Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Partners in Crime

These aren't our best creations, but these two could beat me every day in a face making contest. We followed Johanna's lead on this one. Apparently she likes to stick her tongue out.

Friday, May 24, 2013

What happens when they're not screaming

They learned how to go across the balance beam and slide backwards on the same day:

typical Greta

"Go Lizzie Go!"

just call me Maria von Trapp

Philippa kisses. usually they're way grosser

yes. she drinks black coffee and then asks for more.

rock star

nein nicht Foto!

coolest kid I know

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Portugal Part 2: Lagos

In Lisbon I did quite a bit of sightseeing, but I decided I also needed some time just to be on the beach and relax. I didn't have exact plans, and had a couple ideas of other places to maybe go for a day, but I ended up staying here the whole rest of my trip and having a really hard time leaving.

I got off the bus in Lagos and found the hostel around 2pm. Check in wasn't till 6, so I dropped of my stuff and walked to the closest beach and sat in the shade, because I'd just survived the darkest winter in  Germany and my skin was going through Vitamin D overdose. Eventually I walked to the supermarket to get some fruit and maracuja Fanta (made with real juice, like all Fanta in Europe. so good!). Somewhere along the way I lost my BCXC shirt, which was sad. That shirt saw me through a lot. A lot of runs. I wandered a bit through the pedestrian down town, and finally it was 6 and I could check in. 

After I showered and got settled, people were starting to gather in the little garden. It was a really cool space with lots of bean bags, pillows, little tables, christmas lights, and lots of other things. I talked to some cool guys from Portland, and we seemed to have a lot of similar interests. One of them guessed I ran even though I don't look like it at all, and he said if I was awake in the morning we should go together along the cliffs. 
grotto boat tours
A bunch of people asked me if I was going to the party, which turned out to be a big concert/party one of the surf schools was putting on for charity. I went with a Canadian girl named Tian and a German named Jule to get my wristband. The group of us who ended up going were these three hilarious Australian girls and an Australian guy named Evan, a couple from UMich, Tian and Jule, and a German guy named Dominick who wasn't staying at our hostel but was friends with one of the employees, and had spent a whole season in Lagos a few years ago. The party was okay, but only the last band was good and I was pretty tired. I tied in a handstand contest with Dominick and they were selling quite possibly the best veggie burrito I'd had in my life outside, which I ate at 3am because I never actually had dinner. Eventually, Jule and I took a taxi back at 4:30, because the buses they promised us never came.

I was awake when the guy from Portland said he would go running, but I didn't see him so I just went. Later we ran into him on the beach and he said he saw me leave, but they had to check out so he decided not to catch up to me. I somehow ran up a random road and found the coast and ran 4 miles. It was so beautiful! I came back and ate breakfast, then waited for Tian and Jule to walk back where I had been and look at the grottos. We didn't pay for a boat tour, but it was still really cool. I would have loved to do one of the kayak trips there. 

We went down to the closest beach and stayed there for a couple hours. I actually swam some, even though the water was pretty cold. The coast is filled with little coves, lagoons and caves. It really is amazing! There was also a cat on the beach. 

We got back to the hostel and an old Irish man had offered to make Thai green curry for 5€. It was quite possibly the best meal I've ever had. I was so hungry and the vegetables were beautiful and it was delicious. I hung around and talked and tried to watch some of the conference track meet on my iPod, but most people went to bed fairly early.

not even tired yet!
I ate breakfast and got ready, and then left to walk along the cliffs as far as I could go. I thought I might make it a few towns over, but I wasn't sure exactly how far apart they were on the paths. I got some fruit on my way out, and decided I would just walk until I got hungry. A lot of it was actual hiking! The cliffs would go up and down, and I would have to climb up rocks or through bushes. The sun was pretty hot as well! I spent the whole time amazed at how beautiful it was! I walked past the next town, Luz, and finally stopped in the one past that, Burgau. I ate my fruit and jumped in the water, then I had to get ice cream of course. My Garmin ran out of battery partway, but the way there was 8.62 miles. I did a lot of work on my sandal tan that had already formed.
I got back and bought some vegetables and chickpeas to make dinner. I'm not really sure why I didn't do this sooner, because every hostel had a full kitchen available to use. I also ate a whole bunch of chips because I was on vacation and walked really far and I felt like it. 

I tried to watch the Beloit College Class of 2013 graduate, but the internet was not working to my advantage. I did get to see half of the speech, all of the F's cross the stage pretty much besides Kate Finman, including Matthew Thomas Floyd, and then I checked back later just in time for Betsy. It was weird watching it from so far away on a broken iPod screen. I was actually less nostalgic than I have been a lot this year, probably because I was so happy where I was. But I can't believe it's been a year since I was the one crossing that stage! I should probably stop telling people I just graduated last month... but anyways, I'm so proud of them and I love them and I'm so happy to have found my pole vault family at Beloit! I can't wait to see where we all end up, and to be in the same time zone as most of them in a few months!

