During our visit to Lisbon, which I wrote about last week, when people would find out that I live in San Francisco, some would say that our two cities are similar. After all, both have a suspension bridge, which looks identical even painted in the same color. The bridge across the river Tagus was designed by the American Bridge company, which constructed not the Golden Gate Bridge; but rather, the Bay Bridge. Additionally, there is a belief that both cities are built on seven hills (actually there are more). The proximity to the river and the Bay allows for a fishing industry.
Both cities have a population comprised of people from many parts of the world, and the common language for communication is English. Since tourism is a big business, many signs and menus in restaurants are in English. There are Starbucks restaurants, McDonald’s and Burger King, a Tesla Store, as well as Re/Max, Century 21 and Keller-Williams real estate offices. On the street everywhere are scooters and red electrical bicycles, owned by Uber. Food is delivered through Uber Eats, and Uber drivers are taking away business from the local taxi drivers. Both Lisbon and San Francisco are beautiful cities which offer incredible views with sunrises and sunsets.
There might be other similarities, but our experience staying in Lisbon felt totally different. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe; the history goes back to the Phoenician and Greek trading posts (c. 800-860 BC). In 711, Islamic Moors occupied the area, and left their mark on some of the architecture. It was recaptured by Christian crusaders in 1147. In the 15th and 16th centuries it became the center of a vast empire. Portuguese seafarer Vasco De Gama was the first to discover India and to establish routes for the colonizing of many parts of West Africa and Brazil. Lisbon is home to about 3 million people. As a part of EU, it has an influx of people from different countries in Europe, as well as former African colonies.
The biggest difference I found was on the streets. They were free of garbage, drug addicts, and homeless (I saw only one). Tourists are safe and welcomed here.
P.S. These four images show some of Lisbon’s beauty.
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If you ‘ve been in Portugal, you probably noticed that locals call their capital Lisboa. On our recent trip there, we met quite a few people who also speak Russian. Our first taxi driver, who drove us from the airport to our hotel, was from Ukraine, barely spoke Portuguese, and managed by speaking English. Since Portugal is part of the EU (European Union), it became the place that attracts people from many parts of the world, including Africa, which Portugal colonized in 1418. Portugal’s colonial history is fascinating and lasted from 1415 till 1999, when Macau was returned to China. Portuguese are very proud of their sea explorer Vasco de Gama, who reached India in 1495. They even named a new bridge in his honor. As an historical irony, in our times, Portugal is considered one of the poorest (but economically fast improving) countries in the Western Europe, which is impossible to guess after spending seven days here.
I started writing this story on the first day after our arrival. However it took me a few days to finish, since every day we returned to our hotel room exhausted after hours of walking. My day usually started at about seven. Our hotel was located in the center (an area called Baixa, which means downtown), a five-minute walk from the river Tagus in the foothill of the old town, which was built on seven hills. Walking up the cobbled stone covered roads for two hours every morning, I explored different neighborhoods, getting lost, and then after returning to our hotel, I showed off my knowledge to Elfa. I used the map only to show locals where my hotel was, since the streets are very confusing.
We started our acquaintance with this city with a population of about three million (including the surrounding areas), by exploring with the hop-on-hop off Yellow Bus. It has an open area on the top and since the weather was very pleasant, we enjoyed our sightseeing. There are four bus routes plus the Yellow Boat. Over three days we saw the majority of what there was there to see. We also visited an incredible art collection in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, and did some shopping in the Porte Englese, a shopping mall owned by a Spanish company. Around the corner from our hotel was an area with many restaurants with outdoor seating. Some of them served very good food. We also ate at the Time Out Market, where locals bring fish, which were swimming just a few hours ago. We had delicious ice cream almost every day (walking helped to burn the calories). We listened to local Fado music, performed in many venues. We relaxed in many parks; I bought five books about Lisbon, since I am considering writing my own photo-book about the experience; but for that I have to return. It was tiring to walk for many hours, but we had a very good time. Some compare Lisbon with San Francisco, but I will write about that next time.
P.S. It was difficult for me to decide which one out of over 1200 images to share with you.
What you see: a concert in a private home, protesters blocking the tram by laying on the rails, one on the squares with a beautiful paved road, and my appearance next to the statue of Fernando Pessoa – a famous writer and poet (I bought three of his books in English). My wife Elfa took this image.
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Three times a week, I take our labradoodle, Max to his dog-sitter. It is about a twenty-minute drive from our house to the Richmond District, and my route takes me through Golden Gate Park. On the way, I see a green field, which looks like bowling courts to me. For a while, there was construction going on, but on Wednesday, September 25th, I saw a crowd of people, some of them dressed in white clothing. After dropping Max off, I decided to return, since I needed a story to share with you, and I suspected that not many of you are familiar with Lawn Bowling. I had a conversation with one of the spectators, who has been playing this game since 1992, and claimed that though he is part of the team; he is not good enough to go on the court during the competition.
