As I mentioned before I am starting to travel more and more this spring and I could not be happier for the change in pace. In the fall, I enjoyed sitting back and acclimating to my new home, but now, I am ready to enjoy its perfect proximity to other beautiful places (but let’s be real, I really go for the beautiful food).
This past week I was lucky enough to travel with four friends of mine (who I annoyingly call my Portugal Posse) to not only Portugal, but also Sevilla, Spain as well. We ended up meeting up with different groups of friends we knew along the way, as well, as reconnecting with my old friends in Sevilla. My feet have blisters, my muscles hurt, and I am sure my waist line has gained a few inches from the food…but the stories and memories outweigh any of the negatives (well we will see if that holds true when I go to the gym on Monday!)
We started off our journey in Sevilla, Spain by visiting and staying with a good friend of mine who I met when I was studying abroad. Alejandro and I met three years ago through a friend and even though I irritate him with my awful salsa moves, he still accepted four of us into his apartment for four days without hesitation. My friends wanted to experience Semana Santa in Sevilla because it is
renown for its celebration (although it is celebrated all over Spain). With the smell of incense in the air at every cobbled stoned street and the sounds of drums beating at all times of the day, I think by the end of the four days we all agreed that if living in Sevilla for a few years, it would be understandable to want to GTFO during Semana Santa. Regardless of our feelings after four days of processions in the intense heat, the processions were still marvelous. It’s always amazing to me the beauty of the pasos and the intensity of the music. However it will never cease to make me uneasy seeing the cone hats of the masked men walking in the street, but it’s significance doesn’t hold the same weight as it does to the Spanish (I’m American and the cone hats look like the KKK…it will never stop terrifying me).
During our evenings in Sevilla, we would all get together and go salsa dancing at a local club. This brought back all the memories from my study abroad experience! My moves might have been rusty, but the laughs were just that much stronger. Each night we would eat with Alejandro and whatever coachsurfer was staying with us at the time as well. The atmosphere was fun and silly, but incredibly meaningful and magical to me. I hadn’t missed Sevilla more than when I was spending those four days surrounded by people I loved and reliving memories of my time there.
However, we had to move on to our next city. An excruciating seven-hour bus ride later, we ended up in Lisbon, Portugal. Here we met up with our fifth Portugal Posse member and immediately took to the street for some good food and wine. Let me tell you, the food, the architecture and the weather, are three HUGE selling points of Lisbon. After a two hour walking tour around the city, I was infatuated with its charm. There was this old historical ambiance of the city that was impossible not to like. We ended up walking for hours even after the tour, eating as many pastéis de nata that we possibly could and soaking up the amazing views. We even made the trek to Belém, which is a tiny town outside of Lisbon to try their famous Pastéis de Belém—which are all they are cracked up to be, trust me! Between the Bacalhau (codfish), pastries and the sangria we were sufficiently stuffed the entire day.
Our second day in Lisbon, we took a day trip to Sintra. I cannot stress how wonderful and important it is to go to this city! IT IS AMAZING. I have never considered ditching my teaching career to become a princess so seriously in my life! It’s that cool.
A small area located north of Lisbon is this province of Sintra. Not talked about enough for it’s beauty and wonder, it sits in the mountains with a small town charm that is as quaint as it sounds. However, this is not what makes it so magical (even though without it, it would probably not be as wonderful). No, located in this tiny area are castles. Yes, you heard me…castles. There are a ton of different castles all around the little town and each has their own unique charm. After renting a TUK TUK (a small little motor bike driven by a local) we were taken to some breathtaking views and a colorful palace on top of the mountain called Pena Palace. This palace was constructed in the Middle Ages and finished in 1854. It is a perfect depiction of the 19th century Romanticism in the world, as well as, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s magnificent. We only paid to walk around the castle, not in it, but it was worth even just the walk.
After leaving Pena Palace, I didn’t think it could get any better than that. BUT, when we decided to go the Quinta da Regaleira castle on a lower part of the mountain, I was seriously mistaken. Situated halfway up the mountain is this beautiful estate, that not only has a beautiful palace and chapel on its grounds, but also a series of wonders throughout its park. This was by far my favorite of the entire day. There are a series of grottos, wells, lakes, statues, benches and fountains that add to the romantic atmosphere of the entire park. And what’s underneath all of these beautiful structures? Tunnels! A huge network of tunnels connects you to all these different wonders. It was incredibly interesting. The entire time we were there, we were dreaming of childhood adventures that could be had running through the park, princess fairytale evenings spent running through the woods and reading books (you can roll your eyes….now) It might sound stupid, but trust me, if you saw this place you would understand.
When we finally made it home, we were all satisfied and in a dream. We ended up meeting up with friends, enjoying drinks on a rooftop terrace and dreaming of our castles (that could have just been me).
As always with trips, the end was nearing. We moved into our last leg of our trip by catching a morning flight (that was 10 euro I might add) to Porto in the northern part of Portugal. This city was recommended for the wine, the food and the views; none of which were disappointments (well, I didn’t care for the Port wine, but others did). Porto is a city in a mountain that overlooks a lake that eventually leads out to the ocean. To some it might look old and run down, but to me and my friends it had a character that was unmet by any other city. The part that I loved the most about this city was the tiny streets that ran through the mountain (up and down millions of stairs I might add) where locally owned bars and restaurants whose lovely smells drifted out into the streets at any mealtime were situated. It was peaceful and wonderful. We were in Porto for two days and I feel like I blinked and it was done. Overall it was a beautiful city that is worth every minute spent, I promise!
After a week and two days of traveling we all sadly walked through the Porto airport to our gate number back to Madrid. I know for me, I wasn’t ready to go back to Spain and kept feeling like we had one more part to our trip. It went incredibly fast, but will be forever remembered!
Now that I am safe at home in my little apartment in Logroño, Spain, I am happy to be home in my bed. I enjoyed all of the beautiful places and views, but even more, I loved the people I traveled to them with. They make the difference between a good trip and a fantastic trip every time. Besides my copious amounts of laundry and nursing my blistered feet back to normalcy, these next two days before school starts back are going to be spent relaxing.
Over all, this trip was unforgettable. From my special love of Sevilla to the most often forgotten about hidden gem of Portugal, I was filled with love (and a million calories a day).
My advice is go to the beautiful places, take time to enjoy every part, and enjoy the people you are traveling with. The places will be that much more wonderful when you relive the memories in your head.