It’s been four years since my first and only spring break trip of college. Four years ago, I spent the week traveling Italy – Rome, Florence and Venice to be exact. This year I spent the week traveling Portugal – Albufeira, Lisbon and Porto. However, the best part of this spring break was that I was able to explore a gorgeous new country with my boyfriend, Dan.
Oh, how things have changed.
I had been waiting for this trip since I found out our spring breaks aligned back in August of last year and had been mentally planning it for the 7 months before. Our six-day trip in Portugal included two days in Albufeira (the south of Portugal), two days in Lisbon (the capital of Portugal), and two days in Porto (the north of Portugal). Only two days in each city left us wanting more, but gave us just enough time to appreciate each city.
In addition to seeing Portugal, Dan had some time in Madrid to see my temporary home. Instead of going into great detail about each city we visited, here is a short synopsis of our time in Albufeira, Lisbon and Porto.
Dan and I were so ready for two beach days under the warm sun and Albufeira did not disappoint. Our Airbnb was located near Old Town (Albufeira’s quaint city center) with a water front view from our balcony. We visited three different beaches, Praia da Falesia, Praia do Evaristo, and Praia da Marinha. Each one was more beautiful than the last. We napped, we ate (according to Dan, the best pizza he’s ever had in his life) and we (Dan) got some sunburn. Albufeira was the relaxing part of our vacation and maybe should have been our last stop given how exhausting Lisbon, but mostly Porto turned out to be.
We drove the two and a half hours to Lisbon Tuesday afternoon. On our way we stopped in Guia for some famous Piri Piri chicken. Once we arrived in Lisbon, we spent the afternoon and evening walking and eating our way through Lisbon. I’m not sure what it was, but Dan and I felt it necessary to eat pastries everywhere we went and although my belly may not have loved me, I loved all those pastries. We woke up early Wednesday to visit a town about 40 minutes outside of Lisbon that is home to Palacio da Pena. The palace is a beautifully colored palace located on the very top of a big hill. After Sintra, we went back to the Airbnb so we (Dan) could have a quick nap. After sleeping beauty awoke, we walked through Lisbon again. Honestly, we walked in circles, but very beautiful circles.
Our last night in Lisbon ended at Restaurante Cabacas where customers cook their own meat on top of a burning hot rock. This super tiny restaurant was filled with tables packed tightly together and smoke visible in the air. Dan thoroughly enjoyed this restaurant despite sitting right next to the door and having to repeatedly ask people to shut the door behind them or get up and shut it for them. Our last day in Lisbon we went to the Jerónimos Monastery and the famous Pastéis de Belém bakery.
Our original plan was to stop at Aveiro, the “Venice of Portugal”, on our way up to Porto. Unfortunately, it was raining the whole ride so we decided to drive straight through to Porto. Despite my hopes that my weather app was wrong, it rained the entire time we were in Porto. The night we got there we spent over an hour just walking around in the rain trying to find a place to eat. (Side note: all my fault – I have a lot of qualifications when it comes to picking a restaurant)
The next day we had purchased tickets for the bookstore Livraria Lello that is said to have inspired J.K. Rowling when she began writing Harry Potter. Lucky for that bookstore, but unlucky for anyone who wants to see it, the line to get in goes on for over two blocks and that was in the rain, so I can only imagine it in nice weather. After eating (pan)cakes for brunch, we went to wait online for the bookstore. About 40 minutes into waiting the rain picked up. It hailed for about two minutes and we were stuck next to a broken drain so my feet got soaked down to the socks. The last 40 minutes in line were not as enjoyable as I would’ve hoped, but the bookstore was beautiful and I can see how it inspired J.K. Rowling. I wonder if she knows what a bumble screw it is to even walk around in there. Regardless, even with the rain, Porto is a charming city that really grew on us. The streets are steeper than San Francisco’s, but the buildings and the scenery made my sore calves worth it.
Overall, Portugal was a colorful, vibrant country with so many things to see and do and I couldn’t have asked for a better trip or person to see it all with. (Even if he made me drink more in one week than I have my whole time in Madrid)