This trip was incredible. I’m thankful that I don’t have to pick a favorite city because I liked each one for different reasons. If you haven’t been to Portugal or Spain you must go. They’re both beautiful countries, full of history and culture that you just cannot get by reading or watching travel videos. Photos don’t do it justice. May was a perfect month—low on tourists and really good weather. We had one day of rain the entire trip; the rest of the time was spent in the 70-90 degree range. Perfect for v-neck sunburns.
I don’t get tired of traveling. I miss pieces of home—people, my dog, events—but the idea of hanging out in and exploring new cities doesn’t get old. As long as I have access to a washing machine, living out of a backpack is my favorite way to travel. Being able to pack quickly on an early morning, carry everything over cobblestone streets, and easily toss it up into the overhead shelf on the trains are huge. I packed that way in Thailand, and I’m pretty sure I’ll do it forevermore. Unless, y’know, I need a larger wardrobe for some reason or actually buy something to bring home.
We used Airbnb for the entire trip, reserving a new apartment in every city. If you haven’t used it before, you should definitely check into it during your travels. Rooms or entire homes as cheap as or cheaper than hotel rooms, in [potentially] more centralized locations, and with more of the amenities I want [hello, washing machine]. Yeah, you don’t have someone coming in and cleaning up after you daily, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for all of the above.
There is an Aerobus that takes you to and from the airport, and it conveniently dropped us off right in front of the Hard Rock Cafe to meet up with Gil who took us on a tour of the city by car while the apartment was being cleaned. It was a perfect way to start the trip. Being able to get your bearings in a city right from the beginning was incredibly helpful. Gil pointed out each of the surrounding neighborhoods from a couple really high viewpoints from one of the seven hills the city is built on, and he gave us a few ideas for getting the most out of our next few days. The apartment was a tiny little thing, but perfect for what we needed. It’s right in the heart of the city, walkable to nearly everything you’d want to see, and close to Metro stations if it wasn’t. It didn’t feel touristy despite being right off a main shopping avenue. We were on a side street full of locals, markets, and cafés. It was quiet at night and glorious.
Portuguese nightlife isn’t a joke. Bars are open super late [or early depending on how you look at it], and you really don’t eat dinner or start your evening until closer to 10pm. To be fair, we stuck to the tourist route and ate around 8 or 9pm, mostly because I couldn’t wait that long. All that walking, a girl needs to eat! The Barrio Alto neighborhood has a ton of the late night spots, and the restaurant seating spills out into the walkways up the hill. You seriously climb stair after stair and continue on up the hill. I really want to know how many people fall as the night wears on. Walking on cobbles is a skill even in the best of times. One of the nights, we ate at an Italian restaurant because it’s hard to say no to pizza, even in Portugal. The best part of the night was the pan flutist who came around playing the hits. I can’t remember now what song it was, but it was equal parts hysterical and awesome.
One of the things we knew would happen on the trip was going to a Benfica football match. The stadium was easily accessible from the Metro, and you can’t get lost with all the fans walking around. As is the case with our previous euro football experience in Milan, getting the tickets was fun. We had to pick them up at will call which wasn’t technically at the stadium at all, and they don’t really tell you that online or on the confirmation email. Thanks to a woman at the actual ticket booth and a kind man who told us how to get there. We followed the man and his family/friends ONTO THE FREEWAY. It was bizarre and kind of awesome—groups of people walking in a makeshift line on the shoulder of the freeway, making their way around the stadium. If there was every any doubt that this was okay, there was a transit policeman standing in the grass under an overpass watching us do it. Crazy. I loved it. They don’t allow drinking in the stadium except for espresso and nonalcoholic beer so most people stay out in the parking lot until the last minute. The game itself was rather mellow since Benfica was already slated to win the league for the 33rd time no matter how they played that night, and they had the Europa league final coming up that was way more important. Regardless, it was fun. I like tucking another European football match under my belt. Gotta collect them all.
Lisbon was a great start to a great trip. From there, we took a short train ride to Porto where I would fall in love with Portugal all over again.
[Photos by Andrew, as usual]