Posts in Portugal
15 Things I Learned in Spain

In no particular order ...

1.) The best thing about discovering Spanish was the literal translations. These people are so cute. To 'get sick' literally meant "I put on me the bad," and "to like something," translated to "it fell on me well." It just happened to fall on me and it did so well. 

2.) If you order in any restaurant that doesn't display the prices on their menu, you will get the "giddy" price, which is slang for "foreigner." A price that they will make up according to how giddy you appear to reap the the cost. Which is never too grievous because everything in Spain is cheap, but they will do it nevertheless. 

3.) America is cool in Spain. French people wouldn't be caught dead in anything that resmembles America, but you see more American flags in Spain almost than you do in America. Spanish girls are covered in them - jean shorts and USA flag t-shirts. They will wear anything that displays an American looking word (and I say American instead of English, because let's be honest, the Queen's English is anything but American.) They show off t-shirts with American words that literally mean nothing; like a green shirt that reads plainly "everything." 

4.) You can get your hair highlighted for 20 euros.

5.) Victoria isn't the only bitch with a secret. In Spain, the same store is called "Women's Secret," because we indeed, do all have them. 

6.) Gypsy has a severe negative connotation here. Do not, for any reason, declare yourself as one. 

7.) If Spanish people find out you used to be a professional American Cheerleader (or any type of cheerleader for that matter), you will watch them fall to pieces and lose their shit before your eyes. 

8.) In my next life, I better be a dude. Send me back as a lady bug and I will be suicidal. Everything about traveling as a man is easier and better. 

9.) The Portuguese are NOT Spanish. In fact, they would be hideously offended being lumped into this category, so let's hope that none of them are reading. Never have I met people so proud to be part of a country. They instantly list to you all the worldly things that they are responsible for that others took credit for - such as Tempora which they made up and Japan stole, and Christopher Columbus who most learn is Spanish but he is absolutely Portuguese. 

10.) In Germany, you have to pay for your radio and regular tv whether you use it or not. Forever trying to make up for their past mistakes, Germany is welcoming of all languages, tourists and cultures and the students study them all during their education. 

11.) People get paid to study in another country in Europe; and they visit each other on a whim. Denmark students have weekend trips in Spain. Germans drive to France for Lunch. And Spaniards take road trips to Portugal. You can travel such short distances and experience an entirely foreign culture and language. Ryan Air has flights cross borders for 20 euros and you can meet a vast array of international students in any European country from all over the world. Everyone speaks more than one language. In Portugal, they speak the most. You flip through menus by first picking out your language. 

12.) You can get a beer for 50 cents and a glass of wine for 80 and most every drink comes with food. Fresh fish or a selection of meats. The people in Spain drink Vermouth as if it's their job. Straight or on the rocks. By itself. 

13.) Hippies are referred to as "para floutas," literally translating to "dog flutes," because they are never without either. Also, the hippies are much different here. No flower power, prints, bright colors, flowing dresses, or head bands. No. Spanish hippies in Galicia dress in dark greens, browns, and blacks like anarchist grunge meets punk goth. Of course, the drugs and the music still bond them all together but it seems a much darker atmosphere. 

14.) Dogs are EVERYWHERE. Just roaming the streets, with no collars and mixing with the people, none of these dogs are spayed or neutered so the male genitalia drag on the floor and the new female mothers have swollen utters that do the same. No one seems to notice or mind - not the dogs or the people. 

15.) Children are also everywhere. Playing, laughing, screaming, climbing, throwing public temper tantrums and none of them seem to belong to anyone. Adults sit at outdoor cafes eating and drinking and paying them no mind. No one intervenes when the three year old gets rocked in the face with the soccer ball and topples over, or the seven year old girl is sitting in the middle of the square screaming in tears. They are just left to work things out amongst themselves. 

Snow White, 6 Dwarfs, & a Joffrey - PT I


Viewer Discretion Advised. Very crude, very loud, and VERY British. Not for the winos or the sensitive of heart. In attempts to mask any offensive behvaior, I found that the story simply could not be written without it. And the story must be written, fams.

