So what’s life like in Portugal?


A lot of partying? …Maybe.
20130927_025808 20130911_004904

…A lot of eating? Just a little.
1016215_550963834975026_1357767148_n  20130912_195913

..Time at the beach? On the occasion.
20130915_160637 1235880_10151763013128649_1325512655_n

…Weekend trips? Now and then, I guess.
935944_550964918308251_1842388419_n 20130915_144844
Porto: port wine cellar, Berlengas

But the daily grind? 

Well there’s uni to go to, studying to be done, shopping at the markets and taxiing to the bigger supermarkets, spending ages getting copies and scans of documents and worksheets from the copy room (apparently in Coimbra the libraries don’t offer an equivalent self-service and you have to get everything done by other people. It’s more a hassle than help.)

It’s taken about a month to get over the initial ‘holiday mode’. Too be honest, I’m not quite sure if I’ve truly gotten over it yet!

Can you blame me when it’s October and it’s still warm enough to wear shorts, vest tops and flip-flops?

I have tried to dress ‘portuguese’ , which involves wearing jeans and a t-shirt in 30 degree heat… Lit. couldn’t do it! I could have collapsed from the heat. It’s like portuguese people just don’t sweat. Or if they do, their sweat is invisible.

As in Germany, all the british found each other very quickly as if we had some 7th sense. We’ve developed into a lovely huge group of all nationalities, but the majority of us are either english, or more likely italian. I never knew portugal was so popular with italians!

I live with:
3 Italians,
1 welshman (student turned resident DJ / friend from uni – for those of you studying Spanish/ Portuguese at Leeds, it’s Adam),
1 French (Our house like to call her the Japanese tourist, because she loves taking photos),
1 Greek,
and 2 coloiros/ freshers (one girl and one guy).

Caroline, Me, Andrea, Francesco, Adam, Konstantina

Caroline, Me, Konstantina, Simona

We’re a lovely bunch. We often make dinner and eat with each other. The only downfall with this is that at any given time none of us will have the right amount of cutlery or crockery. For example, at the moment I only have 1 fork, the other 3 have gone awol and nobody seems to have any spare. #firstworldproblems

I recommend everyone to live with an Italian (or two) in their lifetime, because since living here in Coimbra, I’ve learnt a lot about cooking and how to appreciate ‘good’ and ‘proper’ food. All the Italians i’ve met seem to have this innate knowledge of how to make the best pasta, ragù (a.k.a. bolognese sauce, apparently only non-italians call it ‘bolognese sauce’) and coffee.
The stuff that only my mum and grandmas seem to know about.

969638_10201918786557131_1691692692_n“You’ll always find him in the kitchen at parties”

So, family back in England: Don’t worry about me! I’m eating fine! If anything, I’m probably going to roll back to England at this rate.

I’m not going to lie, this  year abroad is currently revolving heavily around food and drink, and i don’t just mean alcohol.

My timetable here is pretty easy. I have tuesdays off and most days I only start at 2pm. Not bad, hey?

But Monday’s, are a killer for 2 reasons:
1- Classes are 2 hours long.
I found it difficult enough in Germany to hold my concentration for 1hour and a half. 2 hours is close to impossible.

2- My last lesson is at 6pm-8pm.
The time where, in England, I’d usually be having dinner.

So, in my attempt to become more portuguese, I’ve followed in their footsteps to deal with these 1st world problems.

I drink lots & lots & lots of coffee.

I’m a fan of coffee, don’t get me wrong. Always have been, it’s in my blood. So I’m feeling pretty at home here. But seriously, in portugal, they drink this stuff like it’s water that’s running out quickly.

A coffee here a.k.a. um café or uma bica (you only hear this in the south. Many times the waiters have just stared at me blankly when i’ve asked for ‘uma bica’. Very annoying). It’s very much an expresso, but stronger. Some may beg to differ so I’ll say that perhaps a different type of coffee is used. Either way, in comparison to an expresso in England, the coffee here makes you feel like you’ve practically injected caffeine into your system.

