JIM'S JOURNAL FOR THE TRIP TO SPAIN AND PORTUGAL, JUNEJULY 2011 Start on June 18/19 It didn't begin auspiciously. Lauren drove us to the airport, but en route Mom realized that is should be DCA, not Dulles. We made it in time despite slowness on the GW. But our flight to Newark was delayed, because storms at Newark had closed the airport. Our bags got on with us, but after 45 minutes they turned us back from the tarmac to wait in comfort in the terminal. Getting out of DCA seemed unlikely, so we left the gate area to try to arrange a trip for the following day. We lucked into Mr. Lopez at the United counter, who spent a long time with us and found a flight out of Dulles at 5:40 Saturday. The bad news is that during our time with him our scheduled flight got a landing slot at Newark and left the gate. We found out later that our flight to Lisbon did in fact leave Newark only a little late, but we don't know whether our late flight to Newark would have permitted the connection. Not very likely, and not worth the risk that we would have had to overnight in NJ at our expense. We had no trouble the next day. The extra day at home gave Janie some rest time to fix her cold, and I rode the bike on a good stretch of the W&OD Trail west of Reston. Titi took us to Dulles. The special treat: United upgraded us at no cost to first class. We had decided to splurge and upgrade anyway, but the airline must have felt guilty. So the Griswolds win one for a change. Janie stretched out on the long seat-beds for at least five hours, fighting her cold. I called Eddie, who was already in Amsterdam with Evonne. He'd had a heads-up from Pinnacle about the planes, so he wasn't surprised. Chalk another one up for the Griswolds. The world is now more complicated. We were on a Continental flight; got changed to a United; which shared the route with Air Lingus; so we flew on an Air Lingus plane to Madrid; then took a TAP plane to Lisbon. But most amazing of all -- TAP had recognized our problem and retrieved our bags from United. We found them at the baggage claim at TAP. All was well. I called Ed, but I told him that we were in St. Petersburg, the first wise-ass comment of the trip. Our taxi driver Marco (I thought he had said Miguel) got us to the hotel up near the Castelo St. Joao. He also convinced us to hire him to drive us to a couple of beautiful sites a day or two later. We hugged and kissed and exchanged tales with Eddie and Evonne. It was a great relief to have arrived, regardless of the misadventures. We decided to forget resting for a while and walked down to the river and a big plaza to catch a tour bus.
We rode on the upper deck and listened to a tape recorded recitation about some sites. We exited at a modern section of the city to see a gem of architecture that included high-rise apartment buildings, a shopping mall, a Metro station, and other planned elements. It had been constructed for a world's-fair type of event. We gawked and ate lunch, already glad to be off our feet. Jane and I confessed to exhaustion and went looking for the tour bus to return to the hotel. After waiting in frustration for over half an hour, it came, but its extended itinerary went on forever. We finally left the bus and took a cab. Later we learned that E&E had done the same. An hour-plus nap made everything better. The
evening's activity would be a walk up the hill to the castle. It seems to go by many versions of George -- Joao, Jorge, others. It dates from the 11th century built by Moors, but renovated and added to by kings through the 15th century. Nice views of the city predominate, but they pale in comparison to the views we'll see tomorrow in Sintra. The girls take lots of photos, one of a large poster that has a wedding dress they are sure Laurs would love. We stroll only a few yards outside the gate to a restaurant, the Conquistador. We eat outside and enjoy the meal immensely. All in all, a lovely day in almost perfect weather with more of the same for the following day.
