Day 55: A day of Adventure! a 32-km loop around Lisbon.

Today I did a lot--and quite a bit of walking, though not 32 kilometers. It was driven by this strong desire to "do things before I leave", which I know is kind of silly since I know I'll come back some day, but on the other hand--there is so much to see and do here. I love this town and I feel very integrated into it--I can name the neighborhoods and give directions (albeit in english).

Anyways, today I went with a coworker (not really an intern, not really a foreign service officer yet--she's a Presidential Management Fellow working in the State department) to the St. jeronimo's Monastery and Church. They were overwhelming and large and beautiful.

The ornate-ness is the Manuelian style of Architecture. More than that, I don't really know.

Also: shout out to Sebastiao (I hope you're reading this).

Enough said. <3

After spending about an hour and a half dooting around the monastery and chatting, Lilli and I went to this tile store that I had read about online and Laura's mom raved about. I needed some small souvenir, after all ;). The store's name is Fabrica Sant'Anna, and I really strongly recommend everyone goes there instead of buying the tiles found in antique stores and flea markets and used things stores, because tiles are going missing off of buildings in Lisbon and the tourist hunger for cheap authentic tiles is to blame. But the thing is, you don't need to fund the destruction of 100+ years of cultural heritage when there are stores like Sant'Anna that have been producing and selling tile--in this case, since 1741! Note: I'm not sponsored by this store, I was just so enchanted by it and so dismayed to read about all the tile that goes missing in Lisbon.

Then we met up with Brianna and Michael for some lunch at my favorite Ramen place in Baixa, Panda Cantina. I had the ice jelly again. :) (see Day 18's post for photos of that).

Afterwards, we made our way to the much-contested-but-overall-clear-winner of the "best Pastel de Nata in Lisbon" contest. Some say it's the ones in Belem. Others insist it's these ones, from Manteigaria. I like these a lot--and there's much less of a hassle to get them. But, admittedly, I've not had the others--I've merely looked at the crowd of people swarming the store in Belem and cringed. The cool thing about Manteigaria is that you can watch the process for making the pastries through the glass window as you eat them. I had the quintessential afternoon snack--2 pastries and an espresso. Man, I will miss these.

After that, the plan was to split up--I would go meet Laura and Lucas somewhere to go accross the river for the afternoon/evening, and the others would go back to their apartment to rest. Instead, we all collided in the Subway station, which was fun, because we planned tomorrow's adventure!

(yay! a blurry subway selfie! nothing like it ;) )

Then we did indeed split up, and Laura, Lucas, and I took the public transportation Ferry across the river Tagus to Cacilhas! It was exciting to watch Lisbon zoom out--but that's also when the emotions started to hit. This small, red-roofed city is where I've spent the last 2 months, and I've had some of the most amazing adventures and done a job that I've loved.

Shout out to Lucas who insisted on getting this photo--and it's by far my favorite from today because it captures my unfettered joy at riding a BOAT! tee hee!!!

A view of the 25th of April (the day of the end of the Portuguese Dictatorship--a very important day) Bridge that I'll likely not get again. :)

Laura, Lucas and I then meandered along the coast of the Tagus, stopping at viewpoints and gift shops and just generally making our way over to the Christo Rei statue. We rode a panoramic elevator up and down--twice. We took glamour tourism and romantic photos. It was truly wonderful. My stomach and heart were full--I just also felt so heavy. "This will all be memories soon" was my internal monologue. But it was still so fun.

Cacilhas is adorable too.

I envy this tile collection--especially after seeing the prices at Sant'Anna today! yikes yikes yikes

The structure you see there (the vertical grey one) is the free panoramic elevator. :)

Photo credit for the flower picture goes to Laura <3

Then we made it to the statue, which was really big. We didn't really want to take the elevator up and it was closing soon anyway, so we explored what looked like the newly-renovated grounds and enjoyed the views of Lisbon.

I really feel like Mama--the magic of self timer. I'm so used to this camera's self timer, but I'm not used to the running, haha.

Getting back to the bus stop was an adventure--the first true failure of google maps that I've experienced. It had us going downhill through private property on a washed out dirt goatpath. We found a different route instead. :)

Laura and Lucas are truly a wonderful couple and amazing people individually. I am struck by how happy all of our conversations are and how much they make me smile after we say goodbye. They're the sort of people that leave you glowing on the inside.

Then I went home, cooked some lentils and fried an egg, and wrote up this blog! I'm trying to use up my ingredients haha. I also entered all of my locations today into google maps and calculated that I traveled in a large loop, about 32 kilometers long, today!

