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05/10 Portugal, Monsaraz to Evora to Lisbon

We had planned to get an early start to Monsaraz today, then all ride around Monzaraz, then head for Lisbon about noon -- but Joan wanted to ride today's 54 km route. They wanted to get an early start, so Lisa and I dropped them at camp at 6 a.m. Then Lisa and I went back to the hotel for a short nap and a leisurely breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed for camp and then on to Evora. We picked up Peter (from Sacramento and Canada) and Barbara (from North Carolina and Long Island) who needed a ride but did not want to ride in the TK&A sick van.

We got to Evora about 11. Lisa and I hoped on our bike and headed back out on the route. We rode 25 minutes out, then turned around and rode back to meet Joan and Larry at noon. In the 50 minute ride, we covered 30 km's.

Shortly after noon, we headed for the walled city of Evora (a UNESCO Heritage Site) in the car. We drove on a VERY narrow street (about 2-3 inches to spare on each side) into the town square. We were lucky to find a parking place right there.

We had a fine lunch, then Larry, Joan and Lisa walked around the area while I took nap in the car.

About 2:30 we headed for Lisbon. Arrived just in time to get into the rush hour traffic -- and THAT'S the same all over the world. We found the Information Bureau fairly quickly, got a hotel and got settled by about 5.

The hotel was actually a Pension, (pen-she-own) which means a lower class hotel, or a hotel-type bed and breakfast. They had two, double rooms. Both had bathrooms. One was about 10x10, one was about 10x20. We gave Larry and Joan the larger one because they're hauling a LARGE gear bag around along with their two backpacks and other gear. Ours was cozy!

The hotel clerk recommended a neighborhood restaurant. We walked there. I had what they call sword fish -- but it was not like the sword fish in the states. Instead of a steak or fillet, it was a whole fish, about 8" long. It was tasty but very small.

We stopped in a neighborhood pasteleria and had cappuccino and pastry for a nightcap, then to bed.

Love to all, David and Lisa


05/11 Lisbon, Portugal

This morning we had breakfast at the hotel. Larry and Joan and I arranged to take a tour of Lisbon while Lisa went on a shopping tour of downtown. The hotel agreed to hold our luggage until we returned from the tour.

On the tour we saw many monuments, attractions and notable buildings, including --

* The Bridge over the Tagus, a bridge designed after, and remarkably similar to, the Golden Gate Bridge.

* The Kings Palace, now used only when the president welcomes notables, and as a museum showing where and how the last king lived.

* The Monastery of Jeronimos, containing examples of the "purest flamboyant Gothic Style" (known in Portugal as Manueline) with vaulted ceilings and very high arches. It was built in the 16th century under the reign of King Manuel I in commemoration if the voyages of discovery undertaken by Portuguese navigators. It contains the vault of Vasco de Gama's body.

* The Tower of Belem, built between 1515 and 1521, at the entrance to the harbor.

* The Monument of discoveries, a recently built, spectacular monument overlooking the harbor like a ship's prow. It contains sculptural images of 35 people who were involved with the Portuguese voyages of discovery. The plaza in front of the monument contains a mosaic of the world designating the dates and locations of various discoveries of the voyages.

* The house of pointed stones, which is a building which is faced with pyramid-shaped stones pointed out.

* A walking tour of the old walled city, the Alfama, and the oldest area in the city, the Jewish quarter. (It was here I found out why all the old cities in Europe have narrow streets with many sharp bends. It was a defensive design that is hard to attack through and easy to defend.)

I also saw many (mostly older) houses that were faced in small, 3-4" colorful, tiles.

I noticed the practice in Portugal is to paint houses in subtle hues of pastels, and in Lisbon to paint apartment buildings in vertical stripes of subtle hues of pastels, each stripe delineating sections of apartments.

After the tour, Larry wanted to work on his record-keeping. Joan wanted go to camp to do laundry. Lisa and I wanted to pick up some jeans that she had on hold (waiting for me because they didn't take visa and she didn't have enough cash), have some lunch at a sidewalk cafe, and walk around some local neighborhoods.

We compromised -- Larry sat and worked on his records; Joan sat and worked on her e-mail; and we walked to the store and to a sidewalk cafe. We returned at 3 to take Larry and Joan to camp.

The TK&A "lodging" was in the municipal campground. (We were told by TK&A that lodging was not available in Lisbon because the Pope was coming to Portugal next week.) (Don't ask!) On the positive side, though, the campground was in the HUGE Park Monsanto located in the center of Lisbon.

We spent the rest of the evening there, which included a free tasting of Port wine. The rest of the evening was spent packing in preparation for the flight to Washington tomorrow.

Love to all, David and Lisa


05/12 Lisbon, Portugal to Washington, DC, USA.

The morning was spent waiting in lines, eating breakfast, waiting in lines, packing for the flight, waiting in lines, returning the car, and waiting in lines.

