A Travellerspoint blog

Portugal

Lisbon and Sintra

sunny 19 °C

Started my trip taking a bus far too early in the morning/late at night from Granada to Madrid where my attempt to sleep on the bus left me feeling a little bit off but enjoying life none the less :) Very random but the Madrid airport bathrooms had the scent of pink bubblegum, you know the kind that is 6 feet long or something and in a giant roll like a measuring tape. I stepped off the plane in Lisbon and out to the entrance to see my dad standing there with a flower -- best father of the year award already won but a sweet surprise. Reminded me of every time he would come down for my birthday and meet me at school with a bouquet of flowers. We took the metro to our hotel and I passed out for at least an hour so that I could be a functioning human being again.

Lisbon reminded me a lot of San Francisco, there a old trolleys climbing the hills all around town and a bridge that looks very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge but is called the the Bridge of the 25th of April.

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We spent the grand majority of our time walking up and down, over and across all of the city. The neighborhoods were the best part (along with the pastries of course -- the pastry that is famous in Portugal is called Pastel de Nata which is a flaky dough with cream in it, nom nom). There are three major neighborhoods: Baixa, Barrio Alto, and the Alfama. We had a delicious first lunch in Barrio Alto of a salmon salad for me and a rabbit burger for my dad.

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I think that my favorite thing about traveling is honestly just walking around and getting to know a city. It isn't really an event but I feel like it is the most real, if I can walk around a city and know where I am going because I recognize the area I have such a feeling of contentment. On our walk down from one of the many lookouts over the city, we walked past a building that had the XX blaring from a window and I couldn't help from smiling. You have to enjoy the simple things in life, and be happy in every moment.

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We had a delicious dinner of arroz de mariscos which is kind of similar to paella. We spent a lot of our time going into random churches that were beautiful, my favorite reminded me of a sunflower with yellow, pinkish, and orange colored marble. The church even had flower decorations on the ceiling. My dad and I were commenting on the fact that even in tiny little towns that he has been visiting on his travels they have magnificent churches.

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We spent Friday and Saturday walking around Lisbon, and then took my dad's motorcycle to Sintra to spend the night on Sunday. Now I want to just go live on the beach, do yoga, learn how to surf, and ride a motorcycle around. Yes this does sound a bit fantastical, but it was so beautiful just staring at the waves on the back of my dad's motorcycle with the wind beating us from side to side. We stopped on the way at a kind fancy place, and had a tasty lunch -- obviously we have been eating well while traveling. The view was amazing, staring out at the deep blue waves touched with white, and crashing upon the golden, sandy beaches.

Sintra is super cute. Our hotel was great, with a view that looked out over a glimmering patio. I also thought it was a fun coincidence that the guy who worked at the front desk was named Domingo and we happened to be there on domingo (Sunday).

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The city is tiny but it has at least three palaces that we could see.

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We walked around town the first night and had both of our first port -- in PORTugal which I thought was appropriate.

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The next day we went to the Pena Palace; which is quite the wild mix of colors and shapes. It is half goldenrod and half a maroon/purple color. Cool to see how everything had been preserved, but I cannot imagine living there because everything was so incredibly over the top.

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We returned to Lisbon on Monday and stopped at the Westernmost point of Europe, Cabo da Roca, and the wind nearly pushed us off the edge from how powerful it was. Spent the night at the same hotel, went out to dinner where our waiter spoke a modest 6 languages... but that wasn't many because his father was a translator in Washington DC and spoke 10. We went to a bar before walking back to our hotel that reminded me of Portland, because of its weird hipster vibe. It was very dark inside and the lamp shades that hung from the ceiling were plastic cabbage or lettuce leaves.

Tuesday I had to say goodbye to my papa at the airport, but then flew to Madrid and spent a few hours wandering around exploring before meeting up with Alice to go up to the Basque Country. A second spring break was an excellent idea!

Posted by rae.lloydlever 15:31 Archived in Portugal

Sevilla

A city of orange blossoms

sunny 23 °C

Sevilla (Seville) did not start out the best. I felt feverish the night before and on the 4 hour bus ride from Granada. Sleeping on the bus unfortunately did not help and once we arrived in Italica to view the old Roman ruins I was had a burning forehead with freezing hands. Too stubborn to say anything, Lauren finally spoke up for me and I took some aspirin and ate some food. Everyone got back on the bus and we headed to our hotel for the night with our program. The thing that sticks with me most about Sevilla is the smell. The weather had finally turned and it felt exactly as I imagined Southern Spain to feel. Along with the heat came the blossoming of every plant in sight, and Sevilla particularly the orange blossoms. The scent is incredible, they even bottle it and sell it as perfume -- which I should probably just buy so that I will remember Spain as sitting inside of an orange with brilliant white blossoms bursting all around me. Sevilla was just incredibly lush. We walked to the Plaza de Espana (there is a scene from one of the Star Wars movies that was filmed here) which is a beautiful plaza with a fountain in the middle and a body of water where individuals attempted to row themselves from side to side. We shared icey blended lemonades and then walked over to Maria Luisa Park. Everything was a lively green, but incredibly peaceful.

