Category Archives: Travel

Trump Supporters Might Want to Avoid These Places

The Former Little Rock National Airport Now Boasts This Mural

But Wait! That’s Not All! Bill Clinton grew up in Hot Springs, where I just spent a long weekend. He’s popular around his home town (he wasn’t born there, but he lived there most of his childhood and youth.) This is not a political post, but I thought that, as a public service, I might warn off those who may wish to be so warned off. That is all.

Hot Springs was surprising in a lot of ways. We went there because we each want to visit all 50 states, and we both needed to drop in on Arkansas. I like the South, I have relatives there, including an uncle from South Alabama, so the “southern” aspects of the place didn’t surprise me. Here’s what Hot Springs, Arkansas is:

Along the side of a mountain above the town, extending right down into the town, are a large number of places where hot water spews out with absolutely no effort on anyone’s part. A lot of hot water. Only one of these vents is still uncapped; it is in town, in a park that is a part of Hot Springs National Park, which is what the Postal Service and bus lines call the entire area. It’s easy enough to get in or out of the National Park: you need only wait for the pedestrian “WALK” signal and cross the street. On the National Park side of the street is what is known as “Bathhouse Row,” which has, for almost two centuries, been the site of an ever less ramshackle collection of places where one can immerse oneself in those same hot waters for a modest, or not in some cases, fee. Of course, the National Park is a lot bigger than a row of bathhouses, and it includes hiking trails, an observation tower, and a lot of trees. Such a lot of trees, says the guy who lives in the Mojave desert.

Back before the Chicago mob decided to move into Las Vegas, they hung out in Hot Springs whenever the law made things a tad uncomfortable in Chicago. Benjamin Siegal, for instance, used to hang out in one or another of the illegal gambling halls along Center Avenue. The Ohio Club is still open, and the food is quite good, but unless you’ve bought a lottery scratch ticket, you can’t really do any gambling there. The illegal business screeched to a halt when the State Police busted an owner and discovered a stash of gambling devices which they had given to the Mayor for him to destroy. The governor took over and made sure that they were destroyed properly, too bad for his (dis)honor.

The movie at Park Headquarters and Museum dramatizes a drummer for a “Doctor Adams” prior to the bathhouse business being cleaned up by the Park Service. The drummer convinced a fellow passenger on the train that “Doctor Adams really knows his livers!” You go, Doctor Adams. Adams was busted later. Not sure my liver(s?) is any heathier, but we did take the waters a bit.

We went first to the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which still does the old-fashioned, Pre-WWII, traditional bathing experience. After 20 minutes in a tub, I spent some time in a sitz bath (good for the lower back,) in a steam cabinet (yes, there still are such things, but I barely fit into one,) a shower that hit me from every direction, and a bench with hot towels draped over me. I don’t know if it helped me get  healthy, but I surely got tired. The next day we went down the row to the Quapaw Bathhouse, which is modern, with pools of various temperatures, and we got massages. The massage was nice, but Quapaw charges a lot more than does Buckstaff.

We saw a listing of the mineral content of the water. It’s water. Even somebody from SoCal who is paranoid about tap water would drink it. Not sure it heals any better than anybody else’s water, but I did feel a part of something historic. That counts for something, I’m sure.

If you go, take a good appetite, as there are dozens of good restaurants in the actual hot springs area (near the bathhouses.) I was going to get some good stuff at Granny’s Kitchen, but when we got there we could see a fresh trench clear across the dining room. Guess our old neighborhood in Vegas isn’t the only place with drain issues. I’m afraid that the picture above is the only one I took, but the area is lovely. You’ll just have to  trust me on that.

Stereotypes

The oldest house in Paris, next to the Jardin de l’hôtel de Sens

Which makes the house, duh, l’hôtel de Sens. Since you’re curious, here’s a bit of the garden.

The garden and hôtel pictured are in the area of Paris known as Saint-Paul. You can call up a walking tour of the quarter on your phone and follow it around, which is what we were doing when we visited this garden, which is in fact a lovely park in a quiet neighborhood. The building is medieval, as you can see. Most of Paris was razed and redone during the 19th century at the behest of Napoleon III, but a few things, like this and Notre Dame, were spared. So it’s worth looking for.

