Aamir in Portugal

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In case you didn't realize it, you can click on the pictures for a bigger images.

Monday, 4 June 2001
I left early for campus today so that I could attempt to finish up everything I wanted to before we met to move out of the hotel. We were supposed to be out of the hotel by noon or we'd be charged for an extra day, so I expected a call from Professor Doty by 11am letting me know that we had to go get our things. I went up there after 11am and found out he hadn't heard anything and we couldn't get in touch with Luis Almeida.

At around 12:30pm I got a call from Professor Doty, saying that we should go to lunch and he would update me on our accomodations status. I ran into Pedro and Jose just outside the building and they invited me to go with them to Zico's. I talked the boss into it and we all headed over there. For lunch I had some delicious ostrich steaks. They were the closest I've had to a real steak in what seems like months.

At the end of the meal I found out that we each just pay 1100$00 PTE (1100 Escudos) for whatever we get, so long as it's nothing outrageous. That's a cool deal! Especially since according to the menu, just the ostrich was 1000$00. I had a large drink and a coffee afterwards, so I got a sweet deal. I decided that Monday lunches would be at Zico's for me since that's ostrich day.

I also found out that we were supposed to find out later in the afternoon when we could move in. Okay, it's almost the end of the work day and I just found out that we're staying in the hotel for another couple of days while they work out some details in the apartment. I really hate packing and unpacking and packing and unpacking . . . .

Tomorrow I'm going to Castelo Branco. Luis will be picking us up at the hotel at 8:30 in the morning for the three hour drive. He teaches there from 4-8pm, so he'll show us around a little, then we'll have some time to explore a little on our own before meeting him for dinner, then heading back home. At least that's the plan right now. I'll be leaving for dinner, then home to unpack a few things I'll need for the trip. I figured that since I won't have time to post anything tomorrow, and there probably won't be anything exciting happening tonight, I'd just post this now. See you on Wednesday!

I guess we did see a few interesting things on Monday night. On the way home from dinner we got a nice view of the main city administration building and this neat pattern in a shopping area we happened upon.

Tuesday, 5 June 2001
Wow, what a busy day! I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, probably because I was a little hyped about the trip. Luis showed up to pick Professor Doty and I at 8:30am and we got on the road pretty quickly. After about three hours on the road we got our first glimpses of the castle in Monsanto, which is a small town built on the mountain, mostly out of granite stone.

Our first stop was in Monsanto, a small village north of Castelo Branco. After that we went to Idanha-a-Velha, then Castelo Branco. All the details are on the pages linked below.
Castelo Branco Trip
MonsantoIdanha-a-VelhaCastelo Branco

Wednesday, 6 June 2001
News Flash!
We interrupt this webpage to bring you an important message:

I've moved!! I was interrupted while writing up my experiences yesterday by Luis who picked my up so I could move my things out of the hotel and into our new apartment. I basically dropped everything off and left it packed because there are some people coming in later this afternoon to finish setting up some of the furniture.

At least I should finally have a place I can call my own for a while. I'll also finally be able to relax and stop living out of my suitcases. That's a relief! Okay, I'm going to finish writing about yesterday's (mis)adventures and I'll have them posted as soon as possible.
I got a strange variety of things done today. I came in early in the morning to work on writing up my experiences from Tuesday, but I also worked on some repairs I had to do on Tribot. I got a call from Luis just before noon telling me that it was time to move out of the hotel. I met him and we drove over to the hotel to meet Professor Doty who slacked and didn't come in this morning (actually, he did his laundry instead).

We loaded up into the car and hauled everything into the new apartment. I didn't actually unpack yet because they still had to move a bed into my room and bring in some furniture for Professor Doty. The place is pretty nice. I'm going to take some pictures and post them soon. After checking to see that the other changes had been made, Professor Doty and I went to lunch at Refugio (our lunchtime hangout) then back to school to finish up what I had started.

