Last Bits of Lisbon

We woke up to a nice breakfast this morning down in the lobby of our hotel; toast, zucchini bread, fresh fruit, boiled eggs, croissants, pastries, and yogurt. We sat, talked, and enjoyed the sunshine while it peaked through the glass windows on the street side. After getting ready, we headed out for our first museum of the day, Museo Calouste Gulbenkian. I had heard about this museum before coming to Portugal so I was happy that we fit it in to our schedule. The museum was amazing to see, walking around new and old works of portraits, sculptures, abstract and interactive media forms. They even had history of Portugal, which was useful to learn since I hadn’t know a whole lot before coming.


We walked through a little garden path to get to the other building of the museum, where we saw more masterpiece paintings and some very intricate jewelry pieces. All of it was breathtaking to see in person.


From there, we took a cab to the train station where we walked around in the sun and picked up a quick lunch at a small shop. We then walked down the street to the Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia (The MAAT) where we saw modern videos, interactive media, game pieces, and the insides of a coal refinery system. Most of the videos were not quite my interest, except a few that caught my eye, including one about the economic recession of 2007/2008. This film was so well made and compositionally appeasing, I thought I was sitting at a movie theater instead of a gallery.


The structure of the building connected to a modern spaceship style structure where people could walk up and take pictures of the view of the river and the Ponte 25 de Abril Suspension Bridge. With blue skies and wispy clouds, the views were incredible, and one of the top moments of the week.

We continued the day by walking down the boardwalk – grabbing ice cream on the way to pick our spirits up – to see more monuments of Portugal. We stopped to see Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Belém Tower. Both amazing enormous structures with so much history attached. I made sure to get a bunch of pictures for those who couldn’t come on this trip.

Catching our last cab for the day we drove back to the hotel to drop our stuff off and go out for our last dinner. We went to Italian Republic to enjoy some classic Italian cuisine. I ordered linguine pescatore with a glass of vino verde (a specialty to Portugal) and a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream for dinner. We talked and ate and talked some more, relaxing before a day of flying ahead of us. Everything was absolutely amazing and so worth running around the last two days. A great end to an experience I will never forget.

Landed in Lisbon!

After a very rainy 4 hour bus ride early in the morning, we arrived at our hotel, Hotel White in downtown area of the city of Lisbon. We walked in and were blown away by the fancy, clean appearance of our hotel, much different from the rustic lifestyle we were residing in, just hours before. We quickly washed up and headed out to find some food. We took a cab to the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, where we ate some food at a quaint restaurant inside the Museum. We explored the rest of the Museum, learning about the history and making of ancient tiles, paintings, sculptures, etc.


We moved onto the next museum of the day, which was more on the modern side, called Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporanea do Chiado. Although I enjoyed seeing the architecture and some of the pieces, this museum was more up Brandon and Larisha’s alley since their were more sculptures. Still, we got to see the work of some of the latest artists competing in the March showcase, so it was fun to see such current work.

Since it was still raining at this point, none of us really wanted to walk outside very much, so we opted to hit some stores to pick up souvenirs for friends and family. We stopped at a vintage bookstore, a modern soap and craft shop, a pottery store, a common souvenir shop for knick-knacks, and a few more. We also dropped in at the neatest t-shirt shop with urban designs on them.


Exhausted and hungry from the day, we went out to dinner at my new favorite place in Portugal called Time Out. This place is a food market for the newest and tastiest foods, and the best place for chefs to test out their new creations. Tons of shops were laid out around the center tables of the market, anything from sushi and Asian, classic Portuguese, fresh meats, Italian, and many more. I opted to go a little adventurous by ordering a salmon, cuttlefish, lettuce, and seaweed sandwich on a black bun, with sautéed veggies. Ugh, delicious! We then had to get fresh gelato of course! So I got a small cup of coconut, caramel, and hazelnut gelato. My week was made!