While we were looking for it, and other parts of the quarter, we walked looking at our phones. Time after time a Parisian native would stop us and ask us if we needed help finding something. Of course, we didn’t, but this behavior was from people popularly thought of as snooty and unhelpful, on the good side. I’m here to tell you that such is not at all the case. Indulge me in another story if you will, this time involving motor fuel and cash.

Tami and I carry the same credit card, so when one of ours (nevermind) was lost on the bus from the airport to the Gare Montparnasse, we had to cancel it. This meant that we had no credit card with which to buy gasoline for our rental car. (We did set it up so that the card was valid for the rental car company, and nobody else, until the end of our rental period.) (Europecar. I recommend them.) We took a train to Angoulême, where we stayed for five days. Charente is a beautiful area (formerly a province, but long story,) and here’s the view out of our bedroom window to prove it.

A view to the East from Angoulême near the center of town.

From Angoulême we drove to Bordeaux, Saint Émilion, Cognac, Royan, and Chabonais over the course of several days. By that time we were low on gas. The station we found (there aren’t as many as we have here) was credit cards only at the pump. The kiosk where one can convert cash to a ticket with which to buy fuel was broken. Thing is, I had never really spoken French before, but when we decided to ask someone to use their card and I’d give them cash (our debit card still worked at least, but not on gas pumps) I looked around and saw only French people. It was raining hard, too. I asked the man at the next pump, “comprendez-vous Ainglais?” and got a “non.” Digging deep, deep into what I’ve learned from various sources (Duolingo is a great place to start) I then used my no doubt horrible French to ask him the favor. He was eager to help the poor American, and I gave him fifty Euros, after which he pumped fifty Euros and one cent worth of gas into our car. (Amazingly, that exactly filled the tank.) I gave him every compliment in French I could think of, and he smilingly said goodbye.

I ask you, is that rude and unhelpful? (Spoiler alert — no, it is exactly the opposite of rude and unhelpful.)

I’ve posted about this before, but whatever you do to other people is reflected back on to you. In France, we take pains to be polite. French polite. That means always say hello, please, thank you, and goodbye. To everybody. Sounds silly, right?

Not to the fine, friendly, helpful people of France it doesn’t. Votre santé, France!

 

From Avengers to Vegas

Acquired this Bootleg Photo of a Portrait of Graham Norton from the National Gallery of Ireland - Photographer Unknown.
Acquired this Bootleg Photo of a Portrait of Graham Norton from the National Gallery of Ireland – Photographer Unknown.

We visited the National Gallery on our first day. It is, in fact, next door to the Prime Minister’s office (see earlier post Into the Tame Yonder.) Oddly, it was okay to photograph most of the artworks, but we had to go all “back alley” to get this pic. Hope that isn’t Mr. Norton’s idea, because we are fans of his programme on the BBC. He is, as you might have guessed, Irish.

After the bus ride I more or less ran back to the hotel to drop off our packages of souvenirs, then walked back to the Savoy to rejoin Tami. We bought tickets to the Avengers movie later that evening, then went a few doors down to Murray’s, a bar and grill a few doors away from the Savoy Theatre where the movie was showing. As Murray’s says on their website, they feature Good Craic on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Craic is pronounced like “crack,” and it means fun. Now you know as much Gaelic as I do. Hope it helps somehow. We ate light, for one thing we’d had lunch in mid-afternoon, for another, it was a movie and popcorn is almost mandatory.

The Savoy is a multiplex in an older building, so there are stairs. Lots of them. It’s up three to the ticket office/concession area, then up about twenty or more to the floor where the Avengers movie was playing, and then up some more steps to get into the theatre, and of course, up to the back, where we like to sit. Then Tami sent me down for some Popcorn and Coke. I ended up eating about half of the corn, and none of the Coke. And we watched Avengers: Infinity War. At this time, nothing to say. Either you’ve seen it, or you probably never will. And, yes, a rather abrupt ending.

