Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Semana Santa Part 2: Paris!

So the next morning, we needed to take the Chunnel at 5:25 am. We all decided that if we were up and ready to go at 3:30 that would be plenty of time. We were all surprisingly ready around 3:35 and were ready to go! We were told that we needed to take a bus to a bus station that was close to where the train station was and then take another bus to take us directly to the station, but we figured we could just walk so we would only have to pay for one bus. 

We went to the bus stop which was conveniently right across the street from our hostel and there was a bus waiting, but we decided we would take our time since they came every 7-8 minutes. As we were waiting for the next one, we were all making sure we had our passports and Chunnel tickets when one of my friends couldn’t find hers. She and I ran back to the hostel (since all of the tickets were on my email) so we could use the computer and printer in the lobby. I tried downloading the ticket, but the computer didn’t have Adobe Flash Player or whatever that thing is called so it wouldn’t let us download it. Luckily, the woman who was on duty let me put in my email account information in her computer and she printed off the ticket for us! Then we ran back to the bus stop just in time for the next bus. Well, this next bus comes along and drives right by us without stopping. We had forgotten that in Europe, you need to flag down the buses… they don’t stop at all bus stops just because there are people there. So we wait another 15 minutes and a bus still hadn’t come. It was now almost 4:30 and this is when I read on my ticket that we needed to be at the gate at least a half an hour before the train leaves.  At this point, we all start getting a little nervous because we didn’t know how strict they were about that. If they were anything like RyanAir, then we might as well have given up. When we were deciding whether or not to call for a taxi, another bus started heading towards us. Out of the 6 of us, I don’t think there was one person who WASN’T waving their arms up and down like a crazy person. When we got on the bus, we made sure it was going to the right place, and we also double checked that it wasn’t going directly to Pancras Station. Then someone asked the bus driver how long it would take to walk from the bus stop to Pancras Station and he replied, “oh, you’ll make it” which I thought was strange… how did he know what time our train left? 20 minutes later, we got off the bus at this huge intersection and had no idea where to go from there. At this point, it’s 5 am and our train leaves in 25 minutes. Also, as you’ve probably figured out, we missed the half an hour before point. Anyways, we must have looked clueless because our bus driver who was stopped at a red light honked his horn at us and pointed us in the right direction. He pointed for us to go in front of him at the crosswalk and since he knew we were in a hurry, he was going to wait for us to cross even though his light had turned green. So we started running, but little did we know that there was another lane on the other side of the bus. All of a sudden, a motorcycle slams on his brakes to avoid hitting a couple of us. We all scream while the motorcyclist yells out… well… some profanity (with a British accent which made it even funnier.) We then continue to run to the station, quickly went through security, and got to our platform at 5:17 with 8 minutes to spare.

We were all so excited that we made it!

Riding the Chunnel wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be, but it was still a fun experience. It was a little uncomfortable when we would go underground at such a fast speed because my ears kept popping, but eventually it must have stopped bothering me enough to fall asleep because I think slept for most of the 2-3 hour train ride. Before I knew it, the countryside of France was right outside my window.

Around 8am Monday morning, we arrived in Paris! Our hostel was only a few blocks from the station so we went to drop our bags off, got some breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s, and headed for the center city of Paris. 

Our amazing tour guide!
Since we loved the free walking tour in London so much, we decided to do another free walking tour in Paris. We walked about an hour to get to the meeting point of the walking tour, and then we walked on our walking tour for over four hours! We saw many touristy sights including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament, Arc of Triumph (from a distance), The Louvre, the Seine River, Notre Dame, Musee D’Orsay, and last but not least, the Eiffel Tower. After our walking tour, we found a grocery store, bought some food to make sandwiches, and had a lovely little picnic in the Champ de Mars, right next to the Eiffel Tower. Then we made our way back to the hostel and called it a night.

After our picnic under the Eiffel Tower.

Arc of Triumph
On Tuesday, we went to go see the Arc of Triumph up close and personal. Here is some interesting information about the Arc of Triumph that I learned in my walking tour the day before: 1. The Arc of Triumph is basically one big roundabout, but instead of just having four streets meet, there are twelve. 2. When the cars are in the roundabout, there are NO lanes; they just drive wherever they want. 3. When you enter the roundabout with your car, your car insurance is automatically cancelled until you leave the roundabout. 4. There is a car accident in the roundabout approximately every 30 minutes. Needless to say, we took an underpass to get to the Arc of Triumph.

