Tuesday, September 21, 2010

...and kilometers to go before I sleep!

I want to rest, but the streets of Lisbon call out to me. It may be in the pan flute and drums that sing it's same tune each night outside our window. It may be as simple as sitting on my patio and listening to the church bells reminding me that the hours are passing all too quickly. I adore all of Lisbon; its people, its culture, its winding streets and alley ways that hold inconceivable surprises at every turn. It is difficult NOT to go out in the evening. There is an abundance to see and you miss out  if you don't venture on to the cobblestone streets.
enjoying a night on the town

this group gathers each night and plays the same tune for hours
 On one particular night we wandered with out friends Ron and Linda through the lighted alleys lined with chairs and tables for hungry tourists and locals. Calçada do Duque is a street made of hundreds of stairs, dotted with an array of traditional Portuguese restaurants that cater mostly to tourists. Look carefully at the daytime view to see my wonderful Castelo de São Jorge in the background. It is always a comforting site although I usually groan loudly at the thought of my walk home. My knees are quickly failing me and are my constant reminder I am getting old!
Calçada do Duque in daylight
Calçada do Duque at night

We made a stop at one of our favorite bars that I spoke about in an earlier blog....the bar with the pornographic wall paper. (I love this place!) The name of the establishment is Maria Caxuxa, a former bakery turned trendy bar located in the Bairro Alto district. The waitress there told me that the posters are changed monthly, but when we returned pornography reigned! WARNING: Following picture is not for children!

a very cool bar
A few days later, we were walking home one evening about 9:00. In a dark alley near our flat there is an empty lot and that night (and every Monday night) people gather with chairs to watch movies projected on the blank cement wall. After researching, we discovered that this occurs in the Largo do Achada across from the Casa da Achada. Different than a drive-in movie (whose time in the states has long passed), there are no cars or concession stands with coca cola, candy and popcorn. Folding chairs, interested people and the movie make this scene. On this evening we were fortunate to see Al-mummia (the Mummy), a 1969 Egyptian film with English subtitles. Although not the same familiar movie shown in the states, this won acclaim at the Cannes foreign film festival. We eagerly wait for next Monday night's film. From what we gathered, there is no admission fee!

locals gather to watch the film

Food...how can I write another word without mentioning my main obsession???

I will first tell you that Stephen, just through walking, has lost weight. I see his face and belly shrinking by the day. Now, I have read countless articles regarding women of my age and weight loss. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LOSE WEIGHT IF YOU ARE A WOMAN OVER 55 UNLESS YOU PAIR DIETING WITH EXERCISE. Blah, blah blah! This appears to be UNFORTUNATELY TRUE!!!! I tried on my jeans today (which were already a tad too snug.) Well, they are STILL a tad too snug. For some reason this makes me HATE men and I have been grumpy toward Steve all day. Seriously, men can give up one breadstick a day and lose 10 pounds. Isn't childbirth, sagging breasts and wrinkles enough.....do we have to continue to suffer????

Enough! Let's get back to the food. 

I have a new love! Having gone past my obsession with roasted suckling pig (leitão assado), and cod (bacalhau) I was enticed by my "friend" Isabelle (waitress and manager) at Chapitos to try grilled octopus. (polvo grelhado).


Chapitos is a small circus school and restaurant near our flat. It is a very interesting place with great food and a lovely view. (The circus school starts up again soon and we plan on seeing the shows). The entrance to this restaurant is a small pathway leading into gardens and a view of Alfama and the Tagus River. When you first enter you will find Claudia, a beautiful girl who sells enamel jewelry (both necklaces and earrings) made by her two girlfriends. Claudia and I know each other well. I have bought countless pieces...each distinctive and beautiful. I keep thinking they will make wonderful presents...but I would never know which of the pieces to part with.

some of the pieces I have bought
Never would I have tried octopus, but believe me, this is even better than lobster. (I swear!) I know that some of you are thinking...tentacles???...suckers???...NOT FOR ME! And truthfully, the first couple of times eating this, I did not look at the food. It is not pretty. But, the taste is overwhelmingly yummy and these poor ugly creatures deserve something positive to say about them. I won't be trying this at any other restaurant.  My thoughts....why mess with perfection? I am determined to try and make this before I leave, but there are tricks to cooking it....and I still need to learn. Perhaps there is a cooking class out there to show me how to tackle this creature. Eating this has become an addiction and if Steve would allow, I would go to Chapitos DAILY to eat this very rich gastronomic delicacy laden with olive oil. (no wonder the jeans are still snug!)

We have also been eating ALOT of Indian food. This was partly due to my friend Linda loving this cuisine and avoiding at all costs meat and octopus (although she DID try  piece with her eyes closed and a horrific expression on her face). Anyway, she is a vegetarian so we frequented this wonderful restaurant in Largo do Carmo, a beautiful tree lined square with tables situated under shady trees.  They serve their food in these great copper serving dishes called Sidgis, which I am hoping to find when I return to Tempe. They are wonderful and will be a great way to serve food to my guests when they come for dinner.

chicken korma served in a sidgi
And finally, yesterday Steve had a meeting with the director and staff from the Fulbright organization. Although this past month he has not had any major commitments, he has spent his time learning about Lisbon and meeting with staff at the university as well as the Lisbon census bureau. He is preparing his classes (which start at the end of September) as well as a number of lectures and workshops he will be conducting around the country. He has also been having one hell of a time just hanging out, drinking different ports and wandering the streets with me. Not a bad gig! Check out his blog at: http://stevedoig.com/

The staff at the Fulbright office have been incredibly gracious and kind to us. Without them we would never feel as welcome and comfortable in a country we knew little about. Like I've said...I am happy to reap the benefits and I am loving every bit of this piece of heaven.     
Carla, Otilia, Steve and Paula at the Fulbright office. They are GREAT!

For now, Adeus my friends! Oh yeah...and Ciao from my buddy here:

outside our window

****thanks to Ron who took some of the pics I will be showing. He is a wonderful photographer!