This weekend brought about a trip to Lisbon, Portugal with my friends Cassie, Amy and Jamie. We left dark and early on Friday morning - our flight left at 6:50 so Cassie and I had to catch a taxi to the airport around 4:45...gaaah - and arrived in Lisbon a little after 7 am their time. Despite a flight full of obnoxious Spanish teenagers and a bus ride full of the same teenagers and a *major* creeper (poor Cassie was stuck sitting next to him), it became apparent upon arriving at our hostel that we were going to have an amazing time. This was mostly because the hostel was absolutely amazing: clean, quiet, really nice, helpful people, *and* it included a full breakfast, including crepes! I have rarely been happier.
Lisbon is apparently one of those cities that tourists either love or, more frequently, very much dislike - mostly, I believe, because it is not really known for anything spectacular. Frankly, I think this is exactly why we all loved it so much. We did not feel remotely compelled to do or see anything specific, which allowed us to spend our two days there casually exploring and simply taking in the atmosphere of the city. We started out our adventures by taking a short train ride to Belem, an area just outside of the main section of the city, and locating a very famous bakery that is known for their custard tarts. I don't know how I keep ending up in cities with famous pastries, but it turns out that I have no problem with that. These little tarts were AH-mazing...we had some from other bakeries which were quite delicious as well, but these were warm and topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar...yes, you should be jealous.
From there we decided to actually see something, so we checked out the local monastery and Belem Tower, which apparently used to be a political prison. We then had lunch at a pita place we had passed earlier (friggin' amazing pitas) and hit up the Royal Coach Museum. Yes, royal coaches as in Cinderella - only not made from a pumpkin. I really don't see why we don't still use coaches at least when it is sunny and nice outside...I sure would.
That afternoon brought a visit to the Oceanarium and a nap, then it was time for dinner! For this I was particularly excited (yes, more than usual) because we had gotten reservations at a little restaurant called Fado Maior where we were supposed to be able to hear some very good, traditional Fado music (best to just look it up online). Turns out this restaurant is owned by this little couple who has been married for over 50 years - he used to be the president of the National Fado Association and she was once considered one of the best Fado voices in the country. She was completely delighted when we all ordered traditional Portuguese dishes (so delicious) and he was tickled pink to teach us about Fado...they only spoke Portuguese, by the way, so all conversation was conducted with them speaking Portuguese and us speaking Spanish, yet we could still understand each other. It was a beautiful thing.
In fact, the only thing more beautiful was the music itself. I've inserted a video of one of the women who sang. The picture is terrible (it was quite dark while they were performing), but you don't need to be able to see her - just listen to her sing. It was like I discovered a part of me that I didn't know was missing. In my next life, I'm coming back as a Fado singer - it moved me that much. By far the coolest thing I've done in Europe, perhaps in my entire life. I wish I could go back and take you all with me.
Day two mostly brought a lot of wandering around the city and getting a little bit lost several times - though we never really had much of a destination, so that was alright. We spent quite a while exploring Saint George's Castle and searching for a tile museum that we never found, but did encounter a great antique shop where I was able to buy some really authentic 18th and 19th century tiles (Lisbon is known for it's tiled facades. They are really beautiful). That evening was spent at the hostel's kitchen table drinking tea and talking and laughing for hours...basically a perfect end to a fantastic weekend.
This week we are going with the Fundación to Andalucia (we will hit up Córdoba, Sevilla and Granada), the portion of Spain most known for the stereotypical ¨Spanish¨ culture. I am very excited, particularly to see some traditional Flamenco! Another lengthy post to come soon...