I'm back in the states now. I returned from Europe on May 14th but I've been doing a lot since I returned home. Despite the tardiness, I thought I'd share a good story from our trip in Portugal.
After a tasty fish dinner in Evora and a great bottle of Portuguese wine, Dad and I walk back through the cobblestone streets towards Pousada de Loios. Since our Pousada was just next to the ancient roman temple, we decide to take a few evening pictures of the lit up Corinthian columns. After I am correctly placed in the middle of two columns, Dad notices that his (not inexpensive) camera is not working. Although it was still taking pictures, the screen was a deep, dark shade of purple. This is an immediate crisis since the camera is my dad's favorite tool in unwillingly capturing two of his favorite things, plants and his family (note that capturing both plant and family in the same frame is worth 12-15 shots and an 8 by 10 blow up). Given that this trip allowed for the possibility of that precious combination, we had to immediately address the crisis.
It was probably around 10 or 11pm, so going to a camera store tonight is rather out of the question. We decide to call Uncle Greg, the family camera connoisseur. Dad has bought a Portuguese cell phone with some credit on it, so we sat down in the hotel bar with two sweet tasting Ports, Greg's number and our small, trendy Vodofone. Dad has just begun to describe the shade of purple to Greg when the phone cuts out and flashes our remaining credit of 0.20 €. Well, we have to fix the camera, so we have to talk to Greg, so we need to buy more credit for the cell phone. Upon purchase, we'd been told about the ease of adding credit at a supermarket, bank or ATM (MB in Portuguese).
We received some vague directions to the closest MB in the 'main square' of town. We were quickly walking down, around and through confusing cobblestone streets that did not appear to be leading towards a main square. We stumble upon an ancient-looking Catholic church with people milling about. 'Come on,' dad says, 'There's a mass right now. We should go.' I hesitantly follow and we sit down in a back row pew. I look around anxiously to see if anyone knows we are foreign intruders. Most people are sitting in the front and seem to know each other. My nervousness slips away slightly as my jaw drops and I gaze up at the gorgeous detailed ceiling during the familiar mass proceedings. It immediately returns as dad loudly whispers 'uh oh, this is a funeral.' Sure enough, in the middle of the aisle between the pews of people who know each other lays a long white (thankfully closed) coffin. We quickly get up and bee-line for the exit and back onto the cobblestone streets.
Feeling motivated for another shot at the ATM/MB hunt, we find some Dutch flight training students at a bar who are themselves heading to the MB. They encouraged us to try using our credit card, but doubted that an American card would be able to add credit to a cell. Only a Portuguese card. We considered paying them to add the credit for us, but apparently Dutch cards don't work either. We return grudgingly back to still un-photographed (my camera doesn't count) temple Diana and our lovely Pousada.
The next morning, we follow some directions to a camera store (doesn't fix cannons) and a cell phone store (adds credit to every type of phone except Vodofone). We move on, get on our bikes and head towards Vila Vicosa. We are soon cruising on country roads, switching gears on rolling hills. At our lunch spot in Redondo, we decide to try solving the camera-Greg-credit-MB-phone problem once again. At the cafe, a woman seems to be telling us that the cell phone store reopens at 2pm, after siesta. To kill time, we wander, obviously, into a wine museum and do some tasting. The receptionist tells us in perfect English that the museum is free of charge. Change of plans. We explain to him our credit-on-phone problem and he says yes, he has a Portuguese credit card and yes, he'd be happy to put money on the phone for us (we give him 20 Euros). Dad heads over to the ATM/MB with this young guy with the piece of paper I'd written the cell number on and, theoretically, adds credit to the phone. We go back to our bikes and await the text message informing us of additional credit. The text never comes. Later, I look at the piece of paper with our number on it. My port-induced handwriting makes 5s and 3s look very similar.
We bike another 20 kilometers through Androal to Vila Vicosa. This is a long ride and we are exhausted by the time we arrive at the next Pousada. Since we are staying for two nights, I propose a rest day for tomorrow. Dad happily agrees. We were so tired that we decided to take a cab to dinner. The jolly big-bellied driver of this classic Mercedes was an extremely enthusiastic tour guide, despite not speaking a word of English. There were a lot of gestures and repeated words (that we still did not understand on the 4th or 5th attempt). He took us to an excellent dinner at Cucos.
The following day, after a slow morning touring the Dom Juao palace, we decide to attempt to solve our camera-Greg-ATM/MB-phone-credit-Portuguese problem a final time. We try our luck at a supermarket. When we walk over to the taxi stand, our holly big-bellied driver from last night is awaiting with his friends. We says 'supermarket' in enough romance languages that the destination becomes clear. There, we asked the cashier about the adding credit to a phone process but faced a solid language barrier and she points to the ATM/MB. AT the front of the store were two young women doing what appeared to be scholarship fundraising. One of them spoke English, so we explained our predicament. She said that yes, a Portuguese credit card could add money to our phone, but that she did not have her own card with her. It turns out that people are slightly skeptical of you when you're basically asking for their credit card and not speaking their language. We recruit her to translate this problem to jolly big-bellied taximan.
He has a working Portuguese credit card. I have the correct phone number. We successfully add 50 Euros to the cell phone and even receive a confirmation text. We make a donation to the potential scholarships and jump in the taxi, as jolly as our driver. He suggests (through gestures) that we take a short scenic detour up to a lookout over Villa Vicosa. We got up the hill and I pulled dad's camera out of my bag. The screen turned on and crystal clearly displays my sandy sunburnt feet. The camera works now. In further Portugese-ridden laughs, we took scenic pictures of dad, me and jolly big-bellied taximan at the top of the hill.
We did end up, however, using all our credit calling various family members. Uncle Greg did receive the much anticipated call, but only to recant the adventurous discovery that the camera fixed itself.