Traveling around (days 97-99)

Day 97 – Tuesday, 25.12.2012
Feliz Natal – Merry Christmas! First I have to write about our Christmas evening last night. All the Erasmus students left in town gathered at the apartment of Latvians. When I saw their living room I’m sure that was a smart idea, because it’s much bigger than ours. They have a really nice apartment. Well Damir and I were about half an hour late, but when we arrived we were still the first ones there. Others arrived one and a half or even two hours late. It seems even Erasmus students picked up this Portuguese habit. =)
Well it didn’t matter, because when we were all there we started to eat different foods. Actually everybody brought some food with them, so that was really nice and there were so many different dishes! After that we all got a bit more relaxed and we got into that happy party mood, so we all started to dance and sing and simply enjoyed the evening. It was so much fun! Too bad we had to calm down a little, because obviously people from lower apartment couldn’t sleep… =) But it was a really nice evening and I’m really happy I spent the evening with such great and positive people. We stayed there until around 3 a.m., but then I helped Damir with some cleaning in the kitchen and he still wanted to bake one potica that he wanted to bake before but couldn’t finish it. So I went to bed at around 4 a.m. and Damir around 8 a.m.! Crazy! And we had to wake up at around 9 a.m.! Haha! =D
So yeah, we did wake up and we packed what we needed and got to the bus for Lisbon. When we arrived we decided to walk to the airport, but since we had enough time we walked through streets and observed the city through non-typical tourist eyes. Everybody goes to the center and we were walking out of it. It was interesting to see that, because that way you see more how the city life actually works. We were very disappointed on the amount of trash that was just lying around on the ground and also there were so many garbage bags next to the trash containers, not in them, even though they were empty! Why would people do that? When it comes to recycling, ecology and simply garbage disposal I’m often very disappointed here in Portugal. It’s like nobody was taught why and how to handle the garbage.
Anyway, we waited for mom of Damir at the airport. While waiting we had a lot of fun observing people. =) When we arrived, rent-a-car was waiting for us; or better, we’ve been waiting for the rent-a-car. Well we got it and we decided to use the rest of the day for some Lisbon sightseeing, since we’ve been in Lisbon anyway. We drove through the center to the coast and we found a parking space that was also free, because it was Christmas and fee for that parking is obligatory only on working days. Lucky us! =) So we just had to cross the street and already we were able to lose ourselves in those narrow streets at the oldest part of Lisbon, under the castle. It was really nice and the weather was great. Too bad only that the castle was closed for visitors because of the Christmas, but still, we enjoyed the short walk and sightseeing at that part of the city.
We arrived back in Caldas da Rainha in the evening and we were all quite tired. So we just made a short plan for the next day and went to bed, because we all needed some sleep.

Day 98, Wednesday, 26.12.2012

We started our day in the morning and our first destination was Peniche. We drove to the lighthouse on the cliffs at first and we enjoyed the view. Oh, these cliffs and the power of ocean waves impress me every time! It really is amazing sight. We made quite few stops along the cliffs and every stop had something new to offer. At one place we were surprised by some hole, through which strong wind came out every time the wave hit the cliff. It was so awesome! Something totally unexpected, but really interesting thing! =D Our last stop before leaving town was the fortress and then we left sunny Peniche.
Our next destination was Baleal that is really close and there are always surfers. On our way there we stopped at some surf shop and that was sort of an attraction as well, because I’ve never seen so many surfs at one place yet. But that’s no surprise, since surf scene is really something usual here. =) After that we drove to the Baleal beach and it’s so cool because concrete road actually goes across the beach to the other side where there are houses. We met the guys from Surfoz, surf school Damir went to. I kind of really wanted to get in the water and try to surf this day, because it was such a nice weather and it was actually really warm on the sun. I didn’t need my coat; just two long t-shirts were enough. Just around the corner we checked some more cliffs that were a bit different than the ones we’ve seen so far. That was really interesting.
From there we hit the road again and drove to Obidos. I felt a bit bad because I still wasn’t there, though it’s really close to Caldas da Rainha. Well now I’ve seen it and it really surprised me with all the ancient charm it has. It is an old city with medieval wall all around the old city and it has so many cute narrow streets. I would definitely recommend a visit to people that like old cities with some soul and charm. But it really is a huge tourist attraction and the main street was full of people. I guess part of that was because there was like a ‘Christmas Village’ that you could visit for a fee. It was interesting, but obviously it was more adapted to children. We walked up to the city wall and we walked half of it. The view from there was amazing and totally worth the walk. You can see the ocean from there, but also you have a great view of the city and the roofs of all those old buildings. When you’re looking at the city you realize how many gardens and green areas actually are there, but you can’t see them from the street level. So I’d say I fell in love with the city a little bit. =)
On our way back home we stopped at the shop and then we went directly back home, because once again, we were hungry, tired and sleepy, so we all just wanted to go to bed as soon as possible.

