I have completed B1 Portuguese!

Today I completed an 80-hour B1 Portuguese Language Course at A Universidade de Lisboa! This has been my main motive for coming to Lisbon this month, and now that it’s over, I will be flying back to the UK again on Friday.

I am pleased to have completed the course with a high grade, but what I am most impressed with, is how I managed to get up and into class for 9am every morning! Nevertheless, both this course and living in Lisbon in general for the last four and a half weeks, have helped put me in good stead with my Portuguese knowledge for when I start final year in September. I have brushed up on my tenses, improved speaking, writing and even learned some new grammatical points I didn’t know before,

We also focused on listening exercises (the horror). Fortunately, after having tuned my hearing quite a bit to European Portuguese in the classroom and on the streets of Lisbon, the voices on the audio recordings don’t scare me as much as they used to. Instead of going totally blank and pleading my teacher for the Brazilian audio equivilent (as the accent is easier to understand) when I was in second year, I can now pick up a lot more than I used to. And that, is progress.

After listening to the European accent more and more during my Year Abroad, especially during the Portuguese classes in Perpignan and Salamanca, I have lost any form of Brazilian accent I had originally picked up in Sheffield and I am now a true European Portuguese speaker, “shhhh”-ing and all. I still have a way to go with my language learning but this course was a great way to revise topics I already knew and move on from there.

There were some aspects of the course I didn’t enjoy; for example, there was no computer in the classroom, and most of our activities were based out of a grammar book which was extremely dull at times, yet still effective. The teacher made it clear she would rather have a room with a computer and projector to make our classes more interesting, so this was a problem concerning the organisation of the course and who assigned the classrooms. It was difficult to stay focused as the activities were not as varied as they could have been and I feel we could have improved more if we could have watched videos, read online articles etc. in class for discussion, instead of gap-filling pages upon pages of grammar sheets. Despite this, I still feel I benefited from the course but it’s something they need to improve upon for the future, especially with demanding such high course fees.

Another major factor was that there wasn’t much energy in the room; there was a general lack of interest from some people, which all in all gave off a negative vibe. Very few classmates seemed interested in contributing to discussions, which made some awkward silences at times. I would just sit there wishing someone else would speak up instead of the same 4 people. It is nice to hear varying opinons and voices once in a while as otherwise the 4 hours of classes just dragged.

Moreover, it was the final day of classes today, yet disappointingly only half the class had turned up. It was a shame more than anything as we didn’t all get to say goodbye before we went our seperate ways across the globe, but rather shocking too, as we all had individual assessed speaking presentations still to do, and this would have affected the absentees’ final grades (but that’s not my problem).

On a happier note, to celebrate finishing the course this evening, Sarah, Helen and I went to the Hard Rock Café for a meal. This was my first time at a Hard Rock café and I nearly fainted when our server decided to casually sit down at the table with us to ask us for our order. So American and I am so not used to this familiarity. I was such a confused and awkward Brit in that particular moment. The portions were absolutely huge, we admitted defeat and didn’t order dessert after sharing a platter of nachos to start and then I had the ‘fiesta burger’ which had the most amazing jalapeno/salsa/pico de gallo sauce. We could barely roll up the hill to Bairro Alto afterwards, where we met Susana at A Tasca do Chico to listen to some fado for an hour.

Tasca do Chico

Tasca do Chico

I went to A Tasca do Chico in February on my weekend visit to Lisbon on a Saturday night, as that was where our hostel recommended us to listen to fado. We learned the hard way, that their fado nights are exclusively on Mondays and Wednesdays. We ended up going somewhere else for a different experience which I blogged about here.

This evening, A Tasca do Chico was packed when we arrived at 9pm, but there was some space at the bar where we ordered ourselves glasses of vinho verde (green wine). It was so hot and packed and it was uncomfortable to stand after eating so much food. I couldn’t see the fadista sing from my position at the bar, but as ever, the music was beautiful and worth being there just to listen. I’m glad I had a second opportunity to listen to fado and I would recommend it to anyone coming to Lisbon; I’d also advise you not to get scammed into paying for an expensive meal to experience it. There are places in Lisbon, like A Tasca do Chico, where it is possible to listen to fado for free, and just pay for food and/or drinks, but I understand everyone is looking for different things.

