Day one of my Portugal adventure and I’m in Sintra, a picturesque town west of Lisbon that winds its way through hills above the Atlantic coastline. I made it here after the usual sleepless flight, on which I watched “Marley and Me” because I was too tired to think and wanted to watch something mindless. That it certainly was, but god help me, I cried when the poor dog had to be put down (sorry if that spoils the movie for anyone; I know you were all about to rush out and rent it). It was a new low, I think–pretty sad and embarrassing when you’re bawling over a movie about a Labrador on a transatlantic flight. But what can I say, flights make me kind of emotional anyway, and it’s sad when someone has to euthanize a pet, right?
I landed in Lisbon around 8 a.m. local time (short flight, only six hours) and then spent another three hours at the airport; I didn’t get out of there until like after 11:00. My delay was the result of a hellish one-two punch: a ridiculously long line at passport control (no, seriously–I was there for almost two hours) and then some confusion with the discount (read: bootlegged) car-rental place I found on the Web. Thank goodness the Portuguese are as friendly as I remember, or it would have been even more unpleasant than it already was. I even got to start practicing my pathetic language skills. But I understood other people better than they understood me, so “skills” may not be the right way to put it. I certainly hope they improve.
Once that all got sorted I reacquainted myself with the manual gearbox, which I only learned to drive on my trip here in November. I did quite well at first, I think, (but it got awfully tricky later) and took off down the IC19 to my destination, a guesthouse called Casa Miradouro here in Sintra.
Unfortunately, it took me several passes through the centro historico and through what passes for bad traffic here (including tour buses, a couple of which nearly took out my little bootlegged Euro car, which I swear is like a Yugo or something) to actually find the guest house. Bless the poor woman who runs it, to whom I made several sleep-deprived, jet-lagged and probably extremely frantic calls before I successfully located the place.
And the stop-go traffic flow on the twisty hills I had to navigate to get here really tested my manual-shifting skills. I feel sorry for the poor gearbox. At one point I had to do a three-point (more like 20-point) turn on a hill with mere inches of space on either side of the car. I am shocked I actually managed to pull it off, but there was a moment before I even attempted that first reverse maneuver in which the thought of even trying seemed so impossible and discouraging that I wanted to just get out and to pick up the car with my bare hands and turn it that way. It’s a small enough car that my jet-lagged brain actually thought this was a possible for a moment. I really need some sleep, man.
That said, I’m going to chalk up today as a day to chill and rest, breaking my cardinal rule of trying to stay awake until at least 9 pm or so on a first night after a flight to Europe to avoid jetlag. I didn’t get much sleep the night before I left and virtually none last night, and I figure I have plenty of time to get acclimated and sink into a routine here. I’m going to rest and venture out for dinner later, but that’s about as strenuous as it’s going to get. Tomorrow I hope to explore Sintra a little more before heading the three hours south to Rogil and the house where I’ll be staying for the remainder of the trip. I will hopefully be posting some photos as I get a little more adventurous; I’m just too shagged today to do that. And I also hope my posts will be a little more coherent than this one; forgive me if I’m rambling, but I’ve barely slept in 48 hours. That’s where I’m headed now…
Oh, and for those of you keeping track–the weather sucks here today! It’s cold and windy and very much like New York spring has been. I hope that changes once I head south.