Monday, October 25, 2010

Gracias Danke Thanks Obrigada

Beware: this is an essay that took an hour and a half to write, but it was the best weekend ever!

The weekend started out like any other, a regular Thursday night out partying with the friends (well almost regular, I only stayed out til two so that I could get up early and pack for Portugal).  On Friday I walked to Plaza de Cuba so that Carolina could pick me up and we could begin our journey west.  As she rolled up in her older small VW Golf, my heart started racing, I was about to go to Portugal to  vacation with my new spanish friend and her cousin!  I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.  As we got on the highway we started driving on A22 west listening to Dave Matthews Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, some spanish rap and some german rap.

Aljezur, Portugal - Wind Power
As we got off the highway and began driving through the countryside near the coast, every turn around the mountain corners took my breath away.  Portugal has such a different landscape than Spain, and on most of the mountaintops you can also find wind turbines.  To me that was even cooler than the natural beauty because it means that these people are more conscious of what is going on with the environment than worrying about preserving the natural landscape.  In many parts of the US there are debates going on about whether or not the turbines should be built.  HELLO!  Our society is absolutely destroying the environment as we know it, so we aren't going to have the landscapes for long anyway.  Natural energy needs to be the next step so that we can continue to live in this world.  It won't be long before its too late to turn back.

Phone calls are expensive in Portugal, so Carolina had communicated with Felix (her cousin that we were visiting) about when we would arrive and where he would be.  Both guys are from Heidelburg, Germany (Carolina is half German) and Felix is 29, and David is 28. Anyway, to our surprise (or not so much), when we arrived in Arrifana, the beach they said they would be surfing at, they were nowhere to be found. So we continued to check the other possible places that they could have been to no avail.  The town we were staying in was called Vale da Tehla, but Arrifana and Monte Clerigo were the beach towns next door.  Each town has 1-2 beaches and probably a permanent population of less than 1500 people.  These were tiny surf towns, and the ideal location to get away and enjoy a weekend of zero responsibility.

Carolina y yo en Arrifana
After about 25 minutes of searching we went back to the Arrifana beach and finally met up with Felix and David. David is a beginner surfer, so he was in the water practicing while Felix was hung out on the beach with us, resting from his tough morning of surfing.  After a little while, Caro and I decided to walk up to the beach bar to buy a beer.  The bar has about four tables outside and has the most incredible view of the beach.  The Arrifana beach is in an area that is shaped like a half moon, so it is surrounded by cliffs that block the wind making the surfing conditions ideal.  David surfed for about an hour and a half while the rest of us just hung out on the beach watching the sunset, and enjoying the seclusion the area provides during the year when all the tourists leave.

Relaxing in the hammocks in front of the house
After the beach we stopped by the house that Felix and David had rented and we dropped off our bags.  The house was enormous with a beautiful kitchen, sitting room, dining area, hammock area, and pool/patio area.  It also had six rooms and only two other guests at that time, a german couple who was leaving the next day.  Carolina and I each got our own rooms!  After dropping our stuff and meeting the landlord (and agreeing to the price of 15 euro per night for the rooms) we headed over to Aljezur to buy food to cook dinner.  Aljezur is the closest thing you can find to a city in this part of Portugal, its just a small town a little more inland from the beaches. We ended up buying some fish and chicken to barbeque, tomatoes, oinions and cheese for a salad, and vegetables and rice to cook on the stove.  I made the same stirfried vegetables and rice that I had made for Carolina, and once again it was a big hit! The guys controlled the grill, and Carolina was in charge of the balsamic, tomato and cheese salad (she claims she doesn't know how to cook).

Dinner was AMAZING.  We all just sat at the long kitchen table and enjoyed conversation in English, Spanish, and German.  The mix of languages at the table was so much fun because between the six of us, we didn't all share one common language.  I speak english and spanish, Caro speaks spanish, okay english, okay portuguese, and is in the process of learning german, Felix speaks german, english, and good spanish, David speaks german, english, and french, and the other german couple spoke a bit of english, a bit of spanish and german.  Basically that meant that german dominated most conversations, but when Caro Felix and I spoke it was in spanish, when David, Felix and I spoke it was in english etc.  It was the kind of experience that makes you want to learn more languages.  Who knows, maybe I'll make german the next language.  It would mean that I could practice with Dad!

After dinner we continued to sit around the table, drinking beer and wine and just having great conversation.  I began learning bits and pieces of german (and NO I can't pronounce anything right), and Carolina was able to practice her german with everyone else.  It really made me feel like I've become close to fluent in spanish because Caro and I can speak to each other without problem, and I was also able to translate for David.  Fun!

The next morning we all woke up around ten and found that the german couple had made us breakfast since we had cooked dinner.  We had an assortment of cheeses, delicious rolls, fresh fruit, coffee, etc.  We moved the smaller table outside and used the benches from the table by the grill and sat in the sun to eat breakfast by the pool.  Life doesn't get much better than that!

After breakfast we headed down to Arrifana, surfboards (tablas) on top of the car and wetsuits in the back, all ready to go.  The short drive to the beach was made better by the addition of Dave Matthews to the CD player, and as we pulled up we just sat at the overview looking down on the beach while the rest of Crash Into Me finished playing.

