Sometimes heaven on earth manifests in the form of a fluffy pillow and being lost, covered under big snuggly blankets. Thats how I feel right now. After all the hiking, wandering and exploring I did today being absolutely still and cozied in bed is all I could ask for. And while I’m excited to drift off to sleep I’m a little sad to wake up tomorrow. It means I will leave Rui, Bono and Sintra.
Sintra, Portugal is where I’ve taken up my adventures since yesterday. I left Lisbon Monday afternoon and after a 40min train ride was met by my Couch host Rui at the train station in Sintra. It was the predictable first time meeting. We both looked at each other,…it being obvious who each of us were,…yet we didn’t say or do anything…until finally the … “are you…” “yeah…and you” …”yeah!” and then we left in Rui’s BMW.
Rui graciously accepted my request to surf, and fortunately responded. Sintra wouldn’t be the same without him! He explained that he actually lives maybe 15 mins outside of Sintra, but right away drove me through town explaining a few points of interest for the next day. Sintra is relatively small, especially when coming from Lisbon, but has a very charming Portuguese feel to it.
I am normally against stereotypes, with a few exceptions like on Tosh.0 or when they are the ‘good’ kind. With that in mind I would say so far that Portuguese people are very friendly, warm and helpful, and have an appreciation for food- especially sweets. What a great stereotype! Rui only helped to confirm my suspicions that this is truth by being very friendly, warm and helpful and also feeding me well! I mentioned to him shortly after meeting that I hadn’t eaten anything all day,…his solution was invite me to his family’s house for lunch!
What a beautiful way to spend a lunch, but with a Portuguese family, even right down to the adorable 92 yr old grandma! Rui’s family was very welcoming and we all sat down together to eat some Bacalao (very Portuguese! but found in Spain as well. Its a white fish), and a few other dishes. All accompanied by some of the most delicious Portuguese wine! Lunch was fantastic, I liked everything, and as I thought it was coming to an end, Rui’s mother suddenly brings out 6 different desserts left over from Christmas! I was really impressed by that!
Well after eating and saying goodbye Rui took me by car on a little tour of some more harder to access locations, including a city that is carved into the side of a mountain, some waves and sand of a fishing beach, the spot that is the western most tip of Europe, and driving around beautiful winding roads and stoping to take some photos and walk around a bit. I saw so many breathtaking views of coasts, cliffs, forests, hills and villages. It was truly a great day and I felt so happy and excited to be there.
We then went back to Rui’s home where I met Bono, his cat and we became friends right away (even the Portuguese cats are more friendly!). Rui cooked tasty pasta for dinner and we listened to music, went on FB and youtube, talked and watched T.V. . It was chill. It was perfect.
Today was another fine day as well. Woke up a little after 8am, out the door at 9. Rui had to go to work but dropped me off at a Palace, which is not only a palace (awesome) but has especially beautiful and elaborate gardens. This Palace happens to be perched high on top of a very high hill and is surrounded by lush vegetation with trees and vines and ferns and plants growing everywhere. The air is so fresh and crisp it was great to be around so much nature. It reminded me of Chiapas a bit.
The Palace was good to visit. It had the standard extravagance one would expect from a palace. One of my favorite things I learned was about King Ferdinand II who lived there, first he married an American Opera singer (she was Swiss-German and had moved to Boston ) and second, a sign in one of the rooms mentioned that the King had tried his hand at leadership and military success with little luck…..BUT was very skilled at drawing and ceramic paintings. Well at least thats something I suppose! One room had his artworks all around. The was pretty decent. Decent enough that I later bought an overpriced magnet of one of his paintings on the wall…naturally as you would almost expect its a half naked Nympth in a sunflower field.
The Palace gardens were constructed to be as a park intentionally elaborate with different species of trees ( I saw a Sequoia today!!) and lots of hidden paths that cross and diverge all over the place, but because the area is so expansive one hardly runs into another person maintaining a calm serenity that only adds to its magic.
Only at one point diid the sound of chainsaw distract my experience, luckily I had my ZUNE with me,..and turned on some Classical music. Thats like the secret punch to make a magical Palace even more magical! Looking at the Palace is the distance, I twirled around in my skirt like a Princess to the melodies of Brahms and Schumann and admired God’s nature.
I spent around 4 hours in that place but had to leave to discover new things. Actually one thing mainly.
