit on and wait. Then a little before 2pm they finally open up.
Well for a few euros its not a bad deal They have a number of lovely seashells, and also examples of bobbin lace which is the regional craft specialty. Do we wandered up to the third floor. WELL I’ll say that we should really have read the guides that we received at the desk, it would have told us what was on the third floor, the remains of the prison that had housed political dissidents during the dictatorship in Portugal. Well the life like manikins and lack of exit signs didn’t do much for my peace of mind and even less for my dear friend’s . So eventually we got out of there and by then it was raining outside. So we wondered down to the marina area and had lunch after which we took a walk down the pier, where there was the most adorable cat colony. These cats were just scampering about or sitting happily where they were without so much as a look in our direction. As we walked down the pier the usual compliment of seagulls decided to stay or fly away as we approached.
As it approached sunset we decided to head back to the bus station to wait for our bus home. Ok, well this would have been fine except I needed to visit the ladies room. I will say only this, I’m sure that somewhere in the world there are nastier toilets and nastier bathrooms in general I just never want to see one. It was a reminder that I really need to make sure I always have my hand sanitizer with me.
So home we headed to an early night since we didn’t want to miss the 6am bus to Coimbra. Why the 6am bus you ask, because in order to go there and see the ruins one must catch the 9.35am bus in Coimbra which is the last bus to leave in the morning and it’s a two hour ride from Sao Martinho to Coimbra.

Nov. 23rd, 2006 Thanksgiving Day.
Well my internal alarm clock had me up at 4:50am. We groggily made our way to the bus stop and waited for the bus to come and pick us up. The driver decided to have the lights on and music playing, not conducive to trying to catch up on sleep. We arrived in Coimbra at 8am or so and then decided to ask for where the bus to Conimbriga was. Information was closed and the gentleman in the window next to the information desk had no idea so we headed over to the coffee shop and had a bit of breakfast. They knew where to catch the bus and so after that we headed to get our return tickets to Sao Martinho and wash our hands. Well tickets were easy and washing hands…another adventure in third world plumbing. This time I had my hand sanitizer with me and we were in good shape.
So off we head to the JoAlto Bus company which is a few blocks a way from the other Bus station.. Well we arrive and the office is closed despite the fact that it is supposed to be open. Then Grace asks one of the other drivers that is getting off a bus and he mentions that we shouldn’t worry that there are buses every half hour. I don’t think that’s what we wanted to hear.
So eventually we catch the bus out to the ruins and after lots of traffic later we get there at about 10:30 and that leaves us plenty of time to wander around until we catch the 1pm bus back to Coimbra.
Ok, so you ask yourself, why is Ash so excited about getting to this town/ruins that sound like a major hassle to get to? Well I’m an Anthrogeek, I’ve taken one too many course on Roman architecture and history, I can’t pass up the chance to see all of it in PERSON at the best preserved and most complete ruins in Portugal…there is no excuse for me not to go see it (especially since this is my THIRD visit to Portugal).
So after finally getting the tickets we explored the museum and then waited for the rain to stop. Once it stopped raining we headed out to the ruins.. Extensive is putting it mildly…if you actually walk the entirety of the ruins you’d put in at least 2 miles of walking, and in the areas where the Roman road is still
intact it’s a bit of rough going, I now know why Roman Soldiers had to have nails in their sandals…if they didn’t their feet would have been bloody pulps after more then a few miles
Still the mosaics were just amazing and the colors were so vivid after all these years.. They also had restored part of a private villa just amazing.
Well we went back to Coimbra in a much speedier fashion then we had left and were left with three hours to wait until the bus left. We had lunch at the same café where we’d had breakfast and I got a reminder of Portuguese portions. I ordered a half order of baked chicken. Well it came as a half of a chicken, French fries and a large portion of rice. Now I’ll admit that I was hungry and it was nice to have a bird on Thanksgiving but even I can only eat so much. So I did my best but did end up giving half the rice to Grace for her to finish.
So back to home base on the 4:15 bus and at this point in the game my only thought is that if I have to spend much more time on a bus my ass is going to be flattened and remolded into a new shaped and one that doesn’t include my right hip.
Thanksgiving dinner was so far from traditional, it was cod with cream.

Nov. 24th, 2006 (Its that special day when I get to turn a day older)
Lisbon- and it’s a good thing we don’t have much planned because it is raining cats, dogs, kittens, and sea lions. Grace had an appointment in the morning and we had a dinner with her mother and a couple of her friends that I’d met on my last visit. So lots of movie watching and a pizza for lunch. Birthday dinner was duck rice and chocolate mousse. Gifts were all very nice nad included a coin purse, a cat angle and a friendship wall ornament from Grace.

Nov. 25th, 2006

So we caught the early bus back to Sao Martinho and with the exception of my trying to rearrange my brains as I got our luggage from the bus it was nice, Grace decided that I needed a new addiction in the form of House, MD. I guess I have an addictive personality because I am hooked. I really didn’t need another tv show addiction.

Nov. 26th, 2006
Well another lazy day. I actually sent in my assignment for class so it wasn’t a total loss. Well I was designated to go pick up the tickets for us to go to Lisbon. The woman at the store that normally is there studied in the states so she speaks English. Well of course she wouldn’t be there when I go to get the tickets. I will admit that pointing and euros solved the problem of the bus tickets. Still it reminds me that I really really need to start pondering this learning Portuguese thing,. Oh well I still have until 2008 before my next trip overseas.
Tonight we will head back in to Lisbon so that I can catch my 7am flight to Amsterdam. We tried out the restaurant in the building across the street the one that took five years to build. They serve a mean desert waffle and a nice mango flavored milkshake.
We got to her mother’s house by 11pm and had a light dinner

I departed for the US the next day.