It has been an extremely chaotic, yet supremely fulfilling few months. As is evident based on when my last published post was (May), it’s been difficult to post about my recent travels due to my lack of functioning technology. However, that problem has been overcome, which only means that the next month holds much more writing in store!
In related news, it’s exciting for me to finally share my thoughts on my trip to Portugal. For the first weekend of June, I decided it was finally time to see Lisbon, the Portuguese capital. Whilst I had visited Porto in 2012, it was Lisbon that first attracted my attention many years ago. I grew up with a funny fascination for Portugal during my adolescent years; it being ‘funny’ because it’s not the biggest, nor the most over-exposed European export. However, as more people travel through Portugal, the more it’s becoming recognized as a must-see for anyone in the area. The reason why I would personally recommend it for travellers, of any age, is that it offers a great combination of things. Portugal is a modern nation-state, but it’s also quite traditional and historical, with its empire being the longest-standing of its kind from modern Europe. It’s also quite sunny, usually warm (further south), with great proximity to the ocean.
Perhaps it’s Portugal’s link to the ocean that draws me to it even more. There’s something exquisitely beautiful about its beaches, with its many cliffs and brightly coloured sand paired with extremely blue-green waters. Though I’ve also been to breathtaking beaches in Spain, no mainland beach in Spain has impressed me the way Praia da Ursa (Bear Beach) did. On one rather reckless – albeit eventually very rewarding – day, I was able to rock climb down the cliffs in that area to reach Praia da Ursa. While I wouldn’t recommend that climb to everyone, there’s an easier path that we somehow missed. Despite how difficult it was to climb down, it was a sport in itself, making the beach that much more enjoyable once we reached it. Praia da Ursa also experiences some magnetic and powerful waves that can knock you over! However, it’s a sight you’re unlikely to see very often, making it that much more amazing.
Beyond Portugal’s beaches are its historical towns and modern cities. Sintra, about an hour and a half away from Lisbon via train, is a town that somehow maintains an old European feel. Its cobblestones, multiple hillside castles, and authentic charm seem straight out of a Disney movie! In Sintra, you can also find old Moorish influences hidden (and not so hidden) around, reflecting Portugal’s blended history.
Though Sintra is most definitely a small town, Lisbon gives off a big city feel while also maintaining a certain friendliness that is difficult to resist. The capital has its business districts that demonstrate its importance in Europe, yet also has older parts of the city that have kept Portuguese heritage slightly more separate from globalization. One especially well-known area of Lisbon is Bairro Alto (Upper District), which holds many restaurants and areas for a night out. Further along in other areas, the stark contrast and differences between neighbourhoods becomes even more obvious, as the city is deceivingly large.
Overall, there is a great deal to do in Portugal. As I’ve now traveled to its two biggest cities, it’s become clear that they both offer amazing beaches, cuisine, history, culture, amongst other things. However, Lisbon and Porto are not extremely similar in terms of character. Porto gave me a much calmer feel to it than Lisbon ever did, though both are relatively relaxed as cities. Whether or not it’s true that Portuguese culture is laid-back, I’ve become even more enamoured by the country as a whole since visiting it.
Have you ever visited Portugal?