Allah hafiz, roughly translated, means “God protect you.” It is an expression used in Pakistan when you will not see someone for a while, such as when one departs work and goes home or to those left behind when one is going on a trip. In the case of Patches the cat, it is the latter.
Patches adopted us shortly after we arrived in Pakistan in January 2015. She was probably around three or four months old. She and her brother, Smudge, were a great joy to watch in the mornings as we waited for our rides to work. There is a piece of the wall-to-wall carpet at the front door of our home that provides a surface on which to clean shoes before entering. When exiting the house each morning, Patches and Smudge were usually curled up on the carpet, trying to stay warm. They immediately got very excited, waiting for feeding time.
Within a couple of months of our arrival, our roommate at the time gave Smudge to some other Americans. Patches remained at the house. She was skittish, not allowing anyone to get too close to her. Over time, she became more and more used to us. She got to the point where she rubbed against our legs, even letting us touch her tail. However, trying to actually pet her back, or contact her otherwise, resulted in her turning quickly and batting at one’s hand. Usually, the batting was without claws.
Over the last couple of weeks, as we sat on the terrace with a cocktail, watching the Margalla Hills go by; she jumped on my lap on two occasions. Almost as immediately as she landed on my lap, she jumped off. Last night, now that our time in Pakistan is so short, she jumped on the lap, laid down and curled up. She stayed on my lap for a long time, sleeping. She would no doubt still be there if I had not stood up after 20 minutes or so. It was nice that she finally made that connection with us.
This morning, while we waited for a vehicle to take us to the Embassy, Leslie sat on the chair on the front stoop. Pretty soon Patches arrived. Before we knew it, Patches was curled up on Leslie’s lap.
While Patches is a beautiful cat, providing us hours of entertainment and enjoyment, we will leave her in Pakistan; it is her home. I hope that she will learn to love her new humans more quickly than ten months.
Allah hafiz Patches.
Our stop at Old San Juan, Puerto Rico had a couple of hiccups at the start; getting off the ship and cash. First of all, San Juan is the main start/finish point for the Caribbean Cruise we chose. That means they disembark about 3,500 people. All of those people have to go through U. S. immigration and customs. In ports of call we usually got off the ship on deck 0. When we tried this time, our cards set off an alarm. Some of the crew directed us to the forward part of the ship on deck 3. We all had to wear “In Transit” stickers since we were in transit to Barbados. That sticker thankfully kept us out of the enormous line. A crew member escorted us to an immigration station without a queue. At first, that officer did not quite understand our status, but we finally made it through his scrutiny.
From immigration, we made the long walk to the port exit. Just before we reached the door, I realized I had left most of our cash in our cabin. I was not about to go back through all of the monkey business to get back on and off the ship. Instead, I inquired about an ATM. One of the people at immigration told me there was one about three blocks away. Tyler stayed with Leslie while Hillary and I walked to the ATM. I was able to get some money out and walk back to Tyler and Leslie reasonably quickly.
We hailed a taxi to take us to Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro). That is one of several forts in and around San Juan. This particular fort is on the most northwestern part of the land that begins to form San Juan bay. That also happens to be the most northwestern part of the walled Old San Juan.
From where the taxi dropped us off, it was about one-third of a mile to the entrance of the fort. It was very windy that morning. The walk took us across a vast expanse of grass. Upon arrival, it was a mere $12 to get all of us admitted. I saw a sign noting it was a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We explored a lot of the fort; however, it is so large, and there are so many stairs, there were a lot of places we did not go. We confined ourselves to levels 5 and 6, foregoing levels 1-4. Since 5 and 6 were the highest levels, the views were amazing. We were even able to go up into the lighthouse about halfway. Anytime we were not protected by a wall or structure; we found ourselves buffeted by a powerful trade wind from the north.
El Morro is approaching the 500-year-old mark, since construction in 1539. Old San Juan had been founded some 18 years earlier in 1521. Construction on El Morro continued through 1790. About 100 years later in 1898, as a result of the Spanish-American war, Puerto Rico became a United States territory.
After our tour of El Morro, we walked into Old San Juan on what ended up as a two-mile walk. We walked mostly east until we turned south on Calle de Cristo, one of the main streets. Thankfully our stroll was all downhill.
One of the first things that struck me about Old San Juan was color. There are very vibrant colors used on homes and businesses throughout the city. The colors are not bright and loud but rather more of a muted pastel tone. I just found it quite striking.
