To let you all in on a little secret, when I originally began planning for my study abroad trip, I thought I was going to be able to visit alllll of the countries in Europe, because I could never run out of time or money, right? Well, as the planning got slightly more advanced I realized that this really wasn’t going to happen and I had to narrow down my priorities and what would be easiest. Being right next to Spain, Portugal was always on the list, but at one point while here I though it might have to get cut off, simply because I didn’t have enough weekends. One day, we were sitting in our favorite churros restaurant and I was lamenting over this fact and how hard it was to be me. To my everlasting gratitude, my dear friend Saskia suggested something that had not yet crossed my mind by asking, “if you really want to see something, can’t you skip class to make it happen?”. Why yes, I thought…I can!
So, I decided to extend my Semana Santa/spring break by heading to three of the destinations that were hard for a weekend trip but fit nicely into a week long break: Lisbon, Salamanca, and Santiago. Now, I will say that traveling in Europe as a student (read: cheap and slightly disorganized) is always an adventure, going to a place where you don’t speak the language is always an adventure, and doing so by yourself is always an adventure. Ibso facto, I was in for an adventure!!!
[Sidebar, one of my favorite quotes is: “Attitude makes the difference between an ordeal and an adventure – “ ]
And boy did the adventure start right away!! As I got to my gate at the Sevilla airport and realized that were actually going to be getting on a bus that would take us to the plane. No problem, I’m quite experienced at this exercise thanks to the Charleston airport. I did find it odd, however, that there were only about 12 people on the bus. In fact, I thought, “is this all that’s on the flight? I’m glad they didn’t cancel…” And then we pulled up next to this:
Please see above quote and here goes an adventure! I’m not going to lie to you, I was a bit nervous. I had never flown in a plane this small, and had definitely never imagined doing so internationally. Our group of twelve consisted of some Brazilians, a couple from Asia, one or two Spanish folk, and a handful of Americans but we all had the same expressions on our faces and nervous laughter going as the pilot climbed into the cockpit right in front of us (he also closed the plane door). I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bond with twelve strangers with whom I never actually exchanged words. But, after takeoff I have to say: HOW COOL. I felt like I was living a movie, watching (and hearing, and feeling) the propellers right next to me, flying into a sunset above the clouds. Not to mention the fact that Portugal has to belong to the top ten aerial views around.
I could see the cliffs, the beaches, the hills, the green expanses of land, the estuaries and peninsulas, and felt my excitement growing every minute. I saw the Lisbon’s twin of the Golden Gate bridge, the burnt-orange roofs, and the famous seven hills and it was all impossible to capture on film…sorry.
I LOVED Lisbon. I LOVED Lisbon. Let me repeat, I LOVED Lisbon. When anyone asks about my favorite cities in Europe/what not miss I will always recommend Paris because I think it is a place that everyone should see. My very next suggestion: Lisbon.
Let me start with something easy: I think that Portuguese is the most beautiful language in the world. I had expected to be able to sort of communicate, because of the roots that Spanish and Portuguese share. Upon the first few interactions I had, I reared back in fright because I realized just how mistaken I was. Now, after my initial shock, I was able to pick up on a few more of the similarities and could get the jist of what was being said. Through a series of events, I learned that Portuguese in Portugal (as compared to Brazil) is much more difficult to understand, even for Brazilians. I would compare it to the difference between American English and Irish or Scottish English. However, it is more beautiful and probably my favorite language. The best way I can describe it is a combination of Italian, French, and Spanish…and the best parts of these languages. Roots of Spanish, sounds of French, and the melody of Italian. *swoon*
Next, the seafood is INCREDIBLE. Granted, I like to treat myself while traveling so I go to some nice restaurants, but there was never a restaurant that didn’t have an impressive offering of fresh cod, prawns, and other freshly-dead seafood prepared in a myriad of ways. In fact, one of the restaurants I ate in had a fresh seafood bar (like you would see in a grocery store) where you actually just pointed to what you wanted. I got some fresh clams paired with a salmon, asparagus, crispy tomatoes, and kingcrab salad. Top ten meals of my life, and the previous dinner is probably also included in that very prestigious list. Here are my shamelessly instagramed foodie pictures:
The very famous, and very delicious Pasteis de Nata, the national pastry of Portugal. BUT, only in their original neighborhood, Belém they are called “Pasteis de Belém.
Cod, cod everywhere!! Here, au gratin…sinfully delicious.
See your food, pick your food, eat your food
The clams and salad I had
And, Lisbon itself is one of the more wonderful cities I’ve seen. To borrow the perfect adjective from my good friend Rick Steves, (he’s actually the author of my travel guide books – aka my Holy Bible), Lisbon is best described as “salty.” Not in the new colloquial form meaning bitter, no no no….salty. As in the place where the golden age of discovery began, where the national image is their beloved caravel (ships), old-fashioned port wine flows freely, seafood abounds, and the paint on houses is worn from sun, wind, and salt. Salty.
Obviously, I was a goner. I hope every sailor, every person who has ever fallen in love with the ocean, every person who has ever dreamt of pirates, or felt the slightest lure for adventure to visit this city. Its monuments are impressive yet its people humble, and you can eat, drink, and explore your way through a glorious past.
I happened to take a lot of pictures, so I figured I should just let you see some of those for yourself.
St. Jeronimo’s Monastery – inside
Monastery from the park across the street
View for lunch….not too shabby
Monument to the Discoveries
Torre de Belém (watch tower/customs stop/welcome home beacon of Lisbon)
World’s best Maritime Museum:
(I’m sure) – like a kid in a candy store!!
I bought a replica of this beautiful map
Vasco de Gama figurehead
Coach Museum: filled with old carriages from Popes and Royalty alike
Entrance to the major shopping/eating/people watching (clearly ^) areas
Just some of Lisbon’s charm…
And an afternoon of climbing hills and vistas:
Peacocks wander around the old castle….oh Lisbon.
Oldest continuously running book store in the world
Pretty good view for a sunset
I was very sad to be leaving, but I got to enjoy a beautiful drive through the country….