Day Eighty Two (octogesimo segundo dia)
Our alarm went off soon after we dozed off (and more than two hours before it was even Tuesday in Boston). We quickly got our stuff together, called a cab, checked out, and got picked up. We were at the airport before 5:00am, local time. After I had two cafe con leches and a chocolate croissant (now none will compare to what I had at el Fornet), we waited to board. Here is our last vacation-selfie, at the Barcelona El Prat airport around 5:30am, local time.
Because of the time difference, we landed in Lisbon at 7:40am without fanfare. SATA/TAP Portugal served us our “light meal”. I ate my roast beef sandwich as soon as it hit my tray table, but John was sleeping so I saved his for later. I freely admit that after we landed and took ten minute naps on these sweet chairs we found with footrests that we ate at McDonalds. I had a sausage-egg McMuffin (no queso!) and a hashbrown and it was every bit as delicious as it was when I used to get them as a kid on Thursday mornings with my dad before school.
We logged onto the thirty minutes of free WiFi they generously give you, found our route out of the airport, and headed for the Metro. Many people had told us there was a large shopping mall near the Benfica stadium called Columbo. We found it easily on google maps.
The weather was absolute shit in Lisbon (back to the Portuguese wind and rain!) so we were glad that the Metro was only a ten meter walk from the airport doors. I bought a four-ride Metro pass. John used it and handed it back for me to use (which is what we did all over Barcelona) but I kept getting a red-blinky light instead of green. A very nice Portuguese woman came over and tried for me on a few different gates to no avail. She pointed me to the service center where the agent was on the phone. She barely looked at me, “you have to pay for your own card”. I just bought this one, lady, and now I have rides I can’t use. She continued her phone conversation, uninterested in my current frustration. Boas Festes, you filthy animal. I went back to the automated ticket machine and attempted three times to buy a second ticket (it wasn’t accepting cards, and I tried two different ones before I surrendered to counting out the 3.30€ in change). All while John waited patiently on the other side of the turnstile.
Despite my first impression of Lisbon public transportation, the Metro was simple, and after one line change (vermelha to azul) and 16 stops, we arrived at Columbo. Again, we only had to walk outside about 20 meters before we were inside again. The weather was terrible, so we didn’t leave to see Benfica’s stadium as we had originally planned. But that’s ok, because there was a giant Christmas tree and fake snow inside.
We bought a few more gifts, had another galao, and wandered the mall. We bought a book for Joe and Carla’s son, Francisco. We bought him “Where the Wild Things Are” in Portuguese, which translates to “Where the Monsters Live”.
I bought some nail polish for myself (they don’t sell any name brands on Sao Miguel, even in Ponta Delgada). I found a store that looked like Sephora which sold OPI for a whopping 14.50€ a bottle! Easily more than twice what you pay in the states. I also bought a bottle of base & top coat for 18.50€. I bought three colors, but there was some sale going on so I only paid 47€. Merry Christmas to me.
We stopped for lunch (I was still considering Chinese food) when I saw they had a H3 Hambergerology (just like at Parque Atlantico in Ponta Delgada!). I had a burger. It was fabulous. They also had an Eataly restaurant which makes me miss New York City and our friends, Keith and Nicole.
We went to Continente (the Portuguese super Target) to get wrapping paper. The mall was relatively empty for Christmas Eve when we arrived at 10:30am. Now that it was after noon, the place was packed. We pushed our way around the packed store until we found paper and tape and booked it back to the registers. After we checked out, we saw table upon table of people wrapping their own gifts at self-service stations loaded with paper, ribbons, scissors, and tape. Free for patrons. On closer inspection we noticed no one was actually wrapping gifts, they were just taking the paper! People were rolling it off the reels and cutting it off to take home. While we paid for paper. #suckers
Back on the Metro to the airport. We didn’t even have a gate when we got back we were still so early. We went through security anyway, just to relax on the other side. I was a little nervous about my nail polish since they are liquid and I didn’t have a plastic baggy to put them in. I showed them to the security agent, and assured him I had the receipt, I had just bought them, blah, blah, blah. He was not concerned. That’s one way you know you’re not at an American airport. The other way you know is they let you keep your shoes on. We didn’t even check go through customs when we landed in Barcelona the week before. I’ve been to Spain, but I have no Spanish stamp in my passport. 😦
We hung out in the airport (one more 3€ galao…. I had officially quadrupled my daily maximum allowance) until they announced the gate number and we moved our lounging location. While we waited to board, I wrapped our gift for Pedro on a table the size of my lap and no scissors–I was impressed with the outcome. I was a little nervous because there was no plane at our gate, even when we went to board. My nerves quickly dissipated when I saw the buses on the tar-mac which were to take us to our plane. But then we sat on that bus for at least fifteen minutes and didn’t start to move even when it was full. The bus driver kept getting off and on and finally one of the gate attendants came on the bus and made an announcement in Portuguese. Then in English she said, “I’m sorry for the delay, but due to the inclement whether and the strike, you’re flight has been delayed. Please go back inside until we have more information.” Uhhhhmmmmm. Wait, why are we delayed? The inclement weather or the strike?
