6/20/09 Quick trip to Porto, Portugal to attend CMU Portugal conference. Packed light, with just my purse, backpack and CHI 2009 tote bag. Bringing my Canon Xti with the 50 mm prime lens, and no other camera stuff. It's easy to carry and takes beautiful photos, but there will be no wide shots.
Flying Pittsburgh to Newark, Newark to Lisbon, Lisbon to Porto on Continental and TAP. Checked in online and improved my EWR to Lisbon seat to one closer to the front. Wasn't able to get boarding pass for the last leg. Flight was delayed getting into EWR due to low cloud ceiling. It's been a long time since I've been to EWR, which used to be home airport, but doesn't seem to have changed. Still plenty of time to make my connection to Lisbon. I was pleasantly surprised that all seats on Lisbon flight had power outlets. As an added bonus the middle seat next to me was empty. Unfortunately the outlets seem to periodically overheat and turn themselves off. While food has all but disappeared from domestic flights, there's still plenty of food on international flights, even in coach. I was glad my profile is marked for vegetarian meals so I could bypass the chicken or beef option. I would have preferred less food and more sleep, however. They only had the lights off for about 3 hours between dinner and breakfast.
6/21/09 We arrived in Lisbon on time and I looked around hopefully for a clue on where to get a boarding pass. I was told to continue through security without a boarding pass. After passing through security without a problem, waited in line for 15 minutes at transfer desk and was told to go to terminal 2. Took a bus to terminal 2 and enquired about getting a boarding pass. Was told to go back out of the secure area. Finally got the boarding pass, went back through security again and found my gate. Stopped by an ATM and got some Euros. I was glad for the long layover as it had taken an hour to get to my gate. My CMU colleagues flying through Philadelphia missed the Porto flight. Terminal 2 is one huge room with rows of chairs and not many people sitting in them. I took a few photos before a guard pointed to my camera and shook his head disapprovingly.
They called my flight and we boarded a bus to the plane. I'm not sure where our plane was parked, but we drove about 15 minutes to get there. Finally got on the plane for short, uneventful flight to Porto.
Porto airport looks very new and modern. The shopping area appears to be still under construction. Bought an English-language tour book with some good maps of Porto and headed for the taxis. Taxi driver drove like a maniac, and it didn't take long to get to the Quality Inn at Batalha.
Checked into my hotel around 1 pm and tried unsuccessfully to get on the hotel wireless network. Gave up, and headed out with my camera and tour book in search of lunch and interesting sites. Ordered an omelet and coffee at a cafe next to my hotel. It came with an enormous pile of french fries. Finished lunch and started to wander. The tour book mentioned old churches, museums, bridges, and port. I headed towards the Douro River, where I figured I was likely to find the bridges and port wine cellars. The weather was beautiful, clear sky, and unusually warm day for Porto.
After a short walk I spotted the Ponte D. Luis I bridge in the distance and started heading towards it. The top deck is reserved for the metro train and pedestrians. The metro travels slowly across the the bridge, so it is not hazardous for pedestrians to wander back and forth across the tracks. The view from the bridge was amazing, offering first a bird's eye view of the hillside and then the boats passing below the bridge, and next a full profile view. Porto is a city of layers. Houses with red, clay tile roofs are built vertically into the hill side with narrow cobblestone roads and steep stone staircases snaking between them. Gaping holes in some roofs reveal scattered belongings left behind in burnt out shells. Some houses are covered in leafy vines with large deep purple flowers. Abandoned houses adjoin inhabited houses, with clotheslines fluttering out the windows and children playing outside. Many of the facades are covered with brightly-colored ceramic tiles or painted intense shades of yellow, orange, and red. The sides of buildings are dotted with satellite dishes. At the top of many of the hills are well-maintained homes, castles, and churches. The view from the bridge was like an eye-spy photo. I wandered across the bridge slowly, taking lots of photos and noticing new details with every step... a green and yellow beach umbrella, a person repelling down the side of a retaining wall, gardens growing on balconies, a palm tree. Several other photographers were making the same journey. One asked me in French if I knew how to get to the bottom of the bridge. No clue.
Porto trip - red PT phone booth Porto trip - Metro train on Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - Funicular viewed from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - Ponte D. Luis I bridge
When I got to the other side I continued walking, hoping to find the port wine cellars. I soon realized they were at the bottom of the bridge and I could not figure out how to get there from where I was. I wandered around an urban park and then turned back and took more photos as I crossed the bridge again. Several other bridges are visible from the Ponte D. Louis, including D. Maria Pia Bridge, built by Gustave Eiffel.
Porto trip - flowers in park Porto trip - flowers in park Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - view from Ponte D. Luis I bridge
I headed back towards my hotel and explored the area around Batalha. An old chapel, Capela das Almas de Santa Catarina, overlooks the plaza. Around the corner, clothes stores line both sides of the street. The sidewalks are made of black and white tiles arranged in spirals and fleurs-de-lis. By this point it was getting quite hot and the air conditioned stores looked like a good place to cool off. I bought Nina a "Little Miss Sunshine" t-shirt I found on a clearance rack. An adult extra small, it will make a nice dress. I've been trying to find a shirt like this ever since Nina was given the "sun" symbol at preschool.
