It feels almost wrong to write about a country after visiting it for only 9 days. But we stayed in its most bustling city, we flew through its busiest airport, I breathed down its mustiest liquor, trekked up and rolled down it’s slipperiest hills in its prettiest towns already and I am so ready to do it all over again. So can I please write something already?
I have tasted (so many of) their custard tarts, rolled over their “Nh”-s and stumbled before the words that start with “R”s. I have successfully shopped in the only farmers market that still runs daily in Caldas da Rainha and is only visited by locals where no one speaks a word of English where the food is fresh and cheap and the world is old and fabulous. I’ve sat on the concrete bench there with my son and had coffee there as he had enjoyed his fruits and amazing galore of nut-cookies.
We went to the western most point of Portugal & hence Continental Europe in Cabo da Roca and overlooked gorgeous azure, turquoise waters crash against the cliffs.
We walked amidst foggy green hills of giant cork oaks with granite ancient fairytale castles. Thank goodness that I have short brittle hair that I didn’t have to let any prince up my tower of solitude, while I enjoyed blissful mountain air in Sintra.
A micro-climate from centuries past, Sintra has bred a style, uniquely its own, blending and reminiscent of so many prominent who’s who from many eras from the Moorish to the Portuguese kings, from the Swiss and the German architects to of course Lord Byron and his likes.
The moss on limestone and granite liths add a layer of mystique and even deeper enigma to a city that already reads like a book. Of course the randomly placed ‘sitting areas’ covered in superbly adorned ethnic tile work make it even more bibliophilic.
Anyone who tells you Sintra is a fairytale is not exaggerating. Not one bit. No wonder Hans Andersen lived and worked here. Now add to this fairytale, delicious + inexpensive + constant snack & day-drinking, modern day Uber and Airbnb and free center-city wifi and what’s not to love? The hills- they are not easy to walk on. Our butt and calf muscles are whimpering in pain.
We counted the swollen waves in Nazare, a small obscure town on the western Atlantic coast which was recorded in 2012 to witness the highest (9 feet) waves in the world… no we didn’t see 9 feet waves. But we had the whole cool windy beach to ourselves…scribbling and playing in the sand and finally when tired we had a pot of seafood stew to drown our rumbly hunger in. In a country of charm galore, Nazare would seem like a town about mediocrity, that is unless you realize it’s the street center where mediocrity goes to carnival
and reaches heights it has never reached before.
In a world that’s (rightfully) all in rage about walls going up, we fell in love with the walled city of Obidos, the church that is now a bookstore, the bookstore that sells fruits in steampunk style, the ubiquitous ceramics… but Obidos style ginjinha? No thanks- I really preferred the less recommended Lisbon one.
Coming back to the wall- so, if there has to be a wall, let it be one which is as gorgeous and as scalable as this, let there be music playing at the gates and let them be wide open to kids and families on either side.
We lost ourselves in Lisbon in the largos and the bairros, looking over countless miradouros onto sun lit terracotta roof tops, or maybe we lost count because we got lost so many times. Charmed by church bells and organs, I drank at the stalls and by the river, I sipped coffee morning, noon and night, I crunched pasteis de natas, empanadas and quiches like time moved slowly and it did. We rode on tuktuks and Ubers with equal ease and were caught off guard all the time by art, untimely, sudden art. Underappreciated almost. Tiles and murals. Street art on buildings. Tiles. Pavements. Subways. Underground arches. Walls. Graphic artists and illustrators selling their wares on the streets.
You see, Lisbon to me is ‘the bad boy you watch with the side glance, you know you’ll see him again tomorrow and maybe again the next day; you’re not particularly yearning to see him but you’re curious. He’s good company. He’s interesting but not comfortable, he’s probably very safe but you’re not quite in love and you may never be and that’s okay. You can’t have a conversation with him but you can sit at a distance and can listen to him for hours.’
(That’s J. having the time of his life striving to be a tuktuk driver, we by the way had the best tuktuk experience with Eco Tuk tours and you can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote! They are SUPER family friendly!!)
is a small but extremely diverse country by all means. In short, it is a great family getaway, catering to a variety of ages and a variety of interests, but only as long as one prepares well and keeps an open mind about being selective about going to places that will cater to their needs. I will post separately about a kid-special trip to Portugal, but something tells me that after I go to Algarve, I might be better equipped to write that. Or maybe that is just an excuse to go back.