Portugal

Disclaimer: I went to Portugal nearly three months ago now. I’m only now finishing up the blog post. (It’s late January.) It ends rather abruptly, as I don’t have any notes to go on. Sincere apologies. I’ll try to be more on top of travels to come.

After a teary goodbye with Rachel in the rain (cursed rain), I flew west to Lisboa. I navigated the airport and public transportation system surprisingly easily, and arrived in Sesimbra just in time to witness the tail end of my colleagues’ port-induced hangover from the night before. (Clearly, the best decision one can make upon entering a new country is to drink an entire bottle of whatever liquor it is known for, and hit the town.) Sesimbra is a fantastic seaside village with a fishing heritage and tourist slant. Our hotel was directly across from the beach with a wonderful view.
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The meeting began the next morning, so after a huge meal of peixes with queijo and vinho and a glass of port on the balcony with the ocean’s serenade, it was off to bed.

Much of the time in Sesimbra was work and no play, but each walk to and from the symposium venue was a rush of sights and smells and sounds. Promptly after I gave my talk on Tuesday I fell ill, and saw a lot of the inside of my eyelids for 24 hours. But Wednesday we took a field trip to the Arribada national park north of Sesimbra, where the landscape was harsh but beautiful (and the plants the same).
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From there we went to a place where traditional azujelo tiles were made. Of all the travelers on the tour, I was selected (ahem, volunteered) to make a tile. I did a fine job, if I do say so myself.
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Finally, we toured the José Maria de Fonseca winery in Setúbal, and tasted some of their fine wines. They had an amazing collection of family vintages going back close to 200 years, stored in a majestic barn with exquisite lighting (or lack thereof). Portugal is a fine place to be if you like beverages made from grapes, especially those leaning on the sweet side. Mmmm, muscatel.

The rest of the time in Sesimbra was a blur of seafood, wine, and cold medicine. Luckily I came to in time to make our cab ride to Lisboa, were I nearly had my laptop stolen en route to our hostel (highly recommended. the hostel, that is, not the near-robbery). The city had an entirely different feel from Barcelona, which is only an hour’s flight away. This to me is the most stunning thing about Europe — that you can travel a short distance geographically, but culturally wind up in a different place entirely.

I’m afraid that 24 hours in Lisbon was not enough to do the place justice, but I hoofed it to and fro in my best attempt. My biggest regret is not making it to Belém, which is said to be breathtaking (and the place of origin of some of the best pastries in the world). But what I did see was quite lovely.

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This is an article that was posted on Jan 28, 07:50 PM.

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