Thursday, November 3, 2016
Words for the WIngmen
When last I left off my chronicle, we were jetting off to Bergamo, Italy, leaving behind the shores of Lake Como. We arrived in Bergamo on the Italia Rail, just as the sun was going down, caught a bus towards our Airbnb for the night, and hoped to find food. For whatever reason, a lot of places in Italy don’t open up on Mondays, or they close early. It was a hunt to find dinner.
Our host turned out to be Brazilian and—having served my mission there—we had an amicable evening and I was able to warm up my Portuguese up for Lisbon.
Our flight to Lisbon was early. We passed over the French/Italian Alps, over the sea between Marseilles and Barcelona, and then directly over Spain, obscured for the most part by several mattresses of clouds.
As I begin to type this, I’m actually back in the Lisbon airport, heading to Manchester, then back to Edinburgh. It’s an easy trip from anywhere in Lisbon to the airport, connected directly by the Metro. We stayed just outside of the main downtown on the fourth floor of an apartment building: a big spacious room overlooking Alameda park which features magnificent fountains, not unlike the famous Trevi in Rome.
Lisbon has been a beautiful city to visit. Tuesday, after arriving we got lunch in a converted art nouveau theater that is now a buffet—the Café Imperio--, then went to the old town, to the castle built on the hill there some twelve hundred years ago. Most of it is in ruins, but they’re beautiful ruins, overgrown with gnarled trees that form a partial roof for the walls that have lost their own. A peacock strolls by; cast-iron cannons lean on the ramparts or lay rolled against the walls, at rest. The real treat was being there at sunset. Lisbon has a host of magnificent and colorful architecture, including churches and monasteries, the grander buildings built with white limestone, the humbler ones painted in pastel shades finished with Azulejo decorative tiles.
In the distance is Lisbon’s stunning bay-bridge, modeled after the Golden Gate and appropriately painted rust-red. The sun got larger and more red as it neared the horizon and set the sky afire, made the clouds to blush, then bowed off stage.
Wednesday we hit some sights: The Discoverer’s monument (unfortunately covered in scaffolding), the Torre de Belem (ancient and ornate guard tower of the port), the Monastery of Saint Geronimo, the National Coaches Museum, and the most incredible hipster main street, a place referred to as LX Factory. The Monastery impressed with unbelievably ornate stone work in what is called the Manuelian style (see pictures). The adjoining chapel had the tombs of Vasco de Gama and, among other Portuguese notable names, that of Fernando Pessoa, the only Portuguese poet with whom I’ve engaged extensively. We spent most of our evening at LX Factory. It’s essentially one long street with the most pinteresty shops and restaurants you can imagine. There’s a bookstore, with bookcases four stories high and a flying bike with flapping wings hanging from the ceiling. The home design stores there are, well, pinterest-perfect. We perused until the Sushi place we’d been eyeing opened up. Apparently we weren’t the only ones eyeing it. Before it opened, we were part of a line big enough to fill all available tables instantly. The main attraction was an all you can eat sushi special for around maybe 15 bucks per person. All I’m saying is that they’re selling themselves short and the house didn’t win that night at our table. I probably ate four whole salmon by myself not to mention the many other fish that met their demise at our table. Lisbon, aptly situated on the coast, is known for its fresh seafood and, eating underneath the Portuguese Golden Gate, the Sushi Factory did not disappoint.
Thursday we spent the whole day at the beach. Did I mention its October? There were tons of surfers and body boarders, as well as local families. The sand was pristine and huge jelly fish littered one spot near our towels. They were as wide across as a tire, caught by the previous receding tide, and still pulsing with life. At one end of the beach was an ancient fort, shut off to the public, but still an imposing remnant of Portugal’s former naval prowess. We watched the sun set spectacularly again. Ate more sushi. (Don’t worry, we got our fill of Portuguese food on our trip as well!) Our last morning in the city, we visited the National Museum of Azulejos. They’re very specific about it not being a tile museum, as azulejos are considered distinct from tiles. The artists that create azulejos are actually called authors in Portuguese because the form is intended to convey a story! The museum was one of the best I’ve visited and took you through some thousand years of the craft, with the narrator of the history being thousands of intricate, delicate examples of the work.
We caught a night flight from Lisbon to Manchester, where we crashed for the night before continuing our journey via bus to Glasgow and then to Edinburgh. The bus journey is a whole saga in its own right. Suffice it to say, don’t take a bus unless you have to (we had to), and don’t use the bathroom even if you had to (I had to. I did. I regret it.)
This last week was my first full week of work since I arrived here. I wrote another speech. This one got delivered to lackluster applause on Thursday afternoon and doesn’t need anything else said about it here. I will note that the work of the internship isn’t particularly onerous except as its needlessly complicated by my (kind) boss. He wanted to give a speech on the floor as it had been awhile, so he bid for a space in the upcoming debate, got it and told me to write a speech. Now, you’re all as qualified as I am in this respect: imagine I ask you to write nine pages on the government’s forthcoming motion on enterprise and skills agencies in Scotland. Oy vey. I’m not looking to move into politics anytime soon and we’ll leave it at that.
Thursday Jaro (our host) had family coming into to town so we booked accommodation elsewhere until this afternoon (Sunday). We stayed right down in the center of town so we could spend our weekend exploring, which we did, climbing Calton hill, which has monuments and the observatory atop it, and then wandering up and down the main city’s streets. I took pictures of Dad’s monument (see pics # IMG_2530-IMG_2543) and we spent time in the Princes street gardens which is where it was located. Its beautifully Autumnal in Edinburgh, and we enjoyed lots of walks among the leaves, fallen and hanging. We visited the Elephant House café where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, the National Library across the street with its exhibition of ancient and modern maps, and had lunch at the pub.
Perhaps the highlight of Saturday night was teaching with the missionaries. I’ve tried to help them, since it’s a way I can easily serve and be involved in the church while we’re here a short time. (I attended a baptism last Wednesday and will play the piano for another this upcoming Wednesday.) We taught a Brazilian, so that made it extra sweet. The cherry on top was having the sweet and heavenly presence of my lovely wife AnneMarie by my side as well. It was a wonderful lesson. The missionaries did a really great job teaching and the Spirit was present in abundance. Hopefully more lessons will follow and hopefully we’ll be able to find someone to be taught as well as just assisting.
Today after church, which was the primary program, we had a munch and mingle, and tonight my darling and I went to a chamber music concert at the St. Giles Cathedral. They played Mozart’s String Quartet K421 in D Minor and Haydn’s String Quartet Op 76 No. 5 in D Major. Under the lowlight of the cathedral’s lamps, surrounded by walls over a thousand years old. Did I mention the love of my life was right by my side? Forget Paris and Venice—this is what love looks like: Mozart in austere Scottish churches. I’m sure of it.
I’m sure I’ve left something out, but it’s time that I gave that same beautiful girl who stuck with me through two whole string quartets after three hours of church a pre-bed backrub.
Tanner and; AnneMarie