A Little Bit of Lisbon Fun (◕‿◕✿)

Boa tarde! So I am writing this post in the comfort of the home of my relatives while watching a traditional Portuguese bullfight.


Side note: Portuguese bullfighting differs from Spanish-style bullfighting in a variety of ways. Portuguese bullfighting is very much about the spectacle, more emphasis on the cavaleiros – the horse riders (can be male or female) than the matadores or the bullfighters who end up killing the bull. For example, in one part of the spectacle, the bull runs wild and a group of the men hold the bull until he becomes immobile- a very Roman-like fighting style. In fact, in Portuguese bullfights the bull is never killed in the ring- they are usually killed by butchers outside of the arena.

This was due to one man who made it illegal to kill the bull in the ring- Marques de Pombal. A picture of his statue below.

He was the Prime Minister of Portugal credited with rebuilding Lisbon after the death and destruction of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. (Another side note: this statue is a popular spot in Lisbon. After winning some of the Euro Cup games, news crews in Portugal would come to the statue area to interview spectators engaging in mass celebration. Also, this was one of the main areas for the Marchas Populares- you’ll see below. The statue is very well known in the city.)

There is only one small town called Barrancos where they killed the bull in the ring illegally so many times that the region was allowed to do so despite the law. Nevertheless, sometimes the bulls are even restored to full health and released to pastures for breeding.

Moving on! I wanted to touch upon two exciting events that I attended in Lisbon during the course of my program. While these two events take place in other cities, they have a rich history in the city of Lisbon.

The first one has to do with fado.

I started singing at a very young age and after visiting my family a few times in Portugal, I really fell in love with fado after seeing performances in Lisbon (the capitol of Portugal and a big city important in the history of fado). My parents always listened to Amalia Rodrigues- a very famous fado singer with a truly unique voice- and I would imitate her just for fun for family and friends. There are two prominent cities/styles important to the development of fado- Lisbon and Coimbra. Lisbon fado is more of the popular fado type and where current modern fado is rising up through known singers like Mariza. Coimbra is home to the older more traditional fado and even has academic roots. Students (mostly male) from the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in Europe still in operation, dress in their academic outfits (dark robes and leggings and a dark “cape”) and sing in the evenings in the big city squares or streets or even the staircases to the ancient churches in the town. I love listening to Coimbra “tunas” or musical groups made up of the students. My favorite song from Coimbra style fado is “Amores de Estudante” which talks about how “the loves of students are like roses that bloom for one day and are carried away by the wind.” The chorus is sweet too, and basically has the message: “I want to stay always a student to eternalize love at first sight, and this way my dreams of love will always be prayed within me.” Here are the lyrics if you want to use a translator to understand them better: http://www.c2com.up.pt/blog/rasganco/arquivos/004089.html. They even call this song the “Academic Anthem” ! For more information on Coimbra fado, there is a wonderful group you can join on Facebook- Canção de Coimbra. Or you can listen to some fado and maybe see some performances on their website, http://www.fadoaocentro.com/pt/.

Like I said above, there are many famous fado singers in Portugal today and Lisbon is not the only city where fado can be heard. But, I want to focus on Lisbon fado for now. But before I do, here is a short history of the genre of music:

There is not much written on the history of fado. It always was passed through time in the culture of Portugal by word of mouth. Fado songs are traditionally sad and full of heartfelt feelings- especially saudade (a Portuguese word that loosely translates to a feeling of longing for a person, place or time) with subjects usually on love, lost love, the sea, poverty and elements of Portuguese life and culture. Fado was sung and is still sung everywhere… cafes, taverns, outdoors, concert halls, gardens, churches and much more. Typical fado singers wear all dark clothes- dark dresses and stockings with a shawl over their shoulders- and are usually accompanied by a Portuguese guitar (the bottom of it is not long like a regular guitar and is instead circular-pictures below). My personal favorite fado singer is Amalia Rodrigues- the “Queen of Fado” who was popular from basically the 40s to the 70s. She sang both Lisbon and Coimbra style fado, and her ethereal voice tugged on the heartstrings of anyone that had the chance to listen to her. Here is one of her famous songs, check out some of her other songs on YouTube! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFgctURyGp4

Lisbon fado is quite different from Coimbra fado, for regional differences mostly. It is more “modern” I guess you could say. A friend of mine took me to A Tasca do Chico in Bairro Alto for a fado performance during the course of my program.

