#2019 | The Broke Student’s Guide: 24 hours in Lisbon

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Lisbon, Portugal – a blur

Realistically, you’re not going to spend only 24 hours in Lisbon. But say you were just passing through?

First things first – whether you’re arriving in Lisbon by plane or train, chances are you’ll be close to a metro station. Get yourself the most basic 24 hour transport pass from the metro station machines, which give you amazing value for what they cover.

This is the pass you want to be looking at:

Carris/Metro: €6.40
Unlimited travel on metro and Carris, including bus, tram, funicular and lift.

if you’re not staying the night, store your luggages away so you’re free to explore the city without baggage. Portugal is actually impressive with their luggage storage – where most places just have lockers, they have an airbnb sort of model for luggages. They’re living in year 3000! Here are some options:

1. Pre-booking luggage space

I LOVE this idea! Companies like BagBnB, Luggage Keeper, Luggage Hero, and Stasher allows you to connect with local shops, cafes, and other businesses that allow for luggage storage. If you book it online, you can usually use credit card/paypal, which is useful if you’re saving your cash for other things.

Things to note if you’re keen on using these services:

– They have varying insurance coverage from firm to firm – how much is your bag insured for?
– What time do these shops open – in relation to what time you arrive and intend to depart?
– Do they offer refunds if you decide not to use these services upon arrival?
– Read the reviews of the cafes/shops that you want to store your luggage with – Luggage Keeper and BagBnb lets users leave reviews of the bag storage services, so you get a sense of what to expect.

2. Using a locker

City Locker is their local Portuguese luggage locker company, with lockers in strategic areas around town. Their rates range from 4.50 to 8.50 eur per day, depending on your luggage size. Click here for the full price list.

3. Luggage Storage in the airport

There are 24 hour luggage storage areas in the airport (near carpark P2) and you pay for your first day – and when you return, you pay for any additional days you may have used. Useful if you arent sure how long you want to stay in Lisbon!

4. Luggage storage in the train stations

There are storage lockers in the train stations – you can view them on the CP website here – but you can only store your luggage for a maximum of 24 hours.

And now that you have the 24 hour pass, you can get your luggages to most of these places easily! Happily, most train stations in Lisbon have elevators, although they’re sometimes strangely hidden behind pillars or things like that. This makes it quite easy to move via the metro system with your luggage.

Morning:


10am
– Head to the super cool Barrio Alto region, specifically Time Out Lisboa to have your mind blown. Time Out has specially curated food markets in some major cities, bringing the best vendors in that city under one roof via an independent judging panel. My first time encountering one of the famous markets was in Lisbon, and it was incredible! The only problem you’ll have is deciding where to eat, because they all look and smell so good. Here’s what I had:

Manteigaria Silva’s tábua mista for charcuterie

This was an explosion of heaven in my mouth – I have literally never had a better charcuterie experience in my life. We were super lucky to be there during their anniversary, so they had a one for one offer on their 17euro tábua mista option, making this very value for money indeed. Tábua mista basically means a mixed board – they present to you their own selection of the best picks for that day, a little like a European, one platter version of the omakase. The first day we were there, the board consisted a cheddar, a goat brie, and another hard cheese I couldn’t identify. The second time we went back, the board was made of hard and semihard cheeses. The third time we went back, we went straight for our favorite cheese because we already knew what we liked and it was more economical to pick individual cheeses than get a board. Yes, that’s right – it was so good, we visited thrice.


Sweet dreams are made of cheese

Going off tangent for a hot minute – this was the cheese I fell hard for this trip: the Caprino de Odemira, a goat cheese done in the style of brie. It’s wonderfully soft and has a sharp, tart flavour, perfect for dipping or spreading. I don’t believe they export out of Portugal (or Lisbon, for that matter, as I didn’t see this anywhere else on my trip), which makes this a cheese I will pine for and recall fondly for the rest of my days.

