girl goes guiri

Is my blog.

Photog Madrid: But actually, Portugal.

Portugal makes it extremely easy to take beautiful pictures, even for someone who knows nothing about taking pictures. Here are a few more of my favourites.

Cut that fish, guuuurl

Livros Usados

Bairro Alto, Lisbon

Welcome to Obidos now I shall eat you nom nom nom

Blues

Super cool protest art. According to our tour guide, around 70% of buildings in downtown Porto are abandoned- they’re owned by the government who doesn’t have the money to fix them and won’t sell them to people at affordable prices. So someone put up paper humans to show what the neighbourhood could be like if it were more tenant-friendly.

Hrrumph.

Someone told Ilana that Porto reminded them of a pop-up book because of all the gorgeous old things surrounded by industry and construction, and abandoned buildings and graffiti (which we happened to love too). We agreed, and this beauty is a perfect example.

Maybe a parking garage? No sé.

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In which I prove to be a jerk and try to justify it.

Okay before I begin, and this will have nothing to do with the theme of this post, I want to share an awesome interaction that just happened. My roommate told me last night that a carpenter would be coming this morning to fix a cabinet in our kitchen. I didn’t fully understand what the problem was but she said there was some damage from two floods last year and that he would know what was up with it. The carpenter got here this morning and we had a FULL ON CONVERSATION about the cabinet (which, he didn’t actually know anything about), and the damage, and also about my deficient Spanish of course. I am so proud- it was great and I made a joke, and “th’d”, and spoke quickly even! So…. Thumbs up!

Yes. The carpenter just saw me making a montage of thumbs up selfies.

Anyways, part of what makes me so proud of this conversation is that it has been almost two weeks since I actually spoke Spanish to anyone. Until a few days ago I was away with my sister in Portugal where the only thing we learned how to say was thank you. When I got back my Spanish tutor had cancelled all of my lessons for this week so I was feeling prepared for a major language set back, but now I’m feeling all motivated to sit on my computer for a while and study! Which I am clearly doing right now. And which I was clearly doing this morning when I was watching the new episode of Switched at Birth. So really, having a conversation in my own home has made me feel accomplished enough that I can now justify hermitting all day until I go to work this evening.

Okay, Now Portugal.

We planned this trip a while ago, when I was sure I would be moving, as an opportunity to travel but way more as a way to see each other and hang out after six weeks of sisterly withdrawal. Ilana has been working on her research all summer so this was a vacation for her, and I have been sin familia all summer so this was a really important fix for me. We both agreed that we weren’t interested in going to museums or seeing the inside of more than a few churches, so spent most of our time walking around neighbourhoods and eating and shopping. I am sure the museums in Portugal are fantastic and I am sure there were lots of fabulous insides that we didn’t see, but we tried really hard to be confident in our decision to prioritize the other bits instead.

I think we both felt a little bit guilty about our lack of interest in the historical historical (as opposed to modern historical which we were were into) aspects of the Portugal experience. This became clear on a day trip we took from Lisbon to Sintra. Everyone told us that Sintra was the most beautiful place ever and not to be missed so, though we had been content in our aimless neighbourhood walking in Lisbon, we agreed to do some official sightseeing on our day trip.

Our first stop was the Sintra National Palace. In the interest of diving head first into the tourism, we spent 20 euro on a combined sight ticket so we could see everything we needed to see around town. Ilan and I walked through the palace, and didn’t say much. One of us commented on something every now and again. We both noted how we were the only people in a room sometimes without security guards or curators which we thought was strange and cool.

After the national palace, Ilan and I started walking towards a second palace but we were slow moving and notably moody. Half way up a giant hill we started arguing about unrelated garbage which, in retrospect, was just a mask for the fact that neither of us was happy with the plan we had set up for the day. Hopping from one palace to another to another just didn’t feel like the right way to experience the town that so many people told us we would love. The palace was really nice, but to be completely honest, we both walked through it and felt unimpressed. And I think we both left feeling guilty about our lack of interest. Our guilt was warranted; I mean, how effed up is it to be standing in a palace originally built in the middle ages saying, “meh” to yourself? I feel like such a shit even writing it.  We were so grumpy that we didn’t make it to the second palace or anywhere else of note in Lonely Planet’s chapter on Sintra. The day was a total fail until we found something called a ‘tea club’ with a beautiful view, where we treated ourselves to a giant cheese plate and subsequent constipation.

Ilan and I had a conversation after our fail day in Sintra about why, after traveling so much, certain things about sightseeing just aren’t cutting it for us anymore. The last time I traveled to Europe I wanted to see EVERYTHING. I went with a few girlfriends and we had the most incredible time experiencing everything there was to experience before 10 pm. I think a few of my friends could have done more of the post-10 pm experience as well (and sure we were 21 so we did a pub crawl or two) but for me the days felt full and wonderful and complete without the nights. At the time I was obsessed with Napoleon so got bizarrely ecstatic and took 1 million pictures anytime we were near anything that he or his family touched. My friend Yael did that trip without a camera, which at the time I thought was totally insane. How could she not want to remember our experience with 1,354 pictures like I did? At the time it felt like filling my brain with history and art and monuments, and documenting it so I could look back on it on the regular, was the only way I could possibly understand the overwhelming beauty that was before me.