On the left photo, you can see the traditional, round fado guitar. There is a picture of Amalia on the wall behind the right guitar. In the center photo, someone painted a photo of Mariza- another famous fado singer. A Tasca do Chico is known for helping fado singers get ahead in their careers, and she sang there a few times in the past and still visits. The right picture is what the inside of the place looked like. It was absolutely packed but I loved the soccer banners hanging from the ceiling.

Here is a great article on fado: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elysabeth-alfano/fado-music_b_1588410.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false Check it out! 😀

The next event I attended was the Marchas Populares along the Avenida Liberdade. The Marchas Populares are like the Mardi Gras of Portugal. From the statue of Marques de Pombal all the way to the Castelo de São Jorge (the neighborhood of Alfama), many Portuguese neighborhoods participate in a parade and compete to have the best costumes, props, etc.

I got some of the performers to look my way for a picture, but I was bit far away. Sorry for the blur! While many towns in Portugal have their own festas, these are the biggest in the country. There is massive celebration on the streets until the following morning. Most people go up to Alfama where the parade ends. The roads there are already packed and tiny with barely enough space for cars, so imagine them with 5 or 6 times the people, if not more!

Here is another picture I snapped. 

1 post and 1 week left til I leave. 😦

Beijos e abraços, meus amigos. kissy


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 ☞ http://mnazulejo.imc-ip.pt/en-GB/Collections/Collection/ContentList.aspx. 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 ☞ https://www.facebook.com/pages/%C3%81trio/130388867024937.

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: http://www.portstudies.umassd.edu/lisbon/index.htm#

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=sBZkR9TFFqk 10 Reasons to Visit Portugal

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUvalj-ia28&feature=share Anthony Bourdain in Lisbon

⊱✿ Location, expanded… ✿⊰ *Sorry for the few pics! Definitely a lengthy post*

When I first touched upon location on this blog, I wanted to introduce you all to my physical surroundings- the sights, the history I get to interact with on a daily basis, the colorful characters lining the streets, and all the other dimensions of the gorgeous city I currently reside in. But more important than the physical aspects of my city are the cultural elements and the social environment of Lisbon.

For starters, Europe is already a fascinating creature with the development of the EU. I already love studying the EU because it is truly a moving target. Things are rapidly changing and evolving, there is never a dull moment with all the decisions and proposals being put forth. The best part is, I’m smack dab in the middle of history being made! In 50 years or 100 from now, scholars and populations will look back on this time period and think about how exciting it must have been to be living in Europe during this time. Being here makes me want to move to Europe that much faster and start contributing to the evolution of the EU! Not to mention the fragile state of Europe at the moment. Birth rates are lowering all over Europe and immigration rates are dropping, so the problem of creating a new generation to help take care of the older populations (that now live longer due to technology) is an important issue. Another huge EU issue I am living through right now is the euro zone crisis. Because of the austerity measures being implemented, workers are striking all over the city. Recently, there was a garbage strike so the streets were quite smelly for a few days. Finally, there is a lot of strong sentiment from the people against certain European nations that are dominating over them in the European Union- such as Germany. In a way, it’s kind of awe inspiring to see how history still plays such a tremendous role in how populations think of current events. For many Portuguese citizens and other citizens of Western Europe, they still harbor skeptical feelings against Germany in that they feel that Germany is trying to control and take over Europe through their ever increasing role in the EU.These feelings are seen in so much of the culture, even the soccer! (See below)