Manteigaria Pastel de Nata

How can you come to Portugal and not have one of their egg tarts? The Portuguese egg tart differs from the Chinese ones in that they’re more custardy and sweet (as compared to our decidedly more tofu-like variant), and they have a flaky, not biscuity crust. They’re best fresh out of the oven, which means you want to have your tart from a place that is constantly making them, not ordering it off the shelf where it might have been perched for a couple of hours. Manteigaria in Time Out Lisboa has perpetual queues and an open kitchen, so you can watch them being made, and at the rate they fly off the shelves, you know the one you’re biting into has been baked within the hour. You can also have them packed – dont keep them in the fridge, eat them within 3 days, and yes, they’re flight safe, we tested!

Have your tart (1eur) with an espresso (70c) – it’s quite the match made in heaven.

Time Out Market Lisboa
Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-479 Lisboa, Portugal


Afternoon:

A mere 4 minute walk from the market you have what’s arguably the most scenic funicular of the three – Ascenso da Gloria. There’s also Ascensor da Bica and Ascensor do Lavra, but those are a little further away. Here you can start to make your 24 hour transport pass really work for you – the funicular is covered under your pass, which immediately gives your pass excellent value because it costs 3.60eur for a single trip otherwise.


The tram immediately becomes a photo attraction for everyone around when it stops at the top – for about 15 mins

I suggest you take the funicular up and walk down, because there are lots of really scenic photo spots and side alleys on the way down. Plus you can actually walk on the tracks down. (You’ll quickly find that roads and traffic lights function more as guidelines than hard and fast rules in Portugal)

The funicular runs every fifteen minutes, with one going up and one going down, so they do pass each other on every run which makes for a cute photo.

Walk your breakfast off

Time to make your pass work for you again. Head back down to the busstop right outside Time Out Lisboa, and hop on the 15 (electric tram) or 728 (bus) to the Belem Tower. The Belem area is one straight coastline of beautiful sights, and you’ll want to take the bus to the furthest point (the tower) and walk back, ending up eventually at Pasteis de Belem. It’s a 1.4 km walk, which sounds very unreasonable for us tropical creatures, but once you realise how dry and windy the weather is there, it becomes totally manageable. As you walk, ponder how humidity truly has ruined us as Singaporeans…

The tower’s hours are 10:00 – 18.30 (Summer Months) and 10:00 – 17.30 (Winter Months). It costs 6Eur to go in, and 12Eur for a combined ticket with the Jerónimos Monastery. And on Sundays before 2pm – free! So you’ll want to be there during those times if you’re keen on going in. Otherwise, many people choose to just hang around the outside and sit by the coast to people watch.

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The Belem Tower and the Rose Compass mural

Along the coast, as you take your nice leisurely walk down the sea, you’ll also pass the Belem Lighthouse, the MAAT, the Rose Compass, and the very beautiful Jerónimos Monastery, which is actually breathtaking. The church is free to enter, though you’ll have to pay to go into the monastery itself. We were happy to just wander around the free grounds, so we didn’t go in, though if you want to, make sure to join the correct queue as there are a ton of queues with a conspicuous lack of signposting. Some are for ticket purchase, some are for entry after ticket purchase, some are people who are just confused.

You should end up at Pastéis de Belém, the most famous Portuguese egg tart shop in Lisbon, maybe all of Portugal. You’ll know it by the buzzy queues gathered outside. Don’t just blindly join the queue – the queue you see outside is for takeout only. Walk past it and go inside, where there’s another, much shorter queue for dining in. The takeout queue was monstrous, but I only had to wait 5-10 minutes to be seated.

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Best had when warm – so delicious!

Get the egg tarts (1,15eur) and espresso – then decide if this is better or the one at Mantegeria is.

The bus stop back to the city center is right outside Pastéis de Belém, so hop on the bus and head back to the Barrio Alto region. Take some time to wander the streets of Barrio Alto, stopping by the Pink Street (which used to be their red light district back in the day) and popping into Betrand, the oldest operating bookstore in the world. Don’t expect to purchase anything though – their selection is mainly Portuguese, and prices are understandably higher than usual. Still, it’s a really cool bookstore to see, if you’re a lit geek like me.