I went up to Professor Doty's office to clear some things up, and I helped him work out some things with the wireless communications he's working on for the TJ Pro robots. We did some experimentation with the range of the link up and down the hall, then I went outside with the robot and he directed me by yelling out his window. Got some strange looks from the students nearby because they couldn't see him and didn't know why I was moving around the way I was.

After we finished with that, I helped him figure out what was wrong with the link between his Palm Pilot and his PC. That took a while, and I ended up taking the Palm and accessories down to my office to try things out with my computer. After a bit of effort, I finally got everything working and took it back upstairs. Everything worked fine from that point on.

I finally got out of the office a little after 7pm and we went to a place called 2 Duques for dinner. It's right near the new apartment, so we'll probably be going there more often. I had Arroz a Valéncia, mostly because I had never had it before. I also didn't really know what it was, but that's beside the point. It turned out to be really good. It was rice with beef, chicken, fish, about 4 squids (they weren't too big) and 2 shrimps. The shrimps were a little strange for me because they were right on top, complete with head, legs, and antennae. The squid were whole (yes, tentacles and all) but they had almost the same texture as the chicken.

After dinner we headed home and began settling into the apartment. "Moving in always takes longer than moving out," as Professor Doty says. I had to rearrange some of my furniture to squeeze everything in, but eventually I got situated and settled down to read for a while then go to sleep.

Thursday, 7 June 2001
I started the morning bright and early after my first night in my new home away from home. I was in the office by 9:30am, after doing a load of laundry and hanging it out to dry. Once on campus I reassembled my Talrik robot, which I had partially dissected to run some tests.

Afterwards, I uploaded the last of the website updates for my Portugal trip, and made a few corrections. I munched on some snacks I had brought in instead of going anywhere for lunch, then headed into the lab for an afternoon of working with the students to build their robots. Not much happened of interest during those four hours. I helped Sergio debug some minor problems in his electronics, and helped Joca work on his platform. Joca's right on track at this point, but the other two students are playing catch-up. Hopefully we can get them on track soon, or they may not be able to finish their projects in time.

Professor Doty headed home before me to relax for a bit and finish up some reading. I got things in order after lab and headed out at around 7:30pm. After dropping my things off at the apartment I went in search of Frango. It's a bit of a hike from the new apartment because there's not a direct way to get there. It takes doubling back down a few streets and some other detours to get to the Frango Place, but I knew exactly what I wanted.

After dinner (Professor Doty passed on dinner) I stopped off at the Pingo Doce (the local grocery store) to pick up a few items, then headed home. At home, I spent a little time trying to work out the best way to set things up in my room. There's a little oto much furniture, and not really enough room for all of it. I've gotten it set up in a workable arrangement now, but I'll just have to wait and see.

I'm planning on getting on campus early tomorrow, so I probably won't go out anywhere tonight. Besides, I've gotten to an interesting part of this new book I'm reading. It's called Into the Woods and it's about a 24-year-old man who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness in 1992 and never came back. His body was eventually found by some moose hunters a few months later, but that's just part of the story. He had some pretty zany adventures before that. I got the book from a couple here from Boston when I finished the rest of my pleasure reading.

I also took the time to take a few pictures of the new apartment. It's pretty nice. Take a look:

Main Entrance and KitchenMy RoomLiving RoomProfessor Doty's Room

Friday, 8 June 2001
After a day spent working on Tribot, I went to my lab and helped the students get some final things done on their prototype robot platforms before the break. Thursday, 14 June is a holiday here, so we've cancelled class on Friday the 15th also. That means I won't see the students again for two weeks. They've got a lot to work on in the mean time!

I went to the grocery store and picked up some fruits and fruit nectars, as well as some basics I would need to do some cooking later. I didn't get a lot because I won't be around much this coming week. I've got a couple of trips planned. After dropping my groceries off at home, I went to 2 Duques for dinner. I had Vitela a Jardineira (Garden Veal) which was a delicious stew. It was like a cross between a couple of my favorite dishes, Gosh and Aloo (which my mom makes) and Stifado (which I make). Excellente!

