21 June 2012

No wi-fi outside?

So I got a new phone a couple months ago. I'm ashamed to tell you what it is because it's not cool. It is a "smart" phone and to explain my shame - I got it with points from a phone plan so it is not what I might choose with a load of cash in my pocket.

This cool new smart phone came with a slip of paper in the box in 5 languages. The English says, "Using Wi-Fi may be restricted in some countries." I pause here to say, okay, my brain goes immediately to some really totalitarian states that restrict some basic freedoms to keep their agendas in the forefront of the culture. BUT, the rest of the paragraphs says this: "For example, in France, you are only allowed to use Wi-Fi indoors. For more information contact your local authorities."

Wow. Really? France? What's going on over there in the land of the republic? No Wi-Fi outdoors all my frog friends? In Spanish, we'd say, "Que absurdo."

I had fun imagining the Wi-Fi police. How would you actually patrol that? Do you run around with a phone that gets Wi-Fi and see if there's a signal and then look for people using their phones?  Why does it matter whether you use Wi-Fi indoors or outdoors? Is it uncouth to be looking at your phone as you stroll? Perhaps it's a public safety issue - all those people getting run over using Wi-Fi on the streets. It's just impossible to imagine an enforcement of this, but the note in the box sort of leaves it up to the phone owner to police themselves by checking with the local authorities.

Maybe I should call up someone (who do you call for this?) and ask about using my Wi-Fi outdoors. Don't you think they would think it was a joke or a prank?

I know our own representatives in the good ole USA make runs on limiting the freedoms of the internet every now and then, for various reasons, while I disagree with their concepts, I recognize their sense of security or something. I can sometimes understand ideas even if I disagree with them. But censorship only out of doors doesn't really have any sense.

My friend from France who lives in a suburb of Paris assures me that people actually do Wi-Fi on the streets. The other absurd thing our friends in France do is try to keep people from using anglicized words. The law is on the books - only French words, no adoptions of illegitimates from other lands. They actually do police this one, according to my friend, on city and government websites and documents. While the Spanish may have a sofá, their neighbors have a canapé. (Canape turns out to be a sandwich in Spain, oddly enough!)

Viva la différence!

07 June 2012

Lisbon in 48 hours

All of our travel this year has been work related and while that's not a complete bummer, nor is it the pure delight of self indulgent holiday. Our office decided to take American Memorial Day despite our location in Spain, because it's nice to have holidays when everyone is not on the road.

For 6 years now, we've been saying in a vague way, "We should go to Portugal since we're so close." Yes, Madrid is relatively speaking close to Portugal compared to say Kansas City, but it's not a day trip either. Ours was a spontaneous decision on Friday night, so we just googled until we found a hotel. While the place we stayed was nice and a good location, I won't make any official recommendations because we paid a lot spur of the moment. It's good we made reservations or we might not have made it to Lisbon. It was a long, long drive for a weekend and I think we might have turned in at Caceres or somewhere in Spain, but once they zap your credit card online your committed.

The good thing was we were a 10 minute walk from the center district of Lisbon. It was a fun walk through the posh shopping district. Can I just say that I'm really out of the loop on these stores? Who knew Porsche sold clothes and FLY was shoes? It was only window shopping 1. because it took us a long time to drive and everything was closed and also closed on Sunday and 2. I can't or perhaps won't afford those stores.

We also strolled through several grand plazas. One plaza was full -- and I mean full of Communist Party flags. A little stunning for two kids who grew up in the cold war. They'd had a demonstration that week against their collapsing economic state. We have those protests in Spain too, but not in the village where we live.

My overall impression of the center of Lisbon was gloriously colorful and rundown. They were refurbishing the waterfront so that was more polished behind the scaffolding, but the rest was shabby chic in a big way. I've never been to Cuba but it gave me a hint of the pictures I've seen, but with modern cars.

We had a bad experience trying to do one of the tourist buses so we could see some of the other famous site in the city besides just the center. Normally, we park and don't move the vehicle until it's time to drive home as the parking is such a challenge. AND we'd found a free place to park. We waited for the tour bus that comes "every half hour" for over an hour and half. We tried calling but I couldn't get my Spanish phone to make the connection or it was Sunday morning and it was turned off for the day. Either way we were up early(for me anyway) because of the time zone change and we wasted that extra time sitting at a bus stop. The reason we picked the yellow buses was because they also included the trolly. Fortunately we got our money back and just rode the public trolleys.

As in many centers of cities, the roads are tiny and narrow and in the case of Lisbon uphill in every direction. I mean HILL, like the kind that makes your thighs hurt for days. To compensate for this there are loads of electric old trolleys.

Number 28 has a reputation. I don't know if it's the oldest but it was windy and narrow and did not disappoint. Because it was not the expensive tourist one it was jammed, standing room only in the tiny trolley of wood and old fashioned benches. I was so plunged into the middle that there was nothing to grab onto and too many people for me to reach the polls. I figured I'd surf -- that's the word I use when I'm on the metro in Madrid and can't reach a hand hold. Take a ski stance with bent knees and surf it.

 Let's just say a trolley is not the metro. I ended up legs in the air flat on my back on top of a little old lady tourist. Then I giggled incessantly and the poor pickpocket felt so badly for me he moved so I could reach the poll and he got off at the next stop. It was definitely the highlight of my trip.

Here's a few photos from the center of old town. That's the only area we ended up exploring. Next time we'll go for longer. Oh, and the food was really tasty. Cod fritters, grilled shrimp and beans and rice. Good stuff. Turns out "Portuguese Stew" is corned beef and cabbage with slightly different spices.