Saturday, November 15, 2008

Portugal week two

Hi all!

This week has been a bit more relaxed after the "grand tour" last week. On Monday my parents and I went to see the ruins of the Mosteiro do Carmo, a beautiful old monastery (yes, I love monasteries!) that was ruined in the 1755 earthquake that struck Lisbon. There is also a small archeology museum there, which I love. We had lunch in the cute square outside the ruins, which was really nice.

That afternoon my mom and I went to the expo, the sleek new part of Lisbon made for the 1998 World Exposition. There we saw the Oceanário, the biggest aquarium in Europe. It was quite cool, and of course had many fish, sharks, birds, penguins, and even two adorable otters... I want an otter now!

Tuesday morning I had breakfast with my parents in their hotel, then we took a stroll and headed to the airport. After they left I went to get my hair cut (not too much!) then went to my belly dance class that evening. I had missed my dance class--I went back on Thursday too. It was so nice to see my teacher and my classmates and to get to dance again.

Wednesday I walked to Restelo (about 45 minutes... I've gotten in the habit of walking everywhere) to have lunch with my host grandfather. I stayed there for about 2.5 hours, talking to him about various things--he seemed very keen on telling me about himself and his family history. I think he appreciated me being there; I think he must get lonely sometimes.

That night I went to the mall with my friend Catarina. There we had dinner, then went to see Mamma Mia, which I really enjoyed. I've been singing ABBA songs all week. :-D

Thursday I had lunch with my friend Marisa, again in the same shopping mall. It was so nice to see her again! We had typical Alentejano food (from the region of Portugal south of Lisbon) then walked around the mall. That afternoon I made the 30 minute walk home again... partly because I like walking and partly because if I walk I don't have to pay for bus tickets!

Yesterday I went back to the Escola Secundária do Restelo, aka my portuguese high school. My friends Mariana and Inês have the same history professor as when I was there, so I went to a history class. It was fun to see my teacher again; she made a point of introducing me to the whole class....

That afternoon Inês, Mariana and I had lunch at Mariana's house, then went to yet another shopping mall where we walked around smelling perfumes and looking at notebooks. We went to the Gulbenkian museum to hang out a bit in the gardens there, then parted ways and went home.

Last night I went to go see the Cruz Quebrada band that I played with when I was here. there were happy to see me, and I sat in the clarinet section for a bit listening to them play. It made me miss my clarinet, which is sitting back home feeling lonely without me!

Today Miguel, Miguelinho and I went to Careca, the best pastry shop ever, to have croissants for breakfast like I did on my birthday. sooooooo good. Then a quick lunch at home and a rest this afternoon. I'm thinking of going to Cascais.... we'll see!

Tchau a todos! Next time I write I won't be in Portugal anymore. Either France or Norway, depending on where I get internet :-D

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Portuguese times

hi all!

This past week was really great. My parents and I started out our "grand tour" in Óbidos, a really cute medieval walled town.

Next we went to see two monasteries, Alcobaça and Batalha, which I have named as my two favorite monasteries in the world. They are absolutely beautiful and not swarmed with tourists like in Paris. It was wonderful. We stayed the night in Alcobaça (with a view of the monastery out of our hotel window) then continued to Coimbra, Portugal's university city.
Before arriving in Coimbra we stopped at Conímbriga, an ancient Roman city. Yes, there are Roman ruins in Portugal, and they're pretty awesome! Conímbriga had a lot of really wonderful mosaics.

The University of Coimbra was founded in the 1200s, so it's kinda old. The third oldest in Europe, actually. We took a tour of the university, seeing the ornate rooms they still sometimes use for ceremonies and things, and also seeing some of the first years dressed in traditional robes, which is something one never sees in the US.

After Coimbra we drove up to a hotel on the beach near Aveiro, a town on the coast of Portugal, famous for the cute little fishing boats all around. We took walks on the beach and watched people looking for clams. Our hotel was quite nice, though instead of finding it empty, like we expected, we discovered that there was a Red Bull convention going on, and there were therefore 8 red bull cars in the parking lot (they had huge cans of red bull on them). Quite funny.

The next day with walked around Aveiro for a bit--it's a really cute town with canals and salt marshes--then drove a couple hours town to the Alentejo in the south of Portugal. There we went to Évora, one of my favorite Portuguese cities. We stayed in an old convent right next to the ruins of a Roman temple... it was awesome! Évora has some cool Roman ruins as well as a chapel decorated all with bones.... creepy.