Much love!

Day 54: the Final Intern Dinner

Well, it's friday again, so what did we expect?

We went to the hotel that some of the interns are staying at, which has a rooftop pool. This time, I got photos.

It was amazing and beautiful and I started to feel rather nervous about leaving. There's a lot to manage before then.

After some (mandatory) selfies in the elevator, the seven of us decided to go through with the plan to make veggie burgers.

It was a bit of a disaster--there were people grating burnt toast to make breadcrumbs, there was hand drying of the black beans, there was an enourmous amount of salad, but most importantly: there was passion fruit soda.

In the end, the burgers turned out okay--nothing incredible because veggie burgers are hard!

I don't know if Brianna's instagram is public--but if it's not, here is the link to the "stories" she posted about the experience.

Anyhow, it's late and I have plans for tomorrow! Much love!


Day 53: Politics and bookstores, Politics and Quesadillas

Today was a weird day at work because I arrived two hours late--I woke up with a splitting headache and I couldn't really move my head. Though it's better now I'm going to keep this short so that I can get enough sleep. Anyway, I finished some projects and had a delightful lunch with the interns. I will miss them so much. I know I take long lunch breaks--sometimes even longer than an hour, but that's an accident--but I just love these people so much. Everyone has so much to say and we have so much to laugh about together.

Anyway, after work I went with one of the other interns to a used book store, which was lovely. There were some awesome old books and I practiced reading portuguese from the backs of covers. I usually miss all of the nuance but can pick out the nouns that I know, and the cognates. Sebastiao, the intern I was with, was super nice and patient as I bumbled around the store, and he stuck around while I looked through a bunch of archival prints of old maps and sketches of Lisbon. He even stuck around after the shopkeeper thought we were husband and wife. hehe.

Then we walked up to my metro stop, but when we got to the intersection where our paths would split, we stayed there and talked for a long time about a variety of things--everything from capitalism to the April 25th Revolution to the political parties to other gossip. When we finally did part ways I was struck by how much he reminds me of what I love most about college: long conversations that seem like they could go on forever because both people have so much desire to share and listen. Anyway. It was a bit to late to then do my laundry, so I just went home and cooked dinner.

At home, I chatted with my housemates as we each ate our respective meals, sharing ingredients and swapping stories here and there, and this peace that comes from being listened to and listening to others and where they're coming from is so wonderful. I don't want to go back to my "real" life with application deadlines and responsibilities and the weight of the semester hanging over me. Here, I can just talk with people for as long as we want about the untenable political problem of Climate Change or call a housemate who is out partying (and quite drunk) or say all the french words we can think of. But at the same time, I miss home. I know this weekend will go fast--and I don't know if I want to speed it up or slow it down. I'm so mixed about this.... I don't know.

Much love!


Day 52: Intern Lunch and Sushi dinner!

Today the interns had lunch with Patrick, first secretary of the embassy and consul general of the U.S. embassy Lisbon. He and his husband Rami have been so amazingly kind to me and the other interns, and it was amazing to hear his career path over lunch today, as well as his perceptions of how the foreign service has changed since he joined in 2004. Especially for gays. It was really interesting, and I am very grateful for the ability to listen to someone speak so openly about their experiences.

Then, after work, I cooked the chicken I bought a few days ago for use over the next few days. I hope to bring some to lunches at work and use some in a quesadilla tomorrow night.

After that, though, Laura and I had been planning to go to this Sushi place recommended to me by a housemate in the neighborhood of my apartment. So Lucas, Laura and I enjoyed something along the lines of 3 hours of sushi buffet (where you order what you want but it can be an endless stream), which was wonderful. Laura and Lucas are a delightful couple and very fun-loving. I've never hung out with a couple my age that fills me with so much joyous energy afterwards--I replay the conversations and they are so marvelous and funny and romantic and perfect for one another. I am so glad to be a somewhat witness to their relationship at this stage (the "fiance stage", ;) )


The sushi was good, too, considering the price of the buffet, so the value was good for what we had paid.


There were a lot of rolls that I was surprised by--like banana rolls with coconut and strawberry sauce, or a roll covered in beet-stained rice so that it was pink!


Anyway. It was a lovely night and I'm starting to see the time pass me by like crazy. Only one more week! Crikey! much love!

Day 51: Demarches and Syrian food!

Today I went with a colleague to the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to learn about how a Demarche (a fancy word for instructions from Washington) is delivered. It's a list of talking points that are usually summarized and paraphrased in a conversation. It was fun! I learned that the Necesidades palace (the pink one near the park with all the cacti in it) is, in fact, the Ministry, which is why the palace isn't publicly open to tourists. But it was an educational time!

