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, 25 June 2001
Okay, that was another exhausting weekend. But talk about a great time! Click here to see the story of my weekend adventures in Geres and Braga. I got into bed at around 3 or 4am this morning so I got a later than usual start. Once I got moving, I started a load of laundry and then headed into school to see what awaited me there. After working for a while on a few projects and not getting very far, I finally decided to grab some dinner and head home to get some rest.

Things changed when I went to find Professor Doty, however. He convinced me to go see Tomb Raider with him. I enjoyed the movie, especially since I had played the original game many years ago.

Tuesday, 26 June 2001
I spent part of the day today working up some simple software to show the students in the class. Most of the time I spent was working out the bugs. Rogerio and I went to lunch together at the student cantina and met up with a few friends. After lunch I went back to the same old grind. I think I worked out one of my problems, but I'll have to try it tomorrow.

Professor Doty and I went shopping for some ingredients for our party, then went home and tried our first party food. We made an apple crisp. It was delicious! That's one dish out of the way. We know we can make that next week with no problems.

Wednesday, 27 June 2001
I spent the morning clearing up some details with what I wanted to show the students. After lunch I went into the lab to meet with them. They've made some progress but only two of them showed up. I spent the rest of the day helping them with their projects.

After class, Professor Doty and I went home to make some Texas-style chili for dinner. This was our experiment to prepare for our 4th of July bash next week. We made chili and salsa. They both turned out to be pretty good, considering we had to make a few substitutions to make up for ingredients that aren't available here.

Thursday, 28 June 2001
Thursday was a long day. I got to the office at around 0830h and got my stuff in order to start an all-day session teaching lab. I met with one of the students a little after 0900h and made it over to the lab by 1000h. I was there with my students helping them finish some mechanical details on the robots until just after 1700h (5pm). That's a lot of time to spend working in lab.

The students made a lot of progress today, and I'm getting a little excited to see what they come up with for the final robot behaviors. Sergio and Joca both have platforms that are just about finished, and Joca has even finished his forklift, which will be used to flip the other robots in the battle.

After lab, I went home to drop off my stuff and run a few errands, after which I ate dinner and chilled out for a while until I went out to meet everyone at the Praça for the night. At the Praça I made some tentative plans for the weekend to go to Porto and the beach. I'll let you know how it all works out.

Friday, 29 June 2001
Not a terribly exciting day today. I spent some time working in the morning and figured out some of the things we'd have to do to prepare for our get together next week. I can't believe it's almost the 4th of July. Where has the summer gone?

I arranged with Marta to go with her to Porto on tomorrow (Saturday) to spend the day. She's going to pick up a friend who's coming to visit from the UK Saturday night, and she agreed to show me the city Saturday afternoon.

I had lab in the afternoon until 7pm, after which I dropped off my things at home and went to Jumbo to grab some dinner and see if there were any movies playing that I'd be interested in seeing.

I ran into Ramon at Jumbo and we decided to see the new David Duchovny movie, Evolucão (Evolution). It wasn't too bad. By the time the movie was over it was well after midnight and I went home to get some sleep before my day walking around the streets of Porto.

Saturday, 30 June 2001
Well, it started out as a normal Saturday morning. I slept in a little, then got up to get ready to head out for the train station. Marta and I agreed to meet at 1pm to catch the 1:10pm train to Porto. We got there and bought our tickets, then sat down to wait for the train. At around 1:30 we were a little concerned, and looked closer at the schedules we had. It turned out that the 1:10 train doesn't run on Saturdays, and the next one on the schedule was at 3pm.

We started to go out for a coffee, but decided to double-check with the people at the ticket office. It turns out that the schedules have changed, and the next train would leave at 1:48pm for Porto. So much for the coffee break. We hopped the train when it showed up, and were on our way to Porto.
Once in Porto, we made sure we knew where the AeroBus from the airport would be arriving, then started our explorations of the city. Our first stop was at the Sé do Porto. The sign on the left was outside the cathedral, and there's a little info in English at the bottom.
Some of the Portuguese text on the sign wasn't translated to english, but it basically says there's a small museum adjoining the cathedral that contains many examples of sacred art from the Baroque era.
The view from the cathedral was pretty nice, but I couldn't get any good pictures inside because they were holding mass. It's too bad because the architecture is beautiful. We moved on down some of the narrow streets (right) and found another cathedral just a short distance away.
Small Cathedral
Pipe Organ
There were a lot of architecture students scattered about sketching different aspects of the cathedral. We watched them for a little while, then moved on. It's a big city, and we only had another 5 hours to discover it's secrets.
Next we started walking to the place Marta had been telling me about all day . . . the Port wine cellars! On the way, we stopped to look at this metal fountain. On each of the faces of the cube is a statue of a bird made out of metal. You'll see why I took this picture when you look closely at the bird on the nearest face. There is a real pigeon sitting atop the metal one.

