Our amazing journey has come to an end. These 3 weeks have gone by so quickly but at times some days felt long, especially since I had a lot of early starts and some late nights. To think we’re flying back today and going to be back in GTI on Monday/Tuesday, seems like a whole other world away.
We decided to get up early to explore as much of Lisbon as we could yesterday, as we only had the one day there. When I was booking our apartment for our stay here, the host gave me many ideas on what to do and see in Lisbon. I’ve always been in love with sea life and so we decided to head off to the Oceanarium. It was very busy at around 11am, as it opened at 10am. We went on the cable cars just along the coast, and it was such a beautiful view of the sea, bridge and the city. Luckily enough, we finally got a day full of sunshine.
The staff were lovely at the museum and I even managed to get a student discount on my ticket. It was so breathtaking and my it was my favourite thing to do on the trip so far. I’ve been taken on many trips around Portugal since my arrival but this has been my favourite spot.
Coming to the end of the day we all went out together as our final meal as a group. We ate in an Italian restaurant and the food was absolutely delicious. I had a five cheese pizza and it was nearly 16”, but surprisingly enough I managed to eat the whole thing, except I had no room for dessert. We all then returned to the apartment to repack our bags and do any last minute jobs, as we were getting a taxi at 6.30am to the airport.
We ended getting up getting two taxis to the airport, as we had lots of bags between the 5 of us. Good thing we left early because we headed towards terminal 2 instead of terminal 1! Luckily, we had an hour to spare, but unfortunately our flight got delayed an hour. Finally we boarded the busy plane home, and then we got the bus to Galway. It was great seeing my family again and I dearly missed them all and looked forward to telling them about our time in Cantanhede.
Today we leave to go to Combria, which is a half an hour away from where we are based. We will then get the train to Lisbon which is another 2 hours, where we are staying before flying home Sunday Morning. On Tuesday, I went with my mentor to a meeting at the Lions Club, which are like home representatives from different institutions attended, like the Social Welfare, Junta, Bank, Lions Club, and the Pharmacies. This proved to be very interesting.
The last 3 weeks have flown by. Cantanhede and it's people have been the most welcoming. I have met some of the nicest, gracious, helpful people in the world. My work colleagues could not do enough to help me in the office, patiently showing me the way, how they do things, and also taking time to show me around. It is has being such a fantastic experience, one that I am sorry to see come to an end. I am looking forward to seeing Lisbon as it has been on the places that I have been looking forward to visit for quite a while.
Today Eimar and myself got to help show some elderly people around the museum. We helped them up and down the stairs and to find their seats. We also took them to the poetry room and listened to Carlos and Sandra recite some poetry and explain the poems to everyone. We also listened to one of the poems that had been made into a song. After finishing with the recitals, we took the visitors into the room that shows 'technology through the ages'. While they listened to Carlos, Eimar and myself went downstairs to prepare the tables for making the clay flowers. After helping our visitors down the stairs we took them to make where the workshop would take place. We showed them the flowers that we made on Tuesday and then showed them how to make them step by step. We were assigned to two women who were visually impaired and couldn't see what Sandra was doing, so we helped them shape the petals and fold them together to make the flower. After our visitors had finished and had gone home, Carlos came in and told us that he had arranged for us to meet the President of Cantanhede on Friday!
After work Eimar and myself decided to go to the shopping centre and buy gifts for everyone who works at the museum and we also bought flowers for Sandra and our landlady to say 'obrigada' for helping us and being so nice during our time here. On the way back to the apartment we passed through the park and reflected on our time here in Cantanhede. We talked about how our first week was filled with google maps to find places to eat and where the shops were. We laughed at all our bad google translations and how our co-workers helped us by correcting our mistakes. We joked about all our mispronunciations and how it took us a week to learn to say 'obrigada' instead of 'obrigado'. We talked about the different ways we were able to pick up the language and how Eimar learned by writing it down and reading it over and over, and how I learned by listening to people say the words and then repeating them myself. We finished by speaking about how lucky we are to be in Portugal and how amazing it has been to visit Cantanhede and its surrounding areas, and how grateful we are for having gained this amazing opportunity.
We're midway through our final week here in Cantanhede and the time has definitely passed by so quickly. For the last couple of weeks I've become increasingly familiar with the Wordpress admin user interface, and I now feel comfortable navigating through it's many menus to make the changes I want to when editing a wesite. I've been working on the design of the website each day, trying to come up with more interesting and visually engaging ways to present the required information. I favoured a simple, clean style of website and from the feedback I've been getting from Micheal, I feel I'm generally moving in the right direction. Although I doubt I'll consider the job done by the time we depart on Friday. One of the sections I've been working on, is an image portfolio that displays previous work Michael has done for his clients.
