Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fourth Week - Back home

The weekend - The north of Portugal

I spent the weekend seeing the north part of the country with the friends that I recently made. No more being ditched for me. We set off by train to the town of Valenca after finishing with our duties at the hospital, where we met up with another student who was from the area and was home for the weekend. The train ride was about 3 hours long and passed through amazing country side and towns with unique names like Tropha, and Nine. We got picked up at the station and made our way to the historic fort and old town over looking the river Mino and Spain. After walking around and exploring, we had dinner with some of the famous green wine of the region. We then headed to the town of Malgco where our host was from.

The Valenca Fort

The next day we explored the tower of Malgaco after an amazing breakfast of coconut pastries before heading to the town of Moncao. There I sampled the refreshing drink of panache (a mix of beer and 7up). However, I later found out that it kind of girly. Oh well. We visited some of the winyards on the way back to Valenca for our evening train back to Porto.

Since we had some time before the train, we crossed the historic bridge built by Gustave Eiffel into Spain and visited the town of Tui. You can definitely tell that you are in a different country. Tui is part of the Santiago Pilgrimage Route, and the main attraction in the area is the old Cathedral and Monastery. After a short visit and some touristy pictures to prove that we went to Spain, its almost time for the train and we head back across the bridge.

Spain !!!

We arrive in Porto around 10 pm, and after dropping off our luggage at my dorm at the Campanha station, its the prefect time for dinner and some going out Portuguese style. We didn't stay out like true Portuguese though, until 5 or 6am, since we had plans to visit the Geres national park and do some hiking.

Miklos, the Hungarian student, had reserved a car for us at the airport at 9. We meet at trinidad station at 8:30 and take the metro to the airport. There was a great deal from europcar where we could rent one for 20 euros for the day. We set off on our journey to the park. This was without maps though, perfect for traveling in a foreign country. There was a park office in the town of Braga, so that was our initial destination. After a few wrong turns we made it to Braga. Now to find the park office. The website said that it was 500m from the train station...hmm better just park and head to the city center. After a epic breakfast of baked apples and some touring, we find the tourist office, who has no idea about the park office but we did manage to get some maps. We walk towards the train station, and after asking some people, we learn that the park office is closed on Sunday. Oh well we head on to the park and plan to figure it out once we get there.

Baked Apples with a View

Luckily my phone gets 3g with the Portuguese SIM card so we use google maps to get us to the park. After gathering some supplies at the town of Geres in the park, we start driving into the park. We decide, instead of doing a 3-4 hr loop, to drive along the park road and stop when we see something cool, which was a frequent occurrence.

The best was a climb down a cliff to a series of pools and waterfalls with ice cold water. After surviving a picture for facebook, we continue through the park and enjoy the vistas.

Vistas of Geres

Next on to the town of Parvoa de Varzim, a beautiful coastal resort town north of Porto. We arrive in time for sunset; however the whole town in shrouded in a dense fog. After getting dinner at a local restaurant we drive the car back to the airport and head our separate ways for the night.

The Short Week:

Monday I arrive after rounds, since I met with Dr. Basto in the AM. I find out that patient, that has been on the service before I started, with endocarditis who started having GI bleeds last week had her colonoscopy. It turns out that she has 2 large masses in her colon, one of which is partially obstructing the lumen. Pretty bad news for a such a nice lady. On a brighter note our lady with the stroke seems to be improving.

That afternoon, after taking the opinions of all of the girls on the team, I head out to finally go buy my interview suit. After 2 hrs of indecision, I manage to pick one that fits well and is well priced.

In the evening, I go back to the hospital to meet with Dr. Basto to go have dinner at his house. The food is amazing, and his family is very nice. Multiple courses of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts, all followed by Port Wine and expresso.

The next 2 days go by pretty fast. Our new admits leave on the same day. I spend the afternoons spending time with my friends and the Portuguese med students. We check out the Cleirch tower and just relax in the city.

The Tower

On my last day, I say goodbye to our patients and the team. I shared some of the Indian food snacks that I had brought from the states with the team, which they really enjoyed. We have a final dinner at night, and go for a few drinks at unique bar by the university downtown. It turns out that it was Bastian's (the german student) birthday a midnight...happy birthday. I get back pretty late just in time for a few hours of sleep before leaving at 6:00 am for the flight back to the US.

Home at last after barely making the connection to Chicago in Madrid. At least I knew kind of where the signs where this time.

Final List of Do's and Don'ts

1. I definitely over-packed. DO NOT bring dress clothes or dress shoes. It is perfectly fine to wear jeans, tshirts, and sneakers to the hospital.

2. Do bring snacks. They come in handy for those times between coffee breaks and to eat on the first few days while learning the city.

3. Do get a metro pass. It is valid from the 1st of the month to the end. You will get the form from Sophia the Erasmus student coordinator at the hospital on your first day

4. Do explore the city. The city center near the trinidad or aliados metro stop. Take the yellow/red tour bus on a weekend to see the sites

5. Do make friends. The Portuguese med students are all very nice and eager to show you their town. Also make sure you go to the meeting organized by Sophia to meet the other visiting med students

6. Do explore the rest of the country via the train system.

7. Do try to learn some Portuguese before hand. This is something I wish I had done, but was able to pick up a good bit while I was there

8. Do bring your stethoscope, pocket medicine and white coat. Even though the Portuguese med students get a long coat.

9. Do Not fly though Madrid if you can avoid it

10. Finally, do have a fun time.

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