This past weekend I went to Portugal with my friend Becca from the foundación. We left Thursday night from Madrid and took an overnight bus to Lisbon. The bus ride was not the comfiest but it was nice to go overnight so you could sleep and arrive the next day. We arrived in Lisbon at 5:30am and it was cold, dark and we had no idea where we were going and no data or WiFi to get there. But as experienced travelers, we finally found our way to the metro to get to our Airbnb while also listening to the new Jonas Brothers song! Our Airbnb was located in central Lisbon and was a two floor apartment with six rooms each with its own unique style. After dropping off our bags and changing into fresh clothes we went to a coffee shop to make a game plan for the day. By no planning at all, we happened to walk into a coffee shop that was all in English and basically the Portuguese version of Spyhouse coffee in St. Paul. With our lattes we each had a Pastel da Nata- a traditional and very famous pastry of Portugal that has a flaky outer crust and a creamy center.
After the coffee we started walking towards the coast line through Rossio Square. As we were making our way towards the coast, we stumbled upon the Santa Justa Lift- an elevator built in 1901 that served as a way to connect the lower streets of Baixa with the higher streets of Largo do Carmo. We road it up to the top and had a full view of Lisbon (also managed to get there as soon as it opened so there was no line).
Then we continued walking through the shopping district to the Praca do Comerico/Terreiro do Paco- a big plaza (with the yellow building in the picture below) and the ocean! I always love getting to see the ocean and the warm sunny coastal weather was icing on the cake. Lisbon reminds me a little of Toledo in the sense that it is very hilly and has steep winding roads. But Toledo does not have the big bright colored buildings and the yellow tram cars going through the streets. Not to mention, Portuguese is very similar to Spanish in that there a lot of common words between the two but they a pronounced differently in each language. We also saw the Time Out Market- food hall in a mercado by the ocean, complete with everything from flowers to pastries to octopus sandwiches and hamburgers. We then made our way to the Jerónimos Monastery, the Padrao dos Descobrimentos- a monument that celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries and the Belem Tower- a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon that was important during the Portuguese maritime discoveries. It was amazing how much we saw before lunchtime because we had been up since 6. After our lunch break at a restaurant along the coastline and I had beet root soup (pic below). We had our well deserved siestas then to end the day we had a picnic in the park complete with pb and j sandwiches before going to bed.
The next day we woke up early and took the train out to Sintra, a small town near Sintra Mountains. Sintra was more of a quaint old school vibe, then Lisboa, with tourist shops lining the streets. It is known as a royal sanctuary and is very vibrant in color. There are three main castles in Sintra: the national palace of Pena, Castelo dos Mouros and Quinta de Regaleira. We went into the Quinta de Regaleira and it was a beautiful park full of lush green gardens, old towers and man made caves. My favorite part of the whole area was the inverted tower, it was like a beautiful architecturally designed well with a winding staircase. In addition, there was an area with a waterfall and you can go stepping across stones in front of the waterfall. Prior to going in, we hadn’t planned what we wanted to see or what there was to see so it was kind of fun to stumble across all the hidden treasures. After that we got coffee and some more traditional pastries, the travesserio- a puff pastry with egg cream and almond, it is known in Piriquita and that is what made their place famous, the other the queijadas de Sintra- a small pie with cheese and cinnamon. We really enjoyed the pastries (no phone eats first here).
After that we took an uber to Cabo da Roca- the most western point of continental Europe. This was the highlight of the entire trip for me. It was absolutely breathtaking, the water was so blue, the rolling hills looked straight out of The Sound of Music. As Becca kept saying “it looks like a green screen”. It reminded me very much of Hawaii and the hike to the green sand beach (remember that one family?). Becca and I spent hours just walking around and admiring all of it and decided that in our old age this is where we want to go to spend our final years. After Cabo da Roca we went back to Sintra and then back to Lisbon.
When we got back, we had another picnic, this time down by the water watching the sunset along with everyone in Lisbon. To end our last night in Lisbon we went on a pub crawl for Carnival. Carnival, the day before lent, is highly celebrated in Europe with festivals, parades and parties happening all weekend. We were decked out with glitter and masks for the night and had a lot of fun meeting other people in our group that were also studying abroad from different countries. Sunday morning (after maybe an hour of sleep) we got up to hop on the bus, but not before one last pastel de nata. It was an awesome fun filled weekend and I’m glad I got to enjoy Portugal in nice weather (it tends to rain there a lot this time of year).