Incidentally, this is the plaza where we spent a lot of time later. I'll mention it again a little further in the story.
In case you didn't already know it, Porto is famous for its Port wine. We visited one of the cellars to see how it's made. The reason this city developed in to a center for this wine is a simple matter of geography. The grapes grown in the upper Douro River valley were brought out to be made into wine and exported from Porto, hence the name of the wine.

Port is made by adding brandy to wine, which stops the fermenting process and preserves the natural sugars of the wine. Although Port tends to be very sweet, it also tends to be very high (as wines go) in alcohol content.

These are some of the vats containing wine that is aging. In front of the vats are some examples of port wine. I didn't realized that there was any such thing as a white Port, but there is. As the whites age, they get darker, and as the reds age, they tend to lighten in color.
I learned a lot about Port wines, and at the end of the tour there was the obligatory wine tasting. I met two students from New Zealand there on vacation, backpacking around Europe. We tried a medium dry white Port and a red tawny. they were both good, but I prefered the white. At least now I know what to look for when buying Port in the US.
By the time we left the cellars, it was after 5:30pm so we started towards the Palácio de Cristál (Glass Palace) which is surrounded by one of the best-kept gardens in Portugal. On the way, we encountered this contruction site. They're building an underground metro system here, and they removed everything except the two palm trees in the picture.
We ate dinner at the Palácio then walked through the park, where Marta decided that the rabbits just needed to be pet. She and I spent a little time chasing them around. They remarkably friendly, but we couldn't get close enough to really pet them.
The pictures below were taken in the park as the sun was setting over Porto. The river Douro can be seen in all of them. The last picture on the right is a little maze leading from the back door of a house to the little bench near the top of the picture. It's a cool garden.
This is where the day took a strange turn into insanity.
Shortly after the sun went down, we headed for the train station, where we were supposed to meet Marta's friend Monika. Monika's flight was due in at 2130h (9:30pm), and Marta told her to look for the Aerobus, which runs between São Bento train station and the airport. It takes about 45 minutes to get from the airport to the station (it's the same way I got to Aveiro on my first day here in Portugal), so we were there by 2200h to wait for her.

When we got near the station, we found out that the Aerobus stop was impossible to get to because the plaza was closed off completely for a parade and festival. Marta gave me a picture of Monika so I would know who I was looking for, and we walked around for a while to make sure she didn't somehow break the laws of physics and get there before us. We asked a bus driver where the Aerobus would arrive and when, and he told us that the last Aerobus arrived at São Bento at 2030h. Great! He also mentioned that there were other buses running from the airport.

We decided to double-check things with a nearby policeman, and he told us that all the buses from the airport were stopping at another place, and he sent us with someone who was on his way there right then. When we got to this new stop back near the Palácio de Cristál (we had just come from there) we found out that the officer sent us to where the buses were picking up to GO TO the airport, not FROM.

We managed to locate the stop for the return buses on another street, but then we found out that they were all redirected for the night to a place near the train station. Okay, now we're back where we started, only now it's 2245h which is pretty much when she was expected to make it to the station.

I decided not to take the train back to Aveiro because I didn't want to leave Marta alone in Porto to look for her friend. She seemed a little surprised, but I think that's because she didn't really know me well enough. The last train back to Averio was scheduled for 2315h and we found the coordinator for the buses, who told us that the last bus from the airport was due at 2315h. We walked around a bit just for something to do, and we were looking everywhere just in case Monika decided to come by taxi.

2315h came and went and so did the bus, but not Monika. At this point we were getting more worried and we checked every place we could nearby to see if she could have come any other way. Of course we called several times, but Monika's phone is from the UK and doesn't work here. I reassured Marta many times along the way that we'd do whatever we needed to in order to find Monika.

At 2335h I looked at my watch, and wondered what I would have done had I not been able to find an Aerobus that first day. When I looked up I saw someone who looked familiar walking up the street away from us. I'm not sure how this part worked, but it looked like both the description of Monika that Marta had given me and the picture. I could only see her from behind though, so go figure! I ran up the street with Marta right behind me.

I yelled her name a few times, but when she finally heard and turned around all she saw was some strange indian guy running after her. Marta had been held up for a second, but when the two of them saw each other they dropped everything and bolted for each other.

Needless to say it was a tearful reunion, and they couldn't believe they had found each other. To be honest, I was a little surprised at how things worked out too. Monika's flight from London was delayed an hour and she took a taxi to get here. She didn't understand the driver, and she was worried that he was going through all the back ways to get to the train station (that was the only way on this night) so she was a little freaked too.