We catch up on the news via BBC and sleep 9 peaceful hours. Monday, June 20 This will turn out to be a very, very good day. Breakfast comes with the room and includes eggs, cereal, fruit and baskets of pastries. Evonne and I eat far more than usual. Having called Marco for the trip to Sintra, we are ready to go when he arrives at 10. Four in the car turns out not to be too uncomfortable for a drive of about 40 minutes in late rush hour. Yes, Lisboa has a rush of sorts. Marco describes it as a pressed, squeezed palm. We think it is less bad than DC except for the tight fits around the traffic circles and on the narrow streets of the oldest districts. One can see Sintra from the freeway, topped by the Pena Palace on the hilltop. On the way one sees that a Portuguese suburb is not exactly American style. Yes, many folks escape the city and commute to work, but the predominant housing is mid-to-high rise apartments. From the freeway to Sintra and later in other parts of the outskirts we see "condo canyons" in all directions. Marco drops us at the town square amid lovely old buildings that have charm similar to that of
the Belgian towns, but they are not quite as aesthetically pleasing, and there is a touch of shabbiness. One house with a blue tile facade stands out. The shops cater to tourists first and foremost. One has no choice but to look up -- way up -- to see the Palace, which at this point we can't tell from the Moorish Castle. From the square everything is either up or down. Marco points us up a stairway so we can get to the top in "10 minutes." Yeah, right. We start up a stone stairway and undoubtedly take a wrong turn. We follow a road that winds up the mountain and thru a lovely park. Signs point us up to the castle (Castelo), and we proceed with other, mostly much younger, visitors. We go on for one kilometer, then another, up the road's cut-backs. The shade and the occasional spectacular views of the castle pull us upward. Ed complains of his knees; Vonnie hikes methodically and predictably. Finally, as the castle appears no closer, I call Marco to come rescue us. He arrives quickly for the laggards, and we catch Evonne as she reaches the entrance to the grounds on foot. The Moorish Castle is about a quarter mile down from the ticket house. It has centuries-old ramparts that follow the hilly topography. We climb to the top and get some spectacular photos. The panorama of Sintra to the north and the ocean to the west are gorgeous. Apparently the
Moors used the fort to spot threats arriving by sea. Assaulting this fortress would have been daunting. The descent is harder on the legs than the climb.
We then return to the path to the Pena Palace. Turns out this is the shape on the skyline that we have viewed as we marched skyward. King Manuel decided to build on this site because from here he spotted Vasco de Gama's remaining fleet returning from India while contemplating his future, if Vasco returned successfully. The palace housed kings for centuries, but its glory years were the 1800s. It includes the typical Portuguese mishmash of styles. Like most of the Euro castles we have seen, its rooms are expansive and its furnishings lavish. One room has intricately tiled walls that overwhelm us. The furniture has carvings that have to have required years of work. As it is further up the mountain than the castle, the views are even better. We meet a Canadian, who describes his visit to Morocco and several Aussie girls on an extended trip thru Europe, one of whom plans to travel on to the US. Feeling no longer heroic, we had Marco wait for us -- no trek back down to Sintra. He had kept the car radio on while waiting, so naturally the car battery died. He pushed the car to the top of the hill and jump-started it -- no problem, thank goodness.
Then a decision loomed. Where to go next? We had planned on Obidos, another hill town, which Marco poohpoohed as nothing special. Much closer and more inviting was Cascais,
a newish beach town. We got a kick out of learning the pronunciation, emphasizing the "sh" sound on each "s." The town, like our American beach resorts, reeks of money. It is clean, well tended, with attractive architecture. Most of the houses are second homes, according to Marco. The beaches themselves are small but well attended. We have late lunch at an outdoor place not far from the beach. The green mussels are the best dish. We watch a Portuguese marathoner go thru some training steps -- at least his body and outfit tell us that. We leave with Marco after 5:30 expecting the rush hour to affect us. Not so. Eddie says Marco hit 160 km/hr on the freeway. We view the day as a great success, even at a price of 300 E. The girls would have liked more shopping time in Sintra, but otherwise it has been great. The hike up the castle road is just another Griswold story. Janie is feeling her cold, but it hasn't slowed her too much. We sit on our balcony eating cheese and drinking some local wine, trading jokes and insults. Janie and Eddie can't get enough of it. The big issue is whether to go to Evora on Tuesday or Wednesday and how to get there. Eddie realizes that whether to go to Evora, a roughly two-hour trip, is not a question. Jane wants to go...period. Vonnie shows us how to put the photos in a slide show on the iPad. We get reservations for a Fado restaurant for Tuesday night with the helpful Joanna. Tonight we walk down our road to a restaurant/bar called Chapita, where we are the youngest people in the crowd by 30 years. The food is OK; the entertainment, if you can call it that, is a couple on a trapeze, apparently aspiring Cirque du Soleil performers at this clown school. We have a less successful night of sleep. Tuesday, June 21 Janie awakes with a rash on her torso. She of course blames it on having lain down on the bed next to Eddie the night before. The helpful concierge Luis reaches the hotel doc, who suggests a topical gel. I climb the hill to the farmacia to fetch it. The pharmacist thinks that the rash may be a reaction to the Cipro she is taking. Both the gel and the diagnosis seem to be right. The doc can't make it to the hotel because of car trouble, but it would have been waste of his time. All is well...literally. Today is to be go-to-Belem day. We spend most of the morning deciding how to get there...but it is mainly because we are laughing so much at breakfast. We catch a trolley to the central change location, then get on another to Belem in the far western part of the city. As in Rome and Amsterdam, there is no obvious way to pay the fare, so this second ride becomes one for the freeloaders. The trolley takes us past some circles and buildings we have seen before. We get off at the right stop and head up the street. What do we spot? A Starbucks!! This calls for an immediate diversion. The Monastery can wait. The iced coffee and cold lattes taste as good in Portugal, and they cost less than in Copenhagen.
