After a 4 hour bus ride from Porto to Lisbon, I was less than pleased to find out my debit card wasn't working, which meant I had 6 euros cash in Portugal's capital city: NICE! This was after climbing from the bus station to my hostel WAY up up up on a hill for about an hour, getting lost a few times on dead-end streets, with a dead phone, a soaking wet map, and a 20 lb pack and 10 lb backpack. I was so tired that instead of being worried about the cash, I spent 5 euros on a delicious curry-style meal in some run-down Indian restaurant, and it was the best decision I could have ever made. My energy was back up when the cold bottle of water they gave me replenished my dehydrated body.
After checking into "Nice Way" Hostel, it was clear the day was going to improve. The hosts were lovely, the view from the outdoor patio was fantastic, and there was free coffee and tea all day. I eventually figured out my bank situation by calling the international number (who knows how much that'll cost me). I found the public elevator (aka the one I should have taken to get to the hostel) to buy groceries, then explored some small streets.
These are the traveling situations people don't talk about but that always come up! It helps to have fellow hostel-goers who have all experienced these kinds of frustrating situations and offer you sangria when you plop on the hostel couch, drenched with sweat ready for a nap. I met some fun people from Germany and Morocco and we shared grapes and cheese and olives watching the sunset.
Chao Spain! After leaving notes all over Charlotte's apartment, I took a train to Porto, walked from the train station with my giant pack into town, and checked into a different hostel just for fun. It was the right decision: Tattva has a rooftop patio. After a much-needed Skype date with my mom, I visited a massive church called "Se", walked across top of Luiz bridge for magnificent views, discovered tiny streets I hadn't seen the first time around, and sweat an absurd amount in the blazing sun. I had a 5 euro lunch (fantastic, ecuadorian-style almuerzo), and enjoyed a lovely ice cream in the sunshine. I REALLY enjoyed that ice cream. I napped by the other side of the river after eavesdropping on Portuguese conversations and admiring keepsakes in artisan stalls. I head back to hostel, then ate bruschetta and sipped espresso at a nearby cafe.
Took a train to Santiago and was BLOWN AWAY by the beauty of the cathedral. The train only took 35 minutes. I essentially walked around the old part of town from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM when my train left to head back. Naturally, I took lots of photos, walked in 2 parks, and shared cheesecake with 3 camino-ers. Charlotte was waiting for me at the train station when I got back! We hung out in Pontevedra for awhile and then got tapas with her english teacher friends.
Summary: On the hostel patio this morning, we had grapefruit and coffee-grindy coffee, followed by a port visit filled with traditional tablecloths. We planned our time like champions, utilizing our hop-on-hop-off tour to the max. After essentially eating lunch in the ocean, due to a glass-protected restaurant, we headed back to the hostel, got a cab to the bus station, and headed to Pontevedra, Spain. I felt so special to see Charlotte's apartment! I wasn't even surprised she had 2 boxes of KD on her bookcase in her room.
Oh yeah! I'm reading a novel in Portuguese. This is unreal. It's Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. It's like reading Spanish, and when I don't know the word, I sound it out, and it's like a mixture of Spanish and maybe some French... so I can very easily know exactly what the sentences are trying to get across. The longer I read, the more I get into a rhythm, and it becomes easier. I can't guarantee any pronunciation (I thought it was Russian when I first got here), but I know I could write you a solid book report.
Plug for Duolingo and Memrise! These are the two apps I've been using for two months to learn some Portuguese here and there, stemming from a ridiculous crush I had on a Brazilian (It didn't work out but now I speak broken portuguese. Life is funny.) Thanks to these two apps, I understand the sentence structure and can hold a conversation with a vendor, ask for directions, discuss meal options... Who wouldn't known? I must say my Spanish base helps a ton, but I still wasn't expecting results like this.
Since Charlotte hasn't yelled at me yet for taking too many photos, I snap them wherever I go because it's so beautiful (and yikes I can't fit my camera into my bag, meaning around my neck is a perfect option). Here are more photos from the rest of the day at the beach, plus some mixed in from the morning at the port.
Quick Summary: We started the day off with a boat ride on the river, followed by a lovely hop-on-hop-off tour. We saw the largest bottle of wine in the world, followed by another port wine tasting. A tambourine dancer serenaded Charlotte on the street, I had traditional sausages with olives for lunch, and after running after the bus (literally, we ran), we spent the afternoon soaking in ocean views of HUGE crashing waves. Later, I spoke 4 languages while drinking 5 cups of tea in our chill hostel. A fantastic day.
We enjoyed our morning walk even though we got completely soaked. We did buy an umbrella though! First, we visited an important church with the most beautiful tile facade, and continued on to an artsy market.
The Livraria Lello bookstore is where J.K Rowling developed her inspiration for Harry Potter, so clearly we had to visit. Tripadvisor considers it the 3rd most beautiful library in the world, so historically and architecturally speaking, it wasn't bad at all. I bought a book in Portuguese for fun SO we'll see how that goes.
The port was absolutely beautiful, even with all the fog. We crossed the Ponte Luis I (bridge), and had a free port wine tasting because it came with our hostel booking. The view from the top of the port wine building was beautiful, and we enjoyed some virtual reality exhibit. After a coffee and lunch under a heated light outside by the water, we grabbed postcards and stamps, bought some chickpeas to go with salami and baguette for dinner, and headed back to the hostel.
