We left Madrid at 12pm on Friday. It was sunny and beautiful, of course, because it hasn't rained the entire time we've been in Madrid. I started whistling "Ride of the Valkyries".
In Lisbon, Portugal, at 7pm Friday, it was pouring.
"Oh, come on, you guys. I mean, have you ever LOOKED at Portuguese? It's like the same language! We'll be able to speak it just by looking at it. I'm not worried. Besides, I bet they know a lot of Spanish there just because they get tons of Spanish tourism. We'll be fine."
Portuguese looks like Spanish. It sounds like Russian.
I don't speak Russian.
I kid, really. Lisbon was fantastic, and I could write down for you now the number of Portuguese words I know. Most of them are fruit. You'd be amazed how far you can get knowing "please", "thank you", and fruit words. Also "tea" and "coffee". (Psst. If you get bored, skip down. The trip summary's going to be pretty dry, but I'll try to put the interesting (and I-can-writey) type stuff at the end).
We rolled into Lisboa Friday evening and found our hostel, which was conveniently located up several flights of stairs unplagued by the bother of an elevator. The hostelier, however, made the walk worth it. I thought Spanish guys were hot, but Portuguese guys are STUNNING. Holy crap.
We decided to go to a fado bar for dinner (see? SEE? You didn't think I'd do it, did you?). We found one in the Bairro Alto, which is (appropriately enough) very alto and takes many stairs to get to. Winding through the maze of little streets (and getting lost at every turn, might I add), we stumbled upon the club the Let's Go called "a way to see fado without breaking the bank". Minimum purchase 7€. As we walked up to the door, an older man heard us speaking in English and stopped us to say "Come here! Very good food! Good cook!" We all laughed amiably, which made me decide that Lisboa was a better place to vacation than Paris or someplace English-leery.
It was called the Cristal. We found out why when we walked in and discovered the entirety of the walls consisted of concrete with mirror-shard insets, and the lamps were multicolored cut glass.
It was a CLASSY JOINT.
Nah, it was pretty good. I got arroz com polvo, which is NOT rice with dust, though that was my first thought. It is rice with otopus - more specifically, rice with octopus in a tomato-based stew with ample amounts of cilantro on top. It was all right, I suppose. Overly salty. Not really a thrilling introduction to Portuguese food, unfortunately.
After that, we wandered around the city for a bit. Then bed.
The next day, we got up and took the tram (oooh, trainy) to the Mosterio San Jeronimo, which is this old Gothic monastery on the outish ends of the city. We wandered around the cloisters and the cathedral attached to them, which holds the (metaphorical) sarcophagus of Vasco da Gama. We did that, then got falafel for lunch. What? It was THERE! And do you know the last time I had falafel?
After lunch and the monastery, we decided to go to the mall.
NOT MY IDEA.
It was the biggest mall in two countries and all, but...not my idea...and *sigh* I went to another country and went to the mall. It was a cool mall. There was a rollercoaster in it, and a bowling alley, and everything you could ever want (including bettas) except DDR. I am not happy with this European anti-DDR fetish. It also had gigantic, gourmet-dining-style Pizza Huts and KFCs and McDonalds, which we did NOT go to. Thank god.
What we did decide to do for dinner was Indian, which was not only ridiculously cheap but very, very, very good. I could have died happy that night, with stuffed nan and chana masala and mango lhassi in my stomach. Unfortunately, I had to wake up the next morning with the inevitable stomachache that results from the combination of me and Indian, which basically made all Sunday a living hell.
This is sad, because Sunday could have been quite cool. We went to the Museum of Ancient Art, which had some really awesome Eastern art (of course, they have the kind I know nothing about) and then the Gulbenkian Museum, which used to be a private collection (of Mr. Gulbenkian, of course). They had a GREAT ancient Greek coin collection, all exquisitely preserved, and a Manet and some Monets and a Degas and a Renoir, but I was wandering around in too much of a haze of pain to appreciate them. Similarly, we were going to climb to the top of the city to see the 5th century Visigoth fort cum 9th century Arab castle, but I almost died, so we went home and took a nap. Dinner was salad bar at a Brazilian bbq place. (Why did we go to Portugal and eat NO Portuguese food? 1. Food there, any kind of food, was madly cheap - and Indian food in Madrid is exorbitant. 2. Portuguese food consists mainly of salted cod, and while I was up for that, I was traveling with vegetarians. 3. We had pastries for breakfast, and those were not only Portuguese but VERY, VERY GOOD. We had our fill that way).
