John Hope Franklin once said, “We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
So here it is, the start of my glorious tale.
Disclosure: if there’s any wonky formatting going on, I’m sorry. I’m publishing my journey mostly from my tablet so things might come out a little screw-bally until I can fix it on a computer. Again, I’m sorry (I’m still new at this!).
I made it to Portugal without any real roadbumps. I had a glorious flight from Dallas to Houston, then a relaxing flight from Houston to London (after I finally found the right terminal and got the crazy Asian lady out of my assigned seat) where I had my own row of seating that I could spread out and sleep on due to the lack of passengers on one of the largest Boeing aircrafts I’ve flown on in a while.
Then I landed in Heathrow where the security agents fought me on bringing my contact solution and salsa on my next flight. They will be shipping that salsa back to me, you better believe it, but the contact solution didn’t make it through and I’ve been forced to reuse the same solution in my contact case for three days. Luckily, I just picked some more up at the local family farmacie (don’t worry mom!).
The flight from London to Lisbon was short lived (thank God) and I managed to spend a good amount of time in the airport bathroom sprucing up because after nearly 15 hours of travel time, I felt disgusting.
[My beautiful family sending me off in Dallas]
It was 10:50 in the morning and check-in for my hostel wasn’t until 3:00 pm. I took that as a sign I was meant to explore the area around my hostel as well as get some eats because I was not only reaching peak dehydration, but the airplane food I had been nomming on for the last two plane rides was intensely depleted.
I was greeted at the metro station outside the Lisbon airport by funny little characters painted all over the station. They were all different but has the same artistic qualities of the one below.
Of course, being who I am, I wandered the wrong direction when I got off at my metro stop and ended up walking something like 2 miles in a giant circle. I finally made it to a giant market where I ate before I got myself lost again trying to find the hostel (remind me again how people got around without Google maps??).
At some point, I snuck in a little nap, took a real shower, made friends with my hostel mates and then made genuine plans to see Sintra the next day.
For those of you who don’t know, Sintra is a small city less than an hour’s train ride west of Lisbon. It’s a picturesque town dating back to the Neolithic, featuring rolling hills, romantic gardens, fairytale-like castles, and the most western point of all of Europe. My interest in Sintra derived from a post I saw on Pinterest about an inverted tower and I was more than determined to check that one off my bucketlist.
Sintra has to be one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited. It’s a small city of 300,000 that feels like it came right out of a storybook. Describing it would be too difficult, so I’m going to tell my story in the next few photos.
Some of my hostel mates while exploring the Castle of the Moors in Sintra
The Pena Palace (it’s was so colorful it felt like a theme park castle)
View from the Pena Palace in Sintra
Inner streets of the Sintra town center
As for the tower: I had to ask a guide at the Castle of the Moors where to even begin looking for the tower. I couldn’t even remember what it was called. Luckily, he knew right away and with hesitation wrote down the place I needed to go: Quinta da Regaleira.
Now, at some point I ended up meeting a fellow wanderer and we split from my original hostel mates due to our desires to see different things (oh the perks of travelling solo).
Now, as magical as the rest of Sintra was, Quinta da Regaleira is indescribable. If I had gone there first, I probably would have spent all day there, and night, and the rest of my life.
One of the many cave entrances to the secret tunnels in Quinta da Regaleira
The great house of Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira allows it’s visitors to drift into the unknown. It embraces its new admirers with open arms. You found yourself hopeless lost on her gardens and yet effortlessly enchanted by how quickly she feels like home. A gentle haze is cast over you and your excitement for every curve cannot be tamed.
My new friend and I found ourselves exploring further and further into the caves and eventually found what I had been looking for all along. At some point the light broke the darkness and I looked up to see this:
Now, I had to do some research because I needed to know the history of why this “well” was created. Apparently, it was used for either Masonic or tarot initiations but no one is truly sure what went on there (creepy…).
Looking down into the Initiation well at Quinta da Regaleira
The most fascinating part is the fact that from the top, on the outside, it looks like a big rock. (Below)
And there’s even a secret rock door!
My travel friend demonstrating how the door still functions
Overall, the trip to Sintra proved to be a success. I spent all day there when I only expected to wander around for a couple of hours.
Back in Lisbon, that night I had some of the best egg tarts from Pasteis de Belém which was founded in 1837. I managed to stay up and wander around Lisbon until 4 in the morning. The light drizzle and empty streets was très romantique.
My trip the next day (today) to Faro was not as enchanting and romantic. I was late to check out of my room, nearly missed my bus because of misleading metro signs, managed to hold my pee for four hours only to find the Faro bus station bathrooms to be the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen in my entire life, and the restaurant I finally had dinner at was out of all the things I found appealing!
On the flip side, because it’s low season I happen to have my own room at the hostel I’m staying in tonight.
You win some, you lose some.
Traditional Portuguese tile found all over their cities and buildings
Overall, the last few days have been largely eventful and just as amazing.
My takeaway points from the the last few days:
● Lisbon metro tellers and machines do not accept bank/credit cards from outside Portugal, so bring cash.
● Portugal has more hills than any other place I’ve ever been to, so be prepared to hike, A LOT.
● London will not let you bring any kind of liquid anything if it doesn’t fit in your liquid baggie (RIP contact solution).
● Talk to everyone. You never know how amazing someone can be until you get to know them. Get out of your comfort zone and made even go exploring with the people you meet.
● Rede Expressos bus drivers might try leaving the destination bus stop with you still on the bus if you take longer than 3 minutes to grab all your stuff and get the hell out. They might even yell at you in Portuguese for being so slow.
● Kinder Bueno bars are still the greatest thing about coming to Europe.
View of Lisbon from the beach
I’ve managed to find myself in some interesting situations in the first few days of bring here. I can’t wait to see what Spain has to bring me tomorrow.
Hasta el primo Jueves, from Italy!