A Burger Never Tasted So Good

Sunday evening both Lauren and I were in need of some American food, so we treked over to the Hard Rock Cafe. Their Legendary Burger and a cold Bohemian beer really hit the spot. All the fish and croissants have been really good, but at times the inner carnivore really needs feeding.
Famous the world over: Ten ounces of fresh Certified Angus Beef, topped with seasoned bacon, two slices of Cheddar cheese and a crisp fried onion ring.

Lisbon with Lauren

After Lauren arrived we found some lunch at the Young Liberty Cafe. Lauren had a hamburger and I had a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. The Portuguese take hamburger very literally. It was a burger with ham and mushrooms sans bun. We also enjoyed a tasty beer that is advertised all over called Super Bock. In the evening we walked to a little place tucked away on a side street and had essentially a fish and potato dish. We also drank Vinho Verde...Green Wine. This was excellent!!
The Vinho Verde is an unique product in the entire world with a blending of aroma and petillance that makes it one of the most delicious natural beverages!

Medium in alcohol, Vinho Verde has great digestive properties due to its freshness and special qualities. It is a highly regarded wine, specially for Summer drinking. The malo-lactic fermentation gives it a distinctive taste and personality. The reds are full-bodied wines with an intense colour and a rosy or light red foam. The whites usually present a lemony or straw colour.

The strong distinctive character and originality of these wines are the result of soil and climate characteristics and social-economic agents, on one hand, and of the grape varieties and the vinegrowing methods, on the other.

Friday, after I got back from the conference, we went to lunch at the Frog Cafe. Then we relaxed until the evening when we ventured out to dinner at a sidewalk cafe on Avenida da Liberdade. We both had a rice and meat dish. The sausage in it was tasty. The next morning was overcast and dreary. (Note: Dreary in Lisbon is almost equivalent to a sunny day in London.) Lauren wanted to see Alfama, so we walked in that direction. On our way, we detoured to the waterfront. The water is in fact the Rio Tejo and not the ocean. The ocean is in actuality about 15 kilometers away. The picture is of the City Municipal Building taken from the commercial square (Praça do Comércio) which was built on the site of the former royal palace which toppled during the earthquake of 1755.

We then continued up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge which offered some spectacular views of the river and the city below. The castle was originally built in the fifth century and then enlarged some 400 years later by the Moors who settled in the area. The walk to the castle takes place on narrow winding streets that rise in elevation at every step. It is quite an exhilarating workout. The Alfama area has many buildings and wall murals that are completed in the famous blue and white tile. They are quite breathtaking and many of the local artists sell the tiles as souvenirs.

That evening we went to an Italian place, Ristorante-Pizzeria Valentino, a suggestion in the Let's Go Spain and Portugal book. (Note to Tim and Greg: Pepperoni and sausage do not exist on pizzas in Portugal. It seems that many vegetable-like accouterments are abundant as pizza toppings.)

Sunday is a day of rest in Lisbon. There is not much that is open. Lauren and I walked to the park near our hotel (Parque Eduardo VII). It was built for Edward the Seventh when he visited Portugal. For lunch we went to A Brasileira. This cafe was a former haunt for many of Lisbon's great poets and intellectuals. The picture shows Lauren sitting with Fernando Pessoa. This was apparently his regular chair in the cafe.
There is ample metaphysics in not thinking at all.

What do I think about the world?
How should I know what I think about the world?
If I were ill I would think about it.

What idea have I about things?
What opinion do I have on causes and effects?
What meditations have I had upon God and the soul
And upon the creation of the World?
I don't know. For me, to think about that is to shut
me eyes.
And not think. It is to draw the curtains
Of my window (but it has no curtains).
   From The Keeper of Sheep
   ~Fernando Pessoa



After two days in Lisbon, I can truly say, "I like this place!" The people are very friendly and the city is absolutely beautiful. Their english is somewhat sketchy, but I have managed to communicate with most of them. At any rate, the words for chocolate croissant and coffee must be similar enough.

My journey to Portugal was pretty uneventful except for the bus ride through London to the airport. I had an early flight out of Heathrow, so I took two London city buses at about 3:00 in the morning. On my first bus I met Frank. He was very big and drunk and claimed to be the "hardest man in England by way of Ireland." Frank was toting a can of beer and tried to guess my heritage. He was very hard to understand, but had a very firm handshake. He actually said goodbye when I got off the bus. As I was waiting for the second bus to take me to Heathrow, I met several young men and women who were leaving the pubs of Kingston (a subarb of London). One group when they found out that I taught statistics began a rowdy chant of "r-squared...it's the fit of a model." It turns out they had majored in econometrics and had taken a few statistics courses. They wanted to wait with me for the bus, but they ended up having to get their really drunken friend home to bed.

After I got to Lisbon, I took a taxi to my hotel. The hotel staff not only allowed me to check in early, but they upgraded me to their sister hotel, a five-star wonder right on Avenue de Liberdad (see picture). For a map of Lisbon, click here. Most of that first day I spent snoozing in my room and exploring a little bit of the city right around my hotel. I found a wonderful little shop called Picasso's Cafeteria located right around the corner. It is a local haunt that serves up great pasteries. They also serve the world's tiniest cup of coffee that packs quite a punch. They don't have any tables or chairs, so everybody stands at the counter. It is a pretty cool little place.

