Attending a Cambridge University May Ball

I kicked off May Week by attending the Trinity May Ball on Monday June 17th. It was a spectacular night, exemplifying how to do a fireworks show right. Before I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning – dining.

Conor and I decided to go for dining tickets because we thought our chances would be better than if we tried for the general pool (it’s almost impossible to get tickets to Trinity if you are not a Trinity College member). Our strategy paid off and we were able to snag two sets of dining tickets! We invited along our Oxford friends Ben and Seline to join us. The night started with a champagne reception and photographs before moving into the hall for dinner. The dining option is always tricky because it means you could be too full to take advantage of the food stalls offered at the Ball and the food could be substandard to what one would expect for paying so much extra. However, Trinity DELIVERED on their dining option. I was blown away by the six course meal, as was everyone around me. The dessert particularly was displayed wonderfully and was incredibly delicious. I know I am overusing adjectives here, but I cannot describe the tasty dishes enough.

After dining, we had a second champagne reception. The line for oysters was still ridiculously long so we skipped that part, much to Conor’s dismay. We made our way to the riverbank to watch the fireworks show at 10:30pm. It was a shocking sight to see the river filled with punts, people spilling over into each other, pissed and having a great time. The punt companies hire out their punts for a pretty price to community members who want to see the fireworks show up close. A few particular rowdy men thought they would be cheeky and make a break up the bank for the party, but were quickly tackled to the ground by security. The crowd loved it!

The fireworks show was possibly the best part of the night. It was timed to music, ranging from the Greatest Show (apt) to Coldplay. There were fire cannons that kept time to the beat and an incomprehensible number of fireworks. Of course, the John’s committee were watching from across the riverbank to see what they would have to beat the following night at their ball.

Trinity offered a range of food and drink stalls, along with a ton of seating options – something many people took advantage of. One of the cooler seating options was igloos – clear plastic frames that unzipped with pillows and blankets inside for those who wanted to rest for a bit. They were packed the whole night. I enjoyed the Willow Bar the most because of it’s somewhat secret garden-esque feel – walking through the willow branches before happening upon a cocktail bar lit up with twinkle lights.

The headliner – Becky Hill – was a smash as the main stage tent filled when her set began with students screaming the lyrics and girls being hoisted on to shoulders. She was a fun, hype live act. While I only knew one song, I still had a great time dancing along to the rest of her music.

One thing that did disappoint were the fair ground rides. There was one which was a spin on a ferris wheel – people were strapped into cages that went upside down while also going around like a ferris wheel. Conor and I waited in line for about twenty minutes before the people coming off the ride started saying it was not a good time and not worth the wait. We quickly exited the slow moving line and headed to the dessert tent.

My favorite food stall was the Yubba Yubba donuts (throwback to the Keble Ball review!). As always, there were warm and delicious – the perfect snack at 3am.

All in all, I was very impressed with the Trinity May Ball, as I expected to be. I think it would have been more fun with a larger group of friends, but with the tickets difficult to come by, this is not always possible. Other than that, Trinity had everything on offer to make the night spectacular. I will definitely be on the lookout for tickets in the future.

Little Weekend in Lisbon, Portugal

With one month to go until final exams in Cambridge, I decided to take a short weekend trip to Lisbon, Portugal. One of my best friends from Ohio State University studied abroad in Senegal this past semester and we decided to meet up for a fun weekend away before she flew home to Boston for the summer!

Lisbon has gorgeous weather for the middle of May. Warm but I still brought a light jacket with me as it could get windy in certain parts of the city.

We booked an Airbnb in the heart of the city, just up the street from Marques de Pombal Sqaure. It was in a quiet residential building just blocks away from the bustling promenade.

Unfortunately, I missed my flight on Friday morning out of Stansted, which you can read about in a separate post! I was able to get on a later flight, arriving Friday night. That put a little wrench in our plans for the first day, but Amanda managed to see the Textile Museum and walked around the streets of Alfama.

When I arrived, we went for dinner at Time Out Market around 10pm. It was late but the place was absolutely packed. It’s a warehouse transformed into a marketplace with a bunch of food and drink stalls lining the outside of a massive rectangle filled with tables upon tables of people enjoying dinner and drinks. We had burgers and a pitcher of Sangria! I definitely recommend Time Out Market. There are so many options for food, ranging from seafood, to burgers, to a hog roast!

Delicious burger from Time Out Market!

On Saturday, it was an national holiday so all the museums and heritage sites had free entrance, so the city was very crowded! Amanda and I walked around the city, a total of 10.2 miles for the day. First we walked down to the market in Rossio Square. It was a small market with a few stalls from which we tasted some cheese and fruits.

Then we continued to walk down to the coast, stopping in the Praca de Comercio, a large square near the water with a massive archway and restaurants and shops lining the perimeter. We took a few pictures here and continued walking along the coast and up the hills to the Castle of Sao Jorge. The line to get in to the castle was massive so we skipped that and kept exploring the streets of Lisbon.