The next morning after breakfast we went to the Dublin Writers’ Museum, which was only about half a block (2/5 of a metric block, I’m sure) up the street. They don’t seem to have a website of their own, so the link takes you to one of several Dublin tourism sites. There are, in case you didn’t know, a plethora of famous, and very talented, Irish writers in print. In the museum you learn of their personal lives, see some of their personal possessions, and maybe, if you’re like me, decide  you’ll download a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses, after reading the description of the work on display. Haven’t started it yet, but it’s in the lineup, waiting it’s turn. After seeing the museum, we walked back to our hotel, packed, and met our car to the airport just before noon.

As for the trip, well, the food was a bit better on the return flight, we were ready to kill each other in LAX, then there were only 57 people on the 48 minute Southwest flight to Vegas, and we were home before 9:30 pm. Can’t just drop off to sleep at a time like that, so by the time I got to bed, I’d been up for 23 hours straight. (Got up at 11PM Friday evening PDT.) Whew!

And there’s my extended report on our recent trip to Ireland and Portugal. Oh, yes, we were also checking out places to retire. Verdicts? Nothing solid. Either country would be an excellent base for seeing Europe. Ireland, of course, is English Speaking by nature, which does give it a leg up. Of course, they drive on the left side of the road, but then, nobody’s perfect.

Goodbye, and Adeus!

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Feeling a Bit Sheepish

This is Bruce, a Border Collie in Training, Doing Rather Well
This is Bruce, a Border Collie in Training, Doing Rather Well – Photo by Tami Cowden

Bruce was one of two dogs we saw training to be shepherds. I once knew a border collie (Sparkplug by name) who could not stop chasing and herding. It was really great to see a trained (mostly) one doing his job. My video didn’t come out too well, but I’ll post it anyway. I did trim out all of the boring parts.

We also saw another dog, one much earlier in the training process, who still needed a lot of practice. It was not a border collie, but another breed of shepherd. The farmer and his wife and one of their sons helped with the demonstration. They told about taking the sheep up into the mountains in the spring, and about bringing them down again in the fall. On January 12th of every year a vet visits to determine the pregnancy situation amongst his ewes (which they pronounce “yos.”) At birthing time, starting in March, the females carrying multiples are brought to a barn where they can give birth in a warmer, more protected environment. The only predator is the fox, but, as we all know, they can be sly. Mom can defend one lamb, but two or more may be lost. They keep several hundred adult sheep, and a group of younger animals as replacements.

Move 'em Out, Bruce!
Move ’em Out, Bruce!
Ever alert. Literally en garde.
Ever alert. Literally en garde.
This man is definitely outstanding in his field.
This man is definitely outstanding in his field.

Sorry. I cannot resist puns.

But Wait, as I seem to be fond of writing lately, there’s more!

We visited the sheep farm in spring, before the sheep were moved up the mountain. That meant that there were new lambs in the barn. And new lambs in the barn mean new lambs that may be held. Of course, the bus interior smelled like sheep after, but for Tami, it was worth it.

Tami Had a Little Lamb. For a few minutes, at least.
Tami Had a Little Lamb. For a few minutes, at least.

Well, that’s pretty cute. I scratched the lamb’s ears a bit, but didn’t hold one. Several were offered for holding, and they were passed around for about ten minutes. Times like this I completely ignore the facts of what goes into a lamb stew.

Take it all around, I learned a lot on this bus tour. I learned that Braveheart wasn’t filmed anywhere near Scotland. I learned about the Irish sheep industry. And, most important of all, I learned that Shawn the Sheep is Irish!!!

Well, at least it looks that way.

The next post will wrap up this series. I’ll return with something about writing itself next Wednesday.

It’s Shawn the Sheep, It’s Shawn the Sheep,
He even mucks about with those who cannot bleat.
Keep it in mind, he’s one of a kind!
Oh, life is sweet with Shawn the Sheep!

