Below is my report I emailed my family when I first came back from
Lisbon. Its hard not too sound like yet another glowing
travel guide account. However, There is something more that made this
trip unique for me.
I must talk about the experience of being in Portuguese society. I'm not
a world traveler, but I have been to Chicago
repeatedly, New York several times, and London-Paris-Rome-ect. once.
Usually being in a large city is an exciting, but
guarded experience for me --- just trying to be cautious especially in
our aggressive American cities and in cities where I am
obviously a stranger. I never felt such a necessary sense of caution in
Lisbon and in Portugal. I never felt like a clumsy tourist
-- or if I was clumsy, I felt forgiven.
I loved the harmony I felt with the people, a kind of peace and order I
just do not often feel here in the states. I'm sure there are issues
that would become more apparent over time, but my impressions were that
Portuguese individuals and families love their country and their society
and work together to maintain this peace. I'm kind of a harmony junkie,
which is not always possible in our more cynical and individualistic
american society and that's okay. I know that we can't "just all get
along". But I really loved experiencing all aspects, from Rita's
I-won't-take-any-guff-yet-I-won't-lose-it grace while she juggled
multiple complex scheduling issues, and the entire Portugal comittee's
teamwork ---- to watching moms, dads and kids all obviously enjoying the
outdoor concerts in the square (no squalling kids, angry gangs of
teenagers or bickering adults at least where I was standing)--well this
was a real treat for me.
More glowing report below.
We started in Lisbon for two days early--met another Guild member who
came early--and tramped around the main drag of the historic part of the
Decorated paved sidewalks, treelined avenues, statues and panoramic
the 18th century whitewashed homes with red tiled roofs and the
cathedrals, theaters and historic buildings.
We had such fun adjusting to the money and customs and the way the
hotels work. The service in the hotels was excellent, breakfast in the
dining room or in your room; always lots of bread, fruit, and cheese.
The hotels had
laundry service, we really enjoyed putting our clothes in the special
bag and coming back to clean pressed pants and shirts waiting folded on
the bed. You had to eat lunch between 12:00pm and 2:00pm. The hotels
had fine restaurants. All shops, restaurants and even the university
closed from 2:00pm to 5:00pm for siesta. Dinner had to be eaten between
7:00pm and midnight. Surprisingly, we adjusted to this schedule just
fine, even with the six hour time difference.
The restaurants are such fun. They follow the tradition of 5 course
meals. We always had several waiters serving each table; bread and
cheeses and sometimes little appetizers are always put on the tables
right away after you order. The food is a bit heavy with a
lot of casserole style dishes; lots of seafood, garlic and coriander and
very salty, but in a savory kind of way. After your main course of fish
or pork, etc. you are expected to have either
fruit and cheese or dessert, and coffee and dessert wines--and sometimes
we did! Dinner can take hours! Slow food! There is no fast food in
Portugal . Desserts were wonderful, lots of flan and custard style
dishes with fruit or ice cream. This all
sounds very heavy, but with the amount of walking we did--3-5+ miles
everyday--we had no problems digesting.
We went to a beautiful beach and studied tide pools and geology, had
lunch at the coast on sheer cliffs,
drove through mountains, were guided through fortresses and castles and
ancient neighborhoods, studied architecture, viewed agricultural
areas, and had an exquisite trip riding on ancient fishing boats along
It was very HOT in Evora, dangerously so. Very dry heat! In the high
80s and low 90s. It was not a good idea to get caught trying to walk
around in the middle of the afternoon, especially when everything is
closed. A few members had some troubles, but we were warned. We had
a headquarters room at the university where we could hang out and drink
coffee and water and just talk with others until things cooled off. All
the streets and sidewalks are cobblestones and narrow and up and down
hills, narrow twists and turns--and you share the narrow streets with
drivers who careen around at very fast speeds. Parts of Europe are just
not set up
very well for disabled travelers or for vegetarians.
We traveled back to Lisbon and started the evening with a trip to the
American Ambassador's home; a wonderful cocktail party in her garden.
She spent time talking to all of us about what its like to live in
Portugal, she had previously been the ambassador for Ireland. We spent
one day at a fabulous oceanarium and another day walking through the
historic sections of Lisbon.
We finished our stay with the banquet at a castle on top if a high hill
the heart of the city. Spectacular views of the river and the whole city
at night! We had a seven course meal and speeches and awards given. I
had to announce the winners of the exhibit awards and had much
pronouncing the Portuguese names ( I didn't have time to practice)--but
they seemed to forgive me.
There was a Queen Amelia in Portuguese history, (1800s, she apparently
helped eleviate a tuberculosus epidemic in Lisbon).
I certainly felt like royalty while I was there.
Amelia Janes--GNSI membership secretary
Wisconsin Cartographers' Guild / Midwest Educational Graphics
6 Lyons Circle
Madison, WI 53704
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