Portugal: Cobblestones, Cod and Cork…

…and so much more.  I don’t know where I heard or read that Portugal was the seafood capital of the world, but every since then, I knew I was going to visit this country.   And now that I have, let me tell you, there are so many other, better, reasons to visit Portugal!

After spending 3 days in Paris, my son and I took a short and cheap flight on Vueling Airlines over to Porto, Portugal, where we stayed in Ana’s AirBnb right in the heart of everything.  I highly recommend staying on Rue De Flores street.  The picture above was the view from the flat.  I adore the red-thatched roofs on the top of the houses.

We saw a lot of Porto in the two, too short nights spent there.  Porto is beautiful and we were lucky enough to stay right near the river.  On either side of the river you can watch the boats, enjoy wonderful wines, eat tasty food, listen to the live music, feel the cool breeze and cringe at the youngsters jumping off of the Luís I bridge into the cold deep river.  On the west side you can tour the wine cellars, if Port wine is your thing.  I’m not a big fan.  While meandering through some of the shops I noticed lots of items made from cork.  I didn’t know cork was a hot commodity in Portugal.  You can get purses, coasters and many other things made from cork.  I purchased some cork, wedge sandals.  They are quite comfortable and I can’t wait to wear them but not in Portugal.  I would probably break my ankle because there are cobblestones and hills everywhere.  They are slippery too.  I got quite a work out walking up and down all day.  Portuguese people have great legs.  I truly don’t know how they do it everyday but I guess like anything, you get used to it eventually.

You can find Cod on almost all restaurants menu’s, made several different ways.  Squid is another food you can find almost anywhere.  I was able to indulge in both and although cod is just okay to me, I thought the cod in Portugal was better than average and after getting up the courage to eat some squid, I actually enjoyed that too.

I booked a hop on hop off bus tour as well as a boat ride down the Douro river for Zamir and I to see as much of Porto as we could in our 1 full day.   We were able to see the blue painted tiles referred to as azulejos, on buildings, homes and walls of the train station. Blue is my favorite color and I found azulejos to be absolutely beautiful.  We saw the beaches and visited some of the famous landmarks: Ribeira and the Luís I Bridge, San Fransisco Church, Clerigos Church and Tower 3E.  Unfortunately, the Mercado Do Bolhao was being renovated so we missed that, we didn’t get a chance to ride the tram car and we didn’t get to try the food at Madureira’s restaurant but Zamir did try out the famous Francesinha dish, but he wasn’t a fan.

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Our favorite spot to eat was this little shop across from our flat called, Nut Porto.  The desserts there were delicious.  My favorite was a cookie and cream waffle with nutella and whipped cream.  We also really enjoyed the Sangria that we purchased for 2 Euros right on the the west side of the river.   I found the Portuguese language very interesting because it is a mix between Spanish and French.

On day 3, we packed up and purchased two train tickets at the famous Saõ Bento train station, for 60.5 Euros, to Lisbon, Portugal.  The train station was within walking distance from where we were staying, although it wasn’t easy dragging heavy luggage up hills and cobblestones.  The Saõ Bento walls are covered in azulejos.

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Outside of the Sao Bento train station
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Azulejos on the walls of the train station

We took the next train to Campahna station and boarded another train to Santa Apolonia station.  The train ride was rather comfortable and took approximately 4 hours.  Our seats reclined, there was space to put our larger luggage and staff members came through the cars with food and beverage carts with items for sale.

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Santa Apolonia train station

We stayed in Paulo’s spacious Airbnb in Lisbon.  We had to walk a ways to get to any action from this Airbnb but it is very close to the train station.   My first impression of Lisbon was, it is not as beautiful as Porto.  This may be because the area near the train station is very famous and was undergoing a lot of construction.  We walked around and noticed that this area is also where the cruise ships dock.   We stopped for some food and got ‘Lisbon-boozled’. Apparently in Lisbon, after you order your food and are waiting, the waiters bring you bread, cheese, butter and croquettes and after you are finished your meal, you notice several extra charges on your bill.  Remember that bread and butter you ate and that cheese you picked over, oh yeah, you have to pay for that.  Surprise!  This created a distrust and dislike for me for Lisbon.

It seemed like I wouldn’t get to the places I wanted to see in Lisbon on my own, so I booked us a full day of tours for the next day.  I found Portuguese for a day tour company on Viator.  It was really short notice to book a tour and this company was the only one that had space available.  Filipa was our tour guide and the owner of the company.  Zamir and I and 2 other couples set out to tour Lisbon.  It was small group and it was nice.

We toured Sintra.  Sitting atop of a hill, overlooking all of Lisbon, sits this beautiful, colorful, fairytale castle called Peña Palace.

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We toured Quinta Da Regaliera, a 20th century-built gothic looking palace and garden with underground passages.  It is here, where we happened upon the Initiation Well that I saw all over the internet, beautiful in pictures, wonderful in person.

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We also visited Cabo Da Roca- the westernmost part of Europe and Caiscais (pronounce catchcize)- a coastal community and the richest municipality in Portugal.

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We had lunch and picked up some souvenirs after a full day of Lisbon beauty.

At the airport I picked up a Lisbon inspired Pandora charm to add to my travel bracelet, because no trip is complete without a momentõ.

Our trip to Portugal was short and sweet.  Portugal is a beautiful country with lots to see. The weather is also very comfortable and in summer the days are long; it doesn’t get dark until after 9pm.  Porto is older and maintains a lot of it’s rooted charm.  Lisbon has more to see but is also more touristy.  In Porto, the area I stayed in was perfect.  If I were to revisit Lisbon, I would opt to stay downtown or in Caiscais.  I plan to visit Portugal again for a longer stay in another one of its regions.  I feel like I didn’t get to experience the food, wine, beach or culture to it’s fullest.

So, Obrigada Portugal (thank you in Portuguese), I will be back.

Author: phillygirl77

I've lived my whole life in Philadelphia. Daughter of a teacher, I later became one myself. When I heard about teaching overseas, I jumped feet first. Finally told yes, my two boys and I prepared for our new life abroad. Join us on our journey in Qatar!

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