Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Post-Christmas Post! Happy 2013!

Well, the holidays are over and I think I have learned quite a lot about Portugal and the Portuguese this holiday season.  Here is a list, in no particular order:

1.  Many stores provide free gift wrapping when you buy things there.  The only downside is that you have to do it yourself and it's pretty obvious to the gift recipient where you bought it.  All the supplies are there, though!

2.  It seems impossible to buy Scotch tape in the stores.  I had to use a gluestick to seal my presents when I wrapped them.  Tape just seems less gloppy.

3.  The Portuguese are absolutely in love with those Santa Clauses that you can attach to the windows of your house so that it looks like he's having a hard time getting in and may be about to fall OFF the house.  I have never seen so many of that particular decoration before.  I find this strange.  I haven't seen any inflatable decorations, though!

4.  Lagos has a lot of roundabouts and the city decorated them all for the holidays.  They really looked nice, and now that the decorations are gone they look a bit bereft.  I'll get used to them, though.

5.  There are no pine trees here, so everyone either has a fake tree or does something else.  We decorated a lemon tree in the courtyard of the house where we were staying.  The ornaments didn't show up nearly as well as on a pine tree.

6.  Many of the same Christmas carols are sung here as in the US--and there is not even a HOPE of snow in this part of Portugal.

7.  Apart from the decorating of the roundabouts, I didn't see much of a "public" Christmas tradition here, except of course for the stores.  They got in on the action starting before Thanksgiving, even (although obviously the Portuguese don't celebrate Thanksgiving, so that's my own method of dating).  There weren't really many Christmas markets (although there were a couple of bazaars, but they only lasted about a weekend) and there is no glühwein either!  What is Christmas without mulled wine of some kind?  Of course, when it's warm, it seems less necessary, but I still missed it.

8.  There are no candy canes here.  I didn't eat one candy cane all year!  On a related note, there is no candy corn for Halloween either, which I'm sure is healthier for my teeth than in the US, where I can't resist it, even though it's pretty awful.  We'll see, come Easter, if there are any Cadbury Creme Eggs.  There are so many British people here, though, that perhaps there will be.  Another candy I'm better off without...

9.  There is no marshmallow fluff here.  I really dislike the stuff, but it's very hard to make fudge without it, though.  My fudge was absolutely disgusting and even I didn't like it much.  Fortunately for me,  my mom actually SENT me some (and some cranberry bread too) all the way from North Carolina!  Thanks, Mom!

10.   People eat bachalau (a particular cod fish dish) on Christmas Eve and turkey on Christmas Day, traditionally.  I'm in favor of the turkey but don't really like bachalau.  And no, I can't really describe how it's made.  Sorry!

Over Max's break we house/dog sat for some friends (I posted pictures of Pica in the last post), so we were able to cook Christmas dinner and have a fire.  Here are a few pictures that we took Christmas Eve while it was still light outside.  It was a bit strange because the tree was outside, since we decorated the lemon tree.  Then we took the presents inside to open them.  We did have a very nice Christmas, though!

Frank and Me on Christmas Eve by Max

Max by Me, Christmas Eve


More of Max's Work

Max Under the Decorated Lemon Tree

You can see the decorations better in this one

Max Wishing It Were Time to Open Presents

Max With a Hole in his Smile and Frank Without One

Max and Me by Frank (it appears that I went a bit overboard on the eyeshadow)

Max and Me Kissing Under the Lemon Tree
After Christmas, we rented a car and went up to Lisbon for a couple of days.  On the way, though, we stopped at three beautiful towns--Evora, Marvau, and Castelo de Vide.  You may have seen these pictures on Facebook, but I am adding them here too.

This is Frank's "Cubist House."  

The "Chapel of Bones"


Cathedral in Evora

Near Evora

In the Lisbon Botanical Garden

The Lisbon Botanical Garden

Lisbon Fishermen

Castelo de Vide

Near Evora

Monastery in Evora

The Tower of Belem, Lisbon

Max talking to the guys at the bar in Evora

In the estuary near Setubal

Vasco da Gama is in here!

On the road to Lisbon

Frank is the travel planner extraordinaire--he runs a very good tour service and we had a great trip!  The towns we stopped in on the way were beautiful and we had gorgeous weather.  The only bad weather was New Year's Eve in Lisbon, when it started to rain.  It was nice the next day, though, for our trip home and our stop at the estuary.  We didn't see any birds, though.  Lisbon is beautiful and very walkable, although it's large.  It's built on seven hills and has lots of little neighborhoods that we didn't really get to explore this time but hopefully we will be back there again soon.

We all hope that 2013 brings you all that you hope it will!

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