Tolog's Report from their Spanish Adventure
Published : Thursday, July 10, 2014 | 9:30 PM
Day 1 & 2
We all arrived safely in Lisbon on Saturday, 6/21, after a long day of flying on Friday. Our Tour Director, Antonio Alcantara of Education First, warmly greeted us at the airport and took us to our hotel in the seaside town, Estorril. In the afternoon, we explored Cascais, a popular beach town. We walked along its cobbled sidewalks, rode Segways, and enjoyed the ocean views. The beautiful beachside setting helped us soak in the reality that we are finally here! Click here for photos!
We had a great day Touring Lisbon. The highlights included the Torre de Belem, the Monaatery of St. Jerome, and awesome views of the city for the Castle of Sy. George. The food was delicious and we enjoyed exploring the pedestrian streets. Our day ended at 1 a.m., watching the US vs. Portugal FIFA World Cup game. More Photos
On our drive to southern Portugal, we stopped in the town of Evora for a walking tour with a local guide. In Evora, we got a sense of Portugal’s rich history. We saw the ruins of a Roman temple and Roman aqueduct. There were buildings with Moorish architectural influences as well as the architectural style, Mujedar, which is a combination of Jewish and Christian influences. Perhaps the most interesting was a chapel made of bones (Capela dos Ossos) that was constructed by Franciscan monks in the 16th century. Our tour guide related that the Fransiscans used the overcrowding of the cemeteries as an opportunity to encourage reflection on mortality. Taking 15 years to build, the chapel is constructed of skulls and bones from about 5000 people. The bones are of monks, priests, and nuns. The idea is that we are all simple and mortal, all appearing the same in death. A reminder of our shared humanity, this chapel was a place of meditation for the monks and a call for the town to consider their mortality during a period of great wealth. I thought it would feel super creepy to walk inside, but it actually a reverent calm, and as the tour guide explained the chapel, it wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be. One of the girls suggested that as a sister I might like to be buried there. Intriguing prospect, but, um, I think I’ll pass. This is what’s at the entrance: Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos (“We, the bones that are here, await)Day 4 photos added to album here.
In the Algarve region of southern Portugal We took a trip to Cape Saint Vincent to take in magnificent views of this westernmost point of continential Europe. In this area, Prince Henry the Navigator established a navigation school to train the explorers who would evenually travel to India and South America. The girls enjoyed exploring the cliffs and the fort. We all loved the town of Lagos, where we ate a delicious lunch and great gelato. I was very happy to have a food adventure (my most favorite pasttime) and ate amazing stingray and octopus. Then, we had a rejuvenating afternoon with some of us relaxing at the pool and others swimming at the beach. We are ready for the second part of our journey: Spain!!
We left Portugal this morning for a two-and-a-half hour drive to Seville. What a border crossing! We barely stopped as we passed over the Guadiana River. And what a delightful visit we had in Seville! We began with lunch on our own near the Cathedral. Madame Collier and I shared delicious tapas. Then, we had a guided tour of the Cathedral and climbed the bell tower, la giralda. Beneath the bells at the top of 34 flights of ramps, we took in magnificent views of the city. Our final stop was the Plaza de España, built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. As we walked through narrow streets with beautiful buildings, we lamented the short time that we spent in the city. Definitely a city that calls for another visit!
Then, we drove another two-and-a-half hours to the town of Estepona in Costa del Sol, passing the Rock of Gibraltar. We are in a beautiful hotel and will get a good night’s sleep because we will wake up very early tomorrow for our trip to Morocco. We can’t wait for the adventure that awaits tomorrow!
Here’s my “only in Spain” moment: as I write this, I’m watching a reality tv show about young men who are training to be matadors. They are in a competition with each other and are currently being voted on by a panel of experts. I’ve seen clips of their training and the bullfight that the panel is judging. Fortunately the show doesn’t include the entire fight. I would have never thought such a reality show existed, and the anthropologist in me is totally fascinated. Only in Spain!
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