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Travel Musings on Portugal

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Lisbon is a HUGE metropolis and there is no way I could have even made a dent in exploring it over the 5 days I spent there. That would be like trying to see everything NYC has to offer in a few days. I am planning another trip soon to visit the beach, check out the arts scene, hear some live music and to do the African cultural heritage tour. However, I am grateful for the opportunity to visit this time. 


As you may have heard, there has been an influx of people from all over the world to this small European country. I went to see what all the expat hype was about. Based on the few people I talked to and what I experienced, the cost of living is much cheaper than in the US and I imagine Europe, especially outside of Lisbon. My average ride in a Bolt, which is an Uber equivalent, was 5€ ($5.36). A decent dinner and drinks was typically 20€ ($21.50). Brunch typically cost around $12 and water is $1.07/liter. Overall, I spent about $40/day.*



There’s not a direct flight out of Atlanta so I departed on #Delta in the evening with a layover in Amsterdam. I like evening intercontinental flights because I can sleep and I somehow think my body has a better chance of adjusting to the time difference.


For reasons unknown, the departing flight was a little delayed but I had a three hour window for my connection in Amsterdam, so I was good. As I am writing this, I can’t even remember why we were delayed but as is often the case, the pilots made up some of the time in the air. 


Once I landed in Amsterdam, I had a couple of hours so I got a cup of mint tea, went to my gate and relaxed. As I walked through the airport, I noticed there were many Heineken bars and they were filled with people drinking beer early in the morning (it was about 9 am). I checked my American attitude about drinking in the morning and went to the gate. 


I boarded and got settled in my seat for the 2 ½ hour flight on #KLM. A young man sat next to me and we started chopping it up (you know I never meet a stranger). He also lived in Atlanta and was traveling with a group to Lisbon for a few days and then on to Barcelona. Ironically, he was born in NYC. We all know there are no coincidences, and we talked about travel (he enjoyed traveling the world), I offered some recommendations for Barcelona, and then we laughed about the next course of events. ..wait for it...


The plane backed away from the gate but then stopped on the tarmac. The pilot makes an announcement that due to a passenger who wants to deplane, we have to go back to the gate and let them off. This also means that the passenger’s checked luggage has to be located in the cargo hold and taken off the plane. My thought at first was the passenger was ill, so I said a prayer. However, when they didn’t make an announcement asking for a doctor and when security came on the plane, I realized that something else was up.


Welp, one passenger turned into two who had to deplane, and security had to come remove them both because guess what?!! (wait for it)…they were both drunk! What, what?!?! And WTF?!?!!!  Y’all have people missing connecting flights and hours of long awaited vacays because you want to turn up in an airport beer garden?!?!! Where yo mama at? I need to talk with yo people! 


So, we land three hours later…and by this time, if you include the 2 hours that I arrived at the airport before my flight, I had been traveling 24 hours. 


I had already downloaded the Bolt app (it’s like Uber) before I left the US. I went through customs, collected my one small suitcase from baggage claim and then found my way to the airport exit. I called a Bolt but the first two cancelled and then my wifi wouldn’t work. I went back in the airport to tap into their wifi and called another car. 


Drop off and pick up are in the same area so my driver dropped off one passenger and then picked me up. He spoke decent English and we conversed a little. There was a bit of traffic due to an overturned car on the other side of the highway. He exited shortly after the rubber necker jam and then began to drive through an area that appeared to have immigrant families as I saw many Indians, Africans which were most likely Cape Verdeans. Some of the buildings in the area were dilapidated and although there were lots of people of color, it looked nothing like the photos from the Airbnb. I showed him the address from the AirBnB app and he discovered the error was because I didn’t include the zip code in my destination in the Bolt app, which is a key piece of information in Portugal. My Airbnb was actually on the other side of Lisbon! Lesson number 1. Never made that mistake again. I also learned to follow along on Apple Maps (or Google maps) to make sure we are going the correct way.


So, what was supposed to be a 15 minute ride for about 15€ turned into a 45 minute ride for about 28€. However, I did get to inadvertently tour the CaisCais area.  I eventually met my host at the Airbnb, which was beautifully decorated, had a patio, a nicely designed bathroom. AND as God would have it, there was a gorgeous garden on the bottom floor. Won’t HE DO IT?!?!!!! My host had also purchased fresh fruit for me…how thoughtful!