Vinho verde (green wine)

Vinho verde (green wine)

Tomorrow is my final full day in Lisbon, but I haven’t decided what I am doing other than going out for lunch and packing my suitcase. I am making sure I consume at least one pastel de nata every day, because I don’t know how I am going to be able to cope without their deliciousness in my life back home.

Pastel de nata from my favourite fábrica, Manteigaria!

Pastel de nata from my favourite fábrica, Manteigaria!

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11 Months of Travel in 11 Pictures

It occuried to me earlier this week, that it has been a whole eleven months already, since I set off to France in August 2014 to start my Year Abroad. It feels just like yesterday and yet a million years ago at the same time, and it is all going to end in a week’s time, just like that.

I have had an incredible year, experiencing living abroad and documenting it all as I have gone along, and I hope you, my readers, friends and family, have enjoyed the journey to France, Spain and Portugal with me! Although it was a tough selection, I have chosen a select 11 photographs to sum up each of these last wonderful 11 months (featured image doesn’t count!)…

August 2014

Perpignan, the arrival (26th August)

Perpignan, the arrival (26th August), busy spent registering at university and opening a bank account, oh and at the beach!

September 2014

A month full of travel: Banyuls-sur-mer, Collioure, Carcassonne, Villefranche-de-Conflent and GIRONA

A month full of travel before university in Perpi became too serious: Banyuls-sur-mer, Collioure, Carcassonne, Villefranche-de-Conflent and GIRONA

October 2014

Julia, me and Kam at the Vallée des tortues near Perpignan!

Julia, me and Kam at the Vallée des tortues near Perpignan, one of my favourite day-trips from this semester! Also went to Salses, a weekend trip Nîmes, saw Émilie Simon in concert, and met up with friends in Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille AND Avignon this month!

November 2014

Day trip to Montpellier!

Day trip to Montpellier! Also went to Barcelona this month for a second time.

December

Repas de départ. Leaving meal in Perpi before I flew home.

Photo taken from my repas de départ (leaving meal) in Perpi. Also went to Barcelona for the third time and Collioure for the Christmas Market before eventually taking my exams and flying home 😦 Was very sad to leave.

January 2015

Salamanca, the arrival (29th January). Very cold!

Salamanca, the start of the second half of my Year Abroad (29th January). Very cold, don’t let those blue skies fool you!

February 2015

Me and Becca in Toledo! Also went to Ciudad Rodrigo for Carnava, Segovia, Ávilal and Lisbon this month!

Me and Becca in Toledo! Also went to Ciudad Rodrigo for Carnaval, Segovia, Ávila and Lisbon this month!

March 2015

Las Fallas in Valencia was incredible! Also had a fantastic weekend in Bilbao, Semana Santa in Salamanca and a weekend trip home!

Las Fallas in Valencia was incredible! Also had a fantastic weekend in Bilbao with James (we are now obsessed with Basque pintxos), Semana Santa in Salamanca, a weekend trip home AND moved flats in Salamanca!

April 2015

Me with Becca exploring the beautiful Alhambra in Granada! Also went to Mérida and Sevilla this month.

May 2015

View from the Cathedral of La Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca. May was exam month, so I got to explore some more of Salamanca at the weekends.

View of the Cathedral from La Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca. May was exam and essay writing month, so I got to explore some more of Salamanca at the weekends instead of travel elsewhere for a change.

June 2015

Photo taken in Porto, during a lovely moonlit walk along the river with Nathan and Julio! Also visited Madrid this month and said “hasta luego” to Salamanca…

July 2015

July has been spent attending a Portuguese language summer course in Lisbon and exploring more of this beautiful city! Photo taken at the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, my favourite viewpoint in the city!

Thank you to everyone that has and continues to read/comment/follow RobynBobbingAround! 

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Lisbon from Above: Guide to the BEST miradouros

In Lisbon, everyone has their favorite miradouro (panoramic view). Locals and tourists alike, day and night, no one can resist stopping to admire the staggering views you can find dotted around the city built on seven hills.

You can discover a miradouro simply by chance, especially when wandering around the narrow, steep cobbled streets and staircases in the old neighbourhoods. The miradouro is one of the many aspects which makes Lisbon such a charming and romantic city. Sitting on a shaded bench in a hilltop location, sipping a refreshing freshly-squeezed lemonade all whilst marvelling at the historic monuments and the Tejo below… Welcome to Lisbon!

