Thursday, August 20, 2015

Week 11: Five Things I Learned This Week in Spain and Portugal

This week was absolutely fantastic. I went to Portugal, celebrated my twentieth birthday, and went to my first bachata class. I'm kind of in denial about the fact that I only have four days left (!!!), and I'm trying to enjoy my time here without worrying about when it will end. Here's what I learned this week:

{street art, Lisbon}

1. Lisbon is perfect. Lisbon might be my favorite of the fourteen cities I've visited this summer, not including Madrid because I just can't make that comparison. Lisbon reminded me a lot of San Francisco, with its hilly streets, red bridge, cold water, and vibrant atmosphere. The weather was an incredibly perfect 80 degrees, a sharp contrast to nearly everywhere else on my trip, and I spent two days on the beach (and have a ridiculously pink sunburn to prove it) and my evenings wandering the city. Lisbon is so incredibly beautiful and I can't wait to go back.


2. What it's like to turn 20alone. I've never celebrated my birthday alone. I'm always around family and as long as I'm in the country, I spend time with friends as well. But at this point in my trip, all the au pair friends I've made have already left and rather than spending the day with strangers, I decided to celebrate my twentieth alone. And while I don't think I'd ever actively seek spending my birthday alone, I ended up having an amazing day and am glad I got to experience it at least once. I visited all my favorite spots in the city, ate all my favorite foods, and fit in a lot of shopping. After a particularly filling lunch at a new Thai restaurant near Atocha, I ended up walking around and spontaneously buying tickets to see Trainwreck. I'd never been to the movies alone and had wanted to do so for a while now and again, while I don't think I'll ever actively seek out going to the movies alone, I know I won't feel afraid or awkward to do so in the future.


3. That being said, Trainwreck is brilliant. The film features cameos from comedians like SNL cast members, Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, and Mike Birbiglia (and several athletes too, if you're into that kind of thing) and the jokes are the kind of laugh-out-loud funny where you have to check to make sure you're not laughing too loudly and bothering the others in the movie theatre. I absolutely love Amy Schumer and Bill Hader, and although the romance tale between them was predictable, I still found it adorable and liked that the film delved beyond the standard rom-com by featuring issues like fear of intimacy, alcoholism, etc. And more than anything, I love that the film was non-apologetically feminist and didn't ever slut shame. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie, please.


4. What youth looks like. In all seriousness, I know I'm not old. But turning twenty means that you're not a teenager anymore, and as a friend pointed out, this is the decade where so many of us will be starting our careers, getting real apartments, maybe even getting married and/or having kids. It all still feels incredibly far away (thank god), but I met a girl on the eight-hour bus ride back from Lisbon who reminded me that maybe it's not as far as I thought. Manuela was sixteen and incredibly energetic and vibrant and she reminded me of how I used to be. (When did I get so old?!) She was incredibly open and talkative and told me all about her family in Colombia, her puppy, and her dream of becoming a veterinarian. We bonded over being vegetarians, which is nearly impossible in Spain, and our loves for Lisbon and Madrid. She was adorable and hilarious and reminded me of the qualities I hope to keep from my ~youth~.

{Lisboa Oriente}

5. Parque Juan Carlos > Parque Retiro. It's amazing to still be discovering new spots at this point in my trip and this week I went to Parque Juan Carlos I. It's off to the edge of the city, and while it's incredibly close to where I live, I never thought to make the trip since it's never mentioned on any travel websites or anything. And although it's not as iconic or old as Retiro, I think it's absolutely beautiful and provides more shade and scenery without the big crowds. You can rent bikes and even go on a train rideall for freeand there are tons of really cool modern art sculptures, a greenhouse, and a dedication to Spain's three major religionsChristianity, Judaism, and Islam. If you're in Madrid definitely don't leave without making a trip to this park.

All in all, this week was one of the best I've had this summer. Hope you enjoy the rest of yours! Here are a few more pictures from my trip to Lisbon:

~ V

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