I am so sad to be writing this final post! I flew back to the U.S. two days ago and I am prepared for another absolutely fantastic, fun-filled (yet stressful) year!
I had my “festa de despedida” or “goodbye party” on August 11th at midnight, two days before I left. It was in my small hometown at my aunt’s house. She has this cozy little summer kitchen under the stone steps leading to her house with a traditional wood oven in it that she uses to make bread every Saturday before making her weekly sardine feast for the family.
Just as I did the last time I visited Portugal, I made s’mores for my friends! In the picture on the left, I have a glimpse of some of the desserts and treats we devoured that night. We had a really sweet orange soda I like in Portugal- Sumol. They have Sumol in the U.S. for anyone who wants to try the orange or pineapple flavor. I had baked a delicious chocolate cake drizzled in chocolate sauce and bought some candies (Smarties- they are like Portuguese M&Ms) and nuts. I don’t know if you can see the little tray of cookies I had picked up at the store- they were graham cookies with attached pieces of chocolate… perfect to make s’mores! Marshmallows in Portugal are called “gomas” or “gummies” and they change to a grayish color when burned which is quite odd. Other than that, the s’mores actually turned out to be very tasty. 🙂
I love making American treats or sharing my Americanisms with my Portuguese friends and family. When you live in a country for so long, you forget the little unique aspects of your culture. Being among international students or friends, you realize the characteristics of your culture that are typically taken for granted and you begin to appreciate them in a new light. In fact, this was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed my time in the group NaviGATORS at the University of Florida this past spring semester. For those of you Gators unfamiliar with the NaviGATORS group, it’s basically a chance for you to be paired up with an international student to help them assimilate to American culture for whatever semester they are visiting. Here is the group website: http://navigatorsintl.com/. I am looking forward to another great year with NaviGATORS- especially now that I am back after an exciting summer in Europe!
This summer was truly interesting. Not only did I have the chance to share my American culture with new Portuguese friends through nights like the s’mores night or through the July 4 celebration I took part in with my friends from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth program, but I also realized the unique aspects of my Portuguese culture when my best friend from America paid me a visit.
I have been meaning to tell you about the beach visits/weekend I had with my best friend in Portugal. It was her first time in Portugal or Europe and she loved it! We visited the beaches of Carcavelos, Estoril and Cascais.
Visiting the beaches is a popular thing for Lisbon city dwellers or visitors in the summertime. It is so easy to reach any of the beaches from the main train/metro/bus/ferry area of Cais do Sodre in Lisbon. You simply take the metro to Cais do Sodre for 2,50€ and then from there you get on the train round trip for about 4,50€ and you get off at whatever beach you like. The train goes all the way to Cascais, the last beach… but it stops at the Carcavelos and Estoril beaches. See the map below:
Personally, my favorite beaches were in Cascais and Carcavelos, but Estoril was nice too. If you look at the map, there is a road called the “Avenida Marginal” or “Av. Marginal” that goes from Cais do Sodre all the way through the area of Belem (remember the Portuguese White House and Pasteis de Belem area I visited), the beaches, the train areas, the Lisbon docks, etc. My best friend and I had the opportunity of driving down this entire road. I cannot even begin to describe to you how many gorgeous buildings line this avenue. We went through beachy/touristy areas, rich areas with huge shopping malls full of pricey department stores, passed mansions and futuristic looking apartment buildings, drove by a huge casino and always had a picturesque view of the ocean. See the top middle picture.
In the top left picture, we are standing on the golden sands of Carcavelos beach. The top right picture was taken when we were driving along the Avenida Marginal… we saw a beautiful lookout spot and took a picture! One really great place we visited when driving near Cascais was “Boca do Inferno” or “Mouth of Hell” (bottom middle picture). It is a deep abyss that has crashing waves and a little bridge you can walk on to stand over the water and look down. The place is now a tourist area (middle long picture) with little cafes with red roofs and whitewashed stairs leading to different overlook areas of the abyss. There was a huge section of tents with souvenirs that we spent hours in (bottom left picture). Later, we drove near Estoril (bottom right picture) before spending the rest of the weekend suntanning in Carcavelos and eating juicy strawberries from a vendor we met at the beach.
