jueves, 26 de febrero de 2015

Portugal is so fetch

So this past weekend, our school took a trip to Portugal. During the trip, I had an idea to write the blog post about this trip using quotes from Mean Girls! So, without further ado, I’ll start with the most famous quote of them all!

“On Wednesdays, we wear pink.” If you've never been to Portugal or seen any pictures from this beautiful country, then you wouldn’t know that the buildings are all very colorful. The color scheme focuses around pastel colors, including yellows, pinks, greens, and more. Many of them are varying shades of pink, which is pretty amazing, if you ask Regina George. It’s a very different way to design buildings, but I think it’s very unique and kind of beautiful.

“Everyone in Africa can read Swedish.” The Portuguese language varies between Portugal, Brazil, and the other Portuguese speaking countries. Our tour guide said that Brazilian Portuguese is a bit easier to understand for Spanish speakers than that of Portugal because the put more emphasis on their vocals, whereas those of Portugal are more closed with their vocals. It’s kind of like how British English is more proper than that of the United States or Spanish from Spain is more proper and has the “Spanish lisp” that isn’t found in that of Latin American Spanish. To all my friends in the Midwest, imagine someone speaking a mix of Spanish, French, and German with a thick Upper accent, and that’s basically Portuguese…at least by my observations!

“I want to lose three pounds.” Friday night, we all decided to head out from our hotel and try to find some good food to try. We ended up splitting up into a couple groups, and one group of us went to an Argentinean Steakhouse. None of us had ever been to one before, so we had no idea what was in store! I was a little leery, with my only exposure to them being from what I’d seen in Bridesmaids, and that ended in a pretty shitty situation, if you know what I mean! Well, they set down a little wooden block with a green end and a red end, and they came around every few minutes with a new kind of meat for the table. They’d shave off some sirloin, then drop off some marinated chicken, followed by some pork and then more steak, a few more I can’t even remember, and even grilled pineapple. Everything was A-MA-ZING! To top it off, there was a musician from Brazil playing live music, and he was having conversations with our table and invited several people to come up from the table and play his guitar and sing songs. It was a ridiculous and fun time. It was Andrew’s 21st birthday, who is another one of the students, so we sang happy birthday to him, and then the entire restaurant sang him happy birthday to him in Portuguese. What a great and memorable experience!

“It’s like I have ESPN or something. My breasts can always tell when it’s going to rain. Well… they can tell when it’s raining.” There are several amazingly beautiful sites to see in Portugal. One of my most favorite was definitely the Torre do Belém,” which was constructed in 1514 as a military tower fitted with artillery to sink enemy ships before they could get to shore. However, the tower itself isn’t what was amazingly beautiful to me.

What was very serene and gorgeous is that there were a very wide set of stairs made of marble that the waves crash up and over, and then reseeded down back into the ocean. These weren’t next to the tower originally, but after a large earthquake and the water receding back a few hundred meters, the tower that was once out in the water became a tower right on the coast, so the steps were added later. The water flowing down the steps is mesmerizing and one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and serene things I’ve ever seen. It was definitely a place I could spend hours just taking in the surroundings, maybe with a good book in one hand and a nice glass of wine in the other!

“I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.” El Monasterio de los Jerónimos de Santa María de Belém is an old monastery from the Order of Saint Jerome. It’s an impressive complex, which began construction in 1514. Since it was built at the same time as the Torre de Belém, it is of a similar style. Originally, monks lived there.
At one point, they were not receiving enough donations from people to pay for their essentials, so they started baking pastries of their own creation, called Pastéis de Belém. They’re custard in a fluffy pastry and are oh, so tasty! There is a famous bakery located right outside the old Monastery that still has the monk’s original recipe and, on average, sells over 30,000 of the pastries each day. Talk about an insane operation!

One other neat fact is that the tomb for Luis de Camões is inside the church, who is a famous Portuguese writer. Today, Portugal’s equivalence of the State’s Independence Day is the 10th of June, to celebrate the day Luis de Camões died. Any diplomat who comes to visit Portugal must visit his tomb and leave flowers as a sign of respect. Pretty cool, huh?

“She doesn’t even go here!” Just up the coast from the Torre de Belém, there’s a monument called "Padrão dos Descobrimentos" that’s designed to look like one of the old, Portuguese ships that was used during their conquests.

Between the two sides, it has 33 statues of people who were influential to the history of Portugal and its infamous navigating throughout the world. In front of the monument, there’s a map of the world made from tiles on the ground that has years with when Portuguese ships first landed at specific areas of the world during their explorations.

“But you’re, like, really pretty… So you agree? You think you’re really pretty?”
Probably one of the most beautiful palaces on the Earth is the Palacio do Pena located on a hill overlooking Sintra. It is very colorful palace that has a long and interesting history. Tradition states that, after a vision of the Virgin Mary at the location, a chapel was constructed and dedicated to Our Lady of Pena. In 1493, King Manuel I ordered the construction of a monastery at the site, which was donated to the Order of Saint Jerome. The monastery could house up to a maximum of 18 monks. During the 18th century, the monastery was severely damaged after being struck by lightning and then an earthquake in 1755.