It also should be said that for most of the world, this entry will be in a different language. Bonnet language. 

Also, please read with a British accent. 


They were an eclectic group of misfits, a pack of stray dogs. It must have taken me all the twenty-five years I had growing up with brothers, not only biological but all of the guy friends I had constantly been surrounded by, to prepare me for the raunchiness of this group and to indeed end up living in the same room with them. But I loved it. I found their banter entertaining and their crudeness strangely endearing and the chemistry of the group entirely intriguing. If not simply for the fact that they were always laughing and singing; they were the happiest bunch I had ever come across. They were parasites, but harmless, little, loveable parasites if you will. A happy disease. Of course, the British accents didn't exactly hurt either. (They always seem to get away with everything.)

It could have been anyone really that had been sitting there in the hostel garden that night I arrived, but it just happened to be the Bonnet Boys. I put my bags away, showered, and walked down to the common garden, not knowing who or what I was getting myself into. From atop the stairs, I saw the only people out in the garden - a group of boys, a group of loud, racy boys. I said "hi;" they sang "hola" in unison; I pulled up a chair, and that was it. 

Of course, the entire first night I had no idea what they were saying, but I was mesmerized. They had their own language, songs, and dances. They would turn just about anything into a song, inserting the phrase into a three line, Greek Life sounding tune, complete with "la, la, la, la, la's." It wasn't long, however, before I picked the language up and eventually got swept away along in it. By the last night, I wouldn't remember how to speak without a British accent or stop using all of their funny words to describe everything. My lingo would never be the same. 

Before I officially begin, let me pause here to just introduce you to these wild cards. 

Mike ~ a bonafide hipster with a brown complexion, high socks, black rim glasses, his top button done always and hair on point. He was the loudest and closest to the leader of the group, if you were looking from the outside in. In constant competition (especially with Nigel) for the best hair, the best shorts, shoes, socks, or whatever he could find to win on, he kept a constant tally of who was in the lead. A photographer and a singer, he was an artistic type, but not your everyday creator. He had the biggest smile you'd ever seen. When he was drinking and happy (which was most always), his shoulders would start to dance of their own accord like he had little tambourines on each one, and his wrists would join in with the snare drum. Sitting alone, or chirpsing a bird, his dancing joints had a mind and will of their own and could not be stopped. 

Tudor (aka Tudes) ~ had the same smooth, brown complexion as Mike, but a shit hairline and a science that he had mastered - the Professor of Oodisms. Self proclaimed as "The Dumb" of the group, he firmly believed that you shouldn't swim after eating because a heavy stomach meant sinking and drowning was inevitable; that hanging a sheet over his bed would keep bugs out, and that condoms shouldn't be warn because, well, he didn't like them and that was enough (#Oodisms). When he was happy (which was again, always), he'd break out in his crab dance no matter who was around and it never failed to throttle me into fits of laughter. He had a habit of pressing his pointer finger and thumb together with his other three fingers raised (as if to say "a-ok") when he spoke, emphasizing each word (especially each "t") as if he were writing calligraphy in the sky. Professor Oode. Puffing his e-ciggarette at all times in attempts to quit smoking and panicking when it was not to be found. Writing smiley faces in the sky and sniping birds at closing time after hours of work from another guy. 

Nigel ~ the looker of the group, the "stud" and fitness instructor. Short but built, with piff hair that always had to be done, with every strand perfectly assembled into place. He was the complimentary addy feet dancer to Mike's snare drum wrists and tambourine shoulders and when they both came out together (every night around midnight), you couldn't keep a smile off your face even if the whole world was ending. Like Mike, he had to have the piffest shirt and outfit and had a collection of trainers that put every girl's to shame. He brought 6 pairs for 4 days (including a maroon, leopard print pair), and his suitcase was bigger than my 6-month back pack. He had the whitest teeth you'd ever seen due to a crest white strip addiction with a side dose of vanity and he was the king of selfies. Always with the oblique stances and the impromptu, "this is my jammmm," white girl dance, with one hand waving back and forth over his head and his hip popped. 

