Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I haven't mentioned before (because we hadn't established the blogging rules) that the Lioness invited me to Lisboa "since I was going to be in the area" i.e. 420 kilometres away. So here I am, and very pleasant it is too. She is, as we know, in the middle of chaos and panic due to the continuing exam presentation horror, so we tend to meet for breakfast and dinner and to communicate randomly by SMS inbetween.

It's quite odd to meet a stranger whom one has known for two years, a peculiar mixture of unknown/new and very-well-known/old. We have both remarked on how much like our blogs we are, which I guess proves the validity of the long-term blogging persona (or some such thing). She is a delight to be with, just as witty and chattery as her blog, and with the same huge range of interests. There was of course an exchange of reading matter: I brought her Richard Powers' "The time of our singing;" in return I have been assigned two books to read during the next few days, Nicholson Baker's "The Mezzanine" and Anne McCaffrey's "The dolphins of Pern." (She is a collector of book series, e.g. McCaffrey and Pratchett and Douglas Adams.)

An oddity: Lioness' voice is a half-octave lower when she speaks Portuguese (e.g. addressing the pets: "Udge is a nice person and you will not attack him if he enters the flat when I'm away") than when she's speaking English. I wonder whether this is general, and whether my voice is similarly different between English and German.

A cat is licking my ankle as I write, for reasons that are unclear. This is unusual, but definitely something I could get used to. I can confirm that the animals are every bit as mad as Lioness claims, and also just as friendly.

Lisboa is the biggest city I've visited in quite a while, and so far I like it well. It wears its imperial past comfortably, the grand squares and avenues and the river front are very impressive but still quite nicely scaled. It's an easy city to walk around in, despite the many hills, and the subway system is extensive, efficient and very cheap (0.75 Euros for any trip in the central area—which in practice means all but the three outermost stations). The Porties are much more foreigner-friendly than the Spanish, most people speak at least some English or French and many are quite fluent. (I came to take a perverse joy in asking Spanish service-industry people "Habla usted inglés o francés o alemán?" and getting the answer "No." None of them was ever visibly discomfited or embarrassed.)

I walked down to the river (seems to be my usual first act in any watery city), went up the Elevador (links will be added when I get home, I'm blogging on L's laptop while she and a friend cook dinner: "the patriarchial way") and walked around the hilltop Bairro Alto where I found a group of wonderful used- and antique-book shops, then to the Gulbenkian museum to admire (in particular) the collection of illustrated Korans and Bibles and Books of Hours.

I must say that Portuguese is much less different from Spanish than I had been lead to expect. To my ears and eyes it is very similar to the Galician dialect of Santiago de Compostela. I was able to buy a ten-trip bulk-discount subway pass using my primitive Spanish, from one of the few service-industry people I met who spoke only Portie. I think I would pick up a basic working vocabulary in a fortnight, if I remained here.

Weather is fine: sunny, nice breeze, blue sky and mid-twenties.

By the way, I do know that Lisboa is not in Spain; I am using the tag "spain" as a catch-all for this holiday's posts.

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Blogger zhoen said...

Sounds wonderful. I have always wanted to meet a blog friend in real life.

There is something about a cat grooming one, very oddly comforting.

May 29, 2007 at 10:19:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger brooksba said...

I am so jealous! Lisboa is wonderful and you got to meet the Lioness. Which cat licked your ankle?

Loved the Gulbenkian and can't wait to see all the pictures you have taken of your trip. So cool.

May 30, 2007 at 10:28:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger JoeinVegas said...

As long as you've made it that far, it's just a little ways more to Minnesota and Vegas.

May 30, 2007 at 4:45:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

I am also incredibly jealous and wondering which cat licked your ankle. I'm thinking JIP. Nice to read what you wrote and it is bringing back memories of Beth and my trip. The Gulbenkian is fantastic, isn't it?

Go to the ocean. Go to the fish eggs restaurant and try the veal (fantastic). Avoid the fish eggs (sorry, Johnny, but they're scary). Take millions of pictures.

Joe's right. What's keeping you from Minnesota and Vegas?

May 30, 2007 at 9:22:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

It was indeed the JIP. Yum-Yum was willing to rub against my legs by the end of the trip, but refused to be touched.

More later.

June 1, 2007 at 9:55:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Philip said...

Stop in the Carolinas on your way to Vegas!

June 2, 2007 at 6:22:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Heheheh. This is turning into a world tour. Any more offers?

June 2, 2007 at 8:36:00 p.m. GMT+2  

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