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Bus, Sheep Dog, and Lunch

This is a Plate of Irish Stew. Of Course, Bought as it was in an Irish Village, it could be Gumbo and still Qualify
This is a Plate of Irish Stew. Of Course, Bought as it was in an Irish Village, it could be Gumbo and still Qualify

This is the day we saw Avengers: Infinity War, but before that, we did this. The evening before we stopped in a storefront close by the Savoy Theatre and bought tickets from Wild Rover Tours for a bus to take us to Kilkenny, Wicklow, and Glendalough. We were to meet the bus at 08:00 in front of a hotel not far from our own, and also close by the Savoy, for what that’s worth. It was threatening rain. Our tour guide, one Peter, explained that it rains 270 days a year in Ireland, so that was no big deal. It’s cloudy 65 days a year in Las Vegas, so I get what he’s saying. It had been sunny for our entire visit to Ireland up to now, but reality was setting in. Fair enough. The bus took off promptly at 08:20. On the way out of Dublin, Tami was able to photograph a few curiosities. (Curiosities for an American, at any rate.)

Who this is, I know not. But it is somewhere in Dublin. Photo by Tami Cowden
Who this is, I know not. But it is somewhere in Dublin. Photo by Tami Cowden
Dinosaurs. In Dublin. What is the world coming to? Photo by Tami Cowden
Dinosaurs. In Dublin. What is the world coming to? Photo by Tami Cowden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rain was relentless all that morning as we made our way along a motorway (think freeway) to Kilkenny. (Or Cill Chainnigh in Gaelic) The photo at the top of yesterday’s post was taken as we pulled into Kilkenny. We had a set amount of time there, about 2.5 hours as I recall, which Tami and I used to tour Kilkenny Castle, and to shop for souvenirs. The castle looks eminently un-defensible, but that is due to the nineteenth century wings added on to it.

This is Kilkenny Castle, in Kilkenny (duh) Ireland Kilkenny Castle Photos by Tami Cowden
This is Kilkenny Castle, in Kilkenny (duh) Ireland

Inside the castle is mostly décor and other remains of nineteenth century English occupation. Of course, it was always English, but originally much older. The tour includes a section of the oldest portion where you can see what remains of the very first construction, done many centuries ago.

Some photographs in (and through the windows of) Kilkenny Castle:

A Fireplace Screen in the Library. Used by an Individual to Block the Fiercest Heat
A Fireplace Screen in the Library. Used by an Individual to Block the Fiercest Heat
The Front Lawn, Complete With Optional Tour Group Gathering for the Tour
The Front Lawn, Complete With Optional Tour Group Gathering for the Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

Sure, seeing an old castle is fun and all, and walking through rain is more enjoyable to a Las Vegas desert rat than you might imagine. But, the tour went on. Back in the bus and off to Wicklow Gap. Ireland is called the “Emerald Isle.” Here are some pictures to show you why.

Green? We Have Green!
Green? We Have Green!

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, the Cows are Brown and Tan (and Black and White, not shown)
Okay, the Cows are Brown and Tan (and Black and White, not shown)
Here Are Some Black and White Cows. But Look at the Field and Forest, Will You?
Here Are Some Black and White Cows. But Look at the Field and Forest, Will You?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took those three pix on the way to Kilkenny. Not exactly random, but not specially chosen, either. I tell you, the place is green as green can be!

But, on to Wicklow Gap. If you saw Braveheart, you saw Wicklow Gap. Scotland? I think not! It is pretty up there. And, when we were there, cold and rainy, too!

Wicklow Gap. FREEDOM!!!
Wicklow Gap. FREEDOM!!!

IMG_20180427_134943048_HDR IMG_20180427_135104317_HDR

All three of these photos are of Wicklow Gap. The middle one, looking far over the mountains, is my favorite. The top pic is of some interesting rocks, and the bottom is of a tarn. (You can look that up if you’re not familiar with the term.)

So, Mel Gibson was here and his cast of thousands. The road is full of switchbacks, and my seat in the back of the bus was the subject of much reconsideration until we got down to the village of Wicklow. Wicklow has an abandoned monastery, a round tower, two lakes, a waterfall, and a restaurant/gift shop. Also, people live there.

It is where I photographed my lunch, as seen above. We took so long at lunch that we made it only to within sight of the first lake, never mind the waterfall or second lake. We didn’t even have time to visit the ruins of the monastery, but Tami did take some pictures of it.

