Hint: The Spanish word for turtle is tortuga
01.03.2010 - 02.03.2010 -17 °C
To Tortugal of course!
Following the turtles, we went on a trip to nearby Portugal a few weeks ago. When we got back from the trip I told Matt, te toca a ti, or it’s your turn to write a blog entry. However, it was looking like health care legislation would get passed sooner than Matt would write the entry, so here I am again. But, Matt did come up with that turtle joke so I guess he contributed a little too.
On the way to Portugal, we had our first night train experience on the Madrid-Lisbon Trenhotel. We found out the hard way that when you decide not to pay the extra ten Euros or so to book a sleeping couchette, a trenhotel turns out to be a lot less like a hotel and much more like a normal train where you spend a long night trying to sleep in your chair. Either way, we arrived in Lisbon nonetheless and used our expert Siesta-skills to gear up for our weekend in the Portuguese capital.
Highlights of the trip included riding a creaky old cable car up a ridiculously steep hill, stumbling upon a hole-in-the-wall wine bar serving only Portuguese wines, getting stuck in street car traffic jam six cars deep, taking a three hour tram ride to find a castle we never found, lounging in a park overlooking the longest bridge in Europe, and playing the giant instruments in an interactive percussion public art display.
Perhaps our most adventurous moment of the trip came during our day trip to a town a few kilometers out of the city called Sintra. In the picturesque little town of Sintra a castle sits atop of a steep hill. Wanting to climb to the castle but not wanting to pay four Euros to take a bus to get there, we set out to follow the signs leading up the hill. About halfway up the path it started raining, but wanting to make it to the top we trudged on. About five minutes later, it began pouring. At this point we figured the best option would probably be to just continue going up in hopes of finding the bus stop at the top, so again we pressed on. When we finally made it to the top we were absolutely soaked and the rain was coming down just as hard. With the wind whipping the rain in our faces we barely managed to climb to the top of the castle walls, but once there we were treated with an amazing view. So, after taking a very brief moment to ponder the notion that for centuries this view was what Europeans thought was the edge of the world, we headed back to the bus stop that turned out to be right by the spot where we earlier decided to keep going up in hopes of finding the bus stop at the top.
Here in Vera life has been as exciting as ever. A couple of weeks ago you could see snow on the mountains which are visible from Vera, an event that proved to be a conversation starter for days. Furthermore, just last week we experienced a regional holiday known as La Vieja, or The Old Woman. While this holiday marking the halfway point between Ash Wednesday and Easter isn’t an official Spanish holiday, it may as well have been as all but five or six students at each of our schools skipped that day. To celebrate La Vieja, most of the city heads to the beach and has a barbecue with their family and friends. The main event of the party occurs when everyone throws stones at a piñata which looks like an old woman and is filled with sweets and candy. We tried to document this peculiar tradition with the photos below.
As for our next adventure, in a week we will be heading to Britain where we plan to spend Semana Santa exploring London, Edinburgh, and maybe a few places in between. In preparation for the journey, I’ve started reading Harry Potter y la Orden del Fénix. This way, in the likely event that we run into any dementores or mortífagos and they happen to speak Spanish, we’ll be ready.