Okay. So I'm sitting here in the lounge of Infante D. Enrique, a river cruise boat on the Duoro River in Portugal. We have a full free day on the boat! I'm looking at a huge steel arched tress bridge constructed by the same bloke that built the Eiffel Tower. And a muzak version of Madonna's “Like A Virgin” is playing. Oh, wait. Now it's kind of a soft-jazz lounge singer's version of U2's “With or Without You.” Welcome to the incongruous world of cruises.
I for one am grateful, exceedingly grateful, for a day in which we don't have any programmed activities, except for a lecture in the afternoon. Yesterday morning on the bus on an outing I suddenly started feeling sick, and passed out. Yay! So I spent the rest of the excursion laying in the back of the bus, trying to rehydrate myself after all the cold sweats. At fist, I thought it was my old friend malaria coming back on me. And it may have been, I don't know. It often makes an appearance when I'm tired, or haven't slept, or am under stress. All I know is that it really took it out of me. Most of the rest of the day, upon return to the boat, was spent in considerable intestinal distress, not unheard of with malaria but it's usually not been my primary symptom when I've had it in the past. Who knows, I may have put my hand on the wrong rail in our forty-mile excursion through the Paris Airport. I'm not really that much of a germaphobe, but when you think about the tens of thousands of people that pass through that airport, and where they came from, and their less-than-pristine hygiene habits, sliding their hands along escalator and walkway rails, well...let's just say you don't really need to travel to the third world to get dysentery.
Anyway, I'm generally feeling better today, and hoping that it's behind me, and not just lying in wait to pounce again.
But I'm not really complaining; illness aside, I've really been enjoying the trip.
On the afternoon of Saturday the 12th, after the Peach Days parade in Brigham City, my parents and I flew from Salt Lake City directly to Paris...the only direct flight between Salt Lake and Europe. It was uneventful as flights go. Long. Boring. Mildly uncomfortable. But overall, not too bad.
Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris is pretty big. It's pretty well-marked, so getting lost isn't really a big problem. So cheers to the French for that. But that doesn't mean that we didn't spend a couple hours walking from one point to another. We managed to get ourselves to the Air Portugal flight to Porto. I was pleased to see that for the two-hour flight they would actually serve a meal. Well, my excitement lasted until the meal came. The meal was not apparently approved by the Portuguese Tourism Board. (“First time to Portugal? Welcome! Here's a steaming pile of vile rubbish for lunch!”) For the record, most subsequent meals have been quite good, and many downright excellent.
We were picked up at the Porto airport in a seamless exchange, and taken to our hotel by a hotel representative. The hotel was quite nice, a four-star I believe. Right in the heart of old Porto.
Before I go any further, I should probably state that this is an Elderhostel trip. Elderhostel is an organization that organizes educational tours for retired folks, and they range from weekend getaways to pretty serious international excursions. I'm not in the age bracket for Elderhostel (55 and up) but I'm apparently able to come as a “guest” of my parents. So I am kind of the baby of the group of 41 or so retired folks. (Makes me feel young...sort of.) Overall, it's a nice bunch of folks, and I've enjoyed getting to know some of them. A couple of them, of course, I've had to learn quickly what subjects to tread lightly upon. (I once nearly got my head bitten off for saying that I found Palestinians to be quite hospitable as a people.) I call him "Mr. Sunshine." Of course, he finds a way to complain about perfect weather.
Anyway...so after the first night at the hotel, we took a bus tour of the city of Porto, which is quite a beautiful city, and then found ourselves on the riverboat that afternoon. The boat was to remain docked in Porto for a couple of days (and in fact just left the dock as I was writing this entry.) So after yesterday's bout with whatever it is that I had, that brings me up to now...our boat is meandering slowly up the Duoro river, along steep, forested banks with the occasional villa or village perched overlooking the river. All things considered...not too bad! Well, I think it's time to break out the camera, so I'll close for now.
Addendum in the PM: We arrived at some small town that has an internet cafe on the dock (woo-hoo!) so I'm actually able to post this today! How exciting!
For a few photos, check out this link.