The Round Tower of the Monastery at Wicklow
The Round Tower of the Monastery at Wicklow

 

No idea what that tower was used for by the monks. Keeping watch for marauding Norsemen, maybe. We were disappointed that lunch took so long, but the next leg of the trip was the best part, amazingly enough.

So good, in fact, that I’m saving a separate post for the sheep dog trials we got to witness. Great dogs, and Tami got to hold a little lamb!

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting Irish

This is in Kilkenny, which is covered in the next post.
This is in Kilkenny, which is covered in the next post.

After sleeping on the plane from Lisbon, getting to our hotel, and going to bed at 3 or 3:30, I woke up before Tami and got in a quick shower. Breakfast was, well, let’s describe the hotel first, okay? We stayed at the Castle Hotel, which is in a very convenient location. It isn’t in a castle, but it’s close to one. The hotel consists of nine houses which have been connected to create a hotel, breakfast area, and basement restaurant. As a result of combining all those houses, the elevators (lifts,) while they work perfectly well, don’t exactly get you to the level on which you’ll find your room. You do have the option, in each house I suppose, of taking the stairway, but with loaded baggage at three in the morning, that wasn’t all that attractive. The breakfast area, which also had a door directly onto the street, I suppose should anyone want to drop in and buy some food, was, from our room, down two flights of stairs, 180 degrees to the left, down eight stairs, across a landing, up eight stairs, and across a sort of parlor. There was a buffet with servers behind it, where you could get all sorts of delicious food. And they had toast (hot toast if you can believe it,) a complete Irish selection (as I said, skip the puddings,) sausages, bacon (ham,) and some really tasty little croissants. By about ten, we were ready to head out into Dublin once again.

A week earlier we had walked past the EPIC Irish History Centre. My family history includes one James McDaniel, who, the story goes, came to Tiffin, Ohio from Ireland in 1848. A not unreasonable thing, given conditions in Ireland at that time. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten with that branch of the family, and I wanted to see if I could use this place to get further. As it happens, most of the building is devoted to the Irish Emigration Museum. If that sounds dull, let me assure you that we spent at least three hours going through the various exhibits, and were surprised to learn how long we’d been at it. I learned many things about Irish history, which is mine, to a large extent (I know, I look German.) The relations between England, then Britain, and Ireland were not the Brit’s finest hours, to say the least. The number of people in the world with Irish ancestry is staggering. The extent of Irish influence beyond Ireland is even more so. Take US Presidents. This picture of a plaque from inside the museum tells the story.

There are several things in Ireland named after President Obama.
There are several things in Ireland named after President Obama.

For another example, consider this guy:

Doctor Guevara? Irish? Who knew?
Doctor Guevara? Irish? Who knew?

Some of the exhibits brought tears to my eyes. It’s no wonder Irish people tend to be creative, because life has, in many cases, been pretty difficult for so many of them.

Inside the gift shop (much smaller than the one in Lisbon’s airport) is the Irish Family History Centre. We bought access to their research facilities, and by golly, I did learn something about old James McDaniel. Namely, that he was born in (drum roll) Pennsylvania! I’ve done further research since I got home, but at this time, that’s all I can say. What I really want is to find James’s father. I have half a dozen candidates, gleaned from the 1830 census. I’ll get him, by gosh!

By the time we left the afternoon was moving on, and we hadn’t had lunch. I believe that this is the day that we ate in a place on Temple Bar. Touristy, pricey, and probably obligatory. The Irish duet playing did manage to play some of my favorite Irish tunes. Erin go Bragh! We tried to get tickets to Avengers: Infinity War, but they were all sold out. So much for our plan to see it a day before the North American release. (We saw it the next evening.) The next day was, in fact, a big one. We bought tickets on an actual tour bus to Kilkenny and points South. It made for a great day, and you’ll learn all about it in my next post!

To your health!
That is, Sláinte!

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Back to Lisbon One More Time

I bought this at the Harry Potter Bookstore (sic) in Porto.
I bought this at the Harry Potter Bookstore (sic) in Porto.