Rob ~ Nigel's twin brother was anything but, and it took me two days to realize they weren't pulling one over on me when they had said they were twins. The quietest and most reserved of the group, he didn't quite fit in with the loud and boisterous banter, but he didn't seem to mind too much. He was, after all, Nigel's twin even if fraternal, so he was part of the Bonnet Boy family. Constantly the brunt of jokes like everyone else, except Rob rarely stood up for himself, or at least not in the loud way the others did. He was gentle and kind and stood in the background for the most part and although he had a good heart, he was practical to the core and always there to bring anyone back down from the clouds, whether they liked it or not. 

Cork ~ the pale ginger of the gang. (Come on, every groups got to have one.) He had recently regained his confidence thanks to the guys and with no help from the ladies. Going on a twenty-seven month dry spell, he was the "re-virginized" of the group and the mission of the week was to get Cork laid. Either that, or he was gay - those were the options on the table. He had a rainbow colored knit sock that he would wear to warm his junk and proudly strut around the room striking poses that would give off the best angles of his freckly physique. One of his best assets was his round bum and on que, he was ready to pop up and show it off in a particular array of stances for however long he was asked to do so. 

Nippy ~ And then there was Nippy, and what on earth can I tell you about him to make him come alive on the page. He was the cutest, yet most repulsive person anyone has ever met. A big, loveable teddy bear with an honest, and yet undeniably hilarious, disposition that didn't make any sense. Soft shoulder kisses from Nippy throughout the night were never far; he would be standing next to any one of us and just bend down and kiss you on the shoulder without saying a word. But above all .... was Nippy on the beach. He would flop around in the waves, beached, head over feet, bum crack out in just his boxers and pop his adorable head up for air like a baby sea otter and then he'd fart the next minute and talk about motting a girl that just walked by. Nippy loved to mott. 

Right, so where was I? That first night ...

After a few jokes, a few beers, some tantalizing tales about Miami, and somewhere after twenty minutes of judging every article of clothing in the Mike vs. Nigel competition, others from the hostel started to flow out into the beer garden. Everyone, and I mean everyone remained on the other side of the garden away from these scumbags. Even their beckoning invitations to join and the songs could not tempt a soul to dare set foot in whatever it was that was happening over on our side. I noted briefly to maybe take a look later into my own psyche and why everything about this side of the garden drew me towards it and no one else. But it didn't bother me one bit; this was clearly the side I belonged on (no matter the possibly disturbing and subconscious reasons.)

After dubbing Mike and Nigel the "Dream Team," a title they took to immediately and put on like crowns, I accidentally brushed my cigarette against Nigel's knee, burning him (minimally I may add). 

"Allow me, Fam!!" He said as he swatted my hand away. 

He then urged me to singe the rest of my cigarette into Mike's knee while he wasn't looking, for obvious Dream TEam fairness, as well as inflicting shameless pain on his friend for the sheer hilarity of it. The problem with me is (and this is where we could delve even deeper into my issues) that as soon as he said it and I looked over to Mike sitting on my left, loudly telling an elaborate story to the group with a smile that took up half his face, I desperately wanted to do exactly what Nigel had dared me to do. And then without thinking, as if I didn't have a choice, I put the cigarette out right on the top of his knee. Well, this sent Mike into shrieks and the whole group into an uproar of laughter and praise. 

The rest of the night primarily consisted of trying to get Cork laid and sending him off after pep talks to go sit down with different groups of girls. Usually one of us would go in with him to toss him bones and pass assists, and tonight a very drunk, very staggering Nippy decided that he should be the one. Sloshing beer on their dresses, tripping over limbs and leaning down over the sitting girls with his face entirely too close to theirs and one eye closed, Nippy really did have Cork's best intentions at heart. However, Cork did not get laid that night. 