Wednesday, I attempted to make it to the conference center (Centre de Congress). The Portuguese are wonderful people, but rather poor when it comes to giving directions. They gesture and offer their directions in generalities rather than specifics. "Over there by the roundabout," seemed alright at first until I actually got "over there by the roundabout." There were approximately 103 different bus stops. After about half an hour of searching and asking people for help, I found the 727. I got on the bus only to discover that I took it the wrong direction. This wasn't discovered by me until the bus came to the end of the line. So, I got on another bus and eventually got to the conference center.
It turns out this detour was quite fortuitous. I ended up checking in at the same time as Alan Rossman (a statistics colleague at Cal-Poly). He, his wife, and I explored the city together. We decided to take a sightseeing bus of the city's statues and monuments. It was a great way to get an overview of the city of Lisbon.

Afterwards we got lunch at a little croissantery and then walked to the castle. We got lost in the Alfama district (the picture shows the view over the Alfama district) and eventually stumbled upon a local artisan's ceramic shop. He was very kind and spoke pretty fluent english. He gave us many suggestions, as well as directions to the castle...take a left and keep going up. These actually were quite accurate. We must have climbed 7000 stairs. We did eventually get to the castle, which had some great overlooks of the city, but decided against taking a tour.

After getting back to the hotel, I relaxed for awhile and then had dinner at one of the hotel's restaurants. I had the grilled codfish and a half bottle of local red wine. The food and drink were excellent. The cod was served in about half an inch - I kid you not - of melted, seasoned butter and oil. This was wonderful, especially for dipping the side of bread into. It also had the effect of making me very sated about three-quarters of the way through the meal. Needless to say, I slept soundly that evening.

Thursday - As I sit in the hotel lobby, waiting for Lauren to arrive and writing this piece of the blog, I have already enjoyed a chocolate croissant and a tiny cup of coffee. I am looking forward to more exploration of the city, some down time for relaxing, some shopping and getting home.


Back to London

On Friday I traveled by bus, taxi and train back to London and then to Surbiton to spend a few days with Ann Ooms. She was a wonderful hostess showing me around the area and providing lodging. On Saturday - after some much needed sleeping in - we took the train and tube to Notting Hill where the street market was in full swing. After a morning stop in a pub, we took a side street to the travel bookshop made famous by the movie titled after and set in the area in question.

We then took the tube to St. Paul's Cathedral where we bummed around and walked down to the Tate Modern to pretend like everyone else that we were interested in art. Afterwards we went back to Surbiton and relaxed at Ann's flat. Sunday morning - again after snoozing late - we took a bus to Kingston and walked about 4 miles along the Thames River to Hampton Court, the living place of King Henry the VIII.

They had some wonderful statues lining both sides of the drawbridge. The dragon (pictured at right) was one of my favorites. Hampton Court is also home to the well-known hedge maze. We didn't go in, but we did walk along at least one side of the perimeter. After stopping in the gift shop - I bought a book on the six wives of Henry VIII - we began our walk back to Surbiton. After many wrong turns and directions from 5 to 6 people, we eventually made it back to Ann's flat.
Now it is Monday and I am in Ann's office at Kingston University writing this blog. I have today left, and then I will catch a flight to Lisbon. I will be leaving Ann's place this evening/morning at about 2:00 a.m. Then I will catch a bus to another bus which will, in theory, bring me to Heathrow. If all goes according to plan, I will arrive in Lisbon at about 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. I will update you in a few days with more adventures.

Coventry, Hook Norton, Birmingham,

England has redeemed itself! A pub on every corner indeed. But before I get ahead of the story, allow me to tell a tale or two about the rest of our journeys in Warwickshire. On Tuesday, we visited the city of Coventry. We began our tour of the berg by departing the bus at Coventry Cathedral. We were then given the option of taking a guided tour of said cathedral or roaming Coventry. I chose the latter since you can only see so many old buildings and again hear things such as,
"...it had been a small Benedictine monastery (endowed by Earl Leofric and Lady Godiva in 1043), but shortly after this time rebuilding began and by the middle of the 13th century it was a cathedral of 425 feet in length..."

Instead, Joan, Michael and myself walked the city centre and found a space-age coffee shop in the midst of an indoor-outdoor mall type space to relax in and enjoy a smooth caffeineted beverage. But, before I leave the cathedral completely behind, I should mention that there was a very cool metal sculpture of St. Michael throwing down on Lucifer attached right outside the main entrance (see picture at left).

We then had a meal at a trendy restaurant/pub called Dogma. I dined on succulent chicken breast slices with a rich blue cheese dressing, fine beans, bacon crisps & toasted sesame seeds and a cool, frothy Guinness. The picture at left is of the taps at the Dogma bar.