Like the Palace, the Quinta de Regaliera is UNESCO World Heritage Site and interestingly enough was constructed with symbols and enigmas related to Masonry and alchemy. Cool cool. What is even cooler is that in addition to a residency home there is a chapel, and a few towers, and a park on the grounds, but also a few underground tunnels that link some of the things together. These caveish walkways are creepy mysterious and magical with symbolism in some areas linking the underworld to the living world. I read some other symbolism things around the parks and house, where scenes and references from Operas, plays and stories like Mac Beth or the Divine Comedy exist, and faces trapped in the stones, or rooms dedicated to different elements.
It was a really fascinating place, but unfortunately it took some time getting there and so I didn’t spend as much time there as I would have liked to. It was quite the hike from the Palace, and I got lost for a bit. Here’s something I don’t do everyday,….ask the owner?gardner? of the house that was in the movie ‘The Ninth Gate’ with Johnny Depp directions on how to get somewhere. But I did and he was right and that house is amazing, and has a very nicely attended to garden.
Its getting really late now and Im getting very tired. Gotta rap this up.
My day was fantastic. Fresh air. Great scenery. Interesting things. Rui took and bought me outta this world pasteries AND cooked dinner. Sat around the fireplace and chilled and played with Bono some more. I love Sintra but my legs hurt.
Why didn’t I just say that from the beginning? hahah I would have saved so much trouble! But its all the truth. Im going to miss this place, but tomorrow I’m taking a train back to Lisbon to take a bus to Evora…with another Couch Surfer. A professional body piercer. I’m sure I’ll have a story to tell.
Sweet dreams. Its bedtime for me!
I know, I know, thats not an exciting way to spill the beans on my secret holiday destination! However I say no attention getter needed, because to me that IS the attention getter! Besides its Thursday morning already for heavens sake and I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon. No time for fluff.
Well I suppose to backtrack for anyone who missed my FB post, I bought a plane ticket on Tuesday during lunch break at school and whipped up some hostel connections as well. That was preluded of course by squeals and shrieks (buying airline tickets really gets me worked up ) and then finished with a standard ‘happy dance’ ( buying plane tickets really puts me in a good mood).
What others may call scrambled plans made last minute I’d like to consider beautiful surprises awaiting : )
It was actually a bit of a toss up of what I was going to do for Christmas as always I had a a few ideas in my head. I had in invite to Morocco, an urge for Turkey, a cheap flight to France…but it really was just all about leaving Torrox. I went with Portugal though, I think I have a nice rough plan- Im going to Lisbon first and staying there the longest. I would have taken a bus direct leaving from Malaga which would have been hell, lasting like 11 hours, and my brilliant solution was to either take cough syrup or drink lots of straight vodka, not enough to be sick, just enough to pass out. But thanks to Kayak.com on a random curious search I landed a flight from Malaga to Lisbon, only 1 hour which gives me an extra day, and is only $20 more than the bus ticket. Thats a score.
Now I’m left to finishing up some last minutes, I’m trying not to procrastinate, but ha….who am I kidding? It’s me! I’m procrastinating big time! Its just stupid stuff I have to do though.
– Clean the house so its nice when I come back…which I already know I’m not going to do, I’ll talk myself out of it…and probably out loud because slowly solitude makes me a little more crazy each day ( hello…it happens, Tom Hanks and Wilson!).
– Eat all the perishables in the fridge…I’m on an energy saving kick, and want to unplug the fridge while I’m gone. This leaves me the daunting task of eating 5 packs of Greek yogurt tomorrow, and not paying attention in the store I bought the natural kind thats unsweetened, which yay is more healthy but certainly not any more tasty. I have a few olives…and a few fixings for huevos y frijoles and guacamole, and Im taking my chances that the OJ will be fine I don’t think I can drink that much fruit juice and not feel sick. I already steamed the broccoli and asparagus for dinner. I felt like I was punishing myself while I ate it. I don’t think canned jalapeños go bad,…the spicy keeps them good. I don’t know…Im going to stick with that because no way am I eating a can of jalapeños.
-Do laundry. Easy enough as long as the weather is decent,..it all air dries, but yesterday was sunny and warm, so should be fine.
-PACK. I think I might use my official backpacker backpack. The sore shoulders it gives me makes me feel more rugged and adventurous, besides it must feel neglected its been since Guatemala last summer that I used it.
-Learn basic Portuguese phrases. I think Portuguese is a really sexy language, so I’m excited about that.
-COUCH requests got to go out
-Look up how to get to the airport!?
-Mmmm and a bunch of other little things.
It’ll be fine. I have 17 days of vacation coming to me starting tomorrow. It will be more than fine.
