Oh, hi there! Happy 2020. I normally post a year-end recap on my blog, but 2019 just didn’t allow it.
In December, I took some vacation time to unwind and show my in-laws around the US for their first trip here ever. It was a lot of fun, and also really relaxing. It also meant I did not open my computer pretty much the entire time that I was off.
But, last week, I arrived home after a 10-day long trip to Lisbon. The first week was for a work meetup with some of my amazing colleagues. The last few days were just for me to explore and live a little bit in a city I’d never visited before.
All of which is to say, December and January have basically just been chock full of Portuguese without me stepping foot in Brazil.
The Airbnb(s) I stayed in were both in the Bairro Alto, near the historic No. 28 tram line, which actually proved to be extremely convenient. It also wasn’t super hilly, which was helpful because, wow, the cobblestone/calçada is extremely slippery. At times it was a little bit like ice skating on pavement.
In the first few days, we hit up the Time Out Market, walked along the promenade on the river (and got some great views of the Ponte 25 de Abril, ate at a lovely Mozambican restaurant for Pam’s birthday, and went up an off-brand Santa Justa elevator for some great views of the city. We also ate a lot of pastel de nata, a small, heavenly custard tart, and I tried numerous forms of bacalhau to no avail – I hate the stuff.
Day-trip to Sintra
After a few days of working (and eating) in Lisbon, Deborah brought up the idea of taking a day-trip to Sintra. It’s about 45 minutes by train, was a reasonable cost, and, fun fact, there’s a co-working space in the town center of Sintra, so it would be possible for all of us to make our afternoon meetings.
The night before, my mother had decided she was going to come join me in Lisbon for the few days I’d booked after our meetup. It’s a city she’d always wanted to go to and the flight is relatively short from the East Coast (about 6 hours direct from Newark).
So, with a very kind invitation from my colleagues, the five of us and my mom all got on the train to Sintra from Rossio Station early in the morning on Monday. We had some snacks for the ride and watch the towns whiz past the windows as we made our way towards the coast.
Once we arrived in Sintra, a tour guide approached us and explained that they would be able to provide us with a personalized tour in their van around the city. It would be more cost effective and time efficient than using public transportation, which sounded great to us since we were probably the only tourists with a schedule to stick to.
With the full day tour, we visited Pena Palace, had a lunch at a local restaurant, and then drove out to Cabo da Rocha, the westernmost point of Europe.
Last few days
My last few days in Lisbon were spent in an Airbnb just around the corner from where we stayed before – which is to say, I now consider myself a resident of Bairro Alto. There were a few tourist places that I hadn’t had a chance to see yet, so my mom and I walked around towards the Torre de Bélem, the Padrão dos Descrobrimentos, and the beautiful church next to the Jerónimos Monastery.
One of the coolest places we visited was the LX Factory, which is an old fabric factory converted into a bunch of different stores and restaurants. (I got a lot of souvenirs for the trip home here.)
Now that I’m home, I miss Lisbon’s charm. I definitely miss the pastries, but also it’s quietness and creativeness. It felt like most old, European cities – but also it was more colorful, more vibrant, more connected. Perhaps it’s because I visited Portugal only after spending a few years in Brazil, but this tiny little country on the edge of Europe seems more connected to, well, everywhere else than I expected. But in a sneaky way. Sneaky in the same way that it got under my skin and grew on me over those two weeks.