Two Days in Lisbon

Portugal
May 2003

Portuguese isn’t like Spanish at all. The words look the same, but it comes out sounding as if it’s spoken with a Russian accent mixed with a touch of French, as if conjured by long-exiled descendants of the Romanovs. I’ve gotten “obrigado” (“thank you”) down, but fortunately many people speak some English, and most information is in Portuguese, English, and French.

All the things I did yesterday I should have done today. I wore myself ragged yesterday in the Alfama, straight off the plane, while Bairro Alto was done easily today, but the two main sites were closed.

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Salvaging

Buenos Aires, Argentina
November 2011

The best laid plans have failed. Now what? Thanksgiving dinner at the Estancia. Way too much beef, chorizo, and wine in one of the most expensive restaurants in the microcentro. After the bus trip, we owed it to ourselves. In the evening, our quest for the elusive Buenos Aires pizza goes unrequited. Lousy late-night empanadas give way to exhaustion.

We do what we can. Black Friday morning we plunge into the tourist traps in colorful la Boca. The hotel manager gave us strict instructions on how to get there by bus and warnings about straying too far from the beaten path, but it’s certainly less dangerous than getting maced at an American Walmart during the after-Thanksgiving doorbuster sale.

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Workout Along La Plata

Montevideo, Uruguay
November 2011

At the base of high-rise hotels and apartments, the beautiful and not-so-beautiful people of Montevideo saunter forth this Saturday morning on La Rambla. The path follows a crescent around the beachfront where lithe, attractive, young women in shorts and tank tops fly past on rollerblades; lean, athletic men jog by; children scurry here and there; and families and old ladies stroll. A middle-aged man hangs his big, hairy gut from a wife-beater and over the top of his Bermuda shorts, his white-socked feet wedged into sandals against all good taste.

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Montevideo

November 2011

We come for the food, but we dessert on the city. Karimé and I arrive from Colonia with empty stomachs, and within an hour we’re at the parrilla in the Mercado del Puerto gorging on steak, chicken, and bottles of wine.

Montevideo teems at its center on a hot, late spring day. Yet for all its bustle, it’s slower and more self-contained than its larger rival across La Plata. We have no plans, just killing time in the Ciudad Vieja. By nightfall, we’re hungry again and ready for another bottle.

 

 

Travels With Karimé

Buenos Aires, Argentina
November 2011

Tonight I white-boy danced with a beautiful tango dancer, while Karimé took pictures and laughed her head off. An evening of necessary robotourism after a mad dash across the city to make the curtain.

We spent the day on our feet — Retiro station, Recoleta, Palermo, and Evita’s tomb in a cemetery of generals who died with way too much money. Karimé thinks she could live in a house the size of these tombs, plans to move into one someday. The rest of the afternoon, we swanned about art museums in the better side of town.

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Highlights: Copenhagen

August 2015

A pale blonde girl in a black bathing suit dives head first into the canal. She comes up for air with a gasp from the gray water. All along this side canal in Christianhavn, young women are taking the plunge with thrilling screams or are lying on blankets in the grass taking in the sun.

It is a glorious day, warm and sunny, a real summer day. And in a cold weather country, these glorious summer days are few. So you have to take advantage of them.

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New Nordic Cuisine

Copenhagen
August 2015

Seems like every other restaurant on the Strøget is a shawarma joint. I counted at least a dozen, especially near the university. They must be secretly filming Iron Man 4 in Copenhagen. Robert Downey Jr. is always posting about shawarma on Facebook. It’s the only explanation.

Until I saw The Avengers on television last year, I’d never heard of shawarma. Perhaps it’s becoming what falafels and doner kebabs have been in Europe — a sign of growing ethnic diversity coupled with a need for quick and cheap eats. It’s probably not a threat to the open-faced sandwich, though.

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