The restaurant owner kept trying to convince me to eat more, and was trying to bring out more food (on the house), but I was too full. After dinner I went home to relax for a bit since it was already 9pm. Shortly after 11pm I left the apartment to meet Antonia so we could see what was happening this evening.

We eventually made it over to the Praça and hooked up with the rest of the gang. After chatting and getting everyone up-to-date on what we did this week, we all trekked over to Urgencia for some music and dancing. They played everything from American 80's music to Brazillian music to European techno. When the place closed down we all worked our way back home.

Saturday, 9 June 2001
I went on campus at around 9:30 this morning to try to tie up some loose ends I had left on Friday. Professor Doty had gone in about an hour before, so I just walked to campus. On Friday, they delivered the car Doty had requested, but didn't expect until Monday. That meant we had a free car for the weekend. The building was closed down at 1pm, so we left and I asked to be dropped off at 2 Duques so I could grab some lunch.
After lunch I went home and read for a bit, then took a short nap until Pedro Kulzer arrived. Pedro is a former
student of Doty's who's been working on several interesting projects since then. We talked for a while until Pedro had to head home, and we decided to drive over to the Feira Nova, which is the equivalent here of one of the big Wal-Marts back in the states. We picked up some of the groceries we needed, as well as a few household necessities, then came home.
I got ready to go to Antonia's birthday party and left the house a little after 10pm to find the place. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so I don't have any pictures yet. I'm going to try to get some to scan in, but that may take a little time. Needless to say I had a great time at the party and I finally got to meet some of the people I've been hearing so much about.

Sunday, 10 June 2001
I started a load of laundry when I got home late last night, since it seems to take a couple of hours for our machine to finish a cycle. When I woke up I hung them out to dry, but the wind kept trying to steal my clothes, so I had to figure out a way to keep everything from blowing away.
I also cooked my first meal here, though it was pretty simple. I just made up some homefries for myself and Professor Doty. Actually, he didn't want any at first, but the aroma seduced him into asking for 'just a little taste' which worked out because I made a little more than I really needed for breakfast. Later in the afternoon I was supposed to meet Ann so we could go to the beach, but I missed her, so Professor Doty and I went in the rental car.
We went first to Barra, which is a pretty popular beach nearby. It's across the bay from São Jacinto, and it turns out that the lighthouse that Francesca and I were walking towards was the one at Barra. It's the red one in the picture on the left (just under the seagull).
Supposedly there's a place to cross over to the other beach, but I'm not sure. As you can see, the winds are pretty strong here as we walk out to the point. This walkway leads out to the green lighthouse in the photo above, and the winds were strong enough to blow cars off the path. (see the warning
sign on the right side of the picture above?) A lot of the people claimed spots on the rocks beside the walkway to lay out and take a nap because it was less crowded than the beaches. It turns out we went during primetime, at around 3 in the afternoon. That seems a little late until you realize that it's light here until around 9:30pm.
After checking out the scene at Barra, we drove a little ways to Costa Nova, a town famous for its striped houses and shops. Professor Doty was telling me how much the town had grown since the first time he came to Portugal, and how touristy it had become.
That's too bad, because from what I saw, it's a pretty beautiful beach. There was almost nobody there, but from what I hear this is a popular nightspot. I think I'd prefer to come here during the day, because the beach and water seemed much nicer.

I explored for a little while, then we decided to head out because we were both really hungry by this time and had already decided to make Sopa de Pedra (Stone Soup) for dinner. We were hoping to get to one of the stores before they closed to pick up a few things for the soup, but everthing closes down by 1pm on Sundays. I did find a couple of cool sculptures near the beach. You can see those in the Art Gallery.
After dinner, I sat down, took a break, and wondered what happened to the weekend. I got some things in order for later in the week, then settled down to read and get some sleep. I forgot to mention that I'll be going to Galicia (an area of Spain) later this week. That should be a lot of fun!

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