Our lost together locations

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Portugal & Spain

It's been a long time.

When last we "saw" our hero, he was fighting off death in Lisboa. A lot has happened in the life of our fearless and intrepid protagonist. (Who the f**k am I talking about?!?!?!)

I can only describe Portugal as a must see for EVERYONE!!! What a great place with GREAT people. After I wandered around and almost died the day before (okay, GROSS EXAGGERATION!!!) I decided to try it again. I tried to find the Castelo. I'd read about the Castelo. I'd seen the Castelo. Could I find the Castelo? NOT A CHANCE!!! I wandered and wandered and circled and wandered. Up and down hills. Up and down different hills. Great exercise but PAINFULLY frustrating. Not to mention that I was walking some pretty seedy parts of town. But I did get a bottle of Super Bock and that made things MUCH better. I think it took about 15 seconds for me to drink it, and doing it while walking along a street made it that much more refreshing. Being from the prohibition-type state that is Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

SOOOO, after not being able to find the Castelo (more on that later!), I decided to find a lovely sounding African restaurant called Ginvinga. I looked at the guide book pages and saw that it was #14, and looked at the guide book map and found #14 and set off in search of it.

Now let's backtrack a bit. This is my first time being in a country where English is not the first language and without Jodi to guide me. I'm like a blind man without their guide dog (sorry Jodi, but that's the best analogy I could come up with!) or Chris O'Donnell to Al Pacino in "Scent of Woman" (Better?!?!).

So Blind Dave wanders off searching for #14.

I should have been looking for #30 where the street address was 14, but that's me.

So again, up and down the hills (different hills this time!), going through not-so-nice parts of town in search of Ginvinga.

No go.

So I wander back to our place.


Jodi's up for real food and we go to Nilo for dinner. I have two entrees, Jodi has one and we feel good.

The next day, we took a Lisboa bus tour as Jodi continued to recover from her stomach issues and we tried to take it easy for her sake. In fact, we took two bus tours. Since we got hosed on a LISBOA PASS (TOTALLY not needed, since we didn't do enough sightseeing to make it worthwhile), we figured we'd make use of it as best we could.

Saw lots of stuff (from the bus) and listened to the same 5 or 6 fado songs between the English commentary. Fado is beautiful and a genre of music I'd like to explore more. I suspect that some of Portuguese friends (probably their parents!) will be able to help me out with this.

Ginjinha is a BEAUTIFUL drink. Especially at about 10 AM. It's a delightful cherry brandy/liqueur of sorts that I suggest all should try. YUMMERS!!!

We went to Belem, which has certainly been one of the highlights of our trip. Paseis de Belem is heaven on earth. No word of a lie. If you like Portuguese custard tarts, it's a MUST MUST MUST destination, since this is where they all began. Like going to Scotland for scotch, or France for baguettes.....this is where you go to experience them.

Now it was a Monday, so a few places we hoped to go were closed...further adding to our Lisboa Card disappointment. Alas.

Jodi and I tried to find the Castelo. No luck! Even Jodi couldn't get us there.

Jodi and I tried to find Ginvinga. No luck! Even Jodi couldn't get us there. (Lisboa is a bit confusing with the street names all being similar in nearby vicinity to one another. Yonge Street, Yonge Avenue, Yonge Alley, Yonge Way, etc.

We went to Gaucho for churrasco and ribs and YUMMY olives and cheap wine (common theme in Portugal: We didn't pay more than 11 euros for a bottle of wine in a restaurant and got them for 2.5 - 5 euros in the stores) and a good blow-up of a fight on the street. Another common theme. I think we've had disagreements/fights in every country we've been in. In public. WOO HOO!!! Now Gaucho wasn't busy, but it was tasty and there was only two other tables the whole time we were there. I guess it really is off-season.

We went on a day trip to Sintra, 'cause Noam and Jen told us to. We like them, so decided it was a good idea. We went to the National Palace, the Moorish Castle (a real castle/ruins, that's a LOT of walking!!!), but didn't go to Pena Palace (and got s**t, but more on that later!) 'cause we were walked/steps/staired out.