After seeing the Arc, we walked our way down Champs-Élysées, the most famous street in Paris. After a good hour of walking, we found a restaurant so we could eat some lunch. I tried escargot and had a French omelette. I also tried a bite of my friend’s crème brulee and another bite of my other friend’s French onion soup. Everything I tried that day was delicious. Even the tiny expensive snail. 

Moulin Rouge!
Once we were all full of wonderful French food, we made our way to Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coure. We spent some time taking pictures of the Moulin Rouge theatre, but there was really nothing else to do or see there, so we continued walking towards Sacre Coure. The Sacre Coure was very beautiful, but it was a quite a journey getting to the top; we had to walk through very crowded streets with some strange people, get through the part at the bottom of the hill where there were men trying to tie bracelets on your wrists and then ask you for money, then we had to climb a bunch of stairs to get to the top of hill so we could see the entire city of Paris as well as go inside the Sacre Coure. We spent most of our afternoon/evening here laying out on the hill of the Sacre Coure and listening to a pretty talented street performer sing songs in French, Spanish, and English. A couple hours later, we went back to our hostel and made some spaghetti and garlic bread (sound familiar?) for dinner. 

Excited for some spaghetti and garlic bread!

On Wednesday, we woke up early and headed to The Louvre. We got there around the time that it opened, but we still had to wait a while to get inside. Once we were inside, just like everyone else, we ran straight for the Mona Lisa. After pushing through the huge crowd of tourists taking multiple photos of Mona, our group got separated. So for the rest of the time I was in the Louve, I spent it with two of my friends seeing famous works of art such as Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, The Wedding at Cana, The Seated Scribe, Mary Magdalene, Cupid’s Kiss, and Michelangelo’s Slave.

Once we were all museumed-out we spent some time in the gardens before we had to meet up with the group in the afternoon at Notre Dame. We toured the cathedral of Notre Dame, then three of my friends and I set out to find some crepes. We found a great place near Notre Dame and I had a hard time choosing between a nutella/banana crepe and a nutella/whipped cream crepe. So I did what any wise person would do, and I got the nutella/banana crepe and asked for whipped cream. Even with the extra charge for the whipped cream, I’d say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

After eating the best crepe I’ve ever had in my life, we went to the Cimetiere Pere Lachaise which is a famous cemetery on the east side of Paris. Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and Jim Morrison are all buried there. Then we decided to walk back to our hostel… which was an interesting walk to say the least. Not only did it take us 2 hours, but we walked through probably 4 completely different neighborhoods. First we walked through a pretty “normal” neighborhood which was where the cemetery was. Next came what my friend described as “Hobo Hoedown.” For about two blocks, the streets were filled with trash, clothes, cardboard boxes, and mattresses. Then came Chinatown and after that was India. I swear, everyone in this part of town was Indian. Not only were we the only Caucasians, we were the only people of any kind of different ethnicity around. Eventually, we made it back to our hostel to get our bags. 

Once we got our bags, we headed back to the Eiffel Tower where we spent the remainder of the night. We had another picnic, watched the lightshow that lasted 5 minutes every hour on the hour, took some fun pictures, and had a great time during our last night in Paris. 

Last night in Paris <3


At about 11:30pm, we decided we should leave for the airport before the metro closed. We rode the metro for almost an hour and got off at what we thought was our stop. When we first looked at the map, we saw a little plane symbol that said CDG next to it with an arrow and a metro stop right next to it. This is where we got off. Makes sense, right? As we walked up the stairs, we didn’t see much except for a hotel and a McDonalds. We went into the McDonald’s to ask how to get to the airport and he asked, “what airport?” This is about the time where I had lost all hope. He said the Charles de Gaulle airport wasn’t anywhere near there and the metro had just shut down for the night. After asking about taxi prices, shuttle prices, and bus prices, we found out that the only possible way for us to get to the airport was to take a taxi. There were six of us so we had to take two taxis. Total cost of both taxis? 100 euro. This obviously put all of us in a great mood. We made it into the airport and slept on the cold, tile floor for 3 hours until we had to go through security and board our plane. So as you can see, our trip didn’t necessarily END very well…. but despite the last few hours, Paris was fantastic. 

