Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Southern Shore of Portugal – Erich

Day one of our time in Portugal began in Spain. We traveled from our hotel by bus to another bus to the train station. But here, please, try not to be too shocked, we did not board a train. Instead we rented a car. And now Alrica is a Spanish (and Portuguese as you will see) driver.
You just have to believe me that this is in Spain
First, as we were leaving Seville, we were hungry. It was 14:00 or 2 PM, prime lunch time for the Spanish. The Spanish schedule is very different than ours at home. We never quite made the transition to theirs, but it goes something like this: Wake up at say 7:00 or 8:00 and have your breakfast. Then you go to school or work and go straight through until 14:00 (again 2:00 PM). Now you have lunch during siesta. Then you rest and hang out and many of the businesses are closed. Things then reopen at 16:00 or 17:00 (4 or 5 PM), and stay open late, maybe to 10 PM. Now, the Spanish, around 19:00 or 20:00 (that is 7 or 8 PM) eat tapas, small plates of food, almost like appetizers. They also tend to drink beer at this time. Finally, you have dinner around 22:00 (10 PM) and then don't go to sleep until 0:00 (midnight) if you are having an early night, or possibly 2:00 (which is 2 AM, no surprises there) if you are not.

Let me get back to my point. It is now 14:00 and we are hungry for lunch. But, this is also a Sunday. In Spain, a very Catholic country, there isn't much open on Sundays. So we go to the one place we can find that is near the highway and open. It's a McDonald's. And it is swarmed with people. Normally, we try to eat at more authentic places of the country we are in. But we don't have a lot of available choices.

So, Erich, how does McDonald's in Spain compare to McDonald's in the states? I hear you asking me this (so if you weren't asking this, you need to now pretend you were, because I'm answering anyway.)

This McDonald's had these digital kiosks were you could, if you chose, place your order with a touch screen and then go up to the counter to get it. We didn't use these because at first we didn't understand them. It was only while eating that we saw people using them and discovered that they can be set to work in Spanish, French, or English. That would have made things easier.

Instead we went to the counter and I communicated with the very helpful man at the register. My Spanish is not so good, but he was quite kind. The kids were splitting 20 Chicken McNuggets. In Spain, these are still called McNuggets. So that was no problem, though I had to order vente instead of twenty. But then he asked me about salsa (which is the dipping sauce). My kids enjoy Sweet and Sour sauce at home, but I didn't have any idea how to order this. They ended up with a creamy dressing that looked at lot like Ranch Dressing. Carver confirms that this is exactly what it was.

A Big Mac is called Big Mac (and not Mac Grande as one might expect). But instead of a combo, you order a Clasico which is a meal with patates (which literally means potatoes, but it's fries) and a bebido grande (large drink). As for drink choices, you have Coke, Fanta Naranja (Orange), Coke Cero (Coke Zero), and Nestea. No sweet tea. Sorry southerners.

I had a Big Mac, and it tasted exactly like a Big Mac at home. The fries tasted just like the fries at home. The kids reported that the McNuggets tasted just like the McNuggets at home. The Coke tasted just like the Coke at home. I suppose that last one wasn't a surprise.

When you go to throw away your trash, you separate it. There is a bin for plastics like your lid and straw. There is a bin for organics, leftover foods. And there is a bin for paper and containers.

There was a large play area for kids, though we didn't stop to use it. But it was in a detached building. And it was surrounded by a lot of outdoor tables for enjoying your meal. These too were filled, because even in February, it's nice out at 14:00.

Back on the highway, we went west and eventually reached the border of Portugal. Now, I had heard about the open borders of Europe. But I didn't understand just how open they are. There is no border patrol. There is no passport checking. We don't have our passports stamped for being in Portugal because there is no one there to stamp them. You just ride on the highway and you are in Portugal.

We did have to stop because we were driving a car licensed in Spain and not Portugal. We drove up to a machine where you have to insert a credit card. While you are parked there, a camera gets a picture of your license plate. And then whenever you use a toll road in Portugal, you just drive through the electronic lanes, they get a picture of your license plate, and the toll is charged directly to the credit card you used at the machine when you entered the country.

The place we were staying that first night was outside of Fuseta, along the southern shore of Portugal. We had purchased a SIM card in Spain and we were supposed to have data that could be used throughout Europe. Well, apparently not. Because once we crossed into Portugal, we didn't have access to the data anymore. Not a big deal, we had printed out directions. But...

The last line of our directions told us to turn left on EM1334. Well, the small roads coming off of the national highway don't have their numbers listed on the signs. So we couldn't figure out which road we were supposed to turn on.

We stopped at a man selling oranges on the side of the road in Livremente. By the way, we bought some oranges and they are delicious. Even I like them, and I don't generally like to eat oranges (though it is mainly about the texture for me). But before we ate the oranges, I was asking him for directions.

Now, I speak no Portuguese. He speaks no English. I speak a bit of Spanish, and it's rusty. But in some ways it is similar to Portuguese. He doesn't know the road, but he has data and is looking on his cell phone. It was an amazing moment. The two of us managed to communicate. He was super helpful. He wanted to help me. It was great. Don't ask me most of what was said, because I have no idea. I did learn that the words for north and south are very similar in Portuguese and Spanish, but the words for east and west sound nothing like those in Spanish.

We did find the place we were staying. We brought in our stuff and then headed into the main part of Fuseta. Fuseta is a fishing village. It has a channel leading into a river leading out to the Atlantic. In Fuseta, we walked along the channel. We met a very nice windsurfer named Pedro who encouraged Alrica to never give up windsurfing. Each day she will be better than she was the day before.

Syarra was nearly part of a fisherman's haul as you can see in the picture below. No worries, we cut the line before he cleaned and filleted her.
She needs to be more careful what she bites into
(Don't freak out. It's a sculpture of a fish hook and we were just having fun with forced perspective. Syarra wasn't actually caught on a giant fish hook.)

From Fuseta we drove to a village called Moncarapacho. Here there was a celebration for Carnavale! This coming Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, call it what you will. And so on the weekend before it, Moncarapacho has a Carnavale celebration. We missed the main parade, but we got to enjoy singing in the streets. We saw the people of Moncarapacho, many of whom were in costumes. Superheroes are apparently popular. We ate churros filled with strawberry, caramel, and white chocolate. We ate Pao de Pizza (a sort of stuffed bread). And we did see a couple of floats leaving the area.
I find your lack of Carnavale disturbing.
So it was a busy and exciting first day in Portugal. And I can't wait to see what is still to come!

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