Thursday, June 08, 2017

3 Days in Lisbon: A Beautifully Slow City Escape

Lisbon by the water, May 2017
So, loyal readers, it appears that I've taken a 3 month hiatus from my blog! Really, it's not that nothing has been going on - LOTS has been going on. In fact, I can feel The Teaching Cove slowly starting to take off, as people are starting to buy my e-book, 25 TED Talk Lesson Plans for Your English Class (a mere 18 copies sold, but I say 18 and counting!). My PhD is slowly coming along, and I've been rushing all over the city finding new tutoring clients.

April & May Scramble

Well, April and May turned into whirlwind months over here in Barcelona. Usually tutoring students start to drop off in June - you know, for the summer. Actually, this year this started happening in April - leaving me scrambling for months! Amid learning more about online businesses for The Teaching Cove, stressing about my snail paced PhD, training like crazy with a brand new personal trainer /sports nutritionist who is working with my own personal trainer to help me "fix" my super slow metabolism, The Singaporelizard has been a little neglected.  So, a weekend away with one of my good friends from my course at Oxford (has it been 4 years already?!) was in order.

Lisbon: A Beautifully Slow City

So, Alexandra and I actually planned our trip to Lisbon way back in December 2016. Now, you know I normally simply hop on planes booked a few weeks in advance. (For example, I'm off to jet set to London to in a couple days).

Basically, we had wanted to see each other for awhile, since our Oxford days were already now 4 years ago. Wow!! instead of paying extortionate prices around Christmas time last year to or from  London, we Googled the cheapest flight and boom! Both of us booked 100€ tickets to meetup in Lisbon, Portugal instead. 

What To See & Do In Lisbon: 3 Days

So, I'll be honest here - we mostly wanted to catch up and relax, after not seeing each other for over two years!  While I'm usually a whirlwind traveller, this was definitely a perfect change. Actually, we spent most of our time eating amazing food, drinking wine and talking. 

Here are some ideas for your trip to Lisbon:

  • Be sure to visit the sea! Rooftop cafes on the way to the Castle  San Jorge are the most expensive, but "expensive" in Lisbon doesn't mean much!
  • You can climb to the top of the tower in the Monastery (Mostererio de Jeronimos), although we decided to simply walk through
  • The Archaelogical Museum looked amazing - but we ran out of time, unfortunately!
  • Check out Gelato Nannarella  for the best gelato!
  • Head to Cafe Nicola for a beautiful old cafe with a view
  • Spend some time wandering the shopping streets, and stop at the Belem Tower - again, we decided to skip the queue and not go up, but you could!
  • EAT.  Seriously, EAT.   Although the first meal we had at Casa Santa Rita was a bit unimpressive (at a local taberna, the cheap place in the touristy zone), we weren't too bothered, because we had a full meal each and half a bottle of wine for 13 euros, total.
  • Every other meal we had was AMAZING. 
  • Be sure to go to a market!  There was a giant one next to our metro stop, Alameda on the red line (near our Airbnb) - and we got a ton of fresh fruit, vegetables, olives and cheese for a ridiculously low price.  
  • Time Out Market is full of beautiful and delicious restaurants, too. Definitely worth heading there! In fact, we went TWICE!

Sapna in Lisbon
 Alex in Lisbon

Lisbon Travel Tips

The World Needs More Nata (Cream), Portugal

  • Expect everything to be SLOW.  Slower than Spain, and more disorganized.  We spent so long in the queue to book train tickets that by the time we finished I had planned my next trip and booked my plane ticket to visit Alex in London!
  • They do, however, unlike Spain, speak very good English! It may in part be due to the fact that they don't dub their films in movie theatres, like Spain does. 
  • It is HOT.  Really hot, even in May. Remember your sunscreen!
  • Plan to do the touristy sites as early in the morning as you can - this way you won't be as exhausted from the heat.
  • Take the metro, NOT the bus, especially if you are headed towards the beach
  • Try one of the traditional cream pie desserts. I didn't like it -  but everyone will ask you if you've tried one! They love them over there!  

Alex and Sapna, Train in Lisbon

Check out my slideshow below for a quick view of our adventures! Remember that you can hover over the photo in the top right corner to change the slideshow's speed. Be sure you have Flash enabled in your browser, too.

