I have been dying to write about my travels.
However, I did not manage to travel much during my PhD (that is outside of the U.K.) and I have mostly forgotten the details from the trips I went on while I was studying in Germany (2008-2011). I did not manage to start a traveling blog because I discouraged myself and killed the desire in my mind. A traveling blog seemed like a venue with constantly emerging stories and routes, ‘mine would not be like that’ I thought..
So what brings me here, when I am not even leaving my little hometown and visiting friends in Istanbul, Turkey? It is a very strange feeling but all these booklets, maps, bus/metro passes that I keep in my drawer from my visit to Lisbon and Barcelona in January 2015 kind of reached out to me.
I have job applications to prepare and send, a driving theory exam to prepare for, blog posts to write for Stu(r)dy Microbes, but what my heart wants to do is to share my trip memoirs, advice, and photographs. I feel like I can’t get on with my day, if I let the day pass by, can’t get on with my week if I don’t start this series of posts 🙂 It is probably because I am longing for traveling right now and various reasons prevent me from doing so, and in this way I can at least relive my tourist days.
Before I went on my 10-days trip to be spent in Lisbon and Barcelona, I did something I haven’t done for any of my trips before. I sat down, searched and prepared a little guide for myself over Christmas. It even included some historical facts, not only entry fees and transportation tips! As I grew up, I noticed that visiting castles/museums/monuments didn’t mean much when I didn’t know the history behind it, I actually preferred getting lost in the streets (in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona for instance) while discovering little cafes and local shops. That’s why I included a bit of history.
Curious about my guide? Here, hope that you find it useful 😉 (Don’t forget that the prices listed were for 2015)
As Turkey is outside of the EU, I had to apply for a Schengen visa to be able to visit Portugal and Spain. I was going to stay in both countries for 5 days each, so I had to go to the embassy of the country that I was going to enter first, hence I went to the Portuguese embassy in Manchester.
It was the best visa application experience I have had thanks to the friendly approach of Portuguese people. My sweet Portuguese friend Margarida has modified a letter of invitaton I have sent her, filled in two terms of responsibility forms, got them notarized by the local authorities and sent to me in the post. After receiving her documents, I compiled everything and headed to Manchester during the second week of December. I was a bit worried that I would not get my visa in time, soon it would be Christmas, then New Year, and I was set to leave the U.K. on the 8th of January but all my worries were gone at the end of the day, poof! Because I went back to Nottingham with my visa already stamped in my passport! I will never forget the gratefulness I felt after this conversation:
The officer: “You better go get some coffee.”
Me: “Oh. Do I have to stay around? Is something wrong with my application? :/”
The officer: “It is gonna be ready in half an hour”
The officer: “Your visa will be ready in a bit, if I were you I would grab a cup of coffee”
Me: “Oh really?!” (filled with joy)
The chilled vibe of this guy and the other two in the office gave me such a good first impression that I already knew I was going to love Portugal 🙂