A few hours from when I had first sat down, mid conversation about something I can no longer recall, Mike looks at me quizzically, squints his eyes and then cocks his head back a bit as if he is studying me. 

"Holiday Guy?" He asks, first at me, then looking to Nigel and then to the rest of the group. 

Shocked, but pleasantly intrigued, they looked at each other and then at me with wide eyes and ssmiles, responding, "Holiday Guy!!"

Holiday Guy was a term the gang dubbed to a particular person they had met on each holiday they had been on together. They never knew how or when he would turn up, but one always did, and they bonded with each other instantly and forever. They were, of course, expecting their Lisbon Holiday Guy to present himself eventually, but not immediately on their day of arrival and certainly not a Holiday Guy with tits. No, that was a game changer. Thus began the five day, Lisboa adventures of the British strays and Holiday Guy. 

(COMING SOON: Part II - V ..... currently still under construction) 

"And in this moment, we are Infinite"

In an especially joyful and light mood, I wandered down to the beach tonight with a dance in my every step. I felt like I could sing to every passerby, like a Disney princess movie, and it would all just be normal. The sun was setting magnificently and the surfers were glistening in it's remaining rays. The water had been drug back out and the beach stretched for miles. 

Of course, the most beautiful and awe-inspiring moments always present themselves when the devices with which to capture them are all left behind. My phone, camera, even my journal were all in my room. It was just me and the world and this would just have to remain encapsulated in my ever fragile mind.

I got to thinking then about just how fragile the mind is. The one fluctuating and not dependant thing that holds all of these beautiful untouched moments. A death, an accident, a brain injury, memory loss, old age ... it can all just disappear. Gone. 

So why wouldn't we share them all? Get them on paper. Write them down. Paint them. Sing them. Preserve them. And then I thought about why we do. 

I think that what most people fear more than anything, more than death, is being obsolete after their minds or bodies are gone. They want or need others to know what they saw, what they did, what they remember and to be witness to their lives. Because it makes it more real in a way. Although not really, but in our human smallness, it gives us something more permanent, something that will live on after us, if only in one other person's memory. It's a testimony that we have lived. It's why we create, build and share. Why we marry, procreate, and expand. It's our only shot at something infinite; the only record of our existance, proof that we were here. 

We want to touch this world and leave a mark - one that remains long after we do. It's why some people spend their whole lives protecting and building this earth so that it can serve future generations. It's even why we carve our names as lovers in trees, or bury time capsules. Because those signs- both of them- might be seen long after we are. And if we really boil it all down, I think even the greatest acts of selflessness in this realm, can be drawn back to this fear of human smallness. Of being forgotten. Being obsolete. Not impacting anyone or anything. And I think that's okay. It doesn't mean we are selfish. It keeps us acting, creating, helping, inspring; it's what separates us from any other species. We are the only ones aware of our mortality and with that, we desperately try to attribute part of that into some form of immortality. I recognize that there will always be those who deem this selfish or hopeless, but personally, I think it's beautiful. 

Onwards :: Lisboa

The train is about 4 hours long from Oporto to Lisboa (which, later, when I look back upon, will be a very missed, fast and easy luxury) and we finally pull up to my stop. Here I am rocking a hot mess of an outfit that in no way goes together, a tangled cat of curls on my head and 50lbs on my back; and this little platinum blonde tart in a satin glove of a jumpsuit as chocolate as her false lashes and Portugease skin, is struggling over 7 suitcases the same shade as her pink lipstick. 

I am again, blatantly confronted with how homeless my neglected appearance has become, which almost sends me into giddy fits of laughter. Never have I been so happy not to be juggling all the weight of beauty and worldly possessions that this hot young thing is. I help her get the 60 lb. bags off the train, handing them down to her on the platform one by one. I'm wondering if she's moving here and if so, for the love of God, why didn't someone drive her?? Then two mid-driff baring twigs of girls come barreling down the platform towards us. An english speaking one exclaims how it is going to be the best summer of their lives. This time I laugh out loud. 

