with Portugal. Lisboa, to be exact. I’ve heard only good things about Portugal and it’s two known cities: Lisboa (Lisbon in the south and Oporto in the North) but I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even have a guidebook nor did any “research” about where I was going.
Angelica and I decided on a whim to head out of Spain rather than visit Galicia in the North, which had been our plan for several weeks. I left California on Jan 3rd solely to fit another trip in with Angelica before we began work on Monday, Jan 9. Certainly, always worth it. We’re quite excellent travel buddies- we get along, we like doing the same things, she loves to eat and try new things, enjoys meeting new people and best of all is really amazing at going with the flow. Sometimes we don’t realize how incredible our travel styles mesh. There’s many a time, we forgo “alone time” or breaks from each other because we don’t even think about it. When I reflect on our adventures, I realize how unique our dynamic is.
I arrived in Madrid at 7;40am and was through passport control and baggage claim and on a train at 9am. Being at the airport, speaking Spanish and navigating my way to Angelica’s house felt so normal. So familiar. How nice it is. Spain has become a new “familiar.” She greeted me at the metro stop, helped me with luggage and eventually I took a short nap as jet lag was settling in. By 3pm we were off to the airport to ensure we did not miss our 7pm flight. We’ve been known to race through airports. Not so fun.
We arrive, grab our baggage from the carosel and walk out of the airport to figure out how to get into the city. (we flew Air Europa, and we were easily impressed with their customer service and the fact we could not only check out baggage for FREE but we could carry on a purse, jacket with us as we’ve become acostumed to cheap airlines who not only require small suitcases but your purse must fit inside!) Within 10 minutes of riding the aero city center bus from the airport to well, the city center, I felt the magic of Lisboa. Jet lagged and all. We figured out our way to Poet’s hostel Lisboa that was recommended to us by a cool chicawe met in Mallorca and we knew why she loved it the moment we walked in and were greeted by a friendly gal, Terese. She was surprised to hear we were there simply based on a recommendation and nothing more. No other research and no reservations ( it was a Wednesday night after all).
She gave us the low down and we headed out to find a bite to eat. her recommendation led us to an empty small restaurant so we went to a busy spot with delicous food (and learned don’t eat the olives, bread and spreads they bring you if you don’t want to pay $7 ). Joys of travel with cultural and language differences. We laughed it off!)
Highlights of Lisboa
- day trip to the whimiscal town of Sintra ( a 40 minute train ride from Lisboa) where there are many castles and palaces.
- tasting Quiejadas (sweet cheese custard) y trevisossas (almond pastry)
- taking the bus up to Pena Palace, which was high up on a hill and very curvy road. Impressed by the bus driver skills. I would have been teriffied to drive a car up and down, let alone a bus. Just saying.
- Staying at our cozy, comfortable hostel with great staff, including insightful converstations with Terese and Pedro giving us a glimpse into Portuguese life, culture and history. ( I learned they handed over their colonies Mozambique and Angola in 1974, during there own revolution)! Of course, I was fasincinated by this history as I spent a month in Mozambique.
- seeing the colorful buildings and beautiful tiles makes the city feel so alive and the way the sunshines against the buildings.
- seeing the trolly’s (yellow cable cars)
- seeing their “Golden Gate Bridge” ( who knew Lisboa was a sister city to my beloved San Francisco?)
- hearing Portuquese and now have a great desire to learn French and then Portuquese (after I master Spanish). I love being able to communicate and knowing languages opens up your world to even more people in this amazing world. They prefer people to speak in English rather than Spanish (makes sense as border countries often have there own frustrations towards each other).
- I overheard a father speak in Spanish and understanding Spanish without thinking about it. It was as if I was hearing English. Ah, yes, poco a poco, aprendo Espanol- slowly slowly I’m learning Spanish
- Meeting Couchsurfer Paulo and going for dinner at his friends house immediately after dropping our bags at his house. I’ve been having incredible expereinces every time I couchsurf and I feel lucky to have these moments where I go from knowing no one in a new city or country to feeling like I have a good group of new friends. It’s magical.
- Paulo taking us around Lisboa and being a great tour guide- flea market, cool restaurant with a view, great local spot for Port, going to a couchsurfing dinner and checking out the nightlife.
- stopping into a Pastelaria and trying an almond custard pastry and other goodies while sipping espresso standing at the counter.
- Lisboa is cheaper than the average place in Espana, even though it’s a capital city
I know I will return to Portugal and I’m thankful I went there in January rather than wait till the next puente Angelica and I share in May. Now I know I want to return and am curious to see more of the country!
Have you been to Portugal? What was your experience like?Have you been to a place where it felt magical? Where? Leave a comment in the comment section below!