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Portu-glad-I-went: Reminiscing on My Unforgettable Adventure in Portugal

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Visiting Portugal was an unforgettable experience for my family and me. The breath-taking beaches, magnificent landmarks, and mouth-watering pastries made it all the more special. We had planned a mini sibling/mom reunion in June 2019 and almost everyone made it, except for my oldest sister, whose absence was felt throughout the journey. Though we cherished every moment spent together reconnecting, her presence was sorely missed, and we couldn't help but feel her absence during our exploration of this beautiful country.

We stayed in a cosy little Airbnb in Lisbon, which was the perfect base for our adventures. Our apartment was in a prime location, situated right next to the LX Factory, a trendy and vibrant area filled with delightful restaurants, cafes, galleries, and shops. We absolutely adored it! The Airbnb served as an ideal base for our explorations. From there, we did day trips to the rest of Lisbon and surrounding areas on our list, and let me tell you, there is so much to see and do in this magical place!

On our first day in Lisbon we started our adventure by visiting one of its most iconic landmarks: The Belem Tower. This stunning tower, dating back to the 16th century, is not just a sight to behold but also a symbol of Portugal's rich maritime history, full of exciting tales of exploration and conquest. Standing proudly by the Tagus River, it is impossible to miss this impressive monument that dominates the city skyline.

But that's not all we experienced on our first day in Lisbon. Right outside the tower's walls, we had a blast trying out electric scooters for the first time, and even my mom, who's not exactly a daredevil, couldn't resist the exhilarating ride. It was the perfect way to explore the city and feel the cool breeze on our faces.

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we also visited the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, a true paradise for design lovers like me. If you've heard of Portugal's famous tile art, or azulejos, then you know what I'm talking about. As soon as we stepped inside, I was blown away by the breath-taking display of traditional Portuguese tiles, arranged in intricate patterns and designs.

But this museum is more than just a feast for the eyes. It's also an opportunity to learn about the rich history and cultural significance of these beautiful tiles. One of the highlights of the museum was the "Panorama of Lisbon" exhibit, where the city was recreated entirely out of azulejos, capturing the essence of Lisbon's architecture, history, and culture in incredible detail. Whether you're a design enthusiast or not, this museum is a must-visit, providing a fascinating insight into Portuguese culture and history.

During one of our day trips, we were enchanted by the charming town of Sintra, which can only be described as a magical place. Getting there by train was a bonus, making the journey hassle-free. Our first stop was the awe-inspiring Pena Palace, which immediately caught our attention with its vibrant yellow, red, and blue exterior. The intricate architectural details were simply stunning and left us in awe. Perched on a hilltop, this castle resembled a scene straight out of a fairy-tale with its elaborate turrets, domes, and carvings.

The panoramic views from the top were breath-taking and made us feel like royalty as we gazed upon the magnificent landscape below. However, it is important to note that entering the palace requires a bit of a walk, so make sure you're prepared with some good walking shoes and water.

Another one of the highlights of our visit to Sintra was the Quinta Regaleira, a magnificent estate that has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in the early 1900s, the estate boasts stunning architecture and captivating gardens that will transport you to another world.

The Quinta Regaleira is a place that seems to have come straight out of a fairy tale, with hidden tunnels and secret gardens that are waiting to be discovered. As we explored the estate, we were amazed by the underground well, which is a masterpiece of engineering that resembles something from a storybook. It was like being in a modern-day version of Alice in Wonderland, where the beauty and history of the estate were enough to make us feel like we were in a world of our own.

Many famous movies have been filmed in this enchanted place, such as the James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and the Portuguese film "Night Train to Lisbon." The Quinta Regaleira is truly a unique and unforgettable experience that should not be missed by anyone visiting Sintra.

As it was Summer we were excited for our trip to Praia da Adraga, a beach that had been recommended as the most stunning in the area. The sand was silky soft, and the water shimmered under the sun's rays, beckoning us to take a dip.

However, Mother Nature had different plans in store for us. The wind howled fiercely, and the water was frigid and rough. Our enthusiasm quickly dissipated as we realized that swimming was not an option. In fact, a man nearby nearly drowned as he was pulled out to sea. Thankfully, he was a strong swimmer and made it to safety. Lesson learned - always respect the power of the ocean!

But our adventure didn't end there. We also journeyed to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in Europe. The views from this spot were simply breath-taking. As we stood on the precipice of the cliff, overlooking the endless expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, we felt as though we were perched on the edge of the world. The views were nothing short of awe-inspiring, and on a clear day, the visibility was incredible. We could see for miles and miles, taking in the vastness of the ocean before us.