The car rental agency was Avis this time. They seem to be able to screw up as well as any of the others. When we returned the car, they told me it was supposed to be returned in Spain. I told him I was sure the return was here. He checked his computer. It showed returning to Spain. I showed him the voucher from Europcar. He said the Avis office in France had made a mistake, that he had to get the okay from them to accept the car at this location, and that I shouldn't worry, the charge would be as shown on my voucher. There was nothing more I could do there, so we went to the departure terminal.

After waiting in several more lines, we boarded the plane. This whole flight prep and boarding experience was the best yet. TK&A took our bikes and gear (from the gear trucks) right from the camp to the airplane. All we had to handle was our hand-checked gear and our carryon bags. Very smooth!

The flight was great! We were on an Airbus A330-300, run by SkyService, a Canadian charter company. We took off within 15 minutes of the scheduled time. The flight was advertised as 7 1/2 hours. The temperature was 65F when we took off. At 34,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean, it had gone down to -42F. At 39,000 feet it was -78F.

The service was great! It included a hot meal (very tasty) with a complimentary (bottomless) glass of red or white Italian wine.

A complimentary movie, "Hang Up", starring Meg Ryan and Walter Matthau, followed dinner. It was good, light entertainment, good for a flight. That was followed by drinks, a light snack and another movie. Appropriate for a 7 1/2 hour flight.

The flight ended up being only 7 hours. The offloading went well. There were three airport transfer buses waiting for us. The gear came through fairly quickly at the turntables. Immigration was quick. Customs was quick.

Then things started to fall apart.

On the airplane, a list was made of the people who wanted their luggage and bikes to stay at Dulles because they were not going to the hostel. A little later (still on the plane), we were told to get our gear, go through customs, and get on the busses. They would take us all to the hostel. The bikes would be taken there by separate truck.

Of course that would not work for those who did not want to go to the hostel, but every question was answered with, "Ask Tim. He's the only one who knows. But of course, Tim was not around.

Finally, Karen-Ann ordered everyone to get on the busses and to put your luggage in the isles. She said the bus would take us to the Red parking lot where we could retrieve our bikes. I got on, along with some others, but not everyone could fit.

At the Red lot, we found that the bikes were just being offloaded into a semi-truck on the tarmac. We were told it would take about a half an hour, then the truck would be brought out to the Red lot, where it would be unloaded so those who wanted their bikes could retrieve them. Then the bikes were reloaded on the truck and transported to the hostel.

So, we had to wait,...and wait,...and wait. While I was waiting, Ethan handed me Matts cell phone. Said Lisa was on it. Lisa said to wait there. She called her mother. They will pick us up.

So I retrieved the bike, agreed to watch Joan's (from NY area) luggage while she rented a car, and waited, . . . and waited, . . . and waited.

About 8:30 Joan (from NY) came walking up to get her stuff. I asked her where her car was. She told me the parking lot was closed so she had to leave it outside.

I realized that Lisa and Adele would never find me in the back of the parking lot, so I helped Joan with her gear and bikes, then I took the tandem out to the street to be more visible.

Since Lisa and Adele hadn't shown up yet (about 8:45), I locked the bike to a sign along the highway (where they could see it if they drove by), then walked across to the Hertz return place to call and leave a message on Adele's phone.

That was another adventure. A Hertz employee directed me to the first building. I waited in line while the group in front of me went through their challenges with Hertz. Then I asked the street name and if I could use a phone to call Rockville, MD. She didn't know what street they were on, and directed me to another building for a phone.

I went to the other building. It was a pay phone. I dug out an American dollar and asked the people in line for change. The third person had change. I went back to the phone and dialed the number. A recording came on that the number was wrong. I tried again. Same result. I called information. The number was correct. Finally I called an operator. She could connect the call for $1.85.

Uh oh. I only had a dollar in change. Would she take a credit card?

No.

Okay, I'll have to get more change.

Back to the people in line. The fourth person had change.

Back to the phone. Still couldn't dial direct. Tried again. Someone answered, "Hello, this is Joanna."

I apologized -- said I was trying to call the Watts.

She caustically said, "This is the operator."

I told her my call wouldn't go through.

She asked me if I had put money in yet.

"Yes," I said, but I haven't been told how much to add.

She told me $1.85. Insert coins. The phone wouldn't accept either nickel. Insert last dime.

Finally I got the home recorder. I started to leave a message. The pay phone cut me off. $1.85 only bought a minute. I decided I had probably got enough recorded and headed back out to the bike.

LISA WAS THERE!!

She and her mom had found the bike but no me. On the chance that I had locked the bike there and then rode the shuttle back to the main terminal, Adele went back there while Lisa waited by the bike.

We took the shuttle back to the main terminal. Adele was there but no George. It seems that Adele had called home and picked up my message that I was calling from the Hertz office, so she sent George over there.

So we waited some more.

We finally got to George and Adele's at about 10:30.

Love to all, David and Lisa


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