El albergue

El albergue

Monday, January 2, 2012

A tiny bit on Portugal

In between Christmas and New Year’s, my roommates and I went on a little trip to both Porto and Lisbon, Portugal.  We experienced so much, saw so many things, and tasted a ton of new foods and drinks, so much in total that there is no way I could ever recount it without filling pages and pages.  So, rather than bore you with every single detail, I’ll tell you about three of my parts of the trip.

I was excited to eat this thing
1.     Francesinhas.  These typical Porto sandwiches are not for the faint of heart.  Not in the least.  With sausage, chorizo, ham, thin steak, and something like pastrami, the inside of this monstrosity is nothing compared to the fried egg on top and the melted cheese dripping down the sides from the summit into a swamp of French fries and a spicy beer sauce.  I know.  Wow, right?  The three of us each tackled our own pile of deliciousness, and even though we were starving, only Kelsey was able to finish off every last bite.  Oh my.  It was so amazing.

Oh yeah, baby

2.     Fado.  Our first night in Lisbon, we got to go listen to some of the traditional local music, and it was amazing.  I actually took some notes while the music washed over me, so here ya go:

We enjoyed some sangría the group from our hostel who
went to fado with us - they were a great group
You barely make out the singer in front of the tiny restaurant’s doors through the near complete darkness, a few small lights on one side illuminating just enough to see the guitarists’ fingers flying around both the 6-string classical model and the smaller, drop-shaped 12-string Portuguese style and to see the singer’s head thrown back as they pour out their sad lament over love either lost of spurned.  The singer’s chin rolls slightly to the side and even farther back and their shoulders shrug with subdued intensity as their voice swells to the top of a crescendo and reverberates around the close blue and white tiled walls that rise over the heads of the rapt audience packed into tight clusters of small table or even standing in any open corner.  The singer reaches the crest of their crescendo and starts the descent down the other side, their chin and shoulders imitating the vocal descent as they gradually come back to their original posture of tender lament.  Between songs, the performing area is broken in upon by the doors opening inward and new costumers and listeners coming in, but in the matter of roughly 30 seconds, the light from the street is shut out again and the performers settle themselves for another song of touching poignancy – the female soloists outshining the males’ deeper rumblings with their greater lightness and quickness of tone change, or versatility (one in particular has a voice with willow-like softness – both pliable and firm).  And in the background, the two guitarists toil ever on, occasionally pausing to retune their multitude of strings, but generally streaming unbroken cascades of notes that intertwine with each other as well as the vocalist’s melody – it is really beautiful to hear the interplay between the more delicate Portuguese 12-string and the more robust classical, their individual pluckings combining into a veritable tapestry of sound.

That marker stands on THE westernmost point in Europe
3.     Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in all of Europe.  This windswept little bit of rocky coastline is gorgeous, with cliffs that tumble down from the lookout points into the spume of the ocean before you and crumpled up hills covered in a shaggy carpet of green behind.  The wind whips your hair around your face ecstatically, and there is one little promontory that beckons any and all comers to trek through its boulders and get a little closer to the sea.  Our tour guide took our group down there, and even though I was wearing leather boots, I trekked along with the best of them, because there was no way I was missing out on such a fun adventure.

Starting the trek down

We were having fun :)

I came, I saw, I conquered!
There were, of course, many many other things that we thoroughly enjoyed during our trip, and taken all together, I would say that they have most definitely placed Portugal on my list of favorite places in the world.  It’s worth a visit.

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