After a late lunch in Porto we drove back down the A1, using ticketed tolls (yay!) to Lisbon. We parked the car in the underground garage beneath our hotel, walked out to dinner basically across the street (paella, available with chicken, ham, seafood, and maybe other stuff; we ate seafood) and got to bed in time to make an early start on our last day in Lisbon. We were booked on a redeye to Dublin, leaving at 10:30 (22:30) that evening, so we’d have a whole day to explore further. After breakfast, we packed, loaded up the car (which was down to about 15 litres of  gas,) checked out, and walked out into Lisbon one last time.

As I mentioned last time, Lisbon feels oddly not foreign. It is, of course. There are no blue tile walls on the churches and office buildings of Las Vegas, that’s for sure. But we had no trouble this time refilling our subway/bus/tram cards and setting off into the wilds of Lisbon. We had pretty much already bought what we needed or wanted to; keychains, shirts for me, socks for Tami, and we’d been to the Castle. But there are funiculars in LIsbon, which is not the least bit level, which we’d never ridden. So, first thing we took a train to a stop near a funicular going up, up, up!

This is the Car Before Ours Leaving; Being a Funicular, the Cars Pass at the Halfway Point.
This is the Car Before Ours Leaving; Being a Funicular, the Cars Pass at the Halfway Point.

On the way to the top, or almost to the top, curious people were taking our picture.

Are There an Infinity of Images Resulting from This Tableau?
Are There an Infinity of Images Resulting from This Tableau?

And at the top? Views!

There's a good view of the Castle from up there.
There’s a good view of the Castle from up there.

At the top of the funicular we kept walking up the same street for a while. We stopped in a couple of stores (Tami was hoping to find tea towels with owls on them for her mom) and saw an Irish restaurant.

I Have No Idea What This Woman Was Looking At - Photo by Tami Cowden
I Have No Idea What This Woman Was Looking At – Photo by Tami Cowden

As we were literally bound for Ireland later that day, we skipped this one. At the top we veered down a side street and found a nice park where we could warm a bench for a while and rest. In that park was a statue of a man who founded a newspaper. Nice to see the press respected for once. Note the newsboy distributing the papers.

Photo by Tami Cowden
Photo by Tami Cowden

As it happens, there is another funicular going down just on the lower end of this plaza. Here’s our car coming to get us.

Funicular, Funiculae, Funicular, Funi . . . Okay, I'll Stop
Funicular, Funiculae, Funicular, Funi . . . Okay, I’ll Stop

On the way down we passed a no doubt traditional Portuguese eatery.

Yep. McDonalds is down the block, Burger King close to that, Pizza Hut just uphill . . .
Yep. McDonalds is down the block, Burger King close to that, Pizza Hut just uphill . . .

When we got down we were once again not far from a Metro stop. We also wanted lunch. As it happens, there is a lunch restaurant in the big aquarium down by the waterfront in Lisbon. It is called the Oceanarium. The linked page is in English. It’s a big enough place that I’m giving it its own post. You can get there quickly by clicking the link below.

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A Few Words About Portuguese

Reading It is the Easy Part
Reading It is the Easy Part

When I was about seven, I think, my sister came up one day and said “uno y uno son dos.” She was studying Spanish, and decided, rightly so I imagine, that teaching somebody else was a great way to learn. I’ve been able to stumble badly in Spanish for years. Lately I’ve even been able to have some rudimentary conversations about normal topics (no “Norte America es un continente” for me bro!) Looking at the Portuguese carved into the Cabo da Roca monument, you’d think that it was a lot like Spanish. Well, you’d be wrong.

They’re both Romance languages. And some words are the same as they are in Spanish. Some look the same but aren’t, and some aren’t even close. Take chicken, for instance. The cooked kind. It’s “carne do frago.” What the heck is a frago? In old Iberian Celtic, it’s a chicken. Try asking for “carne do frago,” heck call it “de frago” in Spanish and all you’ll get is a blank look. ‘Cause, yeah, what the heck is a frago?

