As I mentioned not too long ago, Pete is spending this semester in Spain at the University of Salamanca. Last week was his mid-semester break, so Andy and I went to visit him! It was a great trip.
We flew into Madrid and rented a car to drive the 130 or so miles to Salamanca. It's just beautiful there—the ideal European college town, with all the students (making up something like 25% of the 150,000 population) and the old buildings. And by old, I mean old—the university was founded in the year 1218! (Next year is the 800th anniversary celebration!) The main square, the cathedral, really everything is full of history and just gorgeous. Our hotel had been a palace in the 15th century!
Everywhere you look are beautiful sandstone buildings:
It was so much fun to see Pete's apartment and his favorite coffee shop, bar, bakery, bocadillo* purveyor, etc. The weather was sunny and in the high 70°s every day, but it's the desert, so very dry and pleasant. Overnight it got down into the 40°s. We toured the sights and had some great meals, all outdoors. Some of the restaurants even have a small blanket on each chair for when it starts getting chilly in the evening! Being Spain, no one eats dinner until 8:30 at the earliest (post siesta, of course).
*A bocadillo is a small crusty baguette filled with jamón ibérico, which Pete eats pretty much every day after his morning classes—lunch isn't until 2:30! We ate them every day too, and even took them with us on the road. If you've never had it, jamón ibérico is similar to prosciutto. It is splendid. Andy was out of his mind at all the jamón shops, and it was all I could to prevent him from trying to fly home with an entire haunch.
Our first evening there, Colby held a reception for all the students and parents. Families were headed off the next day in every direction for the rest of the break—Barcelona, Seville, Zurich, London, Normandy, Lisbon, you name it. We had originally planned on Barcelona, but I was getting uneasy from all the news about the Catalan separatists, so at the last minute we decided on Lisbon instead. As it turned out, things did indeed get rather hairy in Barcelona, so I was glad we changed our plans (although others did go and were fine). So we drove west to Lisbon, about 300 miles. For the first time ever, we stayed at an Airbnb, and it worked out great. It was nice to have an apartment all to ourselves, and it was fairly secluded from the city hubbub.
It is hard to convey how hilly Lisbon is. I mean, I've been to San Francisco, and it's like Kansas compared to this! Steep, narrow, winding cobblestone streets and walkways up and down in every direction—man, did our calves ever get a workout!
It was in the 80°s every day, and I don't think lower than 60° even overnight. Lisbon is just lovely—a mix of old and new, with tile everywhere. It is the oldest city in western Europe, dating back to the 5th century! A lot of it was destroyed in a 1755 earthquake, so there are much newer parts too. Here's the view from the skylight in Pete's room.
You can see the São Jorge Castle in the distance, which we visited:
We had a blast touring—and eating a lot—for a few days. That's the Tagus River behind us:
Lisbon feels like a very laid-back city—no "attitude" that I could sense. I found the Portuguese language to be positively confounding, though. I have pretty good Spanish, Italian, and French, but I still had trouble figuring out signs and menus. And forget about the pronunciation! I couldn't understand anything. Portugal Portuguese sounds very different to me from Brazil Portuguese, which I hear quite a bit at home since we have such a huge Brazilian community here. But our Airbnb host was French, so I got to use that, which is my best foreign language anyhow. (She spoke English, too, of course—seemingly everyone does.) It's also worth noting that even in Spain, half the time I opened my mouth and Italian came out instead of Spanish. Grazie instead of Gracias, Mi dispiace instead of Lo siento, Como se dice with the "ch" sound in dice instead of the "s" sound, etc. Ah well, at least I tried!
Then we drove back to Salamanca for one last al fresco dinner with Pete.
The next morning it was back to Madrid and then home! All in all, it was a super trip and so wonderful to see Pete and travel with him! He'll be home in another 6 weeks.