Below is a list of 9 miradouros where I have been able to enjoy Lisbon from above. Let’s start the countdown to my ultimate, personal favourite at number 1:

9. MIRADOURO DA GRAÇA

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This was in fact the first miradouro I experienced, during my first visit to Lisbon in March 2015. I went on the Chill-Out Lisbon Free Walking Tour which finished here. It is located right by the Graça Church and is easily accessed by the Tram 28. It has a great view over the Castelo de São Jorge and over central Lisbon.

8. MIRADOURO DE SÃO PEDRO DE ALCÂNTARA

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This is located at the top of Bairro Alto and right by the top of the Elevador da Glória, so is easily accessed by public transport. I stumbled across this whilst walking home on Sunday evening, I do love stumbling across a good miradouro…

Although a very popular miradouro with views over central Lisbon and the castle, it is a side view and there isn’t much to see for the River Tejo. Still, there are drinks available and even a little park/green area where you are welcome to sit and relax in. There is also a fountain which makes the viewpoint even nicer.

7. MIRADOURO DO ARCO DA RUA AUGUSTA 

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This miradouro can be found at the top of the arch on Rua Augusta at the Praça do Comércio. This viewpoint is not free and costs 2.50€ for the priviledge of getting up there. There is a lift which takes you most of the way and then there is a flight of steps to take you up to the roof. The view shows central Lisbon in a way no other miradouro can show though, as it runs parallel down Rua Augusta and there is also a unique view onto the Praça do Comércio and the River Tejo. You can also see the castle, Convento do Carmo ruins and the Elevador Santa Justa not far away either. This miradouro is as central as you can get.

6. PARK

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PARK is the name of a rooftop bar located in Bairro Alto above a multi-storey car park. It gives great views over Lisbon and has a pleasant atmosphere to enjoy the view with some tasty refreshments in the afternoon and evening. Easy to get to by public transport (Tram 28 or Metro Baixa-Chiado).

5. MIRADOURO DA SANTA LUZIA

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During a trip on the Tram 28 through Alfama before going to the Castelo when my boyfriend was visiting, I spotted a terrace with tiles, foliage and a pond which looked very much like this miradouro I had seen online. We decided to hop off the tram earlier than we anticipated to check it out. Luckily the castle is not far to walk from here (less than 10 minutes uphill). The tiles are in somewhat of a disrepair which made them look a little sad, but I believe they are starting to fix them. There is a café here and a few nice places to sit and enjoy the view in the shade. Worth the nice detour.

4. MIRADOURO DO PARQUE EDUARDO VII (Marques de Pombal)

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This miradouro is located at the top of the hill of the Parque Eduardo VII. The easiest way to get here is by getting off the metro at Marques de Pombal and walking up the hill (5 mins walk).

You will find yourself in one of the busiest round-abouts in the city and you wonder why you are here the first time, but I promise, it gets better. After walking all the way up, you turn around to face the park and Marques de Pombal below, and you find the most unique view of Lisbon, with the River Tejo in the distance and the castle on the left. I really, really loved this view and although it is out of the way of the historical center, I would recommend getting the metro and climbing up a hill especially for this. Did you know, Shakira filmed the video for the song Dare here?! #funfact

3. ELEVADOR DA SANTA JUSTA


This is not just a miradouro; the Elevador da Santa Justa, located in Baixa, is also one of Lisbon’s most iconic monuments. It is the last remaining elevator which is still in service in Lisbon and is therefore worth the visit for that in its own right! The architecture is Neo-Gothic and you can admire the lift as it transports you up to the top for the miradouro. Return trip (up and down), costs 5€ in cash, or as it is run by the CASSIS network, if you have a Viva Viagem card, you can swipe that which is cheaper. Better yet, if you are a local resident (like me) and you have a Lisboa Viva card with a monthly pass, the ride on the elevador is free! This definitely helped make me like this miradouro more!

In order to get to the roof which is the offical viewing deck, you have to pay 1.50€ to get up there. You can stay on the level of the elevator which is more or less the same, but the viewing deck is open-air and gives better opportunities for photography and allows you to appreciate the view more. We of course paid the 1.50€ for the privilege of climbing up to the viewing deck and we were not disappointed, it was indeed a fantastic view. I would very much recommend it, but I can understand it is one of the more “expensive” miradouros, but worth it if it is something you are interested in. The miradouro gives a glimpse of the castle in the distance, the ruins of the Convento do Carmo right next door and even a look down onto Rossio Square. There is also an Italian restaurant/café which you can enjoy on the level with the lift.

