Alcalá de Henares

Alcalá de Henares

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lisboa, Portugal

As stated in the previous post, I spent this weekend in Lisbon (Lisboa I believe is the Spanish/Portuguese version), Portugal.  It was a fun trip so let me begin at well, the beginning.

I told my host mom on Thursday night that I would be walking to the train station at 4:00 A.M. in the morning.  I don't think she was thrilled with this idea because she offered to drive me.  After going back multiple times, I finally gave in and accepted the ride.  The train station is about 5 minutes away by car but about a 25 minute walk, so I felt a twinge of guilt making her get up so early, but I was also relieved to have the ride.  After repeating to me multiple times that we would be leaving at "Cinco menos veinte" (5 minus 20 aka 4:40 A.M.) I headed to bed with a slightly unpacked suitcase.  However, my alarm went off and I must have turned it off multiple times and woke up at 4:30 instead of 4:00.  Fail.  I shoved the rest of my stuff in my backpack and quick brushed my teeth and threw on some clothes and called it good.  I decided to leave my rain jacket at home, which was a bit of a gamble but I was hoping for the best...

We got to the train station a little early, and it was obviously still dark out.  After thanking my host mom multiple times, I got out and found some friends from Albion that were taking the first train into Madrid to go to Barcelona.  At the train station, there is a memorial for the terrorist attacks that occurred in 2004.  The anniversary, I guess you could call it that, was March 11, so there was a bunch of candles and flowers.  In my Spain and the US class, we learned more about why the terrorist attacks occurred, but it's kind of a long story, so another post, another time.

I met up with the rest of my group, Nina, Alexa, Nicole, and Colin (poor Colin was the only boy in the group) and we headed off to Madrid.  The train was free, which is odd, but I'm not complaining because it saved me 2.70 Euros!  So got into Madrid, switched from the RENFE to the metro and headed off to the airport.  I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to airports, and I like to get there super early, but we were kind of cutting it close.  Public transportation is cheap, but it's not the most direct or the most convenient but it was the preferred method of transportation for our trip to the airport...

Upon getting to the airport finally, I was reminded of the "terribleness" that is the Madrid airport (back in January).  We finally figured out after asking someone how to get our tickets out of the machine.  Everyone except Alexa.  Her machine ran out of paper and then she was told she had to wait in the line with the checked baggage people.  Seeing as it was getting semi-close to when boarding would start, Nina, Nicole, and I went through security and crossed our fingers that Alexa would get through in time to make the flight.  Colin decided to wait to make sure Alexa could get through, good friend good friend.  As our flight was beginning to board, no signs of Alexa and Colin.  Shoot.  But with about 5 minutes left, all of us being super anxious and stressed, we saw them running up and I think we all breathed a sigh of huge sigh of relief.

I was honestly so tired at this point, I fell asleep before we took off and don't even remember taking off.  Impressive I know.  The flight was only an hour, but I got a good power nap in before then.  We arrived in Lisbon and caught a taxi to our hostel, which was called the "Yes Hostel."  Why, I'm not sure exactly.

About the hostel.  It was super super nice!  Probably best hostel ever (but as it was the first hostel I've been to, I guess that might be unfair to say, but I'm putting it down as best hostel ever for now)).  It was located downtown, close to a lot of cool little shops and a great walk along the river.  We were informed that we couldn't get into our rooms, but we could eat breakfast so that made us all happy.  The staff was very accomadating and helpful and spoke English, which was a huge plus.  For breakfast there were delicious rolls, toast, cereal, and a few other breakfasty type of things.  Our room was made for 5 people and had two bunk beds and a single bed.  We shared a common bathroom and also a private bathroom with a few other rooms, but I hardly ever saw anyone else on our floor.  It was pretty clean and the linens were included, which was great!  I had to rent a towel for $5 Euro but I ended up getting it back in the end.  We also received cool little bracelets that let us into the hostel, our room, and also our personal lockers.  Pretty nice.

After breakfast, we decided to explore a bit since we couldn't get into our rooms.  We walked around by the river a bit.  From a little scenic area, we got to see a sweet bridge that looks very similar to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.   Colin informed us that they modeled their bridge after the Golden Gate, so who knows?  We also saw a drowned rat washed up on the little beach, so that was the end of the beach for me.  From there we decided to try to take the trolleys to part of the downtownish area.  The trolley was an interesting experience because it appeared that we had to pay to use it, but no one was monitoring it, so we didn't?  It still confuses me thinking about it.  But off we went and we got off near a big church and headed off to see some of the monuments of the city.