After I ate, I went back outside and got to know some new girls from New Zealand that had arrived. We got along really well. One of them had just gotten there and had already lined up a job working at one of the bars! They wanted her to come in and kind of try it out that night, so some people went, but most of us were just decided to stay at the hostel. Going out in Portugal is exhausting because it starts so late! Old ladies like me can only handle so much.


I extended my stay at my hostel to have another day here. I went for a run along beach, then caught the bus to Sagres, the city on the SW corner of Portugal, or as the night guy at my hostel called it, the penis of Portugal. The cliffs were higher and steeper there, and there weren't as many people around. I walked about 2 hours further to Cabo de São Vicente, which is significant somehow and I definitely read about it, but I have no idea why anymore. All I know is the ice cream was more expensive there but I really needed it. 

I walked to the first beach on the way back, and stayed there until the tide was getting pretty high. Then I walked back to Sagres and missed the bus back by 2 minutes. Since I had an hour to kill, I had to get another ice cream bar. It was gold.
the "path" I was following looked like this half the way

Cabo da São Vicente
I got back, made more veggies for dinner, and eventually a bunch of us decided to go visit Val, the Kiwi, at the bar she was working at. We were pretty much the only people there, because it's right before high season starts, so they gave us some special deals for beer. There was also a beer pong table, so these 2 other American sisters and I had to teach everyone how to play. We forgot half the rules and got nostalgic for college, but we managed. After a while we decided to make our way to another bar. On our way we met Dominick, the German guy. Eventually, the group got quite a bit smaller and 4 of us went back to the first place we were and played pool. I'm really bad. Dominick and I also met these Irish girls and he did some card tricks for them and they were super impressed. It had been getting cold and windy at night, but it was actually really nice out so I ended up sleeping on the beach. It was definitely a memorable place to wake up!
Good Morning!

We went back to the hostel just as the first beach goers were arriving. I packed up and got everything ready, then headed to the beach with the 2 girls from New Zealand, Val and T, Evan, and Dominick. I knew I had to take the bus back to Lisbon, and was planning on going in the afternoon, but I just kept pushing it back. We had a fantastic day on the beach and even found a cave that we sat in for a long time. I had only known these people for 3 days, but somehow we all got along really well and I felt like I had been friends with them forever. 

I got a little jealous hearing everyone talk about their travels though. I would really love to be able to do that for a few months at least, and just have the freedom to travel around on my own schedule. I looked up the bus schedule and decided to take the last bus. One of the Kiwis was going to go with me, but she was having just as hard of a time leaving, and decided to take a 5:45am bus. I really couldn't do that. We left the beach and walked into town to get dinner. I got a veggie burger that came with a free hug from the chef! 

new friends, juggling on the beach
And then sadly, the moment had come for me to leave. I picked up my stuff, left my mark and wrote on the wall of the hostel, and booked it to the bus station. I made it, and arrived back at my original hostel in Lisbon after midnight. There was only one other girl in my room, and it was a little sad compared to the night I arrived there. But it was nice to come back somewhere familiar.
cave rave

I was supposed to meet Tian, who had been in Lisbon a couple days, for a run, but of course she woke up late. She was the one who said 7am... I ran by myself along the river. It was drizzling and a little cooler than it had been, which was actually perfect running weather. 

I showered and got my delicious pancake, then set off to do the one last thing I had to do: eat pastries in Belém (Pastéis de Belém). They're these little cheese tarts that they have everywhere, and I've even seen them in Hannover now that I've been back, but they've been making them here a long time. I took the train there, but didn't pay close enough attention and got on a train that doesn't stop at every stop. 

Pastéis de Belém
The conductor came to check and looked at me like a crazy tourist, then told me just to turn around and go back at the next stop. I had put enough money on my train card for the round trip, so luckily I wasn't riding illegally or anything. I made it there, and realized I didn't know where the cafe was, but I just walked and found it. I ate a couple in the park, but it was kind of chilly and windy, so I walked to the Tower of Belém and then turned around and caught the train back. Lucky for my host family, the weather wasn't that great and I only had 5€ in my wallet, of I might have accidentally missed my flight back!