Previously, I used a cramped image gallery widget, which annoyingly sent the user to a new tab when they clicked on an image. I've now changed to a widget that allows specifying the desired padding and utilises a "light-box" when the user clicks on an image. I've also stretched it across the entire page, a technique I've used on various sections of the website. This gives it a more spacious and welcoming user experience.
Since the weekend we spent in Porto, the weather has deteriorated further here which has been surprosing. Every morning I'm greeted with the sound of rain on the window and the chilly weather is not something I anticipated when I left for Portugal. I have native rain to look forward to when I return! It's now time to start preparing for the journey home. Bags will have to be packed and goodbyes exchanged. I've thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated my time here in Portugal. Between working and touring where we can, it's been a busy experience, but one I would eagerly do again. We've decided to spend our final Portuguese weekend in Lisbon before our flight home, and I plan to savour every bit of the time left.
Unfortunately since the middle of last week, the Irish weather has seemed to have followed us here. Weather-wise it's is no different to back home. The scattered rain showers even followed us on our weekend visit to Porto and Aveiro. In our little office here in the museum we can see the rain fall and flow down the street like a river. I always think it would be so funny to see a duck swim by!
Today, Carlos told Sandra that the elderly will be visiting the museum again this week. He asked Laura and myself for ideas on what we can do in the recreational room at the back of the museum, (where we baked cookies and Easter bread with the children and elderly previously). I suggested some ideas as we would be using clay, but I then noted that some of these ideas would be too difficult to do. Carlos then had the great idea of creating clay flowers as it is still springtime, and would be a great way to cheer everyone up with this bad weather.
Sandra brought us to the recreational room where we covered the table with plastic and took out the modelling clay. It was cold and difficult to began with, shaping flowers, but eventually we managed. I know I am not artistic whatsoever, but I was proud of my funny looking flowers. Sandra had a good laugh as we made some shamrock shapes as well. So as the saying goes, "practice makes perfect". I'm hoping to be able to make better ones next time.
I've already started packing bit by bit for our trip to Lisbon, ever since I came home on Sunday evening. It is sad to think that our Erasmus+ experience will all be coming to an end soon. I really do appreciate this opportunity that I got, to go on this Erasmus placement and to experience all the amazing things we have done so far. One thing that I would wish for, is that I had more time to further improve my Portuguese. In the short time we were here, I can say some simple things like, 'Good morning, please, thank you, see you later', etc. I have also learned that people learn in different ways. Personally, I am better at writing or reading a new language, (one of the perks of a photographic memory) while others are better at hearing it or speaking it. It is something that I will think about once I return home also.
That's all for now, we're going to get take away and watch some movies in the apartment tonight, because the weather is too bad to go out exploring, so we will enjoy some relaxation before work again tomorrow.
After arriving in Porto later Friday night, we still got up early and got the train to Aveiro. Aveiro is a beautiful seaside town, which I saw on the first week as Carlos drove us back from our day trip. Unfortunately it was raining all day so we didn’t get to see the whole town, so a good few hours were spent in the Aveiro Forum shopping centre. Luckily we got an hour or so of no rain, which was perfect timing for a river tour on one of the gondolas. During the first half of the trip we saw the old side of the town. Here the tour guide told us about the water gates and the fishermen. On the new part of town, we saw a bridge covered with ribbons, the idea is taken from the bridge locks in Paris. The new housing along the banks were shaped like boats which was amazing to see.
On Sunday we didn’t have much time to look around Porto, so Laura and myself got a tour bus around the city for two hours. It was incredible... We were given earphones to connect to a system on the back of seats of the bus so we were guided around the city and given facts through our headphones. Coming to the end of the tour it began to rain again so we had to leave the open topped bus and run downstairs for cover. I really wish I had another day to spend in Porto because it was so interesting and there is so much to do there.
It’s hard to believe that i’m back in class this day week, after a world-wind, breathtaking Erasmus+ placement in Portugal. Today was a quiet day in the office. I was expecting it to be very busy, like last Tuesday when we came back from the Easter break. The started with the daily tasks that I have become accustomed to, including "corresdinência recebida" filing and greeting everyone that came in. Inês was off today but all the office wished me a belated happy birthday in English, which was lovely. We also had some cake to celebrate it, very different to what we call cake at home. The main thing I am noticing (also joining in with) is that the worker here start their day with an 'espresso shot'. I was never an espresso drinker, but that has changed. When I usually finish up my days work, the staff usually have a snack. This is a small meal that’s traditionally had before dinner.
At the weekend we visited Porto. It's a city that we will definitely be revisiting as it was truly breathtaking and I just didn’t have enough time to explore all it had to offer. One would easily need another 2/3 full days of exploring to get even a glimpse into one of the oldest and most recognised European cities. On my first day, while the others went to Aveiro, I had to go see see the famous Estádio do Dragão, the home of F.C. Porto. As a major football fan I was amazed at witness such a stadium. The fantastic and longest running club president has transformed this club and helped build this ultra modern facility. The museum itself was full of history. There is even some Irish history there too, as they won the europa cup in the Aviva stadium in 2011. They transported the goal posts that the winning goal was scored in as they said it was like a trophy to them. They beat their fiercest Portuguese rivals, Braga.
