Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Category Archives: Portugal

A mission in Portugal, part 3 – Cascais & Sintra

Day three of the Portuguese trip brought me to a few unexpected places. To start with, I didn’t have any plans at all. It would be a day when I let Mr. DS take me around in his car, since he’d know better where to go. I thought we’d mostly be exploring Lisbon again, but the first thing Mr. DS said was, “I’m gonna take you to Cascais, it’s such a nice place.”

Then he asked me if there were places I’d like to go to. I told him that I had originally planned to go to Sintra, but ended up heading to Óbidos with my friends instead. He thought for a little bit and told me, “You know what, I’ll take you to Sintra as well, it’s not so far from here.” Wah, extra plus!

Cascais is approximately 30 km west of Lisbon, and Sintra is another 20 km or so to the north. After having a light lunch by the sea in Cascais, we hopped onto the car and as I thought we were going to Sintra, Mr. DS decided that on the way there, we’d stop by Cabo da Roca first. Ah, what a spontaneous guy! Where exactly ARE we going?!

This is Cabo da Roca, supposedly known as the westernmost point on continental Europe. The view of the sea and the cliffs was simply breathtaking! This is why I was so glad to have Mr. DS, the most authentic Portuguese I’ve ever know, as my companion during the trip. Of course, the car helped greatly. Without Mr. DS, I would definitely have missed out on this detour, which was one of the best part of the day. It was a windy day, alright, more so by the sea!

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A mission in Portugal, part 2 – Óbidos

The second part of the Portuguese mission took place in a little place called Óbidos some 80 kilometres north of Lisbon. I wanted to visit Sintra, but some of the IDS-FunMates have already been there (5 times for Carole!) So we decided to go somewhere that nobody had been to, and Óbidos it was! Originally it was supposed to be only Carole and me, but Tomin, Lo, and Tuyen joined after a little bit of convincing (or none at all). The more the merrier!

Óbidos is a medieval town that was once a wedding gift from a king to her queen, marked by a castle and surrounded by aged city walls. It was similar to other medieval towns I’ve been to, like Carcassonne and Saint-Émilion, and a fun place to spend a relaxing Sunday 😉

A sign at the entrance gate of Óbidos for the medieval market that takes place in July and August. Óbidos has been a national monument since 1951. Another sign says, “It shelters the oratory dedicated to the patroness of Óbidos, Our Lady of Piety, concluded in the 17th century, with remarkable tile covering from 1740-45.”

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A mission in Portugal, part 1 – Lisbon

I planned a trip to Lisbon, Portugal for four days at the end of April 2013 with a special mission in mind – to find my retired middle school French teacher, who is actually Portuguese and lives in Lisbon now. The task is actually on my bucket list, and I can proudly check it off now.

About Mr. da Silva, he’s nothing short of goofy. 13 years ago, in grade 7, he became my first extended French teacher – yes, he’s Portuguese, but he’s fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Italian, in addition to Portuguese – and I immediately loved his energy and charm. I would never forget the two years I spent with him in class, not only for French, but also for drama, geography, and history, IN French. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was because of him that I continued learning French, which was the reason why I never struggled much in France.

I thought it would be no better way to explore Lisbon and its surroundings with an authentic local, and Mr. da Silva gladly agreed to be my guide. He even offered to pick me up from the airport, and I was so excited as he waved to me right as I exited. I went back to my middle school to visit him after graduation, but how many years has it been since I saw him? I don’t even remember, so the fact that he recognized me right away surprised me. Well, I guess Facebook must have helped. Yes, he’s 66, but he has Facebook and we’re friends. Old friends, in fact 😉

In three days, I did quite a lot, including a trip to Cascais, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, and Óbidos. Let’s start with Lisbon, shall we?

As the plane was about to land, I saw a gorgeous view of the Lisbon aqueduct – yay for my window seat! I’ve been to Lisbon two years ago, so I knew that the view outside the window just before landing would be magnificent. And yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to be using electronic devices during take-off and landing, but…how could I resist?

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Portugal part 2: Lisbon

If you haven’t read part I about Sesimbra yet, read it here.

Portugal has held a special place in my heart for a very long time, because one of the most influential teachers in my life was a Portuguese man. In grades 7 and 8, Mr. DaSilva taught extended French. He was a silly man, always telling corny jokes and life stories in class, yet for some reason I just liked him. I can honestly say that he played a big part in getting me here today. He inspired me greatly during those two short years, when I was still a youngster, and he encouraged me to continue my French studies. I’m glad I did, because knowing French certainly contributes to my survival in France – go figure.

That was why I was so excited that the first training school is in Portugal. I had told myself that I would definitely visit Mr. DS’s hometown one day and see the place where the old man came from, and so I did, thanks to IDS-FunMat.

So the schedule said that we had an “excursion” to Lisbon on Thursday. Now, the word “excursion” reminds me of elementary school field trips, and to be quite honest, I think most of us were looking forward most to Thursday for obvious reasons. In fact, I think I had the mentality of a little kid that day, excited to go out with a bunch of friends and curious about the unknown city beyond the visible.

The wheels on the bus went round and round and took us from Sesimbra all the way back to Lisbon, our first point of contact in Portugal. We didn’t know that we’d be getting a Portuguese tour guide, so instead of just sightseeing, the whole trip was a bit of a history lesson for most of us, since I’d imagine that not many were familiar with the country of Portugal. First fact: the Portuguese pronounce their capital city as “Lish-boa”, even though it is written Lisboa. One more thing to remember, if you forget anything else I say: the 1755 Lisbon earthquake defined the history of the city. More on that later.

As before, mouseover the small pictures to read a brief description and click to see the full version.

I always find it super annoying that these cranes manage to destroy an entirely beautiful landscape, but without these cranes, the houses and bridges wouldn’t be built. The gigantic crane right outside of our hotel also bothered me. It just seemed so out of place on a peaceful beach…

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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.

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