Mandatory shot with the Betrand exterior

Belem Tower
Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal

Pastéis de Belém
R. de Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal

Bertrand
R. Garrett 73-75, 1200-203 Lisboa, Portugal


Evening:

Depending on what season it is, you’ll either have a good amount of time to wander around Barrio Alto before sunset, or have to head to a higher vantage point immediately. Skip the trendy rooftop bars, where prices are jacked and the food isn’t as good – look for signs pointing you to a Miraduoro instead. Lisbon is built on seven hills, and miradouro literally means viewpoint, which also means public access, which also means free!

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Sunset from the highest point in Lisbon

The Miraduoro da Nossa Senhora do Monte is where we found ourselves, the highest viewpoint in all of Lisbon, with a panoramic view of the city. It was super gorgeous, 10/10 would recommend.

Miraduoro da Nossa Senhora do Monte
Largo Monte, 1170-107 Lisboa, Portugal


Night:

After the sun dips below the horizon, head back down to Martim Moniz square in the city center, where you can now queue for the famous Ponto Inicial Trem 28, the star of all postcards postmarked Lisbon. I think dusk is the best time to take the tram because it is ridiculously crowded before that, with absurdly long queues. We’re talking 1-2 hours long! The Tram 28 queue + actual ride is also a hotspot for pickpockets, which is kind of a bummer. Much better to take the tram when it’s less crowded and you’ll actually get a seat – and it’s much more comfortable too when you can actually breathe, versus being pressed up against fifty other selfie stick wielding tourists. For some reason once it’s dusk, people stop queuing for the trams, which makes this a time efficient and very pleasant moment to hop on.

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It also gives you a different sort of photo from the usual daytime shot!

There are 2 trams you can take, the 28 and the E12. Take the 28. The 28 is an hour loop, and brings you through some very beautiful streets in Lisbon, whereas the E12 is much shorter. You can either take the tram for an entire loop, or choose to hop off at Miraduoro da Nossa Senhora do Monte Santa Luzia (right by Portas do Sol, another lookout point) in the Alfama region, to watch the night view of the city sparkle and melt into the sea.

Miraduoro da Nossa Senhora do Monte Santa Luzia
Largo Monte, 1170-107 Lisboa, Portugal

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Different types of view, hehe

Plus point – Alfama is an older, quainter, and altogether more affordable area for dinner. Our local friend told us that in Lisbon, food is good everywhere, but once the place gets popular it becomes more pricey. Dining in Alfama, all you have to do is follow your nose and duck into one of the homey establishments for dinner. Always, always ask for their wine menu – I didn’t have a single bad glass of wine in Portugal, and for that reason I slowly but surely graduated from a glass, to a decanter, to a bottle of wine with each dinner..

Dinner is a slow, languid affair, capped off with either a small glass of port (their region’s specialty, a deep, sweet dessert wine) or an espresso. At the end of it you can either head out for more drinks, or no, but from experience, over the course of dinner you feel a sense of great satisfaction and lazy happiness settle over you – and at that point, it’s not a bad idea at all to call it a night, and take a slow, relaxed amble back either to your accommodation, or to where your bags are stored, retrieve them, and leave the city, mildly regretful at not allocating more than a day there.

x
Jem

#2018 | The Broke Student’s Guide to Intercity Transport in Portugal

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Hey guys,

It’s me, back with yet another broke student’s guide inspired by my desire to move through Portugal on the cheap. I initially wanted to have this be part of an overall BSG for Lisbon, but the more I detailed the transport options the more I realised inter-city transport in Portugal really needed its own post. Yes, you can rent a car, but as with most of the world, manual cars are way cheaper to rent and us Singaporean noobs can only drive auto. Or is that just me? Anyway. Having to search for parking or ensure your hostel/airbnb/guesthouse offers free parking also seems like a bit of a pain, and although having the freedom to load up your bags and move in any direction is undeniably attractive, the car works out to be the more expensive option no matter how you look at it.