Belem is newish except for some very old historical sites. The parks stretch for many blocks parallel to the river. Museums abound. Our goals had included seeing the landmark Tower of Belem which served as sort of lighthouse guide for ships in the 15th and 16th centuries. (The girls see it up close later.) We cross the street to the park to see a tower that is more modern, a tribute to the Portuguese sea-farers. But the first goal had been to see the San Jeronimo Monastery. The sanctuary is marvelous, perhaps not quite up to some of the other Euro churches and cathedrals, but large and elegant. Vasco is buried here. The large columns are less thick than gothic ones. A statue of Christ on the cross upstairs is beyond beautiful, if not quite Michelangelo. There I go again drawing comparisons, in which Portugal doesn't fare so well. Most of the church collapsed in the unworldly quake of 1755, which is estimated at 9.0, along with most of the city. The altar area survived, a miracle, along with lots of its priceless detail.
Eddie and I leave at this point, determined to see the famous Gulbenkian Museum, donated along with millions by a grateful survivor of the Nazis' rampage. It is part of a three-museum group in the northern part of town. It contains Mr. Gulbenkian's personal collections ranging from Egyptian relics to early 20th century art. We see Chinese ceramics, Persian and Turkish rugs, French furniture, Houdin statues, a Rodin, many Monets and Manets. I am especially taken by a couple of Sargents, one of an elegant aristocrat in an informal pose and one of a mother and daughter reclining against a bright red pillow, a most un-Sargent-like pose. He has a bundle of Gaudis and another bunch of Corots -- must have really liked them. The museum's quality, modern building and orderly displays remind me of the Clark in Williamstown. We enjoyed the audio that accompanied our walk-thru. Gulbenkian believed in "tithing for art," so he spent 10% of his enormous wealth collecting. Now we are all blessed for it, again much like the Clarks. Eddie and I taxi back to the hotel. The cabbie drives us down Libradade, an avenue that reminds us of Champs Ă‰lysĂŠes with park-like boulevards, trees, and nice buildings as borders. Another cabbie later tells us that the previous weekend the city held the equivalent of its annual county fair on the street...oh well. We get back to the hotel and set off to buy wine and cheese. A hike down the hill produces nada, and we settle for the little shop next to the hotel. The girls arrive after 7:00 tired but not too burdened by shopping bags. Janie describes Trapper Evonne, the navigatrix leading them safely home from hike to boat to hike. They did in fact get to that Tower and took a relaxing hour-long boat ride from Belem.
We drank the wine and ate the cheese while laughing ourselves silly. I guess you had to be there. But the highlight of the day would prove to be the Fado dinner at Pateo de Alfama, one of the best Fado shows in town. The performers include two renowned divas of Fado, a young Tania and Cidalia Moreira. The program also includes folk songs and dances by Maria Mendes and a nameless baritone. We are surprised at how much we enjoyed it, one of our best experiences in Portugal. The Fado songs are mournful even when sung with a smile. The word translates roughly as fated. It strikes me as reflecting a national/cultural longing for a return to glory with a recognition that it isn't going to happen, an analogy that life is full of disappointments. If this is so, it doubles the joy of the country's recent soccer success, something to rejoice in. The food was marvelous. Vonnie had HUGE prawns; Eddie had lamb; I had a rice/duck/sausage dish; Janie had a wonderfully smooth pate. The best meal so far. The cab ride back brought nothing but laughs. A warm, friendly driver who tried hard with English, but was no better than I am with Portuguese, thought he understood me to say we wanted to go to the King George Hotel. Then as we laughed about not understanding the language I tried to show him that we know s is a sh sound. Briefly he thought we wanted to go to Cascais. We eventually made it to Olissippo in fine humor, and it was well after midnight. Janie still had her cold symptoms, but the rash was mostly gone. Observations re Portugal after two days: - Lisbon is a vertical city. But the buildings are more mid-rise than high-rise, and the suburbs are the same. The idea of the traditional American single-family suburb does not seem to exist. - Yet the cityscape does not present an overwhelming feeling. It's certainly not Parisian, though. - We saw shopping malls with all the US characteristics. - The building exteriors are on the shabby side. Windows are frequently new. Many have wrought iron fronts like New Orleans. But the facades need painting or scrubbing. With some notable exceptions the architecture is undistinguished. Graffiti is everywhere. - The streets and narrow sidewalks in the old part of town where we stayed and in other places we visited are of small tiles that are frequently bumpy and missing. Cobblestone streets offer charm and potholes, sometimes filled with asphalt. But there are a few beautiful boulevards. - Marco confirmed that it snows. The street clearing presents a problem, needless to say. - One gets the feeling that a scarcity of resources prevents routine maintenance in this society.