If that were not already exciting, I am also in the middle of Portugal’s development and transition into the amazing, productive, thriving democracy it is destined to be. You see, Portugal was ruled by Salazar- a dictator- until about the early 70s. While he wasn’t that terrible as a leader (especially since he didn’t believe in extreme use of the military, was highly educated in economics and came from a simple, religious upbringing), he still oppressed the Portuguese people from sharing their thoughts and ideas and from getting an education. So when his regime ended in the mid 70s, new ideas and creativity went flying throughout the cities- bouncing off walls and turning into a social/cultural revolution! It is so intriguing to see how Portuguese people interact with their authority figures compared to how authority figures are seen in the United States. Since the people overthrew the Salazar regime, they don’t have that instilled fear of authority figures or civil servants. Plus, I think that they sometimes don’t realize the precious situation that they are presently in! Portugal only came out of its oppression less than 50 years ago, so it has so much potential to do wondrous deeds with all the increased education it has access to! In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is definitely a pivotal time for Portugal and I hope it invests its people and resources wisely.

To top it all off, I am in Europe during the Euro Cup 2012! The soccer spectator scene (cafes, bars, anywhere with a TV!) has been such a blast with all the games and fans everywhere. I have always enjoyed soccer, but here it is definitely the 2nd most popular religion if you count Catholicism/Christianity as the 1st. And considering (a) the hostility between Germany and Greece at the moment with Germany trying to remove Greece from the euro, and (b) the fact that they are playing a match on Friday, the June 22, I predict that a religious war is about to break out. There is a great article about it here ☞ http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/greece-v-germany/

Last but not least, I want to mention the exhilarating university environment here. All the universities and schools are so geared towards innovation, exchange of ideas and networking. Due to a change in the amount of time needed to complete the “Bachelor’s” (here it’s called the Licenciatura) and Master’s, students are graduating much younger or enrolling in graduate programs at a younger age. While that has its own problems since they then graduate younger and still can’t find jobs, it’s so nice to be around younger students that are about my year in school. For example, this past Saturday I attended the Switch conference at a university called ISCTE, and it was a great place to meet young professionals and interact with them.


These are a couple of my friends at the conference. The conference had speakers from all over the world that were there to talk about subjects ranging from technological innovation to African art preservation. (Check out some info here: http://www.switchconf.com/) Overall, it was a great environment for students, and I was so thrilled and honored to have attended. Especially since they have a great M.B.A. program at that school that I want to enroll in someday!

On that note, I invite all my international and American friends to look at Portugal as a possible destination for graduate school programs. There are many universities here with programs in English that are very cost effective! There are M.B.A. programs, law degrees, Master’s and Doctoral degrees and other training programs. In fact, this website ☞http://www.studyinportugal.net/ simplifies the programs available and gives you an introduction to the university network.

University life, as I mentioned above, is so unique in Portugal. The students are all young and ambitious, and I am excited to see what they will do for the next generation of this country. One of my favorite things about the students here is what they dress during the year. They wear black capes (as capas negras) over dress shirts and pants whenever they attend academic festivities. The “academic costume” or “traje académico” serves as one of the most important symbols of the institution of the university network. Not all universities adopt this practice. As an example, one of my friends in the picture above (Miguel, far right) attends a university (ESCS) where the “uniform” is worn on Thursdays. It’s not mandatory or a rule, but it encourages school spirit and unites the students with a centuries old tradition. Another tradition for students is wearing a colored ribbon around the wrist, to symbolize your commitment to your university/college until the end of your degree program. He wears a green one for his college, along with another friend in the picture above who attends the same university.

Today, I happened to discover a few groups of them in Lisbon sitting along the plaza streets and singing for money. (I ended up doling out 7 euros in donations to them, well spent in my opinion.) One of the boys in my study abroad program, Chris, loves to play guitar and so he spent some time playing with them and I ended up singing “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” for them before I left.


Great day, great city and AMAZING environment. Goodness gracious, I am loving every moment here.

Beijo, meus amigos. ✌ kissy Posts about the fun places I’ve visited to come. Promise 🙂

Chow time :]


Originally, I wanted this section to be part of the “Dolce Far Niente” post I recently added. But Lisbon is too much of an incredible city. It has been an experience so far made up of colored architecture, winding alleys, clear and crisp days, delicate aromas, compassionate people, flavorful history and inner peace. And the food here is a line that connects Lisbon to its people, which leads me to relive those colors, sounds and flavors.

