The perks of being in the centre of Europe become really apparent during reading week. A week without classes becomes a week of endless possibilities. So how did I spend my time? I spent it visiting Portugal and Spain with my mother. Even if that makes me a mama’s boy, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Due to the complicated system that is my class schedule, my reading week was actually 9 days. The minute class was out, I hoped on a train to the local airport and flew to Lisbon, Portugal. Why on earth do people bring carry on luggage? The flight from Eindhoven to Lisbon was only three hours, so for the first time in my traveling career; I flew without anything except the contents of my sweat pants pockets (My phone, my wallet, and a super tiny e-reader). Speaking of sweat pants, side tangent number two; why do people dress up for flights?! Long story short, airport etiquette is by far the most confusing thing in the entire world. I haven’t even mentioned the major confusion that is “hurry up and wait.”
Moving on. My flight landed at like 9 pm, and then I just jumped in a cab and headed to the apartment that I’d rented over Airbnb. It was a super beautiful place, on the top floor of a teeny tiny house right on the outskirts of old Lisbon. I went straight to bed, and was woken when my mother arrived the next morning around 7 am. She dropped off her luggage and then we went into the city to explore.
Lisbon is a really odd city. There’s the old city, which is surrounded by industrial warehouses and harbours. Beyond that is New Lisbon, which is the fancy modern city on steroids. These three areas are super spread out and far apart, which makes it feel like you’re entering a new country every different part of the city you find your way into. The first day we remained in the Old town. It is oddly enough here that I have now discovered how much I enjoy contemporary/modern art. Random right? Who knew. Thanks, Lisbon! Anyways. We ran around the harbour front, went to a monastery and a church, etc… Touristy things! I was also blatantly unaware of the fact that Lisbon (to be specific – the Alameda) has a giant Jesus like the one in Rio. They also have a bridge that’s like the San Francisco bridge. Ohhhh and a tower made by M. Eiffel (recognize the name?). It’s a weird little melting pot, but they make it work. After spending the entire day running around in the west end we decided that the next day would be spent in the centre.
The city is built on hills. Like… A LOT of hills. And right downtown there’s the tallest one with a castle on top. If you know me, you’ll know how much I love castles. They’re so friken pretty! Plus, they always have the best views.
Eventually we got bored with the centre and ventured to the east end, which is where new Lisbon is. There’s an oceanarium which is like a giant aquarium hybrid with a zoo. It’s really cool. I think I like it more than the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto… Although no one can beat our jellyfish display. There’s also a chairlift thingy, really fancy train station, and a mall of course. But oddly enough it feels deserted. There are people around, but it doesn’t feel like there are… Hard to explain, but a super creepy feeling none the less.
Being in Portugal for 9 days is a long time to stay in one city, so we decided to rent a car, drive down the coast and visit some other towns/cities. Our first stop was a small industrial town called Sines, right on the coast. The views of the ocean were breath taking, and the waves were as tall as a house. It was really nice. We eventually made it to our destination for the night, which was a beach town named Lagos. Unfortunately we didn’t like Lagos that much… It’s really touristy, and is basically just a florida in Portugal. On the plus side we had all you can eat sushi for dinner, so really we can’t complain. The next day we ended up in Seville.
Crossing the boarder into Spain was no big deal. We barely slowed down, and definitely didn’t stop. Portugal was warm (15C) but Spain was much warmer (30C) so mama llama was content spending a little more time in Seville. Plus Seville is stunning so who wouldn’t want to spend some time there? They’ve got more palaces, cathedrals, stadiums, etc… than you can shake a stick at.
But, on the negative side – dinner. They have a siesta time, so they eat dinner at like 10 pm, which means most restaurants close between 4 and 7. Now if you’re anything like my mother and I, you will reliably get hungry at 5 everyday, and then spend hours trying to find something that’s open.
We basically walked all of Seville (unlike Lisbon where we caught busses), so every night when we’d get home we were exhausted. Despite all that, I really liked Seville. We left after spending three days there. We drove north west to the small town Évora, where there was a music conservatory that had just started their semester. There were groups of students going through an orientation week which was a little odd. Near Évora is the Portuguese (Évora is near the Spanish/Portuguese border) equivalent of Stonehenge. It was a nice morning so we walked through the park around all the stones.
All in all it was a fantastic trip, in which I did not do any reading for school (but that’s ok because I’m nerdy enough for it not to be an issue). It was a lot of fun, and if you’re parents ever ask if they can take you on a trip you’d better say yes, because it’s a lot of fun!