So we turned to looking at public transportation options, essentially: bus, train, and hitchhiking. I am a huge fan of organized hitchhiking as per my student days in Germany, but because people only list rides a couple of days before they want to go, it’s hard to do if you’ve got a fixed schedule. It was a lot easier when I was based in Germany and could just browse potential quick trips over the weekend, but coming long distance from Asia I wanted to have my accommodation all booked up beforehand so I ruled the option out this time. If you’re keen on exploring this option nonetheless, the website I use for hitchhiking / car sharing is blablacar.com.

IMPORTANT NOTICE BEFORE WE BEGIN

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For some reason in Portugal, most bus or train tickets come printed on what looks like receipt paper, which feels like a recipe for disaster. For this reason I prefer opting for e-tickets if possible (an option if you take the bus), but it’s not always possible. So be careful to store them carefully – don’t accidentally throw them away because a conductor will come and check your ticket on the journey!

Ok now that the PSA is out of the way:

Intercity Trains

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Taking the train is the most common tourist way to get around Portugal as it’s what we’re generally most familiar with/ believe to be the most reliable. There is a pretty extensive train network in Portugal, but if you’re planning Portugal as a stop in a multi-destination European expedition, please note that the Portuguese train system is almost completely isolated from the other European lines, with only one or two trains to Spain or something like that. So if you’re hoping to book a weeklong rail pass in europe and move around, it wont apply to the Portuguese leg of your trip.

So, Portuguese trains. Their intercity trains service the bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto, but to get to the smaller towns like Batalha, you’d need to take a bus. The trains are run by their state railway company CP – Comboios de Portugal – and you can check for tickets and schedules below.

Tickets and schedules: www.cp.pt

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Things to note: EN option on the top right
Select Train Times instead of Buy Tickets to see full train schedule

Not all the trains can be pre-booked. This is where it got a little confusing for me when I was researching/planning my trip, so I’m going to try my best to break it down. There are 4 different kinds of trains you can take:


R – Regional (stops at every stop)
IC – Intercidades (express)
U – Urbano (suburban trains for Porto and Lisbon’s networks)
AP – Alfa Pendular (express + expensive!)


Most Expensive
– Alfa Pendular (AP) and InterCity (IC) long distance trains. These are available to buy online, and require a seat reservation. You must print these tickets, or have them sent via SMS to your phone if you are able to register your phone with the website.

You should buy these in advance as they have major discounts up to 65% the earlier you get them, but do note the train schedules only come out 60 days before travel date so if you’re planning way in advance just keep that in mind. ALWAYS buy the tickets on the official CP.pt website as third-party agencies like EuRail or Rail Europe cannot issue seat reservations, and you’ll have to pay extra for them at the station anyway.

The AP/IC trains have a lot of different discounts that can be applied if the terms and conditions are right. For example: If you’re traveling between Tues to Thurs in a group of 3/4, the AP trains have bulk deals of 40/50% off your tickets. If you’re booking a long distance return trip of over 91km, you get 10% off. If you can prove that you are 25 or below, you get 25% off your train ticket prices. Etcetera. As there were only two of us and we are no longer young (FML), very few of these incentives applied to us.

But I personally find that because the above deals cannot be stacked (discounts dont apply in conjunction with other discounts, even if you qualify for more than one), the R/U trains are still cheaper most of the time.


Least Expensive
– Regional and Urbano trains. These have no option to pre-book, and they don’t require a seat reservation, so buy tickets at the station when you arrive. They are often significantly cheaper than the AP/IC trains, but because you cannot purchase them online, if you run a search using the Buy Tickets instead of Train Times option on the website, they wont show up, and you might end up accidentally buying the more expensive AP/IC ones instead.

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Sample schedule for trains between Coimbra and Aveiro

As you can see, only the AP/IC trains have the option to purchase on the far right. And even though there’s an early bird promo for one of the IC trains, it’s still 2 Eur more expensive than the cheapest R train. It doesn’t sound like a lot but it adds up, especially if you’re going to hit a few Portuguese cities on your trip!