We had lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Sintra. It's interesting that EVERY city/town has had a Chinese restaurant. EVERY single one! Obviously, people leave a country and go to another for better opportunities. Having a dear friend who is half-Chinese and half-Portuguese, I see there's a connection, but I'm wondering historically where it comes from. James/anyone, can you help me out? Why does someone from China come to Sintra, Portugal to open a restaurant? Then again, why does Rick go to Bracebridge, Ontario to open The Rickshaw Restaurant. Anyone know if that's still in business? I haven't been since '88 when on a Saturday (AKA Fight Night) night off from Camp Shalom, our cabbie got out of his cab with a baseball bat in his hand and told the locals to "Get the F**K away from my fare!!!"

So we headed back to Lisboa and wanted to find out how to get to the English Bookstore. Well, Jodi did, since I don't read. I'm not much of a readist, in that I read magazines and non-fiction and Jodi reads S-M-R-T people stuff. Mind you, she's an English teacher, so I guess it's par for the course for her to be able to be a readist and talk about books 'n s**t.

At the tourist office, the woman started every sentence with "It's like this". Which is fine, since her English is better than either of our Portuguese. She said there was no tram to go up the hill, so we took the bus around the longer way. We got there sure enough, and Jodi managed to find a book. MANAGED I say because there were mainly text and course books for students of ESL. At the British Consulate across the street! I saw lots of books I'd be interested in reading, if I was at home and could the book down for months. That's what I do. I buy books and don't read them. Can't do that when rucksacking.

On the way back, we saw the tram. The tram that wasn't working. "It's like this". YOU'RE FULL OF S**T!!!

We made contact with Marcos' cousin Pedro, who had given us several suggestions about Portugal, and made last-minute plans to meet up with him and his lady-friend Ana, for Indian. The place was down the street from where we were staying, and it smelled DEE-LICIOUS when we walked by previously. They were game and we met up at Gandhi Palace.

Pedro is a superstar of a guy and Ana is great. She understands English, but I suspect she's not fully comfortable speaking it, so Pedro was her interpreter. It was like being at the United Nations. It was a good dinner, with good food and good people. We were completely blown away with Pedro's English ability. He learned English mainly from a summer in Toronto 25 years ago, and by studying it in school, like we Ontarians study French.


That's a talented fella.

We look forward to his coming to Toronto with Ana in the near future and our having the opportunity to show them around and return the AMAZING generosity he showed by paying for dinner. TOTALLY unnecessary and unexpected and it just shows what a great guy he is. Mind you, he's related to Marcos, so how back can he be?

Pedro was flabbergasted we didn't go to Pena Palace, since he considers it a national treasure. We'll just have to go back to Portugal (I'm thinking about hiding in Marcos' luggage when he goes next!) and see it next time. Jodi says that you have to leave something to return for.

The next day we left for Porto, and in true heathen peasant form, I finished the first bottle of port on the train by drinking it straight from the bottle. YAY DAVE!!!

Our place in Porto was up a long hill. A VERY long hill. A REALLY REALLY LONG HILL!!! With all our stuff on our backs/fronts and in our hands. Ugh. But the place was nice and the breakfast was plentiful and included. It was a room that normally goes for 130 euros a night, that we got for 40, so we weren't complaining all that much. We had some issues with our metro tickets, which was a bit annoying, but we didn't get fined. The English on the machine stopped being English and we thought we bought two tickets, but we bought two trips.

So the station guard walked us up and I bought a second card and life was beautiful.

Jodi and I split a bottle of wine with dinner and she got tipsy. That's my girl!!! Back in the saddle and enjoying life. The stomach issues behind her and let's get on with the fun.

We climbed the cathedral the next day. I've been enjoying the churches on our trip, even though I'm not a fan of organized religion. The treasures, generally taken from other countries, should really be melted down and the money should be used to feed the hungry world-wide, but I'm a socialist that way.

Melt the (stolen!) gold, feed the hungry and stop the pomp and circumstance. People that are fed are more productive. This is how we can start to solve a lot of world problems. But that's the simpleton in me.

We went across the Douro to Gaia de Nova and were looking to do some Port tours. Truth is this is why I came to Portugal. I LOVE PORT!!! Unabashedly LOVE IT!!! Thanks to Jane Petrie (who I knew as a liquor rep at Walt's, who went from United to Churchill Cellars and I ran in to at a Food 'n Wine show in Toronto and she got me LOADED on port!) I dig it. I don't tend to spend a lot on my port (which is likely to change since the time in Porto), and Marcos says I should drink tawny, but I was there to experience.

