Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More of the Same?

We're back at the hotel after a very long day. I should be upstairs studying Portuguese, but I also want to let you guys know what's going on. Class has been very intense. Ron, I don't think you'd like Portuguese food. It features a lot of meat, and not very many vegetables. Ditto for Lyn. The word for "steak" is bife, so you can have something called bife da vaca, which looks a lot like beef of cow, but really means beefsteak. That was what I learned today. Actually, we had a couple of hundred words poured into our heads in the last couple of days. It's relentless, and more nervewracking than learning the first level of Challenge square dancing in a weekend. Both our brains will need a rest by the end of the week.

A large tour group of French tourists are in the hotel with us. There's a lot of bon soiring going on. I told Grace that she had to dress better than she would while traveling in the United States, and generally, the people on the street are dressed quite well, but these French tourists, well, I guess you reach a certain age, and you just don't care what the American tourists think.... They are a very friendly lot, and wish us well on the elevator. I think Grace and I have an "A" branded on our foreheads, because people smile at us, and break into English. We've been trying what little Portuguese we know on people, and they respond with a smile. Not as many people know English, as say, in Madrid, but nobody gives any attitude - very friendly country.

After class this evening, we took the Metro (that's what Lisbon calls its subway) downtown to the Baixa district, than took an old time trolley car up the mountain in Alfama (the orginal old city) to the Castelo do S. Jorge. It is quite the castle, looking like something out of Prince Valiant. It has a lot of similarities to the construction of the Alcazar in Segovia. It is basically a fort within a fort with one set of battlements completely surround an inner set of battlements. It is a very large complex that has occupied the site since the 1100s. The site has been continously inhabited since at least 600 BC. We scrambled among the battlements and towers, and took a set of stairs down to what we thought would get us out of the castle, Well, it would have, except the last step would have been about 100 ft straight down, off the side of one of the castle towers. So we climbed a couple hundred steps back up to the top of the higher castle wall. Grace was a very good sport about it. We told two other couple heading down that it was a dead end - our mitzvah for the day.

We have several teachers each day in class. So far, we've had Ana, Manuel, Paulo, Andrea, and Susana. Paulo is the best English speaker. Manuel is the cutest. Ana is the most intense. Andrea is incredibly helpful when it comes to directions, etc. and Susana is Portugal's most enthusiastic tour guide. We had a lot of fun with her telling us everything from what palaces to visit, to how to order a pastry in Belem. There is nothing in her country about which she does not have a most enthusiastic opinion. All of the instructors have been very patient with us, but relentless, too. They really want us to do well. It's been a learning experience!

Grace and I send our love to all of you. She's upstairs studying like mad. You'd be proud of you Mom/sister/daughter/grandma. We'll see you all in a bit.

Grace and John