Lisbon is a mixing bowl, a blender if you will, combining all the flavors of life into one refreshing cocktail. The ancient and new, the savory and sweet, and of course, the wet and dry as my weekend came to bear. This weekend turned out to be quite a tasty adventure!
Day 1: All in the family. Sam, Emily, and I flew into Lisbon airport and were greeted by Sam's first cousin once removed, Rudolfo. He is a fun and generous man, father of two, and can speak English fairly well. Rudolfo turned out to be very helpful and kind to us through out our visit. From the airport he brought us to Tia Lydia's house, his mother and Sam's great aunt. It was in this musty, museum-like house where we stayed for the weekend. I could see immediately where Rudolfo gets his generosity; from the very start Tia Lydia treated us like family, over fed us, and even gave us her room to sleep in. She served a seafood salad with fresh bread, we watched some Portuguese news, and then sleep hit me like the winning punch of a boxing match and I was knocked out cold.
Day 2: Wet Day. We went into Belem, where one can find the famous pastels de nata. These delectable delights are unique to Portugal, and are unlike anything I've tasted before. They have a creamy, custard inside, a crunchy baked outside, and fit in the palm of your hand. Now happy and full of pastels, we continued on to the Vasco de Gama monument. This monument is a bit of a surprise because when looked at straight on, it seems rather plain. But once you turn a corner, you see the staircase of knights, kings, and noblemen getting ready to embark on their journey to the new world. And Vasco de Gama stands proud at the top, with a twinkle in his eye and a ship in his hand. We walked along the water and came to Torre de Belem. This enchanting floating castle is encircled by ocean on all sides. It reminded me of Rapunsel in her tower, where she was locked with no way to enter or escape. Of course, one could enter this tower if they desired because there was a little man made bridge attached. But somehow I felt like I was cheating when I used it. I later came to bear the consequences of my fraudulent ways when the heavens opened and thundered, "thar she blows!" After which we were promptly drenched by the conniving clouds. And so to get back at my opponent, I did him one better and advanced to the wettest place in all of Lisboa - the aquarium! We saw everything from sharks and turtles to puffins and otters! What a fun place on a rainy day.
Day 3: Cars and Coast Lines. Today Rudolfo drove us to see everything along the quaint coasts of Lisbon. We stopped in Cabo da Roca, Guincho, Cascais, and Carcavelos. If you look at a map of Europe, you will notice that in Lisbon, there is a little jut in the land. This is Cabo da Roca, the western most point in Europe. From here all you see is the Atlantic sea, and if you squint really hard, maybe even my house. The next three places are beautiful vistas with beaches, paddle boarders, fisherman, and miles and miles of ocean. In Cascais, there is a town built nearby with shops and restaurants, but Rudolfo said no, we must continue to the next place to eat because it is less touristy. We got out at Carcavelos and saw "La Boca de Infierno," or, "Hell's Mouth," where an arrangement of rocks looked as if hell existed below. We ate lunch at a small, secluded restaurant where only us, a couple with a baby, and the misty ocean air shared each other's company. Rudolfo explained how in Portugal no beach is allowed to be private. Everything along the coast is free to visit, unlike in the US. I rather like this law. Once we completed our coast-line adventure, Rudolfo dropped us off at Casillo san George. One minute I was a female student in the 21st century wearing jeans and a jacket, but upon entering this castle, I was immediately transported into medieval times. I found myself wearing a suit of clunky iron, running around from tower to tower with a spear in hand, protecting my beloved kingdom from the impending doom at bay. Rain beat down on my back, obscuring my vision of the enemy. But soon the clouds departed and my kingdom below glistened from its most recent heavenly wash cycle. Luck had found us once again when we bumped into some of our study abroad friends from Spain at the foot of the castle. How fortuitous!
Day 4: Labor and Love. This day was both Worker's Day and Mother's Day in Portugal. On our walk down town we saw some tents and events honoring this double duty holiday. We hiked up to Jardin Botanico de La Universidad de Lisboa. This dew-covered, century-old garden felt like a South American jungle, minus the monkeys and Mayans. I could barely tell that I was still in Lisbon while exploring this gigantic mossy plot of land.
Saying goodbye to Lisboa was hard; it is one of my favorite places I've traveled to so far. I highly recommend all parts of Lisbon to you, and don't forget to try a pastels de nata!
Hasta la próxima,