It seems that Flickr slideshows still don't work well if you're not on a desktop. After using Wordpress for the last seven and a half months for my other blog, I'm getting a bit frustrated with Blogger. So, maybe one day I'll make the arduous switch and move everything over to Wordpress.

Hope you enjoyed the slideshow! Stay tuned for my upcoming adventures in London over the next few days.

Have a lovely weekend!


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Dear Stephanie: A Letter 6 Years Later

Original Memory Locket, 2011
Dear Steph, 

So, it's been 6 years now, since you left us. 6 years and 3 months almost to the day, that I had the saddest day in my life. Left is too gentle of a word for me- people say it so gracefully, even when people were stabbed earlier this week on London Bridge in England.  I've thought of you so much these past few weeks, Stephanie.  How is the world such a mess?

 Taken. Stolen. Snatched.  Ripped Away. Died. Robbed of a life.

Those are words I'd use instead.   One of the girls who died in the London Bridge attack was a  Canadian named Chrissy Archibald, and she made me think of you. Kind, generous, happy, laughing - apparently her spirit was so full of optimism that she dedicated her career to social work and worked in homeless shelters. In fact, people have started a Twitter account for her memory, and to donate to charities in her name. 

2017 Life Update for You, Stephanie

While I'm three months late in my post this year, Stephanie, it's not because I forgot. Not at all - in fact, I still wear that memory necklace around my neck every day.  Actually I never really intended to; it just kind of became a habit and stuck. Sometimes, I pause before I put it on, and remember your beautiful face and spirit. Of course, you know me.  I'm not the most elegant person out there - and so there is no way the photo and flower in the locket are in their original condition - but the memory will never fade.

It's not because I forgot - March 4th will always be an ominous day in my mind; it's because I waited until I could take a day to sit, to think, to breathe. Despite my insane workload at the moment (at the moment?!, you'd say, when isn't it insane?), I decided to dedicate a couple hours this afternoon to sit in silence, and think.

Motivational Posters - The Teaching CoveDo you know how many horrible things are going on in this world these days, Steph? (Or is it that we're just more informed now, and the world has always been this way)? Truly, I hope your soul is in a better place.  The extremist attacks, "terror attacks" as they call them, seem to be becoming more frequent.

So, Steph, while this year I don't have a special poem or graphic or tribute like years before, but I'm thinking of you as always.  

A New Blog

In fact, I have quite a life update, one you'd love I'm sure.  I have a new blog, The Teaching Cove! You were always a loyal reader of  my Singaporelizard blog, from the day I began it, so I can't even imagine what you'd think of my new one.  It's for English teachers, and I can't even believe it wasn't a part of my life a year ago. Actually, I only started planning it one year ago, and launched it 5 months later. I sell e-books, make free resources, and I'll soon create courses and novel study guides for teachers everywhere.

Kiara on the terrace, May 2017

Kiara and I are still hanging out in Barcelona, Spain and I'm still trying to finish my PhD. One more year!  As you may have noticed, I'd much prefer to teach, run my own business and blog than work on my PhD project. Well, I suppose that's because of the way it goes here in Spain - sloooowly.  Oh, K and I spent 3 months in Holland, Steph, last September to December. Efficient. Fast. Productive. Wow, did my PhD take off in those three months. Actually, I even took programming courses - yuck, do I hate those - and pre-processed a ton of data. Now, the PhD seems like a snail-paced endeavour once again.  I'll finish it, though!

Actually, I make motivational posters every week now, for the people who sign up for my emails on my blog.  (There are over 1300 people, Steph!) It's going so well. You know me - I'm researching like crazy - and learning a ton from my "Blogger Heroes", as I call them.  One day, it will be my full time career. It's so sad to me that you won't get to see that, Steph.  I wish I could share it with you. In fact, I wish you could visit me here in Barcelona and meet all my new friends. 

Remember the Paranormal Investigations?

Honestly, it seems a bit surreal writing to you, almost as if you were here reading it over my shoulder. Wouldn't that be insane? Do you know how much I would love that? I know how much you would have loved that, being here and experiencing "the other side". 

 Always a skeptic, you know that I never truly believed in the investigations, but I listened to your stories and was curious. Well, now I hope they're true. I hope they're real, and that your spirit can somehow, in some form, know something about our lives here on this planet.

Well, until next year, Steph.  Take care, wherever you are.

Lots of love xxx,


P.S. If you'd like to see my other annual tributes to Steph, they are here:  20112012201320142015, 2016