We first went for lunch and had the Sister Sandwich. Really it's The Little French Girl, but Sister Sandwich sounds more fun and less dirty/creepty. "Ya, I ate the little french girl." Not cool for an elementary school teacher to be saying. Then again, there are a lot of things that this elementary school teacher says that aren't overly appropriate. Oh well.

We walked ALL THE WAY up the hill to Taylor's (known as Taylor-Fladgate in North America because of some American winery called Taylor's) and got a free tour with a free tasting. In fact, it was so far up the hill that I was pulling Jodi up 3/4s of the way up. It's something we've continued, as I like to help out my woman when she's in need. Or when I'm in search of food and/drink. We then bought a 10 and 20 year old taste and quite liked them. We also bought a bottle of 10 year old as a gift for Jodi's dad.

The tour was great at Taylor's, but we learned that by taking another tour (we paid for this one) at Calem, that we learned a few more things and also learned that we liked Taylor's better than Calem. Which is good, since Calem's not available in Canada. We got a sampler pack to taste with Jodi's dad, but all-in-all much more fond of Taylor's. Next was Kopke, where we sampled a few ports and got some dark chocolate to go with them. That was nice too.

Our first night in Porto was a fish dinner on the Douro that was quite touristy, and our second night was chocolate and port. Yep, chocolate and port. We've been buying VERY inexpensive 70-85% dark chocolate bars in Europe, and I bought a bottle of Kopke tawny for dinner.

We left Porto for a long day of travel. Train to Lisboa, bought food for lunch at the Pingo Doce in the station, took the train to Tunes (Tune-esh, not toons) and a train to Lagos (lah-goush) that sounded like a '57 Chevy in need of a tune-up. Loud 'n slow. Kinda like me!

Our place in Lagos was the Stumble Inn, and Jamie, the owner is a great Kiwi who has worked in bars and now wants to "settle down" a bit. He and his American g/f have opened this place. Cheap rooms, but the room was a bit musty-smelling and the shower was not overly hot (barely warm really) and with ZERO water pressure.

Oh well, it was cheap.


Jamie had great suggestions for meals. Dinner specifically. We went to a Forja for fish, twice. YUMMY!!! We had DELIGHTFUL "other white meat" and clams at Casinha Petisco that was big enough to be breakfast reinterpreted a couple of days later. Fine, the food is salty in Portugal. But in Lagos it was cheap and TASTY!!! Again, cheap wine. Tasty too!

We went to the beach. It was a topless beach. Well...we were the only two people there and I was the only one topless. Can't win 'em all I suppose. As we were packing up, some tourists came by and two of the women were wearing dresses. Not beach/summer dresses, but full-on dresses. Again, it's "cold" now.

We drank port and vinho verde on the beach. I don't remember if that was bottle #2 or #3 of port, but I'm thinking that I'll probably find another before we're done our journey.

We went to a trivia night at a pub and came in second. Not bad for the foreigners from the other side of the Atlantic.

We had yummy Indian in Lagos and on our last day there did a grotto boat tour that was fun. Dude who did the tour asked if it was okay if we left 15 minutes later, since there was going to be 15 minutes of rain. Sure enough, the rain started in about minute and lasted for....anyone? Anyone? Bueller? FIFTEEN MINUTES!!! The guy is the southern Portuguese Kreskin.

We got some pizza in boxes on the way out of town and JUST got on the train for Tunes. When we got there, we encountered a gypsy camp on the platform that was interesting to say the least. They were there for a couple of hours and we were in the station (TINY really. About the size of a big living room!) waiting for them to leave. They did, and in the meantime, we read a funny English-language paper written by/for ex-pats Brits. Some of them sure are a cranky lot.

We went back to Lisboa, transferred stations there, and got on the overnight train to Madrid, transferred stations there and took a high-speed train to Malaga. I watched a Spanish-language movie called "Cobra" (NOT Sly Stallone) that was funny. No subtitles, no nudity, but funny. Honest.

Jodi's parents met us in Malaga and we took the metro to Fuengirola, where the car was parked. We were in transit for 24 hours, and this time on the overnight train Jodi had her breakfast, since she wasn't suffering with stomach issues. YAY for her! But I only got one breakfast. Oh well. Sucks to be me. That said, the coffee is OH-SO-GOOD on the train between Madrid and Lisboa. Just so ya know.

