|September 16, 2000
|Sevilla to Salema, Portugal
It's our last day in Spain. As a treat, we don't have to be at the bus until 9:45 (this may be a result of the mid-trip evaluation, in which some folks complained of the early rising times -- typically, we have had to be packed and ready to go by 8:30 or 9:00 AM).
We stop in the last town before Portugal, to spend our last peseta coins (you can't exchange coins). Brig buys a coke and a CD of Sevillana songs at a bar. That leaves us enough for a can of Coke at the supermarket. We have a 5 peseta coin left, as a souvenir.
Susan passes out 1500 escudos per person, on the bus. This is to make sure we don't starve at lunch time in Lagos, Portugal.
(I finish Moby Dick during this bus segment. Okay, Melville was a fabulous writer, when he isn't trying to describe unnecessary trivia about, and justifications for whaling. Though the ending is generously foreshadowed hundreds of pages earlier, its description is beautiful, straightforward and well-presented. I am embarassed to learn that in Star Trek II, Wrath of Khan, Montalban's character's final soliloquy is stolen word-for-word from Moby Dick, with Shatner playing the whale. I should have known, if I weren't so far behind in my American literature reading! Next up, Mencken's "In Defense of Women".
Given my new employment, I probably ought to comment on my reading experience. On the whole, reading Moby Dick on a Palm V was very satisfactory. The Palm is so much more small, light, and convenient than a paper book, especially one of the size of Moby Dick. I rarely felt deprived. My only loss was of the few illustrations that might be associated with the manuscript. It would have been nice to have the dozen or so illustrations referred to at the beginnings of some chapers. It would also have helped to have illustrations of some of the ships, tools, and whales that are often referred to. Although Gemstar's new REB-1200 readers are tremendously improved in their size, weight, display capabilities, performance, power consumption/duration and memory capacity, I am nevertheless happy not to have brought it on this trip. This is entirely aside from my reticence to expose an albeit temporarily rare prototype to the rigors of this kind of travel. Aside from the bulkiness (you could probably fit 8 or 9 Palm V's in the volume/weight of a -1200), the Palm served my needs in so many ways that the -1200 cannot. Namely, the Palm served not only as my book reader, but also as our alarm clock, emergency information storage, and of course, for the recording of this log [once I added a 6 oz., $70 GoType! keyboard]. The Gemstar bookreaders are optimized for book/magazine reading, to the exclusion of nearly all other functions. Unfortunately, that means I may never be able to use one for our travelling needs...)
The bus crosses a modern, and very high-tech cable-stay suspension bridge, and we're in Portugal. No immigration, no customs, no passports. Just cross and you're in London's time zone (PST+8 hours) instead of Paris' (+9).
We notice that the houses are mostly Mediterranean style (though Portugal is on the Atlantic, of course), with low profiles, and whitewashed paint jobs. And one other distinguishing feature: All the chimneys have interesting covers. Susan says that these are derived from Japanese garden lamps.
Lagos is a lovely resort town. It's relatively large, with loads of cafes, shops, banks, and money exchange offices. We follow momma duck (Susan) to one that she recommends, and I convert our remaining pesetas and a $100 travellers check into escudos (per USD, 227 buy, 234 sell -- good for us, anyway). We follow Susan to a series of outdoor cafes. None can accommodate all of the baby ducks, so we split up. Brig, Jack H., and I are lucky enough to get a table at the one she was headed for (Caravella), and she manages to join us. For 2,500 esc. ($11) apiece, we sample several Portugese specialties:
Vinho verde is a young wine with light carbonation -- it's slightly tart, reminiscent of green apple, and very refreshing; bread, butter, and sardine pate (yes, you read that right!) -- it's pretty good stuff, though I'm not sure I would crave it; Brigid has the green lip mussels in a wine/garlic/cream sauce with onions (my mouth is watering as I write this, and we just ate it only a few hours ago!); I had a dish of piri-piri shrimp -- also stupendous. Piri-piri is a Portugese spice. From what I can tell, it is simply a small, dried red pepper pod, about 1/4 inch long. Anyway, the shrimp is in clarified butter with garlic, and sufficiently flavored with piri-piri to give it just the right bite without detracting from the flavor of the shrimp. Boy, I'm ready to go back and have another plate of the same.