Then, after work, the interns went out for a dinner at a syrian restaurant run by resettled refugees. It was incredible food, and incredibly touching to hear how much our--the interns'--work meant to our supervisors. I'd never had Syrian food before, but Stephanie said it was her favorite kind of middle eastern food, and honestly, I can see why. From the appetizers to the dessert--it was amazing. I am going to have to learn.

Anyway, it's late! Much love!

Day 50: Banana Cinnamon rolls and Shakshuka

Today at work I continued my cables and caught up with friends at work. It's a weird feeling, knowing that this is my last full week and soon this life as I know it will only be a memory. But that sounds dramatic so I stop those sorts of thoughts there-ish.

We--the interns in pol/econ--were then invited to the Public affairs office to enjoy some homemade banana cinnamon rolls--courtesy of Rami. He's honestly too good to us all. But it was hard not to have a tiny, tiny bit of section envy as all the Pub Affairs interns share an office, with lots of snacks and music and photo editing going on. My big desk on the quiet zone of the Pol/Econ section seems lonely, but honestly, I do need the quiet to work. I moved desks today and I immediately removed the two clocks in the office because their ticking was loud and off-beat from one another. Lisbon and DC time are important to me but I really can't deal with the ticking. Anyhow. Here are the glorious rolls!

After work I got groceries. I made Shakshuka for dinner--this time, enough for two days--and it was a very picturesque success. I love shakshuka and it's so easy and ~fairly~ healthy and I don't know eggs with tomato and spice on toast is just wonderful. I also tried some pink tonic from schweppes as a consolation prize for not getting orange juice--the machine that pulverizes the oranges and makes fresh squeezed juice is gone! I don't know where it went! it causes me some sorrow but I'll check back tomorrow, as well as in another store.

Then, after dinner, I uploaded photos and made a blog post for the weekend-- (  ) which embarrassingly took 2 hours. Nonetheless, the blog is something I've been looking back on more and more, and it does bring me joy to see at a glance what I've been up to. I don't know--do I really have that poor of a memory?

I love shakshuka and I love living here! yeey! Here's to another great day tomorrow!

Much love!

Days 48 & 49: Braga and Porto, the master post

So in light of the fact that last night I really didn't have time to even look at my photos, tonight I will be posting everything from this weekend. :) later tonight I'll make a post for day 50, but for now, please enjoy these photos!


The backyard of Rodrigo, my amazing host, where we shared our meals. Rodrigo's family was so kind and his hospitality to Michael and I was truly mind-blowing. I'm so grateful to him for everything.

Our day started by riding this water powered Funicular: instead of CLIMBING the 1,000 steps up to the Bom Jesus do Monte church, we rode this crazy car thing. there are two cars, connected by a cable and a wheel at the top of the hill. Each car has a massive cavity underneath where water is filled in at the top and emptied at the bottom. The down-going car thus pulls the other car up as gravity takes hold and the brakes are released. It is much faster than I thought it would be.

The beautiful grounds of the newly-named UNESCO world heritage site

The artificial cave reminded me a bit of Quinta de Regaleira in Sintra... what is it with the Portuguese and their fake stalactites?

The inside of the glorious pilgramage site. It had a life sized crucifixtion site with a bunch of people around--which, of course, I neglected to take a photo of because I was too busy trying to see if the people were real or not (they were pretty lifelike)

An awesome view of Braga

The stairs we climbed down, not up, because we had a very knowledgeable and prudent guide. Rodrigo was full of fun secrets ("the tourists don't know that you can park here, but I know that I can! I talked to the police!")


I'll never tire of the way the ground looks here, either...

The bold crew!

Then we walked around Braga!

The city hall

The arch-bishop's palace and the Santa Barbara gardens that are adjacent to it.

See the woman in the smurf hat on the left? She was part of a crew of 8 (seven dwarfs and a bride) who were on a mission to take as many selfies with tourists as possible on their bachelorette party. There are so many here--it's wild.

"a dragon! for no reason" lamented Rodrigo. I thought it was cool.

The backside of the cathedral.

Lunch--Frigideira, or a buttery pastry filled with ground meat. It's small-looking but SO FILLING


Portugal's first capital!

There was a castle and a palace!


We took some photos--and I had to say goodbye to Scott, Rodrigo's family's adorable Westy. Alas.

Then we went to Porto!

