This weekend we had the pleasure of taking a multi-night trip to the beach town of Barra, Portugal, close to the larger city of Aveiro. It was hard not to fall completely in love with this country the minute we got there!
17.07.2015 - 19.07.2015 79 °F
Friday we got to skip classes to go to Portugal, and we got on the bus bright and early at 9:30am. The bus ride took upwards of four hours, not accounting for a 30-minute snack break. At the border, they didn't even stop our huge charter bus. We drove through Portugal for probably 2 1/2 hours and I have to say the countryside was absolutely enchanting. I got my first glimpse of evergreen trees that I'd had in nearly a month, which was lovely. The Portuguese countryside somewhat resembled a cross between the vegetation of Western Washington and the vegetation and landscape of the set of LOST (which, okay, is Hawaii, but all I could think of was LOST).
We drove straight through Aveiro and another 15-20 minutes to the town of Barra, which is essentially a huge inhabited sandbar. Barra is home to the tallest lighthouse in Portugal, and our hotel was situated right under it. Our visit was essentially a "drop and run" because we got right back onto the bus for an afternoon visit to Aveiro. Portugal is an hour behind Spain, so we arrived in Aveiro a little after 1pm.
The most captivating part of Aveiro was the canals, which were used when the city was built to transport materials, and later salt. Salt is the main export of the Portuguese coast, and alongside the canal there were huge, sparkling white mounds of salt, standing four feet tall. Lunch, shopping, and a gondola ride was everyone's agenda for the afternoon.
Myself and eight other opted for the gondola first, and it was likely the best 8 euros I've ever spent. The ride lasted approximately 50 minutes, and as the afternoon sun came out and started to heat up, it was perfect timing. The gondolas were all brightly painted with slightly explicit depictions on either end. We were speaking English when we got on board (we didn't speak Portuguese, so this weekend was a perfect break to relax and speak English) and the tour guide initially took to explaining history using charades and broken, rehearsed English. After less than 10 minutes the discovery was made that we spoke Spanish, and he spoke Spanish, so he abandoned the German and English travelers in the front to give us a rich, detailed account of every building and waterway in Aveiro. The homes we passed were all brightly colored, and shades of blue, orange, and yellow frequented our view. Some of the houses had tile siding, a similar blue and white pattern in each, instead of wood or stone. This trend would become more prevalent back in Barra. Our guide was also fairly explicit in his stories- the people of Portugal obviously were no one to shy away from sexuality.
After the gondola ride we took to perusing the shops slowly, and I bought a postcard (one for every city I visit) and a shot glass (one for every major city I visit). We continued wandering until four of us broke away for lunch (we hadn't eaten all day) and the rest went in search of the free city bikes. For less than 8 euros each we enjoyed fairly incredible meals of steak and salmon (myself, of course, opting for steak). After lunch we had an hour to wobble back to our bus, but as full as we were, we were a slow-moving bunch. By the main waterway we found a trade market of sorts, where a variety of local vendors and craftsmen had set up permanent shops displaying their goods. Woodworks, salt and salt products, and handmade leather shoes were among the treasures to be found there.
We got back into Barra around 5:30 and set about our customary exploring of the towns and shops, and finding ice cream places. The group I was with took a little longer to make it to the beach, and by the time we got there near 7pm the cloud cover had rolled back in and we weren't inclined to stay more than a half hour. We all broke off into smaller groups for dinner, and myself and three others found an affordable pizza place where the staff spoke English. I have to say, the pizza was a great find. It was the cheesy, crave-satisfying hint of home that I'd been needing. Dinner was a long event, and by the time we were looking to head out, a small storm had rolled in, darkening the sky and bringing with it light rain and noticeable winds.
A group was paying to taxi back to Aveiro for the evening, but enough of us were staying behind that we got a group to walk out on the boardwalk. We bought cheap bottles of wine and sangria, each paying less than 2 euros for a bottle, and headed out onto the boardwalk, which stretched a mile into the sea. At the end there was another smaller lighthouse, surrounded by sea breakers that we climbed up on. We stayed until it was raining and too cold before slowly meandering back. It was a cold enough night that for the first time on my trip I wanted to sleep under all the blankets.
The next day was a dream day on the beach. In the morning we took a long walk through the surf. The sun came out around 1pm, and after another lunch at the pizza place, we all reconvened at the beach, securing a huge area with our towels. The beach was everything you could want in a beach- sand that literally sparkled white, water that was clear, blue, warm, and sparkling, and waves that provided just enough force to pick you up and travel you, but not enough to be unpleasant. Despite multiple applications of sunscreen all around, the next day we all found ourselves red and groaning every time we had to move a limb. In the afternoon Colin and a few others went to the store and bought a few bottles each of vodka, tequila, rum, and mixers, to make- at El Profe's recommendation- a literal sand bar. After several drinks (or in my case a couple liters of white sangria) we were all back in the water, floating around and testing Zach's new wakeboard.
Sunday, with burned backs and heavy hearts, we reboarded our bus for the drive back to Salamanca. We made an hour-long lunch stop and returned around 6:30pm. El Profe welcomed us with the words "Welcome back to hell," as we got off the bus and back into the Salamanca heat.