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We visited the cathedral which is the third largest, but the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. Great views from the top of the tower and it has the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

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I still cannot comprehend the historical significance of things. How is it possible that in the 21t century I can look upon the remains of the man who Sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492? Does not seem real to me. I want to visit Sevilla again, the city just gave me such a good feeling and who knows if it was just the timing of the weather or more than that but it was definitely magical. Something that I am realizing study abroad, the world is HUGE and it is possible to live in so many places. I think the point of study abroad and experiencing another country and another culture is to realize how many more options there are out there and to expand your perspective on life. Thanks for the lovely weekend Sevilla, I hope to be back sometime.

Posted by rae.lloydlever 08:22 Archived in Spain

Barcelona

Having the ability to fly off to such a gorgeous city is crazy to me. Casey and I had smooth traveling which is more than can be said about everyone on our flight. This girl in front of us in line for the plane forgot her identification card, and was freaking out and calling her mom. Her friends had to leave her behind :/ We ended up seeing them twice randomly just walking around Barcelona, and their friend wasn't with them. Another reminder to always check to make sure you have your passport or driver's license whenever you're traveling.

Landed in Barcelona and everyone was incredibly friendly to us. A man from Barcelona sat next to us on the plane and told us all the ins and outs of the city. We stayed at St. Christopher's hostal which was in the perfect location, I would definitely recommend it. It was just off of Plaça Catalunya and La Rambla (a main street) which are central to the city. We walked down La Rambla and down to the beach. The weather was such a wonderful break from how it had been in Granada, I did not even need to wear a jacket. We also went to the open market that is there and saw brilliant colored fruits, fresh fish, live crab, and sweets of all type.

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We met up with Leigh and hung out at her friend's apartment. I cannot imagine living in my own apartment while studying abroad, it would be such a different experience. I am happy to be in a home stay and learning more about the culture and learning the language at this point in my life. Then we went to Kaskade! Such a fun concert with an awesome venue on the beach.

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Our last day we spent walking all over Barcelona seeing the sights. We visited all of the Gaudí buildings: Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, La Sagrada Familia (of course), and Park Güell - soooooo beautiful!

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló


La Pedrera

La Pedrera


La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

I will definitely have to return to Barcelona at some point during my life to go inside all of the buildings, since we didn't want to hand over 15 euro to go inside each building. I am a huge fan of Gaudí's style which is modernismo catalán. The buildings and park are just so incredible because they are somewhat shocking in my opinion, they are out of the ordinary. As you're walking along you see normal building after normal building, until suddenly there is this enormous and beautiful building that looks like the scales of a dragon, or a melting rock, or a giant medieval castle-church that has been warped.

Park Güell

Park Güell


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We finished our trip by splitting a delicious meal because we had been living off of the bread, ham, cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we absconded from the free hostel breakfast. Wishing we could go to sleep but unable to because our flight left early in the morning. We left the hostel for the bus stop at 02:30 and got to the airport around 03:30 for our 06:15 flight. Thank you Ryanair... Traveling definitely keeps you on your toes and makes you adapt to each and every situation. Sleeping in the airport, on the airplane and the bus did not amount to a full nights sleep in the least. Ended up "taking a siesta" at 5:00pm and not waking up until 02:30am the next morning. Good thing I finished most of my homework before the weekend :)

Posted by rae.lloydlever 10:02 Archived in Spain

Marruecos, África

Tánger, Fés, Rabat y Asilah

My dad and I had a whirlwind of a Spring Break. I am so happy that he was able to come to visit me and that we could share this time together.

Our first stop was Tánger, we took the train from Granada to Algeciras, then a bus from Algeciras to Tarifa, then a ferry from Tarifa to Tánger. Traveling is always an adventure. This was also a new type of trip for me because we did not plan out specifically where we were going to stay each night, something that was probably good for the "all-too-detail-oriented planner" in me. Upon arrival in Tánger we had been warned about the fake guides and random people at the docks who would try to navigate you through the city in order to make a little money. We by passed a fake guide who flashed us a wornout badge so quickly it could have said anything. With no map of the city and the inability to navigate all areas anyways I called upon my memory of my friends saying that they asked for the location of the hostel at the Hotel Continental when they were in Tánger. Sure enough we could see the hotel on the hillside and there were signs pointing us in the right direction. The price was right at the hotel so we ended up staying there anyways. Decompressed by the time we got to our room, we relaxed a bit and then took the map the hotel gave us and began to explore the city. Another guide came up to us and my dad talked to him in a friendly manner as talked rapidly in order to not loose our attention. My dad began to follow him, but I was skeptical. He ended up leading us to the bank which we needed to go to, but tried to wait for us to show us the rest of the city. Personally, I prefer exploring on my own. We made it down to the train station after walking around all day, and buying a box of Moroccan pastries and this type of flat bread called Cinnmin (spelled differently I'm sure) with Nutella. Walked back along the water, had dinner, and returned to our hotel to rest before going to Fés.