I slept almost the whole time on the plane back to Madrid, and the whole four hours on the bus back to Caceres. We arrived in Caceres in the afternoon where I spent exactly 12 hours until I left for southern Portugal with my roommate, who had been in Ireland visiting family this whole time! We had a great trip together, but those stories will come in Part 3!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Semana Santa Part 1: London!

This past week and a half has been unbelievable! Last Thursday, 6 other friends and I traveled to London for 3 days, took the chunnel to Paris and spent 3 days in Paris, came back to Caceres for less than 12 hours and went to southern Portugal with my roommate! I’m going to split my Semana Santa trip up into three parts because I have SO much to share! Thus begins part one: London.

On Thursday, April 14th, I packed my backpack, quickly ate lunch with Lola, and headed to the bus station with my friends. The only bus that we could take that day without missing class was the Express which went directly to Madrid without any of those annoying stops along the way. Also, we didn’t know that the express buses were so much nicer! A lot more leg room, big leather seats, and free wifi! Great start to our trip, huh? When we got to the bus station at Madrid, we had two hours to catch our flight. Usually, we take the metro which takes about 45 minutes to get to the airport, but it only costs 2 euro. This time, we were a little nervous about taking the metro since we didn’t have much time, so we took taxis. The taxis only took 15 minutes… but they cost almost 50 euro per taxi! We did this only to find out that we didn’t need to check in since we checked in online, and our flight was delayed 3 hours. 

We flew into Luton airport around 1 or 2 am that night. Little did we know that Luton Airport was not actually in the city of London… but more like an hour away. Since the metro wasn’t running that late, we did the cheapest thing we could do: took a bus to the train station, took a train to the city, took a taxi to our hostel. By the time we figured out this plan and actually went through with it, it was 5 am. 

On the London Bridge with the Tower Bridge in the background
A few hours later, we woke up in time for breakfast, and started our first day in London! A couple of girls in our group had already been to London before, so they decided to go visit Oxford University while the rest of us did more of the touristy things. We ended up renting city bikes, which were only one euro for the whole day and rode them around the city. This was one of my favorite things that we did in London because we not only had to ride the bikes in a big city that we didn’t know; we had to ride them in the streets! There were a lot of near-death experiences throughout the day because of this, but don’t worry, I’m still alive! We rode the bikes to a free walking tour that we found out about and went on this 3 hour walking tour for most of our afternoon. We saw Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trifalgar Square, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, a lot of other palaces, The London Eye, and the area where they will have the sand volleyball tournament in the 2012 Summer Olympics. After the tour, we rode our bikes around some more, found the London Bridge and Tower Bridge, then rode back to our hostel just in time for a spaghetti and garlic bread dinner!

Fish n Chips!
On Saturday, we all went to the changing of the guard in the morning (along with thousands of other people.) That was fun to experience, but it honestly wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. Afterwards, we went to a same-day ticket booth in Piccadilly Circus where they sell tickets for musicals for half-price. Half of us decided to go to the cheapest musical they had which was Dirty Dancing, and half of us decided not to go for various reasons. Unfortunately, I ended up not buying tickets. Then we asked directions to find a good place to eat some fish and chips. On our way to finding this place, we unintentionally came across Diagon Alley from Harry Potter! We eventually found the restaurant we were looking for, and had some delicious fish, chips, and traditional mushy peas.

British Library!
After lunch, we went to the northern part of the city to visit the British Library and Platform 9 and three-quarters from Harry Potter. The British Library was amazing; we went to the museum where they had original writings from Jane Austen, original music from Beethoven and Mozart, Beethoven’s piano tuner, written manuscripts and lyrics from the Beatles, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, works from Shakespeare, the Codez Sinaiticus, and the Magna Carta to name a few.

We then made our way to find Platform 9 and ¾. As we were walking to where we thought this would be, we noticed a lot of construction around. We got to a small line of people who were waiting in line to take their picture with what looks like a shopping cart stuck halfway through a brick wall with the sign “9 and ¾” above it. This place was actually a disappointment to all of us Harry Potter nerds. We were expecting at least an actual brick wall. But no, this wall was plastic. We later found out, that since there was construction in this area, they had to build a new, temporary Platform 9 ¾. So I guess this just gives me another reason to return to London someday… so I can take a picture with the actual Platform 9 ¾. 