In order to make your visit to this miradouro more economical, you can actually bypass the elevator experience. Instead, walk up Calle Sacremento to Largo do Carmo and follow the bridge to access the viewing terrace.

2. MIRADOURO DO CASTELO DE SÃO JORGE 

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The Castle offers one of the most beautiful miradouros in the city, plus it also doubles as an important monument, so you’re hitting two birds with one stone here. The panoramic view stretches a long way around the castle, which means you can walk along the castle walls and climb the castle towers to find different angles to see Lisbon. There are many places to sit and relax and soak in the panoramic views on benches. There is a restaurant/café which boasts the view as well and even a vendor selling glasses of wine for you to sip whilst enjoying your visit around the ruins. The castle is definitely a must during any visit to Lisbon, but you have to pay to get in (5€/students).

1. MIRADOURO DA NOSSA SENHORA DO MONTE

Finally we have come to the final miradouro in this list which also my personal favourite!

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Nossa Senhora do Monte is perhaps one of the least visited miradouros – due to the fact it is not close to public transport links and is also the highest point in the entire city! The easiest way to get there is to walk up from Martim Moniz which you can get to by metro or the Tram 28. The walk is about 15 minutes uphill but what awaits at the top is definitely worth the climb.

There were several stalls offering fresh drinks to replenish our thirst, and we opted for a fresh lemonade whilst sitting on a bench and enjoying the magnificent views whilst we got our breath back!

On an old, forgotten wall to one side of the viewpoint are some tiles which reflect the country Portugal used to be: men going off to sea during the age of the Discoveries: “Boa viagem, Lisboa espera por ti” / Have a safe trip! Lisbon is waiting for you.

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It’s true that Lisbon is not lacking in dazzling panoramic views but the Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte is by far my favourite.

Do you have a favourite miradouro in Lisbon? Is it not included on this list?

Are you going to be on the hunt for your favourite miradouro when you come to Lisbon?

Let me know in the comments!

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Sintra and the Pálacio da Pena at night

Please click here for my first post, Sintra: An Enchanting World (March 2015)

I previously visited beautiful Sintra for a day-trip back in March, during my first visit to Lisbon. I loved it so much that I have been eager to return ever since! There is so much to see and do there: palaces, gardens, castles. Despite spending two days there now, I still have not seen everything and Sintra deserves time to be fully appreciated. I’m  intending to go back in two weeks time, when James comes to visit so I can finally see the Castel dos Mouros and return to my absolute favourite for him to appreciate too, Quinta da Regaleira.

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Quinta da Regaleira when i visited in March

We arrived in Sintra at 3:30pm and bought some tasty queijadas (pastries from Sintra) from a pastry shop on the walk from the train station. We decided to go to the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra, the palace in the town center which is characterised by its two very big, white chimneys. We ideally wanted to go to the Castelo dos Mouros, but we would have had to go up the hill to the Castelo, come down for dinner and then go back up again for the Pálacio da Pena later on, so this plan seemed more ideal.

The Castelo dos Mouros on the hilltop

Sintra

Like almost everywhere it seems in Sintra, entry for the Pálacio Nacional de Sintra was not cheap (10€) and there was no student price. The Pálacio Nacional does not take long to look around and it would be a dissapointment to visit if you were to compare it to the likes of the Pálacio da Pena on the hill, which is simply magnificent. If you have only a short visit to Sintra, I would not include this on the itinerary, as Pena and Quinta da Regaleira are much more enjoyable.

Pálacio Nacional de Sintra

After our visit to the palace, it was time for an early dinner. Sintra is extremely touristy and there are plenty of places to eat. We opted for a small restaurant where I ate Bacalhau à Lagareiro, my favourite Portuguese cod dish, which has onions, garlic, potatos and which in this instance was swimming in olive oil!

So. much. olive. oil!

The main attraction of going to Sintra yesterday (04/07/15) was for a charity evening being run at the Pálacio da Pena for the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Sintra. Yesterday evening, the Pálacio da Pena was exceptionally open from 8pm-midnight in solidarity for this charity. The usual entrance fee of 14€ was waivered, instead tents were set up outside the entrance to the Palace which housed food banks and a donation of foodstuffs allowed you free entry!

I just handed over a can of chopped tomatos I had brought from my kitchen, but if you didn’t bring anything, you were able to give a donation of 3€.