Monday we spent all day on the bus.
My butt still hurts.
Ok, Here's the Interesting Part Now
It's Friday night. After having eaten our fill of octopus and other things, we are winding our way back down to the hostel aka. streets with lights. We are speaking English, of course. Suddenly, a man breaks off from a group headed in the other direction, situates himself between me and Issa (Kori was behind us), and starts to talk in a Cockney accent worthy of Uriah Heep. You'll have to imagine it, because I can't type it (well, though I might try just for entertainment value).
Allison and Issa: Um...hi.
Uriah: Hey, listern, can oi borrow a Euro, just for sumfin to oeat? Just a Euro, man, an ey, don't tell me yoo aven't go any FUCKIN choiange. Tell me anyfin yoo wan, yoo can tell moi to fuck off if yoo wan, but don't tell me yoo aven't go choiange, cuz that really PISSES moi off, ya know?
Issa: Sorry, man. I can't help you.
Uriah: *grumble grumble fuckin grumble*
Uriah backs off, and we continue down the road...until we hear behind us a series of low and irascible fucks, undeniably growing closer.
Issa: He's following us.
Allison: Shit, yeah, I know. Just don't say anything.
Uriah reappears between us.
Uriah: Yoo know, tha really PISSES me off, man. I can' believe...yoo fuckin people. Whoi'd yoo ave to ge' an attitude loike tha with me, man? Whoi'd yoo ave to go an do a thing loike tha?
Issa: I didn't get an attitude with you, sir.
Uriah: Yes, yoo certainly fuckin did, yoo ad a fuckin attitude.
Issa: Well, that wasn't my intent. I'm sorry, but I can't help you.
Allison: *thinking* Oh crap, Issa, you used the word intent and now he's going to think we're the bourgoisie and kill us all.
Uriah: Yoo fuckin people. I can' believe yoo fuckin people. I ate people loike yoo, yoo know tha? *recedes once again, still cursing more profusely than I ever have in my life*
And then, my friends, after checking to make sure that he did not see where we were going, we scampered away from that Uriah like frogs from a stork wearing a backpack that could have had a broken bottle in it.
Still Friday night, still wandering around the city. We came upon a plaza - a giant obelisk-type monument in the middle, fakely bronze green fountains flanking. They were skillfully lit, like all European fountains, so that the spots played on the water. The prettiness was postcardily palpable (yay for alliteration), but it was not what drew our attention.
What drew our attention was the huge circle of people near the obelisk, and we ran to join them with Kori and Issa screaming something about an impromptu drum circle. We got closer and I started to fall back as I realized that all of these people were dressed identically in black. With cloaks. And berets.
Great. We found a cult.
There were probably 15 of them or so playing music and singing to a group of perhaps twice that many. Some of the non-players were also dressed in black, but the majority were seated on milk crates. All wore clear plastic ponchos and had their faces painted (very badly). Allison's reaction?
"It's ART HOUSE HAZING!"
Which is, in fact, what it was.
Apparently part of Spanish (and presumably Portuguese) university tradition is that musical groups called tunas dominate specific regions of social life (making them SO unlike the Art House at Duke, haha just kidding don't paint me to death). They dress in black, sing, dance, and have a wicked hazing process that involves drinking spicy things, generally making an ass of yourself, and (in this case) taking an involuntary dip in those pretty little fake-bronze fountains.
And you all wonder why I didn't rush. Though it was kind of funny to see them put their heads in the water. Silly freshmen.
Yesterday was el Día de la Hispanidad
aka LEGAL HOLIDAY!, and as such there was no school. It was also my señora's Saint Day. It was great - I got to sit around and sip champagne with her family and friends, all of whom were very nice people but none of whom's conversations involved me, being fast and in Spanish and all. So really, it was like any party at home. ahaahaha. No, they were nice and talked to me. We talked about Texas. And I ate mini-eclairs.
Also, I made the most amazing butt-kicking incredible zucchini bread ever on Earth. I think it's because vanilla here comes powdered.
It's soooooooo good!
I'll have to think up more interesting things to say later, but until then...buh bye.