If it’s Wednesday, it must be…Lisbon, City of Explorers!!    And another time change, which seems odd to say the least.  We moved ahead an hour in Vigo, Spain (yesterday).  Today, almost directly south and we move ~back~ an hour.  Oh well…

Up at 7 and out the door again by about 8:15.  Somewhat cloudy and (presumably) 12 c, but again it feels somewhat warmer.

Now…where is our tour van??  Instructions were to meet just outside the gate at 8:30.  Generally there is someone standing with a very prominent sign and today is no exception except they all seem to be for some other group.  A little increasingly frantic wandering about and there she is…wondering if ~we~ are going to show up.  What’s life without a little confusion?  🙂

There are 14 of us but fortunately two vans and a guide/driver for each.  A drive in and around Lisbon then outside to Sintra, one of the oldest towns in Portugal having been in existence since the 1300’s.  For those who think Lisbon et al might be a nice place to live (and it would be, really) some realities have to be considered.  Although a nice two bedroom apartment is only 600 Euros / month, the average wage is only 850 Euros.  Hmmmm…the math doesn’t quite work.

Tourism (and certainly the major cruise ships) have helped to improve the economy slightly.  April to October there is pretty much one cruise ship per day.  In April this year they set a bit of a record of 7 in one day.  That brings its own problems, as an influx of 15,000 people puts a strain on facilities…and nerves.

Portugal’s economy is also supplemented by its wine and cork.  Needless to say, they certainly complement one another.  One stop, although meant more for shopping the other surrounding stores, quickly had my undivided attention.  Although it was not exactly the one I had hoped to find, it easily met all of my needed criteria.  The shop owner soon realized that I might actually know what I’m talking about, which led to…sundry benefits.  😉

Driving around the entire morning has brought about a certain…hunger and thirst.  Conveniently, our host has brought lunch.  Not complicated (crackers, cheese, smoked sausage, olives, fruit…and WINE!).  Pulling over onto a side street (at least that’s what it looked like) she parked beside a carousel (not working at the time), opened the rear hatch (top and bottom) and spread everything out.  Soon the street filled with more cars, then the only real exit was taped off.  Almost thought it was a crime scene.  Ultimately it didn’t deter her as, when it was time to go, she simply drove up and untied it from the tree – on we went.

Another issue that we can sympathize with (although not to the same degree) is the VAT of 23% on almost everything.  Bread and water, however, (the staple of any good prison) is only taxed at 6%.  Electricity is 23%, cars and fuel have the full VAT as well as their own separate tax.  Alcohol is taxed as well, but it’s astounding what value one can find for only 2 Euros.  This I can attest to as it is what we had at least 4 bottles of at lunch.  🙂

Cascais (Kesh-Kai) is another (more upscale) little fishing town just outside of Lisbon.  (Funny side note is that Portuguese, while Spanish in many respects, spelling being one of the primary ones, sounds a lot more like Russian because of the pronunciation.).  Like Sintra, the locals consider Cascais more a suburb (albeit more upscale than Sintra) of Lisbon.  It’s easy to see the difference as Cascais is definitely more the fashionable seaside resort area.

Heading back to the ship we have a chance to see many of the monuments to Lisbon’s history.  Like pretty much anywhere in Europe, they have a lot of both.  They also have plenty of places to sit your weary self and just smell the roses.  Literally.

One of Lisbon’s other claims to fame is a little custard tart known as Pasteis de Belem.  A version of these can even be found at home in Edmonton.  However, the authentic come from a rather bigger-than-it-looks bakery on a main street in Lisbon.  Once again, personal experience confirms their value.  Fantastic!  The shop dates back to 1839 and was started by a group of nuns.  It typically sells 20 – 25 THOUSAND a day!  At 1.05 Euros, that’s not bad.   Their record day? 56,000.  Tim’s can’t hold a candle.

And now…back to the ship.  I can hardly wait for tomorrow because…it’s another time change tonight $$%&^%^

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