No amount of coffee can help me understand what is being said 60% of the time in my lectures though. It’s been a rough month of not understanding a thing, misinterpreting people, getting used to the varying portuguese & brazilian accents and wishing that I paid more attention to the grammar classes back in Leeds.

With the encouragement and moral support of the people I’ve met here I’m slowly trying to immerse myself into the portuguese student culture, by joining the Orfeon* – a choir, which turned out to be way more than just your average choir, and Adventure Riders- the surf/ ski society here (Ok! ok! I haven’t actually gotten round to going surfing or kayaking yet, but I will do soon! Watch this space!)

* I’ll tell you more about this society another day. It’s pretty impressive.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, we do study and work sometimes too!
That’s all for now líndos!

If there’s anything you’d like me to write about specifically, write a comment!


A minha casa nova


It’s been about a month since I arrived and boy, do i have a lot to tell you guys about! This post will just be an intro to Coimbra and #unilife


Geography lesson
So Coimbra is pretty much equidistant from Lisbon and Porto. ( The light green section in map below)


 My uni, Universidade de Coimbra, is a world heritage sight.
The interior of my faculty (faculdade de letras) seems to be  somewhat unchanged since the 70’s, but the history of this university goes back further.
Established in 1209, it’s one of the oldest university’s in the world. ( I will probably do another blog just with pictures of the architecture, it’s truely beautiful.) Unsurprisingly, there are many old traditions that are still upheld today, which I’ll get to later…

The first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, made Coimbra his capital city. He was a young teenager, who came from a royal lineage. He became King, well, gave himself the title of King. He had a bad relationship with his mum, as he had opposing opinions to his mum ( like most teenagers) and his mum just didn’t get him, you know? So he casually raised an army and exiled her, whilst also saving  the south of Portugal from being taken over by the Moors. Teenagers those days!


The pace… of life…. is …. somewhat…. relaxed.
The pace of administration and organisation here is no exception. It’s slow. No, not slow, painstakingly relaxed. Don’t expect anything to be done within a week and you’ll be happy. But in compensation the buildings are beautiful and old, and the people are lovely.

I have to climb 125 steps every day.
My legs and bum are going to look fly after this year. No pain, no gain.

The streets are run by cats.
If my contract didn’t explicitly forbid us from having dogs and cats or any other animal that might be messy in the building, I would have knicked one by now.
Also, if you like hills and narrow streets, you’ll like Coimbra. No need to join the gym here. If you want to go through the Baixa ( the old part of town, where the cats roam), then forget your car and as long as you’re wearing comfortable shoes (i.e. no heels. All streets here are cobbled here), you’ll be fine.
wall cat

Traditions & Students
Nearly all 2nd year students and above wear a suit and cape, like this:

20130909_113059Hogwarts: A common sight in Coimbra

These are your ‘dotoures’ (Doctors). The Freshers (freshmen) are called Coloiros/ Coloiras.

There is also something called a Praxe (initiation), which involves a lot of shouting of orders from os dotoures to the coloiros, drinking, chanting, shouting and walking like this:


In order to get to wear the suit and cape, you have to do a Praxe. Sometimes, they look quite fun,  funny or harmless like:

– running in circles around trees wishing it to grow big and strong, like a hippies on LSD.
– declaring your undying love for somebody (a very awkward moment when the coloiro I live with was instructed to do this to me)

Others make you wish you could steal the poor freshers away and rock them gently, telling them “It’s ok. It doesn’t have to be like this!”. For example:

-Jogging on-the-spot of each of the 125 steps, singing a song about going up the steps whilst counting them ( like 10 green bottles standing on the wall kinda thing.) If you get the number wrong, you have to do it all over again.
– or seeing them being shouted at, spit covering their faces and they must stand there without flinching and just take it.