Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Portugal part 1: Sesimbra

The first annual IDS-FunMat Training School took place in Sesimbra, Portugal from March 13 to March 18, 2011. This was my first “sort of” conference, and I can’t really compare because I’ve never been to a real conference before. However, it’s Portugal, and c’mon, you’ve gotta treat it as a mini-vacation.

The IDS-FunMat program, short for International Doctoral School in Functional Materials, is a joint program between the European Commission and Canada – a bit weird, I know – that offers a 3- or 4-year doctorate where each candidate is affiliated with two universities and an industry partner. The two universities must be in separate countries, hence mobility is mandatory. 9 cities are involved: Bordeaux, Caen, Grenoble, and Paris in France, Louvain-la-Neuve and Liege in Belgium, Darmstadt in Germany, Lisbon in Portugal, and Waterloo in Canada. As you know, my PhD is joint between Bordeaux and Louvain-la-Neuve, and I have already made my first move at the beginning of March.

Where is Sesimbra? It’s a little fishing village approximately 50 kilometers from Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. The thing I was looking forward to the most, aside from the sunny weather and the beach, was meeting all the other PhD candidates in my program. There were 22 of us, coming from all around the world and now scattered throughout Europe due to our mobility schemes.

Enough about my program and onto the week! The schedule was jam packed with plenary lectures and presentations and workshops, but even in the midst of it all, the students were able to squeeze out every bit of free time to spend networking with and getting to know each other. Let’s take a look day by day. Mouseover the small pictures to read a brief description and click to see the full version.

Day 1: Arrival

Upon landing, I saw a magnificent view of Lisbon. Unfortunately I did not capture the moments before landing as I didn’t get a window seat, and that would have to wait until departure from Lisbon. Nevertheless, Lisbon definitely gave me an extremely good first impression.

The school arranged a shuttle bus to get us from the Lisbon airport to Sesimbra, which took around 45 minutes. We went through Lisbon city and the first thing I noticed was that the landscape of Lisbon is extremely hilly. Houses in Lisbon are built in layers of increasing height, and it was a rather unique overall design. More about Lisbon on day 5, where we had a little excursion around the city. For now, the scenes from the bus suffice to add some anticipation to the excursion.

Of course, this is the obligatory limited-almost-skyline of Lisbon taken from the moving bus. We arrived at the hotel in Sesimbra and immediately after the welcome cocktail, we had our first lecture at 8 in the evening, ending at 9:30. Seems like the admin wanted to emphasize that this is a training school, not a time to relax, huh?

Day 2: Presentation of thesis topic

Yes, this would be the day I tell the world what my thesis would be about and how I plan to go about achieving my objectives. The candidate presentations were split into two days, and I was quite glad that I was the second to present on the first day. After all, a 15-minute presentation would free me from the tension of waiting and I would be able to enjoy the rest of my time without the burden on my shoulders. Better earlier than later!

This is Sesimbra by the sea. The Atlantic Ocean – wow. This place would be filled with tourists during the summer, but as it was still mid-March, we were pretty much the only group of people there, having the beach all to ourselves. The rays of the lovely sun woke me up every morning and the gentle sound of the ocean waves sang me a lullaby every night. It was heavenly.

After the student presentations, a group of us decided to take a short stroll along the beach before dinner. Since my parents always complain that there are not enough pictures of me, I made the effort to be involved in pictures this time around. Of course, with my peers too!

Day 3: Discovering Sesimbra

Day 3 was much more relaxed as everyone finished their presentations! So, no more worries, off we all went to enjoy much better weather than the previous day, and a little exploration in the vicinity of the village.

This is the view of the beach from the 8th floor of the hotel. By the way, every room in the hotel gets a view like this. Pretty spiffy! I think this may be my favourite photo of the trip. It can be printed out as a postcard!

I am amazed at the diversity of the students this year. People from France, India, Nepal, the Philippines, China, Canada, Brazil, Ethiopia, Mexico…I’m sure I missed some, but we were all there to meet and exchange experiences and of course, create memories and have fun! On y va à la plage?

Hotel do Mar, where we stayed. Really quite an impressive structure, except the internet connection was disappointing for a 4-star hotel. Also, due to the location of the hotel on a hill, the elevators were designed in such an intricate manner that many were lost or trapped the first time trying to get to the beach. From the higher levels, you’d have to go down to the 5th floor, then take another elevator to the 2nd floor where you’d go down the stairs to the beach. Seemed like a maze, no?

