Lisbon (or Lisboa, to the Lisboanistas) hit Tracy hard. Three smooth flights to get there. A short Vancouver and London Heathrow stopover. Of this, the hardest was the checking in of our bikes at the Sandspit airport. Each carefully packaged bike box pulled apart by the Sandspit airport staff, and a frantic reassembly and a prayer to Allah that the packing tape holds it all together for the flights to come.
But no, the hardest was the traffic in Lisbon. Blessings to the rental car attendant who helped us cram our beaten bikes into the back of a Renault Traffic, the world's largest van. Ok, maybe not the largest, but besides the truck lorries, it was the biggest vehicle on the Portuguese interstate we found ourselves on, trying to make it to Sintra, our first stop on this trip.
White knuckled driving into the setting sun, no lane markers, no understandable signs, Apple's Siri guiding us, mangling the Portuguese pronunciation worse than us. The first roundabout a four-laner, with traffic lights, grid lock and a lane change for some exit. The diesel engine tested by Tracy's rusty stick-shifting and jerky steering. They say on Europe roads, might makes right. This was tested. More prayers that the motorcycles driving in between lanes don't appear near us.
Driving a delivery van on the Sintra granite cobblestone streets made for horses, in the dark, with no street signs was harrowing. Siri calmly rerouted us as we miss "take the sharp left" up little gaps in the stone walls. Sintra is built on a hill side, a medieval town built for people and goats and horses and not a Renault Traffic with a Canadian driver.
When Siri announced we'd arrived at our destination, we find ourselves at the base of dark cobbled stairs. The boys and Tracy follow it up, switchbacking up a hill, eventually finding Fredrico, our greeter, an hour late now. He puts out his cigarette, turns off his phone and we are oriented to the house. It is old, made of granite blocks and tiled walls, cold and damp with confusing rooms and we are soon lost in the house. We find a nearby, 12th century church parking lot, find a new route to get to it, assured we are allowed to park there. Probably too big to be towed.
We shiver as we turn on heaters, drag in our bike boxes and walk down the hill to find a restaurant, too late now to find groceries.