Friday night we came back to Lisbon, and yesterday we celebrated my birthday! 19 years, I can't believe it.
I started out the day by going to my favorite pastry shop in Lisbon (Careca--it means bald) for some wonderful croissants and other portuguese pastries. My parents and I then wandered around Belém where we climbed around the Tower of Belém, a really cool 500 year old tower that protected the Tagus river and was "the first and last thing the Portuguese explorers saw when the went on their voyages around the world." We also saw the monument to the discoveries, which is right on the river edge as well.

Around lunch time I left my parents and went to meet my friends Inês, Inês and Mariana. We had lunch in Pão Pão Queijo Queijo, my favorite falafel & sandwich shop (it means bread bread cheese cheese) then went into central Lisbon to walk around a bit. In the main square of central Lisbon we came across a huge demonstration by public school teachers from all over Portugal. About 800 bus loads of teachers! It was crazy... certainly an experience. I think they were protesting some change in the law, but I'm not sure.

Later we went back to my host family's house for my birthday dinner--a bunch of the relatives came (and by a bunch I mean a lot--my host family is huge!) and al in all it was really nice. The food was wonderful (Graça is an amazing cook!) and it was really nice to see a lot of my host relatives again. Knowing I have a sweet tooth, we had merangues, palmiers, cake, a different kind of cake, apple pie and chocolate mousse for dessert. It was ridiculous! (but so good!)

Today we continued our touring around Lisbon--went to see the Castelo São Jorge (Saint George Castle) and then strolled around Lisbon a bit. Now we're back in my parents hotel, taking a break before going out to a Fado restaurant (fado is traditional portuguese music) for dinner.

Speaking of food, the food this week was amazing! and for the most part, insanely cheap. I love portuguese food :-D.

Many beijinhos!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Olá de Portugal!

Olá a todos! (hi all...)

So I'm back in portugal. wow.

last week was pretty uneventful, but nice. My mom's friend Stéphanie came, and we visited some more of Paris with her. My new medicine is working great, so I only had to go to the hospital for a check up, and was able to do more. But I'm having trouble remembering what we did. hahaha
The most exciting thing was our trip to the Opéra Garnier to see a ballet adaptation of Les Enfants du Paradis, a famous story that was first made into a film during WWII, then adapted to become a theatrical show. It was quite well done and I really liked the dancing.
We also went to the Petit Palais for lunch, and then looked around at the interesting artwork they had there: it was cool because they had art from all different styles and times, like ancient greek pots mixed with modern photography.

On our last day in Paris maggie, her sister and her mom came over, so it was nice to see them again. I went to visit a hostel where I'll be staying when I come back in a couple weeks.

Then on friday we flew from Paris to Lisbon! When I arrived in Lisbon I got a wonderful surprise: two of my best portuguese friends were there to meet me at the airport! it was so good to see them, but really hard to speak portuguese because i'm out of practice.
My host sister Joana took us home--I'm staying with my host family, and my parents are staying in a hotel nearby. After having spoken some more portuguese it has started feeling better--I still trip on my words sometimes, but I've surprised myself with how much I remember.

Friday night I wanted to stay home and relax (I am a certainly a homebody!) but my host mom had other plans and "sent" me out with my host sister Catarina. I got to see some of her friends who i had met before, and though we didn't do much, it was good to be with people my age after so much time with just my parents and their friends. Everyone wanted to know about the elections and approved when I said I had voted for obama.

Yesterday my parents, Xuxu (host mom) and I went to the Palácio da Pena in Sintra, a town near lisbon. I had already been to the palace, but it was fun to go again and show my parents. Xuxu drove all around, giving them a tour of what was in store.
After Sintra we went to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of the European continent---coooool. I had already been there too, but why not go again?

Last night I went out again to the birthday dinner of my friend Inês. We ate in a restaurant and then stood outside saying "ok let's go do something" and not doing anything. typical portuguese, haha. I got to see three of my closest portuguese friends (Inês, Inês, and Mariana) and some other kids I had known through school, so it was nice. My portuguese was good until I started getting sleepy and couldn't think anymore :-D.

Today Xuxu took us first to try Pastéis de Belém, really famous portuguese pastries (and really good, too!) and then to the Palácio de Queluz, a very nice palace near Lisbon (I had been there, too). For lunch we went to Ericeira, a cute fishing village where my host family has two summer houses. We ate prawns, mussels, octopus, and barnacles (which looked really desgusting--like toenails--but actually didn't taste that bad) and of course fish. The portuguese eat A LOT of sea food, and it's not for the squeamish.

Tomorrow my parents and I will head out on our "grand tour of Portugal" in our rental car: We're planning to visit some of my favorite places in Portugal. We'll be back in lisbon next weekend!

It's good and a little strange to be back in Portugal after spending 10 months here a year and a half ago. I'm glad my portuguese hasn't suffered too much!

Many beijinhos (kisses) to all!