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3 posts from February 2013


Learning about the south

This post is by Emily (Bates College)

Our program took an amazing two-day trip to Evora. We first went to the Herdade do Esporao Winery. It opened in 1267!! It is the largest in Portugal and the views from the restaurant and wine-making facilities part are unbelievable. There were acres and acres of grape vines, and we ate lunch overlooking a valley with grape vines and a small lake. In the distance were beautiful mountains.  We ate with the doors open and fresh air blowing in.  The meal was amazing – we ate family style with dozens of different dishes served to us over the course of an hour or more.  It was by far the best food I've had on this trip and included octopus salad, bean salad, cheeses and meats, breads, pastries filled with (separately) sautéed onions and beef, chicken/pork salad, squash soup, cheese cake, sweet bread with brie, cheese and ham mini-sandwiches.... I was so full afterwards!!  We also sampled both a red and white wine and the four different olive oils that the winery produces.


(At lunch at the winery with the four types of olive oil on the bottom left)


After our meal we got to wander around outside for a bit – there was a neat pool and garden with the same amazing views.  We then went back inside for our tour of the wine-making facilities.  First, we were shown where the crush the grapes in giant vats and next where they ferment.  This winery uses barrels made with US oak to age their wine prior to bottling.


 We also saw the bottling and packaging area – this was automated and very interesting.  I wanted to see how they get the cork into the bottle, but unfortunately that was in a different room.  We next went into the underground storage areas, which were basically like giant caves.  It was so dark and cold and cool down there... After the tour we got to lounge in the beautiful sun and shop at the company store. 


After breakfast we went first to the gothic church of Sao Francisco.  The interior arch and shape is larger than most and very famous, and there were lots of little altars on the sides of the church where these beautiful scenes/saints were depicted.  They were added/decorated/redone over time, so Nuno (our director who also teaches the art history class) was telling us that they do a good job of showing the change in art and decorations over time.  Next, we went to the Chapel of Human Bones.  This was so interesting – literally the walls are made of femurs and skulls.  You can only see the end/joint part of the femurs because they are going back into the wall and the skulls are used as the arches within the church.  Finally, we went to the Se, or Cathedral, of the city.  This was also beautiful, but the cloisters were the more interesting part.  We were able to explore – after going up a huge and pitch black spiral staircase we were afforded a beautiful view of the valley surrounding Evora from the second story.  Interestingly, next to the Cathedral, there is a Roman Temple (from when the city was a Roman one, prior to becoming Portuguese).  The juxtaposition of these two very different, but equally beautiful, places was very cool!!  After another filling buffet lunch, we had free time and then returned to Lisbon – a long, exciting trip to Evora!



(Roman temple with the Se in the background)



Roasted chestnuts

Now that winter is coming to an end, let’s remember the warm, sweet smell of roasted chestnuts (photo by Bri, Mills College).


Carnival fun


In Portugal

This post is by Paulina (University of Colorado at Boulder)

When we heard the news about our un-expected four day weekend for the Carnaval celebrations, I urged to find a place to visit that wasn't too far or too expensive. After some soul searching and google translating, five of us (Emma, Kelsie, Katie, Colleen and myself) found ourselves exploring the enormous waves of Nazare and Peniche, two small fisherman and surfer villages located just two hours up the coast.

Surprisingly, the buses ( can ship you cross country for cheap and run every couple of hours. We stayed in two different hostels both nights with the help of ( email the hosts immediately about your plans and double check the price – they might try to charge you more than it says. And try to find hostels that have perks included, it can make all the difference.

Nazare. Some of the girls saw a day parade, and at night, we explored the town in our makeshift costumes (eye-liner cat faces) since we couldn't bring our jumpsuits and bright colored tutu's from the U.S. We ate dinner at a traditional restaurant where we had sea bass and their traditional Nazare fish stew- with lots of fish goodness and lots of bones...


After dinner we were hit by some rain which immediately killed our carnaval spirit, but the towns' surely stayed alive all night. Groups of locals roamed the streets throughout the night, in full costume attire, with drum lines that surprisingly kept a very steady beat, even after all their day drinking. The morning after we caught a bit of sun at the beach and got to see the enormous waves on the northern edge of the coast where surfer Garrett McNamara recently broke the record for the world's biggest wave surfed! -check it out(!


Peniche. My favorite beach town so far. It's located on a small peninsula which makes it more remote and also easier to get around. Here we stayed at the hostel Peniche Surf Lodge ( where the owners, a family from the U.K., were incredibly welcoming and went out of their way to transport us around town to the local spots and provided us with snacks, something that not a lot of other hostels do. We explored the coast and made use of the kitchen to make a home-cooked dinner with the two other guests. This was a money saver and a good way to meet other people from around the world. For Carnaval we headed downtown to view the multitude of bizarre costumes and Portuguese men dressed as women! (They claimed the women "dig it").


Finally, we spent the last day relaxing and got to watch Kelsie, our surfer girl, take a dip with the other surfers at a local spot! There are many places to rent equipment and get surfing lessons, but we decided that would be more suitable for...warmer conditions, and left it to the pros.

Happy carnaval-ing!


In Morocco

This post is by Chris (Villanova University)

It took nearly ten hours of sitting on buses, an overnight stay in Sevilla, and an hour long ferry ride for our group of nine to finally arrive in Tangier, Morocco. We were looking to experience a culture that differs greatly from what we are used to, and that is exactly what we got from the moment we stepped off the boat. Upon arriving in Tangier, we were met by a local tour guide who walked us into the Medina – the old section of the city – where our hotel was located. Without him, there was no way we were going to find our hotel, so in that sense, we got very lucky that he wouldn’t take “no, we will find it ourselves” for an answer. We spent the rest of the day wandering the city and indulging in the very delicious Moroccan cuisine full of lamb and chicken dishes. Our next day was filled with a guided trip around the outskirts of the city.

Morocco1 copy Morocco2

This was the part of the trip where we really got to see the beauty of the Moroccan coast. We were able to walk around various beach towns, ride camels, visit the location where Hercules was said to have lived, and even see the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. This trip was packed with many great sites, a lot of great food, and a lot of great memories. We saw everything from people running to the closest Mosques during a call to prayer, to a camel basically yelling at one of the group members for trying to ride it. This trip was an amazing experience, and it is one that everyone in the group will remember forever. Over the course of four days, we were able to travel through three cities and two continents. I couldn’t think of a better way to start off a study abroad experience.