Quick Escape: Portugal (Again)

Hey! So I don’t know if you noticed, but I haven’t been online much! That’s because I went to Portugal to see my  family over the Easter holiday with my boyfriend. The weather wasn’t amazing for the whole week, but we did have a few days of sunshine, which felt amazing. And we rented a car so we could travel up north for a change, as we usually go south. And, oh God, I’d missed driving….

My parents live between Cascais and Sintra and whenever we go to visit them we always take the car to Guincho, which is a really nice beach near Cascais. It’s always great when the weather matches your mood, and sure enough the sky was a vibrant blue between the scarce clouds and the wind had calmed down quite a bit. And, like in the last post about Portugal, the tide was out and we were able to see millions of tiny mussels on the exposed rocks.

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For those who don’t know, there’s a road by the sea that goes from Guincho to Cascais, and that’s exactly where we drove next, making a few stops along the way to check out the breathtaking view and explore the wildlife. Recently I’ve been a bit excited about succulents and was able to pick some up along the way, as they grow in abundance around the coast. We also found some small lizards scuttering around in the sand under the plants and rocks.

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And you can’t go to Cascais without having some ice cream from Santini!

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Another thing we love about going back to my parents’ is that we get to see their dog! His name is Caco and he is adorable!

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He’s a bloodhound and he’s huge! He’s got lion-sized paws and he always punches the air out of my lungs whenever the gets a bit excited.

On a windier day, we went to the Lisbon Oceanarium because they had a temporary exhibit by Takashi Amano called Forests Underwater. This was one of the big reasons why we had decided to go to Portugal over the holidays, as my boyfriend has been a bit obsessed with fish tanks recently and this was Takashi Amano’s last exhibit, having died last year after it was completed.

It was incredible and surreal. Like those plants and fish had been living in those tanks for decades. The room was dark and you could hear the sound of running water and the lovely soundtrack by Portuguese composer Rodrigo Leão. An extremely calm and soothing experience.

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After spending a few days at home we grabbed our rented car and drove north, always following the coast. We were headed to Aveiro, the city that is known as Portugal’s Venice. On our way there, though, we stopped in Costa Nova, a small seaside town that has a very particular style of houses.

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We also found a miniature golf course and spent an hour there. I was completely hopeless at it, but hey, it was a lot of fun.

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Then we got to Aveiro. It was really lovely. A big town that still felt like a village, with the river running through it and the brightly coloured boats floating on it. It’s also well known for it’s “soft-egg” sweets. If you ever go to Portugal, you’ll find that our pastries and sweets are mostly made of sweet egg paste.

We also had some delicious pão-de-ló, which is actually what the famous Japanese castella cake was based on! So there’s a bit of history for you.

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Something about the colourful boats of Aveiro, though. If you look closer at their illustrations you’ll find that a lot of them have very lewd scenes depicted on them. This particular one has two men staring at a woman riding a donkey and saying “I wish I could ride her!”. Offensive, yet hilarious. And, unfortunately for me, difficult to translate. My boyfriend couldn’t quite grasp how incredibly funny they really are, and that was a bit frustrating for me.

The following day we drove to Coimbra, a very important city in Portugal’s history, and also where my grandmother is from (not that that’s an important fact for you, but oh well). A lot happened here, as it was near to where Portugal was born, where our first university was opened in 1290, where miracles happened and where the most famous Portuguese love story happened (kind of like the Portuguese version of Romeo and Juliet).

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We visited the university and a lot of churches and cathedrals, including an incredibly old one from the time of our first king (it was rebuilt after the Mourish invaded, but still, quite old). In its small garden stood a millenial olive tree that is meant to symbolise peace.

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Coimbra is a beautiful city and there’s so much history embedded in it, which makes it just a bit extra special to a Portuguese person. However, it made me realize how rundown and neglected Portugal really is.

Even around the university, which is the cultural centre of the city, most buildings were either empty, closed down or in need of serious repairs. And not only in Coimbra, but Aveiro, Costa Nova, Cascais, Lisbon, although the last two aren’t in as bad a condition as the others. Portugal is in need of a new coat of paint. It could really be a truly incredible place, if only someone would show it some love or our tax money stopped being taken by corrupt politicians.

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Anyway, it was great fun and a nice adventure going to see new places. It’s funny how we only really look at our own country either after we’ve left it behind or when we’re showing it to foreigners. And because I wasn’t able to answer a lot of my own questions about history, I’ve stolen my mom’s old Portuguese history book in order to refresh my memory. I think it’s important to know where you come from.

Back in Lisbon, we went to see the biannual children’s book illustration exhibition in Belém. It’s always a great exhibition and it always makes me want to go back to drawing. Hopefully this time I’ll act on this! But no promises…

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I go everytime it’s in Lisbon, and it’s always in the same place: the Museum of Electricity. This year there was a lot of great work and it’s always nice to see what experts in the field find interesting, and this year’s special mention was for the illustrator Serge Bloch. Although, I do always find that some of the chosen works are bordering on the terrifying and have no idea why they would be chosen in a children’s book illustration competition, but I guess the times are changing.

Going back home is always a great experience. And since I’m going to Japan in September, it felt a little bit extra special. I am going back in August for the summer, but it showed me that it’s going to be difficult being away from my family. I know I already live in another country, but I can just jump on a plane and be home in 3 hours. Japan is a whole different thing.

It’s going to be tough, but it’s also going to be worth it. And I can’t wait!

Hope you enjoy this post. I’ll soon write another one more related to Japan, so look forward to that.

Oh! And I just noticed that my other post about going to Portugal was exactly a year ago! I wrote after last year’s Easter holiday, God, I guess my routing hasn’t changed at all. And it made me realise how old this blog is!! I guess I didn’t expect it to last this long, hope I can keep it up.

Until next time,

Inês

 

 

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