One fun and simple feature of Portuguese student life I got to share with her was going to the grocery store and picking up our dinner. I know it sounds like something you might do in America, and I don’t know how to explain the difference between what we do in Portugal and the U.S. but a lot of my friends and I like to pick up dinner at the grocery store after going out all day or hanging out at the beach for the afternoon. On this day, my best friend and I were with another friend of mine from Lisbon and we picked up a ready-made roasted chicken from the supermarket along with the usual side items from the aisles- toast crackers, chips, fruit, soda, and a dessert. We then sat outside of the supermarket at a table in the shopping mall and had dinner. It’s not like in the U.S. where you go eat at Wendy’s or somewhere relatively inexpensive… near the beaches it’s almost impossible to find a cost friendly place to eat. To conclude, there were other fun parts to Portuguese culture that I got to share with her and it made me appreciate my heritage that much more. 🙂 This is why I love traveling and meeting new cultures so much, it adds flavor to life!
Going on, I also want to share my last big adventure in Portugal before leaving. I spent a weekend in a town called Leiria- it is known for it’s roasted piglets or leitões. During my time in Leiria, I visited the Castelo de Leiria, Batalha Monastery, Alcobaca Monastery, beaches of Nazare and went to the festas of Leiria. I mentioned the festas once before, where each town holds a week of celebration for one particular saint or religious figure. I ended my mini-vacation visiting friends in Lisbon, riding another couple of Lisbon sightseeing buses and going to the wonderful village of SINTRA!!!! 😀
The top picture is of the beach at Nazare. The top picture on the right hand side is a fountain at the Alcobaca Monastery. The bottom picture on the right hand side is in front of the Batalha Monastery. We visited the old dormitory for the young men and the military history museum inside the monastery. Also inside was a lit torch over a tomb of an unknown soldier to honor those who have died in battle. The bottom middle picture is the outside of the Alcobaca Monastery. Alcobaca is known for its glass blowing, so there were beautiful windows, lamps and glass figures everywhere around the monastery. The bottom left picture is of me at the Castelo de Leiria. The photo above it is also at the Nazare beach. The center photo is me running through the fields where the religious procession took place in Leiria during the festas. The townspeople had used painted wood chips and fresh flowers everywhere to make the streets look so ornate! To the right of the picture is a picture of the saint being honored in the festas on a pedestal. The final picture is that of a house- one of Figo’s vacation homes! I’m not sure if you are familiar with the famous (now retired) soccer player, but it turns out that he has a vacation home in Leiria!
Sintra was my favorite part of my mini vacation.
Sintra is known for a few things: its nature trails and winding paths through the parks and trees, the old city center with the two towers (see panoramic shot), its walkways through the village area where artists and budding fashionistas display their crafts, the cute and unique items you can buy walking along the main road (I met a man who sold mini versions of his photography- he liked to photograph cityscapes reflected in puddles, lakes or other bodies of water. I bought my mother a handmade mother of pearl jewelry set that was individually carved out of a larger piece that had designs chewed into it from sea creatures.), the home of Lord Byron (bottom left picture), the view of a larger fort overlooking Sintra (bottom picture 2nd from the left), its city hall (bottom 2nd from the right), and a well known pastry.
The pastries are called Travesseiros da Sintra from the Casa Piriquita bakery. They have a filling made with pumpkin, squash, egg yolks, and other spices. They were scrumptious! The queijadas de leite or mini-cheesecakes are also well known in Sintra. I spent a glorious afternoon walking around the small, quaint, quiet town of Sintra.
Time for the sad part…
All things eventually come to an end, and I am really sad to have left Portugal. It was a magnificent summer full of enchanting sights, travel, adventures, fun, friends, family, delicious foods, work, studying, learning, fado, history, culture and more. Studying abroad is such a worthwhile experience. You learn so much about yourself and come to appreciate your culture (and possibly heritage) in ways unimaginable. Furthermore, my study abroad experience shaped my future research project by allowing me to immerse in the environment of my project.
One thing is for certain. No matter where I go in this world, I will always be a GATOR!
LONG LIVE THE GATOR NATION!
Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. Hope you enjoyed my blog! Good luck to everyone starting a new school year this semester!