When this group of friends left I met up with my friend Vanessa for a similar, though more food focused, type of travel. Vanessa and I had lots of conversations about the way we liked to travel- going to supermarkets counts as sightseeing, avoid meeting anyone, be in bed with a book by 10pm.  This formula worked for us, just as museum and synagogue/mosque/church going worked with my other girlfriends.

But then we met Tom.

Tom owned a hostel in Budapest called “The Loft,” that was to be our home for the five or six days we were in the city. As you know I absolutely love hostels and all the amazing best friends you can meet sharing bunk beds and showering in communal bathrooms. So Tom owned this hostel, which normally means I would hate him, but he was so totally jaded and emo an apathetic about the whole thing that I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Him and his beard, and his half-closed eyes, and his wispy black hair. Sigh. Vanessa felt the same. On our first night in the hostel Vanessa and I ordered Thai food and invited Tom to join us so that we could charm him with out wits. He accepted our offer and our hearts and taught us everything he knew about travel and culture and the indifference with which one can pursue entrepreneurship.

After our Thai food, Tom asked Vanessa and I what we planned to do with the rest of our night. “Uhhhhh, probably just go to bed, we’re not really into partying” we responded trying to sound as cool and into ‘real travel’ as possible. “Oh,” he replied coolly, “I hate people who only care about museums and churches and totally ignore the cultural aspects of a city that can only be experienced in the night.”

MIND. BLOWN. Had anyone ever said anything so eloquently? How could I have missed this extremely profound truth?! And then the internal freak-out: How do I get you to love me again?! Am I sweating?! I’m cool, really! Recover RECOVER!!!

“Totaaaaaaaally,” we drooled, “We’re just, um, really tired tonight.”

You better believe we loved this man enough to take what he said to heart. As ridiculous as it is, this was the actual moment I learned I don’t need to see every sight or do everything the guide book tells me in order to be a real traveler. Thank you for blowing my mind with something so obvious, Tom. Of course Vanessa and I did go to bed that night and didn’t put his sage wisdom into practice for another couple of days. Yes, we visited plenty more religious buildings throughout our trip and we loved it. But from this moment on, at least in the back of my mind, I knew that there was a certain aimlessness that had thus far been missing from my travel experiences (You know, the kind of aimlessness that comes from living in a city hint hint).*

This brings us to three years later, the past two weeks, where I was traveling around Portugal with my sister. We were both feeling like total assholes because we just couldn’t see what was so fantastic about a poorly restored though commendably old palace, so got to talking about the kinds of things that still make travel amazing and special and overwhelming for us today. Walking around neighborhoods, drinking in cafes, looking at architecture, listening to music, buying too many pairs of locally made shoes, reading at gorgeous viewpoints with giant cheese plates- these are the things we now love and crave when we think about travel. Which roughly translates to: We are SO. FUCKING. LUCKY.

I had to own the privilege to get over the guilt. Instead of pretending to enjoy what wasn’t working, Ilana and I spent the second half of our trip doing all the aimless non-touristy touristy things that we love. And this is what made Portugal perfect.

I don’t regret for one second the way I did Europe three years ago, and I don’t regret for one second the way it excites me today. My relationship with travel is just different, and my desperation to capture everything just happens to be more about the people and recent political climate than it is about the hundreds of years of history I devoured at a different time. I’m certain my interests are going to continue to change and, who knows, I may even get sick of cafes and politics and go back to the museums.

Until then, I’m going to be okay with channeling handsome Tom and my friend Yael who totally understood the joys of seeing a city outside of the lens of a shitty point and shoot camera way before the rest of us. And I’m going to be okay with admitting that it feels fantastic.

This has been really long and you deserve something more interesting so here are a few from the only 25 pictures I’ve saved from our trip. Hasta Luego.

Lisbon- view from just outside our apartment

Lisbon wall

Beautiful amazing Porto

*Don’t worry, Tom continued to love us throughout our stay, and gave us all 7 Harry Potter audio books so let’s be honest he changed my life forever. In a moment of nostalgia, Vanessa and I recently emailed The Loft with a cute picture of us to say hi to Tom and to see if we were as memorable to him as he was to us. Predictably, we have received no response.

Photog Madrid: Benidorm Addition

As I mentioned in my last post, I just spent a week in a beach town called Benidorm. It was magical. I believe I now understand the deal with Jersey Shore. It was a seriously bizarro town, obviously inhabited solely by tourists (bot guiris and not), filled with American rock and roll-themed bars, strip clubs, a beautiful boardwalk, 1000 ice cream shops, real-life fights, condoms in the water, and a nearby Ancient civilization themed amusement park called Terra Mitica. This video describes the theme park perfectly. I’m lazy today so am just going to share some of my favorite pictures from the week.

la playa

Lessons

Fun things to buy in Benidorm

Benidorm by night sans filter (I swear)

Hombres at Terra Mitica

I look happy but I am about to vomit here

And then this guy happened (or; worst picture, best outfit)

and Migle playing a sweet tune