Standing on the edge of the continent was an indescribable experience - it was both thrilling and humbling. We felt a deep sense of wonder and reverence for the power and beauty of the natural world. Aside from the views, there are also several hiking trails that wind their way along the cliffs and through the surrounding hills, offering even more opportunities to take in the stunning scenery. Unfortunately we were not able to hike these parts on our trip, as there was not enough time.

Our day trip to the Berlengas archipelago was a feast for the eyes, with stunning views of natural beauty that left us in awe. However, we must admit that the tour itself left us feeling somewhat unimpressed. The travel company failed to inform us that there would be limited food options on the island, leaving us feeling hungry and stranded.

While we waited for the boat to return and take us back, we made the most of the opportunity to bask in the sun and take in the breath-taking scenery. Ultimately, the magnificent views and natural splendour of the archipelago were well worth the temporary hunger pangs. One valuable lesson we learned from this experience was to always pack some snacks when embarking on a day trip to this gorgeous place!

Back in Lisbon, we spent our days exploring the city's charming streets, admiring its architecture, and trying out the local cuisine. One of the things we were on a mission to find was the best pastel de nata in the city.

My little sister was particularly passionate about this, and she made it her mission to try as many of these custard tarts as possible. We waited in line at the famous Pasteis de Belem, and it was worth every minute - those tarts were out of this world! But pastries weren't the only thing we ate in Lisbon.

We also indulged in some delicious seafood dishes, from grilled sardines to octopus salad. The fish in Portugal is so fresh and flavourful, and we couldn't get enough of it. However, we quickly learned that you can't just turn up at restaurants without a reservation - these places are popular for a reason! So book in advance!!

Aside from our foodie exploits, we also took the time to explore some of Lisbon's famous landmarks, such as the Castelo de Sao Jorge. From the top of the Moorish castle, we were treated to stunning views of the city, with its red-tiled roofs and winding streets. Another sight that we loved was the Jeronimos Monastery, a stunning monastery that was built in the 16th century. The intricate carvings and beautiful architecture of this building are truly breath-taking.

Of all the wonderful places in Lisbon we visited, my favourite had to be the Carmo Convent. This beautiful gothic architecture was so breath-taking, I could have spent hours just staring up at the ruined ceilings. The convent was built in the 14th century, but it was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. Now, it's a beautiful open-air museum, where you can wander around the ruins and admire the stunning architecture.

One of my favourite things to do there was to sit on the grass and just soak up the sun while looking up at the sky through the ruined ceilings. It was such a peaceful and serene experience - I could have stayed there all day. But the beauty of the Carmo Convent isn't just in the architecture. It's also a fascinating piece of history, and it's a great place to learn about Lisbon's past. There are exhibits on display that showcase artefacts and information about the convent and its place in Portuguese history.

If you're ever in Lisbon, the Carmo Convent is definitely a must-see. It's a unique and beautiful spot that's unlike anything else in the city. And who knows - you might just find yourself sitting on the grass, gazing up at the sky, and falling in love with Lisbon all over again.

On one of our last days in Lisbon, we decided to make our way to the Santa Justa Lift, one of Lisbon's top attractions. Built in 1902, the Santa Justa Lift, also known as Elevador de Santa Justa, is a stunning neo-Gothic lift that connects the lower streets of Baixa with the higher streets of Carmo Square. However, as soon as we arrived, we were met with a long line of tourists waiting for their turn to take the lift up to the top.

As much as we wanted to enjoy the panoramic views from the lift's observation deck, the line was just too long for our liking. But we didn't let that spoil our day! Instead, we took advantage of the situation and took some stunning photos of the iconic structure from below. The lift's intricate wrought iron design is a nod to Lisbon's Gothic heritage, while its innovative technology speaks to the city's forward-thinking spirit.

After our mini photo shoot, we headed to the trendy Chiado neighbourhood for some retail therapy. This area is a shopper's paradise, with a plethora of local boutiques and international brands to choose from. From high-end fashion to unique artisanal products, we found everything we were looking for and more. One of our favourite shops here was A Vida Portuguesa, it is truly a hidden gem in the bustling area of Chiado. The quaint shop, tucked away on a quiet street, is a haven for those seeking unique and authentic Portuguese products.

And of course, we couldn't leave Lisbon without checking out some of the famous street art that's scattered throughout the city. From colourful murals to quirky sculptures, there is no shortage of creativity in Lisbon.

All in all, our trip to Portugal was an incredible experience. We laughed, we learned, and we made memories that will last a lifetime. I would go back in a heartbeat - if only for another pastel de nata!. If you're considering a trip to this beautiful country, I say go for it - you won't be disappointed! And if you do go, be sure to bring plenty of snacks, and maybe even a few reservations for those popular restaurants. Happy travels!

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12. Apr. 2023
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Loved reading this! Will def be adding Portugal to my list of places to see!

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31. März 2023
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What a great looking city!

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31. März 2023
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Such a fun read! Thanks for all your tips!

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