Portugal!

I flew to Portugal on Friday morning for a long-awaited World at Play reunion with Dani, our fabulous Portuguese teammate who celebrated her birthday on Saturday. Lib, our friend/sister from Wales who now lives in Spain, also joined us. We missed the rest of our World at Play family, but the three of us had an amazing time!

I flew TAP Portugal, which like other European airlines is incredibly nice relative to what we have in the states. We got actual meals on the three-hour flight, and TAP wins the prize for best safety video. It features wooden people (a la Pinocchio) and jokes such as “for the 99.99 percent of passengers who aren’t made of wood, life vests are located under the seat.”
Aside from seeing Dani and Libby, I was of course excited to hear and [attempt to] use Portuguese. I took a semester of it when I was living in D.C., and that served me very well in Brazil – partially because my professor was from Rio. As Dani had demonstrated last summer (being half Brazilian herself), Portuguese in those two countries is quite different. In Portugal, they speak almost incomprehensibly fast – so despite the fact that I regularly read (and understand most of) the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, I was quite linguistically challenged in Portugal! Still, I was at least able to say “obrigada” (“thank you”)…
Dani and Lib picked me up in the airport in Lisbon, and we had a nice screaming and hugging session there in the arrivals area. From there, we drove into a very old (read: charming) neighborhood where Dani’s boyfriend Rui runs a social club/pub. He presented me and Lib with souvenirs (I now have a Portugal football scarf, just in time for the Euro 2012 football tournament!) and then made sure we had some cold Minis (smaller bottles of beer) and some excellent beef (made from parts you don’t want to hear about, see previous post in Portuguese food). In other words, the weekend got off to a great start!
We said good-bye to Rui and set off on the two-hour drive to Algarve, the southern region where all the beautiful beaches are and where Dani grew up. We passed scenery that reminded me a lot of Spain (shocker!) and included a few castles. I’ve really come to appreciate the vast landscapes of Europe – I’m just not use to seeing the same thing in the U.S., mostly because the drives I most frequently make – up and down I-95 and I-64 – aren’t particularly scenic. I love seeing the flat land dotted with trees and livestock.
We arrived in Silves around 6, and Lib and I spent about half an hour gaping at the loveliness of Dani’s home and the amazing warmth and welcome of her parents. They live in a gorgeous house situated on a hill above the town, and thanks to Dani’s dad who owns a landscaping business, their villa contains lush green grass, a pool, and a fountain with a waterfall. They have giant patio doors that open to let in the breeze, and the whole house just feels relaxing. They also have two dogs, who also gave us a warm (and wet, with more than the customary two kisses!) welcome.
One part of Dani’s backyard:
Before heading out to the pool, we sat down with Dani’s parents for an early evening snack of special bread from northern Portugal, several types of cheese, fruit salad, and yogurt. (We were pretty full after this, but apparently the Portuguese are pretty good at eating large amounts of food!) We didn’t end up spending much time at the pool because the sun had moved off that part of the yard, and the water was pretty chilly. Instead, we sat out in the grass and played with her dogs for a while. I’d forgotten how great it is to have dogs around!
We had a typically long, leisurely dinner (see previous post) that lasted for several hours. We had a lot of laughs with Dani’s parents and eventually met her brother Gui. After lots of food and lots of drinks (see previous post!), we rang in Dani’s birthday at midnight with candles and champagne.
Yesterday we got up at 9:30, had some breakfast (including much better coffee than I’ve had here in Holland), and left for the beach. We picked up one of Dani’s friends in town and then drove about 15 minutes away to a not-too-crowded beach that boasted one small restaurant and then rows of umbrella huts, wind shields, and chaise lounges. We staked out a territory and settled down into the sun. (I was all too conscious of the fact that given the weather here so far, this may be my only opportunity to get tan.) A number of Dani’s childhood friends joined us over the course of the day, including her friend Suzi and her adorable four-year-old son, with whom Libby and I had lots of fun in the water. (We did all of the typical lifting above the waves, holding him while charging into the waves, etc.) I also played some tennis with him on the sand (with zero successful back-and-forths), and we had a really cute conversation (in Portuguese) in which I asked how old he was and then proceeded to tell him that I was from America and didn’t speak very much Portuguese. He said “oh, so you speak lots of English then” and proceeded to start counting in Portuguese (fortunately  I was able to join in!). TOO CUTE.
Midway through the afternoon we went up to the restaurant and got salads with tuna to tide us over until dinner. After that we had another two or three hours on the beach and ended the day with a full-on nap on the sand in the setting sun – it was, as Libby would say, “lush”.
We got back to Dani’s just as the Portugal vs. Germany game was starting, so we kept an eye on that while getting ready for dinner. (Sadly, Portugal lost, as did Holland. It was not a good day for my teams!)
Portuguese flag on the mantel + Cristiano Ronaldo on the screen:
All of Dani’s family plus all of her childhood friends ate together at a little restaurant a couple of towns over. Details of our food are in the previous post. It was DELICIOUS and so much fun to be with all of Dani’s friends. They’re all really wonderful (and speak great English), and I hope very much that I’ll get to come back and see them again.
Dani’s family left around 12:30, at which point we drank a bit more (since at that point the restaurant was closed, and we were just there with the owners who were also friends) and had our own little pregame dance party before heading out to the area with all the clubs. And man, what a place this was. It was like a miniature Miami right there off the beach. There were about 30 clubs all right next to each other with windows and doors wide open so that everyone there could move about with ease (none of that pesky ID-checking we do in the States). I think the highlight of my night was in the first club when Macarena came on, and Dani, Lib, and I proceeded to lead the rest of the club in the dance. We also heard this year’s super popular Portuguese song “Ai Si Eu Te Pego” five times in the course of two hours and danced to a number of other familiar classics, both English and Spanish. There were people from all over the place there, but I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the Iberian men. I’d forgotten how incredibly good-looking they all are!!! (It’s been seven years since I was in Spain.)
Unfortunately, I had to leave all too soon, so Dani and I left for the Faro airport around 9:30 this morning. It was a great weekend with her and Libby and all of my new Portuguese friends and family. (All of us in World at Play are already family to each other, and now that I’ve stayed with the families of three of my team members, I truly have adopted family in both Wales and Portugal. Dani’s dad, whom I loved, told me to think of their house as my house. If only I lived closer!)
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