- The people we have met have a variety of personalities, like everywhere else: jolly, happy, helpful, grumpy, and solicitous. We have felt welcomed. For example, each of the concierges at Olissippo went above and beyond for us. - One sees the presence of American companies everywhere. - Lisbon citizens certainly do not have the style-consciousness that we have seen in so many other Euro places. We could attribute it to a relative lack of prosperity, but people-watching in Zagreb, for example, reveals much greater fashion sense than in Lisbon, and Croatia is hardly prosperous. - In Amsterdam and Brussels you rarely see anyone overweight. Not so here, though the obesity epidemic does not reach American proportions. - Scenic beauty does not compare to the States or to other Euro countries. Sintra is charming and the views from the mountaintop are spectacular. But the drive to and from Evora reveals a landscape like Ohio, but without the farms in production. The hills are not Alpine -- maybe in other parts of Portugal?? (We do in fact find snowy peaks in the Sierras further south in Spain.) - Eddie read that 70% of Portuguese do not finish high school. Unemployment is high, reflected in the current economic troubles. The country seems to be setting itself up for compounded difficulties throughout the 21st century. - As I noted earlier, Fado expresses the national character. It mourns the loss of the best life has to offer. Are the Portuguese pining for a return of their 16th century dominance? Wednesday, June 22 Today we go to Evora by bus. The station is next to the Brazilian and American embassies. We just miss the first bus that leaves at 9:30. We had arrived at the station at that time thinking the bus left at 10. Schedule change. Vonnie, Jane and I walk up the hill to the embassy, but even citizens may not be admitted. The bus is new and plush. The hour and a half trip passes quickly. We drive across the suspension bridge on our way and over the long Vasco de Gama bridge on the way back. The designer of the former also designed the Golden Gate, we are told. The countryside reminds me of our Midwest, but without the dark, rich soil. Evora is east of Lisboa about 2/3 of the way across the country. The trip gives us a sense of the scale of the country. It couldn't be bigger than New Joisey. Jane, on the advice of the book guides, insisted on going to Evora primarily to see the ruins of the so-called Temple of Diana. For that purpose, it wasn't worth the trip. But the town itself is bite-size. Its narrow streets and cobblestone walks are in better shape than Lisboa's. We have lunch at a small sandwich shop that seems to present itself as Italian, and the price is right. We see the exterior of Vasco's house. Why is this great sailor from an inland town? We attempt to do a reverse of the town walk suggested by Frommer's, but either we make mistakes or Frommer has some wrong turns.
