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!

Day 46: Crepes and painted goodbyes

Today at work I got to go on a field trip to the University of Lisbon to speak with a contact there, which was pretty exciting. After work, though, I had a pretty quiet afternoon.

I am trying to use up some of my ingredients that I've more or less been hoarding in my cabinet--flour, sugar, eggs and so on, so I made Crepes, which was nice. I hadn't really made them since last summer (when I had made them basically every week at least once). Here's a photo of the mess I made:

And here's a photo of the completed crepes. (not staged at all ;) )

I stuffed them each differently because why the heck not. One of them had peaches and maple syrup, another had pecans, nutella, and raspberry jelly, another had rosemary pumpkin jam (made by my housemate Isabel), and another had brie and raspberry jelly. It was a fancy (though not super nutrient rich) affair.

After dinner, I had to do the sad work of making good bye cards for two coworkers whose last day is tomorrow. I meant to make these cards weeks ago and circulate them throughout the Pol/Econ section so everyone can write a thoughtful message, but time, alas, escaped me. Not tonight, though!

Tonight I painted to my heart's content and listened to some music (which, weirdly, I haven't done in what feels like ages besides the concert in Belem). Here's some photos of the progress for one of the cards.

first color


Each took me about an hour... I tried to let myself be inspired by the Azulejos here in Lisbon, but I feel so much more connected to Mexican Talavera that I'm not sure I captured the Portuguese essence. Nonetheless, I am happy with both cards and I hope my coworkers think so too! One of the cards is actually for the departing Deputy Chief of Mission (and my idol) Herro Mustafa, who is now going to Bulgaria to serve as Ambassador. There's actually a documentary about her called "American Herro" about her life--she was a Kurdish refugee as a child and came to the US at an extremely young age. She's not even sure what day she was born. I'd like to watch the documentary when I get home. Anyhow, she's an excellent diplomat and extremely poised while being so human and kind... I would love to be like her someday.

Anyway, I'm headed to Braga and Porto this weekend, so my blog tomorrow and Saturday will be a little clunky, but that's okay! Thank goodness Kat built the blog to work from mobile :D

Much love!


Day 45: Lunch with Interns (pt 2), Nannarella, and the Parliament

Today we had the first day of a weekly lunch (of which this will be my first of only two lunches, since I'm leaving next Tuesday) for Interns, where we get to hear about the experiences of Foreign Service Officers at the Embassy. Today we learned from my supervisor, Stephanie, who is wonderful. I couldn't ask for a more inclusive and engaging boss, and she gives me truly interesting tasks. I didn't know much about her background really before today, so it was actually very interesting. Anyways, here's the obligatory Social Media photo (I didn't get the memo that no one else was standing sideways--which I was doing so we could all fit on a square photo for Instagram).

Then, after work, a bunch of interns went to the downtown location of Nannarella. (of course). We ate it in the park of the parliament building, which was very nice.

The parliament building is also very pretty. There are 230 members of parliament, which, and I quote: "is not a lot, but it's enough to keep the corruption going" - Barata, S. I can't comment on the truth of this statement or its exact origin. Nonetheless, it's always delightful to speak to him. We fist bump eachother with our left hands, because we are on the left "but on the right side of history". I love this.

Today marks exactly 2 weeks left in Lisbon. I have many feelings about this--most are a desire to stay due to fear of my future and what the rest of the summer, year, and undergraduate time will bring--but I'm also going to miss this city a lot. I noticed when I went to germany and flew back over Lisbon how excited and happy seeing this city made me. I have never felt that way with any city, really, except for maybe Vancouver, besides Las Cruces, and it just was a wonderful feeling.

Day 44: Recipe for Chia Iced Mocha, AN ANNOUNCEMENT and Sophia!

Today was another busy day at work! It was a pleasant day, and I was highly energetic! partially because I drank an iced coffee this morning. I came up with the recipe for this myself (though it's pretty simple and intuitive but hey we're moving along the chain of recipes). This morning I also experimented with golden raisins, pecans, and PB&J in my morning oatmeal, which was pretty glorious and sweet.

The ingredients for my super coffee drink are: one cup of coffee, one spoonful each of chia seeds, brown sugar, and chocolate powder, and a sip of milk of choice. I also add a sip of water because the coffee from the machine in my apartment is very strong.


Just mix all the ingredients together and set in the fridge overnight or the freezer for 2 hours to cool the coffee down!

That's all! then you're set to have an awesome day! It makes about .25 liters of coffee drink which is perfect to drink over the course of the morning. The chia seeds really nip my peckishness at the office in the bud. Plus they're just fun to eat.

