Day 35+: Santiago de Compostela, Spain- Porto, Portugual- Lisbon, Portugal

Santiago de Compostela, Spain 

 

We woke up in our room fit for royalty, in the parador, and were so happy we didn't have to walk anywhere other than to the bus station today. We took our time getting to breakfast, and HOLY MOLY, it was a buffet also fit for royalty. AND THEY HAD GLUTEN FREE EVERYTHING. On top of this, we ran into Lane from TX. We all seemed to be walking on cloud nine. We caught up with him and took some photos in front of the Cathedral together before parting ways. Guys, if you can afford it, try to stay int his parador once you make it to Santiago. It's worth every penny. 

 

Porto, Portugal

 

Our trip to Portugal, started by taking a bus ride (30 Euros) from Santiago de Compostela to Porto, Portugal. Porto is a beautiful older city, and for 50 euros/night, we stayed in a centrally located hotel, called Vera Cruz Hotel. Let me just say that you get what you pay for. I could easily compare it to any Albergue you would find in Spain in terms of cleanliness, etc. The front desk staff spoke perfect English and was able to make great recommendations. However, the worst part of this hotel, was the ‘bar.’ The ‘rooftop bar’ which opens at 9 PM, offers lukewarm tea and old coffee, regardless of how many times you return it, for four euros. Yeah. I guess you could say I would not recommend staying there.

Transportation in Portugal is as amazing as it was in Spain. My two main goals while in Porto were to visit one of the oldest bookstores the world, Livraria Lello, as well as get me some Port wine. Overall, English is just as regularly spoken as is Portuguese (I swear it is because they use subtitles rather than just dubbing it). Despite being cheaper than Spain, and much more diverse in culture, food, architecture, yada yada, Portugal simply isn’t as clean.

In visiting Port Wine Bodegas, you will a) be mesmerized by the view, and b) should definitely look at the hours of operation. We made the mistake of arriving too early for dinner, or too late for wine tours. But anytime I did get to sip on some port, I was in heaven. Also note that you are visiting factories, not actual Vineyards, which are a good 150k inland from the city or Porto. Be sure to cross the Dom Luis I Bridge for some astonishing vistas of the city and the Ribeira-Rio Douro (Douro River). 

Getting to visit one of the world’s oldest bookstores, Livraria Lello, which supposedly inspired J.K. Rowling’s description of Hogwarts was super rad. It costed 3 euros to enter, but you can use that towards any purchases made in the store... And I purchased. Reason they do this? People will straight up use the space to have Instagram photoshoots, meanwhile getting too touchy with the already vulnerable architecture. Apparently charging for entrance, filters out these types of nuisances. They’ve also seen less theft since charging, at least according to the Portuguese man standing at the entrance. The weather there was cold and rainy, and not conducive to the cold I was trying to keep at bay. We both were yearning to get to the Mediterranean climate of Lisboa. I know it will be tourist-y, but I look forward to the day I can return to Porto during the summer. 

 

Lisbon, Portugal

I am already wanting to return back. Lisbon (pronounced Leeshboa) to me is the San Francisco of Europe... Same climate, similar architecture, funky fashion, great food. Really just all of the good stuff. I won’t lie... I heavily relied upon 'The Vice Guide to Lisbon 2014,' which gave me SparkNotes on the Do’s and Dont’s of this magical city. We took a train from Port to Lisbon, 2.5 hours, first class, for 25 euros. We stayed at the fancy/hip/semi-cheesy music themed HF Fenix Music hotel for 100 euros a night. This is essentially a five star hotel, and is located right next to a Metro station. I would highly recommend staying there. It clean, with great staff, and a great buffet breakfast (included!) and a rooftop pool. Plus there is a restaurant about 200ft up the road that is fantastic. 

The weather in Lisbon was as we hoped for, warm and in the 70’s, which essentially cured my cold. The transportation in Lisbon is something else. Super cheap and easy to use, even if you don’t speak the language. The metro runs all day, as do the busses... And you can use the same pass for both (cheaper!). As previously mentioned, nearly EVERYONE speaks English. The food was delicioso, especially seafood (well duh). My favorite restaurant was hands down 'A Cevecheria,’ voted the best cevecheria in Lisboa. It was the ceviche I had hoped to find in Spain, but didn’t. All different kinds, and so forth. Also great drinks and desserts. Otherwise, I tried to get my hands on this amazing goat cheese called Queijo de Ovelha Curado (THAT YOU CAN'T FIND OUTSIDE OF THE COUNTRY) any chance I got, as well as fish or octopus soup. My mom had never been a fan of octopus, until visiting Portugal. 

Lisbon has a few great record shops and vintage stores, all in a 20 minute walking range of each other (Bairro Alto and Independencia neighborhoods). I also thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Sunday flea market in Sao Vicente de Fora, that had everything you could think of, including records. Great shopping, and live music. Who can complain? Since I am a grandma, and was traveling with my mother, I didn’t get to enjoy much of the nightlife or Fado (Portuguese music) clubs... Namely because they open at around 11 PM. The Portuguese party hard, I mean we are talking all night, on most nights. I couldn’t hang. Something I wish we would have done the first day, rather than the second to last, was the Free Walking Tour. I am a huge proponent of these, because they give you the DL on the city (where to go, where not to go, all of the unbiased information you’d hope to hear while there). If you are a fan of Jose Saramago, author of 'Blindness,’ then you would be stoked to visit the museum (Funacao Jose Saramago) dedicated to him. Wouldn’t have known it was there, unless our tour guide told us. I’d have to say that Portugal is one of the most underrated countries in Europe, and that I can’t wait to explore more of it. 

***Shout out to both Stephanie and Pita Bread for driving us to and from LAX. What kind of friends are willing to drive you to the airport at the break of dawn, or pick you up from the airport late at night? The best of friends <3333