I'm going to Hogwarts!

Abbey Road
 After this disappointment, we went off on another adventure to find the famous Abbey Road. We found the road, and started walking toward the famous crosswalk where The Beatles took their album photo. On our way to the crosswalk, we got to see Abbey Road Studios, Abbey Road House, and the famous white wall where you can sign your favorite Beatles’ lyrics. As we waited our turn to run out into the street to take the classic album photo, we watched many others attempt to do the same thing, and watched many locals either laugh or get upset. This included yelling, honking, speeding up/speeding off, etc. We eventually got our Beatles photo.

At this time, our group split up and half went to the Dirty Dancing musical. Two other friends and I went back to our hostel, made some hamburgers for dinner, then went to the SoHo district and walked around. We didn’t fit in too well since almost all of the other women walking around were barely wearing anything and the men… well, let’s just say they were just as bad as the women. As we were walking around, we came across a bar that was playing the big Madrid vs Barcelona soccer game, so we stopped in to see the score. I almost felt more at home going into this bar where there were a bunch of Spaniards yelling in Spanish, watching this big futbol game, than it did being in England where they speak my first language!

Palm Sunday at Westminster Abbey
On Sunday, 3 of my friends and I went to Palm Sunday service at Westminster Abbey while a couple others from our group went to tour the Wimbledon tennis court. Wimbledon was also on my list of things to see, but there just wasn’t enough time! I think I could spend the rest of my life in London and still not see everything in that city. The service at Westminster Abbey was incredible. There were sooo many people, the church was beautiful, the choir sounded wonderful, and we even got little crosses made out of palms. I was really glad that I was able to experience this, even though I’m not Catholic. 

We also wanted to go to an Evensong service at Westminster, which didn’t start until 3pm, so we decided to walk around the city for a little bit in between services. We weren’t aware that this was the same day as the London Marathon so the streets were filled with people! We walked to a nearby gas station, picked up some sandwiches, and went to picnic in St. James Park where the runners had 385 yards to go! It was so fun seeing all of the runners’ families, friends, and even strangers cheer them on as they reached the end of the race. 

At 3pm, we went to Evensong service, which was also very beautiful, but so beautiful that it almost put me to sleep. (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.) We made our way back to the hostel where we met the others who had visited Wimbledon, went and bought ingredients for French toast and scrambled eggs, ate dinner, and played a few rounds of banana grams (in both English and Spanish.) We went to bed early since we had to get up by 3:30am and catch our chunnel to Paris by 5:30. Our adventure between 3:30 and 5:30 am the next morning is rather… interesting… so stay tuned for Part 2 of my Semana Santa trip!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A few more mini excursions and my last weekend in Caceres!

I thought I would take some time and blog about this past week and weekend because starting Thursday… I’m going to be traveling nonstop! 

Also, as a sidenote, if you’ve been viewing my pictures on my Flickr account, I’ve exceeded my “200 limit” so only the most recent 200 pictures will be shown from now on… unless I want to pay extra… and I don’t think that’s going to happen.

My very adventurous host mom
Last weekend, Claire and I went to Miajadas (Lola’s pueblo) for the second time. Our host brother and a couple of his friends came to pick us up last Saturday afternoon and we spent the first couple of hours enjoying tapas outside in the beautiful weather with Lola and her friends and family. Then Lola, Claire, and I went to the countryside to pick asparagus and some other plant I forgot the name of. It was funny to see how excited Lola got every time she spotted some asparagus (especially the tall ones) and to see her climb the stoned walls and barbed wire fences. She had more energy than Claire and I did put together! We went back into town to have dinner with her family and then Claire and I went out for a little while with our host sister, Maria.  We stayed the night in Miajadas, woke up the next day, had lunch, and headed back to Caceres in the afternoon. 

