One of the best ways to counter jet lag and ensure you don't waste the first day of any journey across multiple time zones is to plan to arrive at your destination in the morning. If it's possible and you have the energy to start your day running you'll get the most out of your trip and you'll virtually slaughter jet lag in its tracks.
Myrah at the rental car counter in Lisbon was blunt and to the point. “What are my options?” I enquired about cars available. About 25, thick dark hair and a long face explained, “you've got a mid-sized car. You ordered a smaller car. This is what you have.” I see. That's my option. One car.
But I did have options. Insurance options, that is. With the collision insurance I will only be responsible for up to $750 Euros she explained while showing me a line drawing of my car option marking hash marks where previous renters have had run ins with other cars or walls or whatever. “With the super coverage you only responsible for $150 Euros.” I explained that my platinum American Express card covered these things for me and I'd prefer to decline paying for the additional coverage.
“Then you'll be responsible for up to $17,000 Euro if anything happens.” I agreed and initialed the paperwork.
“I will have to charge your credit card $17,000 Euros, then.” Thinking this is a scare tactic, coercion or just hard sell, I stammered turned to Tim and shook my head.
“Okay. Charge my credit card.” Ah. The beauty of having a credit card with no limit. You gotta love American Express. Though in these parts perhaps our president has caused a bit of a stir and the word American may have certain less than favorable connotations.
Soon Tim and I were traveling north on Portugal's A-1 toll road. With no map, no itinerary and no preliminary research completed we only knew we wanted to be in Porto, about 300km north of Lisbon, by dinner.
Screaming 120 kph in a Fiat Spiro without a map, zero command of the Portuguese language nor an idea of what we might find between Lisbon and Portugal, Tim and I laughed, grinned and motored on. After all, we were in Portugal and Spain. We'll figure it out.
Up to the time we rolled into Santarem the Portuguese people had been friendly, smiling and eager to help anyone who asked. Famous for its bullfights and fairs which by this time in October have gone into hibernation for the winter, Santerem is home to a number of interesting churches. We decided to take a quick look at the Igresa de Nossa Senhora de Conceicao which commands a strong presence of the city's main square. Parking along other cards on a curb that bordered a fence that marked a construction zone for the square, we quickly explored this 17th century baroque-styled Jesuit Seminary. Less than 15 minutes later we came back to our Fiat Stilo that Myrah so proudly offered us as our “best” option to find that someone had spit on our drivers window.
Damn. Only a couple hours in Portugal and we're making enemies?
We soon realized this was an anomaly, but our tour today along the Atlantic coast and up through a National Park was spectacular. It's 4am. And I've got to get some sleep.
Glad to have high-speed internet here in our Porto hotel. We managed to find Tim's partner Charlie online and ready with his iSight camera. Charlie delivered Tim the news that Boston continued its history making run toward the 2004 World Series. He's a bit bummed. But I couldn't be happier.
I'll fill you in more tomorrow.
Photo: A screen captured sent to us by Charlie (inset) while Tim (r) and I (l) chatted with him about the Yankees and Port wine — yes, here we are with less than 2 hours sleep in 48 hours chatting live over Apple iChat with the iSight camera — Portugal to New York City.