IN OTHER NEWS, Laura and Lucas got engaged over the weekend! Here's a photo I stole from Facebook! I'm so so happy for them and excited for their future together. I love love! (Here they are in the Algarve, all cured from their communal bout of Strep throat)

Finally, I had dinner with the intern at the German Embassy at a Mozambican restaurant near Alfama, and it was excellent. We shared a bottle of green wine and talked endlessly about American politics, Germany, her path to diplomacy, and Lisbon. I really enjoyed her company and it was a truly wonderful conversation. Next week--Nannarella. Where else would I even take someone?! ;)

Much love!

Day 43: Peace corps and vegetables... catching up

Today was another day at work--I have started to write two cables which is kind of overwhelming considering how little time I feel like I have left.

Over lunch a big crew of the interns (funnily enough, not even all of us--there are so many interns at the embassy, it's awesome) met with former peace corps volunteer and US Fulbright Alumni James Bennett.

It was really cool to hear about his work in Mozambique as well as his current studies at ASU and the creative writing process.

After work, I went shopping, did my laundry, and made a salad for dinner with Hummus.

Then I updated yesterday's blog post ( ) with photos from Sunday--as though there weren't enough photos on that post already, haha. But I wanted to have them all in one place so it makes sense! chronologically and everything.

It was such an awesome time in Sintra but it was a late night last night, so this is all for today!

Much love!


Day 42: Sintra, the Master post

So today I spent the second day in Sintra with Brianna, which was awesome. I am also home, so here is a large photo collection from the camera's photos :) It was  so amazing and beautiful and overwhelming. Today I feel like I encountered a lot more tourists, but that's okay. I feel like the two days gave me time to see everything I had hoped to see while still being relaxed (mostly) about it.

We started the day with breakfast at the hostel, which was wonderful. I really loved the host and the breakfast was very nice. Then Brianna went to Church and I went to a supermarket to secure provisions for a day of walking. Indeed, a day of walking it was! We met up at the Pena Palace, the beautiful disney-esque colorful palace with the "eclectic decorations", and then we explored the palace and the park (I wanted to hike up to the high cross, and we had lunch there). We then walked down to the moorish castle, enjoyed the views of Sintra and the palaces there, and then walked about a mile down to the train station, where we took a train back to Lisbon. It sounds so simple writing it out right now, but truly, everything about today was also extremely overwhelming and amazing but also at times confusing--I am bad at reading maps--and I was grateful to have a travel buddy.

Without further ado, here are some photos from this weekend in Sintra! (by some, I mean, a helluvalot)

Quinta de Regaleira

A column separates the two castles on the hill--the Moorish castle on the left and the Pena Palace on the right.

A spiral tower! (did we climb it too? of course)

The Regaliera mansion

The grounds were absolutely beautiful and massive--it reminded me of Park Sansoucci in Germany, but so much more chaotic and winding. At one point there were 90 grandchildren living here, apparently.

Caves and lakes that reminded me somewhat of something from Peter Pan, I don't know why. But it was really dark so Brianna and I quickly made an exit from these caves.

The well! it was a spiral all the way down to the bottom, where there were a bunch of caves to explore as well! It was so, so amazing. It felt like one big adventure world. Quinta de Regaleira is definitely one of the coolest places I've ever been to.

National Palace of Sintra

"Portu-Geese" said Brianna.

Tiles! everywhere! Sorry Molly! ;)

me, still high energy because there is a  literal fairy tale village in front of me!

Brianna was a real artist in capturing photos that made it look like I had quiet moments ;) I might have... at some point... but mostly I was never able to see enough of the world around.

Other Sintra Sites

Parliament building!

ceramic sardines!

The view of the national palace (with the two white chimneys for the Kitchen) from the top of the Moorish castle. That's Sintra's Historic center!

The street! down the mountain we went!

Palace of Monserrat

This palace was built to have Indian and Islamic style influences, and it was so beautiful! We made it in just in time, so there was hardly anyone there... whoops.

Very acceptable Yoga in the Park ;)


The Ruins in the Monserrat park were a little eery near the closing time... but still very beautiful

The magic of a self timer--and this is the "Mexican Garden" in the park :)

The red dome tints the indoors pink, too! :)

I don't even know how to describe this splendor and opulence.

Hand carved wooden archways! it took over 1000 people to build this palace because of all the craftswork that was required for this intricate detail.

Pena Palace and Park 

I know. I know. photo overload.

Many thanks to Brianna for taking so many lovely photos of me!

Everyone (us included) wanted a photo at this courtyard of arches. it was funny to be a part of the chaotic queue. I must admit, it did try my patience somewhat, but it was funny to watch the people afterwards.

Tile details....

My Uber driver said it was "Disneyland for adults", but that he only went in the winter because the prices were way lower and there were far fewer people...

I managed to convince Brianna to hike to a lookout point (it took some effort, but we got here!) and it was awesome.

However, due to the size of the park, it did take some effort to navigate to this point ;) good thing there were two people completely unused to using maps or navigating in general as well as my fantastic sense of orientation to guide us places.

our lunch spot... with the view of the high cross replica!