Beautiful even in the fog

Thousands of people turned up for the event – thousands! We expected there to be a lot of people trying to get to the Palace, so instead of waiting until 8pm to get the free bus from the Train Station, we took a tuk tuk from the town center which climbed up the hair-raisingly steep and winding road. The traffic to get there was a nightmare, there were obviosully a lot of locals from the region who had come for the event and were trying to park near the palace. The event had been soley advertised in Portuguese, not English, and maybe this explains why we heard hardly anyone at all speak any language other than Portuguese all evening/saw any tourists.

By the time we reached near the palace, we noticed there was already a queue forming all the way up the road to get in! We jumped out of the tuk tuk and joined the queue which managed to move very quickly. It wasn’t long before we were inside the palace grounds, climbing up to the fairytale palace.

Me in the palace gardens

The weather turned out to be just as foggy as it had been as when I visited in March. The fog makes the park and palace seem to be surrounded in some magical mist…

Fog over the palace gardens!

Me at the Pálacio da Pena

We waited until sunset for the lights to go on, but we couldn’t really see the sunset as it was so foggy and cloudy. By this point, the grounds were heaving with people and it was difficult to move around. We ended up walking back down to catch a bus to the train statiion at 10pm. All the way down through the palace grounds, we went past the longest queue of people waiting to get inside! It was absolute madness. We found another queue for the free bus which came every 20 minutes, but there were already so many people waiting for it, we would have had to have waited at least an hour to get on one, and we were worried about missing the last train back to Lisbon.

Suddenly, another tuk tuk came around the corner and we managed to secure a ride before anyone could even think of getting the idea. We descended the winding road amongst loads of traffic. Some people were even walking down the road, without any street lights on! It was very dangerous, many even had small children and babies in push-chairs which was insane but, that’s Portugal for you, I guess?

Overall, I had a wonderful afternoon and evening exploring more of Sintra and I’m looking forward to returning very soon.

Até breve,

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Bem-vindo a Lisboa!

Today I started my classes for the Curso de Verão da Lingua Portuguesa (Portuguese language summer school) at the Universidade de Lisboa in Lisbon. The course is going to last for the next four weeks, every weekday 9am – 1pm.

I was surprised by how quick the journey took this morning, from my studio in Bairro Alto to the university campus which is on the other side of the city; it took 25 minutes, most of which is spent on the metro, and I am glad, as I am not used to such early starts!

I found out today as well that I had been placed in a B1 Level class which I am pleased with, as this is the level I was hoping to take. The content was just the right level for me which is a relief, especially after the horror of the terrible Spanish language classes I had to take for three weeks during my Erasmus placement in Salamanca. The teacher actually got to learn all our names in three hours, yet my teacher in Salamanca never even bothered to do such a thing even after three weeks of teaching us, so this I feel, is a good start.

Arrival

Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

I arrived in Lisbon on Monday afternoon and stayed in Goodmorning Hostel located in Restauradores. I stayed at Goodmorning Hostel last time I was in Lisbon in March and I chose to stay here again as I really loved it – especially the breakfast! Once again, the staff were exceptional and go out of their way to make you feel welcome and give you loads of useful tips to enjoy Lisbon. I didn’t do any of their day trips but I did the Portuguese Tapas evening and the Cooking Class where we learned how to cook the Portuguese dish Bacalhau à Brás, which was delicious but very filling! Their day-trip to Sintra and Cabo da Roca looked really good though and I was disappointed I couldn’t join them for it.

During my time in the hostel, I didn’t feel compelled to visit places frantically like the other people staying in the hostel, as unlike them, I am lucky enough to stay here for a month and not just a few days, so I was happy to take things slowly! I did end up however visiting the Castelo de São Jorge on Tuesday, which has the most impressive miradouro (panoramic view) over Lisbon.

Castelo

Castelo de São Jorge

Wednesday, I ended up also going to the Oceanário de Lisboa, the aquarium, which is apparently the second largest in Europe, but after spending the most amazing day at the Oceanográfic in Valencia (Best in Europe), nothing can compare, and I left feeling very disappointed and thought the tickets were overpriced and would not recommend it.

I am quite proud as well to say I even sorted my “Lisboa Viva card,” so I now have a monthly metro pass in Lisbon.

My Lisboa Viva card

My Lisboa Viva card

This will come in handy as it will save me a lot of money as I will be using the metro every day. I managed to fill out all the forms and speak with the lady behind the desk all in Portuguese too, which felt like a good achievement. However it was a complete nightmare even to find the desk within Marquês de Pombal station as it is a big station and has many different exists – it is not all connected – why, why?!?!