We didn’t take a single AP/IC train on the trip because 1. they were significantly more expensive and 2. the places we wanted to go to were all serviced by either buses or the R/U trains. I think the only reason why someone on a budget would pay for the AP/IC trains would be if they were super anxious about having everything booked beforehand – I’ll admit, I was a bit confuzzled by the fact that we couldnt get the R/U trains online (no forums or websites seem to mention why) and I was nervous about not being able to get tickets on the day itself. But we ended up winging it and it was fine.

Intercity Buses

Interestingly! Our Portuguese friends strongly recommended the buses, saying that they rarely took the trains unless absolutely necessary. There are a few bus companies, the most extensive (and therefore, tourist-friendly) one being Rede Expressos which has over 200 express buses zipping between cities multiple times a day. It also seems to have absorbed its main competitors, RENEX and Eva, so I suppose this would be the closest they have to a national bus service.

Website: www.rede-expressos.pt

It’s not a perfect booking experience – The website can be a bit finnicky, especially on desktop. Even though I used the English version of the website, I had some issues getting the locations to show up – Porto, for example, kept showing up as PORT, which was initially very confusing, and Lisbon’s Oriente station shows up as LISBON EAST. But I eventually circumvented this by downloading and using the myRNE mobile app, which I found much easier to navigate. It’s super convenient too, because then you can just present the mobile ticket on the app rather than looking for a printer to get the actual ticket printed.

If you have a Portuguese address and phone number (basically, if you have a Portuguese friend), you can sign up for the free Rflex membership which gives you discounts on your bus ride. I think we saved about 2 euros per ride, which adds up! Otherwise, if you’re 29 and under, you qualify for a youth ticket, which gives you a small discount as well, though not as good as with the Rflex card.

You can book tickets on the bus up to 30 days prior, and if you’ve accidentally booked the wrong time or have a change of plans, you can swap your tickets once for free at the station. They’re also very good with customer service – I had some questions about my ticket before getting to Portugal and didn’t want to place a long distance call, so I DM-ed them on Twitter and they replied within the hour.

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Twitter: @RedeExpressos

The buses were actually great. The seats were mega comfortable, and they were fitted with power sockets and wifi. We were super impressed by how comfy the buses were! You can also store your luggages in the bus, and although they technically have a 20kg limit, I didn’t see any bus drivers checking for weight.

The only things I would take note of during the booking process would be the station names and locations – they don’t always depart from central bus terminals, and in bigger cities they might have more than one departure point. In Batalha, for example, the Rede Expressos bus departed from this tiny bus stop in a small road, which had no signage for the bus company whatsoever, although the address matched what our tickets said. We basically sat there and hoped for the best. It all worked out in the end though!

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Basically

Which option you go with depends on what you prioritize. For me, it was cost – so I ran searches for both the buses and the trains between each city we wanted to visit, and went with whichever worked out cheaper for that leg. As a result, we did a mix of bus and trains on our trip – small villages like Batalha were only accessible by bus, and on occasion, the bus worked out significantly cheaper (14Eur for Porto to Lisbon, vs about 25-30Eur on the train). But because the buses have a minimum fare of 6 Eur, we swapped to taking the trains for some legs, like Coimbra to Aveiro (5,30Eur) and Aveiro to Porto (3,50Eur). It’s a little bit more troublesome, and requires a touch of faith that your trains will indeed have space for you even without an advance reservation, but this is the Broke Student’s Guide, not the Everything Is Easy guide – and in that spirit, I say to you: yolo.

x
Jem

#2017 | from a guesthouse in portugal

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Olá from a guesthouse in Portugal, where I am currently sitting with my free coffee and tea, content with my discovery that the Portuguese do in fact make excellent (and strong) coffee, watching the other guests do various backpacker-y things like eat the complimentary cornflakes or charge their phones. One girl seems to be revising for a language exam: interesting. Also interesting: I had forgotten how glad I used to be for free laundry options in hostels – and accordingly, have revisited that feeling with great affection.

