¡Vamos a Portugal!

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Today, I did a double take when I looked at the date on my phone: March 20th. I thought to myself, “is this a joke?” How is it already the end of March? Every week is going to go by faster than the previous, but I have more and more to look forward to in the coming weeks. This past weekend, I went to Portugal with ESN and a lot of the other Temple students. It was my first time out of Spain, and I can say that Portugal is on my list of “must go” countries for anyone who is planning on traveling to Europe. After 9 long hours on the bus, we arrived in Lisbon: our first stop. After we climbed the steep, San Francisco-like hill to get to the hostel, we dropped our stuff off and headed to el Castillo de San Jorge. We rode a trolley to get there because walking would have been close to impossible: too many Imagehills, so little energy. There, we saw some of the most beautiful views of the city. Something very unusual to me was seeing peacocks roaming through the outdoor part if the castle. I was hesitant to get close to them, but they were in their element and didn’t pay any attention to me or any of the other tourists who were snapping up-close and personal photos. During our free time, we had lunch at a nice restaurant where we met the owner, a very friendly man who spoke English (a good amount of people speak English in Portugal), and he gave us his business card, inviting us back to his restaurant for the next time we go back to Portugal.

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The next day, we visited Belém, a neighborhood right outside of the city. One thing that I had never experienced before was walking underground in order to cross the busy street. It was exactly like a subway tunnel, except it was just a long hallway that we walked through in order to avoid a dangerous intersection. After spending a few hours there, we went to Porto, another city that was about 4 hours away. Out out of the three, Porto was definitely my favorite. Not only was it a smaller, less condensed

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city, but it just had a charm to it that Lisbon didn’t have. On Sunday, we had a tour if the city, followed by free time to get lunch. I had a typical dish called Francesinha, which is a sandwich with cheese on top and many different types of meat on the inside. Covering it was a special type of sauce that is made up of tomato and beer sauce…could be compared to hot sauce. It was good, but nothing to brag about. Later in the day, we went wine tasting and then took a boat ride! It was the first time I had been wine tasting, so it was an exciting experience that I really enjoyed. The boat ride took place around sunset, so it really was a picture-perfect setting! One thing I wasn’t thrilled about was that I didn’t speak much Spanish during the weekend. While I loved being in Portugal and having the opportunity of experiencing a different country, I didn’t like the fact that I didn’t get to practice my Spanish.

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Yesterday was Father’s Day, as well as el Día de San José, so the house was filled was filled with some excitement.  My host dad’s name is José, so it was a double celebration for our family! I came home from class to find the table in the family room set up, instead of the table in the kitchen, covered by a nice table cloth. We had fresh shrimp for lunch, followed by special desserts. I told my family that I wanted to contribute something, so I made some chocolate-covered strawberries and apples for them. It was something that they had never heard of before, and I was happy  when they tried them and liked them! Again, cooking with my host mom gave me a chance to practice my Spanish by using “cooking phrases.” After lunch, I went for a walk to the side of town that I don’t go to too often, and I saw a vending machine…full of meat and cheese! I was shocked to see that this exists, and I don’t think I can get myself to try it.
Right now, I’m counting down the hours until tonight when a few friends and I will be leaving for Barcelona! We are meeting up with my roommate from Temple, who is currently studying in Rome, so I can’t wait to hear about her experiences and tell her mine, too!
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