We had heard about the impending strike through Adam, who was worried about getting back to the Azores (he went home to New Bedford for Christmas), but we never thought twice about it. As soon as we were back in the terminal, the three gate attendants got on their cell phones and began making calls. I think they were arranging for another flight crew (for it is they who I believe went on strike). About half an hour later, they boarded us back onto the buses but this time we drove us out to a plane. The male gate attendant ran up to make sure the flight crew was all set before he began boarding us. We took off and landed on Sao Miguel one hour late. We got another sandwich and, because of the holidays, bolo rei (king bread), which is like fruitcake but it’s made with massa .Once we got our (wet) luggage, we stepped outside. After just a moment, we saw Pedro pull up in the Mira Mar van. It was a Christmas Miracle.
We all loaded into the front seat and made our way back to Povoacao. He dropped us off and Romeo went crazy. We started to get unpacked and Skyped with my family who were all at my Auntie Bethie’s. We got to see Cheryl, Richard, Meg (and MIGHTY MAAAAAN), Bethie, my mom, dad, and brother. It was great to see them but there was no mistaking the sadness it brought to me.
Just when I stepped out of the shower, our doorbell rang. It was Julia along with Lina’s mother… they had brought us chicken soup and desserts! We gobbled up the pastries and hunkered down to watch Home Alone, alone.
Day Eighty Three (octogesimo terceira dia)
We woke up around 8:00am (finally on Barca time!) and I took Romeo for a stroll—John went back to sleep. It was so warm! I went home and got ready for my first run in 8 days.
I took Romeo with me for the first half of what was originally going to be four miles. I felt pretty good until I hit the first hill. It felt like my calves were stuck in a vice! I hobbled along and dropped Romeo off at 1.8. John was still out cold, so I took a few minutes to stretch and then set out to finish three miles. When I got back this time, John was blasting Christmas music while singing along and dancing at the top of the stairs. I crawled up those stairs—I guess it’s going to take me a few days to get back into my routine.
Instead of the normal church bells that ring every fifteen minutes, we were rewarded with Christmas carols. We Skyped with my family again from their house and my dad showed me their Christmas tree and their first Festivus pole. He likes it so much, he told me, he is going to leave it up all year. John made hashbrowns and eggs and I made buttermilk pancakes from scratch, and added chocolate chips that John’s mom sent us. I must have had vacation-brain because instead of putting the oven on warm to keep the pancakes from getting cold, I put it on broil. Some of them got a little crispy. Oops.
We wrapped the gifts we had bought for Lina and Carla’s families. Just before we left to walk over to Lina’s mom’s house, we had a Christmas photo shoot. Sometimes, one or two parties would run away before the self-timer clicked.
We had a hard time getting Romeo to sit where we wanted him. But I think the final product came out pretty well. So did 182 people on Facebook. HA.
We walked over to Lina’s just after 3:00pm and had lunch with Lina, Ernesto, Kevin, Xana, Luisa, Emanuel, Julia, and Lina’s parents. Everything was amazing. It was so nice to be welcomed into their home on Christmas, and it definitely felt like Christmas. We were still sad not to be at home, but incredibly grateful.
We drank and laughed and ate (and ate and ate and ate). Joe and Carla came over with Francisco around 7:30pm. John had run home to get their presents. We were super excited to give Francisco his Portuguese-language Where the Wild Things Are. Of course, he opened it and wondered what else we had brought him. A book? That’s all you guys brought me? His face at the end of this short video clip is priceless.
He understands a lot English but would only speak Portuguese. We tried to tell him we didn’t have anything else, just the book. Finally I told him to close his eyes and I gave him a tangerine. He kept a straight face while he said in proper Portuguese: “That’s not funny.” We all erupted in laughter.
We finally left around 8:30pm. I had worn high heels I bought in Barcelona and my feet were dying, so John gave me a piggy-back the two and a half blocks back to our apartment. Merry Christmas, friends.