Thursday, May 26, 2011

Potentially my last spring break ever.

I never thought I was a beach person until I went to Lagos. Briana, Jan and I met at Santa Justa (the train station) to pick up our rental car the Thursday during Feria. We were all very excited to be renting a car in Europe. Sadly, none of us can drive stick, so we had to suck it up and pay more for an automatic, but valía la pena (it was worth it.) I had intended to burn some CDs for the ride, but I never got around to it. Luckily, I had one CD that I had made for my 6th graders for some listening exercises during for our conversation class. We may have listened to it about 6 times during the drive there and back.

Getting out of Sevilla was a little difficult, but Briana navigated the city well. The highways were like any other highway, so that wasn’t a problem. Once we got to Lagos the car was a little tricky. Our hostel was in the old part of the city, which meant one lane streets. There was a traffic jam (can you call it a traffic jam when there’s one car stopped and holding up 5 other cars?) so Jan and I jumped out of the car to bring all of our stuff into the hostel. Arthur, the guy working at the front desk offered to show us where we could find a parking spot. We went back outside and around the corner where we’d left Briana, but she was no where to be found. We continued to wind around the tiny Lagos street and finally found her stuck at a dead end. We neglected to immediately introduce Briana and Arthur. Briana was wondering who the heck the man was who we had just offered the front seat to. Thankfully, once Arthur got in the car he introduced himself. In only a few minutes we arrived at the free parking lot and walked back to the hostel. Arthur gave us a very long explanation about the small little town. We were pleasantly surprised when he reminded us that Portugal is an hour behind Spain. That meant we had more time at the beach!

Once Arthur finished his shpiel we changed into our bathing suits and headed towards the beach. It was around 4:00pm and we still hadn’t eaten lunch, so we stopped at this little place called café Odeom, which happens to be owned by an ex-pat, for wraps and coca-cola light to bring to the beach. We were amazed with how small the town was. We walked from the hostel to the beach in about ten minutes. It was perfect. We decided to walk to the second beach. I have never seen anything like this before. These beaches could have been out of a movie. Each beach is nestled within the rocks, the water was a vibrant blue and the sand hot on your feet. Lagos is located at the southernmost part of Portugal. It took us awhile to understand why we weren’t seeing the sunset over the ocean. Instead of setting in front of us, towards the water and what we thought was the west it was going in another direction. Briana informed us that Lagos is in fact at the southern tip of the country and Iberian peninsula. Unfortunately, that meant that the cliffs behind us were stealing our sunlight. Once we got cold in the shade we walked to another beach where the sun was still shining. After a little we got cold there too and headed back to the hostel.

That evening we tried a Thai restaurant close to the hostel in town. It had been recommended both online and by the hostel. I am going to go against those recommendations and I know Jan and Briana would agree with me. We all got food poisoning. Everything tasted delicious, but suddenly things were going downhill. After dinner we walked in the direction of some of the bars. There was one in particular that was by our hostel and recommended online. We stopped in and were literally the only ones there. We were chatting with the bartender and he gave us a couple of free shots. Suddenly, Jan said she wasn’t feeling so well. She said she needed to head back to the hostel. We said we’d either meet her back there or wait for her at the bar. Since there was no one there we decided to go back and meet her at the hostel. She was feeling better so she was going to give it another try. We walked to a second bar with some kids who were staying at our hostel. Jan told us she needed to go back to the hostel again and that she was going to call it a night. Briana and I weren’t quite ready to head home, so we stayed out. Then Briana disappeared into the bathroom at the bar for quite some time. I was getting kind of worried, but then she came back and thought that it had passed. Then it hit me. I power walked up the hill, dragging Briana with me, and got to the hostel as fast as possible. While I was in severe pain and wanting to remove my stomach and intestines myself, I was laughing the whole time. We would go to Lagos and get food poisoning.

To try and calm our stomachs we all had some water. Then it hit us. We had all had water at dinner, too! Then Jan remembered that a friend told her that you’re not supposed to drink the water in Portugal. Oh shit. You’re a couple hours too late, Jan. I asked Arthur if people ever complained about having problems with the water and he assured me it was clean. We went to bed thinking it was the water. The next morning I asked several other people at the hostel and no one said they had any problems with the water. I tried some later that day to test it out. In the end it wasn’t the water, but the Thai food. I guess this was the first time when heading straight to Asian food during our travels wasn’t a good idea.

Friday morning we had breakfast in the hostel and went to the beach. This time we tried out another beach. I don’t know how, but it was more beautiful than the last. It was pretty cool that day and I was just short of freezing when the sun went behind the clouds. We bared it for as long as possible and then went to a highly recommended restaurant for some chicken piri-piri, a Lagos special. I can’t say I was too impressed, but at least it was edible.

The hostel had a really nice terrace equipped with a grill. Several people thought of making dinner and then everyone eating up there together. We had heard that a grocery store in town sold already made shish kabobs. That just didn’t sound beatable. We tried one grocery store and struck out with the kabobs, but we did find wine, veggies and fruit. We dropped that off at the hostel and continued our search for the kabobs. I think we must have asked several different people, all of whom probably thought we were crazy. In the end we had success!

We cooked our delicious meal and ate it up on the terrace. What was really nice about this hostel was that everyone hung out together. It didn’t hurt that English was everyone’s first language, but we flocked from everywhere. There were Australians, Welch, Canadians and Brits. I always love meeting people from around the world. Hearing all of our new friends’ stories was fascinating. I vowed that Lagos would not be my last trip. I may be in transit back to the US, but I am not going to stop traveling. Finding the money and time may be an issue, but I’m willing to make a commitment that it’s not stopping here. I’ve been so blessed with everything I’ve been able to see, but there’s still so much out there. We also pledged that we’d go together to travel to another far off land. I had every intention of making Jan and Briana sign a contract, but I’m not realizing I forgot. It may just have to be an electric signature.