I want to touch upon the food in Portugal. I cannot begin to describe how much of a paradise Portugal has been to me. I already had a wonderful relationship with food and cooking, but I made the ultimate commitment when the plane touched down in Lisbon and I had my first meal in Portugal after years of American food. Meals are very simple in how they are prepared and how they taste. There are no fancy sauces, spices, dressings or ingredients. In the end, you get a dish that is simple, straightforward, enticing, and still delicious- much like the people here.

Of course the diet here is very Mediterranean… lots of olive oil, breads, meat, olives, cheeses, alcohol and tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. People start out their meals with bread topped with cheese and/or presunto (prosciutto). Sometimes they even use a type of tuna spread.


I love the pre-lunch/dinner snacking, but I also really enjoy how the meal is designed. Portuguese lunches and dinners make sure to represent all the food groups. For example, you’ll have bread and cheese and maybe a slice or two of prosciutto. Then lunch or dinner will start with a light soup, followed by arroz cozido e carne (stewed beef and rice) with a vegetable dish on the side, and end with fruit and a sweet.

People eat at different times here than back home. Lunch usually occurs between 1-2 PM (13:00-14:00) and then dinner doesn’t take place until 8 PM (20:00), if not later. For this reason, Portuguese people like to “lanchar” or “snack” in between lunch and dinner. This typically involves tea or coffee, with a pastry or slice of homemade cake or toast with cheese and jam. The cheese eaten at this time looks like the one pictured below:


It is fresh cheese from sheep’s milk, and my aunt likes to serve it with pumpkin jam, for example. To lanchar, my aunt sometimes makes a “cheesecake” (which is really more like a pound cake) out of a cheese she makes at home similar to the one in the picture above. Or, she makes a light cinnamon cake which she serves with apples. All in all, I love that time of day because, by that time, it is starting to get cooler so you can sit with your snack and have a cup of tea outside in the glorious sunlight.

I love the availability of fresh, wholesome food here. At home, in the U.S., food is radically different. It is an obvious fact, but it holds tremendous impact. Here, I feel so much healthier eating fruits and vegetables because they are grown locally- by my family or other local farmers- and they don’t have a lot of the chemicals or hormones in produce back home. The beef is much better here too; in fact, American beef is banned by the European Union because of the large quantity of hormones it possesses. I know that many people my age may not think of these things, but it’s amazing how much healthier I feel here- this is one of the motivators for me wanting to live here someday. You can find fresh, savory produce and foods here for much cheaper! For instance, there are so many street vendors with fruit carts full of fresh cherries and mangoes, etc. I couldn’t be happier.

To conclude, I ended up making my first meal in Portugal yesterday for a friend and I. I made chicken fajitas with sweet potato fries and a fruit punch to drink. Dessert was amazing, I am so in love with the desserts here.


I ended up buying a huge bag of cherries from the street vendor. The ice cream is a really popular brand here called Carte D’Or (manufactured in the UK). The cookie on top is my favorite cookie brand/type here in Portugal. They are called Belgas and they are basically round discs of waffle cone with one side coated in chocolate. I am in heaven ♥

Well, I’m off to cook some dinner to watch the soccer game (Portugal v. Netherlands) in 40 minutes! God Bless.

Beijo, meus amigos. ✌ kissy

☼ Dolce Far Niente ☁

One of my top favorite movies of all time is Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts; I love the messages in the movie, what she learns about herself and of life as she voyages to three regions of the world. In one of the regions, Italy, she learns the expression “dolce far niente” … the “sweetness of doing nothing.” To be quite honest, I had never truly experienced that before until about two days ago. In the United States, it is so easy for people to forget how to just be. We have so many distractions around us that are not present here in Portugal. In Portugal, people take 1 ½ hour lunches in order to fully enjoy everything on their plate and engage in friendly conversation. What a wonderful and healthy cultural philosophy!

