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Enter at your own risk an eclectic journey through a cluttered mind, streaming consciousness, not to be understood by all, but freed by me to you...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Last seaport: Lisbon, Porugal - Amsterdam - Minneapolis, MN USA

To my surprise, and ignorance of history & geography, Gibraltar is very, very British, in speech, pubs and rugby. You may pay in pounds sterling or Euros.As our British friends say: England and the United States are a country divided by 2 languages.

Only three of us, Elli, Gina & I, refused to get out of the van at the top of the rock (Gibraltar) infested with live tailess monkeys who would attack anyhing plastic in search of food. You'd think they were starving. The area is a lush green with hairpin turns to the top. I asked "Where is "the rock?" and our guide answered, "You're on it." The monkeys are much like the black bears in northern Minnesota who search for food, no matter if it's in tents or coolers. Elli, Gina & I became steadfast friends who elected to stay in Gibraltar when everyone else had to go back to the ship to dry off and eat lunch. We had to find a pub which allowed smoking. They weren't very keen about accepting me until I told them they could speak Norwegian, smoke in front of me and I would speak very little English. Once the rules we set, things were fine. We chummed together in Tangier, Morocco, also. They invited me to use their room in Lisbon to store my luggage until I went to the ship. I was very grateful. I ended up using the Brits' room at the Hotel International over looking the city center of Lisbon.

My dear friend, Vallia, was immediately attacked by the monkeys, probably because of her perfume. She is the fashionista model on the ship with 23 kilos of clothes, always wearing something different, down to jewelry, purses, jackets, & accessories. She is fond of feminine fou fou clothing. She couldn't believe that I was such a wimp with the monkeys.

We visited the Saint Michael caves on the rock. It is like an underground Gothic cathedral of stagtites and stalgmites, eerily dripping water, and lighted hauntingly. They have never heard of OSHA here, security of one's life is an airy issue. You could slip over the edge and be impaled a long way down by rock formation. Very, very unusual, with endless numbers of rooms and turns and stairways, no rhyme or reason to view the place. You could easily be lost and NEVER found. Photography without a tripod was definitely a challenge for long exposure settings.

Finished the day hanging out in pubs with the Brits, Richard, 47, and his father, Raymond, 85, who enlightened the Americans, Myra & Phil Toconita, many times on the fine points of British language, culture and idiosyncrasies. It took me forever to tell Richard what the "roof" of a car was. "Close the bonnet" was the trunk door. The loo was the toilet.
I had leeks & potato soup as they drank their speckled red hen beers and ate chips without fish. We watched rugby games with the locals who were very entertaining themselves. And we think we speak loudly. Sports bring out the real personalities, enhanced by the local brew. Some of the finest took the time to explain to use that we were not to use the word soccer.

We get every variety of fish on the ship for every meal, even many caviars for breakfast daily. I survive on a boiled egg, rye crisp, fruit and things I can recognize, which is very little. Seriously, it is amazing what the Norwegians eat, including ox tongue. Since I rarely eat lunch on the ship, I missed the one time they had pasta. Now that is something I am dying for. Thank God for the ports of call in Italy: Savona, Civitavecchia (Rome), Naples (Salerno), Catania (Taormina), Livorno (Pisa, Florence), Portoferraio (Island of Elba), and Cagliari (Island of Sardegna (Sardinia).

We were down to 11 English speaking passengers on the ship out of 500: 4 Americans from the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, & 2 Chinese Americans from New Jersey.

The Brit, Richard, charted our last day in Lisbon as he had been there for five days previously. He took us up the Elevator which is Lisbon's answer to the Eiffel Tower, on trolley rides which would make San Francisco's Lombard Street a piece of cake. I remember Mark and I driving our '69 turquoise green Pontiac Firebird down the zig zag streets to the wharf, braking every hairpin turn, trying to avoid the flowered layers of fuschia bouganvilla hanging at every turn. Looking back, it was one of the most beautiful street designs in the world, but too close to a Monte Carlo car race. Back to the trolley in Lisbon. The roads were so narrow and brave boys would hang on to the side door and catch a free ride. I couldn't watch for fear they would be pancaked between a wall or parked car. Danger must elicit a high much greater than drugs.

Parting was very difficult after 3 intense weeks of bonding. We will try to maintain long distance friendships and hope to see each other in a different time and place. Thanks for being part of my journey.


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