Thursday, July 30, 2015

Africa-Europe 2015 Day 15. From Paris to Sao Miguel de Azores

My dear Geraldine woke up very early in the morning to take me to Paris Orly airport, which is quite distance from Treil-Sur-Seine. We left at about 5 am, and even taking advantage of the fact that the roads were empty, and that the maximum highway speed is 130 km/hr, it was close to 6 am when we got to the airport. Saying goodbye is always such sweet sorrow, but I know that our paths will cross sooner or later, so here more than ever the correct expression is A bien tôt (hasta pronto, see you soon).

The flight to Lisbon was uneventful, and by 10 am I was stepping out of the airport, wondering what would be the best time to spend the 7 hours of layover. I soon discovered that the metro came all the way to the airport (what a civilized notion!), so within half an hour I was at the wharf, walking among crab fishers (DJ will be glad to hear this), bicyclists, and other forms of tourists. Maya and I will spend two days exploring this city in a bit over a week, so I didn’t want to jump the gun on her and had to concentrate on something that she might not be interested on. I decided to go looking for the Instituto Hidrografico (the Navy Surveying Institute) because I figured they would have a good museum. They did, but not at the location of their offices, so after walking like a dog I was told I had to take the train to get there. I used the opportunity to sit down and drink a “caňita” of beer (a tall, skinny glass of beer) and had a lunch of bacalao al mojo de ajo (cod fish with garlic). It was delicious, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as would have liked because my tooth started hurting.

A short train ride brought me to Belem and the Monastery of Jeronimos, by the side of which was the Museum of the Navy. Portugal has, of course, a centuries long tradition of being daring explorers and merchants, with their Golden Age starting with the Hydrographic Institute established by Prince Henry the Navigator in the mid 1440’s. Henry himself never went very far from Lisbon, but he amassed an enormous library of charts and captain reports, which were the stepping stones of the great events of Portuguese discovery, such as sailing along the west coast of Africa, turning the Cape of Good Hope, reaching India, and the discovery of Brazil. Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese himself, although he sailed for the Spanish King, and some believe that he knew about the passage that now bears his name in South America from Chinese charts collected by Prince Henry.

The exposition has hundreds of ship models from the smallest coracle to some rather modern vessels, but of course the bulk is from the 1400’s to the 1700’s, when Portuguese mariners plied the waters of the world (the museum never mentions slavery, which was one of the trades the Portuguese specialized in). I also learned about some Portuguese explorations of Africa that I had never heard before.

Thoroughly satisfied with my escapade I returned lazily to the airport, in plenty of time to take my 7 pm flight to Sao Miguel, where I landed at 8:30 pm (it was a two and a half hours flight, but the time zone changes). I would have enjoyed the trip a lot more if my tooth had not been bothering me so much. It is not “pain” as much as it is discomfort, but it worries me that it could get a lot worse.

A quick taxi ride brought me to my hotel. Wow! A four star hotel called the Royal Garden, with all the amenities that accompany such designation. My room is small but super comfortable, on the fourth floor, and has a marvelous view of the gardens, the pool, and a nearby green hill that can be nothing else but an extinct cinder cone. I think I am going to like it here.

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