So, two days ago, I went on a beach trip with my study abroad group to a beach near Lisbon in the city of SetúbalIt was such a gorgeous day, and a great break from studying and homework. Before arriving at the beach, we stopped at a few lookout points on a mountain called the Serra da Arrábida. “Serra” means mountain range, so “Serra de/da (insert place)” means “mountain range of (insert place).” The view was so magnificent, with the sparkling blue water and golden shore beneath me and white clouds above me.


It’s crazy how you can feel so tall and powerful looking down from a view like this yet, at the same time, be reminded of how small you are in comparison to the world around you. I digress.

The beach was so pristine.. it’s actually one of the best known in the region of Lisbon. Personally, for anyone planning to visit, I preferred the beaches in Cascais and Estoril because the water is a bit warmer and the sand is softer and white. Setúbal is a true fishing town- like Porto (a city to the North of Lisbon)- so the sand is a little rougher and the ocean is frothy, messy and rambunctious from all the fishing activity. Nevertheless, I found a perfect spot to set up camp and I took a nap on the sand. FYI- I am not a nap taking kind of person, it felt genuinely strange to be so relaxed!


The best part of the beach is the natural clay found on the cliffs that line the shore. Many people take a dip in the ocean water and then take the soft, crumbly clay off the side of the cliff and rub it on them before letting it dry on their skin as they sunbathe.


The journey to procure my bag of clay was quite interesting. We were sitting on one side of the beach that was a long bit away from the clay cliffs, so I went off with a huge bucket ready to collect some. Along the way, the sand started burning my feet and the bucket became super heavy, so I left it behind and just took the plastic bag inside. A sign told me I was now entering the other side of the beach, which I didn’t think was a big deal. I then asked a random beach goer instructions to the cliff with the clay and, after following his instructions, I noticed that all the people down in front of me were staring at me. I didn’t think much of it and continued to dig for the clay. It was then I noticed that I was on the nude stretch of the beach!

Even though I knew nude beaches existed in Europe, it was still so strange to find myself upon one. I guess that it just serves as a warning for all my American friends and friends from other countries that even though you may think you are prepared for all a country has to offer, you are never fully prepared. Hmm, I should have titled this post “Portuguese Culture: The Phenomenal and the Abominable.”

To review, Portuguese culture is very much carefree and I love how it emphasizes enjoying one’s life by taking pleasures in all moments- overlooking an ocean, eating a homemade meal, sitting with a friend and chatting for a while… etc. Yet, at the same time, it’s not carefree in that it is lazy or unproductive but that it respects the things in life enough to give them their proper time or appreciation. Hence their relaxed attitude and admiration towards the human body, leading to my culture shock of the day. I will post about the tourist beaches I visited a couple of weeks ago and about the conference I attended yesterday very soon.

Até jà, which means “see you soon.” Beijo, meus amigos. ✌ kissy

It’s all about location! ツ

Just like with any story, the best way to introduce it is by setting the scene. Right now, I am studying in the city of Lisbon- the cosmopolitan, historically rich, and culturally delicious heart and soul of Portugal. This city is dripping with folklore, history, gracious people and appetizing food at every corner. The University of Massachusetts- Dartmouth summer program in Lisbon rents rooms at the Lisbonaire Hostel for students, and I have to say that I absolutely love it there!


When I first pulled up to the street the hostel was on, I honestly became very confused. The photos of the hostel on the website led me to expect that the outside of the building would be as ornate and glamourous as the inside, so when I saw the light gray, simple building stationed on a street full of graffiti covered apartments being renovated, I got a little worried. Upon walking inside, though, I was blown away! The building is only two years old, and it’s the perfect location for any students wanting to visit Lisbon.

