December 31, 2013 by mariannat92
First up, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all! I haven’t managed to post on here for over a month now and, in the spirit of finishing up 2013 and all that, I thought I’d do a catching up post to let you know what I’ve been up to.
Girls on Tour
The weekend after Mum and Dad came to visit I headed back to Lisbon again with a big group of friends for a proper touristy weekend. We trekked all over the city up into the Alfama and down to Martim Moniz (check the main square out, it’s amazing) before having a night out in the Bairro Alto. The next day everyone went to Belem, but as myself and Annie had already been the weekend before we decided to go in search of good vegetarian food at Terra Restaurant in Principe Real. If you’re ever in Lisbon and fancy a bit of a change from boring Portuguese veggie fare (plain omelette anybody?) you have to go to this place. It’s quite pricey but you get so much choice and despite not actually being a vegetarian it was one of my favourite meals I’ve ever had in the city!
Back at the start of the semester we found out that at portuguese universities you get a choice in how you’ll be assessed for each of your classes – you can either take 100% coursework (in practice this just means tests spread out throughout the semester), 100% exam (taken in January) or a mixture of the two. In my infinite wisdom, and with a view to having a completely clear January so I could go travelling, I decided to take all six of my courses by coursework only. Oh dear, Marianne of the past, what an fool you were.
In December we discovered that by choosing to do coursework for all of your modules you will end up a) very stressed and b) mostly in Cafe Teatro trying desperately not to just book a flight home and run away. I only ended up taking assessments for 5 of my classes in the end (although I think ‘only’ is an understatement) as for one I have to write a long essay instead, but I still spent a LOT of time at the cafe feeling sorry for myself all through December. To top it all off I am going back early in January anyway now and could therefore have taken some of my courses by exams… Moral of the story: don’t be an idiot. Also don’t take Latin, it’s hard.
Christmas in Coimbra!
Christmas builds up slowly in Coimbra. Being from the UK, I’m used to chocolate Santas hitting the shelves the morning after Halloween, city decorations going up in mid-November and the shops being chock-a-block with frantic panic-buyers from early December. After 21 years of that, being in Coimbra this year was a bit confusing. For a start the city Christmas tree didn’t turn up until the first week of December, and the rest of the decorations took quite a while longer. (I’m not sure the tree ever got decorated at all, although I did take the liberty of decorating a photo of it on my phone…) To be fair to the city council, they really got into the swing of things in mid December and even put up speakers around the Baixa blaring out Christmas music for 12 hours a day. Yes, speakers. In the main streets. Playing Christmas music. Oh Coimbra. We even had a speaker hanging on our house so we were fully enveloped in Coimbra’s Christmas cheer from dawn til dusk, even when the city council got bored with Christmas songs and decided to just play 80s pop instead.
In the lead up to the holidays we also had quite a few Christmas dinners, the highlights of which were undoubtedly our huge international dinner at my friend Tash’s house and our British/Italian Christmas party at Anwen’s. They were both absolutely brilliant and I was so busy enjoying them I forgot to take any photos at all. Oops.
As always our preparations for Christmas rushed on and no sooner had I finished my exams than it was time to fly back to England. On hearing that our friends Will, Sofia and Laura were planning to go home the day before us, Florence and I decided to go down to Lisbon with them for final mini holiday before flying back to the UK. We actually did quite a lot (mostly Christmas shopping focused to be honest, but still busy) and went to see the Circo de Luz on the Praça de Comercio, but all you really need to know is that it was almost twenty degrees on the 20th of December. Insane.
Christmas in the UK
Christmas!!! This year I had Christmas at my parents’ house with them, my brother Bruce and my grandparents. Bruce has asked to be included more often in my blog and, in fact, specifically requested his own paragraph in this post, so here goes.
There you go.
Anyway, so we had Christmas here, it was lovely, we had three dogs so it was also chaotic, we had beef for Christmas dinner, we had a lovely Christmas day, we skyped my lovely Auntie and Uncle who live near Brighton and we even spoke to our cousins in Canada (hi Canada!) So all in all it was a lovely few days, full of family and nice things! A couple of days before we also went down to see my Grandma in St Albans which was meant to be really nice and relaxing but ALL OF THE RAIN IN THE WORLD fell on St Albans that day. So it was still nice but mostly mad.
Then last Friday I went down to London for the day to see Will and our Korean friend Jisong who was over from Portugal for a week! We had a really nice day being tourists, first we went to the oldest pub in London next to Borough Market for lunch and then to the British Museum (which I had somehow never been to before) for the afternoon. There was an amazing exhibition there about the pills you will take in your lifetime – it was two lengths of cloth laid out next to each other, one representing a man’s life and one representing a woman’s, and they had loads of prescription pills laid out in order on them, telling a story about each of their lives. It was a really interesting idea and very touching. In the evening we went over to the South Bank to have tea and scones and then, unfortunately, I had to go and catch my train home.
The next day my family went up to Wells-Next-The-Sea in Norfolk for a couple of days of yet more eating and walking! A few weeks ago there was a huge tidal swell there and everything is still trying to get back to normal, so we had a great time letting the dogs explore the new routes through the sand dunes and even saw a group of lost seals up close!
So that’s everything, now it’s New Year’s Eve, Christmas is over and we are getting ready for a big family dinner tonight to ring in the New Year. Happy 2013 everybody!