Stuffed from dinner, we headed back to our hotel to refresh and shower. It felt amazing to finally take a nice, long, hot shower after a week in the countryside. Though it was late, the three of us wanted to make the most of our last days in Portugal by adventuring out in the city and seeing the nightlife. Needless to say, Portugal people are night owls!

Horsing Around

Our final day at the farmhouse and we started our day off with finishing up our clay molds from the other day. We heated up some more agar liquid and poured it into the molds. Then we put in other random substances or materials that could cause more bacteria to produce. I put rocks, flowers, and a little leaf in 3 of mine. I also took pictures of the other terrariums from yesterday that the other students created.

After working on the molds, we then walked down passed the stream and wildlife that we had visited yesterday and ventured onto another farm that trained horses. We walked around and pated the horses and fed them carrots and apples. My two favorites were their Lusitano pure-bred horses named Jupiter and Champagne. They were beautiful silky tan/brown colors and had long dark brown manes. There were also a couple of funny roosters marching and stomping around the farm. The land was absolutely beautiful and lush green with lots of rolling hills.


After walking back to the house, we ate some lunch of the remaining leftovers from last night and made a couple of pots of coffee and tea with fresh strawberries and chocolate candies for mid afternoon snacks. With the inside of the house so cold, it was nice to feel the warmth of the coffee. Brandon, Larisha, and I later took a quick trip down to Gabriella’s café for another coffee and sweet coconut cream sweet to warm us up. All in all I think I had like four cups of coffee, but I think the cold weather called for that badly.

Later on in the day we attempted to make prints with mushroom tops, by laying the spores flat on a piece of paper, sprinkling water onto their backs and covering them with a glass bowl to heat them up. This way, they might lay completely flat and create a leftover print onto the paper. Unfortunately, I think it was still too cold for them too lay flat, so we were unable to see them leave a print before we left.


After taking a little break in the day, we were all very hungry for dinner. We walked down the street to a nice quaint restaurant. I got the fish of the day, Bacalhau a Bras, which was really good, and a small side salad with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Simple, yet delicious. I also had a rich chocolate mouse cup for dessert, even though I was full from dinner. When in Europe, eat what you can I guess!

Walking in Sunshine

Day 3 of our Portugal trip was a lot better in terms of the weather. Most of the day was covered in sun with only a few spurts of rain showers here and there. We started our day by waking up and immediately going to the barn to extract DNA from our mouths. We swished some powerade in our mouths and then spit it out into a test tube where we poured a drop of detergent and ethanol on top, then let it sit. After a while our DNA strands started to float in the ethanol layer of the tube. Really cool to visibly see your own DNA.

The rest of the afternoon we spent walking around the block to visit a wooded stream where we collected a bunch of vegetation, rocks, and aquatic life for our giant terrarium in the barn.


We also drove to an environmental reserve/trail where we took a little hike to collect more ingredients and nature products. The trail was beautiful, but after the rain we had yesterday, the paths were covered in puddles so we had a lot of mud to trek through. Near the end, there were a lot of mountain-like rocks to climb and explore, which we all of course, traveled to the top to see the view.

After the hike my other two cohorts and I wanted to venture into town for some food. We ended up at the local café where we enjoyed a yummy warm ham and cheese “toastie,” a name that is common in Europe, and which I will be using in the future!

When we got back to the house, we physically took out our DNA strands and observed them under a microscope. It was interesting to see the parts of the DNA and the particles that go into them.

We then followed that experiment by working on the aquarium that Marta planned. We put in the soil, rocks, moss, aquatic plants, a few water spiders, and gallons of natural water. Hopefully, in a few days or weeks the sediment and mud in the water will settle at the bottom and they will be able to see clearly in the tank. We then built our own terrarium versions using found objects as containers and natural matter found in the gardens here. I’m rather proud of how mine came out!


