Ticket to Portugal
There was no “crossing the border”. We simply drove along a highway, and the most glaringly obviously sign that I was in Portugal was the difference in spelling. It wasn’t España anymore; it was Espanha. Coming from the United States, I had expected all sorts of control towers and tolls placed on the border between Spain and Portugal, but we simply drove through the countryside from Olivenza all the way to Elvas, a very old and fortified town of Portugal.
Traveling to Portugal had been on my bucket list ever since I found out I was going to Badajoz. When it was just Spain that was in my head (before I knew my exact placement in Badajoz), I never thought of going to Portugal because I did not imagine I would live in a city so close to the border with another country. My host parents were so excited to take me to Portugal, and I spent one of the best afternoons with my little sisters who excitedly took me everywhere, making sure I knew everything they knew.
I started off the morning waking up later than the time that we had decided upon as a family the night before. Rushing to get ready in the morning, I really was not sure what to expect; I didn’t fully understand the contents of our conversation the previous night, so I did not even know we were going to Portugal until we got in the car. Our first destination was Olivenza, the last city to be incorporated into what is now modern Spain. Laura (my host mother) explained the significance of this town; one of the most disputed territories historically, Olivenza was traded and fought over by Spain and Portugal before they reached an agreement in 1801 under the Treaty of Badajoz, granting Spain the town of Olivenza.
In Olivenza, we visited a museum, one boasting very carefully crafted replicas of human livelihood (such as carpentry shops, schools, wineries, and grocery stores) from the Middle Ages all the way to the end of the 18th century. As part of the museum, a large and historic fortress tower offered us a marvelous view of the beautiful landscape; the unified color scheme of brown and white characterized the town’s architecture. The tower was oddly constructed, in that it did not have steps to ascend; rather, a series of inclined planes were built to lead people to the top. My sisters had so much fun running up the tower, and they told me that I had to run fast all the way to the top before the monster of the tower seized us all!
The clear blue skies offered a daring contrast to the beautiful color scheme of the architecture in the town. Catalina, Carmen, and I had so much fun playing with imaginary monsters and our own echoes in the tower; these views are from the top of the fortress.
Deciding to explore the city further, Laura and Roberto took me to a beautiful café in the town (the café was an old home reformed to display Portugese architecture in a gastronomical ambiance). Wanting to introduce me to some lovely Portugese delights, Roberto bought us all a tecula-mecula and a pastel de belém. The former is a lovely desert made with almonds and egg yolk, traditional to the one and only city of Olivenza, while the latter is a Portugese custard tart. After eating the sweet treats, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, we ventured towards the border, where I saw one of the old bridges connecting Portugal and Spain that was destroyed in one of the many wars between both countries.
The desserts were absolutely delightful (and very picture-worthy!). The photo of the destroyed bridge (featured on the bottom right) was taken on Spanish land; the view across shows Portugese territory. We encountered beautiful architecture (the church featured on the top right) as well, most of which heavily utilized stone.
As we ventured from Spain to Portugal through a very rural landscape, my sisters and I had great fun taking pictures together and talking. They love to take pictures on my phone of all three of us and sometimes just me (which they encourage me to upload on my blog!).
Here all three of us are, enjoying the scenic views. The photo on the bottom right was one of the many photos taken by the two of them of me :)
I didn’t realize we were in Portugal until I received a T-Mobile text welcoming me to Portugal and reassuring me that my international plan would work in the country as well. Arriving in the beautiful city of Elvas, I quickly took notice of how beautiful and historic the architecture was. Almost all the streets were made of cobblestone and the narrow streets were adorned by houses painted bright yellow with all sorts of plants.
The beautiful streets of Portugal made for some very aesthetic photos; we took a family photo in the center of Elvas (unfortunately Roberto didn’t get the “s” in “elvas” haha!). Catalina took the last picture of me overlooking the Spanish-Portugese border (I didn’t know this picture existed until I came home!).
Of course, I had to take a picture with Carmen, who lovingly accompanied me to a shop on the main street where I bought a lovely pair of Portugese earrings. We observed more Portugese architecture (again heavily utilizing stone).
In Elvas, we walked the main street browsing through all the shops and observing the general layout of the city. It was an extremely windy day, and Carmen, Catalina, and I had so much fun running through the streets, getting to know the city with the wind.
The only family picture we took of all five of us today was in Portugal, in the center of the city.
We, of course, took more selfies on the way back. Catalina and I (top left) took a selfie in Elvas, one of the most favorite pictures of the day. Carmen and I, on the other hand, were just bored in the car, and we wanted to have some fun :)
Leaving Portugal, we were all exhausted. I was both exhausted and in mental paradise at the same time; all the walking we’d done had left me feeling sore, yet all the history I observed left me craving for more adventure. I’m so grateful for all the sights seen and memories made today; we’re already mentally planning our next venture to Portugal :)