As we started down Calle de Cristo, we walked past an old convent. A friend from Puerto Rico said that is where the television show The Flying Nun was filmed. Another block or so found us in front of the San Juan Cathedral. We did not go in because the mass was in progress. It was Three Kings Day.
Just past the cathedral, we stopped in a small store called El Galpon. Hillary bought a Panama hat. The owner had two dogs with him behind the counter; one was an older hound dog of some sort and a Chihuahua. While we were there, they both got up off of the floor to stretch and then immediately laid down again. The Chihuahua buried its nose behind the larger dog’s leg. That led me to begin talking to the owner in Spanish. I commented that we had lived in Madrid for three years. I also said Old San Juan reminded us of Madrid.
When I asked where we might be able to get a vino tinto, he directed us just around the corner to a small restaurant called Rosa de Triana. As soon as we entered the restaurant and sat in the courtyard, we felt immediately transported back to Spain. The people at the restaurant were incredibly friendly.
Leslie and I enjoyed a Spanish Tempranillo wine, something we had not had since we lived in Madrid. Hillary had white wine, and Tyler had a Mahou beer. We did not have lunch, just some tapas. We started with some Manchego cheese. Tyler had a bowl of Gazpacho while Leslie and Hillary had lamb chops. I settled on Sopa del Lintejos, a very good bean soup. We felt so at home!
After leaving Rosa de Triana, we continued downhill toward the port. We stopped in several shops along the way. In one of the shops, Leslie found a handmade ceramic cross she bought to add to her collection. When we left that store, we noticed a bit of a commotion around a white pick-up truck. The Three Kings were in the bed of the vehicle. As they slowly drove along, they tossed out small bags of candy. We snagged a couple out of the air.
At the end of Calle de Cristo, we stumbled across Parque de las Palomas. There were dozens of pigeons there. Leslie, Hillary, and Tyler got some feed and spent several minutes feeding the “feathered rats.”
Near the park was Calle de Tetuan. The buildings along the street were beautiful pastel hues. Of particular interest was the door to a skinny, yellow home. It has to be the smallest two-story home in the world!!
Once we made it back to the port area, we had to stop for our customary beer. The restaurant was all out of the local beer, so we had to settle for Dos Equis. We had some nachos as a “chaser.”
We left the restaurant and walked to our ship. Much like the morning, re-boarding was challenging as we made our way through 3,500 of our closest friends also trying to board. By continuing to inquire with port officials and crew, we were finally able to bypass the majority of the waiting passengers and get back on the ship.
For dinner that evening, we went to the Atlantic dining room. Hillary made arrangements with the wait staff for a special dessert in honor of our 29th wedding anniversary. When the time came, one of the team asked me how long we had been married. I replied 29 years. He said, “To the same woman?!” We all had a good belly laugh!
After our meal, we went back to our cabin. We all got comfortable to watch a little TV. I was out like a light as soon as I fluffed my pillow that final time!
As I prepared for the day’s activities, I thought about my perceptions of Lisbon so far.
Two things strike me about Lisbon, Portugal, the colors and the abandoned buildings. The predominant colors are white buildings with red tile roofs, a real clean simplicity to that palette. Interspersed among the white buildings are buildings with amazingly beautiful ceramic tile façades. The second thing that struck me is the number of neglected and abandoned buildings. One can only wonder if this is a result of the current economic situation in Portugal. On second thought, I don’t think so. Many of the abandoned buildings are very, very dilapidated. For example, a roof may be caving in; an exterior stairway may be falling off; etc. That indicates the buildings were unoccupied much longer than just during the economic situation. It is too bad. If more of them were kept up, this would be a fantastic city.
Since Tyler was still feeling under the weather, Leslie and I went out by ourselves today.
After breakfast, we headed to the Martim Moniz Metro stop. When we came back above ground, we found ourselves in a charming plaza. Near a water fountain in the square flew three flags; the Lisbon city flag, the European Union flag, and the Portugal flag.
The plaza at Martim Moniz.We planned to take Tram 28 up the hill to a point near the Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St. George) and then stroll through the Alfama neighborhood to the castle. It took a while, but we finally found the correct stop to catch Tram 28. The single tram car dates from about the 1920s, made mostly of wood. I believe the capacity of the tram was only 20 people. It very much reminded us of the small tram we rode in Port de Sóller. I found it interesting that inside the car was a reasonably large sign warning one to be on the lookout for pickpockets.
