Sunday, 31 March 2019

Lisbon - Day 1 - First impressions

This came out in the garden today. I would love to be able to grow amaryllis in the garden!
The bud on the other plant didn't quite open yet.
Joao and Blanca drove me to the airport. They said it was to say thank you for letting them clean early. For me it was nice to have that personal send off and be able to say goodbye to the children too.
I sat in Starbucks, looking at the Isles Desertas and realized that this is where Nic and Dave must have sat a week ago as they sent me a picture out the window.
Madeira had greeted me with sun and said goodbye with rain. The flight to Lisbon was uneventful. Hard to get used to them feeding you a lunch, with wine, on an hour and 15min flight. I had to chug the wine!
I booked the hotel in Lisbon through and they sent an e-mail offering a taxi pickup for 14 Euro. As the guide book said you shouldn't pay more than 20 Euro, I took them up on it. It was very nice to be met by a guy with my name on his sign and escorted to a taxi who already knew where to take me. My hotel is on a pedestrian street but he got me as close as he could.
Across from my hotel they are renovating the building so I anticipate a construction noise wake up call.
That entire facade is blue tile.
My hotel, Gat Rossio, is ultra modern but it is in an old building.

The lounge.
Wall decoration. Perhaps this is the "Gat" part of the name, "Rossio" is the metro stop.
My room is on the fourth floor (there is an elevator), one of the ones with the little balcony.
This street, and the other pedestrian streets around, are full of restaurants. This "still life" is right outside my hotel door. I don't find it particularly appealing.
I walked for a coupe of hours, gently downhill, heading for the river. I haven't got into the guidebooks yet so just took random pictures. I can't identify them yet.
Damage in a church. I think there was an earthquake. I need to find out the history.
A lineup at this little "hole in the wall" place. Looks like alcohol of some kind.
Stalls selling cheese,
pastries and
Sangria at the Baixa market
sharing a square with this statue.
I was pulled towards that end view that was farther than it seemed.

Down to this square
on the river.
So many things to explore

I finally allowed a waiter to seat me, after so many others had tried. I have no idea how to choose one place over another but I think that the fact that my feet were tired may have played a role. It ended up being a very entertaining meal as I sat next to a couple from Wiltshire and heard about his plans to teach English as a second language in Madrid as his retirement career. Laughed with a woman from Montenegro who was visiting Lisbon with a friend from Serbia ("we are not at war, just over who pays the bill") and was shown a picture of the snow currently in Finland from another couple when we commiserated about how it was not cold here even though the Portuguese owner kept trying to get people to come inside where there was a fireplace. The meal itself was fine, wine, bread, octopus salad, coffee, creme caramel.

I managed to find my way back
I think tomorrow will be the Hop on Hop off bus, to get the lay of the land
and breakfast spent with the guide book.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Madeira - Day 56 - finally got wet

I had been toying with going for a hike today, along the peninsular at the far Western end of the island. I had some misgivings as the weather forecast was still unsettled and only one bus (at 9am) went there and there were not a lot of return times listed. Halfway through the night, as I was not sleeping well, I thew the idea out all together and opted for sleeping in. Given how the weather developed, I am glad I did.
I did some laundry and some tidying and Blanca and Joao came and did some cleaning of the rooms I am not using, in preparation for a busy weekend of guests from the other two apartments also leaving and all 3 locations receiving people this weekend.

In addition Joao's father came and did some gardening. I have been pulling weeds and deadheading flowers that I can reach but he pruned the hibiscus hedge so that it now sits just above the wall. He also took off all the baby spider plants. The border looks much tidier without them but it felt a bit brutal.

In spite of the grey clouds (they often just stay up on the mountain) I walked downtown, just to wander about for the last time (tomorrow will be spent tidying and packing) and to check at the store where I bought my swallow coffee mug to see if they had received any more in the March delivery (they hadn't)
I got caught in a downpour. I made it into the place I think of as "the pigeon's cafe" and had a coffee and a pastel de nata. I sat for a while and it was still pouring, so I hailed a taxi to get home.

We had rescued some of the flowers from the pruning (I had to get Blanca to translate what I wanted) so I painted

my rendition of a geranium flower.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Madeira - Day 54 - Ribeira Brava

When Nicola, Dave and I took the taxi tour we stopped in Ribeira Brava, looked at the church, had a coffee and custard tart and carried on. Today I took the bus there for a second look. It was a day of good luck, no sooner had I bought my ticket at the kiosk, down on the sea front, when the express bus to Ribeira Brava arrived. There went plans for a coffee and custard tart at Opan while I waited!
The forecast was, again, 60% chance of rain and the clouds were massing over the mountains but I only have a few days left here and I'm not huddling inside for that time. If it rains I'll sit in a cafe. How bad can that be?
It was about a half hour trip along Via Rapida ( or VR, the highway) and I am familiar with it from my various excursions; steep hillsides covered in banana palms, grape vines, vegetable plots and houses. The tunnels are long and also steep. My ears popped a couple of times on the route.

I sat on a bench and did a rather unsatisfactory sketch of the bell but sketching has the effect of imprinting a virtual photo of the subject on my brain and makes for a great " mental souvenir".
Just inside the church doors there is a big screen TV.
Probably for when the congregation is so large it spills out into the church square.

Ribeira Brava means "wild river" but like many of Madeira's rivers, out of necessity, it's been tamed. They have had deadly floods in the past.
It's a relatively small gravelly, stony beach and at the end there is a pool and restaurant.
I had wandered up and down the 6 or so blocks around the church and the beach, never did find the museum signposted, so I settled down for lunch at a beach side cafe.
I had octopus salad and asked for a vinho tinto. The waiter had spent 8 years in Glasgow so spoke English with a Scottish accent. He said they only had Madeiran wine so I asked for "dry". It was Ok as long as you prepare your mouth for sherry. The salad was lovely.

I was going to walk back to the bus stop when I remembered the tunnel at the other end of the beach front.

I'm so glad I did because through it there was a little fishing harbour
with great coastal views,
the fish farm and
crabs so well disguised I could hardly see them on the rocks until they moved with each wave coming in.
This little guy was investigating what might have been left on the dock, next to a fisherman. He might be a Turnstone, I'm not sure from my internet research, there are lot of wading birds found in Madeira.
Looking back from the dock to the other side of the tunnel.

Two little Virgin Mary statues set on the rocks beside the stored fishing boats.

As I walked up to the bus stop the Express bus pulled up. I would have preferred the "milk run" on the way back but as the clouds had by now obscured the valley I opted to get going rather than wait.
Back in Funchal, a cruise ship I hadn't seen before. One of the P&O boats. I think they are a British company.
There is a large open area on the sea front and it was now covered with portable basketball and volleyball nets. Looks like an elementary school tournament. What a lovely location.
As the clouds were looking more ominous, I didn't stick around and took the next available bus up the hill. It poured about half an hour after I got home. Good luck with my timing all day. And finally caught up on the blog posts.