A short walk around Sesimbra before dinnertime.

Sesimbra was quite deserted during this time of the year. We wondered how the restaurants survived with no visitors. The apartments also seemed empty…

Day 4: All-day workshop

There were two workshops on day 4, one on negotiation and time management. Of course, these were supposed to make us more organized and become better people and blah blah blah. We were split into two groups and at the end of the workshops, each group had to prepare a scenario or a play to illustrate what we had learned. Our group topic was time management, and the performer in me provoked me to volunteer to play the role of narrator. Hilarity to the max. I should have asked someone to take a video of it; I would have liked to see how good of a narrator I was.

Just to prove that we were in Sesimbra for a training school and not to chill, here is the negotiation workshop. We had two role-play sessions and clearly, some people have a backup career in acting if their PhD doesn’t work out.

If you’ve seen my blog before, you know how much I like to take pictures of random animals that I encounter. This cat is badass, I tell you. Don’t mess with it.

Mariel and I decided to fling our shoes and feel the cold water from the sea. What a refreshing sensation! We also picked up some beautiful seashells from the shore, a cute collection of free souvenirs from nature.

After dinner, the students decided to gather around to have a drink in the bar in order to discuss some issues and elect a class representative. Looking at all the people I’ve gotten to known in a short span of 5 days makes me marvel at how much this whole experience has made an impact to my life, and it’s only the 6th month of my studies. There’s a long way to go!

More PhD candidates. Let’s all work hard towards our goals! But of course, drinks first!

Day 5: Excursion to Lisbon

Read the full entry on Lisbon. There’s too much to write about the sub-trip that it would expand this entry beyond capacity if I don’t separate it. Lisbon is special enough to warrant its own attention anyway. However, there is still something to be shown for day 5.

This would be the collection of shells from the shore of Sesimbra! I’ve never gone shell hunting before, or rather, I’ve never found anything whole and pretty like these ones here.

Day 6: Time to go

Finally, it was time to leave! The training school had come to an end and everyone must go separate ways back to their labs. TAP Portugal brought me from Lisbon back to Brussels. Vous me manquez, mes amis!

This was the view that fascinated me upon arriving in Lisbon. That bridge…wow. Goodbye Lisbon, city of hills!

To be honest, these 6 days had been very fulfilling. I wouldn’t say they passed by quickly, and I could recount so many details of the things I’ve learned and the variety of people I’ve met. I already miss Portugal – the warm weather, the precious bonding moments, the interesting conversations. Until we all meet again in Bordeaux next year, my dear friends! Till then, I’m sure I will see some of you at some point during the year ^_^


Surprise surprise! I’m not done yet! Aside from the entry on Lisbon which is coming soon, I have a few pictures of food in Sesimbra this week. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Since LS-san always insists on seeing pictures of food, I have taken some specially for him so that he can have some preliminary consultation for his upcoming trip to Portugal. However, I must remind LS-san that hotel food is probably quite different from what you get locally. One thing I must say though – you must get yourself some authentic pastéis de nata from Belém! Take note of that, okay?

6 responses to “Portugal part 1: Sesimbra

  1. leafstick March 20, 2011 at 17:56

    LS-san is very disappointed in the food that you’ve chosen in such an exotic city ABC-san. =P jk jk jk =]

    Was there like street food? Definitely need images of street food =] From anywhere and everywhere!!!

    HAHAH find some weird snacks =]

    I LOVE FOOD!!!!!! humanamanamana


  2. spreemagazine May 31, 2011 at 18:32

    Wow! what a great overview, I must agree the bridge in Lisbon is really unusually attractive, interesting. It was pleasantly aromatic to read this post. Thanks.


    • Annie Bananie June 1, 2011 at 09:48

      Thanks for your comment! I enjoyed Portugal very much; Lisbon was the second place (after Hangzhou) where I gasped and said “It’s so beautiful that I’m going to faint” (trust me it sounds less strange in Chinese) 😀


  3. Pingback: Fish in Sesimbra |

  4. Pingback: IDS 2013 part 1 – Pre-training school trip to Lausanne | Annie Bananie en Europe

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