The days and nights blur together in Lagos. Every day we went to the beach and every night we went out. I got accustomed to the beach bum lifestyle far too quickly. Lagos is home to a ton of people from all around the world. We met Aussies, Americans and Canadians who all moved there because of the great lifestyle and beaches. We even asked a few people how difficult it was to get work there. Everyone led us to believe it was pretty easy. I don’t think anyone we met was there legally either.

While we were finishing dinner on the terrace it started to rain. The slippery and hilly Lagos streets weren’t particularly conducive to rain and walking. Jan, Briana and I headed out trying our best not to fall. A woman at the hostel recommended a bar that had a good DJ. We tried another bar first and decided it wasn’t worth it, so we moved down the street to the bar the hostel recommended. That wasn’t worth it either. We brought the average age down about 35 years and that’s not an exaggeration. At this point I was getting super tired and bored. No one seemed to be out and those that were, were over twice my age. We decided to try one last bar, the one that we had stopped at the night before and chatted with the bartender. We hit the jackpot. That’s where everyone was. Most of the bars close at 2am, but this one was open until 4am, so when the 2am bars close the old people go home and the youngens head to Inside Out. Another plus was that it was so close to our hostel. I retired prior to Jan and Briana and was home within two minutes.

Saturday morning we went back to café Odeom. Afterward we headed to the beach. Other than food, beach and bars there really wasn’t too much to do in Lagos. We spent the entire day at the beach.

On Sunday we took our last trip to café Odeom. After breakfast we walked back to the hostel to get directions to the nearby cliffs. It was about a 45 minute drive and relatively easy to get to. There are several cliffs nearby and we visited the ones in Sangres. This was my first time driving the rental car. It was an automatic, but it was built like a manual. You could feel it shift gears and it wasn’t exactly easy to drive. I don’t know how to better explain it, but I think it thought it was a manual, so you kind of had to work at it. Our first stop was on the side of the giant, never ending cliffs. There was a row of cars so I figured I should park in line with them. I left about 4 to 5 feet from the edge, just in case. We got out and explored. We probably got a little too close to the edge considering how strong the winds were. Luckily, there weren’t any casualties.

Getting back into the car and leaving was a little challenging. I put the car in reverse to back out of the spot to leave the impromptu parking lot. Even though I was in reverse the car was moving closer and closer to the cliff. I put pressure on the accelerator, but we continued to move forward. I stomped on the break and turned to Briana and Jan to see if they could lend some help. I went through everything. It said “R” (reverse) and everything else seemed to be in check. Meanwhile Jan is saying that she doesn’t want to die and Briana is ready to jump out of the back seat. We almost put the car in neutral and pushed it backward. I gave the accelerator a slightly harder tap and finally we moved backwards. Only after we were far from the edge were we able to laugh about it. During our freak out it was pretty scary. We thought it might be our last spring break ever for several reasons.

We stopped a few miles up the road and this time I was sure to leave plenty of room from the edge. We walked around for a little and took plenty of photos. It probably wasn’t the best place to use my self-timer considering I had to run inches from the edge in 10 seconds on rocky ground to make the picture. It didn’t take us long to realize that maybe we should try a self-timer shot a little farther from the edge. We’re a smart bunch.

After the cliffs we went back to our favorite beach, Dona Ana. We ran into our friend Farrell and spent several hours in the sun. We even took a dip in the water. It was pretty cold, but once you went all of the way in you could adjust more easily. Not too far from the shore there was a very large rock. I asked Briana if she wanted to swim around it with me, but she said she wasn’t a very strong distance swimmer. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t go, so I swam around by myself. As soon as I was out of view from the shore I was a little nervous, so I picked up my pace and made my way around. After our swim we sat on the beach for a while to dry off and even played a little paddleball.

Once sufficiently dry we took a grotto tour in a little motorboat named Simpatico, which assuming it’s the same meaning as in Spanish, means nice. I don’t know how nice our boat was, however it was probably the large waves that were more responsible for the rocky ride. Our boat driver spoke very limited English. He was, however, able to point out several rock formations that resemble various animals. At this point in time I can only remember the rock that looked like an elephant. Sadly, looking through my pictures doesn’t help either. They all just look like rocks.

About 15 minutes into our grotto tour things got a little rocky. I realized that everyone was getting really quiet. I was gripping onto the side of the boat and praying that my camera wouldn’t get ruined. I don’t get sea sick, but I 1) didn’t want my camera to get wet and 2) I didn’t exactly want to go for a swim and 3) have a severe fear of fish. When the seas calmed down and we got closer to shore Briana, Farrell and Jan all said that they’re not very good with waves. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long of a ride. Afterward we walked to our favorite grocery store to pick up hors d’oeuvres and our favorite green wine.

We got ready for dinner and headed up to the terrace to enjoy hors d’oeuvres. It was a wonderful beginning to our last night in Lagos. We went to a traditional, but touristy restaurant. Wine and hors d’oeuvres took longer than expected so many places were closed. After dinner we went to several different bars before calling it a night.

The next morning we walked towards the marina for another American breakfast. On our way we remembered the time change between Portugal and Spain. It wouldn’t have been an issue if we didn’t have to return the car, but unfortunately our forgetfulness came with a fee. We still enjoyed breakfast and then headed out from there.

It was the best last trip a girl could ask for. I loved spending time with Jan and Briana and meeting some new folks along the way. If anything, Lagos in particular made me want to travel even more. My travel days are far from over. It may get more difficult as time goes on, but I’ve got a bad case of the travel bug and I hope it stays!

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