We took a short break to eat lunch at a cute cafe overlooking the city. I had sushi and Amanda had a seafood risotto, both were so tasty! We had a glass of wine and toasted to being in Lisbon and to having a fun, relaxing weekend.

We continued on our way, exploring the streets and hills of Lisbon. I am obsessed with the tiled buildings and all of the colors! Lisbon is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth walking through just to see all the different designs.

We ubered to Belem Tower, which was a bit of a wait but totally worth it to see the historical site and the views from it overlooking the water! Getting to the top of the tower was a pain because of the way the stairs work. The way up is the same way down so there was a three minute period when people could either go up or down, alternating. When we got to the top of the tower there was a line snaking around the whole area of people waiting to go down. We waited thirty minutes, but at least we got to enjoy the views.

After Belem Tower, we walked back to the center of town. We walked past the Archaeology Museum and the famous monastery! In front of both of these, there was a massive cultural parade happening. All the signs were in Portuguese, so I am not quite sure what was going on. Some of the participants were dressed up as witches and devils, but others were dressed in more contemporary clothing. There was loud music, singing, and dancing. Down the street, we stopped at the famous Pasteis de Belem for drinks and pastries. The pastries were delicious and definitely worth the wait! The restaurant is massive and every seat was taken with lines out the front doors, but it is one of the must go places in Lisbon!

We walked back to the center of town and back to our Airbnb where we changed for dinner and freshened up. We went to PARK for drinks at sunset overlooking the city. This bar was recommended to us by a friend who had recently visited Lisbon. We walked to the bar, which was a little difficult to find at first. The bar is on the top floor of a parking garage! Pretty cool and different. It was packed because of course everyone wants to see the sun set from a rooftop bar. And we were not disappointed.

Reminded me a bit of San Francisco!

After drinks we went back to Time Out Market for dinner because it was a short walk down the road. On our way we passed a bunch of bars that looked like fun so we bookmarked those streets for the next night! At Time Out, we ate at different stalls, but the sangria was so good that we had some more! We got back to the Airbnb a little earlier than Friday night because we had an early morning planned for Sunday!

Sunday morning we headed down to the train station, bought tickets, and took the train to Sintra. The round trip tickets cost 5 euros! Great deal! The train ride was about half an hour and passed quickly. Once we got to Sintra the bus tickets to Pena Palace were 6.50 and left from right outside the train station. It took about thirty minutes to get up to the palace. Tickets into the palace were another 7.50 for the student concession. We hiked up the hill to the palace that sat at the very top of the hill (good shout because after that walk I can’t imagine anyone wanting to invade this castle). The palace was gorgeous! So many bright colors and fun tiles. We walked around the whole thing, climbing some stairs and walking along the outer walls. We ate lunch at a cafe in downtown Sintra next to the train station as we waited for our train.

After Sintra, we trained back to Lisbon and took a short nap in the Airbnb. Then we went out and walked through more of the town. We found some small markets in different areas with stalls that sold fresh food, jewelry, and hand bags. I bought Conor cooking salt from one of the stalls that smelled so delicious! For dinner we went to another restaurant, Lost In, that overlooked the city at sunset. We ate tapas style- a cheese board, oysters, chicken ramen soup, and salad with a large pitcher of sangria. I definitely recommend this place! If you want to sit inside you will need a reservation, but the back patio was great because the weather was nice and the seating was really comfortable!

After dinner, we went back to the same area from the previous night that we had passed. It was full of bars and popping with young people. We went to a couple different bars, one was a tequila bar which was fun. The staff were playing the live show of Marc Anthony on the television and speakers. The bartender was singing along and it was a fun vibe! Then we walked up a hill to a bar with live music where we tried Ginja for the first time. It’s a Portuguese liquor and we had seen it around for the past three days, so we finally bit the bullet and tried it. It comes in a shot glass but it is meant to be sipped. It kind of tasted like licorice, but a little sweeter even. Not something I would order again, but definitely glad I tried it!

On Monday, we had a quick breakfast at Stanislaw before I left to catch my mid-morning flight. Stanislaw was a cute, green healthy looking cafe that we walked past on our way to the cafe we originally had picked for breakfast. It looked to good to pass up! I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a healthy twist to breakfast. I also had a delicious side of yogurt and granola not pictured here. To be fair, I did leave most of my salad uneaten because for some reason salad in the morning is not my thing, no matter how delicious and fresh.

My weekend in Lisbon was short but I feel like I saw so much of the city! It is definitely doable in two-three days. Any longer and I would have done another day trip or spent more time in some of Lisbon’s museums. My favorite parts of the weekend were definitely the food and walking through the hills of Lisbon. I took more pictures than I should have of colored buildings and tiled buildings that I won’t bore you with here. I was just blown away by Lisbon’s beauty I couldn’t help myself. This was one of my favorite European cities and I definitely recommend to anyone who wants to see a small part of Portugal on a long weekend away!