Portugal was exactly what I needed – sleeping in, exploring and eating long (and large!) meals. Europe is always a good reminder that I can and should enjoy the present without worrying too much about the future or things I need to get done.
For brevity’s sake, I’m going to chunk my posts into segments: Lisbon, Porto and Connie’s farm. Today is Lisbon.
My trip from Evanston to Lisbon took approximately 26 hours that included taking a bus to O’hare, flying from Chicago to Boston, Boston to Madrid, Madrid to Porto and then taking a train from Porto to Lisbon. Needless to say, I was exhausted when I arrived at Yes! Lisbon Hostel at 5pm a day after I started my trip.
The view from my hostel room’s deck.
When I arrived in Lisbon, I met up with Connie’s sister Eduarda, her boyfriend and their friend. We ate at a nice cafe before wandering the city a bit. They took me to the new riverfront area that just opened after years of construction. Apparently, there are some problems with the foundation, and it’s going to go under construction once again. Nevertheless, it was stunning. We could see Lisbon’s version of Brazil’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue across the river, a constant reminder that “we are a Catholic country.”
The colorful Portuguese houses.
After a short walk, I headed back to my hostel for an early night (I hadn’t slept in over 30 hours!). I woke up early the next morning to start my free Lisbon city tour. We got a short history lesson and then explored the city. There was a huge earthquake in Lisbon in 1755 years ago that destroyed 85% of its buildings and forced them to totally remodel the city. That is the reason that many of the streets are much wider than you will find in Porto.
We tried Ginjanha on our tour, a sweet, thick hard liquor made from sour cherries.
On the tour, I met an American girl named Piyali who had just finished working at a consulting firm in London for the year (can I have that job!?) and was traveling for a few weeks around Europe. We went to a cafe after the tour with an Irish man named Paul who teaches English in Seville, Spain (Sevilla for the Spanish speakers!) and explored the city. We didn’t have a set path or itinerary but got a great feel for the city! Paul left for his hostel, and Piyali and I got some delicious Portuguese pastries before exploring more.
It was really cool to talk to a young person that had been working for a couple of years so that I could get some great insight about what to expect in the next few years. Piyali made me feel a lot more at ease and excited about the “real world” while also making sure I knew that I would always miss college. She kept telling me how much she missed it and that I should really enjoy these last few months. I think that was an important lesson, especially at the start of a new quarter!
Piyali and I headed off to a nice restaurant, drinking some great wine and indulging in appetizers (a tasty tuna spread on bread) and two traditional Portuguese fish dishes. It definitely hurt my wallet, but I had leftovers from dinner for breakfast the next day and would be in for a treat in Porto as far as homemade food!
After dinner, I was extremely tired, so Piyali and I parted ways and returned to our hostels. I spent some time (in my pajamas) on the computer in the hostel’s bar before the lights went down and they started playing loud music. All of the sudden, the bar owners started yelling, “FREE SHOT TIME! EVERYONE IN HERE NEEDS TO HAVE A SHOT IN THEIR HANDS RIGHT NOW!” Well, I was in no dress or really mood for shots, so I embarrassingly ran out of the bar to put on some more clothes before heading downstairs to socialize a little bit. I met a bunch of high school students from Switzerland and talked to them about culture and our countries. It was getting late and I was still a bit jet-lagged so I went to bed early and left for Porto early the next morning.