Days 7 & 8, Saturday & Sunday
I waited for my Uber taxi in Largo do Rato park. On every bench people were bent over notebooks, scribbling, and only gradually did I realize they were all sketching. Enforced stillness and attention, while waiting on Uber to pick me up, may give me some of my clearest and best memories.
The Last Ship, by Sting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X_2jhIs7LM turned out to be the song that carried me through Lisbon. No real idea why, except it’s haunting, full of melancholy and yearning.
My ambient playlist carried me through museums at a drifting pace that fit my desire to look and linger, or stop to stare long and hard. Especially Finally Moving by Pretty Lights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sk9XYQMRiLY, and Anthem, by Emancipator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PEGDGxZdzA.
For my last hurrah, I returned to the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. They were out of English language audio guides again, but just as I purchased my ticket a man handed in his English language audio headset. Score! On this trip I was impressed by the singularity of expressions in the portraits.
I loved this fun couple – so like me and Robert.
Ate lunch in the nice museum café. This time, with scattered light rain, the outside patio was almost deserted. I sat outside at a table under a large umbrella, watching the ducks. I should have kept my eye on the thieving pigeons. One jumped on my table and made a grab for my pastéis de nata right off my plate. I flapped my museum guide to shoo it away and gave it my best Border collie stare. It eventually gave up. My other complaint – a visitor wore a perfume as pervasive and overpowering as Vicks VapoRub. I took evasive action and tried to avoid her trajectory, but I was sneezing and breathing through my mouth by the end. I could always tell when she entered/exited a room. I tried not to make scowly faces or glare but fell short a few times.
Afterward, Uber dropped me off at the park, and I watched this merry band prepare for the May 25th parades. park band.
The next morning I was up and out, after bidding a fond farewell to my Casa Amora B&B hosts. hosts http://www.casaamora.com/en/hotel-overview.html I can heartily recommend this place if you are looking for accommodations in Lisbon. I am considering writing them a sonnet for Trip Advisor. They earned it.
I Ubered to the airport (14 Euros) in plenty of time and shuffled aboard my Iberia airline flight. At departure time, we remained on the runway in Lisbon, our scheduled departure delayed due to maintenance on runways in Madrid, a fact explained by the pilot in a most entertaining fashion. Here’s part of his speech over the intercom: “Why, you ask yourself, if this man knows these things, have we boarded? Well, I will tell you. I know as well as anyone of you that waiting in your seats on a plane that is not progressing is torture, but! If we are prepared and in readiness to depart and another flight is not, we move up a space in the line, and so we wait.” About twenty minutes later we took off, the flight itself blessedly uneventful.
About twenty minutes later we took off, the flight itself blessedly uneventful.
I appreciate the decision of the city of Madrid to impose a flat rate of 30 Euros on all taxis rides from the airport to the city. I have learned that my pronunciation of Spanish is so inept that all taxi drivers grunt and look baffled until I hold up my iPhone with the address and route visible on Google maps. Then they nod and head in the right direction. I don’t know if my accent is really that bad (likely) or they are feigning ignorance in hopes of driving a rube around in circles to beef up the fare. Once I pull out the iPhone and Google map way, clarity and honesty prevails. I recommend it.
Checked into the 19th-century Belle Époque Hotel Orfila, which was all that is grace, elegance, and charm. I knew I’d be weary by the end of my trip and hoped for a bit of cosseting. I way overshot the mark. Lucky me.
The man at the front desk wore a swallowtail coat, like a head footman in a regency novel. Turned out he learned English the summer he worked in Georgia at Six Flags, and said ‘Welcome y’all,’ in a credible southern accent. Small world.
The hotel had tasteful art everywhere and antique furniture. Swanky, with the patina of many decades, and linen sheets like my grandmother’s. The ladies on staff all looked like Ralph Lauren models, Spanish Vogue division, and were discreet and polite. I’m guessing in their spare time they practiced the appropriate curtsey for various ranks of nobility.
I looked like the travel-worn, scrappy hobo that I am and they were so gracious, it didn’t matter. Up to my quiet, luxurious little room, with chintz Louis XIV chairs, walnut sécrétoire and a bathroom that boasted a matching toilet and bidet and a Jacuzzi tub. I unpacked.
Though it overlooked the garden, the double-paned windows were so efficient I barely heard a murmur.
After basking in the charm of my room, I ran through the rain to get a chai tea and have a quick look around. I’m familiar with the Salamanca district because my favorite church (for spiritual practice, not art) was not far away. St George’s Anglican church, on the corner of Calle Núñez de Balboa, had wisteria over the front gate and a massive fig tree spreading shade over a back courtyard.
Back at the hotel for the night, a courtesy plush robe and slippers had been set out for me, along with a little linen floor mat next to the bed, I guess so my feet never had to touch the carpet. Chocolate was on the pillow with a handwritten card noting the weather for the next day.
I looked for laundry info. It was on a shelf next to the safe in the walnut shelved closets (Plural! Closets!). For double-digit euros, you could have your slacks dry-cleaned and pressed. There was no ‘wash your yoga pants and hoodie’ option, so I busted out a packet of Woolite, scrubbed them in the sink and hung them on the gold-plated towel rack to dry. I thought, boy, this will shock the maids. Maybe it did, but they were too couth to indicate by look or gesture. They probably didn’t give it a thought. I set my clothes and shoes out on a chair for the next day.The mattress was comfortable, the sheets were as soft as a basket of kittens. I had a twinge of feeling a little too Granny Clampett for this joint, but I thought I’ll get used to it. And sure enough, I did.
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