My new little lizard friend at the National Park!
The next day (Monday), classes were canceled to take a field trip to Monfrague National Park, about an hour outside of Caceres. This national park has the largest colony of black vultures in the world! And apparently, Monfrague is home to the Iberian lynx, red, roe and fallow deer, wild cats, wild boar and otters (which we saw none of.) We spent most of our energy climbing a VERY steep mountain which also included quite a few stairs. I don’t think there was one person who wasn’t drenched in sweat after that climb. The views from the top were incredible though, and made up for all that hard work. (They usually do.) We took a hiking trail down the other side of the mountain, stopping every once in a while to do some “bird watching/listening” The views from this day at Monfrague reminded me so much of Colorado! :)

On Wednesday, we took our final group excursion of the semester to Salamanca, Spain. The main thing we toured was The University of Salamanca, which is the oldest university in Spain. We ate lunch and had some tapas in the Plaza Mayor (which apparently is where the movie, “Vantage Point” was filmed?) We also toured the cathedral, spent some time in the park, did some shopping, and returned back to Caceres just in time for dinner. 
My director, Toni, and I with our new hats in the Salamanca Plaza!

On Thursday during my one hour break from class, a couple friends and I went to play the piano like we have been doing for the past few Thursdays. I gave one of my friends a link to free downloadable piano music and she picked a few songs for me to play and for them to sing along. One of the songs was “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas. Little did I know that people can hear the piano down the whole hallway, so we had a few intruders, including a guy who apparently had been listening to us the whole time. He came in the room (with a guitar case strapped around his back) and said he really enjoyed when we played “Colors of the Wind” and asked if we could sing to it since we had the “right accent.” We didn’t get to talk to him for very long because I think he had to go to class, but I would have given anything to hear him play that Spanish guitar of his! 

Thursday evening, a lot of my friends left for Barcelona, Spain. (The city I that want to see the most in all of Spain.) I decided not to go since I’m going with my mom, Paige, and Kaicer in June. So it’s just been Lola and me around the house lately. Yesterday, I spent most of the day at my favorite park here in Caceres with one of my friends. It was a ridiculous 90 degrees out! Then we did some window shopping at the mall, I came back for dinner with Lola, and we watched some Denzel Washington movie in Spanish. I also found out that Lola is obsessed with Denzel Washington. I think she mentioned how much she likes him 20 different times throughout the movie.

Today, everyone who stayed in Caceres this weekend (5 other girls) and I went to the Ferreira here in town. The Ferreira is kind of like a festival for tapas. I had the most delicious tapas today since I’ve been in Spain! We had to buy tickets and each tapa required a certain number of tickets. I tried some fried chicken thing, a delicious mini hamburger, a chocolate dessert from my favorite bakery, and a chocolate-covered goat cheese ball with green raisins? Sounds weird, I know… and frankly, it was. I would probably never eat it again. After the Ferreira, a friend and I went to the park again and now I’m here writing. Tonight, we’re thinking about going to a Karaoke bar? I don’t know if that’s actually going to happen, but I’ll let you all know if I end up singing Karaoke! Since I have a very beautiful voice and all. 

Tomorrow I’m planning on going to church and then doing homework all afternoon. Then I have 4 days to finish planning my Semana Santa trip to London and Paris!!!! Our plane leaves for London on Thursday evening, we take the CHUNNEL (!) to Paris on Monday, the 18th, I return to Caceres on the 21st, then just Claire and I are taking a “roommate only trip” to Faro, Portugal until the 24th. Can you say exhausted?! So I probably won’t be blogging much until after my Semana Santa travels. I will try and squeeze another blog post in before my Godparents come on the 27th because then we are leaving for Portugal again that following weekend!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Lungs of Lisbon

Last weekend, I took my first trip to another country in Europe! Six other girls and I went to Lisbon, Portugal! The trip to Lisbon was probably my favorite so far. I absolutely loved Portugal! It was different being in such a huge city. We had to do A LOT of walking and a lot of taking taxis, buses, trams, etc. I did not even think about all of the pubic transportation I would need to take since we were in such a big city, so I spent a lot more on transportation than I had hoped. Also, the transportation in Lisbon is awful. I will explain more of that later in this post. However, the public transportation is my only complaint about Lisbon and Portugal. The Portugese people are so nice everyone... including tourists! I don’t think we encountered any rude or snotty people from Portugal, and they were all so helpful! This was different because a lot of times, Spaniards are not this way. Also, the country of Portugal is so beautiful! I can’t wait to go back.

