The past week was a complete whirlwind. We packed the 7 days full with a new city nearly everyday. When the time allotted is so minuscule, and vacation time is few and far between, the only way to satiate that wanderlust is to go, go, go! We rented a car for this adventure, which was a first for us, as we have never driven ourselves in a foreign country. And thankfully it went smoothly, with only a few bumps in the road (we may have gotten lost one or two times)! Our route began in Lisbon, followed by Lagos, Sintra, Fatima, Porto, Coimbra and finally Evora. Fortunately, Portugal is quite small and easily navigable. The farthest we drove in a day was to Lagos, a mere 3 hour drive. For a Texan and Montanan, where driving long distances is inevitable, we were pleased.
Our first day in Lisbon, we began by strolling down to the main historic center along the water’s edge. Rain intermittently drizzled, with the occasional glimpse of the sun parting through an abundance of grey clouds. Between the showers, hilly cobblestone streets, and having absolutely no idea where we were going, frustration quickly arose leading to a last minute decision to hop on a tuk tuk tour. Our college aged driver whisked us through the backstreets, quickly depositing us at sights we were so very anxious to see. His stutter in Portuguese, combined with his feeble attempt at English, was a mix of adorable and nettlesome, but he did graciously drive us to a panoramic point with some of the best views in the city. We toured Sé Catedral, admiring its pastel pink and blue walls. And then wove our way along narrow streets up to St. George Castle.
Afterwards, we were itching to meander through the tapering paths in the Alfama neighborhood, notable for its red tiled roofs that cascade down the hillside to the ocean. I find myself drawn to the classic royal blue and white tile walls throughout Portugal that hide the daily living of these beautiful people behind cracked and peeling paint and shuttered windows strung with clotheslines. It is quite calming to saunter along the back streets with the smell of lavender laundry soap and kitchen aromas permeating the air, along with the tinks and taps of pots and pans and idle chatter that escape through the open windows.
Once the sun beckoned forth that afternoon, we joined a hop on-hop off bus tour to visit Jeronimos Monastery, Belém Tower, Santa Justa Lift, the Monument to the Discoveries, and many other impressive sights.
That night, we trekked up the seemingly endless hills leading to Barrio Alto for dinner amidst the classic Fado music scene, the traditional Portuguese mournful genre that dates back to the 1820’s. We concluded our brief time in Lisbon with yet another pasteleria stop for good measure.