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Fés: woah. Such a cool place, but definitely the most culturally different of all the cities we visited in Morocco. Something that we had to learn from traveling in Morocco, and traveling in general, is to follow our intuition about who we can trust and whether a situation is secure. My dad met a man on the train named Simo who ran a guide company. He gave us the card of this place that was on the other side of the Old Medina (a.k.a. markets=souq or souk) called Riah Khouloud Fés which was a guest house. We hopped into a taxi of this guy that had my dad's name written on a piece of paper because Simo told him to come pick us up. Then we drove away from the train station. First of all my dad and I are a little paranoid, second of all we don't speak either French or Arabic, and third we don't have a map so we are very reliant on this taxi driver. We show up at the Riad and the guy working there seems nice enough to me, and speaks English fairly well. We have been told though that you cannot go into the Old Medina without a guide so we are pretty vulnerable being on the other side of the Old Medina away from the train station. The area is much less touristy and pretty much what looks to be people's houses. We definitely got more of an authentic Moroccan experience those days in Fés, but finally became a bit more comfortable after looking around the establishment. The inside of the Riad was beautiful, all of the geometric patterns and bright colors that are characteristic of arabic art and architecture were present. We drank some mint tea provided by the guest house, and just relaxed for the night. Simo and one of his guides stopped by later to say hello and decide on a time to go into the Old Medina the next morning.

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We woke up for breakfast early (well early for me), and were led up to a beautiful terrace that we had no idea existed. Simo and Haji (the guide) came by at 10 am to pick us up. We decided to switch locations just so that we could be close to the train station for the next morning when we left for Rabat. Dropped off our bags at the hotel La Perla, and then drove to the Old Medina. I definitely felt like an outsider on a tour, which was slightly uncomfortable. We first went to this building where four men were making textiles by hand. The older gentleman was called the "engineer" and he designs the patterns of each piece of fabric. Seeing someone actually working with a loom was crazy, the shuttle (piece of wood that has thread on it and zooms back and forth) would fly by and sometimes get caught in the threads. There were two men working together at the two looms, and they had to know exactly which strings to move in order to create the appropriate patten.

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After leaving we continued deep into the Old Medina, I was definitely grateful that we had a guide as we twisted and turned each and every way. My dad kept asking me if I could find our way back, and there was no way I would be able to. Thankfully Haji was a good guy. We walked past heads of cows, something that looked like lungs, full bodies of animals gutted open, colorful shops selling teapots, regular stores with lightbulbs and soap. As we walked toward an area filled with clothes and silk, a wheelbarrow full of snails rolled on by. I have never seen such a sight. I wish I had had more time to just stand and absorb everything that I was seeing, but we moved on to more sights and smells.

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We made it to one of our main destinations: the tanneries. We were handed a sprig of mint leaves (which is never a good sign) and followed someone up the stairs. We looked out over cauldrons of dyes. They soak the leather (sheep, goat, and camel) in lye for 4 days I think to make it soft, then it is moved to sit in pigeon droppings for a number of days, and finally sits in the appropriate dye for 20 days to soak in all of the colors. There were brilliant reds and yellows, some days the guy told us there are blues from indigo and green from the mint. All the dyes are natural, but still smell horrible haha. Something I learned about myself from our trip to Morocco is that bargaining really stresses me out. Nothing else about the culture had been as overwhelming until the guy was trying to sell me a leather jacket. By the end of the trip I had improved, but I don't like quibbling over a few dollars. I definitely appreciate that I live in Granada, and that everything is relatively inexpensive.

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By the end of the day I was very happy to be in our hotel room without anyone else asking me if I wanted to buy a carpet, jacket, or anything else.