I had a fantastic time in Portugal! I didn't know much about it when I randomly booked my flights and decided to go, but I'm so glad I did! The people were friendly, it was really cheap for western Europe, the hostels were all fantastic, I was completely stress free the whole trip, and I made some fantastic new friends! Travelling with other people is fun too, but there's just a different relationship you form with people when you're all travelling alone. Hopefully I'll be back someday!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Portugal Part 1: Lisbon and Friends

I arrived at my hostel at 11pm, and I was completely exhausted. I hadn't really slept in 2 nights, and couldn't sleep on the plane either, and I was extra exhausted because of the whole running a half marathon thing the day before. I had been dreaming about getting to a bed the whole 10 hour journey, and was already changed and lying under my covers. I started talking to a couple other people in my room, and somebody asked if anyone was going to this I Hate Mondays party that  a lot of the hostels advertise. I didn't think I would even make it out the door, but then this British guy named Dan gave me a beer and I didn't have a choice but to go. It ended up being a great decision. It was Dan, me, and another American girl who had arrived at the same time as me named Rebekah. We got to the club at 1:30 and were the first ones there, but it was fine because we had time to get some drinks and just talk and get to know each other before everything really started. Things finally started getting going around 2:30am, and we had a great time dancing ridiculously and making faces at each other. I got along really well with these two and we had a fantastic night! We left at 5am and were some of the first people to go. Welcome to Portugal.

I woke up to a delicious breakfast at the hostel. They had good müsli, which Gritta doesn't even buy anymore, and they made you banana and apple pancakes. I hung around a little with Dan and Rebekah, because she was leaving that morning, and finally got out of there at 10:30. I made my way down the main avenue and walked to the cathedral. From there I walked up the hill to the castelo. I got the student price even though they scolded me for not having my student card... There were some pretty good views of the city up there, and in one of the towers they had a periscope. It was really interesting to see all around the city, and having the guy explaining it was like taking a tour without having to go anywhere!
I walked back down the hill through the Alfama neighborhood, which is a maze of very narrow streets and cafes and kids running around. There was also a huge flea market going on, which was fun to walk around. I made my way through some of the other neighborhoods: the Baixa, with the main squares, the Bairro Alto, where most of the night life is, but there were also some nice churches I went into, and the Chiado, where all the nice buildings and houses are. I made my way back to the Parque Eduardo VII, which was right by my hostel. It goes up a hill so there was a pretty good view of the city at the top!
church in the Bairro Alto
Parque Eduardo VII
I made my way back to the hostel and went out to dinner and walked around with Dan and a Lithuanian guy from our room. We talked about watching a movie, because we were all tired, but then we just got in our beds and were too lazy to do anything about it. It was a great day!

I woke up early, so I decided I might as well get up and run. I went to the park and ran up and down on a little path up the hill next to the main part a few times. Then I showered and ate, and waited for the people I had made friends with to get up. I wasn't in a hurry so we hung around a bit. I found out a girl from Ireland was going to the same place as me that night! The guy who slept on the bottom bunk on my bunk bed, Radesh, was actually studying abroad from UT, and he was also planning on going to the same place. I didn't see him in the morning though. Eventually I had to say goodbye, and walked to the train station.
looking down on Sintra
castle of the moors
I rode to Sintra, which is about a 30 minute train ride. I checked into my hostel, and then got ready to walk/hike up the hills to the Castle of the Moors and Pena Palace. They were kind of expensive, but it was worth it! The walk was really nice too. I'm not really sure how long it took, but it was straight up hill. I walked around the park that surrounds the palace too, and by the time I got back I had been walking up and down hills for over 6 hours, and had run into Radesh 3 times! I talked to the people in my room a bit, but then I made it an early night.
Pena Palace

sintra looking up at the castle

I walked to the other part of Sintra from where I was staying, and looked in the market but didn't get anything. I came back and ate, and was planning on going to the National Palace, but after talking to a Finish girl, I decided to go to the Quinta da Regaleira instead.

Quinta da Regaleira
It was an estate built by an Italian, and the gardens were really cool. They were up against the side of the hill, and there were lots of fountains and towers and caves and an underground labyrinth with secret lakes. The main building was pretty cool too.

Quinta da Regaleira
I came back to the hostel, checked out, and walked to the bus station to go to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. It was about a 30 minute drive, through lots of winding roads. The bus driver slammed on the brakes a lot and I got a little car sick, so I was really glad to get there. I had about an hour until the next bus came to look around. It was really windy, and it was my first look at the cliff lined coast in Portugal! It was a detour, but definitely worth doing. The bus drive was very scenic as well.

Cabo da Roca

Cabo da Roca
I took the next bus the rest of the way to Cascais, which is a beach town just west of Lisbon. I sat on the beach a while, then walked through the pedestrian area of the town. I ate ice cream of course. Then I made my way back to the train station to get back to Lisbon. I had to stay in a different hostel because the one I had been in was full, but I chose one just a couple blocks away. Little did I know it was straight up a steep hill! But I made it, then I got settled, showered, and found food. I went to bed somewhat early again because I was exhausted! It's also hard to get to know people when you know you're leaving in the morning.

I was awake early, so I took the chance to walk through some areas of the city I hadn't seen. Then I came back, ate, packed up and checked out. I took the metro to the main bus center, thinking I was probably going to miss the 10:30 bus I wanted to catch to Lagos. But I made it with 2 minutes to spare! And there was free wifi on the bus, so I just messaged Kate the whole time! Stayed tuned for Part 2: Lagos.