Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I left Portugal yesterday for the Netherlands - because of the way flights worked, though, I had to fly back through London Gatwick, which was cheap enough with Easy Jet.

Everything went fine, I got to Gatwick and had a couple hours to kill. Then little things started going wrong. First, the shuttle between terminals was down, so they crammed people onto busses. Fine. The flight to Amsterdam was fine, but when it landed there was another plane still at our gate that had to be de-iced, so we sat for a while waiting for that. We finally got a new gate, and I got passed customs and immigration fine. Then the train to Utrecht was delayed 10 minutes, and I couldn't quite figure out what number I had to dial to call Natalie - my phone has a British SIM card but abroad it connects through whatever lines are there. Then apparently international rates ate up my credit, because suddenly I was down to like, 2 pounds of credit. I got on the train, and then when it got to Utrecht we ended up sitting outside the station for like 45 minutes because the tracks were broken or something ridiculous. Maybe they were frozen over? Then when I got inside the station it was crazy crowded and I STILL couldn't figure out my phone so this sweet security guard let me use his and I decided it was easier to just take a taxi to Natalie's rather than the bus and her having to come meet me, etc. So I grabbed a taxi, and we're driving fine, and THEN HE HIT ANOTHER CAR. So then I sat around waiting for them to exchange information and stuff. Luckily the taxi was on a distance meter and not time.

So then I get to Natalie's place but my phone is now dead, and apparently when roaming TalkMobile charges for incoming calls, too, so Nat couldn't even call me. Finally I just asked someone walking around if I could use his phone, and I found Natalie, and everything was good again. (Nat is a friend I made when I was living in Holland in 8th grade, and we've kept in touch) It was so great to catch up!

Today she had an exam, and my cousin had other things to do so I went out into Utrecht for 2 and a half hours with Natalie's bike. I sat in a park (where a flock of ducks almost killed me), biked around, went to all my favorite stores (H&M, C&C, HEMA, Blokker, and, of course, the supermarket Albert Heijn.) I found a little cheese stand at a market and bought a hunk of gouda to take back to campus and a smaller, sundried tomato infused round of cheese for the friends I'll be staying with for a few days in London. And I bought my favorite ham and cheese croissants at the store, as well as stroopwafels and these delish cookies I forgot about that have a coffee flavored cripsy shell on the bottom. Yum.

Tomorrow I spend the day with my cousin and aunt - unless my cousin's baby decides to just pop out! And then in evening I'll come back to Natalie's - she and her friends are having an end of term Christmas party that she's invited me too, which I think will be really fun.

We'll see what I do Friday. My flight leaves from Schiphol at 9:30pm, which means I want to be there around 7:30, and I may stick around a while and then take the train to Amsterdam and walk around for a few hours before getting back on and ending my journey at the airport. And then I spend a few days in London with friends, and then I will finally be home after almost 3 full months of bopping around Europe and seeing 5 countries, if we count the Vatican.

What a life.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


As promised, a post about Lisbon so far.

So, I woke up late (aka when we were supposed to leave from a phone call from Ashley), and we rushed a lot, but we made it to the airport with time to spare, and we met another friend there who had spent the night in London.

We flew TAP, which is a Portuguese airline. We got to take 2 carry-on bags, and they served food! So amazing after Ryanair to Rome, which doesn't even have seatback pockets...

We checked into our hostel, which, by the way, is amazing. Ashley and I have a private room, so it's a litle more, but I think Jin Tik is paying about 15 Euro a night for a dorm-style room. Breakfast is included (cereal, bread, and fresh pancakes made all morning!), there's free wifi, it's clean and nice, there's a kitchen, and the door is staffed 24/7. The people also give great suggestions for things to see and food to eat. We're going to write them good recommendations on TripAdvisor and HostelWorld because we are very impressed.

We got a suggestion from the hostel for what to do with our half day. We grabbed some mediocre lunch and then headed to Belem, an old section of the city. Turns out we feel the same way about museums - we don't feel the need to pay much more than a few Euros to go into a place we're not going to spend that much time. We went into part of the old monastary, which was gorgeous, and climbed the Torre de Belem, where we could see over the city and out to the Atlantic (Lisbon is on a river that drains into the sea at the end of Portugal).

We also got some delicious pastries, called pasteis de nata. They are SO tasty. So, so tasty. I am eating so many.

We got an excellent recommendation for dinner, this tiny cafe that didn't look like much, but had AMAZING fish. And they served us balanced meals! I had a swordfish steak, potatoes, and broccoli. So yummy. We crashed pretty early cause none of us had slept much the night before.

The next morning we got up, had pancakes in the hostel (yum!) and then went, on another recommendation, to a flea market on the way to the castle. It seemed like a wash at first, as flea markets can be, but we found some cute stalls towards the middle. I bought most of the rest of my presents (WHY ARE BOYS SO HARD TO SHOP FOR?!) and then we went up to the castle.

First we stopped at this great terraced restaurant, the food wasn't amazing but the view was gorgeous. I had a baguette with chicken and mayo, but so many miles better than chicken mayo in oxford - the chicken had been marinated in ginger, and I had fresh mango juice! So good.

The castle was cool, ruined, of course, but a lot of great views and you could walk around on the walls. We took an old tram - very rickety! - up to another part of the city, where there was another church, as well as Parliament. We walked back to the hostel. After a quick break, we went out for dinner - paella! Not amazing, but it hit the spot :) Afterwards, we walked around a little, just checking out Lisbon.

Today was rainy and a little colder, so we weren't the most revved up. Museums were free, so we went to an art one, which was fine. And I saw the Lisbon mosque in the distance! Then we went to the modern part of town, which wasn't that exciting. Then we took a long break before heading out for wine tasting.

It took us forEVER to find the wine place, and then it turned out to be closed for a conference, so we wandered and found another place. I had a delish tuna steak with warm olive oil and garlic, potatoes, spinach...yum.

And now we're back in the hostel. I'll probably head to bed soon, because I'm exhausted - think I'm getting sick. Tomorrow, our last day here, we head to Sintra, a town about 45 minutes away on a cliff over the ocean. I'm excited! And then Tuesday I head to Utrecht to see Natalie and my cousin Melinche, aunt Meme, and perhaps my cousin's new baby!