Olá e bom dia de Portugal!
While we haven’t been online we certainly have been busy bouncing back & forth across the Atlantic. After wrapping up a 9 week tour of Nepal & India, we headed back to the states for a little friends & family time. We now find ourselves on the cusp of our European adventure, a dream come true to spend the summer months crisscrossing & beach hopping through Europe - bring on the wine, bread & cheese!
Have you ever stepped foot into a new spot & instantly knew you’d be back? That’s exactly how we felt about Lisbon without ever having to say a word about it to each other. Our only regret is not having more time in the city & Portugal itself. It’s one of the least visited European cities & we have no idea why as it was named a “Best in Travel” by Lonely Planet. Its under the radar status allows more freedom in adventuring out & exploring the city as it is vs. what increases in tourism will make it.
Upon our arrival, one of the very first things we noticed was an apparent Asian import the tuk tuk! We found this incredibly amusing after spending weeks using this has a preferred mode of quickie transport. Another thing I didn’t know about Lisbon was it’s basically made up of hills. Why did no one ever warn me there were so many flipping hills! Not since Valpo have I had to schlep up & down so much. Huffing & puffing while chic Portuguese women effortlessly tackled the climb in heels I could barely contain myself in flip flops. Oh well I am very American after all, not graceful European.
Lisbon is causing me to have a serious tile moment. Around every corner were buildings & walls covered in gorgeous antique tiles, floor to ceiling, & I had to fight the urge to have Ben snap photos of each & everyone. I have therefore decided our house will be redecorated in all tile upon our return. Family & friends you have been forewarned, learn to love it now.
We spent the day getting lost in the old, winding streets of Alfama, the city’s “old town” & the evenings thoroughly exploring Lisbon’s nightlife. It’s the kind of city you can accidently find yourselves enjoying to the wee hours of the morning, especially being on East Coast time (not that we know anyone who did this & paid for it the next morning….) You can choose from the infamous “Pink Street” bars & restaurants, including a swanky little spot that used to be a brothel & still maintains the look & uh “spirit” today; or pop up to the old streets where a no longer running “elevador da bica” blocks the main street & tiny hole-in-the-wall bars serve 1€ large beers & you drink on the streets.
A quick hop onto the convenient train system will get you to the beautiful town of Cascais in under 45 minutes. The city was a favorite summer vacation spot for Portuguese nobility as far back at the 19th century. It’s the perfect beach spot to sleep off your ‘er, jetlag from the night before & soak up some sun. Petite, cozy beaches dot the coastline between rocky ledges with restaurants & bars. There’s no shortage of good seafood as we feasted on tuna avocado tartar, fish ceviche & fresh from the ocean oysters at a little café down on one of the many side street walks.
On the opposite side of Lisbon, you can hop on a different train & make the trip out to Sintra, another favorite of the nobility who built large & exquisitely detailed castles & private residences among the hillsides.
The charming old town looks like a fairy tale; in fact, while wandering the streets upwards towards the Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) Ben discovered a plaque commemorating the visit of Hans Christian Andersen, I can only imagine the inspiration Sintra provided & which whimsical tale he dreamed up.
The impressive castles & palaces that dot the hillside are worth a visit, we overheard it described as “Disney Land for adults” & we can’t say that’s not accurate. The brightly colored Palacio da Pena is a mash up of styles; Romanticism, Moorish patterns & Arabic archways, it literally looks like a Disney castle. Miles of lush gardens & wild forest remain protected as part of the national forest which we wandered around for hours past garden greenhouses, horse stables & the Chalet of the Countess of Elda (second wife of King Fernando II).
Lisbon was the perfect beginning to our European adventure! We couldn’t have asked for anything more, the food & nightlife, beautiful beaches & hilltop views. It’s one of the few places we’ve begun planning our return trip even before leaving & why not? With a direct flight in almost the same time it takes to cross the U.S. we’re in!