Hi there! So, we’re a little behind on our blogging, but we’ve been pretty busy the last few months. Since the start of May, we’ve had 14 visitors (thanks to everyone who came to see us!) and squeezed in seven trips. Now, with less than a week until our next (and last!) trip (three days on a beach outside of Barcelona with friends), and less than two weeks until we head back to the U.S., I’m working on going through some photos and reliving all of the excitement.
We spent the end of June and the beginning of July working our way from Lisbon to Madrid. Portugal has been high on my list of places to visit because I have Portuguese heritage. Last weekend a friend of ours looked at me like I was crazy when I told him this. “But I thought you were Norwegian,” he said. He’s obviously not American.
My family hails from the Azores, but with limited time to fit this trip in, we skipped the islands and headed straight for Lisbon. This trip also happened to coincide with my birthday, which was spent watching Portugal win their EuroCup game in the city’s main plaza while eating delicious pork sandwiches and drinking cheap Portuguese beer followed by some swigs of Ginjinha. I’m hooked.
A few things I loved about Lisbon:
The food. Tinned fish is a big deal here, and it’s not your canned tuna in water. The Portuguese do it right by not wasting time between making the catch and getting it in the can. We found a tapas place that serves exclusively canned fish and indulged.
Also, grilled sardines. We ate so many of them, and it was glorious. Portugal is also all about the bacalhau (salt cod). It’s said they have 365 ways to serve this fish — one for every day of the year. Washing it all down with some 2-euro pints (they typically run between 8 and 12 in Paris) made Erin and Andy happy campers.
Finally, we got our hands on the classic pastel de nata whenever we could. They’re smallish custard tarts that don’t look like much, but they weigh about 10 pounds a piece and could basically sub as a meal. Of course, we never opted for that.
The size and walkability. Lisbon is pretty manageable as big cities go. It’s home to around 500,000 people, so we never felt overwhelmed. There is some public transportation — a metro and some trams — but we rarely used it. Instead we spent most of our time wandering on foot, taking in the beautiful tile-covered buildings and embracing that cool sea breeze. We were also lucky to have a tour guide for one morning. Andy’s sister, Stacey, put us in touch with her friend Rita who lives near Lisbon. She graciously drove to the city to meet us, explain some history and give us a quick tour.
The colors. It is hard to dispute the beauty of Paris. However, thanks to the Haussmann movement, the city is extremely homogenous when it comes to architectural style. When all the buildings look the same, and they’re all grey and a gloomy blue (and you’ve lived through what might be the worst spring/early summer Paris has ever had weather-wise), you start to long for a little color. Lisbon, on the other hand, is bursting with color. The main square is bright yellow for christ’s sake. And all the buildings are covered in gorgeous tiles.
The people. Like most places we’ve visited, the people in Lisbon were friendly and welcoming. The guy who owned the pork sandwich shop let us buy a few even though he had already technically closed for the day; we spent an hour or two chatting with a woman who owns a wine bar after Portugal’s win over Poland; and finally, Rita was the ultimate host, helping us make sure we saw the best of Lisbon.
We had a blast in Lisbon and were bummed we only had two days. Next time I think we’ll linger a little longer, especially since it’s such an affordable destination. For anyone interested in where we stayed and ate, here’s a quick rundown of what I remember:
We stayed at the B.Mar Hostel & Suites, our first hostel experience of the year. We opted for a private room with an ensuite bathroom. It was great. The tinned fish tapas place we loved is Sol e Pesca, and the outstanding pork sandwiches came from Nova Pombalino.
From Lisbon we caught a bus south to Lagos, on the Algarve coast. Stay tuned for photos of some of the most stunning coastline and beaches I’ve ever seen.