More From Our Passports

“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” Henry David Thoreau

We spent a few busy yet cold days in Lisbon, the 2nd oldest capital in all of Europe except Athens. History tells us it is “the city of the sea” and also “the city of the explorers.” We found our way on city buses out to the huge monument on the water that celebrate famous explorers: Vasco de Gama, Magellan and Prince Henry the Navigator. Lisbon we were told it was the first “world city” for it was said that its explorers and empire touched every continent. We know of its cultural influence in Brazil, part of which is that we speak Portuguese.

We visited the Edward VII park, the largest in the city that seems endless running from what appears to the edge of the city to the Marques de Pombal Square. The park has the most decorative shrubbery you’ve ever seen and the square celebrates the Marques. He was the prime minister who was responsible for rebuilding the city after its total destruction with an earthquake in 1755. If I recall, we walked the park’s length to near the square where the four of us sat down to the most delicious fish dinner of all time. Well, perhaps it was the exercise and hunger that made the best sauce for the meal.

There was so much to see that we can only mention a few–the colourful buildings near the ocean that were not destroyed with the earthquake—countless museums–the old fort Castelo São Jorge defended by the Moors towards the end of the time when they had conquered much of Southern Europe. And all of this reasonably priced–something I’m told that still attracts tourists.

Though our entry stamp gave us permission to stay sixty days in Portugal yet on February 23rd our exit Saída says we left and arrived the same day in Madrid, Spain on the Lusitania Expres. We were there only a couple of days taking the train North to Hendaya, France so we could catch a train for Marseille. We were not well prepared for that sixteen hour leg of trip–we slept overnight in our seats having left mid-afternoon and arriving early the next morning. We were so grateful and fortunate to share a compartment with another family. You see we found we could not buy dinner on the train and the other folks kindly shared their lunch and drinks with us.  Doris says she remembers little of that trip for she was both extremely tired and busy hanging onto our children’s hands. Then of course that train trip was basically during the night.

Neither of our passports have stamps for travel out of France and into Italy, nor later on for our return to Rome and travel through Europe. Perhaps they ran out of ink or thought the tired couple with two children were entirely harmless.

A couple of places in Marseille stand out in my mind, one is the grand—yes I mean grand–cathedral standing on a hill overlooking the city—the Notre Dame de la Garde. What a marvelous piece of architecture with its great tower! The picture sticking in my mind is the crutches and canes that are left in niches of the church’s sanctuary. They declare the healings of many people. Then I remember a restaurant not far from the cathedral where we were trying to order a meal for the family. The waitress did not try to understand our Portuguese and had no time for the little bit of French not crowded out from our time in Brazil. She left us in a huff but somebody must have taken our order for we did get a meal. This experience confirmed what I had read/heard about the French being fussy about folks speaking their language.

We found the train trip to Rome took about thirteen hours—once again a long hard trip. There were a number of stops along the way but the only one I remember is Monaco where hawkers crowded the train platform to sell lunches to the travellers, us included. We arrived in the Rome station and got instructions to the nearest pensione – a hotel/home arrangement that often serves up meals. It was only a block or so away from the station so we held our children’s hands and stuck with our luggage for the walk. At our lodging they seemed to understand us well enough and we them. We were glad for their instructions in getting around the city of Rome to see the sights. Some of that we’ve written about in another posting.

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