Hello! If I don’t hurry up and write about my trips soon, I’ll forget all the details, so here goes. If you’d like to follow along with my photos, check out my Facebook album here.
Oh, first, a quick recap on the days leading up to my trip. I finished school and had final exams, which were really stressful mostly because one professor told us not to start studying until the day before (she wouldn’t tell us anything about the test until then because she didn’t want us to study) and then told us we had to memorize a ton of information (she actually went on a rant about how much she hates when professor just make their students memorize stuff and then proceeded to tell us that’s what we had to do for the final), but I’m finished with them, they weren’t awful, and now I don’t have to deal with ILP classes anymore, which, to be honest, weren’t great. I’m much more looking forward to regular university classes.
When I last wrote, I was waiting in my hostel for my friends, who had missed their flight, to show up. They finally did that evening, having already met up with Justus, a guy we had met in the Madrid metro who’s originally from Brazil but now lives in Lisbon. He took us to his apartment, where we had dinner with him and a bunch of his Portuguese/Brazilian friends. Three of the four of us didn’t speak Portuguese, so it was hard to have much of a conversation with them, but the food was amazing (best food I’d had in a month, although our dining hall wasn’t much competition), and they were all extremely friendly. It was so generous of them to invite us over and cook a feast for us. You don’t get that much in the U.S. It was also really awesome to be in Portugal, experiencing actual Portuguese lifestyle rather than just hitting up tourist destinations. I know going over to a stranger’s house in a foreign country sounds really sketchy, but there were four of us and he had a bunch of friends over. Plus, he was in Madrid as part of a Habitat for Humanity-like program through his church, so he was obviously a pretty nice guy.
After dinner, we dropped Michelle and Robin off at the hostel to shower, and Jessica (Chiu, not Jessica Leng that most of you know) and I went with Justus to play volleyball with a bunch of his friends. It was very cool meeting them too (and, by meeting, I mean attempting to exchange a few words despite my not knowing Portuguese and most of them not knowing English). Then Justus took us and some of his friends who were in town for the weekend up to the top of a mountain where we got a gorgeous view of all of Lisbon.
The next morning, we met up again with Justus and his out-of-town friends to go to Sintra, a town near Lisbon that’s known for its castles. We went to an estate called La Quinta da Regaleira, where we spent a few hours exploring the palace buildings, caves, towers, gardens, etc. It was gorgeous, and we kept commenting on how it was like a playground for adults because of all of the neat stuff we could explore. From there, we went up a mountain and got a beautiful view of Sintra and ran around a forest for a bit. Then we went back to the main town of Sintra, which is a very touristy place that looks like a typical small European town in the hills. After that, we had lunch at a mall food court (the restaurant was much nicer than your typical food court fast food place), where we ate pizza and picanha, Brazilian beef. We did some grocery shopping and then went back to Justus’s place in Lisbon for dinner. Again, so much generosity, seriously. He helped us plan where to go while we were there, and then we headed back to the hostel and the girls working there helped us plan some more, because everyone in Portugal seems super friendly.
Monday, we began our trip to northern Portugal. We spent the morning and early afternoon driving and eventually landed in Braga, a small town with cute shops and lots of medieval and gothic churches. We wandered around the main town of Braga for a while and then drove up a mountain to a sanctuary called Bom Jesus (our new phrase to express awesomeness is, “That is so bomb Jesus!”), which was stunning. Definitely my favorite part of the trip. It looked like something out of a fairytale with the gazebos and cobblestone paths and caves and ponds, and the fact that we were there at sunset made it even more amazing. The photos really do not do it justice. If you’re ever in Portugal, the one place I recommend is Bom Jesus, especially at sunset.
We then drove to Porto, where we stayed the night. My friends went to a bar for dinner, but I wasn’t hungry and was feeling pretty exhausted (it was late by the time they were all ready to go out), so I stayed in and slept. The next day, however, I got to see Porto. We started by walking along the river, which was super pretty and reminded me of Amsterdam or something (not that I’ve ever been there, but I can imagine Amsterdam looking like that). One of the big things I learned in Portugal is that I miss being near bodies of water. Madrid is way too landlocked. Anyway, we walked along the river and took pictures and then saw some of the city center and had lunch before going back to the river and taking a tour of the Sandeman Port Wine factory (er, I guess it’s a cellar more than a factory? I don’t know all this wine terminology).
From there, we drove to our next destination, Aveiro. Aveiro is a very small town with a canal running through it. There’s not much to do there, but it was really cute. My favorite part of Aveiro was the hostel. A young couple opened it just two months ago, and it’s beautifully decorated, and the couple was super friendly. There was only one other guest there that night, so we ended up talking to the owners a lot. Because the town was kind of dead, we spent the night in the hostel hanging out with them. Jessica had lots of girltalk (in Portuguese) with the girl, the guy helped us out with dinner (haha, it turned out the “angel hair pasta” we were trying to cook was actually some kind of desert noodle, so he gave us some spaghetti), the girl showed us Facebook photos of all her friends, and then the next day, she took us shopping and then to the beach. Like I said, Portuguese people are super friendly. And if you’re ever in Aveiro, Portugal for whatever reason, definitely stay in the Aveiro Rossio Hostel. Seriously the best hostel ever with the nicest people ever. Being at the beach was great since, again, Madrid is landlocked, and it was definitely a great way to end my trip.
From there, we drove back to Lisbon, my friends dropped me off at the airport (they stayed the whole week, but I already had my Ireland plans in place), and I flew back to Madrid. It was definitely a fantastic trip with great people, gorgeous sites, and lots of fun. And be sure to check out my photos, even though they don’t quite do Portugal justice.
Up next, Ireland!