We boarded a train that left Caceres last Friday at 2 in the morning. I think this was only the second time in my life I have traveled by train. I prefer traveling by train as opposed to bus because they have bathrooms and they are a lot smoother, but they are still uncomfortable for me to sleep on and they have creepier passengers. When we first got on the train, we all sat in our assigned seats that were on our tickets. We were all basically in the same section of the train, but some of us had two seats to ourselves and some of us were seated with each other. I was the lucky one who was in the front of our whole group, closest to the creeper. I had put my bags up and gotten situated and everything, and then I looked over and this man was just staring at me (for who knows how long) right over his seat, so I could only see his eyes. Creepy, right? I looked at him and we made that “awkward stranger eye contact” where you both usually look away, but he just kept staring. I turned around to my friend in the seat behind me and told her to look and see if he was still staring, and sure enough he was. Claire told me to come sit in the empty seat next to her, so I did, and the staring continued on and off throughout the train ride to Lisbon. It was very strange.

Our cabin in the Lisbon Lungs!
When we arrived in Lisbon around 8 am, we searched and searched for the bus that we needed that would take us to our hostel. Our hostel was located in the “Lisbon Lungs” and we stayed at a campground in “bungalows.” After walking around for an hour trying to find the right bus, we decided we would just take taxi’s for the first time, and then ask about the bus situation when we got to the hostel. We took two taxis, which ended up only costing about 2 euro per person, which is about how much the bus would have cost anyway. We checked into our ‘bungalow’, which was just like a cabin… it reminded me a lot of Camp Okoboji in Iowa. It had three rooms, a small kitchenette, and a small dining area. It was adorable. Well, that’s what most of us thought anyway. One girl in our group has arachnophobia and nature just really isn’t her thing. Since we were in the middle of the woods in a cabin, you can imagine how many spiders and roaches there were. Funny story about that one later, too.

After we checked into our cabin, we decided to take a day trip to Sintra. Sintra is a small town outside of Lisbon that all of the Spaniards compare to a “faiytale land.” We got to the train station (which was a different train station than the station where we first arrived to Lisbon) and we went to go buy our tickets. We use the ticket machines since there was nobody working there. We had a lot of problems with these machines and at that train station in general. It turns out that that exact day (March 25th) was the day that the train station decided to go on strike. So after we spent so much time trying to buy our tickets, and having a cleaning lady who didn’t speak English or Spanish tell us what was going on with the strike and why the machines were having problems, etc, we realized we didn’t even need to buy the tickets to Sintra because the gates were open all day since no one was working them even though the trains were still running. We never fully understood the whole situation but in the end, we felt like good Samaritans for paying for our tickets anyway.

Sintra, Portugal
Sintra WAS Cinderella land. It was a small, cute little town full of castles and gardens and pillars and flowers. We all decided that we were going to either get married there, or honeymoon there. We spent the day walking around the town, drinking Portugese coffee, getting hit on by 12 year old boys. We decided to buy groceries so we could make dinner, so we found a very small grocery store that was closing, but the very nice old man decided to open it back up for us. He gave us discounts on the food we bought, taught us some Portugese phrases, and kept telling us that they opened at 8 am in the morning and to come back in visit. 

Dinner in the cabin!
We took the train back to Lisbon and then we had to get on a bus to go back to our campsite. We got on the bus after riding it for about ten minutes, it stops at a bus stop and the driver says everyone needs to get off because his shift was over. So everyone got off and we were told that we would have to wait for the next bus and then pay again! We waited around for the next bus which never came so we had to take taxis again. We finally made it back to our cabin, had a wonderful meal of spaghetti and grilled cheese for dinner, and called it a night.

Our rings we bought at the market
On Saturday, we went back into the city to try and find the market. We walked a long time but we eventually found it. On the way, we found a store that was giving out free samples of Vino Porto which is a strong wine from Portugal that we were told to try before coming to Portugal. We walked around the market for a few hours. At first, most of the stuff at the market reminded me of Goodwill. There was just so much crap! I was beginning to wonder why we came. However, the farther up the hill we climbed, the better the stuff got. There were some really neat clothes, jewelry, and paintings. Claire, Keely, and I all bought matching handmade rings. After the market, we decided to take one of those old city trams so that we could see more of the city. We paid to get on the tram, rode it for about 15 minutes and then they made us get off at one of the stops. We were told that we needed to wait for the next tram. Sound familiar? Another tram didn’t come. Instead, the SAME tram moved 5 feet and we had to pay again!!! It was ridiculous. 

