Sunday, June 12, 2011


Our flight for Portugal left from Madrid around 11:30pm. I grabbed the seat with essentially unlimited leg room and fell asleep while Jack (my 6'4" roommate) sat one row in front of me with significantly less.

We landed around 12am local time and went to grab a taxi. This is where I realized the value of speaking the native language of the country you are in. There is no doubt portuguese and spanish are similar languages but it turns out that doesn't help you understand portuguese at all. It sounds like a russian speaking spanish with a lisp on the "s". The only phrase I was able to pick up the entire weekend was "Obrigado" (thanks). I said it ALL the time, even when it didn't necessarily apply.

So we get in our taxi and ask the driver if he speaks english. Of course he doesn't. That would be too easy. Spanish? Nope. So Jake pulls out his itinerary and points to the address of our hostel. The taxi driver takes a long look at it, tries to hide his confusion, and we drive off. Driving in portugal is a free-for-all. No blinkers, no speed limits. The driver was weaving in and out of traffic, stopping, and speeding up constantly. Eventually he stops at a light and I assume asked another taxi driver if he knew where it was we were trying to go. We speed off again and eventually he drops us off near our hostel but tells us he can't go any farther because you can't drive on the streets or whatever.

The streets were completely packed with people. Apparently we decided to visit Lisbon during "national lisbon day" or something. They have a party for Saint Anthony (The patron saint of Lisbon). So everyone is just out in the streets drinking and having a good time. After asking a lot of people a lot of directions we finally get to our Hostel.

We stayed in the Lisbon Old Town Hostel. Having never stayed in a hostel before I had some ideas in my head of what I expected and they turned out to be completely false. We stayed in a 10 person room, everyone we met was talkative and very nice. The beds were comfortable and I slept great.

Friday we got up around 8am and really had no idea what we were going to do. A picture is worth a thousand words so heres a couple pages to keep you busy.

The first thing we found was the city elevator. Its exactly what it sounds like. An elevator that gives you a pretty decent view of the city.

The main attraction for the day was the castle of San Jorge. This thing was at the top of the hill and we got lost on our way up there. On the way up we met this girl from Holland who had separated from her group, and was also looking for the castle. We ended up hanging out with her for the whole day mostly discussing American stereotypes. She was surprised that we weren't fat. We also gave her a new stereotype: Americans have to get to the top of everything. She commented about how we were never satisfied until we reached the highest tower in the castle or the top point of whatever land mark we were at. Something I'd never noticed before, but also dead accurate.

Quick side note: Everything written before right now was written right after I actually went to Portugal. Everything after this point is being written right now a few weeks after Portugal. My memory is a little foggy and I've been busy doing European things (wearing speedos). Also, if there is a worse way to put pictures in a blog post, I'd like to see it. Because of this there will only be links to pictures and not actual pictures.

Back to "the story"... At this point its like 2pm, only thing I've eaten so far was a piece of bread. I'm cranky, hot, and hungry enough to eat anything. We stumble upon an 11 euro all you can eat buffet. Jokes on them, I ate all of it, I probably had four or five plates. Amazing food, most of it Portuguese, no idea what any of it is called, sorry.

After this we went to this place. Its been a few weeks so I don't remember what its called. All I can tell you is the picture doesn't do it justice for how tall it is. We took an elevator to the 7th floor and then walked up many flights of stairs until we reached the top. Looking at the top from the bottom people's heads look like birds, literally. I was a little scared when I was on top.

Then we tried to go to this castle. It closed at 6:30 pm and we got there at 6:35 so all you get is this picture.

Before we headed back we picked up some pasteis. This is a native pastry to Lisbon. We bought it from "Pasteis de Belem" apparently the world renown place to buy this pastry. The line wrapped around the block and took about 15 minutes before we could order. While in line I was talking to a cop who said they sell about 40,000 a day, 50,000 on a busy day. They were a euro each and so I bought two. Good stuff.

We weren't really sure how to get home but we didn't want to wait for the train again so we just hopped on this random tram and hoped for the best. It worked out perfectly and we made it home safe and sound.

For dinner we went to a Fado Restaurant. Fado is a Portuguese genre of music where they basically just sing poetry. The poetry is typically sad and the singers dress in all black and you eat dinner while they sing. I didn't understand a word they said but it was extremely moving. Food was good too, all seafood, I ordered the salmon. Lisbon is close to the coast so everything is really fresh.

The next day we took a 45 minute train ride to Sintra, Portugal. There was a castle and a cathedral with a really awesome view. Neither of these pictures do either of these places justice. Sintra is right on the coast, and the castle is on the very top of a hill over looking the town with a great view of the ocean. Unfortunately I didn't capture this view in picture form but it is one of my favorite places from the trip, you could see for miles, the cathedral was the same way.

After this we took a bus to Cabo da Roca. This is the western most point of Europe. Extremely tall cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean. Again, a really cool view, that picture does it a little bit of justice.

There you have it folks, my trip to Portugal. Hopefully I'll get Barcelona up tomorrow.

Jacobito, if you're reading this, thanks for letting me steal your pictures.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The "Cultural Differences" Blog Post

Let me preface this post by saying that I am thoroughly enjoying it here. I also appreciate the cultural differences between the United States and Spain. There are just some things about this trip that really make me laugh. So without further adieu leave your "political correctness" at the door and lets have a short discussion about the differences between bathrooms in Spain and 'MERICA.

