“Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice and narrow-mindedness”
After many long months of planning, working and saving the day had finally arrived and we were off on our trip around the world! After a teary farewell with our parents we found ourselves in one of our favorite places in the world, the airport. After a seven hour red-eye flight we landed in the city of Lisbon, Portugal mid-morning. Blue skies and no snow meant that we were two happy campers!
After a visit to the tourist information desk in the Lisbon Portela Airport, we hopped on the AeroBus and headed to the city centre. We began our hike through the city, on the uneven, narrow streets, in search of our Airbnb apartment. This was our first Airbnb experience and it was nothing short of fantastic. Our host, Marco, was waiting at the apartment to greet us when we arrived. He spent 20 minutes telling us about the neighborhood, the apartment and answering any questions we had. He made sure we had his contact information and informed us that he was always available, day or night, if we needed anything at all. The apartment was beautiful and clean and the hospitality was better than we had experienced in any hostel or hotel. We were sold, at $40CAD per night, Airbnb would be the only way we would book accommodations for future trips.
On the little sleep we got on the plane ride the night previous, we mustered up all our energy to go exploring in the city that first afternoon. We were determined to beat the jet-leg, and this was one way that we were going to do it. Our first stop was the beautiful Jardim de San Pedro de Alcantara, just up the street from our apartment. Complete with statues, guitar playing buskers and a pop-up cafe, it was a beautiful place to start our exploration of Lisbon; not to mention, the location of the park at the top of a hill offered a stunning view of the entire city. We then ventured towards to water and found ourselves at Prace do Comercio square. Travelers could be found all around, sitting in the sun or strolling along the beach, giving the place a very relaxed atmosphere. Our next stop was at a corner shop to grab a few Sagres, Portugal’s local brew, to wet our whistles and enjoy on our way to visit two ornate churches: Igreja Santo Antonio de Lisboa and Se Cathedral de Lisboa. Both were stunning with their gothic architecture and intricate stained glass. We completed our first day at Artis Wine Bar, which came recommended by Marco, our Airbnb host.
The next day we took a trip to the town of Sintra, small in size but big in history and an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. With various tour operators and options available, we settled on buying the Pena Circuit ticket with Scott URB bus; which was only €5 per person and allowed us to stop at four, of the eight, different historical sites. Of the four, we only toured three, and we were there until the sundown. We were satisfied with what we had seen and learned at the end of our day in Sintra, but getting in all the sites would definitely require more than one day spent there. The two most incredible places that we toured were the Moorish Castle and the Pena Palace. With a span of eight centuries between the erection of the two structures, the architecture was nothing alike, but the royal extravagance was present in both.
In our last couple of days exploring Lisbon we visited a second Moorish castle, the Castelo de San Jorge and Igreja de Sao Domingos; equally stunning in their gargantuan. We also stopped by many lush green parks and stumbled upon Estufa Fria, which is a 1.5hectare greenhouse that was built 85 years ago; we spent an hour getting lost in the greenery and snapping numerous photos.
One of our favourite things about traveling is trying food that is traditional of the land. We enjoyed many traditional Portuguese dishes such as: cod fish, piri piri chicken, squid, roasted chestnuts and custard tarts. Besides food, there are two alcoholic beverages that are customary in Portugal: green wine and ginginhua, which is a cherry liquor. We sampled and enjoyed both and drank green wine most evenings.
The second half of our time in Portugal was spent in the southern province of the country, known as the Algarve. We stayed at the Auramar Beach Resort, in the small town of Albufeira, and although we were the youngest people at the resort by 40 years, we still really enjoyed our time there. We spent our four days there lounging by the pool or on the beach and hiking the cliffs at the waterfront, which at times can be dangerous, as one wrong step could mean falling through a hole to the beachfront below. All along the beach, the ocean washed up the most beautiful arrange of seashells each day and hours could be spent walking along admiring their beauty.
There were moments, in our first week, that I would pause and think about all our friends and family back home, feeling grateful for what I was experiencing and pitying them at work. But it didn’t take long before I remembered all of the days that I worked two jobs and didn’t get home until 9:00pm, or the many weekends that Jeff gave up time with friends and me to squeeze in side-jobs for extra cash. We worked very hard in order to accomplish this goal together and after a long while our hard work finally paid off…and we were loving every minute of it!