Porto trip - buildings and metro escalater Porto trip - decorations for the festival Porto trip - Capela das Almas de Santa Catarina
I returned to my hotel, took a quick shower, and got ready for an afternoon meeting with CMU faculty, the director of the CMU Portugal program, and the Portuguese Secretary of State. The meeting was at the Palacio da Bolsa, which I had been told was about 1 km from my hotel. I asked at the front desk how to get there and they drew a route on my map involving a long flight of stairs or a funicular. I had not realize the Palacio was 1 km straight down hill from the hotel. I followed the map, but could not find the entrance to the funicular, so decided to try the stairs. The long stair case wound between houses with front doors that opened right onto the stair case. The stairs kept going, and going, and going.... Eventually I reached the bottom and found I was at the base of the bridge. I walked along the river front and then up the hill a couple of blocks to the Palacio.
Porto trip - long staircase road Porto trip - long staircase road Porto trip - Ponte D. Luis I bridge Porto trip - couple walking down narrow street near square
The Palacio da Bolsa is a beautiful old castle. We met in a small meeting room, where the Secretary of State discussed the purpose of the CMU Portugal partnership and asked for our feedback on how to strengthen the program going forward. We were served trays of a wide variety of delicious bite-sized Portuguese pastries. The custard tarts were especially good. We adjourned to the Arabian room where the conference was being set up. The Arabian room had amazing carved and painted detail in the walls, and a beautiful inlaid wood floor. The organizers were very excited because the Prime Minister of Portugal, José Sócrates, had agreed to give a speech at the conference. The organizers discussed how to rearrange the room and the program. The three hours of sleep I had gotten on the plane started to catch up with me.
Porto trip - Lorrie in Arabian room in Palacio da Bolsa Porto trip - Priya in Arabian room in Palacio da Bolsa Porto trip - stained glass in Arabian room in Palacio da Bolsa Porto trip - column in Arabian room in Palacio da Bolsa Porto trip - wall detail in Arabian room in Palacio da Bolsa
After a stop at my colleagues' hotel, we headed across the lower span of the bridge to dinner at Tonho, a restaurant on the other side of the river, overlooking the water. The menu was mostly meat with a few fish dishes, as is typical of Portuguese restaurants. The port and Portuguese red wine were excellent. As the sun set on the river, the view was spectacular. The secretary of state invited us to walk along the river with him after dinner. We walked back across the bridge and I took a taxi back to my hotel rather than hike up to the top of the hill. The hotel wireless was working when I got back, so I paid for half an hour of Internet access before going to bed.
Porto trip - man looking out window from house on the square Porto trip - colorful buildings Porto trip - colorful buildings Porto trip - Port boat Porto trip - Douro River at night Porto trip - Douro River at night Sandeman sign at night Porto trip - Douro River at night
6/22/09 I had breakfast at my hotel and then headed to the Palacio. I decided to try a different route this time with what looked to be a more gradual down hill slope. I walked down one of the roads marked on my map, Rua Da Madeira. and was surprised when it ended abruptly at a stair case. I walked down the stairs and the road continued. No problem on foot, but clearly impassable by car.
Porto trip - Rua Da Madeira
The opening of the conference was delayed until the Prime Minister's arrival. He arrived with an entourage of media, but without the obvious security detail that accompanies many heads of state. There was no security screening at the conference. Sócrates sat in the front row and listened to the opening remarks and my colleague Marvin Sirbu's keynote talk. Except for Marvin's talk, the opening talks were all in Portuguese, but we had all been given head sets to listen to the simultaneous translation. The opening session was largely a pep rally for the CMU Portugal partnership. Eventually, Sócrates came to the podium for his remarks. It was clear he was a skilled orator. He made large gestures and remained in constant eye contact with the audience. One interesting comment he made was that protests at the most recent Portuguese elections were about lack of broad band access. Another interesting point was his remark that women make up 44% of the Portuguese science labor force. I noted that there were very few Portuguese women in the room other than students and those helping organize the conference, so perhaps the percentage is much lower for IT. I shook hands with Sócrates as he left the room.
Porto trip - Marvin in Arabian room in Palacio da Bolsa Porto trip - José Sócrates Porto trip - José Sócrates Porto trip - José Sócrates Porto trip - José Sócrates Porto trip - José Sócrates Porto trip - José Sócrates Porto trip - José Sócrates Porto trip - José Sócrates
The coffee break featured more custard tarts...yum! After a session of short student research talks we headed outside in search of lunch. I decided to try the traditional grilled cod fish. As with my fish last night, it was served with potatoes. Back for the afternoon sessions, I gave a short talk in a break-out session. By this point jet lag was really setting in and it became a challenge to stay awake. I talked with students during the poster session, then on to the final session, and then a port wine and cheese reception. A group of women engineering students performed some traditional Portuguese music, wearing their formal student uniforms, complete with floor-length black capes.