In the meantime, we (and the rest of the diners in earshot) are serenaded by a guitar-wielding fellow who sings a small repertoire of Neil Young songs. He has a good voice, but could use a metronome. He's a pleasant guy, and we share a little praise and a few coins when he comes around.
After dropping into another cafe for a bowl of strawberries and a Nestle Capuccino ice cream stick, we return to the bus.
By the way, Lagos has a critical, if sad, place in history. It is one of the first European ports through which Africans were brought into slavery.
At Cape Sagres, we visit a cape that had been a Moorish and then a Christian fort. Mostly it's a great opportunity to walk along the top of the limestone cliffs, admiring the spectacular views of the seaside, both near and far. We walk past several folks fishing from the top of these several hundred foot high cliffs. One pair of fishermen catch and retrieve a nice, 8 lb fish that looks reminiscent of a tuna, but much smaller. Brig has the audacity to ask the pair whether they do "catch-and-release". They're confused. She illustrates by pantomiming the act of throwing the fish back over the cliff. The haul back and laugh. (Brig insists that she was being completely facetious.)
After this refreshing walk, we drive back toward Lagos to Salema. We totally luck-out (perhaps it pays to be helpful to the tour guides, but we honestly do it with no expectation of payback) and find ourselves with apartment 2 at a pension, the A Maré. The downside (so to speak) of apartment 2 is that it is at the top of the pension, so there are a couple dozen steps to climb. Big deal. The upside is that this is truly an apartment, complete with kitchen, living room, bathroom, a patio overlooking the ocean, and our own clotheslines. The apartment is clean, comfortable, and well-designed (by John, who is an artist). The frig is stocked with breakfast supplies, and fresh bread will be delivered at 8:00 AM. The room rate is 12,000 esc. per night ($55), plus 5% off if you pay in escudos instead of plastic. With the balmy weather, inexpensive rates, and proximity to the beach, I could happily spend a week or two here, just relaxing. This is incredible!
I take a pre-dinner swim in the Atlantic. It's pretty cold, to start, but I'm perfecly comfortable once I dive in. It's deliciously cool and refreshing. I put on my goggles and look around. No sea life whatsoever. No fish. No shells. Not even shell fragments or seaweed. Odd.
We walk back to the room, and I try to take a shower. This room has a demand-based water heater. The plaque suggests running the hot water for a few moments to trigger the heater into operation. No such luck. Unfortunately, I don't discover this until I'm lathered up! Damn, I hate cold showers! I grit my teeth, cuss a bit, and finish. The shower has caused my, umm, endowment to retract even further than the Atlantic swim could manage!
As soon as I dry off and stop shivering, I look at the heater. John apparently lit the pilot okay. He just forgot to turn the danged temperature dial. I remedy the situation so that Brigid will be able to shower.
Dinner (included) is at the Atlantico restaurant, just above the beach. Bread, sardine pate, vinho branco, vinho tinto, and water await us. The staff are very friendly. A beautiful mixed salad, with only the slightest hint of dressing, is served. We can choose from pork cutlets with fries and rice or swordfish steak with veggies and boiled potatoes. Of course we each had a different one -- and I had the fish. It was precisely what I was hoping for! A simple, delicious, broiled fish steak with steamed broccoli (yay!), carrots, and potatoes. After all the fried protein in Spain, this broiled fish and steamed veggies really hit the spot! Brigid's pork is pretty good too, though they seem to have served some of it a little too rare for anyone's taste or health! The fries and the rice are very good. Dessert is chocolate mousse or flan. The mousse is good but undistinguished. One of us ought to have tried the flan, which was a generous slice that looked good.
Back on our patio, we relax and watch the stars while listening to the waves. Ahhhhh.