Carolina y yo aprendiendo hacer surf
As we suited up in our rented wetsuits, Felix gave us a few tips on how to be successful in the water.  Carolina and I decided we would do better to just live and learn.  So with that we headed into the water with our awesome longboards and took on the sea.  After several tries I was able to stand up on the board and actually sort of seem like I had any clue what I was doing.  I had taken surfing lessons before in Costa Rica, but learning once doesn't give you much more than the basics.  Not a problem though, I can do anything I put my mind to! Carolina had a little trouble getting up on her feet, but by the end of our two hours in the water (felt like 30 minutes) we all felt great, albeit a bit tired, and were ready for lunch.  The guys wanted to grill again so we headed into Aljezur again and bought all types of meat from steaks to sausages to chicken and pork.  We also bought some tomatoes and onions to make the same type of salad we had the night before, and some eggplant and zucchini to grill.  All in all I think its safe to say we ate like kings yet again.

La puesta de sol - Arrifana, Portugal

We headed back out to beach after lunch and Felix and David surfed again, and Carolina and I bought some beer to drink while we hung out and watched.  As the sun began to go down we had to opportunity to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen in my life.  The colors of the clouds reflecting in the water and sand was just more beautiful than you can understand from photos.  Carolina and I messed around for a while taking fun photos of ourselves with the sun in the background.  I also took some shots of the guys in the water and as they were finishing up I had them walk in front of me as they got out and ended up with an awesome shot of them walking across the beach with the light behind them.  LOVE IT.

Felix y David
After the late night surf session we headed back to the house and had a few drinks before deciding that we would go out to have a portuguese drink at the bar in town.  Carolina didn't feel well so I went with Felix and David.  We tried the drink (I don't remember what its called), but I hated it.  The only flavor I don't really like in a drink is black licorice, and thats exactly what this drink tasted like.  Needless to say David finished it for me, and all was right in the world. We headed back to the house and continued to drink, but we all got tired fairly quickly from the long day of surfing so we were all in bed by 1 am.

Carolina y yo - Praia da Arrifana

On Sunday, the german couple left first thing in the morning so it was just the four of us having breakfast.  After another breakfast by the pool (where Felix accidently fell into the pool after trying to show off) we headed back out to the beach to hit the waves.  After checking the waves at the three main beaches, we decided that none of them had sufficient waves.  We headed down the coast a bit to Praia do Amado and found a crowded beach full of international surfers, and some sick waves.  Thankfully part of the beach had less surfers and less intense waves, David, Caro and I headed out there while Felix went to the main area to battle it out with all the real surfers.  After about an hour of constant paddling and fighting to get out into the area where I'd be able to wait for a wave to try and surf I decided to take a break and lay out in the sun.  Its the end of October, where else in the northern hemisphere would I be able to get a tan on October 24.  I ended up laying out for over an hour getting an awesome brown tan, and I waited for everyone else to finish surfing.  Heading back to the house Caro and I decided we would pack and then eat dinner before we headed back to Spain, but by the time we got into the car to go it was starting to get dark, and Carolina didn't feel safe driving 3 hours at night.  The car was stick shift so I was no help.

We decided to head to Carolina's best friend's fathers house, since he lives in Vale da Tehla, and we sat with him and drank wine, and ate cheese for two hours (wine and cheese? HEAVEN).  Though he speaks English, I didn't hear a word of it.  Luis speaks with a very strong Andalucían accent, so I was able to start tuning my ear to the strong type of accent that I don't encounter when I'm in class or with Caro.  Words like hablado turn into hablaoo, and all the words seem to run together.  Needless to say though, I was able to hold my own in the discussions we were having and I was able contribute!

David y yo - el profesor de Aleman
After we left Luis' house we headed back to the house we were staying in and said hi to the guys.  We had another beer before deciding that we wanted to back to Arrifana (in the dark) and listen to music while the waves crashed nearby.  When we returned to the house Felix was tired so he went to bed, but David stayed up and drank with us while also teaching us some german.  I learned several phrases, some basic grammatical rules, and I have a vocabulary of about 25 words.  I think that if I decide German is my next language I will have to get the Rosetta Stone to learn it.  Maybe Dad will want to go visit Germany with me.  David mentioned that if I had the chance I should definitely visit Berlin while I'm here that I should definitely take advantage of it and go.  It is apparently THE city to be in in Europe right now.  I was looking at flights though and it seems that everyone probably knows that because it would be about 150 euro to make that trip during the only other free weekend I have.  Anyway, all in all I can't think of a better way to spend my last night in Portugal for what may be years to come, and I can't imagine having had a better weekend than the one I spent with Caro, Felix and David last weekend.  Speaking spanish constantly, drinking, surfing and barbequeing when we felt like it, its paradise.  

Although I say that now, in an hour I'm leaving for Madrid so that tomorrow I can fly to Tangier, Morrocco for a five day stay in the home of a family friend of Paige.  I know this trip will definitely be amazing in a different way!

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