Ilivetolearn's Blog

March 2, 2006

Ash Wednesday in Madrid/Lisbon

Filed under: on the road,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 1:19 pm

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, or miercoles de ceniza, but despite our trips through two major airports (Madrid and Lisbon), we saw not one person with an ash-smudged forehead. Carnival is heavily celebrated all over Spain and Portugal, for about ten days preceding Shrove Tuesday…Pozuelo even imported some dancers and musicians from Brazil, held a parade on Avenida Europa, and gave everyone a free caipirinha at the end. We had our traditional crepe dinner, though Evan was a bit under the weather and didn’t put away the usual 12 or so. Nutella has replaced lemon juice and powdered sugar (the proper Ross recipe) as the favorite filling, and syrup and jam also made an appearance.

We flew through the dreaded Terminal 4, where despite months of pre-opening rehearsals using paid actors impersonating weary and disgruntled travelers, there are still major glitches with computers and luggage handling. But we did fine. It was amusing to see signs informing you how long it would take you to reach your gate…ours was only an 8-minute walk; some were 22! After the parking, the check-in, the mini-hike, the wait in the boarding area, etc, our one-hour flight was an anti-climax. We arrived practically before we left due to the time difference.

Lisbon…a lovely city, though for some reason, perhaps their home-heating methods, all the buildings are dingy and could use a good power-washing. We could understand much of the written Portuguese, but the spoken version sounds like a cross between French and Russian. The Portuguese get very offended at the notion that their language is a dialect of Spanish. No one speaks Spanish there (or admits to knowing it) and even in multi-lingual menus or signs, Spanish appears after English, French, and German, if at all.

Our hotel, the Roma, was very close to Praca de Touros, a 1903 neo-Moorish brick structure, complete with onion domes and keyhole-shaped windows, that used to be a bullring. In keeping with the changing priorities of the Iberian peninsula, it is being turned into a mall with a 12-screen cinema, hundreds of restaurants and bars, and 1,250 parking spaces. Portugal was one of the first countries to begin converting monasteries and convents into hotels (pousadas)…can a church transforming into a nightclub/bar (a la Limelight in NYC) be far behind?

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