Day 99, Thursday, 27.12.2012
Today we woke up early again and we left home in the morning, because we went to Sintra. We chose not to drive on the highway, but on the local roads that allow you to enjoy the rural environment. Few times we saw some nice view or something and we just stopped and enjoyed whatever it was that convinced us into stopping. Mostly it was the ocean. =)
Sintra has quite a lot of things too see, but we knew from the start we wouldn’t be able to see them all. So we decided to go to the most famous castle up on the hill above the city. It is a palace with huge garden and we bought the tickets to see both. The palace is some mix of different architectural styles and it looks like from a fairytale. It is an amazing sight, but I kept on wandering why did people build such large residences and why? Well it definitely was worth checking out and it really impressed me. I kind of wanted to be dressed like a princess and pretend that it was mine palace, but at the same time I really couldn’t imagine living in such large palace. I wouldn’t know what to do with all those rooms.
After seeing the building we went for a walk through part of the park. Oh that was totally something of my taste! First I found a round pavilion and I just love buildings like that. To just walk around it was really something I always wanted to do and I know that might sound stupid or weird, but I just really wanted to do that. I was so happy when I did that. =D Then we kept on walking and we found like a small stone bridge over a path and that’s another thing I love; cute small stone bridges. Another part of my dreams… =) Then we continued our walk and got to some water area with small waterfalls, palm trees, ferns and ivy all around us. I just realized then, that my favorite plants are all green and they were all there in one place! It was like another part of my dreams! Small jungle! Oh it was so beautiful! =D And what I found there? Another small stone bridge! So it was like a combination of so many things I love! And not just that! I was able to see sequoia tree and that is something that I can’t see every day and it makes an amazing impression on me every time I do see it. There were also some others enormous old trees that you simply have to like and respect when you see them. =) So this park was really like a dream to me and I want to visit it again, at least one more time.
We ran out of time to visit more palaces and other interesting places in Sintra, so we drove to our next location that was on our priority list; Cabo da Roca, the westernmost part of Europe. Well the lighthouse is really nice, and there is a statue with a cross and people are taking photos… Then you look down the cliffs, you see the beauty of nature, you look to the west and your eyes just start to glow a bit because of the amazement and a bit because of the happiness. Maybe it’s just me, but the feeling that I got there was truly unique. Once people stood there and thought that they were on the edge of the world and they thought our planet is actually a flat land, like a plate! It truly is magnificent sight when you think of it like that, or even if you don’t.
We waited for the sunset there and maybe it’s a bit ‘mainstream’ and a cliché, but it’s so worth waiting for that. Well it’s just simply the sun going into the ocean, but it’s the feeling you get that makes all the experience so much more powerful. And while the sun was going down on one side, the moon got up behind our backs and it was another amazing feeling and experience. Nature is awesome! =D
I would love to post some photos now, but I’m too tired to make a selection and edit some of them. I promise I’ll post a lot of photos as soon as I’ll have some time, but at the moment my priority is to get the most out of this week and I’m simply enjoying all the sightseeing. =) So, photos coming soon. =)

Surprise package (day 96)

