Just got home from Portugal! It’s weird how I can say that so nonchalantly seeing as I was in a completely different country and it only took 50 minutes to get there. Anyways, a group of 8 of us went to Lisbon for the weekend. I got there bright and early on Friday and we left Sunday morning. Although it was a quick trip, it was definitely enough time to see what we needed to see.
I got there at seven in the morning (Travel Tip: Do NOT book flights that leave at before seven in the morning). Although I am glad that I got to spend the day exploring the city, the whole leave the house at 3:45am to take a taxi to the airport because the metro isn’t running is not ideal. In return, I ran the whole day on an hour of sleep but thankfully, the excitement of being in a new place kept me going!
So the night before I did lots of Lisbon research to decide how I wanted to spend my day since the rest of the group was not arriving until four in the afternoon. When I first got there, I grabbed a map and set foot for the bus that would take me into the heart of the city. I decided to go as far south as possible and work my way up. I first saw the Se Cathedral.
Then while wondering I ran into Castelo de Sao Tome. I knew that this was something I needed to see so waited for it to open and then waltzed around the castle for about an hour. It was so neat and had the best view of the city from the top.
After, I proceeded to get lost on some side streets but knew I just needed to keep walking north. It was pretty hot so an escape to a museum sounded nice. I went to Gulbekian Museum which was a private art collection. Turns out it was free that day which was a pleasant surprise and I walked around looking at all the different art. It was a pretty standard museum but it also had a garden outside that was really pretty.
After, I was hungry so sat down at a café and tried to prolong my break as long as possible but that can be hard to do while traveling alone. By this point, I was exhausted and so decided to just go to the airport and wait there for my travel companions. I ended up waiting a couple hours and it was nice just to relax but I was definitely anxious for them to get there! Once they did, we made our way to our hostel. It was definitely so much nicer than I imagined hostels to be. She greeted us with Toblerone, they had breakfast everyday, a lounge with a big screen, movies and videogames, free Internet and the beds were rather comfy! We also had a 10-person room and since there were 8 of us, we all stayed together and it was like a giant sleepover. We all took time to refresh ourselves and get ready for dinner. We went to a place recommended by the hostel with Portuguese food that was AMAZING. I had read that Portuguese bread is really good, and it really was. I got a fish and rice dish that was so flavorful and spicy, I could have ate it all day!
After, we went to a hotspot in the city center with a bunch of different bars and places to pop into. We were all pretty tired so called it an early night so we could have a productive day in the morning.
We started Saturday in Belem, a little neighborhood outside of the city center that you can take a tram to. There is a famous pastry shop there called Pasteis de Belem that specializes in just that. It was a warm vanilla custard tart that you add cinnamon and sugar to and eat! I wish I could have brought some home.
After, we walked the boardwalk and saw the famous Tower of Belem and some other cool sights. Then, we took the tram back to the city, had a delicious lunch, and the girls wanted to also go to the castle I ventured through the day before. So while they did that, I explored the flea market that they have every Saturday. Getting there was an experience. While the man at the hostel said that it was right around the castle, as I started walking there I realized that was not the case. I kept asking people for directions (thankfully, most people speak English there) but kept feeling like I was going in the wrong direction. While getting directions from the owner of a shop, an old man (probably around 70) walks out waving his arms to follow him. I then proceed to walk him for about ten minutes. All the while, he keeps trying to talk to me in Portuguese (which I clearly don’t understand), while also throwing in some Spanish words so that I could maybe understand him. I was definitely relieved when we arrived at the market because the more we walked, the more worried I was that he did not understand where I wanted to go. There were so many people there selling all sorts of knick knacks, I didn’t have any cash on me or else I could probably have spent a little of money. Then we all reunited for some ice cream before we returned to the hostel to refresh ourselves for the rest of the evening.
We had, yet again, another wonderful meal at a restaurant situated on a steep walkway towards the same area we went to the night before. I had the chef’s special of the day which was an almost scramble of fish, potato, egg, and some other stuff. After, we walked around a little bit and ended up at a karaoke bar which provided solid entertainment for a little bit! Eventually, our walking all day caught up to us and we were not able to stay out for much longer.
Today, our flight was delayed three hours and we were so excited to hear we got a free lunch in exchange. Thinking that it was going to be really good (because we ran into a friend who got placed in a 5 star hotel the night before and a 60 euro breakfast from the same company for his cancelled flight) we were not that upset. However, the lunch was not good and we were all very antsy to get back to Madrid by the end of the day.
This was also my first experience with Portuguese which is a very interesting language to listen to. I read that it is the 6th most spoken language in the world which is fascinating to me. Although I could read most signs since it is very similar to Spanish, it still sounds nothing alike. We were all so relieved to get back to Madrid and hear Spanish again. But like I said before, thankfully, Lisbon is rather touristy and caters to all languages so it really was not too hard to get by!
So that was my weekend, definitely jam-packed but I am so happy that we made this trip. On the agenda for this week is the start of actual classes, then I head to Palma de Mallorca on Friday for the weekend.
I am rather sad about Madrid not getting the Olympic bid. They were so ready and it breaks my heart thinking about all the hope that they had but I presume Rio de Janeiro will be fine as well… Madrid 2020?