Pronunciation is very different as well. Take the word “banana.” in Spanish it’s “una banana” or “un banano.” Yes, banano. Dunno why. And “banana” is all long ah sounds, too. In Portuguese, it is “uma banana.” Go ahead and say that, just like you think it would sound if you saw that phrase lying around. You said “banana” like it was English, didn’t you? You know you did. And, here’s the thing, you were correct! Since almost forever, Portugal and Britain (first England) have been allies through thick and thin. After all, their chief rivals back in the days of good old imperialistic expansion were Spain and France. Oooo, they hated those guys! And I think that a lot of English habits rubbed off on the Portuguese. (I know that tea, as enjoyed traditionally in England, came from Portugal, so why not things going the other way?) Not only bananas, but other habits of pronunciation occur in both English and Portuguese. For example, Portuguese has a lot of susurration in it (look it up) and they leave off the sound of many final syllables. Here’s an example of a word that illustrates several of my points. I refer to the word, “pronto.”

Hey, you know that word! It means quickly, right? Uh, sure, in Spanish, and all you have to do is make both of those ‘o’s sound long and you’ve got it. We use it in English, at least in America, where we pronounce it like it was English, sort of like “prahnto.” Get it? Two things about that word in Portuguese. It doesn’t mean “quickly,” and it’s pronounced like the American version, less the final syllable. You know our word font? Sure, so you can pronounce pront, which is how a Portuguese pronounces the word “pronto,” which means “ready.” “Tens pronto?” Means “are you ready?” Tens, the word for “you are” if “you” is a friend, is pronounced, oh, heck, how do you think? You got all this? Tens pronto? Good.

Portuguese isn’t a difficult language, despite what people say. The verbs follow mostly Spanish conventions and the nouns mostly follow the French way of syntax. It is it’s own language, and that’s all. It seems to me that Portugal gets short shrift when Americans think of Europe. It’s really a very nice country. The least foreign feeling foreign country I’ve ever visited, and I include Canada. That may be good or bad, but it’s the case either way.

Okay, then, I think it’s time to get back to our travelogue, don’t you?

Adeus!

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Porto Too

In the Hogwarts Library. If You Believe the Movies.
In the Hogwarts Library. If You Believe the Movies.

Pronounce the title of this post in Portuguese and it rhymes. There. That’s a thing you know now. (Anybody else getting tired of that meme?) We spent one evening in Porto, plus the afternoon the next day. We drove in from our very nice hotel both days. Porto is an older city than Lisbon, and it looks it. There is what looks like a medieval church that was built in the nineteenth century. But it’s attached to a much older church that is closer to being authentic. The first thing I wanted to see was the Harry Potter bookstore, actually named Liveria Lello. Not the original name, but as you can see above, it works well in a movie about a magical library. Since it was a highlight, I’ll post a few more shots below. If you go, you must buy tickets next door, but they’ll credit your ticket price to what you purchase.

Photo by Tami Cowden
Photo by Tami Cowden
Skylight photo by Tami Cowden
Skylight photo by Tami Cowden
So Many Books! Photo by Tami Cowden
So Many Books! Photo by Tami Cowden
From the Balcony. Photo by Tami Cowden
From the Balcony. Photo by Tami Cowden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Porto is not all about Liveria Lello. It is a very old city. The Romans called it Calus, sometimes simply Portus, which taken together mean tranquil port, or peaceful port, quiet port, that sort of thing. The Portuguese call it “Portu,” never mind the spelling. The region is called Oporto, which is essentially “The Port” in Portuguese. So, Porto has lots of narrow streets, cobblestoned walkways, confusing street names, and some really high bridges across the Douro river. Across the river is Gaia, another classical name. If you say “Portu” and “Gaia” quickly one after the other, you’ll hear the origin of the name of the country. How ’bout ‘dat?

Porto features the most impressive façade of any McDonalds I’ve ever seen. Tami calls it the “Imperial” McDonalds. I don’t know the history of the place. Sorry.

