My mom and dad are visiting me in Madrid – they arrived just long enough to drop off my allergy medication, see my new apartment and meet Miguel before we set off to visit Portugal! We were all really excited, for as many trips to Europe my parents have made we had never been West, to the country that shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain. Rental car and tickets booked we set off with great expectations to surf, listen to Fado and discover the central regions of the country.
We landed in Lisbon only to find that my bag had been lost or more accurately, left in Madrid. The woman at the help desk told me not to worry they would have it sent directly to the hotel on the next flight into Lisbon – great news! Most people in Portugal speak enough English to get by and everyone understands Spanish which makes things easier traveling with my parents, who speak exactly nothing but “vino” and “baño”. We opted out of gps for the rental car – bad idea. My data roaming stopped working two minutes out of the airport parking lot and a classic family argument over directions ensued (the first of many…my phone never started working while in Portugal!). By some stroke of luck and a lot of maneuvering through narrow streets we found the hotel, right next to the Barrio Alto: the oldest and quirkiest part of Lisbon.
Maybe this was mistake #2 but we didn’t think to read at all about what to do in Portugal until we got there. Out the window of our hotel room I could see this statue and thought it might be a cool trip to cross the river and see it up close so the next day we did exactly that. We’re not the most religious crew but this was certainly impressive to see up close and the views of Lisbon on the other side were stunning, not to mention remarkably similar to San Francisco in California. We had a few cold beers next to Cristo Rei and caught the ferry back for the evening.
The next morning we got the most detailed map the hotel could offer and hit the road for Sintra, a small city near the coast that came highly recommended. We found the BnB old school style and just barely missed killing each other yet again navigating narrow one-way streets and corridors with no names. I am so reliant on my phone. The place was tucked away and super spacious, in a cool old building owned by an American-Portugese couple (with really cute toddlers!). They were fun to talk to and it was refreshing to meet an American chick in Europe with a job she loves and a young family. Sintra is a lush little village in the mountains and as night fell we walked to a restaurant our hosts recommended, taking in the fresh night air and catching up a little on family news. We had a delicious meal and walked back all along the famous Portuguese cobblestone, which is unsurprisingly tricky to walk on after a few glasses of vinho verde! We went right to bed and woke up early for Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle, both perched high above the town accessible by a switch-back bus ride not for the faint of heart.
That afternoon there was still no sight of my bag and we called the airline. They said I should just get everything I need to last the trip and save the receipts; the bag never left Madrid and it was now too late to send it but they would reimburse everything. On the way out of town we made the most local visit of them all – the shopping mall! I needed some socks and underwear for the rest of the trip which turned into shoes and a skirt and a jacket too 🙂
The last two days in Portugal we spent in Ericeira a small coastal surf-town with incredible seafood and amazing views. Initially we planned to surf but without my suitcase it was impossible to replace my swim gear. We watched the sunset on the Atlantic one evening while catching up, a really once in a lifetime event and toasted to being together. No wifi, and none of my personal belongings but I was so incredibly happy to have my parents with me. Overall an incredible vacation, grounding and revitalizing.
I´m not sure if anyone´s noticed but I´ve been a little elusive on the blogosphere lately. ´Tis the season for job applications and paperwork here in the EU and I am 100% in the thick of it. When I´m not translating my CV, talking to folks back home with awesome connections or teaching English I am lately working on this skateboard. Now with more hours of sunlight the last thing I want to do is sit on the computer – I needed a spring project!
It´s random I know – I was never really a skater before but I was recently gifted this old one and took it on as a project. Skateboarding in Madrid is something close to a death wish, not only because road rage is actually normal driving here but also because of the cobblestone streets. You can only imagine what it was like to see me
skating falling down a hill the first time I stepped on this thing! I gave everyone even more reason to stare at me in shock and obviously survived to tell you all the tale, then immediately purchased a helmet. The wheels on this little board were really crappy (yes, I blame the wheels!) and the design on the bottom is more suited to a 6 year old than I wanted.
Last week I went to Decathalon (like a Spanish Sports Authority) and got new bearings … which btw is cojinete in Spanish. Turns out the wheels are fine for now its just that the trucks and bearings had rusted so much that the wheels weren´t turning properly. A few hours on the terrace did the trick and now I have a fresh homemade skateboard – not to mention absoultely zero excuses for not being able to stay on! We all know how that goes though, practice makes perfect.