We went grocery shopping, which I DO LOVE TO DO!!!

We went to our casita in Mijas and never did end up wandering around Malaga. Oh well.

Dinner was in Fuengirola and we continued on with this pattern of eating dinner out, except once.

We went to Ronda, Granada (The Alhambra), went "outlet" shopping at El Plaza Mayor(feh!), Marbella, El Chorro, Nerja (caves) and the beach (fun rocks/pebbles on the beach), Gibraltar (crazy cute/fun monkeys RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!!!!), grocery shopping at Hipercor (THE BIGGEST GROCERY STORE I'VE EXPERIENCED THUS FAR!!!!), Marbella again, Mijas for dinner (a few times), Sevilla (TINY streets!!!!, flamenco museum/school/dancing, the alcazar and cathedral), Jerez (Andalusian horse show, Sandemans and Tio Pepe sherry tours) and Cordoba (another cathedral, SUPER cheap and DEE-lish chicken sandwiches and a wee Sephardic Museum (really the first floor of a house!), followed by an Arab tea house that was fun, if only for the fact that the guy couldn't light the charcoal on his fire-heater doodaddie).

We watched a lot of the Food Network UK and Iron Chef America, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson (what a sensually shot show), Chopped (interesting concept!) and BBC news.

Wally & Gitta got lost while he was driving. Me and Jodi got lost while I was driving. I drove into a fence while at the Alhambra, but GoldCar didn't care 'cause Wally's plan was all-inclusive. So there was front/right damage and it didn't matter.

The Ford Focus 1.6L automatic had no balls. It was a steep hill up to the casita and it moved VERY slowly.

Jodi and I had a few blowups, but like I said....it's been a theme. I guess it's bound to happen when you have a jackass like me and a strong-willed woman like her with each other 24/7 for weeks and months.

Wally & Gitta are great. Gitta gave us quite a giggle when she packed for our overnight trip to Sevilla and she had a VERY VERY VERY heavy bag. We're still not sure what she had in there, but we're thinking it was small children or gold buillion. Or what was in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. Wally is so very generous, and asks for nothing in return. Mind you, being with him, meant that the bottle that was usually split two ways now had a third person. But it was usually him that was paying, so how in the world could I complain in all seriousness?

He's so easygoing, almost all the time, and minus the fact that he doesnt't like tapas (UNLESS it's good tapas, like in Marbella), it's great to be around him. There was a 50-funniest movies of all time on and he was giggling to the juvenile humour in "Spinal Tap", "American Pie", "Blazing Saddles".....he's a fun guy.

Not a mushroom!

So now we're headed to Roma after a few days in Milano, where I either lost my wallet or had it pickpocketed. No biggie. Just my Ontario drivers license and Health card. No money or credit cards. Teacher ID, Student Hostel ID, that kind of stuff. Oh well.

The wine is good here too! It's also not so warm anymore. The south of Spain was consistently in the mid-to-high teens (Celsius) throughout our stay, and it's low single digits here AND WE DROVE THROUGH SNOW TODAY!!!! F**K!!!

I suspect that Jodi will have a blog post soon. She's good that way.

I'll probably add pictures and more thoughts at a later date.

Buono notte.


Anonymous said...

Sounds fabulous. Glad Jodi's feeling better.

At least you can replace your health card and driver's license in the same place. Thank you, Service Ontario. And what else do you have to do when you get home from your trip?

I had Gitta's return to work on my calendar. We need to meet up for lunch one day.

P.S. Sorry you're missing my not-quite-annual channukah potluck this weekend. Your absences will be felt. Happy channukah, Dave and Jodi!

Dawn said...

No one else is a food and wine slut like me, except you, Dave. Love it. So jealous of the port, but not the Jodi fights. I still remember driving in Quebec City while she was navigating: our worst fight ever.

Jodi said...

Was it Quebec City or Montreal? I remember (Montreal, I'm pretty sure) snappishly insisting that I was sick of driving around and around and around and we WOULD be staying in the next hotel we came across.

David said...

Toole, I forgot about the pot luck. Sheesh. I'm sure it was good, with or without us. Dawn, ya...I'm a food & wine slut. I like it good 'n cheap! Dawn, sounds like we've traveled with the same woman. ;)