Since tomorrow’s post is going to be a saccharine love letter about how smitten I am with Porto specifically and Portugal in general, I thought I should clear the deck with an admission that there are a few things I won’t miss about the country when I leave tomorrow. In total, these things I won’t miss are approximately 0.4% of my experience in Portugal, so please take that under consideration as you read my list.
Yankees hats. For the love of the holy trinity of Jeter, Dimaggo, and Ruth, I’m not sure that I have ever seen as many Yankees hats I have seen in Portugal the past few weeks. There have been moments when I thought I wandered on the set of Jersey Shore with all the tanned people wearing Yankees caps. For a country with such excellent taste in food and music, the general taste in sports teams could use some serious work.
Dudes hawking up loogies on the sidewalk. Sure, people spit in Montana. Sure, it’s gross there. But there is little comparison between the occasional spitter in the states and the proliferation of dudes here who seem to enthusiastically reach down into their lungs to pull up the foulest sputum they can manage to noisily hurt down at the street.
ATMs that give out fifties. The most common denomination given out by ATM machines seems to be the 50 Euro note, a bill that is accepted by merchants with hesitation that suggests they believe I have forcefully spat on the bill like one of the gentlemen on the streets. I’m especially bad at using change to pay for things, but it would be nice to receive more bills that I didn’t have to apologize for using every time I do.
A troubling concept of lines. Americans, for all their vaunted independence, are very good at getting in (and staying in) orderly lines. In Portugal, people seem to have a very different sense of what it means to get in line, and are usually so locked in conversation with someone that they either don’t notice (or pretend not to) that they are cutting ahead of dozens.
Weak hamburgers. On my first day in Porto, my guide on a walking tour told a great story about the craze in Portugal for hamburgers before the first were had in the country. People had seen them on American television shows and dreamed of their wonderful taste. Based on the highly recommended burger joint I tried, they still may not have had a good one.
Baby strollers used as weapons of war in the battle for sidewalks. This is unfair to pin on Portugal, as it seems to be an issue everywhere I’ve gone, but parents with strollers are more aggressive than Portuguese drivers and more reckless than George Bush’s foreign policy. They push those weapons of infant locomotion where they want, when they want, through whomever they want. In the war for precious space on Portugal’s small sidewalks they give no quarter and take none. I’m seriously debating getting one for my next trip to make sure that I OWN THE SIDEWALKS.
A serious shortage of ice in drinks. The most American of complaints, but given the heat in Portugal in August, I was certainly missing the alacrity with which refills of icy drinks appear at tables in American restaurants.
The challenge of paying in restaurants at the end of a meal. I never quite figured out the dynamic here, often waiting a long time to pay for my meal, despite the meaningful exchange of glances between server and customer. I watched people stand to pay, wander to the counter to pay, and just look sadly wanting to pay in restaurants from Lagos to Porto. I might need to research this just a bit more.
Most of all, though, I will miss being in Portugal, a country I have come to love as much for its food as its chaotic streets, as much for its stunning landscapes as for its narrow, three-story homes, as much for its tough, funny, proud people as for its excellent music and wine.
It’s going to be hard to leave, and I’m looking forward to returning before I have even left.