Public Restrooms - They are non-existent. The only two places in this whole country where I am ABSOLUTELY positive I can go to the bathroom are at my apartment and at school. There are not always bathrooms in restaurants and if they catch you going they'll probably ask you to buy something.

Metro (Bathroom Related) - I would like to share with you some quick facts I took from the Madrid Metro Wikipedia Page:

6th Largest Metro in the World
Number of Lines - 13
Number of Stations - 272
Ridership - 627 million people a year

There is not ONE SINGLE BATHROOM in any of the stations. 627 million people a year do not go to the bathroom at metro stations. This metro was built in 1919 and has been continually upgraded since. Not once did anyone ever add a bathroom. Where do the metro train operators go when they have to "Go"?

Every time we leave our apartment we ask each other "Did you go to the bathroom yet?".

I haven't seen anyone do it but I wonder if public urination is a problem for the Spanish police?

Bathrooms in private residences are just as you would expect, usually slightly smaller. They do have one interesting difference though: the light switch is usually on the outside of the bathroom.

-Incredibly confusing when I go to the bathroom at night
-Basically begs you to abuse it while your friends are "dropping the kids off at the pool".

Jeans - No words. They are just weird here. Weird zippers, tons of pockets. Its interesting. I tried to find an example in Google Images but came up empty.

Thats all for now.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Segovia was pretty awesome! We got to see the aqueduct and the Alcazar of Segovia (literally Segovia castle). We got up early and took a bus to Segovia. I slept most of the time but when I wasn't sleeping it was nice to see grass, since we were driving through the country. I've only seen grass one other time since I've been here in the city.

We got there and the students had just finished finals or something and were all drinking in the streets at like 10am chanting "USA, USA" at us. They gave us 45 minutes to get something to eat so we all went to this little cafe and literally cleared this guy out of every pastry he had made that morning. I bet he usually gets tops like 30 customers a day or something and we fit like 50 people in there at once.

They split us into groups for our tours. Since I'm in art history we got an art professor with an EXTREMELY easy accent (score!) named Rafa. He was a funny guy and very knowledgeable about everything in Segovia. As we toured the castle he explained the history of the paintings and little tid bits about all the rooms.

After the tour we had a few hours to walk around and do whatever we want. We went to the town square where they had some sort of party going on. There was a band playing and families walking around and stuff. We went the top of the Aqueduct and it was a pretty cool view (no picture, sorry). Then back on the bus and went home.

Sunday afternoon we went to the Rastro. Its basically a flea market times a hundred in Madrid. Its a huge place for pick pocketers so I left everything at home except for like six euro in change which I put in my front pocket. You can barter with the merchants but I ended up not buying anything.

Sunday night we went to a charity soccer (futbol) game for Africa. Real Madrid vs Munich. The game was played by retired players from both teams. Tickets were ten euro which was awesome! Madrid ended up winning like 8 to 3 and there were two own goals and one guy scored with a bicycle kick. I can see why soccer is so popular here, even with the retired players, the game is immensely more interesting than any games I've watched in the states. Another side note here is they only sell non-alcoholic beer in the stadium.

By the way, Moyukh, if your reading this, this concludes post #5. You owe me a Qdoba burrito (we had a bet about whether or not I would actually blog).

Thursday, June 2, 2011


This post is called food because its all I think about. The food here is awesome but you only get to eat three times a day. They don't snack, ever. I'm used to eating all day so this has been an adjustment. Since we have all the time in the world to eat during meals I try to get "thanksgiving" full each time to hold me over.

Also, I walk up hill to school both ways. Or at least I can if I get lost, depends on which metro stop we take, took us a few days to figure that out. If we take the correct way home we still have to climb this long hill which we have aptly named "la montaña" (the mountain).

Teresa also has a friend who is frequently at our apartment, his name is Juan Carlos. We call him Don Juan (not to his face). He is from Argentina as well and about Teresa's age. He is a pretty smart guy and is always telling us "fun facts" about Spain and Nebrija. He can also be incredibly sarcastic. Its funny, but hard to catch because its usually in what he says and not how he says it, so we don't always understand. He also speaks better english than Teresa and acts as a walking talking dictionary for us. He asks us for the english translation of a lot words as well.

Today was our first class at the Museo Del Prado. We learned about the symbolism and story behind some of the paintings of El Greco. He has a potrait that looks like one of my roommates, other than that not much to tell. You can see why I'm not an art major. The class is pretty interesting though.

After that Jake and I tried going to the bank to exchange our cash for euros. We went to the Bank of Spain, and were told we could not exchange there. Then tried the Spanish Treasury on the off chance they might do it, and they told us to go to the Bank of Spain. We went back to the bank and the same police man saw us and immediately cut us off. Pretty sure the policeman was lying to us but I can't argue as well in spanish as I can in english so we're going to have to figure something else out. In hindsight I should have just taken large amounts out of the ATM.

We're going to Segovia this weekend and either Portugal/London the next. The Barcelona trip is planned for June 23rd hopefully and we have a soccer game this Sunday.