Portugal, the (First) Adventure Phase…

3 Jun

…and boy did we cover a whole lotta ground! As I told you yesterday, our main goal with this trip was relaxation, reconnection and rejuventation. Our usual trekking around big cities took a backseat, which meant that we chose to only spend one day in each Lisbon and Porto. And while different than our norm, we all agreed that we thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace! One thing I realized, though, is that I have way too many pictures of each city to combine them into one post. It just wouldn’t do either city any justice!

First up, Lisbon. Our resort was in Obidos, about an hour north of the city. Since we had a rental car (60€ for the whole 6 days!), we got a chance to really get a good feel for the northern part of the country. You’ve never seen so many mountains and hills in your life- in the countryside or in the cities!

See what I mean? They’re gorgeous! Although I will say that these shots make things appear a bit greener than they actually are. We were both surprised, in fact, at how tan/sandy/clay-y/almost arid the Portuguese landscape is. I guess because they’re known for having some pretty good, sunny weather, we just expected more of a lush- maybe even tropic- feel, but not so much…Still so pretty.

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Lisbon, the capital and largest city of Portugal, is the 11th largest metropolitan region in the EU with a population of about 2.8 million people.  It’s one of the major economic centers in Europe, with a growing financial sector and one of the largest container ports on Europe’s Atlantic coast.

Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals like London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon’s status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital was formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.

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A neat little side note here. Neve views- and chooses- all of her clothes based on their ‘tickly-ness.’ She pulls them taught by wrapping them around one hand, then tickles the palm of that hand with the fingernails of the other hand. (The above picture gives you an idea of what this looks like- and shows how ridiculously sweet she is! Gah!) Thin, smooth, slicky fabrics are the best, of course, but it can be done with some cotton and knits with a little added effort 😉  Two neat things about this cute quirk…First, she was born with it and started doing it with the fabric of her swaddle sack before she could even roll over (!) and we still can only have pillow cases that a) have a hole on one end and b) are made of the silkiest fabrics (translation: expensive!) as she tickles every single time she falls asleep. Second, I was (and still am) a tickler, too! I had blankets with silk edges that I used to tickle my palms for many years and still get John to tickle my  back at least once a week! So the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with my girl! ❤

OK, back to Lisbon! The other reason I posted that picture is to show Neve’s boredom after we’d been waiting nearly an hour to catch the city’s infamous old Tram #28 that takes visitors around to many of the major attractions. Trams are the main mode of transportation in the heart of the city and have been for decades.

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However, still having at least 30 minutes to go before it would our turn to board, up came a Tuk Tuk. What’s a Tuk Tuk, you ask? Well, it’s hard to describe. It’s like a covered moped taxi. That’s probably the best I can do. See for yourself:

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Long story short, for a super reasonable price, we hired a Tuk Tuk- with its driver, of course- to take the three of us all over the city and tell us what we were seeing. GENIUS. In less than 2 hours, we’d been up and down oodles of hills, winded through the narrowest of ancient alleyways, seen several different neighborhoods and ALL of the major attractions…Plus, it was all done with our own personal tour guide, Tiago, educating us along the way! Neve was in Heaven with how adventurous this was. Totally meant to be.

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View from the back seat. That’s Tiago driving. He’s hoping to save the €14,000 needed to buy his own Tuk Tuk by the end of this year. Once he can work for himself, he expects to earn about €7000/month.

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Our first stop was the highest point in the city so we could get the perfect overview. It really helped us to get our bearings and to see just how vast the city is, along with the flow of the Tagus River.

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The Lisbon Bridge was modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge.

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That’s the castle on top of the hill in the distance.

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We were so high that we had to put on our jackets to help block the wind!

Just the riding around the city was fun- and educational- in itself. It gave us a truer sense of inner city life, too. As you might imagine, the trams are on tracks and therefore, have to stay on the more beaten, wider paths. Not Tuk Tuks! We could go anywhere! We got to see the nooks and crannies, the vibrant colors, the locals…

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Remember a few months ago when we were talking about Budapest and how we liked that it felt ‘lived in’ and had some ‘grit,’ just like we felt in Prague? Well, Lisbon has the same grittiness- that wonderful marriage of old and new, of vibrant and dull, of life and decay…We loved the orange tiled roofs, the rainbow painted buildings, the cobblestones…And we liked that they were ‘real,’ as opposed to being painted and pristine for tourists.

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Oldest cathedral in the city, 1147.

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Originally a church, the Pantheo was converted into a burial place for notable Portuguese personalities. What makes it unique is that it’s not religious figures buried here- it’s people who had an influence in the city, including musicians, artists and philanthropists. 

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Lisbon had street signs before the US was even a country!

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Overview of Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon…

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Someone bought this property to build a house on…When they started digging for the foundation, they found an ancient Roman amphitheater! 

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Our Tuk Tuk for the day 😉

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This is the entrance to the castle I pointed out in the overview picture above. It’s a Moorish fortress from medieval times known for its well-fortified citadel.

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One of the best doors I’ve ever seen! (I have a thing for doors- I have pictures of them from all the cities we’ve visited- this one was just particularly awesome!) The one a few up from this is also among the awesome- two in one post! Ha!

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John was in his element with all the squid and octopus salads everywhere! This was his favorite of the entire week and only cost €4!

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Dad, John insisted on this picture just so you could marvel at the wiring with him 😉

Now y’all know how much we love stumbling onto a good market, right?! Well, that’s what happened just as we were finishing up our day making our way back to the train (we parked outside of the city and trained in that morning). The Baixa Mercado takes up the entire famous Rossio Square and is jam packed with local artists, chefs and mixologists. Be still my heart! And speaking of mixologists, Lisbon’s (and Obidos’) signature drink is the liqueur, Ginjinja. It’s made by infusing ginja berries (sour cherries) with liquor and sugar, then serving in a small chocolate shot glass. Delish.

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And with that, we made our way back to Obidos for the night, feeling like we’d really covered alot of ground in just a day. No, we didn’t get into the depths as much as we’re used to (ie. touring inside the churches, exploring inside the castles, etc.), but we got a really good idea of what Lisbon is all about, its flare, it’s vibe. And we dig it.

You know what else we dig? Porto, Portugal’s oldest- and second largest- city. Please stop back by once more tomorrow- or Monday 🙂 – for our second Portuguese Adventure Phase! Happy Weekend, y’all!

One Response to “Portugal, the (First) Adventure Phase…”

  1. Eleanor June 3, 2016 at 5:22 PM #

    Love this Blog and really love your transportation, Neve’s outfit (adorable), but John’s salad??? So excited about seeing you!

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