Thursday, October 15, 2015

Batalha, Alcobaça, and random

Last week was only really notable because I went on an adventure looking for fabric stores in Lisbon. Before starting my search I first stopped to have lunch at a Goan restaurant. I had never had Goan food, and it was something I came wanting to try. Not sure if what I ate was the #1 best place to start, but it was undoubtedly very good. The owner's son of the place I went convinced me to try this dish called Sarapatel. Now, those of you who know me will probably be surprised that I agreed to order this, but I thought, what the hell? Sarapatel is a spicy stew made completely with (in this case) pork offal. The meat was cut into little chunks, so I could forget what I was eating for the most part except a few times when I would be reminded by some weird lump with a strange texture or taste. Good... don't think I would order it again though given a choice of other things. The place was "Delicias de Goa" and they were very nice people there.

Anyways, I ended up visiting two fabric stores and multiple "retrosarias" in the Baixa neighborhood which are little shops that sell all sorts of odds and ends like buttons, trim, yarn/string, etc. More on this later since they had some of the most beautiful buttons and trim and I will definitely be back buying. 

Anyways, the next day the same friend who I went to the monastery in Tomar with now wanted to go to two more monasteries, one on a town called Batalha and another in Alcobaça. We didn't leave until Saturday so she thought it was best to leave on the 7 am bus (yes, I let her do all the planning for us both). This meant waking up at 5 am on Saturday ughh. The bus ride wasn't horrible but it was very cold and rainy all weekend and the bus ended up having no heating. 

We went to Batalha first to see the monastery there. Unfortunately I didn't take a great picture of the outside but here it is:

Design of the front portal (you can tell I have been to too many churches/monasteries when I automatically call the entrance the "portal"):

 Tomb of King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster:

Oddly proportioned statue:

Creepy dead Jesus statue:

  The Monastery

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 1914-1918 (there is always an honorary guard on either side of it) Here is a video of them changing the guard on Youtube, it seems a little weird to me: (

A really cool part of this monastery is the "Unfinished Chapel"... It was built almost completely except the roof was never put on so it is open to the sky:

I just wish I was this guy:

We had a really mediocre lunch and then hopped on a local bus which would take us to Alcobaça where Daniela had booked us a room at this really awesome hostel called Hostel Rossio. This hostel was brand new, had really cool decorations along with a really nice, fully equipped kitchen, a deck, and a nice TV room. We were the only ones in the whole place so we had tons of privacy, it was amazing.
We didn't go see the monastery the first day, instead walking around town. Alcobaça is a really cute little place, somewhat touristy but not overwhelming. We went to a fabric store and ended up buying some fabric printed with designs made for that region. We *ALMOST* bought some cortiça bags, because one shop had a good selection and wasn't as expensive as a lot of the other stores we had been too, however I had just spent a bunch of money of fabric and my friend convinced me not to. I wish I had though, they had some really good over the shoulder purses but I'm sure I will see something like it again at some point so no worries. For those who don't know what cortiça is, it's Portuguese for cork, and products made from cork like bags, hats, shoes, etc. are a really popular thing to buy in tourist areas:

Here are the few pictures I took from the town:

Retard condoms

The next day we went to the Cistercian monastery in  Alcobaça which was right outside out hostel:

It was commissioned by the first king of Portugal, Alfonso Henriques in 1153.
Inside were the tombs of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro. These two are famous because of their love affair. Inês was from the royal Castilian family and came as a maid to Pedro's Castilian wife when Pedro fell in love with her. When Pedro's wife died, his father, King Alfonso IV, tried to get him to remarry but he refused because of his love. Eventually Inês was murdered by King Alfonso IV when the pair refused to separate. She was posthumously pronounced queen when Pedro claimed he had married her before her death.

Pedro's tomb has a mastiff at his feet which is supposed to represent loyalty:

The back of his tomb has a wheel of fortune:

The tomb of Inês:

Her tomb is supported by these adorable little beings:

Not a great picture but this altar has statues that represent the death of St. Bernard:

The "Room of Kings". The blue tile background recounts the legend of the founding of the monastery by King Alfonso Henriques:

Statues line the entire wall, some are painted, some are not. There were a few empty pedestals waiting to receive statues:

These were in a different room, they don't look it but they were huge, a lot bigger than life-sized:

We were lucky because while we were there there was a singing performance going on (classical religious songs that you could imagine choir boys would sing back then). The men singing had normal speaking voices but when they sang they sounded like little boys, their voices were so high. We didn't stay to watch the whole performance but the singing echoed through all parts of the monastery and I think it really added to the experience.

 The kitchen was probably one of the coolest rooms to me. This is where the water came in from outside:

 It wasn't possible for me to capture it in the pictures, but the ceilings were VERY high, with large windows set near the top. The walls and ceiling were entirely covered with white tile, which had a really cool effect. In the middle of the room was a huge cooking hearth with a chimney that dominated most of the room:

 A cloister:

Not 100% about how this was used but cool anyways:

 Where the monks would wash up:

The refectory:

Another great weekend. Nothing too eventful, besides meeting a creepy waiter. This weekend most likely will be quiet but the next one I should be going to Lagos. Woo?