We stop at about 4:20 to make the 20-minute walk back to the bus station in the boiling sun, relieved at each block of shade along the way. The bus leaves on time, and we enjoy the comfort, though it is a little less than in the earlier ride. I spend most of the time working on this journal. This time our smart cabbie knows his way precisely to Olissippo. It's a good thing, because once again we have left the rooms without anything to remind us of the address, even after the episode with the taxi the night before. At least we know how to pronounce Castelo by now. We quickly decided that tonight would be perfect for dinner on our balcony. We go again to the bodega down the street for wine, cheese, some more prosciutto, crackers and cookies. Evonne's peaches, finally ripe, also hit the spot. We waste no time getting at it, because we must awake at 5:00 for the flight to Madrid. Thursday, June 23 Our alarm clocks work, and we are up as planned. Janie still has her symptoms, but she carries on without complaint. The bug must be a virus, because the antibiotic has had no effect. The luggage abundance requires two cabs. The hotel folks provide us an early breakfast as we check out. We get to the airport quickly with no traffic, but it bustles at this hour. The line to check bags is daunting, but it moves quickly. The young man who checks us at the gate has the look and charm of a future CEO. And then we saw his visage in an ad in the flight magazine. So our judgment might be right on. We walk a mile to get the rental car, but the clerk processes us quickly. We get a GPS and add Eddie as a driver. Then we are off with Ed driving. The GPS helps us get to the freeway to Granada -- many turns. We stop for lunch along the road, removing the GPS as instructed. Lunch is a mixed pleasure. Eddie gets a dish we think is chicken, but it is inedible. The waiter brings a dish to us that we didn't order. Turns out that this must be a local custom. It happens a couple more times.
The GPS fails at this point, but we find Granada and the Alhambra Palace anyway. As we drive we see farm after farm of olive groves and grapes, which will be repeated as we drive south from Granada the next day. The story is that Spain has more of both than any other country in Europe. Hmmmmm... We take the local bus down the mountain to the center of town, looking for the streets and plazas noted by the guidebooks. The town has a Florentine scale with low buildings and narrow but neat streets and alleys. The buildings do not rise to the level of the overall look of the city. The Alhambra is the obvious exception. Naturally the girls get hung up on the small shops mostly run by Arabs. The merchandise looks the same in most of them.
We opt to eat dinner here rather than going back to the hotel first. We pick a restaurant on the main square, which turns out to be fine. Then we head back up the hill. We watch the sun go down at 10:00 from the patio/balcony of the hotel lobby with spectacular views of Granada and the entire valley. Friday, June 24 Today we took on the Alhambra. quite prepared for its scale, beauty, significance, the latter particularly era of religious and cultural intolerance.
None of us was and historic important in this
It started unsatisfactorily, as we discovered that our private tour wasn't -- we would go along with 25 close friends. At 49 E apiece, that didn't seem reasonable. But the reality was the hotel mark-up, because Jane had been unable to get the tix directly via Internet or calls. Then we were going to be put with Germans requiring the guide to do her spiel in two languages. I got obnoxious, demanding that they find another guide. Anyway, it worked. Our guide was excellent, speaking knowledgeably and in perfect English. Our group included a New Zealand family, a German family that had lived in the Cincinnati area for years, and an attractive couple from San Francisco.
The Alhambra is too vast, varied, and history-filled to come close to a brief description...so here are snippets and impressions. - It was started in the 10th century as a fort by Muslim settlers-
conquerors. But more importantly it was added to by a succession of kings and sultans.
- It peaked as an entire city for the sultans' royal families in the 1200s at about 3500 inhabitants. It included the boss and his extended family and courtiers; the religious hierarchy; the military; farmers; shopkeepers; industrial facilities; and a host of servants. - Defense came first, of course. Next came water, and the canals and viaducts delivered water for drinking, bathing, irrigation, and even to create decorative fountains. The engineers (probably Arab) figured out how to use water pressure to their advantage. - To be self-sufficient the city needed a food supply, so it grew its own vegetables in elaborate terraced plots. - To fight the heat they built
summer palaces on the grounds over canals. They also did early air conditioning using breezes thru fountains to deliver chilled air. - Thru successive dynasties, as Christian followed Muslim, many of the characteristics of the buildings were retained, but put to unforeseen uses. Alcoves became bedrooms. Meeting rooms became churches. Military towers became small palaces. Housing areas became gardens. - One glorious room is known as the magic room. Somehow it survived several hundred years of no royal protection intact. It has a mix of Christian and Muslim decoration. We took lots of photos.
