Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Portugal in One Week

We were looking for a warmer spot to visit for one week in early Spring, and Portugal seemed to have fit the bill. Most of the cities along the southwest coast are generally a day trip away from Lisbon, so that made planning our trip a lot easier. If you've been following my travelogue, you'd know I hate to pack and unpack on a daily basis. Therefore, to be able to come back to the same hotel at the end of the day was everything to me. 

Picture below: a still moment captured by my camera in the bustling Alfama district. 

We spent six days in Portugal. Our itinerary went like this:

  • Day 1: arrival the night before. Our hotel was in Baixa (downtown). The next morning started with Museu Nacional do Azulejo, then worked our way through Church of Sao Vicente of Flora, Castelo de St. Jorge to the heart of the Alfama District. 
  • Day 2: Sintra and Cascais.
  • Day 3: Nazare and Obidos.
  • Day 4: Explore the Bairro Alto area in Lisbon.
  • Day 5: Art gallery (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum), shopping.
  • Day 6: Back to Alfama district, shopping.
  • Day 7: Departure. 

Weather

According to friends with family in Portugal, this was one of the most miserable springs they've ever had. It was cold and rainy with overcast every day. The weather really surprised us when we arrived. Except for one quick shower when we were in Nazare, the weather held up. It was sunny with blue skies and warm for all the seven days we were there. The sky couldn't be clearer even when we were up in the Pena Palace. According to locals, up in the mountains, it's almost foggy at all times especially in the morning. Looks like Portugal really liked us. 

Picture below: the Pena Palace from the Queen's Throne vantage point

Sintra old town: this was our view from the steps to Pal├ício Nacional de Sintra. We had lunch al fresco there and had the best time people watching. 


Coasts and Waves

Portugal has stunning coastlines and wave watching was my absolute favourite part from the trip. The colour of the ocean hasn't quite turned turquoise yet as those postcard pictures of Algarve, but the monster waves more than enough made up for it. 

Picture below: Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of continental Europe. 



Picture below: the quaint and picturesque fishing village Nazare and its famous crashing waves




Art

We only had time for one gallery so Calouste Gulbenkian Museum was the natural choice. We went straight to the modern art section. 






Serendipity

It takes a bit of luck when it comes to travel experience: weather, hotel, food, people encountered, places living up to expectations. Strangely enough, because I was so consumed by work before our Portugal trip, I didn't have time to do much research or planning. All I wanted was a warmer place to visit so I packed no expectations whatsoever. Yet the trip turned out to be one of the most interesting ones we've ever had. 

Picture below: Obidos, a medieval town trapped in a time capsule. 

Our first instinct was to hike up to the walls as they avail the best views. Unlike the old town of Dubrovnik, the inside of the walls facing the town in Obidos were completely open with no railings. We really put our parkour skills to test. 

We stumbled upon the Jardim Botanico Tropical in Belem on our way to lunch. It was so hot that day that we had to take a break in the shade. A group of people were patiently waiting for this peacock to fan out so they could take pictures. As soon as we approached, Mr. Peacock completely fanned out and followed me around. He even turned around a few times just so I could take pictures of him from different perspectives! If this was not serendipity I don't know what is! 

Picture below: the nerdy me next to Mr Peacock. I am 5'4" so you can tell how tall his feathers are. 

Saudade

There isn't a perfect translation for the Portuguese word "Saudade". It loosely means a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia. And that's exactly how I wanted to feel at the end of our trip. Tell me, have you been to Portugal and how was your experience? 



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