Sarah, London

Sarah is a junior majoring in journalism and art history in Meadows School of the Arts. During summer 2011, she is participating in SMU-in-London.

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Lagos, Portugal

I FINALLY felt the warm rays of the sun on my skin. Ah, Lagos, Portugal.

After a three-hour flight and a one-hour drive, we finally reached our hotel. As we pulled up to the hotel we heard dogs ferociously barking. Well, for those of you who know me, I am NOT an animal lover. As I peeked around the trunk (where I was pulling out my oversized suitcase) I saw two black dogs wandering the street starting a brawl with a German shepherd. Someone – I believe it was Liz (although Rachael seems to think it was me) – yelled DINGOES!!!! Of course, I panicked. I immediately grabbed my suitcase and jumped back into the van where I strategically placed my bag in front of me for protection.

Liz (left) and Lauren greeting the "dingoes" that turned out to be Portuguese water poodles.

Once I was sure I could safely make it into the hotel, I made a run for it.
Three minutes later the so-called dingoes walked into the reception area. The big ole scary dogs turned out to be Portuguese water poodles (JoJo: You would’ve LOVED them).

We arrived in Portugal around midnight. Needless to say it was dark outside; thus, we had no idea what to expect. All we knew was that the beach was less than a five-minute walk away. And, that we had a killer hotel room. We had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room and huge porch.

While we were brushing our teeth and putting on our PJ’s I mumbled something along the lines of, “I bet it’s absolutely breathless.” Rachael seemed to disagree…she believed it was going to be a rather ugly view. I begged to differ. As we headed to bed, both bedrooms left the porch doors open for a nice breeze.

“OH MY GOSH Y’ALL! IT’S ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING!”

That is what we woke up to at 8:05 a.m. when Rachael opened her eyes and looked outside.

Literally, it was like we woke up inside a travel magazine.

View from our room.

The beach that we laid out on.

Our eyes were welcomed by the red clay cliffs that dropped off into the glistening water. But, what was absolutely gorgeous was the sky.  It was the prettiest shade of blue I had ever seen (probably because there is little to no pollution in Lagos). It didn’t look real.
The water is crystal clear with varying shades of blue. It was so pretty I didn’t even want to close my eyes. As I sat on the beach covered in tanning oil, my toes were enjoying playing in the sand. However, I couldn’t look at it for too long; it reminded me of couscous. Mmm!

An elephant formation seen during the grotto tour.

Looking up from one of the grottos.

After soaking up the sun for a few hours, I finally convinced our group of eight to take a boat tour of the grottos. Before traveling I did a little bit of research on Lagos and it said the number one thing to do there was a grotto tour. Verified. Our group of eight split into two boats of four, and went on a 40-minute tour of the grottos. As we passed different rock formations, our “captain” pointed out the different forms in the rocks. For example, I saw two elephants, king-kong, a camel and a Chinese face (I’d love to know what drugs people took when naming these rocks…).
Highlight of the trip: as my boat reached shore, Jennifer commented that the beach was so crowded and everyone was looking at us. Well, we are Americans so we had to make a scene. Here is what went down:

  1. Boat touches shore
  2. Boat backtracks from shore
  3. Lauren, Elyse, Addison, Caroline, Rachael and Liz safely make it onto the beach
  4. Jennifer and I are on the boat, which is heading back out to sea
  5. Jennifer loses her balance and falls in the boat
  6. We all die laughing (including the “captain” and people sitting on the beach)
  7. Jennifer makes it to shore but I’m still laughing in the boat
  8. I put one leg out of the beach and face plant into the water
  9. EVERYONE is laughing
  10. Rachael asks me if my purse is ruined. Oh -and if I’m ok…

A portion of the center of Lagos.

Jennifer and I were in bright yellow bikinis. #Embarrassing #Americans

However, I will say anytime I tell a story about Portugal, this scenario will be included. Of course I would face plant into the water after making fun of someone else for falling! And, I would still recommend going on a grotto tour. A lot of girls went on them last summer in Cinque Terre and Capri when they visited but I was too busy getting my tan on. Maybe someday I’ll work for the travel channel and do a countdown of the top 10 best grotto tours in the world.

I feel like every place I travel becomes my new favorite place, but Portugal really might be. I feel like a lot of people forget about it (I know I did), but Lagos is actually a cute little city. I’ve never been to Greece but Lagos seems as if it would fit in perfectly. The buildings in the center of town are white stucco, (or cement?). Many have cute rooftop porches with exotic flowers decorating the rails. And some buildings have mosaic tiles patterned on the facade.

At a local bar I, of course, struck up a conversation with a local. She is originally from Australia but has been traveling for the past two years. During our conversation, she informed me that many people do in fact associate Lagos with Greece. Maybe now I don’t have to take a trip there. Just kidding! Obviously I need to see it to compare the two!

The one downside to Lagos was how windy and cold it got at night. On our second night there, we all ate at a delicious tapas restaurant in the center. When we got to dinner the weather was warm and sunny. About 20 minutes into dinner the wind started picking up and the hair on my arms started to rise. Lauren and Addison were so cold they took a 10 minute dinner jog to warm up. If I didn’t have on wedges I might have joined (key word: might). While the tapas were scrumptious, I’m still not too sure what Portuguese food is.

Recap: I have now been in Europe for about three weeks and have traveled to London, Salisbury, Dover, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Lagos. Ironically, London is my least favorite. It’s too overcast and crowded, and I’m getting tired of carrying an umbrella whereever I go. On the other hand, I still haven’t really explored yet.

View into this week: On Tuesday we are going to Cambridge for the day. Not sure what we are doing there, but I am pumped to see the world-renowned university. Then on Thursday I am heading to the land of my ancestors: Ireland! My mother is convinced I will meet the man of my dreams there…keep your fingers crossed. Men of Dublin: watch out.

Stay tuned for more posts this week! Hope you’re all enjoying your summer as much as I am.

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