The staff would not even allow me to borrow their pens as they just replied “they are MINE”, like I was some pen thief, so I had to find a newsagents sort of place and buy a Bic pen just to fill out my paperwork without having to go all the way back to my hostel (the one time I don’t carry a pen!)…

Really though, filling out the form was easy. All you need is:

  • Passport-style photograph
  • Passport
  • An address in Portugal (no need for proof of this)

Luckily I had all these things and I was able to return the next morning to collect my card. Usually it costs 6€ and will come in 10 working days, but I wanted it the following day which instead costs 12€. I was not able to pay by card as the machine only accepts Portuguese cards (I swear she was just trying to make things more difficult…), so I had to leave the queue to take out money from an ATM nearby.

On the way out of Marquês de Pombal metro station with my new Lisboa Viva card, I walked up to the miradouro nearby, and I must say that so far it is my favourite!

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Last night, I was finally able to move into my studio flat in Bairro Alto – I could not be more central, it is amazing and most importantly, it has air conditioning! Luckily, it is completely double-glazed as well, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep due to the noise from the bars below – I am living in the nightlife district of Lisbon!

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

I am pleased with living so centrally as I feel I will get a better experience exploring the old streets of Lisbon.

So far, Lisboa is holding up to its wonderful charm and I am looking forward to getting to know this city better!

Até logo,

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Salamanca, te echaré de menos

(Salamanca, I will miss you)

I have had a fantastic time living and studying in the beautiful ciudad dorada, Salamanca, for four months. It is a small city but it is absolutely beautiful. I’d like to share nine of my favourite things to do since living here:

9. Tapas

What is Spain without tapas? My favourite spots are: La Mariseca on Rua Mayor (I love their mini burgers) and Atelier which is a veggie/vegan tapas bar.

8. Casa Lis

The Casa Lis is an Art Deco/Art Nouveau museum in the most beautiful building with incredible stained glass windows and ceilings.

Casa Lis ceiling

Casa Lis ceiling

7. Climb up the towers of the Universidad Pontifica de Salamanca

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Personally, this gives the best panoramic views of the city but the climb up the Cathedral Towers nearby is also worthwhile.

6. La Universidad de Salamanca

I loved studying in beautiful surroundings every day at university. The Languages Faculty, spread across three buildings, is a tourist site in its own right (El Colegio de Anaya). Not only this, but the main university building in the Patio de Escuelas is magnificent and even holds a museum about the history of the university inside, the oldest university in Spain! Next door to the Patio de Escuelas is Escuelas menores, a small courtyard which also holds El Cielo de Salamanca, a beautiful painting fromt he 15th century.

The famous main facade of the university

The famous main facade of the university

The inner courtyard of the Languages department!

The inner courtyard of the Languages department!

5. Micro-theatre at La Malhablada

I only discovered La Malhablada in May, which is a shame as I really enjoyed going! From Thursday-Sunday, they hold “mini-plays” of 15 minutes which you can see for 3€ each. I have seen three so far and would like to go see some more this weekend before I leave Salamanca. It’s especially good to practice listening to Spanish, but of course, if you don’t speak Spanish, this isn’t going to be of much interest unfortunately.

4. Relaxing in Huerto de Calixto gardens

A hidden gem

A hidden gem

It’s very difficult to stumble across these gardens unless you are walking around or have already heard of them. Huerto de Calixto is a small garden, tucked away in a corner near the cathedral on the remains of the city wall. It is never overly busy and is a great place to go to sit, read, have lunch and enjoy nature. Although Salamanca has parks, it doesn’t have much greenery in the center amongst the golden buildings, so this is a nice little haven.

3. Dar un paseo al lado del río

Relaxing by the Rio Tormes

Relaxing by the Rio Tormes

(Walking along the river). The River Tormes is a great place to stretch your legs: walk, run, jog, rollerblade, it’s the place to go. It’s lovely and sunny during the day to sunbathe and cool in the evening.

2. El Laurel

The best nachos and guacamole ever (we got free refills!)

The best nachos and guacamole ever (we got free refills!)

Dessert

Dessert was glorious

When Spain is characteristically known as the land of jamón, it is unusual to find not only a vegetarian ta

pas bar, but also a vegetarian restaurant here! El Laurel has been one of my favourite restaurants here in Salamanca – great quality food and I will probably spend my final meal here. Best to book in advance because I have been turned away as they were all full up before now!