The first thing on our list to see was the Belem Tower.  It's kind of like the Eiffel Tower to Paris or Big Ben to London I was told.  I honestly don't think it was that impressive, but I guess the Portuguese are proud of it.  We didn't go in but we got some pictures outside of it, so I was happy with that.  We continued walking along the river and came to another monument about the Portuguese exploration into the "New World" way back in the day (back when Portugal actually meant something on a map).  We went up this one because it only cost 1.50 Euros for students, and it was about 400 some stairs all the way up.  The view was worth it though!  We could see most of Lisboa, the bridge, Belem, and a few other cool things.  I've noticed a trend in my travels.  Climb to a high point and then take an excessive amount of pictures.  Oh well, I enjoy it, so I will keep looking for tall things to climb!

From there, we had lunch at a small restaurant where the menu was all in Portuguese.  Made things interesting.  We were given green olives and bread to start, which we would be charged for regardless, so I tried the olives and they tasted pretty good! I ordered spaghetti, not very adventurous I know, but it's the first time I've had spaghetti here and it was wonderful!  The sauce was a little different, but I enjoyed it regardless.  After lunch, we went to a small pastelelería that is famous for it's pastries because only three people in the world know the recipe for this specific recipe.  Legit.  I tried it and I have to say it wasn't my favorite, but it was still good.  I guess my taste buds prefer Funfetti cake and brownies over these pastries.  The American side of me still wins.

From there, we hung out in a park and enjoyed the sunshine and people watching.  I've always loved people watching, and it's especially fun when it's in another country.  I noticed a lot of couples in the park, and my friends and I creeped on them for awhile.  I also have a habit of trying to catch birds, and my friend Nicole got an action shot of me trying to catch one.  I will post it when she puts it on Facebook because it is rather funny.  It's an activity that will never get old.  One of these days, I will catch one.  Won't know what to do with it when I get it, but it's another thing to cross of my list of things to do.  After the park, we came back to the hotel to check in and rest a bit.  The rest of the day was pretty chill, we hung out at the hostel and took a night walk around the neighborhood that our hostel was in.  The city is beautiful but a little abandoned or "dejada" as my host sister Cristina says.  It was still beautiful to see the lights at night and the bridge, and I'm glad we went on the walk.

The next day we got up and ate breakfast and decided to walk around a bit before heading off to the huge market.  Who knew getting to the huge flea market would be such an adventure!  We decided to take the trolley again because it would be a 2 hour walk uphill according to Alexa's guidebook, so we went to find a trolley.  After about 40 minutes of looking for 28 E., we finally found a spot that it stopped but every time it came around it was super crowded.  We decided it might be better to take the 28 E. that was going in the opposite direction and then eventually it would turn around and come back.  So we happily got on the next 28 E. and headed off in the opposite direction.  It was still super crowded but as people got off we took their seats and were able to see out the windows to get a better view of Lisboa.  Lisboa is a beautiful city with lots of little plazas and brightly colored houses.  It reminds me of pictures I've seen of San Francisco because of the steep hills and the trolleys.  The ride was going well until the trolley stopped.  And we had to get off near a church.  We had no idea where we were on the map, so my friend Colin decided to go in the church to find someone that could point out on the map where we were.  Mission failed.  The whole Portuguese vs. English vs. Spanish things must not have worked because he came back out laughing.  We waited for another trolley to take us back to the market and sure enough, another one appeared and all was well once again.

Once at the market, I wandered around looking at all the stuff.  It was HUGE!  A lot of it was sheer junk, but there were some treasures among all the junk.  The weirdest items were dolls that were missing appendages, weird appliances, underwear, and other miscellaneous items that I would never buy from a flea market.  I did end up buying a painting because it was hand painted by the lady and it was pretty cheap.  It shows the Lisboa harbor, and it's fairly small so I shouldn't have a problem getting it home.  My Grandma Andrews has really cool paintings of Venice in her house, and I've always wanted something like it.  Mine is not as cool as hers, but it's a start.

