Friday, 27 December 2013

Dancing around Lisbon

So I arrived in Lisbon yesterday but in my first 24 hours, I've been spending time everywhere but the city itself.  I was expecting to be received in the airport Jorge, a born and raised Lisbon-ite lawyer.  Sure enough, a blonde girl with pantalones Rojas and purple framed glasses emerged from the crowd and muffled through a hug, I heard, "Katie! I'm George!".  I'm infamous for displaying my un censored thoughts and emotions on my face and I started to say, "I thought you were a man" but decided to shrug it off since I like staying with females better anyway.  She kept a straight face but the real George, a perpetual jokester, couldn't contain his laughter and emerged from behind.  Turns out the blonde girl is agnesesta, a polish girl who arrived earlier in the afternoon and will be staying 3 nights with me also.  So the sun had set but Jorge took us across the "san francisco" bridge for some nice views of the "cape of jewels" beach and the city, moon-lit oceanside strolls (it's weird to be on this side of the Atlantic) and a pizza dinner.
Jorge drinking a yogurt milkshake on the coast
Today, we set out for a mini-road trip along Jorge's favorite road in Portugal, along the Atlantic Ocean.  We drove through cascais, with some of the country's most beautiful homes then embarked on one of my favorite parts of this whole trip: the hike to urca.  Jorge explained the mythical origins of the beachside rock formations, something about a disowned mama bear.  I didn't retain much of the story but the hike was absolutely gorgeous, even with dark skies and in the misty rain.  We sauntered through fields of aloe vera plants (they look different here) and yellow windflowers, the wind whipping through Jorge's "rain cape" (poncho), which he insisted on wearing "I feel like a bird! I can fly".  One of his friends is a medical representative so Jorge had a box of ponchos in what looked like Pokemon balls.  Throughout the day, he used the ponchos for rain protection, trail markers, picnic table cover... And now I've got a magic item of my own to use for everything.  If only it could keep the rain from falling from the sky in the first place!  Anyway, we marched along, me plodding in the 5 euro clown boots that I traded my blisters boots in for in Granada, puddle-hopping then scooting down rocky banks.  When we got to the beach, we stood in huge shadows of looming rock formations, found a hidden waterfall and all sorts of other hiding places.
Me at the start of our hike to Ursa
Aga and I at the most Western point in Europe
After Ursa, we stopped at Cabo da Roca, the most western point of Europe and headed to Sintra National park.  We picnic-ed in the moss-covered, "mystic forest", where Jorge claimed spirits like to roam (he said that about he 130 year old apartment we're staying in too but I haven't experienced that except for doorknobs perpetually falling to the floor) and witches like to brew things.  I didn't believe him until we repeatedly saw a haggled, German woman impatiently cursing her photographer husband.  I didn't witness her casting any spells but I tried to be on my best behavior with her around.  After the national park, we checked out some of the sites that made Sintra a UNESCO site and the "most romantic town in Portugal".  We peered at the moorish castle overlooking everything, several royal palaces and the queens gardens (Jorge knew all the best spots to get pictures without having to pay).  Then we walked around the tiny, tiled streets of downtown, I got jittery on Portuguese espresso and we tasted Sintra's famous little cakes.
One of the (non-royal!) palaces at Sintra
After Sintra, Jorge didn't want to waste the daylight so we craned our necks to take in Portugal's largest convent then stopped at some cutesy park built by a famous potter.  This guy made an old-fashioned Portuguese mini village with windmills, scenes of everyday life and model railroad villages which he insisted should be free to visitors.  After enjoying that "strange little adventure", we headed home after enjoying more ocean views and twisted, fishing village streets at Ericiera, one of the world' stop surfing destinations.  And I couldn't believe it, but people were riding the waves in wetsuits even today.
The evening was more relaxing- I hunted down some wifi, (surprisingly difficult) then met up with goncuelo #1 for some walking in the rain through Lisbon's night time hot spots and a cheese sandwich at the famous A Brasileria.  He's lived here his whole life and went to school at Lisbon's top tech colleague, affiliated with MIT.  He loves his country, even if it doesn't make sense to me.  I love all the pastel-colored houses but I commented I've never experienced a place so obsessed with tiles.  They cover the exteriors of houses with tiles, sidewalks with tiles and neither of us had any idea why.  Goncalo said boring sidewalks elsewhere are one of the things that make him most nostalgic for home.  I didn't appreciate it as I slipped, slid and "surfed" (in his words) down the hilly streets of his city but it certainly is unique!  Goncalo is a lover of languages, has traveled extensively with his telecommunication company and since he has dated a vegetarian in the past, he had some dining tips for me.  As well as advice for city sightseeing in general.  Now I plan to stay dry and fight off this cold for Lisbon city-sightseeing tomorrow!  I no longer have access to Lucas' nifty SD card thing so photos will have to wait!
A Brasileria