Trip Start Sep 05, 2012
27Trip End May 16, 2013
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Besides that little bit of sideline entertainment we did our best to see all that Porto had to offer, although admittedly our best was a bit lacklustre considering the deep-seated exhaustion still lingering from the Camino, our typical lack of enthusiasm for cities in general and the fact the unseasonably cold weather was dampening our ardour faster than you could say elderly jowl. We felt pretty guilty the first night, though, after Raul, the hotel guy, spent twenty minutes outlining detailed do-it-yourself city tours that would splendidly maximize our time in Porto without costing us more than a few euro for the occasional tram or bus and then we responded by spending the next four hours bundled up and reading in our delightfully nautically-themed room with the windows tightly closed just to make sure we didn’t see anything beyond the latest development in World War Z. That guilt, and some marginally clearer skies, pushed us out and about the next day at least, though, starting off our day with a bang, by which I mean a breakfast of pork sandwiches doused in gravy. New language and all…
Oh yeah, don’t even get me started on how disheartening it is to leave Spain, a country and language where I not only had a better vocabulary than your average run of the mill talking mule, but a place where I had only recently perfected the extravagant lisp in my "gra-thee-us" to the necessary level to make me sound like a Brooklyn waiter
Anyway, we spent the morning determinedly traipsing around the city, admiring the impressive buildings, fighting the wind across the towering bridge, riding the rickety old tram along the riverfront along with all eight other tourists who chose to visit Porto in the rain in November. Then, once those couple hectic hours were over we treated ourselves to some KFC and 2 ½ hours of comfort, wit and raging action by going to the new Bond movie (terrific, especially Javier Bardem, although a disappointing lack of breasts dropped it half a star in my books)
An easy three-hour train ride the next day took us to Lisbon, the largest city in Portugal and home to the most ancient tram lines anywhere outside a 1950’s Rice-a-Roni commercial. Once again we could hardly pass that up, enjoying a bumpy, jerky and wildly weaving ride through Lisbon’s old town piloted by an energetic punk who, despite the fact we were on rails, spent a lot of time pretending to steer and making revving noises like a kid imagining he’s running the last lap of the Monaco Grand Prix in the bath tub. After that we visited the enormous hilltop castle – the stunning views and prominent location in the centre of the city were similar to Edinburgh Castle, and while it was somewhat less impressive from afar it was inestimably more interesting inside (twice as many cannons to ride, for one thing). Wandered some narrow atmospheric streets, watched in confusion as a large festive group of young people suddenly split into two seemingly unrelated groups with one forming two sedate and orderly rows which they proceeded to sombrely walk between in some sort of creepy ceremony, while the other group drank, laughed and swore through a chaotically disorganized version of our bat races
Now we have finally made it – Madeira, our final foreign destination of 2012, and intended to be our Shangri-La of rest, relaxation and regularly scheduled rolling over. So far it’s everything we’d imagined – warmer, but not too warm (from 16 at night to 22 during the day), great views (we’re on the 3rd floor with not one, not two, but, well, actually two balconies, I was just getting carried away there), all the comforts of home right at our fingertips (kitchen, multiple couches, washing machine, cable TV with a shocking number of English channels) and an electric water heater that sounds like a plane taking off when I do dishes and which I daresay I may never tire of. Unlike the fact Jersey Shore has made it here. Other than that, the only downside has been that I finally came down with a cold and fever, more or less debilitated suddenly for no apparent reason after spending five inexplicably healthy weeks on the Camino battling daily exhaustion, constant exposure to the elements, communal living among the sickly, the afflicted and the Dutch, and a complete inability to remember to wash my hands after I pee.
Now, for a final, stranger than fiction, note:
Now that the weather is warmer, and we have ready access to a washing machine, and our entire travel wardrobes at our disposal (six pairs of underwear and a spare pair of pants – be still my heart!) for the first time since September it is thrilling to know that we no longer have to wear the same thing every day. Yet I still do.
If you are interested in reading more about our travels please check out my book Random Acts of Travel : Featuring Trepidation, Hammocks and Spitting.