Day 96 – Monday, 24.12.2012
Again I was up quite late last night because I was watching Friends episodes again and they are just so funny! So I slept a bit longer this morning. When I walked into the kitchen it was like a bomb would fall in there! Ok not like an ordinary bomb, more like a baking bomb! Cookies and brownies everywhere (and a lot of dirty dishes, but who cares when all the food looks and smells so good)! =D
I wanted to clean some dishes, but I wasn’t sure what will Damir still want to use, so I didn’t touch anything, because I didn’t want to ruin his system. =) So I squeezed myself into the corner with some space left, so I was able to have breakfast. =) Even though nothing he baked is vegan, it was still really enjoyable just to see so much food around.
Then my mom called me on Skype and she was so happy! They got my Christmas package today and that surprised me a bit, since I took it to the post office few days ago and I was sure they will get it after the holidays. Well, they got it just on a perfect date and they were all so happy that I remembered them and sent them some gifts. So I could say that my mission “Surprise your family with something positive” is accomplished. =D It just feels so good when you know you made someone else very happy just by remembering them with something small. =D I guess that’s just evidence that it’s not so much about how expensive and big present is, it’s more about just remembering someone and if possible, surprising them with something that you know will make them smile. =D
Well I must say, it’s been a really great, positive and optimistic day today. It is more or less a perfect day before Christmas. It’s like everything is getting together, everything is on a right track and you just know your life will turn out amazingly good. =D Now I’m in a bit of preparation for Christmas evening. We will celebrate it in an apartment of Latvian Erasmus students and we have sort of a rule that everyone brings some food and drinks. I’ll take that potica I baked yesterday. =)
Tomorrow morning Damir and I are leaving for Lisbon because his mom is coming and we will meet her there. So I think next couple of days will be quite busy with running around and sightseeing Portugal. We will have a car rented and so we’ll be much more flexible to travel around. So excuse me if my writing on blog will be a bit left out these days. =) I’ll write about tonight Christmas evening in my next blog post.
I wish you all an amazing night and merry Christmas! Enjoy, laugh a lot and just be with people you love; or as in my case, with people that you know will make your evening full of positive and happy energy! =D

Baking potica (day 95)

Day 95 – Sunday, 23.12.2012
Well I spent most of the morning on my computer, but after lunch I started my mission for the day. I decided to bake potica – Slovenian traditional dish. Because I’m vegan I had to find a suitable recipe. I did bake potica before, though I always had some help from my mom, but I never baked vegan potica. Well I found some recipe and I started with the filling, that wasn’t made from walnuts but with almonds, and then I started to work on dough. I had some problems with that because it was all sticky, but Damir helped me and at the end I got quite nice result. When I started to use a glass bottle as a rolling pin it worked well, but the dough became a bit sticky again, even though I put flour under it… Oh well, in the end it turned out ok, so I put the filling on flattened dough and I started to roll it. I had some sticky problems again, but I did it. We put the potica in the oven and waited.
Yay! I made it! My first vegan potica and it turned out to be well baked and actually really good! I feel sLOVEnian now! =D Hahaha! I think I’ll be baking it more often now! =D

My first vegan potica!
My first vegan potica!

After my baking was done, Damir occupied the kitchen with his cookie mission. Not one, but I think two types of cookies were in his plan. I kept him company for most of the time. I kept on asking him if I can help him with something, but obviously he had everything under control and he insisted on doing everything by himself. Oh well, it was nice to just hang out and chat.
Oh, and I have to say that today we had really beautiful cloudscape again and I just had to take some photos. The colours were amazing and so surreal!

Cloudscape these days (day 94)

