Field trips! + Farewell… ツ SUPER LONG POST!!!

So, I can’t believe almost a month has passed since my last post! Time really flies- especially with all the non-stop fun that summer has to offer! Sadly, my program in Lisbon has already come to an end, but there were so many exciting parts to the experience that I will continue to post about my study abroad trip- especially since I am still in Portugal until the end of the summer. ☺

This blog is the one I’ve looked forward to the most. Growing up, the absolute best part about school (besides nap time) was when the whole class would go out for field trips. For the price of the study abroad program I am currently in, I feel like it included so many adventures and outings. We went on a bus tour of the city of Lisbon, visited the Palácio de Belém (which is basically the Portuguese White House), ate some of the best pastries in Portugal at Pastéis de Belém, explored the historic University of Coimbra, marveled at an open space of Roman ruins in Conimbriga, and stayed overnight in Evora- a charming, quiet town full of history.

Trip #1: Lisbon Bus Tour ~ Date: June 11th, 2012

The bus tour was part of the study abroad program. While we went on to do bigger and more exciting field trips, this was such a nice introduction to the city. We passed by the Belem Tower (the “Eiffel Tower of Lisbon”), the Jerónimos Monastery (pictured above: top left) where Vasco de Gama is buried, several “miradouros” or hilltop spots where you can look out to the city, old churches, gorgeous purple trees, the statue of Marquês de Pombal and many other spots! It was a lovely afternoon, and we spent a few hours on the bus before our first welcome dinner.

P.S. I chose the two monuments in the pictures because they were both part of my list of favorite Lisbon monuments. The Jerónimos Monastery was not only the birthplace of the pastéis de nata, but I also liked its decorative theme. Since it was built in the time of exploration and ocean navigation, it has a lot of hidden nautically themed decorations such as ropes and shells and anchors along its walls. On the balcony of the building in the bottom right picture, town hall, the First Republic was declared in 1910. While the First Republic was not well organized and would eventually give way to an even more harmful dictatorship period than the original monarchy with Salazar’s “Second Republic” or Estado Novo, Portugal had already taken a leap into the future democracy that it would grow to be. In fact, when the dictator was overthrown officially on May 1st, 1974, Portugal only took one year to assemble parties and have the first free elections for everyone in April of 1975. This is truly a marvelous country.

Trip #2: Palácio de Belém & Pastéis de Belém ~ Date: June 18th, 2012

This field trip started out with us going to eat some delicious pastéis de nata at the place where they originated, the Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon. Every year they have taste contests to see who makes the best ones in the area, and the ones we had were superb! They are usually eaten warm with powdered sugar and/or cinnamon on top. The pastries are said to have originated in the Jerónimos Monastery… the story starts off with the fact that during Portuguese medieval history the convents and monasteries produced large quantities of eggs- especially since the egg whites were in demand for starching clothes. As a result, many pastries were invented in the convents and monasteries from the leftover egg yolks- such as the pastry above.

From the cafe that serves the pastries, we walked to the Palace of Belém- the Portuguese White House.

 The Belém National Palace was home to many Portuguese monarchs and later home to the Presidents of the Portuguese Republic after the installation of the First Republic. The outside has a stunning garden on a veranda that overlooks the palace and allows you to see for miles until the river.

I love Portuguese architecture for one main reason: AZULEJO! Azulejo is a form of tile work found in both Portugal and Spain. It has Arabic roots and the tiles can be found anywhere- from metro stations to churches to ceilings and floors! Here a great page if you would like to see some azulejo or learn more ☞ Also, if you really love how azulejo looks, there is a great Facebook page where you can get some exquisite, handmade/hand painted pieces of jewelry with azulejo designs! That page can be found here ☞

The palace has 12 panels of azulejo around the main building and another 14 on the veranda depicting figures of mythology. *In fact, if you read on to the section of our Evora trip or Coimbra trip- you’ll see how big of an influence mythology had on Portuguese culture. The ceilings of the historic library of Coimbra University have Greek Gods and mythology figures on the ceiling, even though Portugal is so predominantly Catholic. The classroom we had a lecture in at the University of Evora happened to be the “Greek Philopsophy” themed room, so there were azulejo tiles with famous philosophers all over the wall.* Here are some pictures from the outside of the building and veranda area:

If you look at the bottom left picture, that is where the last princess to live in the palace used to keep her exotic pets. She loved having animals like lions and giraffes and elephants. The bottom right picture shows the garden in the background where she used to let her wild animals roam around. That garden is now full of roses of many colors- reds, yellows and pinks.

The inside of the palace is spectacular, but we were not allowed to take photos. I stood on the same ground that Obama once walked on for a state event! The rooms all have themes- there was a “blue room” with a nautical feel to it. Large woven tapestries on the walls that had been created in the Alentejo (a region of Portugal) depict Portuguese sailors conquering parts of the world such as Africa and Brazil. Pride is still very much abundant among Portuguese people from their period as a grand maritime power.

