Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lisbon was awesome!

(Just, you know, in case you need to pee while walking through the neighborhood.)

We stood in the rain for thirty minutes waiting for a free shuttle-bus to take us into Lisbon proper, despite the gorgeous Lisbon boy who offered us a taxi and promised us "a very good price." He was stunning with brown silky curls over his collar and a sweater tied casually over his shoulders. He carried a large navy blue umbrella and wore jeans. He was probably twenty.

I very nearly went back to ask him about his very good prices, but Anna was staunchly opposed and preferred the drippy rain that her red poncho only partially kept out. Free was the best price, she insisted.

The bus let us out in the "downtown" of Lisbon, which actually was the edge of this large city. The buildings were built in the late 1750's after an earthquake brought down that neighborhood: The Baixa (Bye-shah). Some were mossy and crumbly and some had painted tiles covering what I imagined was stucco, but truthfully I don't know if they had stucco back then. And some were painted yellow or pink. They all had iron balcony railings above the shops -- some with flowers creeping up the bars and others with laundry hanging to dry.

We stopped at a pallateria for fruit, pastries and tapioca pudding with cinnamon on top. I had decaf coffee with milk and Anna had cha (pronounced shah, which was tea.)

We had a delightful conversation with a French couple during our snack. I didn't listen hard enough to the words and asked our waiter to translate for us, assuming they were speaking Portuguese. It turns out they were speaking French! Silly me. It's funny (and alarming) the assumptions I make when I'm not paying attention. Of all foreign languages, French is the most familiar to me.

"Oh!" Anna and I both say. I look to her to lead the conversation because she spent a year and a half communicating in French with her landlord -- though that was almost 40 years ago.

She stumbled and started and paused and ooomed and aahhed and the Frenchman says: "something something tres mal." I laugh and the rest all join in, knowing that yes, indeed, her French was very bad. It turns out the year she spoke French to her landlord when she lived in Europe was not in France, but in Serba-Croatia. So her French was co-mingling with Serba-Croatian and a smattering of Spanish. Tres mal indeed.

After much repetition and charades we understood finally that the couple couldn't fly out of Lisbon to return to France as planned because of the volcano that had erupted in Iceland, and they were now taking an eight hour bus to France instead. They had been wondering if we were in the same boat.

It was fun and we all laughed at Anna's miming of a volcanic eruption.

"Je comprende!" I say, laughing, and slap my phrase book down.

After our snack, Anna and I walked diagonally through Baixa and into the Moorish part of town. This had cobblestoned windy streets and much older buildings -- not having been affected by the earthquake in 1755.

We stopped at this amazing church and were actually allowed to take pictures without a flash. It was an enormous stone cathedral (though I don't actually know what consitutes a cathedral over a church.)

The Pieta sat at the back of the church. Remembering that Rob's casket held pietas at every corner makes viewing The Pieta emotional for me. Everytime.

I cry and pay 1 euro (even though it only asks for 40 cents) to light a candle for Rob and look at The Pieta once more before turning back to the church. Services were being held while we were there and I felt that, despite that, Rob would've loved to have attended that service. The Portuguese sermon fell on my ears like musical notes and I dried my eyes before finding Anna resting on a bench.

We walked uphill, winding and exclaiming at the architecture. We stopped so Anna could rest her arthritic knee and catch her breath a couple times but she was a champ and we made it to the top at St. George's Castle (Castelo Sao Jorge.) 5 Euro to get in -- though Anna was free.

We wandered the lovely grounds and I imagined the inhabitants reading on the stone benches hundreds of years ago, or pulling water up from their stone wells, or pitching hay for the animals in their stalls of stone.

A foreign woman offered to take our photograph and I impulsively sat next to Anna on a stone wall under a tree. The orange terra cotta roof tiles poked up behind us and I knew it would be a great shot. Unfortunately, I sat in something.

"Ugh!" I said, wiping with my hand and seeing the result.

"Don't worry. I have a brush in my bag," Anna says.

"No! It's excrement!" I laugh because, really, I don't think I've ever said excrement before in my life. Why it came out then was strange and hilarious.

"I just sat in shit!"

"Oh well, it'll wash," Anna said.

We finished the picture and then spent fifteen minutes trying to find the casa de banyoo -- or WC.

The castle was awesome. I looked down from the battlements and wished Paul was t here so I could shout down, "I shall taunt you a second time!"

My camera, unfortunately, decided to die on me here so I passed up about fourteen brilliant photos that could have been.

I looked down the keep imagining the pain one would feel falling down that deep hole. I wonder if they fed their prisoners or just let them starve to death.

Watching the beautiful view and imagining myself a guard walking the perimeter above the castle, I stepped in a deep puddle and sunk my wool clog and white-socked left foot in water. Sigh. My feet were still wet from this morning waiting for that shuttle bus.

The main areas inside the castle were pleasant and dotted with trees and I wished that Aubrey and Robert were here with us, picnic-ing on the grass.

Maybe next year.