I was so giddy to see Charlotte that I jumped out of my chair and FLEW down the stairs, to jump into a her huge bear hug faster. SO MUCH EXCITEMENT! You know those friends who just understand how your mind works? Who share the same sense of humour? Who know you're crazy but love you anyway? I'm just very grateful that I met her two years ago in Ecuador because she's the kind of person who just makes me feel happy inside. Now we're meeting in Porto, of all places.
We're staying at a hip hostel called PILOT, and so far it looks great with a neat atmosphere. Looking forward to tomorrow.
SOOOO I fell behind, but I'll come back and fill this in with more details as my current trip comes to a close, as I'm currently on a plane (hello Portugal). Here are 10 great things I did in the past 2 months in France, which I half-forgot to fill you in on, half-was-too-lazy. I will progressively jump back in time to catch up on the stories and pictures I haven't shared yet, but in the meantime, enjoy these and the ones that are are coming your way from more current travels.
1. Visited Mont Blanc, France with my Family
2. Moved to Teeny Tiny Trebeurden, France
3. Became an Au-Pair for a LOVELY family
4. Started a Pottery Apprenticeship
5. Applied to Master's Programs
6. Had some BOMB runs with BOMB views
7. Started Teaching Private English Lessons
8. Improved my French
9. Had a Job at a Creperie (GREAT View, AWFUL Hours)
10. Took time to Relax, Reflect, and Recharge
Quite a lovely afternoon! After my morning classes which ended at 12:30, we drove an hour to this lovely town and spent time by a large lake after struggling to find lunch past 2:00 PM (they only reopen after lunch for dinner around 7:00 PM!) We went on a short little walk by a lovely lake, Lac du Bourget. As the day went on the sun got hotter! Camille, Michele, and I slept on the way home. Great day with the family :)
Today when Emma and I arrived at Chamrousse, not only did we accidently not pay for the bus because the bus driver shuffled us off the bus too quickly before leaving, but we also went ziplining for free because we happened to be there during the one promotional day of the year. Right on!
Annecy can be best described as the setting of fairytale storybooks I wrote as a kid. Just dream of a bustling picturesque city, swans on the lake included, and you’ll get something along the lines of Annecy.
Our bus left Grenoble at around 9:45 AM and we arrived close to 11 AM. I could have spent the entire day walking around the old part of town admiring the little boutiques. We people watched while listening to dozens of languages. Very much a tourist destination.
We ate crepes and continued to the lake. We learned it's possible to walk all the way around the lake, which I would have loved to do if we were staying there longer. While the three other girls went on a little boat ride, Anna and I visited a church up on the hill and then went to an old castle which had a museum exhibit about Chinese visual art. Why not!
We had a fun time finding eating dinner and eventually wound our way back to the bus station to catch a ride home on a spanish coach bus. It was fun to hear spanish when I wasn't expecting it and communicate with the bus driver that way.
What did we do before class today? We went to a castle. And to think I almost slept in!
The 35 minute bus ride from the train station left us a 10 minute walk from the entrance of the castle. The stroll through town was lovely, and we had plenty of time to enjoy a coffee outside before the gates to the castle opened at 9:30. I had no idea what to expect, but I know that I was not expecting to fall in love with this place as easily as I did.
After school today (which ended at 12:30), we went to visit les Cuves de Sassenage, or the Sassenage caves. They were created hundreds of thousands of years ago by water currents. Super neat! Despite the intense heat outside, it was quite cold inside the cave. The walk to get there was just as cool as the caves themselves.
I snapped these ones from the second bridge that crossed the path perpendicularly after about a half hour of running before heading back. The most lovely part of the evening was reaching the residence, sitting in the grass below a tree stretching, and enjoying the sunshine on my (disgustingly sweaty, but still charming) face.
The Bastille is an old fort in Grenoble surrounded by kilometers upon kilometers of hiking trails in all directions. We left our residence at 7:00 PM, arrived at the base at 7:30 thanks to the killer tram system, and enjoyed the most magnificent views the whole climb up for an hour and a half. The path we took was from the left hand side of the hill, and the climb consisted of LOTS of stairs but they were part of an old fort, so the historical significance of the place made our legs hurt a little less. You can easily reach the many openings by going through centre ville until you get to the canal/river, "l'Isere." The green space in this city is impressive, and it was neat to feel like we were sorta-kinda in the forest while still admiring the vast expanse of Grenoble in the valley below us.
Just so you know, it is possible to take a gondola up to the fort, but I'd suggest doing the hike because you can see so much more this way. Actually, a nice little lady told me the hike was worth it when I was on the train ride the first day I got to France. She was right. (Thanks Debra.) I'd love to explore the many more trails that expand from this one into the mountains. Here is the website for more info: http://www.bastille-grenoble.fr/english/sentier_uk.htm
I was going to stay in and do homework all day, but when somebody asks you if you want to go for a stroll downtown, you can't necessarily justify staying in and doing homework. We went to drink an overpriced espresso, walked by the water to catch some views, and trudged along to the first viewpoint of the Bastille hike (photo above). I'll definitely be going back this week to get the full view from above. We got back at about 4 and I was still able to do all my homework.
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