Sunday, November 29, 2009

OK, trying with pictures today! This is my favorite shot of the trip. Yes, I look terrible and badly need a haircut, but I love the tile bench and the changing leaves behine us. This was taken by remote control at the castle in Tomar.

You´ll just have to turn your head. I can´t figure out how to rotgate photos in Portuguese. This was taken at the Moorish Castle in Sintra, with the Pena Palace in the background.

This photo was taken at, yes, another old fortress castle. I like the things, OK? This is at the Belem Tower in Lisbon, with the river behind.

wow! A picture of me! There aren´t too many on this trip. This is also from the Belem tower.
OK, running out of internet time. I promise a full report with lots of photos as soon as I get home.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crappy Thanksgiving

Oh, yesterday was a crap day. So bad, in fact, that I blogged a long post all about it - and then my session timed out JUST as a I hit "Publish" and the web ate my whole post. It was that bad.

Which I take as a sign that the Universe just wanted me to put it all behind me. Which I did today by spending a lot of money at H&M (although that was an ordeal too, with all of the ATM machines and credit card readers out of commission in the WHOLE TOWN. The Universe, apparently, also wants me to wear last season´s fashions).

But a little bit of advice, should you ever come to Portugal:
  • Make sure you get a map with details of the main cities. Trying to find your way around town when the city is the size of a potato bug on the map = not easy.
  • If you ever come to Coimbra, WALK. Do not drive.
  • When asking for restaurant recommendations at a tourist office, always ask for detailed directions. Do not settle for a scribbled note in a general region on a very crappy free tourist map.
  • If an alley looks really narrow, it is actually much smaller than you think. Turn around. Do not enter. Really, I mean it. Your ckutch will thank you.

Tonight we are in Porto, which I like MUCH better than Coimbra, even without a decent city map. I mean, there is even a mall here which stays open until 9 PM! Hallelujah!

So, I restored my spirits today with some retail therapy, and, I am not embarassed to admit - a McDonald´s Sundae. Do you know how long it has been since I had one of those? I have no idea what they are actually made of - although I´m certain it ain´t dairy - but when you have lived as long in foreign parts as I have, sometimes all you need to settle your soul is a little cholesterol-enriching American fast food. It´s better than meditation, yoga, or herbal tea combined.

Tomorrow we are hoping to find ourselves a nice little farm in the wine country to stay on for a couple days, to unwind. And then very soon it´s back to reality. Sigh. I´m not ready!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Not much time to write - it´s after my bedtime already, and I am slow on this keyboard because it´s all Portuguese and stuff, but just wanted to let you know we got both our ATM cards, and one of the PINs just in the nick of time. Disatser averted, yet again. So now we are in Lisbon, where we have rented an apartment nesr the castle. yesterday we had a lovely morning wandering around the old Moorish quarter, then it rained all of the rest of the day. That didn´t keep us home, it just meant we had a pretty cold, wet day.

Today we took the tram out to Belem where we went to mass at the Monastery do Jeronimos, which is beautiful. We had agreat weather - a good thing, because we had lift clothes out drying outside our balcony. For lunch we snacked on goodies from the local pastry shop - custard tarts are becoming an obsession - and then went to the Museum of the Orient. Milo wasn´t too into it.

Tomorrow we´ll catch the train to visit Sintra, which is supposed to be beautiful and romantic on aa Disney Princess Castle sort of scale. Judging from what I´ve seen so far, I am prepared to be very impressed. The architecture here is like something out of a fantasy movie - think the home of the empress in the Neverending Story.

Well, we´ve got an early start tomorrow. Sorry I forgot to bring in my memory card to update pics. I will try again in t afew days.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trips are never dull in the C. family

Well, here I am in brisk, but sunny Glasgow. It's actually quite a nice little city. I can walk from my hotel to our office here, mostly along pedestrian shopping malls with great industrial-age architecture. The weather is lovely today, and it isn't half as cold as I expected.

There are also a lot of great shopping bargains, thanks to the tanked economy. The bad news is that I don't have a way to shop. My husband, genius that he is, lost his wallet in Colombia. He canceled the credit and ATM cards, but since our mailing address is in the US, they went to my sister's house in Seattle. Yes it's our own fault for not having her mail them to us months ago, but it just didn't seem important at the time.

We do have two credit cards that still work, so we each took one - the American Express for me, and the Visa for him. I also brought some dollars to exchange. Then we asked my dad to Express mail me the ATM cards. Jorge was going to bring more cash as a backup. Seemed like a solid plan, right? Well...
  • Most of the shops here don't take American Express
  • Jorge wrote yesterday from the airport to say he FORGOT his wallet at home. Meaning no extra cash and no Visa. There's no way to express how deep in doo-doo he is going to be when I see him today.
  • Dad sent the ATM cards, but the PIN numbers haven't come in the mail. Cross your fingers they come soon. At the least I guess we can use them as debit cards.