Santa Justa Elevator
We got back to the center of the city where we first got on and went to go find the Santa Justa Elevator. I had read before we came to Portugal that there is a back way to get to the top of the Elevator that only the locals know about and you don’t have to pay the 3 euros and we actually figured it out! The view of Lisbon from the top of the elevator was amazing! While we were up there, I heard some students about my age talking in English so I asked where they were from. They were all from the US but from different states… they mentioned New York, California, and then one girl said IOWA! Even though she goes to University of Iowa (unfortunate) it turns out she went to high school with one of my friend’s roommates! Small world.

Fado Restaurant
After the Santa Justa Elevator, we went to dinner at a Fado restaurant. Fado is a very traditional song of Portugal and it is very common for restaurants to have Fado singers during dinner. The Fado restaurant we went to had two guitarists and two or three Fado singers that would take turns singing while we ate dinner. After spending three hours at the restaurant, some of us wanted to go out and some of us wanted to go back to the cabin. I went back to the cabin with 3 other girls. When we got back to the cabin, my friend with arachnaphobia decided she was going to take a shower. She went into the bathroom and shut the door. Now, the door to the shower room was a little tricky to open because it was a wooden sliding door so it always required two people to open it after you showered.. one person on each side. After she had shut the door to take a shower, 5 seconds had gone by and all of a sudden she started screaming bloody murder and banging on the door yelling “let me out, let me out!!!!” So Claire goes over to help her open the door and Ellyn runs out of the bathroom, still screaming. She caught her breath to tell us that a spider had fallen from the ceiling and landed on her. The rest of us went in to go look at it, and I’m not gonna lie, that was one huge hairy spider. Of all people for that to happen to.

On Sunday, we checked out of the cabin and headed for the bus stop to go back into the city. As we were walking to the bus stop, I realized that I had left my ring that I had bought at the market back in the cabin. Claire and I had stopped to talk about whether or not it was worth it to go back and get it because it is quite a walk. As we were standing there talking about it, Claire was messing with her ring on her hand and ended up dropping it in the grate that we had just happened to be standing on! So she fished her ring out with a stick while I went to go back and get mine. We both ended up getting our rings back and it ended up being a funny story (only because we got them back.)

Discovery Monutment
On Sunday, we spend the first half of our day at Belem. Belem the part of Lisbon that has the Christopher Columbus Discovery Monument, The Monastery, and the Belem Tower. After doing all of these touristy things, we went to get lunch at a café. This is also where I had one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my entire LIFE. They are called Pasteis de Nata and they are only made in Portugal. They even beat Kinder Buenos! All they are are just little custardy-egg tarts but they are amazing! This is the number one reason why I am so excited to return to Portugal in a couple weeks. After lunch, we toured the Lisbon castle which reminded me of the castle in Trujillo. However, I will admit that the views from the castle in Lisbon were significantly prettier than Trujillo. Seeing all of the red rooftops of Lisbon was pretty neat.

Pasteis de Portugal :D
After the castle, we headed for the train station to return to Caceres. There weren’t any creepers on the train ride back, however we almost missed our stop in Caceres since we arrived at 5 in the morning and we had just gone through Daylight Savings Time AND an hour time change so we were all way off. I think the train conductor figured that we were students and we were stopping in a college town so he asked to see our tickets. When we read that they said “Caceres” he started yelling at us telling us this was our stop and we needed to get off because the train only stops for two minutes. Some of us were still a little confused... probably due to the fact that it was 5 in the morning, he was yelling in Spanish, and we all thought it was a different time because of all the time changes. Anyway, we all made it off the train and didn’t end up going to Madrid. 

I just realized how long this post is! Sorry for that.

Caceres Sunset
Last night, most of the group climbed the mountain for the second time. We climbed it at night so we could watch the sunset and make s’mores. We made our own fire and luckily, one of the boys in our group knew how since he used to be in boy scouts. We sat around the campfire singing songs and telling stories. It was a great night!

Lola went to her pueblo last night and just called us asking if we wanted to come today and stay the night until tomorrow. We aren’t sure, but we think our host brother is picking us up. If that is the case… it will be an interesting ride to Miajadas. (Which I think I forgot to mention is the tomato capital of all of Europe!) 

Monday is my last Flamenco class! It’s all finally coming together and pretty soon I’m going to be a pro. Just wait. :)