Pena Palace is truly a sight to behold. It's overwhelming inside and can be really really crowded. But from this distance... it's just a beautiful colorful castle.

Moorish Castle photos 

Just a quick hike down from Pena is this castle--it had a glorious view and was marvelous to walk along the castle walls. The flags are all the previous flags of the kingdom of portugal...all the way from the blue cross to what it is today.

The view of the Pena Palace from the moorish castle. We got views from as many angles as we could on sunday--hills on two sides!

a long day of walking and a walk down to the city still ahead of me... my feet were feeling it! but it was so amazing

don't worry... it's much less scary than it looks in the photo!

A breath taking (literally... the stairs were a lot) end to an amazing weekend.

Many thanks to Brianna for all the photos of me!

Much Love!


Day 41: Sintra, the mobile post

This blog is, by the miracle of Kat's handiwork and ingenuity, being written from my phone. I'm in a hostel in Sintra, a fairy tale tourist town an hour outside of Lisbon by train. It's magical. This has been one of the craziest days ever, and my legs and feet are so sore and I'm so excited for tomorrow.

The hostel is also really nice, the hosts foster a community in this transient style of living, and they're really sweet and are making everyone breakfast. They're also really helpful in planning what to do. Anyways, I'll try and start at the beginning.

So, I met up with Brianna at the metro stop near her house, and after nearly missing the train (there was sprinting involved), we were on our way to Sintra. We arrived at around 9:30, and made our way from the train station, through the town, and to our first stop, Quinta De Regaleira. It was so peaceful because the crowds of tourists hadn't really come in yet.

Quinta de Regaleira was build as a "romanticist Park" and I can't really describe it besides it's a fascinating grounds that tries to build adventure and experiences, similar to Meow Wolf, but older, outside, and much bigger and more spread out.

After meandering through the park and all of the amazing and beautiful things to be discovered there, we had lunch at a touristy tasca nearby. I had my favorite Portuguese meal: Bitoque, which is a steak with a fried egg on top. Then we wandered through town and checked into our Hostel.

Our plan for the afternoon was to go to Monserrat park and palace, an Arabic-architecture inspired summer castle with a Rose garden and massive grounds around it. What actually happened was quite different. We started by accidentally not paying for a bus ride up to Montserrat, but, due to a traffic incident on the road, we managed to spend about 30 minutes on the bus to get a distance we could have walked in six. Then the police came and told everyone that it's probably better to get off the bus and give up on Montserrat for the day. Dejected, we walked away. We met a French couple that was even more dejected because they had bought tickets for Montserrat in advance and now couldn't use them. Impulsively, we bought the tickets from them, for reasons I can't even begin to logic out. Really. What were we thinking? The tickets easily could have been invalid, and we didn't have time tomorrow to go either, and the road to Montserrat was completely packed, bumper to bumper, in this incident. So it seemed like we just made a dumb decision. We decided to visit the National palace, located on the center of Sintra, even though it was not really on my original plan.

It was beautiful and very interesting.

When we got out, though, we glanced at the clock, saw it was only 6 and knew the Monserat park closed at 8, and so we decided to go for it. We arrived at 6:20 and upon seeing our tickets, which were apparently also for the palace inside the park (not just the park), the guard said, dismayed "the palace closes at 6:30! You can't make it! Well, unless you RUN. okay, yes, you can go, but you have to RUN". So we did. We ran half a kilometer down to the castle, where we rushed through as the guards were starting to turn the lights out. As we left, apologizing profusely for staying till 6:37, the guard joked "just for you. 20 euros a night, includes breakfast".

Finally, we ate dinner at a lovely restaurant near my house. I had sardines.

The views of tomorrow's adventure!

Also, tomorrow evening I'll make a Sintra masterpost with all the photos from the camera, because I have no real way to post them now. Today's photos are all mobile, from either my phone or Brianna's.

I don't know how many photos failed to attach! I'll get you some more tomorrow!

Day 40: Emily! Sydney! and Nannarella

Today was a busier day at work--several of my tasks got shifted around and moved upwards, so I was glad for a lunch break that allowed me to learn a lot about the Portuguese Revolution from Sebastiao, where we also discussed the involvement of the United States in keeping the communists out of power in Portugal. It's really interesting to hear the differing perspectives on the revolution and American involvement from the State department side and from others, especially politically interested Portuguese.

Today a friend from high school came to visit Lisbon, so we went out for dinner! it was so amazing to catch up with everything she's been doing in the past two years, and it was fun to meet her freshman year roommate, whom she was traveling with.

We went out to eat at Valbom, a nicer Portuguese Restaurant, and then we went out to Nannarella, the ice cream place that I love.

Then we enjoyed the night views from the El Corte Ingles building, which was pretty (though this grainy photo does not really do it justice)

I am planning a trip to Sintra this weekend, so this blog needs to be cut short, since the next two days will hopefully have some amazing experiences! but for that, I need to be well rested!

So, Good night! Much love!