Well… after getting home from a 2 week stint in the country not too long ago and falling ridiculously hard for it- I am happy to brag that it was everything I thought it would be- amazing beaches, incredible and well priced food, a country rich in culture and SO MANY COLOURFUL DOORS YOU GUYS. I was a bit surprised that some people would be confused by our choice to visit a beautiful country like this one…but that’s the thing with Portugal- it is definitely one of the hidden gems of Europe and is still very much under the radar I feel. Once you discover what it’s about though and what it offers- you want to get yourself there. Immediately.
It’s charm and uniqueness is not as well known and constantly exposed like say Italy or France and you are experiencing a country that is true to itself- not overtaken with Starbucks, McDonalds and Nike stores.
Our journey began in the country’s capital -Lisbon and oh what a place to start! We arrived in Lisbon at 7AM local time after a red eye flight and were greeted by an enchanting city that was still resting in its Sunday slumber. We later learned that this pace…slow and steady…was part of the Portuguese culture. We got settled in the gorgeous Porto Lisbon Bay hotel and properly fueled up on their delicious house coffee and breakfast ready to start our day ( more on this insanely beautiful hotel later). We had no problem ignoring our Jetlag and starting our day with a goal to eat as many Portugese egg tarts without making ourselves sick.
We left the hotel on foot and we weren’t sure if everyone else got the memo that everything was closed on Sunday mornings and that it was Portuguese Siesta time but we weren’t mad. It literally felt like we had the city to ourselves in these early hours and it felt pretty special getting acquainted with Lisbon- just the three of us.
We were quick to discover that the city of Lisbon is very hilly. One minute you are lunging up the streets and you feel like you are in a Richmond Simmons exercise video and then you turn a corner and are going down steps- holding a railing and walking down their mosaic tiled steps. Every big hill led us to a view better than the last and every turn downwards led us to a different street that was bustling. Walking through the city was the best way to take it all in and we surely would have missed all of the little details that I loved so much if we cabbed it everywhere. It led us to seeing all of the locals in their routines —-The ladies hanging fresh laundry off their beautifully tiled balconies or stumbling into a market buying beer from a sweet and smiley old man who moved as slow as a turtle in peanut butter or peering into a tiny local restaurant to see the owners- husband and wife- polishing off a bottle of wine at 3PM. It made me learn and better yet appreciate this culture. These moments were my favourite.
Besides lurking locals- we did touristy things like witnessing the famous Tram 28 which winds its way up and down the district’s at times cliff-like overhangs and tight twists -and although we took it only once- it was such a cool thing to see and have in the city. We ate at some cool restaurants that had an atmosphere that felt different than any other trendy city we have visited- big emphasis on design, good ambience without trying so hard and unique dishes ( like black squid butter!). It felt real. We went to Time Out’s Market place- Mercado da Ribeira (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) which houses all of the coolest restaurants under one roof and is bustling all day, evvvveryday. It was tempting not to order some Oysters from one booth, grab some vino from another and order pasta from the third stall and eat here everyday of the trip.
We walked around the less windy narrow alley ways and into the spacious squares decorated in swirls of black and white tiles that we wished we could transport home with us. We took the Santa Maria spiral stairs to the top and saw the city from up high. We visited the Alfama district. We did it all!
After spending a few days here at the beginning of our trip- we were so thankful to finish our trip off here as well and take it in one last time before returning home. Lisbon made our hearts and brains feel as colourful and vibrant as their tiles and patterns and it was the perfect start to our Portugal intro.
More on the rest of our trip coming soon…