We recently got back to France from being in Portugal for five days. We had the best time and quite frankly, we wish we could have stayed there much longer than we did. We loved that everywhere we went nearly everyone spoke English. It made the trip very easy compared to trying to use our extremely broken French here in France. Ever since I was young, my parents always took my sister and I travelling whenever they could. They always believed it was an incredible way to experience other cultures and educate us on other parts of the world. It has been a blessing that Justin and I can now do this together.
I remember always thinking my Mom was such a pain, making my sister and I write a journal of our travels so we could read it in the future as a memory. I always thought to myself, if only my Mom wasn't a teacher, I wouldn't have to write a journal entry everyday (when really it was the least I could do for all the countries they took us to, but clearly I didn't see it that way at the time). I found myself typing up notes while we were there and thought to myself, wow I'm sure glad my Mom always forced me to write down our travel memories when I was younger.
When we first arrived in Porto, Portugal we took the train to the city centre so we could walk to our Airbnb. While we were walking within the first 10 minutes, we were approached by nearly a dozen men asking us if we wanted to buy drugs. I kept thinking to myself, wow do we look like that's what we're into? We later found out that it is very common in Portugal for locals to try and sell tourists "fake drugs". Then I rethought my initial contemplation of them thinking we were into that, when they really just thought we would fall for their tourist trap.
Our first day in Porto we took a full-day wine tour to the Douro Valley. We had a fabulous tour guide and had our first experience drinking Port wine. It sure was amazing. We learned about the aging of Port and how it is made. (This is really what I was taking the notes on in case you were wondering, we believe we are wine connoisseurs now after living in Europe for three months). We stopped for a boat tour down the Douro River, unfortunately it was raining so that didn't make for the best experience but we were in Portugal, so could we really complain? After the river cruise we went for a nice lunch, overlooking the vineyards. There we had olive oil that is also produced in the Douro Valley, definitely the best olive oil I have ever had. I contemplated eating it by the spoonful. It looks like soup I thought, no one would notice. If you ever go to Portugal, the Douro Valley is a must see. We would highly recommend the tour we took with CMTours.
Before we left for Portugal, our friends on the team came over for dinner and brought over Pastel De Natas, a traditional Portuguese egg tart. They told us the ones we tried from this French bakery would not even compare to the ones we would have in Portugal. I may or may not have lost count of how many we ate but knew we would never find Pastel De Natas this good until we venture back to Portugal one day. A friend from Winnipeg told us where to find the best Pastel De Natas which was definitely a true and very appreciated tip. If you head to Lisbon, head to Manteigaria and don't just order one. Having a Pastel De Nata paired with a Portuguese Cappuccino you really cannot go wrong. One of my favourite lines that we were told while we were there was asking if we enjoyed the coffee in Canada. The Portuguese told us they call our North American coffee, "water to wash their feet with".
After Porto, we took a three hour train and headed to Lisbon. Lisbon was beautiful, it was a booming city but we loved that the character of it still remained constant. We went on a three hour historical walking tour there, which allowed us to see many of the monuments in Lisbon and learn about some of the Portuguese history. This was a free walking tour, with a company called Sandemans that I would also recommend in Lisbon. There was a group of probably 30 people on this tour, Justin quickly became the designated person to make sure he was last in the group and that everyone was all together. Oh the perks of being tall and being able to see over people. The tour guide would just say, "HEY CANADA, we all here?"
We took a 40 minute train ride from Lisbon to the romantic town of Sintra. If you are going to Portugal and looking for some breathtaking views, this is the spot. While we were in Sintra, we toured around via the Hop On Hop Off buses. This was an easy, convenient and economical way to get around the beautiful area. While in Sintra, we went to the westernmost point of continental Europe called Cabo da Roca. While there, we saw beautiful views of the cliffs and ocean. We also went to Pena Palace, which you probably have seen pictures of at some point when looking at travel websites or magazines. It is grand and full of an array of colours. I think it is the most beautiful palace I have ever seen. The last spot we stopped in, in Sintra was Quinta da Regaleira, which had beautiful grounds featuring a chapel, tunnels, caves, and wells which largely resembled underground towers. It was a breathtaking town, carefully and meticulously maintained.
Our favourite restaurant in Lisbon was IIIMPAR. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you want to try Modern Portuguese food. We absolutely loved our meal and experience at this restaurant. While we were there, we noticed on social media that one of Justin's old teammates that also happens to play hockey in France and is from Winnipeg was in Lisbon at the same time with his girlfriend. We got to go out with them one night on a rooftop bar called PARK, which was lots of fun and a place I would definitely recommend going to for some nightlife in Lisbon. I will tell you, this cool rooftop bar is on top of a parkade and Justin and I definitely thought we accidentally searched for places to PARK a car and not PARK a rooftop bar. It was touch and go for awhile there.
We are trying to decide where we go for our next break in December, if you have any suggestions of must see European destinations to go to in the winter, please send them my way!