It remained essentially empty for decades until King Ferdinand II acquired the monastery in 1838 and built the castle between 1842 and 1854. The castle is of a Romanticism architectural design, though it incorporates styles from many different backgrounds and has significance from a multitude of religions, which was the desire of the King to represent the different religions living together in harmony; this is something I appreciate dearly and think is fantastic. The palace remained in the royal family’s possession for years until being purchased by the Portuguese state in 1889 and classified as a national monument and then transformed into a museum in 1910.

As if the palace isn’t beautiful enough, the kitchen is to die for. Like I literally want a replica of this kitchen in my house one day. It’s so amazing and cool! What’s more, King Ferdinand II also purchased the land around the castle and turned it all into a park, which houses trees that are native to all of the different continents of the world as a symbol of the world living in harmony. Seriously, this palace is amazing!

“Happy hour is from four to six!” While in Sintra, I stumbled into a small shop with a large selection of wines and liqueurs, and even various homemade jams! A very popular (and delicious) drink to try is this cherry liqueur that is served in a shot glass made of chocolate! What an amazing idea! A relative of mine suggested I try some Port while in Europe, and they also had a few Ports that I could taste. I know a decent amount about different characteristics and varieties of wine, but nothing about Ports. One of the shop owners explained some of the characteristics of different kinds of Ports to me, and after I tried a few of the different varieties, I found one I really liked. So, naturally, I had to buy a bottle for myself! I got a 10 year old bottle of aged Tawny Port that’s matured in oak casts in lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and features intense, mellow flavors. Yummm! There’s none for Gretchen Wieners, though…

“I can’t go to Taco Bell. I’m on an all-carb diet. God, Karen, you’re so stupid!” On our way back to Lisbon, we stopped in Cascais for a late lunch. Being a city on the cost of the Atlantic Ocean, fresh seafood is abundant, so, even though I’m not an extreme fanatic of seafood, I figured I had to get it. And boy, am I glad I did! I got this squid dish that was fresh squid sautéed in olive oil with garlic, potatoes, and some herbs. Literally, so much better than Kalteen bars! Phenomenal! I’m just hoping I like the rest of seafood like I liked that and that it’s bearable in the United States compared to what I can get here!

“One time, she punched me in the face. It was awesome.” On our way back from Cascais, our bus driver suggested we stop at the Boca do Inferno, aka Hell’s Mouth. It’s a chasm located on the seaside cliffs, and as the waves rush toward the cliffs, they enter into the chasm and violently lash around the rocks. It’s quite the sight to see, though I would never want to find myself in the chasm, because you’d surely die within a minute or two!

“There are two kinds of evil people in this world: those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.” While looking across the Tagus River, one can see Christ the King in Almada. It has open arms, resembling the Corcovado monument in Rio de Janeiro, though slightly smaller, and was built after World War II as a memorial of thanksgiving since Portugal was spared from the destruction and horrors that were a part of World War II. I’ve always wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro SPECIFICALLY to see the Corcovado monument, so I guess this will keep me at bay…for now.

“Get in loser. We’re going shopping.” On our last day in Lisbon, we were walking down to Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square) and encountered an open market full of various goods, most of which were handmade and very interesting. I never knew this, but the majority of the cork in the world comes from Portugal and south-western Spain, and as such, cork is one of the main exports in Portugal. There are literally cork shoes, purses, wallets, hats, postcards…you name it, they’ve probably got it! Apparently cork is flame and water resistant and very durable. I literally had no idea about any of this. I really wanted to buy a cork wallet because they were pretty cool, but couldn’t find one I absolutely loved and that fit my style, so I figured I’d probably have to just try Sears.

“That’s why her hair is so big. It’s full of secrets.” In the middle of Praça do Rossio (Rossio Square), the main plaza of Lisbon, a monument currently stands that spells out <3LOVE that people can buy a lock with a heart tag attached to it that they can write on and then lock it onto the monument. People are supposed to write someone or something they deeply care about and want to keep in their heart as the monument is for raising money for an cause called "Give More Heart - Daniela Movement," whose goal is to raise money for children with heart problems in Mozambique. Naturally, I chose to write SigEp on one so it could join the monument as SigEp has been monumental into the development of me as a young gentleman.

“You can’t sit with us!” Besides a six hour, cramped bus ride each way, crappy WiFi at the hotel that wasn’t even free, and people constantly trying to get us to buy spices they were saying was pot, it was a very fun and enjoyable trip. Abrigado, Portugal. Abrigado. (Abrigado means thank you...) Or, as Cady would say, jambo.

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