- I'm sure to get much of this wrong, but there are key dates in the chronology. Arab soldiers -- Moors -- started it, as noted above. Christians overcame them on and off over the centuries. Queen Isabella sent Columbus off and welcomed him back here in 1492/3. That was also near the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition. There was a period in the 16th century when the King of Sevilla and the Sultan were best friends and had a mutual defense treaty. There were even periods of intermarriage, when the Sultan had a Christian wife. Beginning in the late 1500s with the Christian population down to about 300 the entire facility with its multiple palaces and sophisticated systems fell into disuse except by gypsies and homeless people. In the early 1800s Queen Isabella II again appreciated its specialness and began to renew it. Washington Irving visited it in 1829, and it inspired his book, The Alhambra Tales. We speculated that Jefferson must have seen it when he was Ambassador to France, because Monticello's gardens resemble some of Alhambra's. Renovation and expansion continued thru the 1800s. Serious archeological work along with tourist-oriented redevelopment was emphasized in the 1900s. Over 7000 visitors pass the turnstiles each day. - The latter fact reminds me that the bureaucrats run the show here. They check your tickets repeatedly as you move thru the park. They strictly control the times of group entries. Two people in our group had 12:00 entry times for one section while the rest of us had 12:30. It almost created an international incident, but after several phone calls the approval came. - This is a place that will grow in significance over the next few decades, because of what it has to teach the world. One of these years I'd love to bring some of the grandkids to see it and appreciate it. The tour ended at about 2, and we bused back to the Alhambra Palace. The next major decision loomed, with differences in priorities among the boys and girls. Of course the girls won, and we marched down the hill to find a casual lunch. The first restaurant was not only not open, it was chained shut. At this point the boys won. We retraced our steps and ate a pleasant meal in the comfort of the hotel. Then it was time to drive to Marbella. But not before figuring out what to do with the GPS. (No way could this wait to be resolved when we turned the car in.) Janie prevailed upon the desk clerk Stephanie to call Europcar to tell them it had stopped working. Well, at least now they had been officially notified. We'll see whether that has any effect whatsoever on the charges. Unfortunately, we would have to make do with the written directions to get out of town.
Ed was in the pilot's seat again, and somehow navigator Jim got us to the A7. We had wanted to take the short route, but the scenic one south to the coast was easier to find, and it presented some beautiful views of Almunecar, Torremolinos, and then Malaga. Ed would have loved to be in his old 280Z on the highway. Fifteen minutes later we were at the gate of the Strecks' Marriott compound outside Marbella. The guards had no record of Fell, and they chased us to wait outside the fence. Ed found his name under "Fields" -- at least three of the letters were right. We had no trouble finding the building and the apartment. We parked the car along the yellow curb, where several dozen others sat. I figured yellow meant in Spain, "park here." No, it is just another rule to ignore. When we asked a young staff member walking by, he just laughed and shrugged. The apartment is 2BR/2B with porch and great light. It has comfortable and stylish furnishings. The Strecks had been given a ground-floor unit on their arrival, but had insisted on an upper floor and moved to this unit yesterday. From the deck we can see the Med and the complex's two pools. Ron and Karen described the changing tourist environment. It is less crowded than in years past, and the tourists include many more Russians than Brits and Euros. It comports with our seeing numerous billboards along the highway in Russian.
Karen plays the perfect
hostess. Ron serves too much wine, which is the best we've had in Portugal or Spain. We sit on the deck regaling them with stories of our trip so far. They laugh with us, either genuinely enjoying it or pretending very well -- I think the former. Ron, as usual, has jokes that segue perfectly from a point or two in the conversation. In appropriate Spanish style, it is after 8 before we even think of arrangements for dinner.
Karen escorts Jane and me to our apartment in a compound connected to the famous Don Carlos Hotel called Jardines las Golondrinas. It is no more than 100 yards away as the crow flies, but it is a neat trick to get there in the car. We search unsuccessfully for Porto 2 for quite a while, even though a map seems to make it quite clear. The hotel has given me enough keys to open a department store, but I find the right ones to get thru the gate to the grounds, the floor entry and the apartment itself. I wonder what the others are for. This apartment like the Strecks' is breezy with a porch and two baths. The one BR has a lovely king-size bed. We will probably have little use for the kitchen and appliances. Ron has reserved a table at one of the beachfront restaurants. We walk there, and it is after 10 by the time we order -- again, how Spanish. We all find the food wonderful. Only Ed insults the chef by ordering meat. The entire meal with two more bottles of wine -- this time a rojo and a blanco -- costs 110 E for six of us. Wow!! The conversation turns to politics and gun control, with particular emphasis on Fairfax County's possible regulation of BB guns. Ed is outgunned 4 to 1, with Ron claiming to see both sides, which seems to be his norm. Much laughter and delight. We don't leave until after midnight. Janie and I retire, but the rest go on for another cerveza. We will not arise as early as we had planned for the next day's activities.