January 12, 2018
My birthday month falls in the winter in most countries, yet I wanted to travel to Europe again. I researched the warmest countries in Europe, and it led me to Portugal. Flight tickets were not that expensive, and I was en route to this beautiful country that was small yet big enough for me to catch a glimpse of all the major regions I wanted to explore: Lisbon, Porto, Douro Valley, Algarve, and Alentejo.
At first glance, Lisbon reminded me a lot of San Francisco with buildings stacked on top of each other, cobbled stone roads, and trolleys. However, I learned of a secret spot literally in the center of Lisbon with the best sunset views from Luiz. Airbnb has a new feature known as “experiences” guided by locals in the area. I had a great experience in the past with photography workshops and saw that Luiz hosted photography workshops in Lisbon, specifically focusing on portraits. Since I do not consider myself an expert in portraits, I figured this would be a great opportunity for me to develop a new skillset. Luiz gave me a scenario, and I attempted to execute the scenario, which was a man who loved nature. These photographs were what I considered my best captures of Luiz.
While photographing Luiz, he also managed to capture some photographs of me. Above were some of Luiz’s shots.
I booked a small group day trip from Lisbon to explore Sintra and Cascais Area. At Sintra, there lies the Pena Palace, a Romanticist castle. What stood out about this palace were the unique, vibrant colors.
Cascais – the town of Kings and Fishes
Fátima, Nazaré, and Óbidos
From Lisbon, another popular day tour from the city was to Fátima, Nazaré, and Óbidos. Out of the all the landmarks of the day tour, my favorite was visiting Nazaré. In a lot of ways, even the coast in Portugal reminded me of California.
I primarily resided in Lisbon, but I did take time to book a night to stay in Porto in order to visit Douro Valley. The way locals describe this wine region is that it’s magical. Prior to visiting Douro Valley, it was raining quite hard in Porto, but my tour guide ensured that the day will clear up once we reach Douro Valley, which sure enough, it did!
A local shared with me that the best views of Porto are from the other side: “I came to Gaia to view my beautiful city, Porto.”
I started reading Harry Potter books since elementary school but never knew about J.K. Rowling’s background! Most of her inspiration stemmed from her memories/experiences in Portugal, which is where she was teaching English at the time.
Algarve – Portugal’s southernmost region
Visiting Portugal without exploring the Algarve region would have been quite disappointing! I spent a night in Lagos Area. Earlier in the day, I booked a boat tour out to see the area from the ocean. The waves were quite intense, and we were not able to explore many of the infamous caves in the region. However, we were able to go into one of the caves!
During my research of the Algarve region, I learned that Ponta da Piedade was the more popular features of the area! There was a coastal trail in Lagos that leads to this beautiful landmark. I also witnessed a beautiful sunset amongst other tourists. The colors of the sky were breathtaking!
Alentejo and Évora
I wanted to visit another popular wine region located in southern Portugal: Alentejo. However, the tour I ended up booking did not end up what I expected. I learned more about the history of the region and visited Évora, instead.
Fado – fate
Fado was a popular music genre in Portugal, which stemmed from women who wrote about their experiences waiting for their lovers whom never returned.
Last Impressions of Lisbon
Time Out Market – popular food hall located in Lisbon
SUPERMARMITA – Airbnb seafood cooking experience
Cervejaria Ramiro – must-eat seafood restaurant in Lisbon and featured in Anthony Bordain’s show (worth the LONG wait)
I loved visiting Portugal in the winter, but I think it would be worth revisiting this country in the summer, especially the Algarve region. During my time in Portugal, I learned that the intensity of the waves affects cave explorations and raises safety concerns. Also, I learned that Alentejo is a large region, and you have to be specific if you are primarily interested in visiting ONLY the wine region!
Where have I travelled in Southern Europe?