We made the most of arriving in Lisbon a day and a half before Siobhan’s parents, Mike and Shannon, by exploring the city on foot and enjoying the beautiful views.
We had our first introduction to famous Portuguese port wine and cured meats from food stands in a park
We also toured the botanical gardens within Lisbon and learned about the native plant-life, as well as flora that had been brought back to Portugal by explorers who had traveled throughout Asia and the Americas.
Later that afternoon, Siobhan’s parents arrived. They stayed the night in a beautiful hotel that shared a wall with the Sao Jorge Castle which sits at the highest point in Lisbon. They had taken a taxi from the airport and loved the experience of driving through tiny, steep, and winding roads up to their hotel. The cobblestones and the brighty colored buildings with laundry handing from the windows were really a sight to see.
After checking in, we toured Sao Jorge Castle and learned about the history of the building.
We sat down at a cafe within the castle grounds to enjoy some coffee and pastries and 2 peacocks walked right up to us! As a crowd gathered, the peacoks opened their beautiful tails. It seemed as if they were enjoying the attention rather than employing a defense mechanism.
Dinner that night (and many after that) consisted of a Portuguese favorite…sardines. Richie and Mike could not get enough of the fresh seafood that is so abundant in Portugal.
The next day we took a train to Porto, stopping in Coimbra to tour the beautiful Baroque library on the University campus. Unfortunalty, no pictures were allowed 😦
Upon arriving in Porto, we had a wonderful traditional Portuguese dinner complete with Shannon’s new favorite, vino verde, a sparkling white wine that’s much lighter than champagne. This was our drink of choice for the rest of the trip! The next day was filled with sight-seeing, including Libreria Lello (an ornate, old fashioned bookstore), Sao Francisco Church, and a walk along the ribiera.
Eventually, we had to do the obligatory port wine tasting…we were in Porto afterall! We booked a tasting at the Burmester winery and learned all about the production of port that is unique to this region of Portugal.
Besides sardines, Portugal had delicious food. Our favorites included the Francesinha (a multi-layered sausage, ham, and beef sandwich covered in cheese and sauce) and a cheeseburger marinated in port wine. Surprisingly, hamburgers are ALL over Portugal.
Beautiful, multi-colored tiles covered many of the buildings throughout the country, including apartment building, shops, and churches. While most were old fashioned and crumbling, some were clearly new with contemporary designs. Regardless, it made for fun and colorful sights at every turn.
The delicious food, friendly people, and beautiful scenery made Lisbon and Porto great destinations! We would recommend Portugal in general for anyone traveling on a budget. Compared to the rest of western Europe, transportation, good food, accommodations, and recreational activities were all relatively inexpensive.