Each apartment corresponds to a letter of the alphabet, and has its own designer. The suites are all completely different, except for the fact that they are extremely COLORFUL! If there is one thing I love, it’s lots and lots of color… so these rooms are such an amazing place to come home to after a long day of classes. Plus, our apartment theme is based on blues and grays… so relaxing! Some students from the program I am in have a loft-type suite, with a living room and bedroom downstairs. Another group of students have their own large and spacious kitchen with a different bed / living room layout. Moreover, the rooms come with fully furnished kitchens, towels and clean up services in the rooms, a television set with cable, and unlimited wireless internet. In the mornings, the sun rises in the perfect angle to bask me in sunlight from the window, and then I like to make myself a cup of tea and look out at my magnificent view of the city while I blast film score soundtracks from my laptop. (*NOTE: If I haven’t already sent you the link, my favorite study playlist ever is found here ☞ http://8tracks.com/thegirlnamedjedrzejko/my-ultimate-study-playlist. You are welcome, in advance.*)

Better than my apartment is the area I am surrounded by. I am never bored for a moment here in the bairro alto (Translation: high neighborhood- since it is located on a hill. Bairro Alto has a famous reputation for its night life and countless bars that line the streets, but it also is home to some pretty significant sites). There is so much to explore and discover! Today, walking home from class I bumped into the cutest, elderly German couple I have ever met and even took their picture outside of the trolley cart near my street. There is an amazing Indian restaurant next door, a restaurant near my university with food from Goa (once a colony of Portugal in India- so it is Indian food with a tropical twist to it), a Japanese pavilion at the top of the “elevador” at the end of my street, and many other ethnic groups / shops / restaurants in my area. By elevador I mean that at the end of my street you reach a road where you can only go left or right that is inclined at least 45 or more degrees. On this street travels an old fashioned yellow electric trolley, and it gives you a lift to the top of one of the Bairro Alto’s many hills. I have promised myself to refrain from using the trolley, just to get some more walking time in. In fact, that is another thing I love about being in a busy city- all the walking time and how things are in walking distance. In America, especially in Florida, the land is really flat and everything is so far away- therefore car travel is a must, unfortunately.

Across the street from my hostel is the famous Hard Rock Cafe, and to the right of that on the opposite side of the street is the Hotel Avenida Palace.


During WWII, this hotel used to be full of spies that were stationed in Portugal. The hotel still has some of the old tunnels and passageways that the spies used to use! Right next door to the hotel is a delicious place to get amazing gelato, and on the sidewalk outside of the hotel there is a street vendor who always has mountains of fresh cherries, yummy! Further down from the hotel is a plaza with elegant fountains, the Praça de Dom Pedro IV (Plaza of Pedro IV). The details on the statues in the fountain are so well designed, and not only are the plazas and buildings beautiful by day but they are all lit up at night!


Across the plaza is a super fancy bakery, the Pasteleria Suíça.


About 40 years ago, my father served in the Portuguese army and he used to spend a lot of time there. When he found out I would be in the area of Bairro Alto, the first place he told me to visit was the Swiss bakery because of all the scrumptious goodies it holds! As a cultural note, many cafes/bakeries in Portugal sell more than just coffee- they typically serve grilled ham and cheese sandwiches (tosta mista), teas, sodas, pastries, soup, and other goodies. The Pasteleria Suíça has a good variety of Portuguese treats like rissóis de camarão (shrimp cakes), healthy salads, and others. The best part about the place is the sweet shop!

There are so many adorable candies at the sweet shop area of the bakery. There were many chocolate covered almonds with different flavors like fruit cremes in the middle and they all had clever designs on them. Some were designed like the eggs of a robin while others were various colors or covered in gold and silver (edible) paints.

The last area I really like near my home for the summer is a street that starts at the Praça de Dom Pedro IV and stretches down to an area that goes near the river and ties with the Avenida Marginal. The Avenida Marginal is a picturesque road that passes all the best beach towns in the Lisbon area such as Cascais and Estoril. I will post the pictures from that trip soon. When walking down this street, there are so many cute shops all around and always something exciting happening. For instance, the other day there was a woman who spent hours standing in the middle of the street as a living statue.

I was lucky to get this picture of her, because she spent five minutes keeping me from taking a nice picture by moving her red scarf in front of her face. But it was all in good fun, and she even took a picture with me when I put two euros into her little jar. I spent the other 3 euros I had left over to buy an overpriced chocolate crêpe and chamomile tea at the cafe near her.