So....we may be setting up Milo's travel cot (assuming I'm even able to buy one today) and sleeping in train stations for this vacation. Why can't we ever, ever have a stress-free, easy vacation? (OK, don't say it's because we're total airheads. That is not the answer I am looking for. Sympathy and support, people, sympathy and support...)

Friday, November 13, 2009

You can sleep soundly at night now

Because Super-Milo is here to save the day!

Look out, bad guys!

Smelling the chives, with his super-senses.
Taking a cookie break. Saving the world makes you hungry!

This one just makes me smile. Milo always fusses when we leave him at daycare. All the big kids came over to sing his little song (they sing "Baby Milo" to the tune of Frere Jacques) and cheer him up. The daycare owner told me yesterday that Milo is sort of considered the school mascot. :-)

And in case you were following our travel drama - good news! Jorge got his visa yesterday, a full week before they told him it would be ready! Those wacky Germans, they just love to keep you guessing!

So tomorrow night I leave for Scotland. Jorge and Milo will join me on Tuesday, then next Friday we fly to Lisbon. After that, we have NO IDEA what we are going to do. Anyone who has been to Portugal have suggestions for what we should do for the the week after we leave Lisbon?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Maybe some good news???

So we are still totally in the lurch about our trip to Portugal, but have decided, as is always our way, to hope for the best and not worry too much.

Jorge went to the German Embassy yesterday (there is no Portuguese Embassy here, so the Germans process all the visas for Western Europe) to see if there was anything they could do to speed up the application. He even congratulated them on the fall of the Berlin Wall. But no, unfortunately there is nothing they can do, we were told. The whole process just has to run its course. They were very nice about it, so we couldn't even get annoyed at them and call them rude names afterwards. That sort of sucked the fun out of the experience. After all, who doesn't enjoy taking stabs at Germans?

Anyway, after Jorge left, he got a very cryptic phone call from the embassy, which went something like this, according to Jorge's re-telling (Imagine Jorge telling the story with a very bad German accent, even though the caller was a Malawian desk clerk):

Clerk: "Mr Gorge? Have you changed your travel plans?"

Jorge: "No, not yet. Why?"

Clerk: "Don't change your travel plans yet....[garble garble garble, bad connection, garble]

Jorge: "Is the visa going to come in?"

Clerk: "You are traveling on the 20th, right?"

Jorge: "No, I'm traveling on Monday. The 16th."

Clerk: "OK, don't change your plans [garble garble garble] I will call you next week."

Jorge: "No, you don't understand - I am flying on Monday. I won't be here next week."

Clerk: "[garble garble garble] OK, I call you this week."

So they didn't actually say the visa would be ready, but we have decided to take this as a good sign that they are taking pity on us and will try to help. Cross your fingers!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Welcome to the world!

Hey everyone, I have a new baby nephew! My big sister Miriam had a little boy on Saturday morning. His name is Oseia, and both mom and baby are doing well now, even though they had a bit of a rough time of it at first.

So that makes grandson #4 for my dad! Joy's got two boys, I've got Milo, and now Miriam has a son of her own! My goodness, I can't even begin to imagine the family reunions...The noise! The rough-housing and senseless beatings with sticks! The scrapes and bruises! The paralyzing fear all us mothers will have to go through when our little boys try to find new and ever-more-impressive ways to off themselves!

Congratulations Miriam and Tampa! I can't wait to meet the newest addition to the family.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Remember I mentioned a few weeks back that my office was sending me to Scotland to present at a workshop? Well, that's next week. I fly out in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

We thought it would be a great opportunity for a little European vacation, so Jorge and Milo are flying out to meet me, then we're going to Portugal. We've got the tickets booked and everything.

Then something came up, and we had to travel out of town. We got back yesterday, finished all of Jorge's visa paperwork, then took it to the embassy today. And even though they previously told us they only need a week to process the visa, today they said "uh, no. We need 10 days. You're not going to get your visa in time."

Crap. Crappety-crap-crap.

So what do we do? Do we cross our fingers, bother them a lot, and hope they rush it through in time? The deck officer didn't seem too optimistic about that approach. Do we shell out the money to pay to change the flight, hoping they get the visa back at least in time for the trip to Lisbon?

Argh. I wish Jorge was just a US citizen already. That is the one drawback to not living in America, where he would have been eligible for citizenship years ago. The visa situation is so stressful. Cross your fingers for us that we didn't just blow a couple thousand bucks on a trip we'll just have to cancel...