Porto trip - students presenting posters
I decided to join some PhD students for dinner at a fixed-priced Portuguese restaurant called "Tromba Rija" on the other side of the river. The meal began with wine, a cheese table, and a huge table spread with traditional Portuguese appetizers. The main course was a cod dish. Then lemon sorbet, a fruit tray, a dessert table, and finally after-dinner drinks with a basket of nuts. Great food, and interesting conversation made for a delightful evening.
Porto trip - laundry and umbrella on building Porto trip - Douro River Porto trip - cheese Porto trip - appetizers
6/23/09 I headed to the train station with Vas and took the train to Brago. Rui met us at the station and took us to the University of Minho for our project team meeting. We walked to lunch at a vegetarian restaurant near a castle. We returned to Porto in the late afternoon.
Porto trip - Porto train station Porto trip - Porto train staiton Porto trip - Porto train station Porto trip - textile department at Unviersity of Minho Porto trip - Rui and Vas at the University of Minho Porto trip - near University of Minho Porto trip - castle near University of Minho Porto trip - near University of Minho Porto trip - Guimaraes train station
When we returned to Porto, excitement was building for the San Joao festival. Street vendors were selling squeaky-toy hammers for people to use to bop each other over the head at the festival. I bought three to bring home for my kids. I dropped my backpack off in my hotel room, and headed out to observe the festival. Outside the hotel and conference, most people I encountered in Portugal did not speak English. But by my second day in Portugal I was used to gesturing and trying words I know in French and Spanish to communicate. I bought some fruit, pastries, and churros from street vendors for dinner. The streets were starting to fill with people. In one area, vendors had setup a long row of booths selling everything from bras to kitchen utensils. Another row had portable restaurants. Locals were lined up outside the restaurants serving fish, grilled on a barbecue. The air was filled with smoke from the grills, and everything smelled like barbecued fish. I walked to the big staircase by the bridge and made my way down. The residents of the staircase houses were all sitting on the steps grilling fish, with tables set up on the landings. At the bottom of the stairs, crowds were headed towards the more touristy restaurants. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic and pedestrians were walking in the street. Several stages had been setup for concerts later that evening. Most of them were already playing recorded music on their loud speakers. Everyone, young and old, was walking around with squeaky hammers bopping total strangers on the head. Young kids were especially delighted when adults stooped down to allow their heads to be bopped. The constant squeaks from the hammers could be heard, even over the loud music.
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Since I was out by myself and had to leave for the airport at 6 am, I headed back towards my hotel as it was getting dark. Having gotten a bit of a feel for the lay of the land, I followed streets that seemed to be heading up hill in roughly the right direction until I got to an area that was about the elevation of my hotel and then used my map to navigate back to the hotel. There was a fish dinner in the courtyard of the chapel next to my hotel, with more loud music playing. I was glad for an interior room as I headed to bed early.
Porto trip -San Joao festival Porto trip -San Joao festival Porto trip -San Joao festival Porto trip -San Joao festival Porto trip -San Joao festival Porto trip - festival dinner Porto trip -San Joao festival, near Batalha Porto trip -San Joao festival, near Batalha Porto trip -San Joao festival, near Batalha
6/24/09 I woke up at 5:30 am and took a taxi to the airport at 6. People were still walking home from the festival, carrying their hammers. I got my boarding passes and went through security quickly at the Porto airport. I had breakfast and went to my gate. Signs all over the airport advertised free Internet. When I tried to access it, all I could find was Internet service you have to pay for. Eventually I realized there were Ethernet ports in some of the seats. Fortunately, I had a patch cable in my backpack and was able to use it to get on the Internet briefly before boarding my flight. The flight to Lisbon was uneventful. The TAP flight attendants had spiffy uniforms with matching leather accessories. Their high-heeled shoes, belts, handbags, and gloves were all navy leather with a single red stripe. The flight attendants looked quite sharp, but not all that comfortable.
In Lisbon I looked briefly through the shopping area, trying to find a gift for Chuck. I decided he probably didn't want a decorative rooster or an embroidered Portuguese apron, and I wasn't sure the food items would survive the rest of the trip or make it through US customs and security. So I gave up (sorry Chuck), and waited in the long line to have my passport stamped. There was a short wait and then it was time to board my flight to Newark.
I sat in an aisle seat, and was not able to put my backpack under the seat in front of me due to the box for the power outlet. My power outlet stopped working a couple of hours into the flight, so the flight attendant suggested I move to a different seat. I moved to the front of the coach cabin to a bulkhead seat, without anyone sitting next to me. Eventually the power outlets stopped working everywhere in coach, but at least I got a better seat and was the first coach passenger off the plane when we landed.
Shortly after we landed in Newark it started raining. Got back to Pittsburgh over 2 hours late.