Turns out that it takes very specific skills to be able to throw eight specially designed balls to roll to the mark close to a smaller ball called a “jack” or “kitty”. You need good coordination, balance, strength and endurance (each game takes about three hours) and even talent to be good at this game. He directed me across the road to the clubhouse. There and online I learned some fascinating history. The Lawn Bowling Club in San Francisco was formed in 1901 by the Scottish fraternal organization of St. Andrew Society, and at the beginning was known as the Scottish Bowling Club. In 1912, there was another organization established – the Women’s Golden Gate Lawn Bowling Club. Both organizations united later on, and today the Club is recognized as the oldest public club in the country.
According to the timetable I found on the wall in the club-house, the history of lawn bowling started in 5200 B.C. In 1588, one of the famous bowlers was Sir Francis Drake, who claimed what was now California for the English. Lawn Bowling appears to have been introduced into American Colonies in the 1600s, though archeologists have uncovered that North American Indians played similar game centuries before. What I witnessed in the park was part of the Bowls USA 2019 Championship. In the club I found that the participants, men and women, are from eight divisions from different parts of the United States.
If you are looking for a way to relax and spend time outdoors with pleasant people, you might be interested in free lessons on most of Wednesday and weekends. The address is 320 Bowling Green Drive, Golden Gate Park, (415) 297-5042.
P.S. You can find many images of the Lawn Bowling online. My task was to show you four images, which look a bit different. You be the judge.
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If you read my photo-story book “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” (if you didn’t, you can buy your book on amazon.com), you know that our labradoodle Max was born in Monterey, CA, where his breeder Melinda Leahy lives. Therefore, when we recently visited Carmel with Max, I wanted to meet his Mom. Unfortunately, she was not available, because she was staying with Melinda’s friend who was sick and had seizures. Right before a seizure, the dog would lay next to the woman’s head, informing relatives about a forthcoming problem. A similar dog’s behavior was reported in a The Wall Street Journal article, which appeared on Monday, September 6, 2019 titled, “Dogs That Can Read Warning Signs”. This dog’s behavior is not unique. According to some research, people and dogs have a special connection. There was another article in the San Francisco Chronicle, on Friday, June 7, 2019 titled, “Stressed? Your Dog May Feel It Too, Study Suggests.” Swedish researchers found out that owners are influencing their dogs, rather than the other way around. “New evidence continually emerging, showing that people and their dogs have incredibly close bonds that resemble the ones that parents share with their children.” But this does not explain dogs behavior when humans are in trouble. I was surprised to find “A Pet’s Heart” in “Costco Connection.” Just in case you missed it, I will share some of the stories with you. Diane Hoodhad recently adopted her dog, Teva. The dog started to pay extra attention to Hood’s left leg – even through her blue jeans. She thought it was just a freckle. Nevertheless, she went to a doctor to have it checked out. Teva’s sensitive nose had smelt squamous cell carcinoma, which was then safely removed. Dogs also help other dogs. Just like people, dogs need blood during surgery and other medical procedures. Veterinary Hospital in Raleigh, NC uses pit bull Einstein who, before retiring at the age of 12 saved 100 lives.
There is another service that connects people with dogs – military working dogs, or K-9. Developed during World War II, the program currently includes more than 2500 dogs serving in the military, and about 700 deployed overseas. I found a fascinating story in the Smithsonian Magazine in its January/February 2019 edition, “War Dog”. It was about the author Rebecca Frankel’s experience of bringing home retired seasoned veteran of combat in Afghanistan, a 10-year old Belgian Malinois named Dingo. “He was trained to propel his 87 pound body weight toward insurgents, locking his jaws around them. He’d served three tours in Afghanistan where he’d weathered grenade blasts and firefights. In 2011, he’d performed bomb-sniffing heroics that earned one of his handlers a Bronze Star. This dog saved thousands of lives”. The article not only talks about how this tough soldier was adopted to become Rebecca’s best friend, but you can also see his photos during his army service.
In the “Costco Connection” I also read a story about a cat named George. He protected two little girls from a rattlesnake, positioning himself in front of the snake until the girls’ grandmother was able to roll their stroller away.
I am sure you might have heard or experienced stories about our special four-legged friends. I would like to hear them and to share them with my readers.
P.S. The three dogs (including our Max) and a cat might not look as special, but for their owners they are. As far as our family is concerned, we have a special companion – Max. He became famous after appearing on the cover of my photo-story book “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers” which you can buy on Amazon.com.
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