Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I returned home from an interesting weekend in Portugal on Sunday afternoon.  We had an early flight on Friday that flew directly into Lisbon and arrived around 7:30am.  There were 9 of us total including the 8 of us from my program and a friend from Purdue studying in Sevilla, Gretchen.  She joined us later that day when her bus arrived from Sevilla.  We stayed in a really nice apartment that looked straight up out of an IKEA magazine, complete with a plasma TV in the living room that comfortably fit all 9 of us.  That afternoon we booked a tour guide that met us outside our apartment to take us around the city on a walking tour and explain the history behind the city and major buildings.  We started walking in the Chiado neighborhood where there were incredible views overlooking the entire city as well as the coast.  Lisbon is a very hilly city that sets right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  During our tour, our guide was telling us about the earthquake of 1775.  The quake destroyed nearly everything in the city as well as set fire to many buildings.  The people than ran to the port for safety until a tsunami came on shore and killed 30,000-40,000 residents.  Talk about a shitty day.  After seeing some of the major buildings in Lisbon, she took us to the oldest wine cellar in Lisbon where we had plates of food waiting for us and 6 different bottles of wine for a wine tasting session.  Pretentious.. I know.  We were educated on how to properly drink wine and which wines go best with which foods.  Red wine is best with meats and sea food, White wine with lighter meals such as Italian, and Port wine (what they are most famous for) is best with desserts or salads.  I wasn't a huge fan of Port wine as it was very sweet, thick, and a little spicy.  Then again, I still think box wine tastes good.  That evening we walked around Barrio Alto and the Chiado neighborhoods.  The following day the Portuguese were celebrating their day of Independence from their dictatorship.  Many people were congregated in the Plazas and they had venues and stages set up for bands to play.  You literally couldn't move down streets because it was packed wall to wall with people.  After walking around a little bit we decided to head back to the apartment to get some sleep.

The following day, Gretchen and I took a train to Belem which is about 15-20 minutes away from Lisbon along the coast.  While walking towards the Jeronimos Monastery, we passed by a Chariot Museum with free entry.  Now a Chariot museum does sound kind of boring, but it was fascinating to see how these authentic chariots have lasted through time.   After the museum we headed to the Monastery where we sat in the court yard for a while and had the familiar "I don't want to go back to reality" and "I can't wait to move to Europe" discussion.  We headed over to the famous pastry shop Casa Pastéis de Belém to try the Pastel de Nata.  Pastel de Nata is a small cream tart that kind of looks like a miniature Sugar Cream Pie.  After we enjoyed our pastry and some authentic Portuguese McDonalds (a Big Mac), we headed back to meet the others at the apartment.   On our way back, we ran into a huge parade along the streets.  It seemed to be more of a political parade with each type of party being represented.  People were dancing, music was playing, and political party flags were waving.  It was interesting to see the “Portugal for Communism” flag in their section of the parade.  The next morning we caught our flight home and I just uneventfully hung out around the apartment and caught up on the television serious 30 Rock.

This was an interesting weekend to say the least.  Traveling with 9 people can get difficult as everyone has different agendas and opinions on things.  It was good traveling with Gretchen and comparing our study abroad experiences.  This weekend I will be traveling to Brussels and Amsterdam to visit two friends from Anderson that are studying over there.  I am excited to get out of this part of Europe and eat some authentic Belgium Waffles.

I did a little photoshop.. I'm not too good at it though

Overlooking the city from the observation tower

Another view, our apartment was along this road

Bottle 5 and 6 of our wine tasting session

Gretchen (friend from Purdue) and I outside their main plaza

The courtyard inside the Jeronimos Monastery in Belém 

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