Dois Igrejas (Two Churches.) The one to the left is the older. Photo by Tami Cowden
Dois Igrejas (Two Churches.) The one to the left is the older. Photo by Tami Cowden

 

"The Imperial" McDonalds in Porto, Portugal. Photo by Tami Cowden
“The Imperial” McDonalds in Porto, Portugal. Photo by Tami Cowden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Europeans seem to love Route66. (Search for Route66 on this blog for more about that highway.) Here is a pic from a store in Porto, close by the Harry Potter bookstore. Route 66 all over. We’ve found similar signs in other European countries as well. Have a look.

Get Your Kicks! Photo by Tami Cowden
Get Your Kicks! Photo by Tami Cowden

It’s an odd store. Some antique toys, some current items. Nice tops. We had a nice lunch around mid-afternoon, and then it was time to head back to Lisbon. The highway was all ticketed tolls, so that was a relief. *** As it happens, I got through to the website today and it was working. We owe nothing. You tell me why that is, but it’s good.*** We had one more day in Lisbon, as our plane didn’t leave until 10:30 at night. But, that’s a topic for another post.

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Toll Roads and Fancy Resorts

This may be the last one of these still in operation. Tami took this picture in Porto, Portugal.
This may be the last one of these still in operation. Tami took this picture in Porto, Portugal.

That’s “Portoo,” to a native, by the way. Never said that language was easy. The next morning after breakfast we fired up our rental car, and our gps, and took off for Porto, which is roughly 300 km north of Lisbon. But wait! There’s More! We did not drive straight up the A1 to Porto, as one might be tempted to do if one consulted a map. Other places beckoned. Like Coimbra, for example.

Coimbra is a small city with a university, but they have a big old mall, and in that mall there is a food court, and in that food court we ate lunch. But, on the way there, we had to use toll roads. Now, that A1 I mentioned above is a toll road. You take a ticket on one end, put the ticket into the machine when you get off, and pay with cash or card. easy peasy. If only all toll roads were that way. In fact, we turned off on a different toll road, one that uses strictly electronic tolls. That’s easy: your account is debited when you pass through the toll point. Heck, there are a mess of such things in this country, too. Trouble is, our rental car came without a toll transponder. What to do?

A Water Wheel in Dos Torres; It pumps water out of the river and dumps it back in.
A Water Wheel in Dos Torres; It pumps water out of the river and dumps it back in.

About dos torres. You know Spanish, you got this sussed, right. Wrong-o, muchacho. Dos torres is the towers. Could be a hundred of them. The name refers to a castle up the road a ways.

What you do is go to any post office, give them your license number, and pay what you owe. You just have to wait 48 hours. Simple, right?

48 hours later was a national holiday, a celebration of the Carnation Revolution of 1974, and it is quite worth celebrating. The rebels asked the army to switch sides, and the army did! Since then, Portugal has been a democratic nation with freedom and personal rights. So, yeah, Carnation Revolution! Except that we couldn’t go to the post office. And that’s the night that we left the country. There is a web site where one can pay (couldn’t find it whilst still in country) but it isn’t working all that well right now. Oh, well, if you hear of us being hauled off to Portuguese jail for non-payment of tolls, you’ll know why.

After running up another toll or two (we probably owe 15 or 20 Euros) we arrived at our home for the night, near a town called Espinho, on the very coast. (I’m afraid I have brain farted away the name of the place, but it has a casino.) It is a lovely hotel, with beach access and a couple of nice swimming pools. You have to wear a swim cap to swim in the indoor pool. At €5 a pop, I imagine that they make a lot of money off of hair not getting to their filters. But, anyway, outside the door is this:

One of Many Beautiful Portuguese Beaches
One of Many Beautiful Portuguese Beaches

Our room looked out over that ocean. It’s the Atlantic, if you’re wondering. Portugal looks Mediterranean, but it isn’t. We walked down to the beach. Here’s Tami enjoying the waves.

On the Beach near Espinho.
On the Beach near Espinho.

That evening, we went into town. We returned the next day after checking out of our hotel. The only negative was that we had them do our laundry, which wasn’t done until noon. We lost half a day sitting in a hotel room. The breakfast was good, though. I will cover Porto all in one post, which will be the next one in line, I promise.

Adeus, again.

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