We finished the day by eating a delicious dinner of roasted pork with chestnuts, spinach puree, chickpea mushroom salad, and roasted sweet potatoes. We also enjoyed a slice of sweet potato pie, which I’ve never had before, but it was very good! Tomorrow is our last full day here at the farm house and I’m looking forward to finishing up our final experiments!


Working Through the Rain

The rain definitely decided to pay a visit to Portugal today as it did not let up a single second all day. We got a little late start this morning, but we ventured into the dining room for a quick breakfast and then off to the barn for work.

We continued to work on our agar plates by adding different kinds of materials like substances and bacteria from other petri dishes that have accumulated here for months, our own spit, pieces of nature, and basically anything else we can find around that we thought we create an interesting reaction. Marta showed me that I could use my photography skills to photograph some of the specimen petri dishes and catch cool patterns and details under the microscope. We also each made a few molded clay dishes by creating different shapes, textures, and adding food coloring so that later they would be dry and hard enough where we could fill them with more agar concoctions.


In the afternoon we took a quick trip into the village to pick up some ingredients and a sweet custard-like treat that Portugal is famous for called pasteis de nata. We headed back to the house and had leftover stew for lunch. After digesting a bit, we went back into the barn to listen to two of the other resident artists give presentations on their own work and thought processes. The French resident, Alan Tod, told us about his transition into forest art and preserving nature by creating installations within nature itself. Dalila Horato, one of the Portuguese artists here, talked to us about her fascination with the body, body parts, and the modification of it, phobias and paraphilia, as well as concepts regarding monsters. Quite different topics, but both very interesting in regards to creating art work for conversations and discussions.

Later on in the evening we had some of the local artists in the neighborhood over for dinner as we enjoyed some homemade curried cod and cauliflower stew with rice and bread. We also enjoyed some roasted pears and a Limon cello trifle that was amazing! After talking with the other guests, Marta gave a lecture of her work to all of us, telling us that  her work involves combining art and science and questioning the role of what is natural, using technology in research, and playing around with bacteria combinations. Intense stuff, but quite creative.

First Day in São Luís

First actually day in São Luís and what a day it was! We started our morning with homemade crepes and fresh strawberries made by one of the resident French artists, Allen, and then got ready to take a tour of the local area. Although this village is small, it’s filled with a lot of historical architecture, beautiful colors, and wide open farmlands. I had a blast turning from corner to corner and finding new things to take pictures of. Being a photographer, my eyes were constantly on the lookout for new things to explore. We even visited a few local artists who are working on their own projects in town. Everything from theatrical costumes on stilts and masks to anthropomorphic clay animals. It was exciting to see the variety!


When we returned back home, we made lunch from the leftovers we had the night before after hours on the plane and bus. Lunch consisted of a spicy pea stew with spicy chorizo sausage, blood sausage cooked over a ceramic dish, fresh bread, and sheep cheese that may be my new favorite cheese! We followed that up with some chocolate covered almonds, figs, and coffee. Our group continued the day by listening to Marta’s husband, Luis, give a presentation and lecture on the mechanisms of molecules and biological systems. So much knowledge and innovativeness in the science fields today.


After the lecture we dove right into experimenting with our agar creations. Earlier in the day we had made jars filled agar, Ludia Broth, and milk with agar and set them all aside to boil and sterilize. When ready, we took the liquid agar jars and mixed them with other materials, like soil, oxide, crushed bark, and food coloring, to be set aside and work their magic. The goal is to hopefully see changes with fungi and bacteria growth over the next few days so we can respond to how the environment affects various materials. I never really thought that science like this could be turned into artwork and actually be quite fun!

We ended our day with another homemade meal by our host, Marta, who cooked a spicy and flavorful sausage, cabbage, and kidney bean stew with some more fresh bread on the side, of course. Portuguese people really like their stews and soups in the winter! Marta also made a sweet roasted cinnamon apple for dessert, which was then accompanied by deep, thoughtful discussions about life, history, and the art world. Looking forward to what Day 2 has to offer!