I took a hot shower, changed into some pjs and decided to take a short nap. Well, it was supposed to be a short nap. My initial plan was to get a little rest, then get up, eat and walk around my neighborhood, which was bustling. Ha! The jetlag was real, and I ended up in a deeeeep slumber until the next morning. I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed and RAVENOUS!!! 


It was a beautiful day and I took a very long and circuitous route (I got lost) to have brunch at Fauna and Flora. In addition to local recommendations for food, I often find great restaurants or activities by typing “great (insert meal) near me” or “great jazz near me” in Google and making my choices based on the reviews. I’ll also dip into what appears to be a hole in the wall but is filled to the brim with locals and some of those have been my best meals while traveling!

Although Portuguese food consists of a lot of meat, especially pork, I ate lots of fresh vegetables and delicious salads. Since it is surrounded by water, the seafood was fresh off the boat and delicious! I had fresh sea bass twice that was very reasonably priced. I typically drank red sangria with my meals and it tasted better in Portugal than in Barcelona, in my opinion. I think it is because the Portuguese add cinnamon and star of anisé to the sangria. Honest Greens is also an amazing place to get a salad and they are all over the city. I also had a great brunch at Dear Breakfast and enjoyed stopping at Copenhagen Coffee for a cup of fresh brewed herbal tea. There are also great pastelerías and helado shops. Be sure to try the pastel do nata (custard tart). You can also enjoy African cuisine(mostly Mozambican and Cape Verdean) in Lisbon.


One of the days there, I spent a few hours with a young Brazilian man during a walking photo shoot that I booked on AirBnB. Andrei is from Brazil and was fun to walk and talk with. He has been living in Portugal for 4 years and was knowledgeable about the history. We walked through many areas, including Alfama, which is the Islamic area where the Moors lived centuries ago. You can still see the Moorish influence in the architecture and the tile work.


We also walked around Praca do Principe and other historical places in the Bairro Alto and Chiado areas with breathtaking views of the city. Since Portugal has so many hills, you can walk up steep inclines and see the red terracotta roof tiles on rows of homes with colorful walls. Being from NYC, I have a great appreciation for architecture and Portugal did not disappoint.


On average, I walked about 6 miles a day during this trip! That was great because my carb intake was way more than usual. Initially the hills were a little intimidating, but I was not in a rush, so I took my time and stopped to catch my breath or take a break if I needed to. By day three, I noticed that the need for breaks were fewer in number.


I wandered around Time Out Market and had great sangria and bolhinas do bachalau (codfish cakes). This market has any and everything Portuguese that you want to eat. I also found a few tile shops that sold antique tiles. I love ceramic work and really wanted to buy one, but wasn’t sure of the authenticity so I decided I’d consider it on another trip and after doing some research.


There is also a large Thai population and I was told that Boa Boa is also good and offers great vegetarian options. Pizza is very popular here and it’s not bad. I shared a delicious margherita pie with two Brazilian women and a Portuguese woman that I met at ZeroZero.


I collect scarves and unique magnets from wherever I travel. I purchased a beautiful scarf from a street vendor and a ceramic magnet from a boutique in Coimbra. I also bought some small ceramic dishes for knick knacks made by artists vending in one of the plazas down by the river.


I enjoyed people watching while having a glass of sangria and lunch at Azul Marquesaria in the Praca. It’s a great place to sit outside on a beautiful day.

 

A wonderful and affordable way to see all of the popular sights and hear about the history of the city is to take a ride on the yellow hop on/hop off bus. I bought a 24 hour ticket and it was well worth it. 


Lisbon is in the southern part of the country so the weather was slightly warmer than in Porto or Coimbra. During the day it was bright and sunny but as soon as the sun went down, it was time to put on a sweater or a shawl (or both).


I packed a small suitcase and I had more than enough clothes. I’ll do a another blog on my packing process using compression bags. I amazed myself in packing for this trip and stepped my packing game up. I didn’t even wear two outfits and took three pair of shoes (due to the walking and the cobblestone, there was no need for heels). I even had room for two more pair of pants, a bottle of wine and a top that I bought. I love the Zara stores in Europe and the one in Lisbon didn’t disappoint! 


Although it’s really easy to get around by bus, train or even funicular (cable car), I walked most of the time. The weather was beautiful and I covered about 30 miles during my 5 days in Lisboa! Transportation, food and drinks were very reasonable. Purchasing months in advance or using frequent flier miles can be a great way to find an affordable ticket. There are plenty of sights to see and things to do in this bustling European city. I definitely recommend visiting!!!

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