Monday, February 27, 2006

The house of pain

Where did I leave off? I believe that I had just returned from Cordoba and Cadiz and the second trimester had just comenced. Now we are only three weeks out from finishing this quarter and that has my nerves standing on end. I think that it is time to come home and try to start my life back up where I left off but at the same time I want to stay and finish out the year here with all the awesome friends that I have made. Well, whether I want to stay or not I´ll be home on the 21st of March. It´s coming up pretty quick so get ready y´all.
Let´s see if I can recap all that has happened during the last month and a half or so. Classes started out alright, things were moving kind of quickly because I had put myself in a level more advanced than I was. But now things are right on track. I really enjoy all my professors and eventhough the 5 hour class days every day are a little monotonous it´s alright. I give credit to the teachers here for trying to make their classes as interesting as possible and I know that that can be sort of tough as there has been some classes that were just terribly unoriginal, but in general everything is good to go.
Now it´s time for the excurison recap: A week or two into this trimester I was talking to a friend after class. He mentioned to me that he was going to the train station after he ate lunch to buy his ticket to Lisbon, Portugal. He asked me if I wanted to go and I told him that I would think about it and if I wanted to I would meet him at the station at 4:00. It was really a spurr of the moment decision but I went and met up with him at the station at 4:00. When I arrived I saw a gigantic group of people all waiting outside for me to buy our tickets. In total there were 11 of us. 10 Americans and 1 guy from France, Franc, but he had been studying in Alabama for the last 8 years and his english is just about perfect. I really didn´t know any one except for my friend Colin, from Chicago, and a classmate Ryan. But what the hell, I´m here to make friends right. So we bought our tickets, on a wensday and the 7 hour train departed on thursday night at 4:50 am. Although we missed one day of classes I would not be able to live with myself if I didn´t make it to Portugal especially since Salamanca is so close. So we went. The first day we spent checking out the sights in Lisbon. They have an amazing cathedral and a castle that sits on top of the highest point in the city. It provided a spectacular view of all of Lisbon and its 4 or 5 million citizens. The second day we went to a little town just outside of Lisbon called Cascais. Sinct there are no beaches in lisbon we made the train and traveled about 40 minutes to this amazing part of town. All day it was sunny and we walked along the little strips of beaches and took pictures all day. As we were walking back to catch our train to the hotel we stopped at a little stretch to watch the waves break against the huge collection of lava rocks bordering this stretch of the coast. I walked to the edge and hopped down on a little rock to take a picture of a wave crashing. The waves weren´t very big at all, so I don´t want you to get paranoid at this part of the story. I sanpped a pic and turned around to talk to one of my friends for a second. Collin yelled "Be careful man your gonna get soaked!" As I turned around I saw a larger wave coming right at me and of course it proceded to soak me from the waist down. Fan-freakin-tastic. So I jumped up and we continued to the train station. All of a sudden the sky turned gray and started to pour rain. So now we are all soaked from head to toe and had to find refuge in an Irish pub called O´Mallys. We had a few overpriced beers and listened to Jack Johnson´s newest CD. A very traditional Portugese experience right. But it was fun and at least I wasn´t the only wet one, so that made me feel a little better. After the beers we all walked and caught the last train to Lisbon.
The next day we had to be to the train station by 3:30 to catch the train back to Salamanca but first we wanted to partake in one last adventure. Unfortunately not everyone shared the same enthusiasm. So the hard cores all went to another little town about 10 minutes form the Atlantic called Cintra with the goal of seeing the Palacio de Pena. When we got off the train in cintra we followed all of the other tourey looking people to a large map of the town. It had a route mapped out of how to get to the palace, so we started walking. We kept walking and walking and walking and after an hour of walking up the side of a mountain there was still no sign of the palace. We were starting to get a little worried that we weren't going to make it before we had to return to catch our train. Then it began to rain pretty hard and four of the six of us turned and walked back down the mountain. So, Coolin and I started running, cutting corners on all of the cut backs and occasionally would stop to check out the view when there was a clearing. You could see the Atlantic and all the different shades of blue and green for what seemed like a hundred miles into the ocean. Absolutely beautiful. After about 12 cars had passed us we thought we had gotten ourselves into something a little deep and not to sure that we were going to actually get to see this palace, but we kept on. After another 20 minutes of running and walking we made it to the park at the bottom of the palace grounds and still no palace in sight. We asked the security guard at the gate how much further we had to go to reach the our destination and he told us it's only ten more minutes up this road. Only 10 more minutes! So we took off running. Let me remind you that we are still racing against the clock and at this point we have about 45 minutes to catch our train back to lisbon or we will mis our train back to salamanca. Finally we saw a information booth and asked where in the hell is the palace. She sold us two trolly tickets that would drop us off right infront. So we bought the tickets and waited for a bit for every one to board. While we were waiting it started hailing, snowing and raining all at the same time. Then all of a sudden the clouds let out an enormous bolt of lightning the lit up the entire sky with a bone shaking thunder right afterwards. We never saw the palace until the trolly stopped and we all got out. And there, right infront of us was this enormous palace. I have no idea how we didn't see it until right then. We take of running again because we have about 5 minutes to take as many pictures as we can before we HAVE TO go and catch our train. So we were running around this palace like a couple of little school girls, oohing and ahhing and snapping pics everytime we turned around. Absolutely breathtaking. You'll have to check out my pictures because I just can't describe it.
We ran back down to the place we bought our trolly tickets and asked if there was a bus going back down to the town and he pointed to a little bus about 20 meters away. We bout our tickets and started heading back down. We didn't go back the way we had come up and I found out later that was because we had taken the longest and hardest way possible. The bus returned to the station in about 4 minutes along it four kilometer route while we had taken the 9km route by foot. Our legs were on fire, we were exausted and soaking wet. But we made it, we saw the properly named Palacio de Pena and made our bus back to Lisbon. Mission accomplished.