1. Plaza Mayor (usually coupled with a frozen yogurt)

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The Plaza Mayor is the central hub of the city and rightly so. It’s where you go to meet up with friends in the evening, it’s great for people-watching, it’s extremely clean so you can just sit on the floor in the sun – it’s just so pretty to look at. I especially love walking through during the evening when it is all lit up. There is a reason why Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor is the most beautiful in the whole of Spain.

So, this is it! The next few days, I will be doing a combination of a few of these things here before I leave.

What do you like most about Salamanca?

Hasta luego,

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Five Days in Porto

Porto was one of the few places I hadn’t managed to squeeze into a weekend this semester, so I am glad to have finally ticked it off my list!  When I announced I was spending five whole days there though, some were not convinced; apparently five days is too much time. I had just finished my last exam a few days before, and with just over a week free before I leave for Madrid, it seemed like a great idea to explore somewhere new. Although maybe a beach trip to Malaga would also have been nice…

With only weekends available to travel around studying at university, some of my trips have felt rushed over the last few months, e.g. I only spent one day in Lisbon and one in Sintra before it was time to leave. On top of this, I have come back on many occasions to Salamanca at 3am in the morning, after uncomfortable night coach/train journeys, exhausted. Spending five days in Porto allowed me to visit the city at a slower pace, take a few day trips (Guimarães and Aveiro) and rest when I needed to, which allowed it not just to be somewhere else to visit, but also a bit of time-out to relax. Porto, just like most places in Portugal, is extremely hilly, and I have returned feeling like I have had a good workout.

Walking down to Ribera, massive hill

Walking down to Ribeira, down a massive hill

I traveled by Blablacar on the way with two French Erasmus students studying in Madrid and a Polish Erasmus student in Salamanca, which was fun. The drive was much more direct than the six hour coach journey I took yesterday on the way back to Salamanca.

I stayed at Gallery Hostel, which is highly rated on TripAdvisor. I’d 100% recommend staying there, I had an absolutely fantastic experience and had no complaints at all. They go above and beyond to make your stay enjoyable!

Porto is currently a whole 10 degrees centigrade lower than Salamanca (Porto is 20-24), so it was a comfortable temperature to explore the city in the day, no jacket necessary and then something light on top if you are out at night. Coming back to Salamanca, I was hit with the heat, it has warmed up so much since I have been in Porto! What always confuses me is the time difference between Portugal and Spain (Portugal is one hour behind) and also the fact the Portuguese like to eat their evening meals earlier (8:30pm rather than 10pm) – although I prefer this, it is so strange when coming from Spain, where restaurants don’t open until 9pm! Also, tap water is actually drinkable in Portugal, so it felt weird to be filling up my water bottle from the tap, instead of buying those massive 5L water bottles from the corner shop in Spain.

In all honesty, although Porto is a fantastic city to visit, I have to hold on to the feeling that it in no way compares to Lisbon, which is in a league of its own – I am just so in love with Lisbon, it is hard to beat!

I love walking around cities but whenever I walked around the streets of Porto, I could go from a very touristy area, turn a corner and suddenly enter a very dodgy neighbourhood without warning during the day. Then I would turn another corner and be out in the clear again. And the fact that everywhere is so hilly, I could only escape at a certain pace without collapsing from exhaustion. These pockets of unsafe areas come without warning and I’d say they are difficult to avoid unless you stick to the main streets, but if you do that, you will also miss some of the most beautiful panoramic views and buildings in the city. During the evenings I never was out on my own, I always made sure I was with others. This is just the one thing I felt uncomfortable with during my trip, but nothing bad actually happened.

It was great to see a new part of the country, visit Nathan from Sheffield, who is studying in Porto this semester and also, to practice speaking Portuguese! I’m glad to be back here in Salamanca for my final four days though, and being away in Portugal made me realise just how much I am going to miss living here. I don’t know when I am next coming back to Spain, but I know I only have to wait 25 days until I jet off to Lisbon for a month! My departure from Porto was therefore much less emotional than what I can imagine will be the case when I leave Salamanca on Monday…

This is just a general update about what I have been up to. I will be uploading a post soon about the highlights of my trip to Porto next time – there were quite a few interesting ones.

Até logo! (See you soon in Portuguese)

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