Our time at the National Palace ended at the palace’s museum. Inside, we learned the history of the presidents and people to live in the palace. My favorite part was learning about the medals and other decorations that the presidents wear for formal events. Pictures below 🙂

Trip #3: University of Coimbra & Conimbriga- Roman Ruins ~ Date: June 25th, 2012

The trip to the University of Coimbra was hands down my most favorite part of the UMass in Lisbon summer program. It is the 9th oldest university in the world, and we had the opportunity of attending an intriguing lecture on Portugal’s foreign policy at the College of Economics led by visiting professor Teresa Cravo. I personally have wanted to attend this university since I was a preteen, so it was great to go back and visit.

As I may have mentioned before, I grew up in Portugal as a baby, and returned at ages 8, 12 and 17. Both times, my parents took me on visits to the university and I fell in love with it immediately. When I was 12, one of the guards from the library even let me hold one of the books inside from the 1600s! It is such a historically rich university, and undergrad life here is so different from that of the U.S. in all the universities. In my other posts I already talked about the the first difference- the use of the school uniforms and the capes. Aside from that, students have so many traditions with their universities. For instance, they wear different colored ribbons on their wrists for the entire length of their program terms, moderate hazing is part of their freshman year (for instance- the student professors or seniors will have a week of events where they yell orders at the students, have them perform crazy stunts and tease them to no ends), and more.

At the University of Coimbra, one of the traditions is to kick a fox azulejo tile that is in the hallway leading to the main classrooms 3 times before exams for good luck. If you fail an exam, though, you are entitled to a “fox trophy” or a scratch on the tile.

Another tradition that I have touched upon before, the student uniforms/capes, was better explained to me by a student doing a demonstration in front of the university’s library.

In the picture below are 3 panels. The first shows how the uniform is meant to be worn. The uniforms don’t have to be worn all year, but are a tradition at certain times of the year- like the entire month of May. At the University of Coimbra you must put on your cape correctly when you walk under the front gate. However, once you are inside you can drape it over your arm as seen in the 3rd picture. She explained that the reason why the uniforms are all black minus the white shirt is because the students wouldn’t go home for long periods of time (since travel was more difficult in those days) and the white shirt was all they would have to wash or keep clean.

The center picture is the most interesting, because it shows how students used their uniforms as a form of expression and continue to do so today. Students cut slits on their left side of the cape f0r each member of their family and slits on the right for each close friend. The center cut is for relationships. Each time a student is in a relationship, he or she cuts a slit up the middle of the cape and sews it back once the relationship ends. In the “old days,” it was said that girls or boys would know how many relationships the guy or girl they liked had been in by counting the slits, but of course sometimes not all the cuts would be accounted for. 😉 The last part is the pins that you see on the 3rd picture. The pins can tell where you are from, what soccer teams you like, or what clubs you are in.

The final 2 traditions at the University of Coimbra have to do with the bell tower and the Ph.D. ceremonies.

For the bell tower, since it used to ring so early in the mornings (and still does), the students used to refer to it as “the bi**h” in Portuguese because once the bell rang they had to be on the university grounds before the guard shut the gates. Now, the students still call the tower this when they come in every morning. The picture on the right is the Ph.D. ceremonies hall. Every time a student tests for their Ph.D., they change the carpet colors and tapestry colors to match those of the student’s college. At the end of the test, if the student passes, they put the teacher cape and hat on the student and the student officially becomes a professor.

Later on in our trip, we visited the university’s library and chapel. *FUN FACT: Anyone who has attended, taught at, or worked for the university can get married in the chapel- and many people do! If you did not personally attend, teach at, or work at the university bur your future husband/wife did, you can get married there.* We were not allowed to take photos inside either one, which was upsetting 😦 – especially since there was a beautiful organ in the chapel from the year 1733 that still works and produces 240 sounds!

Here I am in front of the library, the same place that made me fall in love with the university years ago:

The inside of the library once allowed people to take photos, but then they noticed that the gold designs engraved on the sides of the bookshelves were tarnishing so all photos were banned. Yes! You read that right… there are numerous gold designs (with gold taken from Brazil when it was a colony) depicting scenes from when Portugal was active in Macau that are engraved on the sides of the wooden bookcases (made of special woods that were taken from Brazil).

Anyone is  allowed to take out books and read them in the library or at home! The books in there come from all sorts of time periods. The oldest book in there is from the 12th century! In fact, there is even one of the first editions of the Bible printed off the Gutenberg press in the 15th century.

Portugal is currently one of the most green countries in the EU, and that comes from a long history of being eco-friendly. For example, bats live in the library in order to eat the insects and keep the library free of pests (don’t worry- they are nowhere to be found during the day!). The walls were built to withstand heat and moisture, so no air conditioning is really needed inside the library- which is amazing considering we are talking about a library built in the 13th century!

The art in the library is so amazing. There are 3D murals on the ceilings to make the ceilings seem taller, and there are inspirational messages painted up there that emphasize the value of honesty, education, righteousness, and so forth. When we visited the basement, we saw the original rejected ceilings by the king since he always had the final say on what the designs in the library could look like.