I know I’m saying this over and over but I’m so excited for this! I do want to mention though that I was very touched by a few invitations that I received to stay with people for Christmas. Amanda- the English woman I eat lunch with Encarna every Monday invited me to her family dinner, which was awfully sweet and the simple gesture of offering that meant a lot to me. Same with Juaquina, the director of the school and I give private lessons to her son, yesterday she invited me to her house. She’s comes up to me yesterday and says ” Yessica, you eat with my family if you want. You call and you say to me. Look I am coming to your house you make me a plate to eat! ” lol that was really nice. She is really nice, one time I had a cold and she told me that she knows that I’m old enough and that she’s not my mom,…but if I’m ever feeling sick, or lonely or need a ‘mom’ she’ll be my Spanish ‘mom’. That was the sweetest thing ever, I gave her a big hug,…and took home some of the medicine she gave me to feel better : ) Then last night I actually got 2 CouchSurfing messages, one from a girl in Sevilla and another from a guy in Cordoba….I don’t know either of them, but they both sent me messages saying more or less,…I see your traveling alone during Christmas, if you would like I would be happy to have you come stay with me for this time etc… WOW! I mean thats icing on the cake, when random people reach out to you like that its really touching! There are obviously moments when you travel alone and you do feel alone, so when people go out of their way to be kind it means a lot. Especially when its Christmas : )
Wuaaahhh….I have to get going. Things to do. Things to do. Atleast, last minute frantic Christmas present shopping isn’t one of them! : p
I wish everyone an early and very happy holidays! Remember to never take the time with your friends and family for granted!
MMmk…I’ll write again when I get there! ; )
I’ve returned to the Arab bar tonight after over a month of absence. I like how the dim lights combine with the vibrant colored walls and Moroccan lamps, and the clouds of sweet smelling flavored tabacco being smoked from Hookahs. Not going to lie, the free drinks are nice, especially since I’m broke, and it almost makes me overlook the coke addicts that hang out in the shadows of upstairs corner. I sip on my strong Bacardi and coke and make eye contact with the 16 yr old next to me smoking a cigarette while waiting for his Kebab to finish. He’s short 30 cents, but Kal the owner lets it slide. Its been awhile since I’ve been here like I said. I almost feel guilty about that. But not really. Kal’s brother,…the fat hairy one, its hard to remember names I can’t pronounce, just gave me a lecture about not coming in to say hi. This is a good place,…they are good people, but its important to not get to comfortable, to relaxed.
Not only back to the Arabs, but also to the blog. I needed to take a vacation from it. Like one of my favorite songs says, ” I temporarily forgot there were better days to come”. I had reached the point where It came around to I was taking long hot showers at night just so I could cry and not hear it or sense the tears on my cheeks. it. It felt as pathetic as it sounds, and gave me really dry skin. I had weeks pass where I allowed myself to be consumed by sadness. But a sadness without reason.
Honestly, I had been lying. Not in a compulsive sort of way, more in the form of little white lies. But lies are lies no? I was telling myself to be happy. That I AM happy. Only happy things lay ahead of me. But I wasn’t happy.
It was mainly brought on my being single, and trying to still talk with ex. You can’t have things the way you always want them though. We had been considering meeting over the weekend in another city, but plans changed. I changed them and that didn’t go over well. Better that way.
Considering after that, I indeed was not going to meet him over what would have been last weekend, I had to then make my own plan. I couldn’t stay in the mental state I was. A woman should never give a man the power to make her miserable. Its not worth it. Eventually you have to remember your own strength and value and that life continues and you can move with it or watch it pass as you sulk. I had my few weeks of desperation but I had to end it and shake off the things that were holding me back.
It happened to work out nicely that I had a few days off of school for a National holiday and was able to have a 4.5 day weekend. I really wanted to use that to my advantage and so I decided after staying in Malaga a night with Tina I would go to Sevilla. I live in Andalucia, debatably the best part of Spain, and I must see Granada, Cordoba, and Sevilla. Sevilla happens to be the furthest away from me, so I wanted to go there first. I used CouchSurfing, for my first time in Europe. For those unfamiliar with the system, its an online travel network where you can meet, host or be hosted by people all over the world. I’ve been apart of the site since 2009, and have surfed in Mexico and Canada, and have hosted and met people in Green Bay as well. Its my preferred way of traveling now. I feel its very important to go beyond the role of tourist, taking pictures and visit ing sites, and getting to know something about the people and places you visit. It makes the world smaller and friendly. Julio, my host, graciously accepted my last minute request to stay with him.
