Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy Birthday in Portuguese

This blog started as a bit of a travel journal when I was traveling to Lithuania five years ago. Every so often it returns to its roots when I write of my travels...

I always forget the parts of travel that I don't like. Until that is, when I remember them as they occur once again. I had booked a trip to Lisbon and Madrid for my birthday, an effort to begin my year with an activity that I love. The night before we had gone to my stepdaughter's to drop off our cat, originally her cat on permanent loan, thus a lifetime of free cat sitting. It was Halloween, a date we usually share with them, avoiding buying too much candy for the few trick or treaters that arrive at our home and instead enjoying the costumes of our grandchildren.

It was also the last day to prepare for our trip when the fundamental difference between my husband and I arises and with it the stress level. He first begins to think about what he might bring. Meanwhile I have listed and packed and re-packed, eliminating one thing and adding another many times over as I try to figure out what will fit into a carry-on. Now this was difficult to do because in our household my husband does the laundry. Yes, I know that's a good thing and most of the time he has my deep appreciation. When he saw my rather imperfect folds early in our relationship he quietly took over that duty. It made perfect sense to me. When I was growing up I would take any package that needed to be wrapped to my dad who with engineer precision would fold the paper precisely into a sharply wrapped package. In my world guys know how to fold. Now however, I awaited half of my clothes because my husband wanted them done at the last minute for maximum cleanliness. I tell you this to let you know that our different personalities were already tripping over each other.

We sped to his daughter's with me driving, finishing up a conference call on bluetooth while he held our meowing cat on his lap. Now in our hurry to get out the door while thinking of my travel list, I forgot that I never drive with him in the passenger's seat. There is a reason for this. He is not a good passenger. "What are you doing?" he yelled at one point. I glared at him as his voice transmitted on my call along with the meows of our cat. Later he advised me I should be thinking about getting over to the right lane. I quickly moved over. "Why did you do that?" he asked. "You told me to," I replied. He informed me he just wanted me to think about it so I could shift at the opportune time. I don't work that way. Tell me you need something eventually, I pick it up immediately. Got to cross it off my mental list. It burdens me until I do. Apparently I am a precrastinator according to a recent NYT article. My husband has a reserve list of to dos unaccompanied by a sense of burden. He doesn't understand this trait in me nor do I understand his lack of it.

The next evening we entered the plane with seats in two separate rows. When I booked the flight Delta's system was not working properly so they booked me on Air France, a shared flight, rather than directly on Delta. As I recall I called Air France to book our seats on their leg. The day before our flight I logged into Delta and was aghast when it advised me we had no seats on that flight. A few middle seats remained. I quickly grabbed the last of a bad deal, only then realizing that they probably weren't reflecting what Air France had booked for the flight and no doubt had just overridden them. A panicked phone call later and a lot of begging had landed me two seats, an aisle and a window in different rows. A kind man next to me was now willing to trade his seat. That negotiation completed my husband and I now sat side by side.

When I fly overseas I am always torn between so many activities that seem to counter sleep. In that narrow window between meals, do I want to watch Boyhood, finish reading Gone Girl, or sleep, sleep in an uncomfortably tight space with limbs compacted and the distraction of many glowing screens around me? So I watched Boyhood and finished Gone Girl, arriving in Paris with eyelids drooping from lack of sleep. Somewhere along the flight my husband wished me a happy birthday, but I'm not sure in which time zone or country it had occurred. I was still in that unmoored state where I was zooming through time zones with no allegiance to one.

A four hour wait in Paris, eyes bleary, and we boarded a plane to Lisbon. I noticed one flight attendant testing the size of bags in one row and quietly slid into the other row, my body hiding my slightly larger carry-on. We were determined to do this trip on two carry-ons. I successfully got my bag on and stowed, when I realized this was an old plane. Ashtrays were still embedded in the arms. The seats were the tightest I've ever experienced, as if they had added rows to maximize capacity, far in excess of the limits of the human body. If it was tight for my frame, I couldn't imagine how my husband was faring. I glanced over, his legs were splayed, one knee in each direction.

Finally we touched down and happily, albeit a bit groggily, rolled our two carry-ons from the plane. I hate packing to travel light, but I love the simplicity of the arrival. We got our Euros from the cash machine, found the metro at the airport and loaded up two metro cards. One transfer delivered us up the street from our hotel. I love to find interesting hotels on Trip Advisor and was pleased with my discovery of My Story Hotel. I was even more pleased when we got a call asking if they could check something in the room and they arrived with two slices of a flourless chocolate torte and fruit. The hotel clerk even did a fine rendition of Happy Birthday in Portuguese. Ahh, the night was improving. Now this is where I should be posting a picture of this wonderful dessert, but we devoured it before that thought occurred to us.

We wandered around the surrounding area and walked down to the water, a few blocks from our hotel. The plazas and street were alive with people milling about and the sounds of street musicians. We ate a late dinner and returned to our hotel to catch up on our many hours of lost sleep. I am usually a glass half full person, but even I must confess that there was very little pleasure in the preparation and flying part of our trip. I'm glad to finally get to the fun part. More to come...




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