The tram wound its way through some incredibly narrow, steep, cobble-stoned streets. We were both delighted to have taken the tram because of the inclines. Walking that route would have been a real challenge. We got off of the tram at the Graca stop. From there we could begin to see the fantastic views of Lisbon.
We were not quite sure which way to go to get to the castle, but we finally stumbled across a directional sign. Of course, since the castle sits atop a hill, the direction we had to take was straight up! We finally approached one of the castle walls. It was there that I saw by far the most unusual sign I have ever seen. The sign was metal, flat, and attached perpendicular to the wall. The figure was of a little boy peeing! Below that was the word urinal. Sure enough, below the sign and behind two minimal panels, there was a urinal! In my mind, one must really need to go to stand there in public. Luckily, I had no need!
Nearing the Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St. George), we found the Arco do Castelo. This particular gate is at the southern end of the castle grounds. The date above the arch reads 1846, so, by European standards, the entrance is a mere architectural babe.
We continued around the corner and bought our tickets to enter the castle. They were discounted by 25% because of the LisboaCards we purchased when we arrived in town. We entered the castle grounds and immediately fell in love with the panoramic views. One could see the 28-meter-tall statue of Christ the King, the April 25th Bridge, the Praca do Comercio, and the Baixa District.
The Ponte 25 de Abril or April 25th Bridge looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. No doubt that is because the same company constructed the April 25th Bridge, completing it in 1966.
Many of the views from the castle vantage points include the Tagus River, with headwaters in the northeastern mountains of Sierra de Albarracín in Spain. Some 1,007 kilometers (626 miles) later, it empties into the Atlantic Ocean at Lisbon.
The Baixa District is a beautiful section of the city, laid out in a grid. That is new because of the extensive damage of the 1755 earthquake virtually leveling the town. Today’s estimates rate the quake between 8.5 and 9.0, very massive. The shake, accompanied by a devastating tsunami decimated Lisbon. The rebuilding effort settled on a grid system. Today, it is effortless to walk through the district on wide, boulevards; many of them pedestrian-friendly.
The castle itself is a ruin; however, there is a restaurant and a couple of museums. The overall castle site is quite large. Inside the castle, one can go up into and on top of the towers. As well, one can walk along the castle walls. From those heights, one can see virtually the entire city.
The Romans fortified the hilltop on which sits the Castelo de São Jorge as early as 48 BC. That was the point at which the Romans referred to Lisbon as a municipality. Some of the current fortifications date from the 10th Century. The castle may very well qualify as the oldest site we have ever visited.
Walking through the grounds, I went through an archway and saw the flag of Portugal flying on the wall. I stopped for a photo. Then I saw the flag of the City of Lisbon. I decided to take the stairs to the top of the wall to take some pictures. Once on top of the wall, I decided I would go to the top of the tower flying the Lisbon flag. As I looked up those stairs, I was surprised to see several people with what looked like some climbing gear. It looked like several ropes went over the side. I thought they must be repelling from the tower. I walked to the other side of the tower and discovered a tightrope stretched between two towers. Shortly after that discovery, a woman in her early 20’s clipped a safety line on the tightrope and walked across. I thought it was stunning. I went to a different vantage point and watched a man walk back in the other direction. As soon as he finished, they quickly dismantled everything and ran away. From that, I surmised their “show” was not legal.
We left the castle, but we were still within the compound walls. We were surprised by the number of feral cats that were there. We also saw a peacock and a couple of peahens. As we continued along, we came across a group of about 15 men and women dressed in medieval garb. They were waiting to enter a museum as part of a presentation. We would have gone into the museum and witnessed the show/performance; however, since it was undoubtedly going to be in Portuguese, we decided we would understand very little. For that reason, we opted out.
We then began to make our way to the exit from the castle grounds. Near the exit, we came across el Magnífico. The sign near him read “el Magnífico, Moedas do Mundo, Coins of the World.” His name was Flurin. He was about 30 years old. Beside him on a display board were numerous coins from which he had sawed out part of the design. For example, in a U.S. quarter, he would saw around the eagle, removing everything else. That would leave the eagle and the circular edge. We bought one for Tyler that Flurin made into a key chain.
