Thursday, March 29, 2012

Portugal--Lisbon and Porto

Hey y'all!  So, today I am writing about beautiful Portugal.  Portugal, in my opinion, doesn't get nearly enough hype as it deserves.  In the Lonely Planet Europe book they just skip over Portugal entirely. How rude!  Now, I am kind of posting out of order because I went to Lisbon in December and Porto last month.  But I will lump them together so you can see pictures from the country's two biggest cities.  In general, there are several things I will say about visiting Portugal:


You cannot go to Portugal (or anywhere in Europe, really) without hearing this GOOFY song.  It is strangely addicting and has spread like wildfire.  I don't even speak Portuguese but I know all the lyrics to this song because it plays SO MUCH EVERYWHERE!  One of the highlights of my amateur karaoke career was singing this song in a room filled with Brazilians and Portuguese people who treat this song like their national anthem.  Nossa, nossa!


This traditional Portuguese pastry is called Pastel de Nata and I have eaten entirely too many of them.  They are egg tart pastries (tastes a lot better than it sounds) and once you pop you just can't stop.  Some awesome monk invented the recipe--thank the Lord!  You can find them in any bakery around the country but the original cafe that started making them for the public is the Casa Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon.  I was in Lisbon with my girlfriends and once we heard "famous pastry" we hopped on the tram REAL fast to get there.  Here is a photo montage! Delicia, delicia!

licking my fingers on the end...guilty as charged


Portugal gets the award for cutest touristy souvenir.  Love these little painted roosters!  Legend goes that a wealthy landowner realized some of his silver was missing.  He blamed it on a Galician pilgrim passing through on his way to Santiago de Compostela.  (Can't trust those dang Spaniards!) The night the pilgrim was to be hanged, the landowner was eating roasted rooster for dinner.  The pilgrim said he was innocent and that the rooster (roasted, mind you) would crow to prove his innocence.  Sure enough, as the man was about to hang, the rooster jumped up off the plate and crowed and the man was let go!  Nothing a tourist loves more than a quirky anecdote to go with their overpriced souvenir! And that's the truth!


These vintage trolleys are all over both Lisbon and Porto.  They are just too charming not to ride around the city!

The Portuguese people that we met in both cities were incredibly friendly and most of them spoke nearly perfect English.  When I asked people how they knew English so well, they responded with "I like to watch TV."  Since Portugal is a pretty small country, they do not bother spending the ridiculous amount of money that it takes to dub all American/English television shows and movies.  So, if you want to watch Sex and the City or Desperate Housewives or The Simpsons, you better know English.  There is no "Sexo en Nueva York" or "Mujeres Desesperadas" or "Los Simpsons" like there is in Spain.  It is pretty incredible how the simple act of not dubbing media can influence an entire country of people learning a different language!


Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and has the feel of a once grandiose city that has seen better days.  In my opinion, this gives it a lot of character.  I liked both Lisbon and Porto because they aren't cities where you are rushing to do a million things.  You can wander aimlessly through the streets and discover beautiful little gems.  Here are some pictures from the city:

Standing in the The Praça do Comércio

On our walking tour of the city

Jerónimos Monastery in Belem


hanging out in a park in Belem
While Lisbon was a beautiful city, we experienced a true fairytale when we visited a town named Sintra about 45 minutes from Lisbon.  I don't really have to tell you any more; the pictures will speak for themselves:

Beautiful Sintra

tons of these whimsical animal sculptures

like putt-putt decorations at Myrtle Beach but cooler

just another day in paradise

Cherry liqueur in an edible chocolate cup for 1 euro??? yes, please!

even the touristy cafes were precious

AHHH SQUID! so close to the ocean.

The cherry on top of this amazing town was the Palácio Nacional da Pena.  An incredible example of 19th century Romantic architecture, this palace looks straight out of a Disney movie.

dancing up to the palace?

that a way!

first glimpse of the palace from below

cannot contain my joy

oh hay!

Anna matched the gorgeous tilework

just hanging out in a palace at sunset.

As you can see, we thoroughly enjoyed our day at Sintra pretending to be princesses.  A truly lovely place in the world and, if you're ever in Portugal, it is a must see!


While Lisbon was beautiful, I found the entire city of Porto to be a lovely relic of past Romanticism.  It actually reminded me a lot of Budapest.  It is one of Europe's oldest city centers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In Europe, only port wine coming from the Douro Valley region north of Porto can legally be labeled as "port" wine.  In the US they are less strict (like the US usually is with quality of food and drink) and "port" wine can pretty much come from wherever.  The Duoro River runs through the city and the two sides are connected by a seriously impressive bridge.  Across the river are all of the wineries that offer tours and tastings afterward.  You better believe we took one!  Though, I have discovered port is not my favorite.  It tastes like bum wine to my obviously unsophisticated palette hahaha.  Here are some pictures of my time in Porto (taken by Annie and Aislinn):

View of the wineries from across the river.  We toured the Calem winery that you can see in this picture.

Everybody likes Chris. @ChristopherColumbus

beautiful old buildings like this are everywhere in Porto

My first time being on the other side of the Atlantic coast.  Pretty cool!
the waves are the same

View from the bridge of the two sides of Porto divided by the river Duero. Incredibly beautiful.

hanging out in the harbor

love these trolleys!

sipping sangria on a sunny day on the bank of the river. PERFECT!

Couldn't mention Lisbon and Porto without a shout out to Yes! Hostels.  Most amazing hostels I've stayed at.  In both cities the stay was incredible and we met the nicest people.  If you are a youth traveler you MUST MUST MUST STAY HERE.  You should go to these cities JUST to stay at these hostels.  You won't regret it.

I hope you can see from these pictures how amazing Portugal is and how lame it is that it gets forgotten in a lot of tourist books about Europe.  It may be my favorite European country.  The jury is still out...

Until next time!  Thanks for reading, y'all!


  1. I see Roosters.... :)

  2. You are definitely my daughter... one of the highlights of my life was singing Danny Boy with the bartender in an Irish pub. That makes my life sound pretty lame doesn't it?

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful pics and vivid descriptions.