That’s my favorite part of Lisbon. Because it is basically the door to Europe since Portugal is the first country one meets when visiting the continent, there have been so many people who have passed through and lived in Lisbon. There is so much Arab influence on the architecture since the Moors were in Portugal and Spain for so long. Actually, there is a grandiose and beautiful mosque that I passed by on a Lisbon Sightseeing Bus Tour (pictures/blog later) that I hope to return to and visit at some point. Another big influence in Portugal is French culture. From the 15th to 18th century, Portugal was a fountain of gold and culture and sophistication. Anybody who was anybody spoke French or Latin, and there are still many French restaurants and foods that linger in Lisbon. A lot of the clothes have expressions in French, French words are intertwined into the language, and it is a large part of the architecture, culture, and so forth. The influence from the Roman Empire is also quite large. In fact, Roman caverns underneath Lisbon were discovered a short while ago that can be visited during the month of September. The caverns are open for only 3 days because they are flooded underground year round. Legend has it that the water that trickles down there when the cavern is not flooded is magical and can produce miracles. I will link the video for that here  ☞ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivs6km260Kk


Time for sleep. Beijos, kissy


❝The world belongs to those who take it.❞

Hello! For those of you reading this post, you must be loved ones, close friends or even new friends and I hope you enjoy this blog as a way to share in my adventures in Portugal this summer. For those of you who do not know me, here is a short background: My name is Marielena Dias and I am a 3rd year student at the University of Florida studying political science with an emphasis on European Union studies and international relations. My interests are international law, teaching or working in politics, and international relationships among nations especially considering influences such as culture and religion. I am part of a research group in the U.S.- the McNair Scholars Program (miss you all!) and I recently received a research fellowship as well. I am of Portuguese descent and I hope to one day return to Portugal to work on a Master’s or Doctorate.

Starting this blog was a bit difficult because there are just so many aspects to studying and traveling abroad that have a right to be told and should be included when telling stories. I  have only been in Lisbon with my study abroad program for the last 3 days but already there are so many adventures and moments I wish I could share. Even if I were to share them in stories, I will never be able to fully transfer the images in my mind of how blue the sky gets here or how crisp and clear the air feels when I walk about the city in the mornings. Furthermore, I am slowly but surely falling in love with this city and, because of this (as often happens to people in love), my mind is constantly memorizing every single detail of the city and I find my surroundings to grow more beautiful each morning I wake up to greet them.

In my lifetime, I have only visited Portugal a handful of times. Last summer, I visited my family in the town I spent the happiest moments of my childhood in- Carregal do Sal. It was the first time I had visited in 5 years, and I realized how much I missed the environment when I returned to the U.S. for college in the fall. I made myself a promise that I would return again the following summer some way or another. Over the year, I spent hours looking at educational opportunities in Portugal for graduate studies and I found a few that I really liked. However, spending a short vacation in a country with family is radically different from actually studying and working there, so that was the primary motivator for my visit this summer- to see how I might like being part of the university community in Portugal.

One of the things I love most about being a student is the opportunity to experience life in a way that adults my age may never get to. As a university student, I can pack my bags and spend six months or one year in a completely different country and continue learning fascinating subjects. I can experiment different cultures and meet new people to see what region of the world I someday want to call home. Who says that you can’t go anywhere, do anything, or be anyone. We are all capable of making the most of this life, and it is our right to do so. No adult working in a typical job can ask for half a year to go visit a new part of the world for an internship or study abroad program, but students can do this and find themselves in ways never imagined possible.

Stories and photos to come, starting with my current location and the city surrounding me, the institute I will be studying in and adventures I have already had in Portugal. Since I arrived in late May, I have had to chance to explore the lovely country I call home. I know that en even when I am old and gray in the future, I will never forget the sights of the beaches I visited (Cascais, Estoril, and Carcavelos) or the Mardi-Gras-like spectacle of the Marchas Populares and how comfortable I felt celebrating the Portuguese holiday Dia de Santo Antonio even though I was with complete strangers. I can’t wait to see what else this city, this country and this life has to offer over the next couple of months.

Beijo, meus amigos, até logo. ✌ kissy

☝P.S. That means “A kiss, my friends, until we meet again.”