When we left the castle grounds, Leslie and I began to wind our way through the narrow streets of the Alfama District. We have been to many places in Europe with narrow streets. However, I have to say these were the most cramped and most maze-like streets we have yet encountered.
On our walk, we found a store, Erva Loira. The name of this store translates to Blonde Herb. I don’t understand that since the vast majority of the store dealt in handmade jewelry. What was not jewelry was handmade clothing and belts. We went into the store. I believe Leslie looked at every single piece of jewelry in that store and she tried on most of them! The store was owned by and the jewelry designed by the young lady that helped us, Marta. She was a slender lady in her mid to late ’20s. She spoke excellent English. She said she had lived in Barcelona for several years before coming to Lisbon.
Her jewelry creations were unique and colorful. Leslie ended up with a necklace made with a thin silver wire. At either end is a long silver bead capped off with a red bead.
A block or two past the jewelry store we found a restaurant, Bellissimo Cafe. We decided to sit there in the sun and have lunch. It was one of the best lunches we have ever had. We started with a plate of fried “stuff.” On the plate was some sort of fried pork in the shape of link sausage. Also, there was fried shrimp and fried cod, both of which had been finely minced, battered, and then fried. I liked all of them. Leslie only enjoyed the shrimp.
Following the “stuff,” we had a bowl of Portuguese soup. The soup had a light-colored broth and contained navy beans, two types of sausage, and some pork fat. It was delicious. For the main course, I had a sanwich mixto (ham and cheese sandwich), and Leslie had a BLT. Both of them came on giant slices of bread. They were both toasted much like a panini.
While we were at the restaurant, people of several nationalities stopped to eat; Great Britain, Finland, France, and Poland. The main waiter was able to speak to everyone in their native language. He was quite a character.
Enjoying lunch at the Bellisimo Café.
When we finished lunch, we hailed a taxi very near where we had entered the castle. We went to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum). The museum is in a convent dating from 1509, the Convent of Madre de Deus (Mother of God). The museum first opened in 1965. Our Lonely Planet guidebook lists the museum as a “Don’t Miss” site. WOW, is that ever an understatement! The vestry, upper choir, and St. Anthony’s Chapel are still intact and amazing to see.
We are fortunate to have seen many churches in our travels. St. Anthony’s Chapel ranks as the most ornate. The gold-gilded altar, the scale of the construction, the ceramic tile murals, and the numerous paintings mean there is hardly a piece of the plain wall visible.
Since the museum is noted as a “Don’t Miss” site in the Lonely Planet guide, my advice to visitors is not to try to cram it into a day with other sightseeing. To truly explore all the museum has to offer, one should plan to spend most of the day.
When we left the museum, we headed back to the hotel for a siesta.
For dinner, the three of us went to Pizza Hut of all places! Leslie and I enjoyed the wine we had, Vinha das Garcas, Vinho Tinto 2008. After dinner, it was back to the hotel for our last night in Lisbon.
Today we drove to Cádiz. It is known as the oldest city in Europe. We had wanted to take the ferry from Rota; however, because of it being Christmas Eve, the schedule did not allow us enough time to tour Cádiz. When we walked along the waterfront in Rota, Spain yesterday, we noticed we could see the city of Cádiz. We did not notice that the last time we were here.
Very uncharacteristically, we did not wake up today until about 08:00. After getting ourselves ready, we piled into the car at about 10:30. It was very foggy when we arrived at Cádiz at about 11:20. We parked in an underground parking garage. It was right by the cruise ship dock.
A cruise ship docked in the fog at Cádiz.
Emerging from the garage, we crossed the street and entered the tourist information office. We picked up a brochure for walking tours that was absolutely idiot proof! A different color indicated each tour. The walking tour we chose was green. All we had to do was follow the green line painted on the ground!
The first site we came to was the Plaza de San Juan de Dios (St. John of God). City Hall is the most prominent building overlooking the Plaza. We had some coffee in our room, but nothing to eat. So, our first order of business was to find a café. We ended up at Restaurante el Sardinero (The Sardine Restaurant). We each had a coffee and a pastry. That ended up costing us 20.40€ (US$25) – OUCH! That was nothing like our little bar last night in Rota! I imagine there were two main reasons for the higher price. First, the café was right on the Plaza, near the cruise ship dock. Second, it is one of the first ones after people get off the cruise ships.
