So, it has happened again. I have become intensely busy with all that study abroad entails, and much to the surprise of many, that actually includes studying. Since I left London and went to Portugal, and then back to Vienna and then from Vienna to Millstatt, Austria, my group has phased into a time in our trip where the course load is heavy and classes actually happen… that actually isn’t a joke. For the first 2 months of the trip my group had class with our professor Peggy when it was possible. Once a week after our German classes, then sporadically as we traveled, once we had a full discussion class period in Peggy and her husbands hotel room. My study abroad trip is very unique, being able to travel with my professor and 25 other students is unheard of. I am very blessed by this trip. But, as we have transitioned into this new time at the castle in Millstatt, Austria that my group is living in, we have begun to have class every weekday from 9 to 1. So we went from very little class but sizable amount of homework to class and homework. Therefore, I barely have time to do this and experience life so I took some time off to experience and now I will share. My 5 days in Portugal are the topic today and the story of how I got there alone… Get ready
So, keep in mind I have never traveled alone before, not even in the US. I have never had to go on an airplane by myself or fly to a different city without the security of someone else watching my back, until I had to fly from London to Lisbon alone. My mindset towards this was avoidance until the day before I actually had to fly there… I kept it in the back of my mind trying to have as much fun as I could in London while I was there. But then, the day before I was to fly to Lisbon it hit me, Oh crap, I have to get from my hostel in London to my friend’s apartment in Lisbon alone tomorrow. What was I thinking? But, the day of travel I woke up determined to accomplish what I believed I could do. I woke up, got dressed, finished packing and set out on my journey.
First, I rode the subway with my friend DJ, who I was in London with, to a certain stop where we split and took subways heading opposite directions for opposite train stations. His, to King’s Cross, mine to Victoria. When I got to Victoria Station, I realized I had to figure out how to get to the airport from there… I walked out of the subway to see this train station and instantly felt a little overwhelmed, I remember thinking “Oh man, I am officially traveling Europe alone and there’s no turning back now.” So, naturally, I asked for help. Luckily, everyone in London speaks English pretty much so I just asked an old man and my goodness was he nice. He pointed to where I could buy tickets to the train that took people to the airport and was just so helpful in my moment of confusion, his words to me “Oh dear, it’s right there, you can’t miss it! There’s a sign and many people, oh I am sure you will see it if you just walk over there! I hope I was helpful.” and boy was he. I found it perfectly, bought tickets for the train that was to be 45 minutes long and set off in search of my train. Once I found it, I settled in at a table and began journaling.
I remember thinking, this will be the perfect time to journal a lot because I have been lagging on my journal updates. That was the moment when out of all the 50 seats on the train, this man sits right next to me. His name was Edward and he was a Londoner, maybe in his late thirties. He first offered me a banana, I declined. (HE WAS A STRANGER, WHAT ELSE COULD I DO?) But, he persisted and I accepted one of the 10 he had… Then, he offered me a juice box, I couldn’t say no. I know, I know, most of you are cringing, and thinking to yourself, Abby, why would you accept food from a stranger when traveling alone on a foreign continent? and ya know, my answer would probably be, I HAVE NO IDEA. Luckily, it was not poisonous or drugged and the only positive thing I received by meeting Edward was the banana and juice box because he was a jerk.
Background on Edward, born, raised and educated in London. He had the attitude of an elitist with the accent to boot. He began our discourse by asking me where I was from, etc… He guessed Canada and was hoping I was not from the U.S., I obviously disappointed him when I stated that I was in fact from the United States. He then went on a rant about how “my people” or Americans have bastardized the English language. As a lover of language and of course rhetoric (as a rhetorical communications major, duh) I was very offended. He began to correct the English that he believed Americans have corrupted by throwing away the Queen’s English and adopting their own false way of speaking. I hid my disdain as best as I could by quietly absorbing the information he was attempting to impress upon me, until I couldn’t take it anymore. Excuse me, but if you know me, you know I don’t keep silent for very long especially if I do not like something. If something seems not right to me, I will say something. So, I called him out, began to challenge him conversationally and started a controlled but important conversation with him. We dug out some of his clear prejudices against America and the United States. He claimed he never had any desire to go to the U.S., I told him that I had just been in London and wasn’t super impressed. He respected my opinion but then informed me that he would be going to New York and Miami in the Spring on his way to Rio. I told him that those two cities are not true representations of the U.S. and not to judge the entire nation based on two cities and he agreed. He asked me what my state was famous for, naturally I said 10,000 lakes and the Mall of America. He said the lakes were more impressive, my inner fashionista might disagree. Edward has been traveling for 15 years, he made all of his money off of a club he started after university and then sold it and has been traveling ever since. He is single with no children, trust me, that makes sense when you meet him… Once we FINALLY arrived at the airport (I was four hours early because I hate being late so I went way early… I know, lame) He followed me through the airport because we had the same terminal, we shook hands and he corrected me on how to say my own name because he believes my name is just a play off of the abbey’s and monasteries throughout his home country, but that’s fine, I was happy to see him go. BYE EDWARD, FOREVER. Was not sad to see him go, so that started my free travel adventure by myself.
Then, I had four hours of waiting at the airport to go. I checked my bag, went through security, was frisked by a airport security woman who thought I was concealing something within my bra which was interesting… I obviously was not. She was feeling the under wire of my bra and said “I just need to make sure these aren’t harnessing anything other than your breasts…” Like what? Ew stop. So that was an experience… I walked around the airport, ate at a restaurant by myself, read a little, wrote a little… No wifi, so I couldn’t work on a blog but I found ways to pass the time. Then, after four hours, I got on my plane with no hassle and had no one in the two seats next to me! How nice is that. It was glorious, so I napped all the way to Portugal, just a quick 2 hours.
