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2019 Adventure – Portugal

Thursday: September 26, 2019

Here is the first post for my 2019 Adventure! I want to keep it simple, because there is actually so much I could talk about, so I’ll just post a small introduction, a bunch of scenic photos and food photos (because everyone’s main question is always “yes, but what did you EAT?!”), and then add my favorite memories at the end. That way, if you have a question, you can simply ask in a comment or contact me here. And for higher quality images taken by my brother (because sometimes I wouldn’t take any at all since he’s the pro), check out here for now, or check back later here (he isn’t sure when he will have a chance to update it).

Before we begin with any of that that, though, I want to shoutout to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, which allowed me to get all the Lonely Planet travel guides for my trip without breaking bank (thanks to Boy again for the kindle!). I usually collect these books for the places I go, but I just couldn’t do it that way this time. Now that my trip is over, I cancelled my subscription and there was zero hassle involved.

People have also asked about my luggage, since we were backpacking with some long walks or cramped public transport possibly involved. I took my brother’s advice and got the same bag he has been using for the last five years (and all the abuse he’s put it through, it is still in great condition!). So, I bought the Osprey Porter 65, which let me pack for any occasion (as in, super overpacked) and prevented me from breaking my back (though I will never say that hauling it around while it weighed 40 pounds was easy, especially in Lisbon!). I have packing cubes also to keep it all organized. I love it!

And yes, I had to get vaccines. I found it ironic that I had all the ones I needed up-to-date, as my doctor and I decided I wouldn’t need the cholera one, but my tetanus (which I need here) was out-of-date. Whoops. I also got malaria pills, but luckily, mosquitoes weren’t a huge issue (of course, if one was in a ten mile radius of us, it bit me, but that happened few and far between).

Anyway, now the travel bits:

On June 30th, my friend and my brother and I left for Portugal flying on TAP Air Portugal. For the first time ever, beginning in June, TAP was running direct flights between Chicago and Lisbon so there was an amazing promotional deal. And, because the Portuguese have a colonial history in Mozambique, the flight between those two countries was also pretty stellar. The only reason I was able to do this trip was because of TAP – less than 500$ to get to Africa and we were allowed a five day stay-over in Portugal between! The flight was perfectly fine and enjoyable from what I can recall (we all dosed on melatonin to help with the time change so I slept most of the way), so if you have the opportunity to try TAP, take it. After all, they are one of the world’s safest airlines!

We spent two nights in Lisbon, a city of crammed stone alleys built into the side of massive hills along the coast of a bay. The time difference was 5 hours ahead, and it wasn’t too difficult to adjust to with the melatonin helping us sleep at night. On the third day, we took a train to Obidos, which is a castle city in amazing repair. The name sounded familiar, and once there I realized I had seen it on tv – it is the home of probably the world’s coolest renaissance fair, the Mercado Medieval do Obidos. And we just missed it by a day. I blame my brother for his lack of planning on that one! On that same day, we took the train farther, to Coimbra. We didn’t have much time here (see the end of this post about the train) but we did get to run through the University of Coimbra’s Botanical Garden. Then we finished the day by taking the train to Porto, a city built right onto the banks of the Douro River. Then we spent one more night back in Lisbon before saying bye to my friend who flew home, while we flew south to Mozambique.

Because of jetlag and rushed schedules, we didn’t interact with the locals much at all. Other than amazing historic architecture and fish being a big part of their diet, I can’t comment too much on the culture of the people. Anthropology fail! We also did not do a great job at keeping a cheap budget, as you might notice with our food options, but it wasn’t unexpected since it is Europe, afterall.

The places (for all maps: Red = airport; Blue = overnight; Pink = short stop; Green = Day trip; Yellow = Border crossing; Brown = Train):

What we saw:

What I thought I’d have to eat:

What I actually ate:

And most notable memory:

It doesn’t look like much, but let me set the scene. We left most of our luggage in Lisbon for our Porto trip. Lisbon has rentable lockers near the train station which we used after check-out before going to the airport our last day, but for our one night stay in Porto, we had our last night accomodation in Lisbon hold our bags for us early. That means that we had to carry our small bags for the whole part of the train ride (Obidos and Coimbra). It was hot (you may have heard that Paris was hitting highs of 112F this summer; we weren’t that unlucky but it wasn’t pleasant). We got off at the train station in this photo (the building in the distance) and then had to hike up the mountain to visit Obidos (along a steep road). Our party got separated and that ate up some time to find each other so that we could catch the train to Coimbra so we could catch the train to Porto. When we met up, we were at the other side of the castle and felt it might be faster to descend from that side rather than finding the way we came in. Well, it turns out that maybe wasn’t the best decision, so we literally were running to make it on time – because as my brother foretold, European trains run like clockwork. And the road wasn’t a simple down hill road; it was gravel and meandered a little and went upwards at places. We contemplated running through the grass straight down but thought better of it. Near the end, we were running as fast as possible, in a gleeful haven’t-done-this-since-childhood kind of way, dropped a notch only by the anxiety of what missing our train might mean. We arrive, completely breathless, guzzling water, drenched in sweat, to see one other person waiting. Phew, we hadn’t missed it!! … And then the train was late by over an hour, maybe even two, as we sat there doing absolutely nothing. That’s why we didn’t have much time in Coimbra, and why, yes, we practically ran through the botanical garden there, too. But, it was an adventure! :D

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