After our coffee, we continued along our green path. We saw the El Pópulo Arch and the Rosa Arch. The Rosa Arch led us into the Plaza in front of the New Cathedral. We bought tickets for our entry into the cathedral for 16€ (US$19.50), much better than the coffee! As we entered the cathedral, we heard deafening music. More on that later.
The cathedral was fascinating to tour. For example, in one of the side chapels, there was a huge, silver monstrance, used during the Holy Week parades. It requires 12 men to carry it. I am sure that translates to more than one-half ton of weight.
Shortly after the monstrance, we noticed a staircase going beneath the presbytery. The gate was open and accompanied by several signs, so we went down the stairs. We found ourselves standing in the circular crypt. Interred in the vaults are several bishops, the earliest dating from the mid-1700s. Also, the crypt contains some relics of Santa Victoria. Near the buried remains of Santa Victoria is a letter. The letter, dated August 24, 1816, explains the Church of Rome donated the sacred relics to Cádiz. The painted wood box, wrapped in silk contains a vial of her holy blood and some period clothing. The letter authorizes public exhibition to the faithful according to the norms of the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of August 11, 1691.
The large hymn book at the choir, opened to the Magnificat.
Departing the crypt, Hillary and Tyler went outside to see what was going on in front of the cathedral. Leslie and I continued walking through the cathedral. When we emerged from the cathedral, we saw a large group of female dancers and a couple of male dancers. They performed several dance numbers choreographed to popular songs. We stood there and watched them for several minutes.
We left the Cathedral Plaza and walked toward the Church of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross), built between the 13th and 16th centuries. Continuing south, we arrived at the seawall. From there, we walked by the ruins of the Roman theater. The site was closed, so there was not much to see.
Returning to the old town section of Cádiz, we ended up on Calle Pelota. That is a busy street with many shops. Hungry, we ultimately selected Bodegon Riojano (Rioja Still Life) for lunch. We sat in the back of the restaurant. I thought the music we heard playing was Flamenco. I asked our server, Jose Luis. He said I was right; it was Flamenco de Navidad.
I asked Jose Luis about the cold, foggy weather. He said it was very unusual for this time of year. I asked him for a business card. He gave us a card and four wallet-sized calendars. After he took our order, he brought us some olives and pickled, pearl onions as a tapa. For a starter, we decided on grilled prawns. Grilled with the shells on, and sprinkled with sea salt, they were delicious! For the main course, the girls ordered beef, two different types of steak. The boys shared a paella. Now, paella has not been my favorite meal in Spain; however, I could eat this particular paella every day! It had shrimp, clams, some fish, and chicken. To go with this, Leslie and I had vino tinto; Chiton Crianza 2007 Rioja. It was good, but then we have never really found a red wine we did not like! Our lunch came to a total of 86.60€ (US$106).
Gambas de la plancha (grilled prawns).
From the restaurant, we walked to the store, Bengala. It is one of the stores along the side of Cathedral Plaza. We bought several souvenirs.
Leaving the store, we walked back through the Plaza de San Juan de Dios. When we got there and looked to the port, we saw another huge cruise ship. We thought about going to the car and driving back to the lodge at Rota. Instead, we decided to take a taxi to Santa Catalina Castle. If I understood the taxi driver correctly, he said the Battle of Trafalgar took place there. A bit of research confirmed Cádiz played a role in the Battle of Trafalgar; however, it seems no battle occurred at Cádiz.
Walking through the castle, we saw numerous art shows on exhibit. Work on the Castillo de Santa Catalina began in 1597. The castle hosted a military presence and a prison. The Spanish Ministry of Defense used the castle up until 1991.
We left the castle and walked to the taxi stand. At the taxi stand was an enormous tree. Actually, there were two trees. We asked the driver what kind of trees they were. He said they were ficus trees. He also said they were about 100 years old.
One thing that surprised us in Cadiz was the number of German tourists we ran into while we walked around the city. Maybe they were all off the cruise ships we saw in the port. They were kind; we were just surprised by the numbers.
The taxi took us back to our parking garage. Many of the garages in Spain have lighting above the parking spaces. If a parking space is occupied, the light is red. If it is available, the light is green. That makes it very easy to find a place to park. From the garage, which cost 9.90€ (US$12), we drove back to the lodge at Rota. We arrived at about 18:00. Leslie went to the NEX (Navy Exchange) to play Santa for us tomorrow! We shall see!