Day 94 – Saturday, 22.12.2012
So we’re back to grey cloudy days as it seems. But it was still quite warm, though a bit windy most of the day. Well, I decided to do some laundry, because you can’t be sure about the weather here, even if you think you are… =) I was lucky and it didn’t rain today, but my clothes still didn’t totally dry until the end of the day, so I had to move them indoors.
Ok, enough of these unimportant things that nobody wants to really know… Well I spent most of my day just searching over the internet for some photographers or other artists that worked in area of my final diploma project. I found some really amazing artists and maybe their work can’t help me with diploma, but the amount of inspiration I got from that was totally worth it. From all that I found, I must say these two are one of most inspiring and I recommend you to check them out. Cole Rise and Niki Feijen.
Beside all that I also took some time to think about staying here in Portugal for second semester or staying at home. I admit, I was totally stressed about it for few hours and I was all messed up because of it. I just can’t get this thoughts out of my mind and really, lately I’m more and more sure I’ll be going home and stay there, even though I was so sure about staying before. There is so many positive and as many negative things in each decision, but I just have this feeling that this amazing experience of the whole Portugal kind of needs to end. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity and I’m really happy that I was able to be one of Erasmus students, but I think that I kind of got all that I needed to get from the whole experience. Oh well, I still have some time to change my mind, but at the moment, this is where I stand. =)
After all the thinking I really needed to get out, so I went to the shop and Damir was so kind to keep me company. I’m always happy when I don’t have to go to shop by myself. I just love to have someone around to talk with. =) It looks like all of the lying in bed and waiting for my knee really paid off, since today I was already able to walk totally normal and I barely noticed any pain in my knee. I dare to say my knee is healed. =) I dare to say my knee is healed. =) Yay!
Ok, so maybe we picked the wrong day and time to be in a shop, because it was really crowded. You know, Christmas is coming up and it’s weekend, but oh well, I needed some ingredients for my baking mission tomorrow. I’m planning to make vegan potica (Slovenian typical dish), but instead of walnuts I’ll fill it with almonds. We’ll see if it will be as tasty as it is with walnuts. =)
Even though I did get out of the house today, I didn’t make any new photos, but I did edit some from few days before, so here it is, the cloudscape. =)

Ideas, plans and inspiration (days 92-93)

Day 92 – Thursday, 20.12.2012
I slept until almost 10:30 today, which is quite unusual for me, but ok. It’s “the last day of planet Earth” and so why not, right? =) Well I decided not to go to school today, because I really needed to rest my knee and if I went to school I’d have to walk quite a distance again. And my knee is getting better, so I don’t think it’s worth the risk. But since it was really nice and sunny for few hours I opened the window in my room and finally enjoyed some sun after these cloudy days! Oh, it felt so nice! Sun, I love you! =D
I’m not sure if I wrote that already, but I think I didn’t. I arranged everything about my mentors for diploma, both from my school in Slovenia. I think I chose the right people and I’m looking forward working with them. One step closer to start of the whole process of writing and creating my final project.
I spent most of the day just daydreaming, making plans, relaxing and thinking about my photographs for all the final projects I have to finish here on ESAD. I think I found some nice examples and ideas, so hopefully I’ll be able to do everything as I would like it to be. Also I took some time for making some Portuguese language exercises and just trying to remember names of all the colours and numbers… I must say, slowly I am making progress. =)

Day 93 – Friday, 21.12.2012
If I was able to sleep until 10:30 yesterday, that was clearly not the case today, because it’s Friday, and that means I had to wake up before 8:00. I’m obviously becoming half Portuguese person, because now I started to not even care if I know in advance I’m going to be late… So I got to school at 9:30 and I was more or less right in time, though we actually didn’t start with anything for another half hour. Our professor showed us some really great books of two different photographers and I really liked those photos, because they were a lot like my style of photography. Then we talked a bit about our final projects and what will we pick and so on. So it looks like I’ll have to do some landscape photography for this class. Not bad. After some thinking I think I decided to go with seascape, since that exhibition last week really inspired me. And we will have a car rented next week, so I can use that opportunity. =)
When I returned I cooked myself some really tasty lunch and then I worked on some research for my diploma. I didn’t get very far, but at least I started doing something about it. Also I’m having a bit of a battle in my head about if I should stay on Erasmus exchange for the second semester, or if maybe I should go back home. I’m really not sure. There are pluses and minuses in both decisions, so I don’t think there is such thing as “wrong” decision and I think I’d be ok with any of them. At the moment I must say I’m more interested in going back home. I just have a feeling that I would make more progress and just simply be more focused on my diploma. Well I don’t know. I still have time to decide, so I guess I’ll see how I feel about it in January.
And I just have to say that I looooove daydreaming… =D I know some will say that is just stupid wasting time, but to me that is just such an amazing feeling and that is simply part of me since… well since always. I admit, I’m a dreamer; or better, I’m a daydreamer! =D
Oh and by the way, Damir and I just cooked some chestnuts and ate them. Yes, we still have chestnuts here. =D And for lunch I had that summer potatoes, that we also still can buy here… =D