Wednesday evening, we traveled to Hook Norton, a small town with predominately narrow streets and cute thatched roof cottages in the Cotswalds (said to be one of the most beautiful places in the world). We first visited the Hook Norton Brewery. Our tour guide dutifully told us about the whole beer making process and explained in detail each and every piece of equipment in the whole place. She then filled, re-filled and re-filled (ad infinitum) our beer cups in the sample room. I sampled several beers, but the Hooky Dark was magnificent. Alas, it is not available in the United States due to their quirky bottling guidelines. We then proceeded to the Sun Inn (one of something like 37 pubs in the small village of Hook Norton. Note to Ed: I think Hook Norton might be a expatriate Wisconsin City.) At the Sun Inn, we played Skittles - a kind of indoor bowling type game - right next to the table we dined at.

Thursday was our last evening in Warwickshire, and we again journeyed from the university by coach, this time to the city of Birmingham. In Birmingham we took a boat tour through some of the canals (Birmingham has several more miles of canals than Venice, and in fact you could travel much of England by canal if you had weeks and weeks with nothing to do.) After the boat ride, we had an hour or so before dinner, so several of us naturally found a pub....the Prince of Wales. (See picture - The Prince of Wales is most famous for hosting visits from J.R.R. Tolkein, who used to be a regular.) Here I tried the John Smith Ale. Not bad, but I still prefer Guinness. We then found our way to Strada - an Italian place - for dinner and wine.



Arrival in London happened after I managed only a couple hours of sleep on the plane ride over. Unfortunately for me, the arrival occurred at 7:00a.m. London time. This meant a long day before I could consume myself in a deep sleep.

After getting to the hotel (which was a long tube ride from Heathrow) I checked in and met up with Joan and Michael. The hotel - the Park Lane Hotel- was located on Picadilly, right across the street from Green Park. Green Park is the park that abuts Buckingham Palace (Click here to see a map.) Ann Ooms met us at the hotel and the four of us walked all around the area seeing many of the sights. Unfortunately I forgot the Noodler shirt on this tour.

The next day we walked down to the south bank of the Thames - see the photo - and then left London for Coventry. (For a map of England, click here.) Now this is normally about a two hour jaunt by bus. The bus we got on, however, had no air conditioning and then broke down. After waiting for a very long time, another bus eventually came to get us and took us a little further, where we transferred to yet another bus without air conditioning. About five hours after our start we got to our final destination via taxi...the University of Warwick! So, what, you may ask, have I learned about London from this experience...
  • First off, London is probably the most expensive city anywhere. For example, when placing a phone call to get our bus ticket from the hotel they charged us 7 pounds (about $14).
  • Secondly, the people in London are very unhelpful.
  • Thirdly, customer service is a non-existent entity in England (Both in London and in Coventry).
  • Lastly, although the movies and folklore of England promise a pub with wonderful beer at every street corner, the reality is quite a disappointment. We had to really search for a pub once we were at the university and after we finally found one the beer selection was terrible...The only dark beer was Guinness and most of the rest were horrible beer-like-anomalies such as Bud Lite. It was as if Jeb owned the pub.
Since arriving at the university, I have been living in a dorm room. We have gone on a couple outings. Sunday evening we went to the village of Royal Leamington Spa. We took a walking tour of Leamington with a guide that was a very funny man. Imagine a character from Monty Python crossed with a very short history professor and you start to get the picture. He was quite informative, telling us about almost every building. It sounded something like the following:
The Pizza Hut came to Leamington in the year 1987. Before that it was the residence of Tim the Gardener who of course was personal gardener to King Greg the Third. Then of course you recall the great fire of Leamington - it was mentioned by Ed the historian in his famous book Leamington for Twits which he wrote during the venerable year 1980 - this burned the Pizza Hut to the ground, or very nearly to the ground since back in those days the ground wasn't really the ground but two to three inches more than the ground. The Pizza Hut was then rebuilt by Kathy and Angela, two nuns of Bachus, who lived in that house across the boulevard - the one with the Ionic columns. Those columns were of course first built in the more traditional Doric style by Lauren the column builder but were renovated in the turn of the century by JC the fifth - who as you may remember in your school days as the son of JC the fourth.

If you add a British accent to that account, you begin to get the picture. We had about an hour tour with this guy. It was great!!! After our walk we ate Balti food at the home of one of the conference organizers.

Monday afternoon, we took a coach to Stratford-Upon-Avon home to one Bill Shakespeare. We visited the Mary Arden house, which saw the birth of Big Bill, and also saw his grave. We also saw the grave of Anne Hathaway - his wife. We then had dinner at the Dirty Duck also known as the Black Swan (see photo at left).

After dinner we wandered across the street to the Black Swan Theatre (notice the British spelling). This theatre, although it is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, looks like something you might find in northern Minnesota. If Hackensack were to build a theatre, it might well look like this one. We saw the RSC put on a performance of The Penelopiad. (For a synopsis click here.) It was much shorter than 1776.

Note for the Northstar Noodlers: I got some pictures with the shirt at Mary Arden's house, but unfortunately I left my cable to get the pictures from my camera to the computer at home. I will put them up as soon as I have access to the cable.