Thursday afternoon I set off for Sevilla, with blurry memories from the previous night of drinking with the gang in Malaga. There was a bus I could have taken, but I wanted to take a train, its so much more comfortable. It was on this particular train ride between cities that I had a few realizations. Maybe not on par with Siddhartha traveling through India,…but substantial for me. They are, but not limited to the following:
1. I am in Spain. Holy shit.
2. Spain is a breathtakingly beautiful country.
3. I am trying to fabricate all these elaborate plans, to forget my problems and do things like run away to Istanbul and then escape to France, and I’m completely over looking what is all around me.
4. As of December 13th I’m 24.5 years old. I have only experienced half of this year so far! There is still so much more to do!
5. Im single.
6. Being single can be a really great thing. I wasn’t thinking about the positives of that, only the negatives.
7. I have the such an opportunity to do things I won’t be able to once I return to the states.
8. If I am to make the most of this experience I have to start by today, and stop putting off tomorrow.
9.I worked really hard for this and I’d only be cheating myself to not enjoy and get the most out of it.
10.I am excited about life and eager to live it.
Not to bad for a 2.5 hour train ride. I mean I really thought these things! It seems so simple when I look at it written in front of me and now its hard to think that I had ever forgotten or over looked these points some how! But I’m ready to really make the most of everything and appreciate what it is I have. This is the attitude I had when I arrived in Sevilla on my ‘first trip’ around Spain.
I got to the train station around 5:30pm. Julio was right there to meet me, and we were introduced on the short tour to his house. He had good vibes off the bat. We dropped my stuff off at his place and I walked him to his work. He works 6pm-12am so from that time I basically was free to wander around the town. I really enjoyed that, and I did so without a map, without a plan, a destination. I walked to walk and absorb what I could from this new place. Sevilla is pulsing with life and energy. There were so many narrow hidden streets to wonder and to enjoy their beauties. Also, there was such an enormous amount of young good-looking men everywhere, literally, and not going to lie the eye candy was a nice break from what I get in Torrox. So me and my Nikon (it still doesn’t have a name!) went where ever my feet took me. I did that Thursday night, as well as Friday night. I never entered any of the sites, like the famous Alcazar or the Cathedral, but I saw them…I was more on a mission to explore and enjoy more than to conquer a list of places seen. Besides I’m coming back. During the trip I was also able to see a live Flamenco show, visit one of the most beautiful contemporary art museums ever, share Birthday celebrations with my host! : ) go out to a few bars and clubs, try lots of tasty tapas like the local pringa,..and venison stew, meet some really cool people, and take some nice pictures, learn some history, and do some shopping. It was a fantastic trip and I left really happy to have gone and eager to come back.
I guess that trip has been the start of a new set of realizations for me. I’ve put what ever kind of sadness to rest and I openly embrace my life and what is in it, and wanting to take it to the fullest. I’ve made some small changes in the daily. For example I’ve taken the step to enjoy the simple landscape a bit more. If I don’t take a bike to school I will take a bus down, (because I don’t like waking up earlier than needed) but I will walk the 3-4 mile walk back home from school. Yeah sure it takes like 2 hours, and some literal mountain climbing, but Im outside with an amazing view of the Mediterranean Sea and the sprawling Sierra Nevada mountain range, also during the time of day when the sky starts to turn shades of pink and purple. Its incredible. I never see anything like that in Green Bay. That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about. The absolute simple things that I’ve been taking for granted I will no longer over look.
Hi everyone! I’m surprised my blog is still getting viewed after a week without posting anything new. So thanks for caring enough to check it. I have a post I made about my general life and what I’ve been up to lately. I’ve actually had a lot happen ( a lot for me in Torrox anyways ) but I wanted to take a step back and address something I feel is important.
Tomorrow is Bradley Manning’s 24th Birthday! I decided to show my support for him by replacing my perhaps notoriously vain FB profile pics with an image of Bradley instead. What I got was a response from someone who I know,…and would say who’s opinions I respect,…but in this case strongly disagree with.
The following is a copy of the FB conversation, not posted to ‘one up’ or ‘gang up’ on this person,…but I think it poses a valid argument, one I which to argue. No hard feelings are meant by this, I hope none are taken.
“…Me gusta cuando calles y estas como ausente. Distante y dolorosa como si hubieras muerto…”
Time doesn’t exist today. I lay in bed and dream awake. Although I see the window from across the room I am unable to see beyond it. Outside the unknown is a stranger that enters and fills the space as light casting itself upon me. Faint at first then growing deep, rich and colorful. I watch the curious shadows dance on the walls that surround me. I disappear into this painting infused with motion and mystery.
I woke up yesterday exhausted with a pounding headache. Sore red eyes. Scratchy voice. Dry mouth. Unexplainable bruises.
If all those things leading to that create a good night, than I suppose the physical evidence does indeed indicate that I had a good time the night before.