I am in Portugal for a wedding, which happened three days ago, a beautiful affair that was the cumulation of a student romance I was brief witness to in Stuttgart, Germany, 5 years ago. How time flies. After the wedding Shane and I have continued to traipse across Portugal since we are already in this part of the world, a strangely nostalgic remake of our time traversing the cobblestones of Europe as broke students all those years ago, dragging suitcases, drinking cheap wine, getting fat on fresh seafood. The difference is we are older now and our bags heavier, and we are more afraid of the unknown, I suppose. Or perhaps it is just me who is afraid. Not a crippling sort of fear, but a more adult awareness of the ways things can and may go wrong, a tenseness in my lower back that now never really goes away (correlation? to a newfound love for massages back home), and a kind of ache for the more gung-ho innocence of youth. Is this something that happens automatically as you grow older, I wonder? Or is this new wariness a by-product of the specific way the world has changed in recent years, and the lightning rod speed at which international conflict is wrapped up and delivered to us in our own remote corners of the world?

Who knows. The fact is that people have been so good to us on this trip – reuniting with old friends has been excellent, as always, making new friends who surprise us at every turn with how generous and kind they can be, also, the open helpfulness of people we meet in hostels, guesthouses, shops, and etcetera. So there is no concrete rationale for worry and also I am understating how incredible and beautiful the country has been thus far. Each interaction I have unknots a little of the fear in my belly and reminds me that I cannot allow a vague worry originating from increasingly hysterical international news to box myself into a smaller world. We cannot change the overarching sentiment of the world but perhaps in our own local ways we can weave a friendlier one, unseen and unmappable, but blended into the experience of each destination through our touch and speech and breath. Maybe part of travel is allowing that unseen world to move us too.

x
Jem

#2016 | Apple of my eye

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An apple by any other name…
Pic one: Table 65
Pic two: Akira Back

I had two apple themed desserts of late, leading me to wonder if this belies a new trend, or if it has been the classic dessert option all the while, the only variable being my mild nosing into the specific echelons of dining circles that would blowtorch sugar into beautiful, fruit-shaped crystals. Regardless, they were both excellent.

Table 65 Van Oostenbrugge’s signature Apple, which was made famous in Amsterdam’s restaurant Bord’eau, serves up a sour green apple sorbet under a transparent sugar dome, the whole thing perched atop a pastry flaked to perfection. One bite and you can’t imagine there being a more apt finishing dessert to balance the meal out, also, it’s prepared enchantingly before you, open-kitchen-concept style. Dinner and a show.

Akira Back’s Apple is a tantalizingly glazed sour cherry apple granite, filled with dense cream cheese with an apple compote middle, surrounded by ice cold champagne jelly which is my new favorite kind of jelly. Cutting into it is its own kind of satisfaction, watching the dessert knife sink cleanly into the soft glaze.. and then you get to the actual eating and you’re blown away.

Interesting to me also is how they’re named – nestled amongst names that conjure fantasies and images of gastronomical flight, both dishes are just – Apple. Almost a punctuation in the menu. Perhaps both places, unaffiliated as they are, had the same thought: stripping the dessert to its main descriptor, and letting it speak for itself on the plate. It’s a strategy that certainly works.

x
Jem

#2015 | under the weather again

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As I’ve been relegated to the couch, here’s my unhappy bedfellow

No romanticism about it, I’m just sick again, and it sucks. I saw two doctors this time and they are divided on what it means, but agreed on the point of it being non-contagious, meaning technically I can (and will) continue working. The bottom line is, I’m either the victim of a random viral attack, or have developed a tragic late-life allergy to shellfish. Please, Lord, no.

The worst part is, sick me is delirious me, aka totally hallucinatory me. The medicines have hit me hard, and I’ve been living life in a blurry haze the past week. I keep dreaming up plans that I’ve made, or texting people based on conversations I thought we’d had… it’s embarrassing. It’s funny, when I first read My year of rest and relaxation by ottessa moshfegh i didn’t like it at all, but I suddenly find her character’s Ambien induced wooziness extremely relatable, if not desirable. The difference for me, is that life, by both necessity and circumstance, must go on.

x
Jem