When I arrived, I had to find a taxi to the apartment that I was staying in. My friend Francisca, who I met in Vienna in my German class and she also lived in my dorm, contacted her friends who she shares an apartment with in Lisbon and they offered to host my friend Brooke and I. That was the biggest blessing of free travel. Once I got a taxi, I hopped in (BMW, not bad eh) and he began to drive me with the windows rolled down past palm trees through the warm night air. Feeling the warmth over me was just a sign that I was in for an awesome 5 days. When I arrived at the apartment, I went up to the door but didn’t know which apartment it was so I just did what any lost person would and pressed all of the buzz buttons on the outside of the door thinking, someone has to let me in… hahahah so many people did. Then, I had to wander up tons of flights of stairs, trying to find the apartment. Then, I heard my dear friend Brooke’s voice and I was ecstatic, I sprinted up the stairs to her and we went into the apartment to debrief about our travel days. Brooke had traveled from Switzerland alone to meet me so we both had stories to share. It was so nice to see a familiar face and be finally comfortable after a long day of traveling alone. We talked, and went to bed to rest the night away.
The next morning, we decided to sleep in a little and then went to lunch, on the way to lunch in the subway, we saw this cool thing below… had to take a picture with it.
We had an awesome lunch and YES, I ate that whole pizza, no shame.
Then we decided, this is basically our vacation, let’s take touristy pictures and get our nails done and massages. We did just that.
Brookie and I 🙂
We tried on weird clothes… I actually almost considered buying this, no joke. It’s kinda cute in a totally ugly way.
That night, we went back to the apartment and did homework, went to bed early, relaxed finally.
The next day, we took a train to Belem. So, Santa Maria de Belém, or just Belém, whose name is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehem, is a civil parish of the municipality of Lisbon, in central Portugal.
And of course went here to get the famous Portuguese egg tart pastry!
Wikipedia says “It is believed that pastéis de nata were created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jeronimos Monastery in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belem, in Lisbon: for this reason, they are alternately known as Pastéis de Belém. During Portuguese medieval history, the convents and monasteries of Portugal produced large quantities of eggs, whose egg-whites were in demand for starching of clothes (such as nuns’ habits) and also in wineries (where they were used in the clearing of wines, such as Porto). It was quite common for these Portuguese monasteries and convents to produce many confections with the leftover egg yolks, resulting in a proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.”
All I know, was the pastry was AWESOME.
Pictures of da pastryyy!
Also, got some Starbucks orange juice. So, clearly I started off my morning right.
I also bought this bag the day before when Brooke and I were out pampering ourselves. I really love it.
The beauty of the sun… Seeing the sun after being in Czech and Poland where it was quite cold for weeks was so nice. I also had just left cold and rainy London so this was so nice.
Saw this cool thing…
Then, as Brooke and I walked towards the Tagus river we saw the Monument to the Discoveries. It is a monument in honor of the Portuguese discoveries and exploration, through which they explored the African coast as well as colonizing selected areas of Africa. Discovered an eastern route to India that rounded the Discovered Brazil, and explored the Indian Ocean. They also established trading routes throughout most of Southern Asia, and sent the first direct European maritime trade and diplomatic missions to China and Japan. Very cool stuff!
It was such a beautiful sight.
Brookie lounging in the sun.
Then, that same day we took a train to Cascais… WHERE WE FOUND THE BEACH.
Finally a reason for sunglasses!
Then, after a day of lounging in the sun and absorbing as much sun as we could, we headed back to the apartment to go out to dinner with our lovely hosts. We were hosted by two girls and a boy, Maria, Claudia and Daniel. They were so awesome.
We went to dinner with Maria, her school colleague Jorge and Claudia and it was a blast to get a chance to talk and learn from each other. Then, we went walking the town! Jorge and Maria are both studying tourism and so they had fun showing us the city and sharing its history with us. Seeing how much Maria loved showing us Lisbon, her passion, made Brooke and I fall in love with it.
Coolest elevator I have ever seen.
Beautiful overlook of the city.
Claudia and Jorge!
After dinner we headed down to a bar in bairro alto to meet up with Daniel, our other host. It was such a fun night full of laughter. Our hosts were so amazing.
Of course the next day, Brooke and I went back to Cacais, to the beach.
Toes in the sand 🙂
Then we had dinner at Cascais and took the train back to spend the night at the apartment packing to leave. But not before Brookie told me to take a picture of the awesome view from our hosts balcony!
The next day was travel day! We were to travel back to Vienna. So we woke up and walked around Lisbon in the morning.
Brooke and I 🙂
I love being near the water.
I had some gelato for breakfast and lounged on this fountains ledge.
Coolest entrance to any Starbucks I have ever seen.
We spent the morning relaxing before going to the airport. I had some earl grey tea 🙂
Bronek is my new nickname for Brookie. I love it.
Anyways, I had an amazing time in Portugal. It was such a restful 5 days that I got to spend with a dear friend and meet new awesome people as well. My hosts were so kind, fun and hospitable. Seeing Lisbon through their eyes was more valuable than anything I could have imagined for free travel. I can’t thank them enough for being awesome and letting us stay with them! I will always remember the memories I made in Portugal. Looking forward to the day I can come back!
A little update on where I am now: CROATIA. I am currently in Lovran, Croatia in a hotel that overlooks the Adriatic Sea. It is a very beautiful place and my group gets to be here for the next ten days! My next post will be about my time at the castle that my group stayed at in Millstatt, Austria for three weeks. That post will include details from the visit from my parents, my weekend in Salzburg and my paragliding experience! Hopefully, I’ll have that coming soon for ya’ll. Until next time!