Archive | July, 2010
July 24, 2010

Good Food and Fado

Good Food and Fado


Fado is a Portuguese musical style dating back to the early 19th Century in Lisbon. It is characterized by mournful melodies and lyrics usually about the sea, life of the poor, unrequited love, lost friendships, or misfortune. Originally, sailors sang Fado, but the style spread and evolved throughout Portugal and was well known by the early 20th Century. Fado was traditionally performed on street corners, bars, and brothels and was the music of the working class. Now it can be heard in a small bar or restaurant setting accompanied by one or two Portuguese guitars.

We were lucky enough to catch a group of people from our Hostel heading out to a local Fado bar the day we checked in. Having not been able to catch a performance in Lisbon or Coimbra, we tagged along. Maria of Oporto Poets Hostel, led the way. She took a group of us through the narrow, winding hill streets on foot and then by Trolley.

We arrived around 3:30, a little early, to get a good seat and order some drinks and food. We enjoyed a nice spread of fried Bacalhau (dried, salted cod), steamed mussels, and Tremoços (lupini beans). We shared a pitcher of a beer/7-UP/wine cocktail, then had the obligatory glass of Super Bock.

Around 4 o’clock, brave souls stood up one after another to sing for the crowd. Most of the singers we enjoyed were men, with the exception of the cook who came from the kitchen to sing a couple of tunes. This, along with Port tasting, was definitely the highlight of Portugal.  Port tasting is a little boring to watch, but we do have a short video of our Fado afternoon.

July 11, 2010

Moor to See in Portugal

Moor to See in Portugal

We made a day trip to Sintra, Portugal to see the Pena National Palace and the Castle of the Moors.  If you make it to Lisbon, I highly recommend seeing the castle, at least.

We made a short documentary. Maybe they will show it in the visitors’ center! If you like this, you should also check out our photos on Flickr.

July 9, 2010

One Month Update

One Month Update

Monday marked the our first full month on the road, and it’s time for a Q&A on our wild, crazy lifestyle to date.

So, how’s it going?

Pretty damn good.  Besides a lost hat in Seville, we haven’t had any problems.  We try to plan our days one at a time, and we usually see what we want without killing ourselves.  If we miss something, we miss it.  Some days are spent just hanging around the house doing laundry or relaxing.  Today was one of those days.  We slept in, had some lunch, and are waiting for our clothes to dry.

You would think living out of a single 70L backpack would be difficult, but it has greatly simplified the decision making process.  Do I want to wear the light pants or the dark pants?  The green shirt or the yellow shirt?  Hell, I may just stick to three shirts when I get back to the US.   There are no bathrooms to clean, plants to water, carpets to vacuum, etc.

Not that I used to any of those things anyway.

Laundry has been easier than expected.  Except for a shirt or two in the sink, we have been utilizing washing machines exclusively.  Best of all, they have been free about 50% of the time.

How’s the budget?

Travel is expensive, but it’s cheaper than living in Chicago.  We are spending about $1,500 less per month compared to home.  Excluding transportation, we are averaging $94 per day.  Luckily, that figure is for the two of us—not per person.  If we cut down on eating out, we should be able to bring our food expenses down to $35/day or so.  Lodging has been only $28/day, so it all averages out.  Our average daily expenses:

  • Food – $48
  • Laundry – $2
  • Lodging – $28
  • Misc. Supplies – $4
  • Personal Items – $2
  • Sightseeing – $8
  • Clothing – $2


Are hostels like the movie?

The movie Hostel?  We’ve seen slightly less spattered blood and torture in the real thing.

They have been very clean and comfortable for the most part, and we even get a private room occasionally.  Otherwise, we stay in 3-bed to 8-bed rooms.  Just make sure you remember the earplugs and eye mask.  Otherwise, be prepared to wake up at 5 am when the drunk Australians flip the lights on.

There are some negatives.  In Barcelona, we encountered some very loud American college girls drinking Merlot and Coke while trying to play Go Fish.  They failed.  I don’t know what’s more disgusting—the wine-cola cocktail or that they couldn’t understand a card game for 8-year-olds.  Needless to say, we didn’t invite them to our Sheepshead game.

Lastly, hostels are very insular places.  Some backpackers we have encountered go drinking every night and then sleep the entire day.  They only talk to the other guests and barely experience the local culture.  I think this is why I prefer CouchSurfing—it’s more authentic…and free.  Free is very good.

How are you getting around?

We have taken three flights, six long-distance buses, one train, and one boat.  Don’t ask me how many kilometers or steps taken.  Buses are much cheaper than trains in Europe, but you get a mix of clientele.  We had the pleasure of sitting in front of two screaming, teenage Spaniards on our ride from Valencia to Madrid.  In contrast, our Supra bus from Madrid to Granada had WiFi, “in-ride” meals and movies, and leather seats.  There was even a bus attendant to serve drinks and snacks.  Not a bad way to travel.

Excluding day trips, our first long distance train ride will be this Saturday to Coimbra, Portugal.  Hopefully it beats Amtrak.

What’s with all the beer?  You are drinking in every photo.

Every photo?  That’s a bit much.  Yes, many of our photos show one or both of us drinking a beer, but I promise we are sober most of the time.  Beer is usually the same price as pop or water, and you can legally drink on the streets in Lisbon.  What would you choose on a hot day?

I choose beer.

It is also very accessible.  Want a beer with that Big Mac?  Done.  Thirsty for a cold one while shopping at IKEA?  No problem.  We regularly witness people ordering beer at breakfast even.  What’s the deal in the US?  You would never see that.

We have sampled most of the Iberian varieties— Cruzscampo, Moritz, Mahou, Estrella, Sagres, and Super Bock.  Some are better than others.  I particularly enjoy Moritiz which has a strong floral flavor.  It is very tasty on a sunny day.

Have other questions?  Post them in the comment section below, and we’ll be happy to answer.


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