From there I got the metro (which was very cheap) into the centre of the city and walked around the streets admiring all of the shops. One thing I have noticed is the prominence of lace on clothing. Portuguese lace is nearly as famous as Irish lace. Last year I learned that it was linen thread that was used but in more recent decades it is now cotton thread. For a keen crocheter, I was really intrigued as their patterns varied so much to Irish designs. Many shops along the streets had notices up of 'no photography' sadly.
Porto was recognised as a world Heritage site in 1996. I can understand this from the various churches and historical buildings I saw. On the Sunday, I did a historical bus tour of each side of the Douro river. I was very lucky the rain stayed away, although an espresso was needed to warm me up afterwards. Whilst on the bus, I got to see one of the smallest dwellings in the world that lies between two churches. It was illegal to have two churches side by side so they built this to overcome the law. I learnt that many Porto people (known as Tripeiros) look to their bridges to age their city. Their most famous bridge is the Dom Luís I. It was a 5 year project and finished in 1886. It has a similarity to the Eiffel Tower’s base. This is because the same architect, Théophile Seyrig, designed the bridge just 6 years before construction started on the Tower.
On my final day, I tried out the famous Francesinha for dinner. This is a sandwich filled with a selection of 4/5 meats (mine had 5). It is topped with a fried egg and layer of cheese. A beer/tomato sauce that differs from chef to chef is then poured over the top. It was served with chips but the sandwich alone filled me. Overall I really had a great weekend and I am looking forward to what our final week has in store for us.
It so hard to believe that I am two weeks here today. The time has just flown by. Heading into my last week and I feel that I have settled well into work here. While I am in the office I spend my time filing, writing up documents for proof of address, and I also register canine details on to the system. I have also spent some time sitting in reception with Justina. At reception, people pay for documents that have an official seal (from the Mayor), so being in reception puts me right in the thick of things which is not easy. People here are very curious as to who I am, as I am a new face. I also get to go out of the office with my boss, to complete different tasks.
I went to Pocariça, a small village just outside Cantanhede. We went there because the workers from the Junta were cutting down trees near telephone wires and we had to inform the houses that there would be no telephone service for the afternoon. Pocariça is a very small village and the agricultural life of the village is very active. They produce very good wines here (the ones of the agricultural house of Fernão Pires do Bêco are famous), along with other products such as olive oil, corn, beans, potatoes, onions, vegetables and honey. During my time here, I have also learned a lot of people make their own wines.
On Friday evening I went to dinner at my mentor's house. She made a local dish that they would eat regularly which consisted of, chicken, rice and salad. Their dinner time can be quite late, usually starting at 8pm or 9pm. I was delighted to be asked, as I have been curious to see inside some of the Portuguese homes, though they may look small from the outside they are quite big inside.
We spent the evening chatting where I learned that gas, electricity, petrol and diesel are expensive here, and also that the houses to buy are not cheap either. Home furnishings like washing machines, fridges, tv’s can also be expensive, so not much different from home. People are not paid by the hour here but by the month and it is less than an average worker at home on minimum wage. In some jobs, they are paid for 14 months instead of 12. Getting around is cheap with bus fares for 40km working out to be 4.25€. Food is also cheap along with healthcare. It works out to be approx. €5 to visit a doctor here, but part of their wages goes to the government towards healthcare. It was interesting to see some of the comparisons between here and home.
On Saturday I headed to Aveiro. It is a city on the west coast of Portugal set along a lagoon called Ria de Aveiro. It's distinguished by its canals, navigated by colourful boats (barcos moliceiros), traditionally used to harvest seaweed. Not far from its centre, known for art nouveau buildings, is the Cathedral of Aveiro, with its prominent bell tower. The Museu de Aveiro, housed in a former convent, has a ornate tomb made of marble. Unfortunately, it rained all day just like Ireland. I ended up taking the Tuk-Tuk to stay dry and see the city out of the rain! I also picked up some Ovos Moles (soft eggs).
On Sunday, I went to Mira Beach which was beautiful. Situated on a quiet stretch of the "Silver Coast", between the city of Aveiro and resort town of Figueira da Foz is the pleasant little beach town of Praia de Mira. Despite it being off the beaten track, Praia de Mira is a popular, lively spot which gets busy in during the summer. Between the sand dunes, the central section of beach here backs onto the town with a promenade running along the seafront. There are plenty of cafes and facilities along here and directly behind this is a large lagoon known as the Barrinha. Here you can hire a paddleboat and enjoy exploring around the lake.