All the events Im about to elaborate on all occurred in Malaga. I don’t visit Malaga much, or at least I hadn’t been, although its only like 3 Euros and a 1 hour each one way trip. But since last week was Thanksgiving I reunited with other U.S.’ers to celebrate. I was able to meet a lot of really nice people by going and it was fun to go grocery shopping and cook together. I made REAL mash potatoes. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Its not hard and tastes better of course. I also made some jazzy carrots and corn. There was so much food on the table when all 11 of us sat around the little makeshift table. There was a good selection of things, all the standards and a few other dishes. Most everybody was a little self-conscious of their food, ” well this is my first time making this”…”or it might not be as good as my mom’s”…. but honestly everything was perfect. There was also a few things that might not be included in a traditional Thanksgiving that showed up at our shindig such as a rather large amount of various types of drink, and smoke ( but then again maybe you have a cool family). But naturally I don’t know any of the details concerning those things. I only know from experience that its pretty much how familiar traditions are spent in other countries, not every things going to be the same,…nor would you really want it to be, because it can’t be. Sometimes you have to ‘improvise’ and thats fun too. It certainly worked this year. Halloween and Thanksgiving were both great. (but I don’t want to jinx x-mas!)
We celebrated on Saturday actually. Just worked out better that way. However, the next day my body hated me, and I tried to please it by walking to the Contemporary Art Musuem which is on the way to the bus station. They had a beautiful display of images captured from Mars. I tell you, it sounds stupid but they all looked like they were from another planet!
Mars looks like what one would maybe think Mars should look like, is what Im saying.
Pictures of deserts with sand painted beautiful hues of intense reds and fiery oranges, or land spotted with jagged craters colored in dreamy pastels, and other sorts of things that look imaginary.
The images were of a superior quality and blown up very large, and standing in front of one of them makes you feel small and in awe, but still only a fraction of what Im sure it would be if you were really there observing it for yourself. I think one of the factors in the images is that they captured the sense of expansiveness. I didn’t see one Mc D’s or Starbucks in any of the pictures. No trash blowing in the wind. No highways or concrete dead ends. Just a wild expanse of color and texture.
On another note I did also visit the gift shop. Museums always have the best gift shops. I bought a book that I had seen there over a month ago, the first time I went. I hadn’t bought it,…but instead decided to think about it for awhile, and when I still think about something for long enough I figure that means I should get it. I do that a lot…it helps me distinguish between wants and REALLY REALLY wants. This book fell into the second category. The book is actually a collection of photographs done by a famous Spanish photographer. Leopoldo Pomes. The book includes various stages and focuses he had throughout his career. I especially care for his portraits of women.
So I took my precious book home,…with the intention of course of mutilating it. I meant to,…and have now cut out some the photos I most like and put them on the walls. I think thats the most efficient use of photographs. Looking at them. Everyday, every time you pass them, not just when you decided to pick up a book. It wasn’t till I started to do this did I stumble across a portrait Pomes had taken of the Argentine author Julio Cortázar. I had seen this photograph before, but hadn’t put the two together. Its sort of funny because it happens to be that awhile ago someone had sent me one of Cortázar’s stories to me, Rayuela ( Hopscotch) in Spanish of course. I read a little bit of it right away and had to shamefully admit to myself I didn’t understand as much of it as I ought to.
Although that wasn’t really anything new I didn’t already know though.
My Spanish sucks.
Of course everybody tells me its wonderful, and I speak it so well. First and foremost, those are lies. Second, people who say that either speak less Spanish than I do,…or are natives who don’t know Ive studied it for over 7 years at both the high school and University level and have traveled to a hand-full of Spanish speaking countries. I mean its nothing to get myself all worked up over, all of that aquiered knowledge is in my brain somewhere, I just have to dust it off a bit. Rayuela is my motivation to improve my Spanish and stop being so lazy about it. Besides its always been my goal to read 100 years of Solitude in Spanish. So this is prep.
Switching to English authors for a sec, Mark Twain, whom I adore is quoted as saying, ” Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.”
This actually relates to Rayuela, which makes it even more interesting and motivating to read. Cortázar’s counter novel lets readers either read from chapter 1 forward then reading optional chapters that add additional info of sorts, or he gives the reader the possibility to “hopscotch” throughout the book directed by a guide in the Table of Contents. A reader could just do what ever and read it however too. So I basically have a fun and educational way to improve my Spanish…and now also the portrait of Cortázar in my hall which guilts me if I don’t read his story.
And now that Im back in Torrox, away from the lights, life, drink and the smoke….I really don’t have any excuses. Not like I’d need them in this case though.