Following upwards of four months on the road by myself in Europe, a long awaited visit from my family this past week was much appreciated. An incredible amount of fortune resulted in both of my parents and my dear sister Isabelle being able to take a week off from their Colorado lives to travel to meet me in Spain. We spent a few days in Granada before heading off to the Algarve Coast in Portugal, and ended the trip with a great weekend in Lisbon. All in all, a wonderful week with great food, many laughs, and a new chapter in the extensive family travel log of the Boulder Nathansons.
In Granada, we toured the city the only way I know how, which is on foot, and I certainly provided little rest to my jetlag-weary family. However, we covered a good amount of ground during our two days here together, seeing all of my favorite viewpoints and exploring the old town. A large lunch with my host family served as a birthday celebration for both my father and myself, with a large pot of seafood fideo pasta, salad, tortilla, and cake. A few days’ worth of birthday celebrations was a great way to bring in my dad’s 47th.
It was great to share my home life here with my parents, and Izzy and I served fairly successfully as translators between the adults for a conversation that covered a range of subjects, from home life to economics to politics. At night, we took a few tapas runs through different areas of town, and had a great time doing so.
Following our time in Granada, we rented a car and drove through Andalusia, with an interesting stop at the Donana National Nature Reserve along the way. We stayed the night in a restored convent and spent the next day in Tavira, Portugal, a small, very cute town on the Algarve Coast. The town was very sleepy but absolutely picturesque, with whitewashed buildings, varied facades of Azulejo blue tiles, and interesting old churches and convents.
We then drove north into Lisbon, where afternoon rush hour was possibly the worst, most hectic traffic jam I have ever experienced. Different from sitting in a jam on the 101 in Los Angeles, our foray on Lisbon’s tiny roads was a cluster of roundabouts, seemingly disillusioned and understaffed policemen, and above all crazed drivers going every which way with absolutely no concept and concern for space or the rules of the road.
After circling the main downtown area for over two hours, we finally found our apartment and ended the night with a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal a day late, but appreciated immensely nonetheless.
The following two days in Lisbon were two of the best I’ve had in Europe. The city is amazing, resembling a kind of Brazilian-feeling San Francisco, a jumbled collection of multicolored buildings and tiles strewn across seven hills perched at the mouth of the Tagus River opening up into the Atlantic. The 25th of April Bridge, built to commemorate the wresting of power from the dictator Salazar, is Golden Gate-esque, and a mini version of Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city is omnipresent. A storied history of maritime power and excellence, coupled with an abundance of seafood derived from its location, trams that run throughout the city’s steep hills, and a hipster, foodie, alternative culture make the city feel very much like San Francisco. However, a Latin-style age and craziness, with tight, winding streets and cultural, linguistic, culinary, and musical influences from all over Portugal’s vast colonial past give the city a funky edge. Overall, it was an absolutely phenomenal city that certainly lived up to its billing as a gem of Europe.
We climbed to the top of the city’s castle, took self-guided walking tours of the famous Alfama, Belem, and Barrio Alto districts, and toured the amazing Monasterio de San Jeronimo, Torre de Belem, and adjoining Museum of Contemporary art.
There were massive flea and food markets, and a great mixture of tourists and locals alike gave the city a vibrant feel. The food was great, and we sampled traditional Portuguese fare of seafood stew, grilled fish, and custard tarts to go along with grocery meals that were a great blast from the past for me. Looking ahead to my remaining two and a half weeks in Europe, with two weekend trips remaining before final exams, I already cannot wait to be home, but at the same time am incredibly glad to be here in Spain, absolutely having the time of my life.
Until next time,