After the market we headed back to the hotel to take a nap and make lunch.  We stopped at a market and bought stuff to make spaghetti because we were allowed to use the huge kitchen at the hostel.  It was funny because Colin poured in the noodles when the water was still cold, and I usually wait until it boils but I stood there and watched him do it.  It turned out fine though, so that was a relief.  First dinner that I've made in Spain and it was a success!  We all took a nap for a few hours because we were tired from walking around and wanted to be rested up for the nighttime festivities.

We signed up to eat dinner at the hostel, which was a great decision!  For the low price of 8 Euros, we got 3 drinks, a salad, the main entree, and a dessert.  I used my drinks on Coca-Cola, boring yes but it's what I crave here.  The main entree was a ham rolled filled with cheese in a delicious sauce.  I couldn't figure out what it was exactly but it was really good.  For the dessert, there was mixed fruit, which was a little bit of a letdown since the day before there was brownies and strawberries.  As we were finishing up dinner, the lady working at the hostel informed all of us that they would be having karaoke tonight?  No need to go out when the fun comes to you!  I didn't sing any songs, but my friends sang "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga.  Other popular songs were "Love Song" by Sara Barilles and some older songs like "Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston.  It was funny listening to people from other countries sing the songs with their accents and it was a fun night.  After the karaoke we took another walk and found the elevator that Colin wanted to go up.  Sadly it was closed but we decided that we could come back in the morning before our flight left.

We got up at 6:30 to watch the sunrise from the elevator.  It was worth it!  The sun was just coming over the hills of Lisbon and it was impressive.  The pictures, as always, don't do much justice but it's my best attempt.  I would say that Lisboa is one of my favorite cities because of it's old buildings and winding hills.  It seems like a quiet little town, and it doesn't have as many tourists as other places that I have been, so that was also refreshing.  There's something about watching the sunrise.  The feeling is always the same, something of awe and wonder.  This sunrise didn't beat Little Devil's Tower on Summer Science but I still felt that feeling of curiosity and amazement for the great God that we serve.  I love sunrises!  We spent probably half an hour up the elevator and waited for the lady to come back up to get us.  However, she never showed up?  So we found a back way out, and discovered that we probably could have got in free?  Oh well.  Maybe next time?

After the elevator it was time to head to the airport to get our flight.  There was a miscommunication with the front desk guy and we only got one taxi when we needed two, so we had to split up to get to the airport.  It ended up working out fine and we all got to the airport and headed home to Madrid.  I found a nice little surprise in my purse from the day before.  I "borrowed" some bread from our hostel, and I found it when I was going through my purse in the Lisbon airport.  Classy, not really but still delicious!  The plane ride home was really short but something interesting happened.  As we were preparing to take off the intercom came on, and they begin their speech about the seat belts and the life jackets under the seat.  Except it was in Spanish and I could understand it!  I remember my first flight from London to Madrid, I had no idea what I was hearing, so I guess this is a good indicator that I am actually learning something!  Yay for improving Spanish skills!  I always forget that Madrid isn't the end of the journey.  So a run down of the transportation on my way home:  Taxi to Lisbon airport, hour plane ride to Madrid, take Metro to Nuevos Ministerios, take Renfe to Alcalá, walk 25 minutes home.  Busy busy day.

However, when I walked in the door, literally walked in the door, my host dad said we would be going to my friend Claire's house for la comida.  Shoot.  So I threw my stuff in my room, changed clothes, and headed off to Claire's for the family get together.  It was fun, even though I was exhausted.  We played badmitten, and I got to talk with Claire a bit.  The food was good because I guess my host mom's brother works in a restaurant, so he made some dish with beans and mussels?  It was pretty good, but not as good as the apple pastry that followed!  Also, I had a small, extremely small, glass of wine at dinner because I wanted to try the wine from "La Rioja" a distinct region of Spain, known for it's wine.  It was good, a little dry, but good.  I also tried a bit of a "chupito" which is like a shot.  It was kind of mint flavored, but very strong and I didn't like it very much and didn't drink much.  Now I can say I tried both!

Sorry this post is long, I probably lost your attention ages ago.  If you made it this far, pat yourself on the back and be thankful that I don't post as often as I used to!  Peace!

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