So, I didn't realize my friend had taken a bunch of pictures too so here are some more....

Yes, I have a habit of walking into every picture my friend takes, whether on accident or otherwise.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Trip to Porto

This past weekend was the CIEE trip to Porto. Porto is a beautiful city in Northwestern Portugal, known for its port wine (hence the word "port"). We arrived Saturday afternoon and stayed until around midday Sunday. We stayed in a hostel chosen by CIEE for the duration of our stay.

So one can get a sense of how beautiful Porto is:

The first thing we did when we arrived was go on the walking tour offered by the hostel. It was short but sweet and we got a sense of what the main area of Porto is like. After, I went to a cellar to taste port wine and then the guide gave us some restaurant recommendations so we all went to eat at a small cafe where I ate fried octopus (pretty tasty). That night everyone went on a pub "tour" but I was too sleepy so I was lazy and just went to sleep.
Some points of interest from the tour:

Can't see well but this is a cute picture of a guy with his dog sleeping with his head on his lap;

The tour guide told us a funny story about these churches: The one on the left is older.. it was getting a lot of people coming in and out of its doors every day which made the priests in another church located in a different part of the city jealous. So, they came to the priests of the church on the left with a story about how they wanted to build a hospital in the area. The priests of the left church thought it was a good idea so they gave them land to build. The jealous priests completed the hospital, however, the hospital "chapel" actually became a second church which was made extremely ornate in order to rival the original church next door. Now the jealous priests had the church they wanted, *but* the Vatican had a rule against having 2 working churches right next door to each other, so to solve that problem, a tiny sliver of a house was built in between the two (you can see the windows). Not sure how much of the story is true, as there is no mention of the story on the internet that I could find with a quick search, except that the tiny house was also created to make sure the nuns in one church would not have contact with the monks in the other. The churches are called Carmo and Carmelita.

Old monastery which later became São Bento train station:

The metro in Porto is really cool... it is not a normal train with a depressed track. Instead, it rides level with the ground more like a tram but it is very smooth and quiet. At the point shown in this picture it leaves the underground to go over this bridge. It receives electricity from aerial wires so it is ok to walk over the tracks:

Outside the Porto cathedral;

Hanging laundry and birdcages outside the old sailor district:

Down a small alley we came to a bakery called "Cozinha Doce". Inside, a woman makes chocolate desserts exclusively for restaurants. However, the woman giving the tour apparently had a deal with the woman to sell to outsiders:

Here is my friend eating some of the chocolate cake:

I got chocolate mousse. This was not like any mousse I had ever had. It was SO rich I could only finish about half. If marshmallow fluff had all its air removed so that it was just extremely thick and sticky, it would be about the same consistency of this stuff. It was, however, very good.

The creator of these desserts:

Immediately after the walking tour some of us went on a quick tour of one of the port cellars. Apparently they were almost all bought up by Englishmen at some point so they all have non-Portuguese names. For 6 euros we got a tour plus 2 glasses of port to taste:

I had a bit too much...

The next day in the morning we went on a boat tour up and down the river:

After lunch, my friend and I stopped at another port cellar after we got a free ticket for another tasting:

The funicular:

Finally at the top: 

Afterwards we went to a photography museum (Centro Português de Fotografia) which is housed in a building that used to be a prison. They had many old cameras on display including some really tiny ones that were really adorable:

Later that day CIEE brought us to a classical music concert at a place called "Casa da Musica". The place had very strange, modern architecture and decorations:

 At the end of the day, my friend and I went to a super expensive restaurant and proceeded the cheapest things off the menu, which ensured that we were completely ignored by the waiters:

It was really dumb but it was my last night and I wasn't going to get another chance so I ordered the "francesinha" which is a sandwich with a bunch of different types of meat in it (including 2 different types of sausage), the covered in melted cheese, and the drowned in gravy. It was a little spicy. It was also really gross and made feel feel sick. I feel like it could have been good but this restaurant just did not do a good job:

After dinner, my friend really wanted to go to a live show at this place called "Hotfive Jazz & Blues club". We showed up at 10 when it opened, but the music didn't start until 12. I know, waiting was horrible but my friend was really looking forward to it. I spent the time sucking down 2 (mine then hers when she didn't like it) super sugary mojitos. When the band finally did come on it was a blues band made up of 3 dudes in their 40s. They actually sounded pretty good! The only issue was that their lyrics were a little weird to me (in English but written by non-native speakers)

 The next day we went to a modern art museum, had a really fancy buffet lunch while their, and then got back on the bus for the 4 hour return journey to Lisbon.

Last thing: Ever since I can remember my parents have had some pottery pieces which they always said they had gotten when they visited Portugal years and years ago. They have 2 plates, a huge vase, plus they used to have a smaller vase but unfortunately it was broken by a friend when we were in 3rd grade. Anyways, these pieces have a floral design on them with small leaping deer. I just happened to walk into a shop in Porto and lo and behold, they were selling pottery with that exact pattern!!!! I got really excited and wanted to find a vase to replace the one that had been broken. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to look, and the only places I was able to go in were in super touristy areas where they were selling a smallish vase for 90 euros BUT *someday* (sorry mom and dad, love you)