it was fun living here for a year, we met a lot of great people, enjoyed your food and drinks, i surfed my arms off and we learned how to speak a little bit of your crazy language. unfortunately it’s time for us to vamos, but we will return, and to borrow a term from a friend, “we will revenge! power!”
paris was fun, but different than i had expected. the mental image that i had of paris was in black and white with curvy narrow streets, ivy climbers, and women in the 1920′s smoking cigarettes with the extenders. i don’t know where i got that from but in actuality paris has a lot of really huge streets with lots of cars, and is a really large european city with lots of museums, sights and tourists. there are more charming parts of the city, but it was different than i had pictured. one surprise for me was the eiffel tower. it was really cool to see, and there were thousands of people hanging out in the park leading up to the tower. paris is definitely very grand.
paris has 20,000 bikes at more than 1500 docking stations spread throughout the city and it’s awesome. the bikes are total grocery getters: basket, “girls” frames, a million pounds, 3 speed hubs, giant springy seats, pink and green children’s-style graphics, plastic fairings over the bars and generator lights. they cost 1 euro per day and if you return the bike to a docking station within 30min you aren’t charged anything more. so while exploring paris, we would take out some bikes, ride until we saw something cool, drop off the bikes at a station, and then walk around. it was really convenient and almost perfect. the only snag was when we’d show up somewhere and all of the docking stations were full, then we’d have to go to the next station and hope that there were open spots. i think something like this could work well in large-population, dense cities in the US. i’d love to live in a city that had bike sharing like this. *it seems to be etiquette to rotate the seat backwards at the station if there is a problem with the bike.
after a year of living in europe we finally took the obvious trip to london. it was my first time, and london welcomed us with 78º and sun for 3 days. it must have been the first warm days there because everyone was out getting their burn on. this was also my first time navigating left side of the road driving as a pedestrian. it turns out that about 30 years of looking left and then right before crossing the street is pretty hard to undo, and i feel like we are lucky to have made it out of there without getting hit, and when jaywalking i might as well have closed my eyes, because by the time i was in the middle of the street a car/bus/bike had appeared out of nowhere.
we tried to see it all, but didn’t even come close so i guess we’ll have to go back again someday. highlights included indian food, indian food, indian food, abundance of stuff (ie shopping), english pubs (more than super bock), english speaking (i know a lot of words), the tate (museum), and the front seat on the second story of the bus.
*one of the snake charmer guys saw me getting ready to take a photo and ran straight over to me to aggressively demand money. he even made me scroll through my photos to prove that i hadn’t taken one yet. the previous day i had seen one of the snake handlers go into the crowd with his snake to threaten someone. after we paid him he allowed me 1 photo… he obviously didn’t know that i was shooting video. the snakes were not my favorite part.
the pope (papa) is in lisbon today, and i couldn’t resist getting a glimpse of him in his special automobile.
it’s been a big week here in lisbon, first with benfica (a super popular soccer team) winning the national championship, thus igniting giant street parties, and now with the pope coming to town. i bet he’ll eat a pastel de nata.
this key is to our our apartment. it’s huge, and not for show. everyone in portugal has these giant medieval keys. i’m used to it now, but when i look at it it’s pretty ridiculous. it’s like a key for a dungeon.
we took a quick trip to marrakech morocco the other week. it was sort of a last minute trip and luckily we may have been the only people not affected by the great iceland ash cloud.
we met e’s dad there and stayed in marrakech for 3 nights and tried to get a good feel for the city and take in all of its chaotic yet laid back energy. it was my first time traveling to a muslim country, so hearing the call to prayer 5 times each day was different, especially the one at 4.30 am that woke me up each day. by the end of the trip the call to prayer was more like the soundtrack to morocco. another interesting thing was crossing the streets. they have faint cross walks painted, but no one stops for them and to cross the street you have to wait for a break in the traffic and then run for it.
the old part of the city has a giant square (djemaa el fna) with snake charmers, old ladies sitting on the ground, dudes with monkeys, fruit carts, scooters buzzing around, clown-like men with water for drinking in a leather backpack and brass cups attached to themselves, and other little groups of people huddled around. at night it gets even more crazy with open air street food venders and different circles of people huddled around. off the main square is a maze of streets that were built to confuse invaders. they are only about 5 feet wide, are full of little shops (souks) with aggressive salesmen selling every type of moroccan product you can think of, and to buy anything you have to get your haggle on. then once you’re done, the adventure begins, because you have to find your way back through the maze to the square.
another day we took a trip to the atlas mountains and walked to a berber village which was like we had time traveled except there were satellite dishes on the roofs. the village we visited was basically made from dirt and powered by donkeys. right next to it were large couscous fields, with snowcapped mountains in the background.
one last thing. moroccan dates are sooo good. i like dates no matter where i am, but in morocco they’ve got some really good ones. i ate so many dates while we were there.
morocco was a real trip to visit, and hard to describe with words, so maybe these photos will help…
a few weeks ago e’s mom was visiting and we went to a town about an hour away named golegã. it’s where they hold the national horse fair. apparently it is quite a big deal, and the main focus is the lusitanian horses. the town is all about horses. the houses in town have barn doors, there are horse signs next to the road signs, all children in public school are taught to ride, and there is a huge riding ring in the center of town.
golegã’s other proud moment in history revolves around portugal’s first photographer, carlos relvas (1838-1894). he built a crazy photo studio which was essentially a glass house with blinds on all of the windows (including the roof) so he could control the amount of light in his portraits. we took a tour of the studio which included a multimedia presentation with a trippy life-size animatronic version of carlos with projected video on his face that was so life-like it freaked a couple of people out.
also of notable relevance: someone who worked at our hotel told us we were the first americans that she had ever met, and the wine from the ribatejo region is good.