Sent from on board the Rotterdam, Monday, November 6
Three Continents - Days 1 - 5
Catching up with the trip, from preparation through departure from Lisbon, Portugal.
If you travel out of Logan I do recommend the Framingham Logan Express bus from Exit 13 on the Pike. An artist friend told me about it and its easy, inexpensive and makes the trip much easier. So that was a good thing for the start of this journey.
Alitalia hasn’t changed. It’s been years since I flew this airline and I accepted this booking with certain trepidations and it seems I was right to worry. So if your travel agent says "fly Alitalia" tell him or her to shove it. The flight was airless. The crew was clueless. Boarding was a jungle of bodies all pressed into a confined space without order or plan. The food was bizarre - it included a carrot salad in a vinaigrette that must have been made right after Mussolini abdicated. In spite of all that, the flight was uneventful and I partied with three passengers and a crew member in the rear galley. So it wasn’t all bad.
Rain in Lisbon. Transport to the hotel was fine, but regrettably no immigration stamp for Lisbon - even though we got one in transit in Malpensa Milan. Easy check-in and a pleasant welcome from the Vantage staff. Dinner at a local restaurant of great charm and ease called Pabe. The place is very middle English in decor but very Portuges in service and food. No Pork and Clams Alentejana, though, for Bob, but he was ultimately very happy with braised goat.
Overslept and missed our morning "included" tour. Instead, after breakfast, we walked down the Liberadore to the Gloria elevador, which wasn’t working, so we climbed the steep hill to the Bairro Alto. The views along the way were marvelous and when we reached the top we easily found our way through vaguely familiar streets. Made a reservation for dinner at Bota Alta, shopped and found a fabulous little local pub for lunch where Bob finally got his Alentejana and I had creamed cod. That should satisfy our pork/clam combo and codfish needs for this portion of the trip, but we’ll see what the evening brings. Fado Clubs surround us after dinner and we’ll pursue the music. After lunch we wandered home - a long walk through the old section of Lisbon and a steep downhill slope - through the rain (it was a beautiful, if humid morning) and relaxed in our comfortable hotel room for a while.
Still raining. We took a cab to the Bairro Alto, to the Largo Coelho Trindade, and wandered about checking out the clubs before our dinner at Bota Alta. We sat in the main room and dined on soup Alentejana (a chicken stock with heavy garlic and cilantro and bread) and the main course consisting of their version of the Alentejana (I had that) and a special lamb ribs dish. Both superb. The Alentejana more what we remembered than the one at lunch. After dinner we went to O Faia, and couldn’t get in - Friday night in Lisbon is just like Friday night everywhere else, so we headed for Luso (where we usually only hit the last show) and got seated. 140 Vantage members were there taking up the front of the hall, so we took a table near the rear, not unlike the one we usually have, and saw the end of the "tourist" Fado show with folk dancers and kitch. Afterward, we were moved from the wall to the outer circle, but still front row, for the more intimate Fado sing which started about 11 and ended about 1:30. When we were last there we heard a new singer, Elsa LaBareira, in her first appearance. Now, five years later, she is a headliner and we were greeted with hugs and kisses. A new singer, Pedro Moutinho, soft, beautiful and sensual, was introduced and I bought his CD. Anyone reading this who gets the new US Portuguese TV channel, watch for him. He goes to NYC mid November for his first appearance in the States.
We were up with the music until almost 1:15, then a quick cab home to the Tivoli.
I woke up sick. Cramps and nausea, vomiting. Too much cheese, I think. No breakfast, at least none that stayed down. Off on a full day bus trip to new places. First Obidos, a walled fortress of a city. Then Nazaré on the coast, a miracle town and finally Fatima. The rain almost never lets up and my new umbrella dies in Fatima. Fatima is a place where the audience is the show. People come to this shrine and really get into the moment. They stagger three times around the chapel, on their knees, reciting the rosary and finally pausing in front of the statue of the Madonna of Fatima to pray. I prayed silently from my pew seat - no knees for me - for a speedy recovery from this odd ailment that caused me to miss a lovely lunch in Nazaré. Instead of eating I experienced real projectile vomit. Back at the hotel by 5, me to bed.
We leave Portugal today. I woke up at 5 this morning, exactly the time I woke up yesterday so sick, but this time I was fine. 24 hours and out. Thank God...or the Lady of Fatima. At one o’clock we bussed to the pier in order to board the Rotterdam. This is my first Holland-America cruise in a very long time and things are vitally different now than they used to be. An interminable boarding procedure followed by a "cleansing" as we were sprayed with disinfectant. Then the inevitable tour of the ship - lovely, and the alarming discovery that everything on board, even water, comes at a price. Some things may be worth it. But I resent having to pay for what was always included in the past. Gone are the days, I see, when cruises were billed as "all inclusive." We took out memberships in the VIP Spa, limited to 20 passengers - we’ll see if that’s true - and after lifeboat drill, which came after a very nice buffet lunch, we took ourselves off to the spa for a soak in the thermal tub, the eucalyptus sauna and the herbal mist. I also took some time in the traditional sauna. I felt much better about everything after this treatment - something I intend to use every day for the fifteen days we’re aboard. Off to our first dinner soon. The adventure continues with a full day in Morocco tomorrow.
Dinner fine with four amiable tablemates - two older women from south Texas and a couple from North Carolina. Food was good, but the wine we ordered wasn’t available, so we took a suggestion from the Phillipine wine steward and it was acceptable. After dinner Bob was not feeling too well, so - as I did yesterday - he came back to the cabin and went to bed. I will try to get this log up on line, finally. If you are reading this I obviously succeeded. If not - well, who knows what I’ll do. Tomorrow Morocco, a trip to Fez and then a quick overnight sail to the Canary Islands.
PREPPING A FEW HOUSEPLANTS FOR THE EXTENDED VACATION
BOB IN THE BAIRRO ALTO, LISBON
DEPARTING LISBON: CHRIST THE REDEEMER PEEKS THROUGH