Thursday, January 10, 2008


I'm back from a rather disappointing vacation in Portugal. There was some unusual and often lovely architecture (Ask me about the Manueline style! I dare you.)

And a popular form of Portuguese Christmas decoration looks a lot like Santa has been executed, which really warms my heart:

But beyond these minor perks, Portugal left a lot to be desired. However, with the perspective afforded by a good night's sleep, and in the spirit of self-help, I have decided to suppress my natural inclination to complain openly about the whole experience and instead ask myself what I learned on the trip. Which is just to say that I am now going to complain in a roundabout manner.

I learned, most importantly, that drinking massive amounts of Portuguese wine and port does not give me a hangover. I have no idea why this is the case, but thank goodness it is, because heavy drinking made everything else on the vacation more bearable.

I learned that I am old, which is to say, I am set in my ways. If I cannot eat (mostly) vegetarian food, do yoga on a regular basis, and/or have full, large breakfasts (as opposed to nasty dry rolls, Nescafe, and in one memorable instance, little snack cakes with an expiration date of December 2006), I become a weeping, angry, and, frankly, extremely constipated monster.

(No picture here. I'll reconsider if I receive an overwhelming number of requests for photos of the above mentioned monster.)

I learned that I am actually a raging Orientalist. Clomping grimly along the cobblestoned lanes of the umteenth walled medieval city built by the Knights Templar (now overrun with packs of feral Italian tourists), I found myself thinking all about how much more interesting Indian public space is, with the livestock and the crumbling ancient splendor, the wild traffic, and the exotic people with their exotic street food harboring exotic intestinal parasites; looking at the umpteeth crumbling castle with little to note beyond the style of crenellation, I found myself thinking about Mughal architecture, grand Hindu temples, and Ellora and Ajanta. I am apparently Adela Quested after all, and if Edward Said were still alive and if he knew me, he would be very, very disappointed in me. Good thing I'm unimportant and he's dead.

I learned that with great concentration and deep breathing, it is possible for me to knit in a car without getting carsick, even on twisty mountain roads in the heart of the cork/grape/olive/orange producing regions of central Portugal. Positive note: cork trees, freshly shorn, are strangely beautiful:

The result of my car-bound knitting efforts was the completion of the muskox scarf, now blocking happily, soon to battle the frigid 50 degree temperatures we're currently experiencing here in New York.

I also made a lot of progress on a Project That Cannot Be Named On This Blog since it's a gift and the recipient may be reading this.

And finally, I learned that Portugal is the most loathsome little backwater of a provincial European wanna-be nation that ever adopted the Euro as its currency because at the Lisbon airport they confiscated my knitting needles - rudely - and made me run back to the airline counter and check them as baggage. In my six years of post-9-11 flying - national and international - this has NEVER happened; most recently at Newark airport on the flight to Portugal, during a hand check of my backpack, the homeland security guy pulled out my knitting bag and said "Oh - okay - knitting needles. We couldn't quite tell from the x-ray machine. Sorry about that. No problem." For readers who might wonder if maybe knitting needles should be banned on flights, consider this:

To the old Sesame Street tune: One of these things is banned on airplanes out of Lisbon; c'mon, can you tell which one; can you guess which thing is banned on airplanes out of Lisbon; guess before my song is done; and now my song is done.

And if that doesn't convince you of the absurdity of banning knitting needles on flights, consider this:

That's my index finger, of course, pointing upward, asking you to reconsider the above needle/pencil comparison.


Ashley said...

Re: the raging Orientalism, true dat, with you sister, etc. Disney has come along and simply documented the sanitization of western culture, rather than perhaps being its harbringer as is more commonly claimed.

However, Turner does love Portugal, so I fear I'll eventually be dragged there myself. I'll leave the knitting needles at home, me.

Chris said...

Actually, just to clarify, Turner doesn't love Portugal so much as he's intimately familiar with it and had a couple of very good experiences there and thinks piri-piri chicken is probably enough, all by itself, to redeem a culture.

That said, if he - stuck somehow just now referring to himself in the third person like a star quarterback or hip-hop impresario - if he ever does drag poor Ash to the Iberian peninsula, he's much keener to spend as much time as humanly possible in Andalusia than in the Algarve.

Anonymous said...

Who else wants to see the monster picture?

cb said...

Tell you what, Anonymous - you out yourself and I'll post the picture. I'll show you mine if you show me yours, etc, etc.