So I've known Marwane for exactly 3 years this October. I met him even before Marcio! We met through our German friend, Lena in Dusseldorf. 4 months later, on a dreary February night, 2014, Marwane and I met up at a trivago party on the 10th floor. I was an intern at the time at trivago. It was then we would meet Marcio for the first time.
We both fell in love with the guy. One was heterosexual love and the other, "I'm your brother from aaa-nother mother" love. Guess which one was mine? :P
3 years later, September 2016, we finally bite the bullet and booked a trip to Marcio's old country, the great motherland, Portugal!
Did I mention that Marwane is a crazy Moroccan? He's pretty much the antithesis of boring. You gotta admit. With the three of us together, we make an odd bunch.
Where in the world are you gonna meet a quirky, deranged, loud, emphatic, bickering, hyperactive, zest for life motley crew like us? Very few places, I assume.
We took on Portugal like a boss. On our 4th day, September 6th, Marcio, his parents and I picked up Marwane in Porto.
"Kate! Get behind the door, on the right. Hide!" we're standing in front of his hostel. Even his parents stood to the side.
We see a flash of Marwane's red polo shirt appear as he opens the door.
"AHHAAAAA!!" Marcio screams jumping in front of him.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" Marwane's face shows fear, like a deer in headlights. "AHHH, Come on, Mannnn...." he cries.
This is the start of a very beautiful friendship, 2016 era.
Pranks on Marwane is one of our favorite things to do.
Marcio sometimes takes it to the extreme. In the grocery store, Marcio took a huge cod fish, Portuguese style, and slapped it on the back of Marwane's head.
Another time, in Peneda-Gerês National Park, Marcio's mom warned us about the wild wolves that frequent the national park. So when we parked our car for a rest stop and a pee break we went our seperate ways to a private spot. As Marwane was doing his business, Marcio snuck up behind him and loudly snarled like a wolf.
"AHHHHHHH!!!" Marwane nearly peed on himself. "WTF mannnn..."
In any case, I'm usually in the middle of the two. Sometimes I have to reason with Marcio. Other times with Marwane. Sometimes I'm even pitted against the two. Balancing out two hot heads, one from Portugal the other Morocco can be a handful. But somehow, we manage.
Showing Portugal to Marwane's fresh eyes delighted me. Admittedly, we overwhelmed Marcio because we wanted to know all the details in every passing site or conversation. Marcio played translator, constantly between his parents and us. But Marwane's knack and talent for languages put me to shame. He flawlessly expressed himself in Spanish and French to Marcio's parents. And of course, if one knows a Romance language, Portuguese is somewhat manageable. For me, knowing a bit of Italian sufficed me sometimes, but most the time, I was lost in translation.
So back to the story. After we picked up Marwane in Porto, we strolled around a local park and passed by an outdoor book sale. Here are some pics on what it looked like.
Then we wandered inside the oldest library in Portugal, and one of the oldest in Europe called Livraria Lello. This particular library even influenced JK Rowling before she wrote the Harry Potter series. She came to Porto to teach English, hence, she fell in love with the place.
Stepping inside, there's an abundance of old Portuguese books, guides and encyclopedias all stacked neatly in place. There's also a modern day assortment of books in other languages too. Adorning the rooms hangs 19th century styled and old-world ornaments, classical stained glass windows and a creaky, winding staircase ascending up two floors. Climbing up the stairwell, one can look further above to the great stained glass mosaic. Books, dating back 100 years plus, are stacked ceiling high and placed on musty, dusty shelves. It's a real treasure.
Close to 14:00, we took lunch at a place Marcio's dad knew.
The waiters and staff dressed traditionally. And I mean traditional with a black and white attire. Each one wore a tightly wrapped black bow tie, apron and long sleeved white shirt. The restaurant had a few customers, but they were more than happy to assist us. We took a huge table in the back and divulged loudly with each other, catching up on life.
Marwane ordered a seafood dish, but didn't expect to get a three-course meal with potatoes, prawns, and other sides which he happily shared with us. I ordered a typical soup called caldo verde, a sweet potato, chickpea and spinach based soup. I also took a simple prego, which according to Anthony Bourdain's Portuguese guide told him, was the not right dish for your girlfriend. Boy, was he wrong! Prego is a simple sandwich made with roast beef and dijon mustard packed between two generous grainy baguettes. The soup and the prego marries well for a light lunch.
PS: Marwane, if you're reading this, do you remember the musician outside the construction zone? I'll never forget laughing my butt off when the construction worker threw down a wooden beam to the street level and screamed, "STFU!" in Portuguese. Seemingly we thought it was directed to us, but rather to the melancholic, off-tune singer on his guitar. Poor guy. Priceless.
After lunch and a full day's walk, we departed Porto back to Marcio's home.
About a 45 minute drive, we would arrive at a place called, Viana del Costelo, where Marcio's parents rent an apartment, just a 5 minute walk from the beach. Vacation mode, check!
After a long day's hard work at the beach, surfing and doing quick dips into the semi-freezing Atlantic, we headed back for super with the fam.
As you can see, Mar and Marcio are dressed appropriately in red-hot-head attire. Mom looks happy with well-fed children and Dad chows down on some roaster, literally a male chicken, leftovers from marcio's grandmother's house.
The following morning, Marcio would take us to Lima, no, not Peru, where Marwane and I would kill time as Marcio went to the dentist.
What I liked most about our drive there was the mystical morning fog. In this part of the world, despite being close to the ocean, Northern Portugal has this sort of dream-like fog. Although it can be dangerous to drive through; wouldn't want to run over some grannies along the highways or wild lynxs...
Unfortunately, severe forest fires rampaged the nearby mountains in Northern Portugal and even up to Galicia, Spain. Marcio said he's never seen such a natural disaster in his lifetime. Many times, we'd pass by smoke along the roads during the day and night while we were in Vigo, Spain. Eucalyptus trees burnt to ashes for kilometers over barren scarred land.
The magnitude of the fires was so bad that animals ran for their lives away from the smoke.
Peneda-Gerês National Park Photos
I want to continue, but why give away everything?
I'm going to conclude in this blog post here with a nice video, created by Google's awesomeness.
For the next blog post, stay tuned for a post on Braga (Bom Jesus), Lima - where the biggest Portuguese bash is held - and Cangas, Espaniaaaa. All coming soon so stay tuned.
Until next time, enjoy!
A summary video of Portugal