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Rabat: The capital of Morocco is much more modern, and for the first time I walked around without a scarf over my head as many women there were not wearing them. Again we went into the souks (markets) and finally got the hang of the bartering system. It was nice feeling comfortable and having the ability to navigate so that my dad and I could take our time about where we felt like wandering too. We explored any shop that seemed intriguing. Something that I have never tried before, but that was absolutely delicious was a cup of sugar cane milk/water. We walked by a man with this strange contraption, and thought we would try it out because it looked like bamboo but we realized it was sugar cane. He sharpened the tip of one stalk, stuck a lime on the end, and then pushed it through a giant juicer. My dad and I gulped down our drink, and decided to have another. It was kind of a mix between coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice. Our hotel was close to the train station, and we walked back in the night feeling content. Also as a heads up if you go to Morocco, if someone asks you if you want any Moroccan chocolate they are referring to hash. My dad's reaction to their question is probably pretty entertaining. We did not partake in smoking any hash and did not go to Chefchaouen, but the small town of Morocco (in between Tánger and Fés) supplies 1/3 of the worlds hash... pretty crazy.

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Asilah: A beautiful city on the beach was the perfect place to end our trip as far as a relaxing environment even though our sleeping accommodations were a bit interesting. We got off of the train from Rabat, and were approached by a man who seemed friendly enough. He had a beach house that he rents out to people, and a ride to it so it seemed like a good deal to us and at a great price. Very interesting I would say haha. We stayed in a room that I believe is his living room, on skinny little beds but it did the job. His young son fried up some fish, and seemed shy as we all ate a little snack together. It is normal in Morocco to invite people into your home and ask them to share a meal with you. We definitely experienced the cultural emersion in that sense, which I am very grateful for but I do prefer to use forks and plates still. My dad was put off by the fact that the father and son were digging their fingers into the meal and said that he noticed them also wiping their nose soon after, then going right back at the food. (I think my dad is kinda a germ-a-phobe :) love you papa). We spent the day enjoying the sun and just walking around with the more relaxed pace of life. The medina was easy to navigate and looked pristine with many white and blue buildings.

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 08:50 Archived in Morocco

Madrid, again

Segovia and Toledo

How lucky am I? The five days in Madrid with my program were absolutely wonderful. I really enjoy the fact that our program organizes excursions for us to be able to see some of the most amazing things that Spain has to offer. One thing that was great that I really miss about being in the states is the ability to just hang out with friends. We were all in the same hotel in Madrid, so the first night we just got together and hung out for the first time in forever. The next day we all took the bus to Segovia which has the Roman Aqueduct. It was such an achievement in architecture, I cannot imagine constructing something on that scale. I think my favorite part of the city was the Alcazar or castle; which was what inspired Walt Disney to mimic the castle in Snow White after. I felt like a fairy tale princess for sure. We had stepped back in time. There were suits of armor riding fake horses with lances in hand, and even the throne of the king and queen themselves.

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We went to both the Prado and the Reina Sofia while we were in Madrid. Lauren, Sarah, and I had gone to the Prado when we first got to Spain back in January, but after learning about the art and the artists every painting exuded so much more meaning to me. For the first time in my life I am enjoying history and understanding it, I think I need to have a certain relevance factor and I guess I am finding that here in Spain. Seeing Guernica by Picasso was amazing, especially because they had a timeline of photos at each stage of his creative process. I think that it is incredible that there are people out there in the world who have these ideas and images in their heads that they can bring to life. I will simply have to sit back and stare in awe for now.

Dali

Dali

We went to the Escorial, which was built by Phillip II and is a HUGE palace, mausoleum, library, museum, and basilica. The whole building felt very cold but it definitely embodied the power of the king as well as the importance of his religion. The mausoleum was probably the most incredible part of the building to me, practically all of the kings and queens of Spain are in this giant tomb -- from the Habsburgs to the Bourbons.

Escorial

Escorial

The Saturday that we were in Madrid it was the Barcelona vs. Madrid fútbol game, so every pub was packed with drunken and bellowing Madrid fans. We squeezed into one tightly packs bar and paid too much for a pint, but it added to the ambiance -- as well as the beer that was spilled on us by the overly fanatic Spaniard who was quickly moved away by his slightly more sober friend. Madrid won to our luck, maybe someday I will have the fortune to watch a match in the stadium. On a slightly more unpleasant note, a tip if you're ever in Madrid or in Spain in general, do not wear the colors of the rival team. A guy in our program was sporting a Barcelona scarf and some Madrid fans did not take it lightly. The guy and the other students he was with got unnecessarily roughed up. That same day my roommate Lauren had her wallet stolen on the bus :/ Left a sour taste in our mouths, and added a reminder that Madrid is a big city and it pays to be cautious and to wear the colors of the city you are in or none at all.

Our final destination was Toledo on our drive back to Granada. Such an adorable city as well. We had more of a relaxing day, but went and visited a few museums and churches, but also took the time to chill out and drink a café bombom (which is half condensed milk and half espresso -- delicious).

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We returned to Granada tired but satisfied with having experienced even more of the Spanish culture, while still only scratching the surface.

Posted by rae.lloydlever 11:53 Archived in Spain

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