Danielle and I wanted to travel this year with our daughter Jenna, to Africa via Portugal, Morocco and finally, Tanzania. We’ve sponsored a young girl and her daughter there that Jenna had met years ago on one of her African adventures, and this year we thought would be the year to do that.
We headed off on a sunny Saturday morning. Danielle had worked tirelessly finding the cheapest, most efficient flights getting us to Lisbon, Portugal, in a mere 23 hours. Needless to say, we were tired, hungry (have you noticed Westjet’s in flight meals? $18 for Mac’n’Cheese?? C’mon!) and yet still excited, looking forward to our adventure.
Thank goodness for Google Maps is all I have to say. We found our Airbnb, run by our wonderful hosts Joao and Carla, and proceeded to shop for wine and dinner – burgers in the park. Seriously. Ten o’clock on a Sunday night and in the local park we were led to a kiosk that served burgers (gourmet), beer and wine. After a 23 hour flight, we were in heaven.
In Lisbon for the next 3 days, we walked… and walked. A beautiful city, we explored ancient buildings, public parks, tapas restaurants, waterfront walkways, and Sintra.
Sintra was a special jewel for us. We talked about renting a car for the day, (which is about $35 for the day – everything included) but after seeing how the drivers work their wonders on the small, narrow, ancient streets, cured us of that. So the train it was. The hour long trip on a subway style train went without a hitch, and we arrived to this Atlantic coast, historically laden town. What a breath of fresh air after the hustle and bustle of old city Lisbon!
Once again, we started walking. First thing coffee. There were two sites we wanted to see. Quinta da Regaleira, a romantic castle declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and the National Pena Palace, the home of the King for the past 500 years. It had been recommended for us to take the tour van, or at least the bus up to the castle and Palace (which are approximately 1200 meters up), but in our efforts to find the perfect cup of coffee, (which I have to tell you, coffee in Portugal, always espresso, is perfect! It costs about $1.50 Cdn., and is rich, creamy, strong and tiny) we ended up climbing halfway up the mountain. What’s the point of getting a bus now?? We thought. Well…. we ended up climbing up the mountain to both sites – something we would not recommend.
Both the Castle and The Palace were everything we had read and heard about. I could go on and on about them, but honestly, if you’re interested, ask Google. After the seemingly endless climb to the sites, walking and climbing through the castles, we were thankfully able to catch the bus down to the train station. We made it back to Lisbon and then navigate through the city on foot back to our Airbnb.
All in all, Lisbon was a fantastic visit. We only spent 4 days there and I could see spending a lot more time there. Aside from the huge crowds of tourists down in the old city, I could see becoming an expat there. It’s not always cheap, but it’s relaxed, very European and boasts a classically, romantic lifestyle. I can’t wait to go back and explore the rest of Portugal. Onward to Morocco….