Our man in Lisbon

I’m writing this week’s column on a brain that has been zombified by international travel. Reader, beware.

Your first question is undoubtedly, “So why should I give a flaming poop about your international travels, Van Dyke?” My answer—take your pills and quit being so doggone crabby.

I went to Portugal, where I have an old pal who, after consuming much Portuguese Kool-Aid (known as vinho verde, or green wine), bought a house in a beach town north of Lisbon. He strongly hinted that for me not to take advantage of his situation—and his extremely reasonable rates for old friends—would be an indication that I’m getting dumb, numb and feeble. I had to agree. Some notes …

First, I don’t care how many airline come-ons are sneaking through your spam filter. It costs a bundle to fly these days. The last time I visited Portugal, in ‘07, I flew to Lisbon for $900. This year, $1,600. Oof. That oughta dump a bucket of ice water in the lap of any reader thinking of a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Olympics.

Second, the name of Portugal’s prime minister is Pedro Coelho. The translation of his name into English? Peter Rabbit. How cool is that? I don’t believe it’s a name that indicates socialist tendencies, but I’ll have to check with Fox News to be sure.

Third, I must return to the topic of rest stops. In April, chronic readers will recall I came back from a trip to New England raving about the superiority of Vermont’s rest stops when compared to Nevada’s. Well, this trip convinced me that Portugal’s rest stops make Vermont’s look as spartan as ours. These just may be the finest rest areas on the planet.

For starters, of course, there’s gasoline. Then, the full tilt convenience store with the works, including a full coffee bar, featuring shots of espresso, lattes, whatever. Also a very swingin’ bakery, loaded with fresh baked goodies. Portugal is a land that adores caffeine and sugar, and makes these essentials available in a most convenient and ubiquitous way. In this sense, it’s an endearing place. I wouldn’t be surprised if our State Department has it way up there on the Diabetic No Travel List.

Then there’s the sandwich shop. And finally, the shaded area where you can pull in, stuff your face, and nod off for a while. And on the other side of the highway, there is an identical complex for travelers headed in the opposite direction.

One day, the state of Nevada will again have some extra money. There may well be a budget for rest stop improvements. So now, I might as well just go ahead and toss my name in the ring for the position of Rest Stop Czar. Because I’m one of the 13 to 18 people around here who gives an aforementioned poop about this stuff.