After the fiasco at the Bookstore Livraria Lello (google image search it--it's awesome but the line went DOWN THE BLOCK), we visited some iconic churches.

I listened to organ music for the first time.

After lunch, we went down to the seafront and the famous bridge. We crossed into Gaia, chatted and perused the stores of Port wine (see the port boats!), and then crossed back. We then hiked back up to the city center--seeing key sites such as the famously beautiful McDonalds, the Amazing Sao Bento Train station, and others along the way.

We then went to my favorite part of Porto thus far--the cathedral. We could even climb up one of the towers!!! It was so beautiful.

Then we sat in the grass and had to say goodbye, and Michael and I made our way back to Lisbon.

I know this was a lot of photos--if you made it all the way here.... good job! ;)

Much love!

Day 49: Porto! (and Bucatini Carbonara)

Today Rodrigo, Michael and I explored Porto. It was awesome but it's super late now, so I'll post more about it tomorrow since I have work tomorrow morning.

We started by trying to go to the famous bookstore that inspired JK rowling partially, the Livraria Lello, but the line went across the street and it was hot. So instead, we wandered the streets and visited different churches. Eventually we began walking to a place for lunch that served what one of my housemates promised was one of the best franchesinhas in Porto. These are those grilled cheese and meat sandwiches that are covered in a slightly spicy tomato soup.

After that we went down to the famous bridge--the Luis 1 bridge and crossed it into Gaia. That was cool as well, and we saw Porto from across the Douros river, which was beautiful. Then we walked back up into the city center of Porto and we visited the Cathedral of Porto. We went back to the bookstore, but when we found out the price to get in (5 euros for a packed bookstore), Rodrigo made such a hilarious face and said plainly that this was highway robbery. It was good to have him as a guide. More on this tomorrow.


(here's the Facade--pronouced "Fah-kayde" according to my section head at the embassy who also addresses us only with "Comrades" in emails)

Anyway, this is more of a post to appreciate my housemates, who, when I got home at 10 pm, were just starting to cook dinner. We were bidding farewell to an italian housemate, and he made Bucatini (like spagetti, but hollow) carbonara, which was incredible. I just can't tell you how nice it is to come home to a house full of people who all exclaim "Lara! Welcome Back" or "AH, the American is here!" or "we saved you a doggy bag of the appetizer" or "FINALLY you made it home" which is all so amazing and wonderful and it is making me so happy to live here. It also helps that dinner wasn't even on the stove yet when I got home--it makes me feel like I didn't miss much ;)

Much love! a proper post on Braga and Porto will come tomorrow!


Day 48: Braga! (QOTD : "and... Another church")

Today was an amazing day, filled with my wonderful friends Rodrigo and Michael. They each had to deal with all my picture taking and chatter and nosy questions all day... Props to them.

This morning I woke up to this stunning view of Braga: (Portugal's oldest city)

Then I also got to spend some time with his fluffy and energetic dog before a delicious breakfast of bread and pastries and fresh orange juice. Rodrigo's parents are truly too kind and gracious.

After breakfast, we went out for a day of exploration and sightseeing! We rode the Funicular (a water powered train car) up to the bom Jesus do Monte and the surrounding park. These were beautifully taken care of and had amazing views. Recently named a UNESCO world heritage site, the church at the top of the hill was stunning as well.

Then we went to the city center, where we walked around and had lunch. We had Frigideiras, which are a buttery flakey pastry filled with ground meat. There were many churches to see, including this one with TWO ORGANS that is around 2000 years old. And no there were no extra zeroes in that number.

Then we went to Guimarães, Portugal's first capital. There was an old castle and a palace, and after visiting both of them, we also went to the old town.


fter that we had a multi course meal back at Rodrigo's house, including bacalhau!

It was a charming day indeed! I'm excited for tomorrow! Much love!

Note: some photos didn't upload and that's okay.

Day 47: train ride to Braga!

Today was a busy day at work. It was a sad day too since it was goodbye to Herro and Roshni, but this is the career and lifestyle.

Anyway, after work I went home, changed, packed, and made a quesadilla before taking about a four hour train ride up north with Michael. We're visiting Braga tomorrow and Porto on Sunday, and a fabulously kind intern alumnus from

the consular section is hosting us at his house. He's so sweet and patient, and drove us from the station to his parent's beautiful house. They have a small white Scottie who I'll try to capture on photos. His parents are also enormously kind (from the brief moment that I met them, anyhow, and they were each Fulbright scholars in the US twice. So, their English is perfect) . I'm so excited for this weekend .

Much love!