18 November 2009

Lisboa = Love

Sorry it has taken me so long to write about this trip! It has been a busy couple of weeks as I've gotten into my regular routine. I teach english, volunteer with homeless people, have intercambios, occasionally study!! The weeks are great but long.

BUT a few weekends ago I headed to Lisbon for the weekend with a couple of friends. We had a Monday off so we thought we'd explore. We got there at 8am on Saturday morning after a really early plane, and hit the city. As soon as we started walking around I knew I loved the vibe. It's right on the water and there's a really relaxed, beachy feel (complete with palm trees).

In Madrid everyone is so posh and all the streets are so pristine and manicured. In Lisbon, there was peeling paint and cracked tile but there was such a beauty in the brokenness. It is an older city than Madrid, and all the sidewalks are made of cobblestones in black and white patterns.

They even use trolleys!

We headed up to the castle on the highest point in the city. The views were breathtaking even though the actual castle was slightly boring!

Then we headed to the water. You know I can't be near the ocean for more than 2 hours without seeing the water! There were birds everywhere and I hopped over a stone ledge and went out on the rocks to scare them all. I got some cool photographs of them all flying around.

So my friend Izzy (the blonde girl in the picture above) had heard about surfing near Lisbon, so we made a few phone calls and . . . I went SURFING! We took a train for about 30 minutes to this beach town near Lisbon called Cascais. The surf instructor, Alex, told me to call from a pay phone when we got there and he would come pick us up. So I got off the train and I had to go the bathroom really badly. I couldn't find a restroom so I asked the man at the ticket counter who inevitably only spoke Portuguese. With a little bit of luck and my Spanish, I got vague directions to a bathroom. Well I couldn't find said bathroom so I just decided to hold it. We tried to use 2 different pay phones to no avail. A guy from California told us they were designed to steal tourists' money, but somehow I just didn't believe that. I decided to go ask the same man at the ticket counter for a phone. After a few minutes of "telefono no funciona . . . hay un otro?," the man closed the ticket counter and motioned for me to follow him. After a few minutes of waiting and walking he led us to a handicapped bathroom. Not a great day for my communication skills! Somehow I asked for a phone and got a bathroom! We finally got to go to the bathroom and figured out a phone. Next thing I knew I was pulling on a wet suit.

Alex told us in the car that this wasn't the best day for learning because the waves were a little big and unpredictable, but we were determined! So after a few minutes of confusion over my height and width ratio in terms of what wetsuit to wear I was stumbling down the beach with a humungous surfboard. Needless to say, Alex was not lying about the difficulties of the day. I struggled. I had more salt water up my nose and in my lungs than I ever have before. I would get knocked over 3 or 4 times in a row. At one point I got taken under and the lead from my foot to the surfboard got around my neck. I had to take a couple of breaks and never actually got up, but it was such a great experience! I will definitely try surfing again on a calmer day.

The next morning we got up and tried to take a taxi to the botanical gardens before our airplane, but somehow ended up on the highway outside of the city unexpectedly. I made it safely home and with plenty of stories. It was a suprisingly relaxing weekend, and I think that is mostly due to the vibe of Lisbon. It was a great change of pace and I can back refreshed and ready to take on Madrid and my midterms!

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