Coping with a lousy cold when you’re in the comfort of your home is one thing, coping while traveling is a whole different story. Sure, there’s a pharmacy on every corner in Porto, but try finding a bottle of Ginger Ale on the shelf of the neighborhood market… it ain’t gonna happen. You guessed it, the lousy cold bug has us both down for the count and I don’t have my favorite blanket with which to curl up so I’m a bit cranky. Just a bit.
When You Don’t Speak the Language
After a lovely day of exploring the city and port wine tasting, we returned to our temporary home away from home last Sunday afternoon, looked at the $1.95 clock we bought to sit on the shelf, and realized daylight savings had ended at 2:00 a.m. that morning. This is what happens when you don’t speak the language. You have no idea about such things.
Halloween came and went without too much fanfare here in the hood. As far as we can tell there’s not a single child residing in the building in which we currently call home. It was a bit of a bummer because we didn’t have a reason to buy candy in earnest anticipation of having left overs. Actually, I don’t even know if the kids trick-or-treat in Porto. The only evidence we saw of the holiday was store window displays and pastries in our favorite bakery that boasted sugar pumpkins.
Eggs, Ice & Starbucks
I engaged in an online conversation about Europe’s policy of selling eggs at room temperature, right off the shelf. No refrigeration. I’ve learned it’s all about the processing and I’ve gotten used to the idea. Although, we put them in the refrigerator as soon as we can. Truthfully, the eggs are quite tasty and let me tell you they make for some very yellow custard filling which can be found in every single bakery in the City of Porto. We’ve learned there is little reason to taste test other bakeries because they seemingly all sell exactly the same goodies.
Although I have grown accustomed to the selling of room temperature eggs straight off the shelf (there is literally no other choice) I cannot, nor will I ever succumb to boxed milk sold straight off the shelf at room temperature. Nope, nada, never going to happen. It’s just wrong. And, nasty. Obviously, it is safe for consumption but… I finally figured out why my Chai Lattes at the various European Starbucks tasted off. It’s the milk. There is actually a “coming soon” Starbucks in Porto, but I don’t know. I’m secretly hoping it won’t open before we leave so I won’t be faced with the decision.
Ice. What I would give to order a diet coke with a cup full of crushed ice. Speaking of Diet Coke. I have not found a single can of Diet Coke in the past four months of traveling throughout Europe. Apparently, the “D” word is taboo. There is Coke Lite and Coke Zero, neither of which I’m particularly fond of. Here’s the story about Coke Zero. It was created to soothe the male ego because apparently it’s not manly to drink a Diet Coke, because you know, men don’t diet. Right? So, the marketing wizards came up with Coke Zero, which comes in a black and red can because it’s manly don’t you know? Let it be known that Coke Zero is not all about the zero, it is chock full of caffeine.
But back to ice. I literally get giddy when I order a Coke Zero and get an ice cube, thrilled if there are two cubes. Speechless if there are three. I’ve yet to get more than three. Seriously, I can count the ice cubes in my drink. The only place where one can get a serious cup of ice in a drink, such as in my beloved Iced Chai Latte, is at Starbucks. Say what you will about Starbucks, they can be relied upon. By the way, the Portuguese word for ice is gelo. Just sayin.
Learning the Cultural Norms
We have learned there is a trick carried out by the locals when it comes to shopping in the neighorhood Pingo Doce (grocery store). This particular store is always busy with long lines. The local women have developed a system of putting a few items in their basket, which they leave in line in place of their body. Then they run back and forth pulling items from the shelf and adding them to their baskets. Honestly, if I could speak the language I’d be all over this little practice as I find it super annoying. But, to combat the process we have taken to one of us standing in line while the other grabs what we need. Why do we shop there? Because it is literally just around the corner.
But, now that we’ve been here a few weeks we’re getting to know the neighborhood and have found another store that we like. It’s one-half mile away, but an easy walk. We can’t buy much each time because we have a very small refrigerator. We even found tortilla chips, at yet another store, which was very exciting. In order to do so though we had to take the Metro across the river to Gaia. It was so worth it!
Porto: It’s All Kinds of Fabulous
Lest you’re thinking we’re not enjoying Porto, that’s just not the case. Porto is all kinds of fabulous, but sometimes one just wants what one wants, especially when not feeling well. It’s fun to explore and try new things. And, although it can be a bit frustrating, it’s also interesting to learn cultural norms. The trick is to remember that it is in fact the norm, it’s up to us to adjust our thought process.
It’s all part of the experience of daily life no matter where in the world you find yourself.