Despite being so ambiguously frightful looking, four even more frightful cab drivers surround me instantly, balking in Portugease, poking me like crows. Where am I going and who is going to take me? I hop in a cab with a very smelly, old man that makes me feel like I am in pristine condition, and head to Costa de Capirica, a small beach town on the coast of the Pacific outside of Lisboa's city center. 

I am staying in a hotel for two days and for the first time since leaving France, which is a most welcomed break from the chaos of the exciting past 10 days. My hotel is called Mar e Sol, meaning "sun and sea," on Ruo do Pescadores, or "Fisherman Street" and I arrive covered in grime and sweat. The boy at the desk examines me with wide eyes, fearful that I might disrupt the pristine conditions he has just finished preparing. Once inside my AIR-CONDITIONED room, I drop my bags, take all my clothes off, and collapse on the bed. 

After the best shower of my life, I walk along the beach and watch the sunrise and the surfers. I decide that I must meet one and have him teach me how to surf. Restaurants in glass-like, open trailors line the beach and couples sit out on the rocks watching the orange sky as it fades over the dozens of surfers below. I eat dinner near the hotel and it is a lovely, romantic setting for one, complete with candle light and butler-like service. I order Spanish Risotto (before remembering I am not in Spain), and it is delicious. Pama ham, asparagus, and peppers smothered in cream, with a glass of Vihno Tinto. Completely stuffed, I walk through the little beach town looking in shop windows and outdoor displays of hats, bracelets, and sandals. And then I have the best night sleep since France - completely dreamless. 

Stumbling into Oporto

Caught up in the free generosity of the couch surfers, I arranged to stay with another one in Porto – Juan, who happened to mention a little too late that he actually didn’t have enough room but I could share his mattress (because that’s a normal thing to offer to a stranger). But I am too tired to care and can’t be bothered with finding another place right now. Juan meets me at the bus station. His English is horrendous and the only phrase he seems to have down is “more or less” which he says every other word, about everything. He is an Erasmus (student) from Spain studying here and living in an old abandoned type mansion reminiscent of an old boarding school that hasn’t been touched in centuries, with 30 other twenty-something-year-old Erasmus. None of which seem to be doing any studying at all; they have not learned Portuguese, or anything for that matter. 

Luckily for me, and most unfortunately for her, a German couch surfer named Simone has arrived a few hours before me and has already won Juan’s affections and mattress, so I get smuggled into an old unoccupied room. There is a piece of foam on the floor for a bed, anarchy graffiti on the dresser and the walls look like they’ve been slaughtered with a machine gun. The place is filthy. I find some blankets in an old wardrobe that are probably infested with God knows what but I sleep with them anyway. I will most likely be contracting some Portuguese disease here, but again, I am too tired to care. It is an experience if nothing else.


When I wake up from my nap to leave the room, I turn the handle and the doorknob falls off. I’m trapped in the room. I look out the window and think about climbing out but I’m on the third floor. Someone has strung together three children's babydolls by their shoelaces and slung them up over the phone line in the courtyard, so they just hang there like abandoned terrifying chucky dolls right outside my window. I decide to either remain trapped in my room or wait for Juan and Simone, who thankfully decide to come see what I’m doing an hour later.

Juan, this kid, literally offers us food in the Erasmus kitchen which looks like a 1917 war camp mess hall and is completely covered with dirty pots and pans and open food that looks like it hasn’t been touched or cleaned in decades. I am starving but settle for a few spoonfuls of Nutella, the only unopened, seemingly untouched thing available. He takes us to a local bar and I am surprised at how well the Portuguese speak English. I am reminded over and over again that Portugal is indeed a country and they are nothing like and in no way affiliated with Spain (they have an adamant resentment towards the Spanish.) Their impeccable language diversity, they say, comes from growing up with televisions that do not translate any shows or movies into Portuguese, but instead provide you with subtitles. All of them seem to be in Vetinarian school and they are positively overjoyed when I tell them that we do, in fact, learn in American schools that Christopher Columbus was Portuguese and not Spanish. 