We ended our visit to the university with a trip to the academic prison! In the basement of the library lies the academic prison. Students or professors were placed in the prison for many reasons- from damaging books to having revolutionary ideas. We saw two solitary cells where professors were kept in the dark for up to one month. Students could have up to 6 months in the larger, shared cell… but they still had to attend their classes! Sometimes, the guards and students would play cards or games and have bets, so students might have a night out if they won one of the bets.

At the end of the day, we visited Conimbriga- a site with Roman ruins. It was a relaxing end to the day, just walking about these old Roman ruins and trying to picture what life might have been like in the day. The only bad part was the extreme heat we all suffered on this field trip, from the hot, white, reflective university grounds to the hot, expansive Roman ruins. Nevertheless, I took some stunning pictures and it was very worthwhile! See below. *Shout out to Filomena, our program director, who is in one of the photos below!*

Trip #5: Evora Overnight Trip ~ Date: June 28th-29th, 2012

My last trip with the UMass group took place in Evora, a small and charming village that I enjoyed visiting. It is one of the prettiest areas for visitors to Portugal yet not a completely tourist infested town. We departed from Lisbon early on the 28th, and first stopped at the university in Evora. Pictures below…

After touring the historic parts of the university, we heard a lecture on the progress of the Portuguese region of Alentejo. Our professor informed us that we were in the philosophy themed room of the campus (check out the painted philosophy figures in the azulejo!) and he showed us the lecturing balcony that older professors used to use:

When we left the university, our UMass professor/ leader took us to dine on some savory birds… quails! We went to a cafe that specializes in preparing them a special way, and (although they were not my favorite dish that I’ve had in Portugal) they weren’t that bad!

Our hotel in Evora was so beautiful and quaint. The rooms were cozy and there were large clay pots, plants, mirrors, and paintings in every hall! The hotel had an airy and cheerful tearoom for breakfast with a gorgeous veranda that overlooked the town for miles! Fortunately, we spent more time in the city than in the hotel, but I was so pleased with our accommodations!

Evora had two incredibly gorgeous churches that we visited (center photo: Fun poses! Me “getting hit” by the light of God), along with the “Chapel of Bones” which we also visited. The Chapel of Bones (see both of the far left pictures), located right next to the Church of St. Francis, was created in the 16th century by a monk from the church and decorated with the bones of those who died near the church from illness or other reasons. It was meant to serve as a message that life is short and just a fleeting moment in eternity. The ceiling is covered with messages about death, and hanging from one wall are two desiccated corpses- one a child and another an adult, to show how death is non-discriminating and can occur to any person at any age.

At the end of our day, we attended the festas (parties/festivities) that were occurring in Evora celebration St. John. The program director of my university (ISEG) and some of the girls and I all sang karaoke! It was a blast 🙂

The following morning, we visited a vineyard and learned about wine making. But my most favorite part of the entire Evora trip is the stop we made to a village called Monsaraz before coming home.

Monsaraz is a hilltop town that is one of the oldest Portuguese settlements in southern Portugal. The town is completely whitewashed with pink and red flowers lining the walls and streets and trees. Because the village is so high up and mostly occupied by older couples who live there during certain times of the year, we had an amazing view of the rolling fields and rivers of southern Portugal. It was quiet and relaxing, and the shops were delightful. I stopped at this tiny hole-in-the-wall store that seemed so small from the outside but ended up going on forever once you walked in the door! The woman running the store had been there for ages, and it was one of the nicest places I visited in the village with some of the girls. There were aromatherapy candles and oils, scarves, hand painted ceramic figures and dish sets, perfumes, clothes, jewelry (handmade or machine produced), old fashioned toys for kids and other trinkets. We definitely spent quite some time in there (poor boys!)

Before leaving, we headed to the “castle” where there were once bullfights and royal events. We climbed these ridiculously uneven steps to the top of the “tower” (top right picture below) and I sat across the top of the staircase for a picture (center photo below). I even got a photo in the bullfighting ring with a scarf I had just bought 🙂 I adored Monsaraz!


To conclude, all of the program’s field trips were educational, enjoyable and memorable. I feel that for a one month program, it really packed in a lot of adventures! Most importantly, I had adventures with the most incredible group- I miss them dearly! Our last trip together occurred at our farewell dinner, which was about a week and a half ago. We took a ferry across the Rio Tejo and ate dinner at a restaurant right along on the water. The sky changed so many colors as the sun set and we ended up getting home around 1 AM. When we said goodbye to our ISEG professors and coordinators there was not a dry eye to be found.

I was incredibly blessed to have spent the time that I did in Lisbon. The program was challenging, yet rewarding… and I have so many adventures to share because of it. While my posts will continue with more adventures in Portugal and research that I have yet to share, this is my last post of the actual UMass program I enrolled in for the summer! For any of you looking for an amazing and short adventure in Portugal, you should check out the UMass Summer in Portugal website, which can be found here:

They have year long and semester long programs to check out too.

Also, I want to share 2 videos I found on visiting Portugal. Enjoy! Until the next post, BEIJOS! kissy 10 Reasons to Visit Portugal Anthony Bourdain in Lisbon