The beach itself is made up of the finest sand and stretches off, apparently endlessly, in both directions beyond Mira. Much of the coast here is backed by low lying sand dunes which have been planted with extensive pine forests to help prevent them blowing away. On the main beach there are colourful "Xavegas" (local wooden fishing boats) pulled up on the sand and a little striped fishermen’s chapel perched on the beach-side. Overall it was such a great day and so nice to explore the culture and scenery that Portugal has on offer.
Before we even got to Portugal, Arlene asked us if we wanted to visit Porto on the weekend of her birthday. After looking at the previous years blogs, we decided we couldn’t refuse. So yesterday we packed up and left on a train for Porto. Eimar, Josh and myself decided to get on a train and visit the seaside town of Aveiro. It’s a very cultural part of Portugal while also being a tourist friendly area. We decided to go on a boat tour and see the sights.
The tour guide took us to the old part of the city first and showed us the traditional style houses and buildings. We were then shown the piles of salt they extracted from the water which was so interesting. After visiting the old part of the city, we then visited the new part, which housed some of more affluent people of Aveiro. We were also shown the apartment building shaped like boats and an old ceramics factory. Our tour guide also told us of the traditional sweet of Aveiro called 'ovos moles' which is made out of eggs and sugar and is very sweet. Tomorrow we plan to stay in Porto and do some sightseeing and shopping. I was happy that we got to see a lot of the old style of buildings and churches while on the way to and from the train station.
It's the end of our second week here in Portugal, and our time here is coming to a close. I feel settled in Cantanhede now. Work has been progressing well and I my understanding of the Wordpress user interface is developing each day. I've become familiar with how to use plug-ins and how to customise and design a basic website to present information in an attractive way. Wordpress makes this quite easy and visual, even if its a little clunky and frustrating at times.
While the weather has been disappointingly wet, I've still taken the time to walk into town during my lunch breaks to explore the local cafés and get a feel for daily life in a relatively small Portuguese city. I've noticed Portugal has a pretty vibrant café culture and it's not uncommon to see people enjoying glasses of beer outside on terraces during the day. Food-wise, cafés are not too dissimilar to Ireland, but the pastries and deserts are a highlight. A pastel de natas is a delicious custard tart that seems to be available in every café in the country. Eating out is also where i've been practicing my Portuguese and it's satisfying to be able to order food and interact with others without using a word of English, even if I still find it difficult. Listening to people speaking Portuguese, the pronunciation seems quite difficult to me and that's where the main difficulty is.
We're using this coming weekend to take a trip to Porto and the city of Aveiro, known as the Portuguese Venice because of the distinctive boats. The trip to Porto involves a bus from Cantanhede to Coimbra, and then a train ride from Coimbra to Porto, for a combined two hours. My time in Portugal so far has seemed to pass by very quickly and it's important for me to see as much as I can before I return to Ireland.
Yesterday, Carlos took Laura and myself to join a tourist group that were going sightseeing around Cantanhede. We met the group outside of the Eco Centro (Eco Centre). Carlos drove us in the minibus while we followed the group of tourists in their bus.
On our first stop we stopped to see a little chapel in the countryside. It's a tiny chapel dating back to the 16th century. As the Portuguese tour guide spoke to the group, Carlos translated it all to us, even though we picked up some of it with the few Portuguese words we have picked up so far. There is a love story, based on the forbidden love of King Pedro, who was seeing a woman named Ines de Castro who came from this town. Ines was a handmaiden of the Queen, Constance. During his marriage to the Queen, King Pedro was seeing Ines. After the Queen passed away, Pedro and Ines married, which angered Pedro's father. He sent one of his soldiers to chop off the Pedro's head!! After stopping at the chapel, we then drove to visit a goldsmith that lived in Corticeiro de Cima. His workshop was very neat and tidy to my surprise as most workshops I have seen are messy. His skills really do shine through in the jewellery that he designs and makes.
We also drove to Taboeira to meet the man again about the trees. We were there to collect some tools and equipment that he uses, to display in the exhibition. Carlos then gave us another tour of the countryside and stopped at a place in Cadima. Its their fresh water beach, which is sourced from a stream off of the river. It was a beautiful, quiet spot, and you could imagine how busy it would be during the summer months.
Before returning to the museum, Carlos invited us to meet his friend Isabella. When we met her, she was in her back yard, working with the tremocos (lupini beans). She gathers bags of these beans and washed them in a large basin of cold salt water. We then got a taste of them and found them quite salty, but we enjoyed them. In the Portuguese culture, these tremocos are normally had with beer. Isabella was a lovely lady, and actually one of the few people I could understand really well. Before we said goodbye she handed us a bag of tremocos to share on our way home.
Office Admin / IT Students 2017/18
Map of Cantanhede