Another difference that we have found in Macau is the multitude of languages spoken. In addition to English (though still very limited), Mandarin, and Cantonese there are, of course, many Portuguese speakers
. The locals are known as Macanese and speak a mixture of both. You never know what you're going to get when you walk into a store or jump into a taxi. You might think this would make getting around a little easier, because people are more multi-lingual - guess again! Even with a map, a Mandarin translation book, a local guide book with the names of popular restaurants and tourist attractions, and a bell hop, it still took 5 minutes to communicate with the taxi driver where we wanted to go each time.
We wanted to eat lunch at a very popular, and traditional, Portuguese restaurant so we took a taxi across town. Unfortunately, when we arrived we learned that this place is so busy that you need reservations, even for lunch! So we taxied back across town and tried a different restaurant that also turned out to be very good. Bacalao is the signature dish of Portugal and Macau. It is a dried, salted cod served in a variety of ways, the most common is in a tangy, creamy sauce over potatoes with onions and hard boiled eggs. We've also had it served in fish cakes with melted cheese. The Portuguese make delicious stews and meat dishes with beef and lots of lamb (at least in this area). On another trip to Macau we finally made it back to that other restaurant, Alfonso's, and it was as good as we'd hoped!
On this trip we also had trouble finding a spot for dinner that night
. It was a late celebration for Peter's birthday so we were looking for somewhere special. Turns out that two restaurants in a row that we tried to go to were closed because of some lesser-known Chinese holiday. We were starting to become really discouraged so we headed into the casinos knowing that we could find some nice places in there. Somehow we ended up with the very last table available in a beautiful Italian restaurant at the Wynn. The dining room was amazing. One whole side of it was floor to ceiling windows that looked down upon the lake where the fountain shows took place every 15 minutes (and you will see pictures of that down below). It was timed to music that played throughout the restaurant, and we could easily see the fountains spraying in the air from the 3rd story even though our table wasn't really close to the window. The food was excellent too, and we got to splurge on carpaccio, pizza with arugula, and hand-made ravioli. The desert sampler trio was even better, and we hardly ever order dessert! After all of the searching at the beginning of the night, it turned out to be an unforgettable evening.
We visited Macau for the second time, with the intent of exploring a little bit more of the city. It is a city with two distinct, and very different, parts. One is the old town, influenced by the Portuguese. Cobblestones line the streets, fountains are at the center of squares filled with people sitting outside and drinking coffee, and ancient churches and ruins are still intact in many corners of the city. The other part of the city is modern and reminiscent of the Vegas that many of you know and love. Some casinos are shiny and new, filled with more impressive features than we have seen in the "real Vegas", while others are a little more run-down and filled with the Chinese playing the same unfamiliar game at every table.