What made things worse was that when Monika got out of the cab and started walking away, it took her about a minute to realize that in her rush she had left her bag in the taxi. She ran after the cab and caught it at a red light and managed to get her things. She told us this after we had checked to make sure she was alive and safe.
After hugs and kisses all around, we walked over to the train station to put her bag into a locker so we could go get a drink (I think we definitely needed one to celebrate!) and decide what to do next. We stopped long enough for a reunion picture in front of the station. The kids ran up to join the picture at the last second.
Hey, it's midnight (and a new month)! Time to move on to Sunday.

Sunday, 1 July 2001
We wandered towards the river to find an open restaurant or bar or anyplace that had something refreshing to drink. When we found one, Marta and I ordered the first round, but Monika insisted on trying to order, so she ordered the second round. She's a quick study. As we sat there we started trying to talking about what we wanted to do for the night.
We decided to just stay on the street all night rather than get a hotel room for a few hours, so we went down to the river and found a party with a lot of traditional dancing and singing. About 20 minutes after we sat down to chill for a bit though, the party ended, and they started cleaning up. We stayed right where we were to just talked for a while and we had a great time.

Eventually we got hungry and went in search of food. We found a place in the 'pigeon plaza' I talked about earlier. We tried a sampler platter and ordered a bottle of the house wine. Monika misunderstood what we were ordering and tried to make it three wines. I caught the waiter and told him just to bring one while Marta explained that we had ordered a bottle not a glass.

A little after 0400h we made our way to the station to wait for the first train back to Aveiro, which according to our schedules was due to depart at 5am. NOPE! The schedule changed on 1 July (today) so the first train wasn't until 0610h. We sighed and walked over to a nearby park to hang out for a while until it was time for the train.
At this point we were all REALLY tired, but too tired to sleep, so we were a little giddy. We had a blast just babbling to each other and listening to some cool music on Monika's walkman. Before we got too wierd though, it was time to go to the station (that was a fast 90 minutes!) We bought our tickets back to Aveiro, picked up Monika's bag and jumped on the train.
On the train I got a pretty sweet parting shot of the sunrise over Porto, so I ended up with sunfall and sunrise shots of Porto. Definitely a memorable night. We were finally on our way home to Aveiro after a long night of stress and merriment.
Our last pictures on the train after our adventure in Porto. We wanted to go to the beach later, so we worked out the plans for that. We arranged to meet a a little before 2pm to catch the 1:55pm bus to Barra. We got home about 8:30 in the morning, and went to our rooms to get some sleep.
We had a great time at the beach, but I'll post the rest of the story tomorrow. I've got to go get ready for dinner. I'm meeting a bunch of friends in a little while.
Okay, I'm back to finish the story.
We caught the bus to Barra (one of the beaches here) at 1:55pm and got there at around 2:30pm. We stopped to grab some juice and snacks to have on the beach and then went in search of Nadine, who was already there. When we got to the sand (through all the inevitable clutter of cafes and shops) we realized that finding her would be a small miracle because the place was packed.
Marta sent a message to Nadine's mobile phone and Nadine came from her hangout to guide us there. Once we settled in, we chatted for a bit then went for a short swim. The water's pretty cold, but it was hot out so that was refreshing. We then returned to the stuff to warm up a bit, and while some of us slept, others of us read some magazines and books we brought.
Eventually, Monika and I got a little restless and wandered out to the street to buy a ball to play with. We returned and talked Marta into joining us with the ball. What started out as trying to volley the ball back and forth turned into a game of chase down the ball before we whack someone else on the head. Lots of fun!
When the rest of the gang showed up we all played around, went into the water to play around and just had a lot of fun. Eventually, it was time for Nadine to go home, and I joined her for a coffee before she went to catch the bus. She still had a little packing to do before leaving on Monday. I stayed for a little longer because the rest of us had decided to catch the next bus in 45 minutes.
We stayed long enough to get someone to snap a few photos and go for another short dip in the water. Then we gathered our things an walked out to the bus stop. Guess what we found when we got there? Nadine! The earlier bus didn't show up, so we all waited around (with a lot of unhappy Portuguese) for the next one to make its appearance.
When the bus got there, we all crammed on board and rode home. While waiting for the bus, I agreed to meet Nadine for dinner later since this would be the last time I see her this summer. Back in Aveiro I stopped at Drinks for a few minutes with Marta and Monika, then headed home to get cleaned up for dinner.
We met at a quarter to 10 at Onde Quizera and had a nice relaxing dinner just chatting and remembering the summer. Christoph (to my left) and Nadine are from Germany, while Alessandro is from Italy, and Sauri is from Japan. Within two weeks we'll all be going our separate ways, and I'm hoping we can get together again at some point later.
After dinner Christoph and I went to the Forum to meet Marta and Monika to see a movie. After some discussion, we all agreed we would go get ice cream and decide on the movie later. We ended up seeing Sweet November, then walking home.

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