Tag Archives: travel

DAY ONE PORTUGAL 2018

An aerial view: Bye bye icy North America

I haven’t posted for a while. Desculpe. That means sorry in Portuguese. Why am I saying sorry in Portuguese? That’s where I am spending the winter. Where I live in Canada is one gargantuan ice box and I’m sorry but Mother Nature is asking too much of me to live in those conditions!

Our arrival in Lisbon on January 10 had quite an auspicious beginning. After an overnight flight we arrived at 6:30 am. Our Airbnb accommodation check-in time was not till 10:00 am. We thought we’d hang out at the airport until our pick up time. So, off we went to explore  with the expectation that we would freshen up, take a look around the airport shops and so forth.

Alas, the arrivals offered paltry amenities – Starbucks, two or three cafes, a gelato store and a cosmetic shop. This part of the airport had a time warp look  –  about 40 years behind modernity. We hoped the second floor might have more to offer. With two loaded luggage carts, our only choice was to take a rather old and rickety looking elevator.  Things were no better up here – nothing much in the way of stores, nowhere decent to sit and lines of people departing for their destinations. So back to an elevator downward bound.

The doors slid close. We waited for movement, nothing happened, we waited some more, still nothing happened. We pressed the ‘doors open’ button – nothing happened. We saw the word emergency on the panel but couldn’t see any button to press. Michael started banging on the elevator doors and we called out “Help!” but not too desperately or too loudly.

I saw the funny side of things and started giggling. Michael was clearly not amused and I noted the beginnings of anxiety on his face. It took some fiddle faddling to finally discover the scratchy emergency button that blended into the rest of the dull stainless steel panel. From the speaker bit with the tiny holes came a tinny, crackling sound and a man answered in what I understood to be Portuguese. We asked him if he spoke English and couldn’t figure out what he replied. We explained to him that we were stuck in the elevator and the doors wouldn’t open. In the background we heard men’s voices sounding like they were conferring. The man got back to us and said, “Ok. Ok.”

We waited for what seemed forever then the light went out. Fortunately, there was a dim panel light so it was not pitch black dark. We pressed the emergency button again and the voice assured us in mainly Portuguese and some English, enough for us to understand, help was coming. Eventually, we heard metal scratching assuming someone was attempting to pry open the doors.

The doors opened about 30 cm, the elevator jerked and the doors promptly closed again. This happened a couple of times. Some more crowbar work ensued – at last the doors opened fully. By now, the elevator had dropped about 60cm. Discourse took place between us and the onlooking men –  we couldn’t understand what they were saying but we expressed relief. The “crowbar guy” took hold of the front side of my luggage cart and I the handle and together we lifted the cart out. Ditto for Michael and his cart.

Another neon-vested staff member uttered in halted English how problematic that elevator was. Um…have they never heard of an “Out of Order” sign, I wonder. Their laissez faire attitude makes me wonder if this is a normal occurrence.  Our introduction to Lisbon was indeed a panicky one.

Thankfully, our friendly driver, Carlos, more than made up for our mishap. Immaculately groomed and suited, Carlos escorted us to his shiny black Mercedes, giving us an express tour of the city and a quick lesson in ‘how to speak Portuguese like the locals’.

We’ve been in Lisbon three days now and my experience so far has been one of welcoming and extremely helpful locals, many of whom speak English, definitely making it less stressful finding our way around.

A STRANGE AND MARVELOUS CHRISTMAS

Several people have encouraged me to write a sequel to An Immoral Proposal, the idea with which I’ve been toying. But as usual, the past decade has been unbelievably transient for me. Seven years ago, after a nine-year stint in New Zealand, we returned to North America after grandchildren began to appear on the scene.

Michael and I went back to Ontario, Canada, where we had lived for twelve years before moving on to the United States due to a job transfer. We’ve packed in so much moving and traveling over the past forty one years that it’s become par for the course now. Life has been too frenetic of late and so I’m just slowing down to catch my breath, staying in the now and simply letting creativity take its course.

Having revamped my website, I thought instead of writing a book sequel, I’ll simply write blog posts you all can follow and perhaps a book might materialize out of it. We’ll see.

So, I’ll kick off this post as a retrospective. If you’ve read An Immoral Proposal, you’ll know that my story begins in Cape Town, South Africa and the first move we made was to England to escape apartheid’s draconian Immorality Act law that forbade Michael and me to be together. What was it like for a young woman shy of twenty to leave her family and country behind and venture into pastures new and far away?

I left Cape Town on Christmas Day 1975, my first time on an aircraft. As the British Airways Jumbo 757 hurtled down the runway, my breathing became shallow as my chest tightened with a sense of awe, wonder and anticipation all rolled into one.  “Someone pinch me please, I can’t believe this is finally happening!” I wished I could tell someone, but my traveling companions were sparsely dotted about the fuselage. Being Christmas Day, the flight was only about a third full. Each traveler had a whole rows of seats to her/himself.

Once the aircraft had reached its cruising altitude, the attendants trundled down the narrow aisle with turkey dinners, cranberry sauce, Christmas pudding and brandy sauce – the works, complete with Christmas cracker (a party favour in the English tradition that normally has a charm, joke on a strip of paper and a paper hat.)

Jet travel then was still a novelty – expensive and therefore not yet commonplace.  Those were the days of warm scented towels, real crockery and cutlery and when people dressed up for air travel. Looking back makes me chortle at the most unsuitable gear I wore for a twelve-hour flight.

A fashionable, fine corduroy patch-work patterned dress, chosen with much care and deliberation for the English winter, was my choice.  Matching maroon pantyhose met either dark green or maroon stilettos on my feet.  I can’t remember and I can’t see because the photographer (amateur) cut my feet off!  But really? Who did I think I was donning this get up complete with trendy green Sherlock Holmes style cloak to meet my Dearly Beloved? Elizabeth Taylor?

The downside of flying in 1975 was that the only source of entertainment was audio sound and it didn’t take long to run out of reading material. This was before in-flight movies and today’s plethora of modern electronic devices. The twelve-hour flight from Cape Town to London was brutal, especially not having a soul to talk to. Fortunately, I was able to stretch out across several seats in my row and fall into a restless sleep, at least giving me some respite from infernal boredom. How totally different flying is today!

After disembarking, I teetered nervously on swollen feet toward the baggage claim sign praying that Michael would find me and Heathrow Airport would not swallow me up. My prayer was answered almost immediately as I spotted the unmistakable short, wavy-haired figure of my sweetheart, beside a taller one, heading toward me. At this point, being the hopeless romantic I am, I’d like to report that I kicked off the shackles from my feet, and glided on the air in slow motion toward Michael’s open arms. Instead, I wobbled toward a very relieved looking sweetheart and his companion whom he introduced to me as Eli. This was our first taste of freedom together where the menacing watchful eyes of South Africa’s secret police could not reach us.

Let me end this post by back-tracking to a moment in the flight.  As I was scrolling through the music channels on the armrest of my seat, I stopped at the one piping Karen Carpenter’s rich, mellow alto into my ear, “Love, look at the two of us, strangers in many ways/ We’ve got a lifetime to say, I knew you well/ For only time will tell us so/ and love may grow/ for all we know.

I hugged the small pillow to my chest and let The Carpenters music usher me into realms of celestial bliss. This, to me, was indeed a good omen that things were meant to be.

(Look out for my next post about what it was like for me to be in England with complete freedom of movement where there were no “whites only” signs and Michael and I could eat in a restaurant for the very first time.)