I leave early because I am exhausted and once back in my room, which now has no lock or door handle, I push a bookshelf against the door in attempts to keep me “safely” in this dilapidated place, and sleep until 2 pm. I am awoken by the sound of the bookshelf moving across the floor (my nightmare) as Juan pushes his way in to wake me up. Waking up now is always a disorienting experience, trying to remember where I am. A Spanish panda on a tent floor one night and a smuggled fugitive in an abandoned mansion on a Portugal floor the next.

I shower in a bathroom that leaves you feeling dirtier than when you walked in and rummage through my back pack to try to find clean clothes. I am out of underwear and all my white shirts are brown. My clothes smell and my efforts are way past my hair so it stays in a curly disarray of frizz. I now feel more comfortable being hideous than I ever have in my life. The uglier the better to ward off the Spanish men, who are by far the most relentless and exhausting I have ever come across.

Speaking of relentless, Juan is now pouting after being repeatedly declined by Simone all night long, so she and I make our way out in Porto alone to explore the city. Every street is so steep here! Nothing is flat; you are either panting while crawling straight up hill or trying not to topple over sprinting straight down. If you get stuck on a downward slope when you meant to be going up, good luck to you. This happens to us several times trying to find a way to get over the bridge to the other side of the river. We can see the bridge from almost every turn but we end up going too far up and then way too far down to the bottom of the river until we finally find it.


Porto is absolutely breath taking from atop this bridge, miles and miles above the sea. It is, indefinitely, the most beautiful place I have come across thus far. The river sparkles like a thousand tiny diamonds and each of the city’s buildings in brightly colored luminosity are visible on either side of the hilly landscape. People scatter below on each side of the river at outdoor cafes, or lounging along the riverside. Across the bridge, Gallo, is covered in Port Houses, some being the oldest in the world.

After walking in and then back out of Port Houses where bottles went for 592 euros, Simone and I settle at a small table at Quinta do Noval on the side of the river. Quinta do Noval is one of the oldest historical Port vineyards and they are very proud of their majestic terroir. The wall beside us reads: "The consistency of style of the Vintage Ports of Quinta do Noval through the decades is one of the particularities of Quinta do Noval in the world of Port. Consistency quite simply because our Vintage Ports come from one single vineyard, a specific and magical place. When you come to know Quinta do Noval, its old and its young Vintages, you will be able to recognize its future Vintages.” I found that quite interesting ... being able to recognize future vintages. 

We tasted through at least 7 mini bottles of Noval's ports: Fine White, Lagrima, Ruby, Tawny, Tawny Reserve. Of course, limited by our funds to the lower end of the menu offered. Each was so different and exquisitely unique. The man pouring them for us told me that Ruby was the younger sibling of Tawny with more fruit flavors and excitement but hardly as delicately wise or refined as the older Tawny. The Fine White was surprisingly delicious and became our favorite. I had never had a white port but it was full of citrus and honey flavors, perfect for the heat of the day.

Simone tells me all about German culture, and Brazilian, and Spanish - all places that she has lived. She speaks four languages and is a language teacher in Germany, which makes her a slave of the country. Technically, she cannot even jay-walk without getting in trouble because she is meant to be a model citizen, bought and paid for her examplary behavior. It's so fascinating to hear about how other people live and I've learned almost as much about cultures and places I have yet to visit than Spain itself. 

We go for a very long, very expensive dinner back on our side of the river that night and then meet Juan to drink the bottle of Quinta do Noval Fine White Port we had bought by the water. You can see all of the Port houses across the river in the darkness. Their names are the only signs lit up and scattered sporatically amongst the rocky hill. 

That night I don't sleep at all. More sober than the night prior, I toss and turn with torturous thoughts of what kind and how many people have used these stained pillows before (which have no pillowcases) and what this piece of foam might be infested with. I feel things crawling on me all night although I am sure they aren't really. The next morning, we go for coffee and then I book it to the train station. Time for Lisbon!