When life teaches you to never say never.
Freedom, «the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved».
The second of these definitions found on Google could clearly define the situation we’ve been living so far in Portugal because, in this time of pandemic, I felt like this was the only country where people were not “imprisoned” by tight restrictions.
Portugal occupies a strange place in my heart. It’s one of those beautiful countries where you go because you have to once in your life… I don’t know how to explain this relation, but moving to Portugal was surely not in my plans and still 2020 decided to take me here.
Let’s get back in time…
I was 17 years old (if I don’t go wrong) when my parents decided to take the whole family to Lisbon. I remember that I was sick so I could not enjoy too much the trip, nevertheless I have memories of a beautiful city, of a dinner with Fado, of the drug dealers trying to sell to my eldest brother.
Second time I came to Portugal was end of December 2019, getting ready to celebrate the New Year’s Eve and start the “fantastic” 2020 – how could I know that here I would also finish that unexpected 2020?!
Exactly, as you probably saw at the bottom of the page I’m currently in Lisbon (for the third time in my life) but before getting to this point, let’s make a brief recap.
In the previous episode (Forced Holidays) I was stuck in Italy because of the Corona Virus and, although I was keeping myself busy, I had to figure out yet what to do with my life: lockdown over I enjoyed life for a while (weekend in Puglia, another in Procida, another one in Capri; after that Valencia and last but not least Milano and Bergamo to reunite with some friends made in China – not that they were produced in China, but our friendship started there); China started to reopen its borders at the end of August but through a pretty complex process and my HR were taking things too slowly so I decided to look for a job and I found one in Lisbon.
I was looking for jobs anywhere but in Portugal for one precise reason (please Portuguese readers forgive me for this): the food.
“I’ll go anywhere I find a job but not in Portugal because I don’t like the food there“; everybody is astonished when I say so but my brothers and I did not fall in love with the meals during our trip last year, sorry.
Anyway since life is amazing and challenging, it decided once more on my behalf: through a newsletter I read about this job in Lisbon somehow related to my field, with relocation package included – tempting – so I applied and got called: in a time frame of 10 days I had the interview, looked for flats, bought a ticket, prepared the luggage and flew. Life lesson: never say never.
October 9th, 2020 I landed in Lisbon with one way ticket because so far I still don’t know how long I will stay here and if I learned something from these last 2 years of my life is that you can make all the plans you want but if it is not your destiny then those plans will crush. Life lesson number 2: go with the flow.
Almost 4 months have passed since I moved here and honestly I’m happy: I have a job so my days have meaning again; I met many people, made new friends and we even had couple of weekend trips of which you will be reading about sooner or later; about the language (as you know from my presentation in Who am I?) I speak some words, I understand most of it but I am willing to study for real – will I do it or will my laziness be stronger?
After this short time living here I can confirm that Portugal is indeed a beautiful country and Lisbon is a super welcoming city: many expats move here for the mild temperatures, for the pretty cheap cost of life and recently because in this era of covid there was more “freedom” here than in other countries – but still with precautions, don’t worry.
Till the beginning of January here in Lisbon we were still allowed to go out for dinner or for a drink during the week when the curfew started at 23:00 (at 13:00 instead during the weekends, in the afternoon even supermarkets and churches were closed).
Starting by January 15th due to the increase in cases that even brought Lisbon hospitals to send patients to Porto and other cities, new restrictions were imposed: all the non essential activities stay closed till further notice so no gym, no restaurants, no Chinese shops but I could buy a new cover for my mobile phone from the Pakistani shop… very essential.
In spite of these difficult times, I was lucky enough to be able to visit the city again and its surroundings too; I could admire the view of the thousands rooftops from the many Miradouros around Lisbon and fall for the Portuguese architecture: the colourful tiles that cover the buildings create a unique and fascinating style, so much that every time I take a stroll it is impossible not to take photos; when you walk around Graça there are so many old and abandoned beautiful buildings that my mind starts dreaming about future possible renovations and uses of them… Some of these serve also as canvas for street artists who gift the city with impressive graffiti (if you search “Street art in Lisbon” on the web you can also find some tour).
Do we wanna talk about the amount of amazing beaches in Portugal?! Surfer can get crazy around here! And I am not only talking about the south, the Algarve (where of course temperature are even milder than in Lisbon) but about all Portugal: not far from Lisbon you have Caparica, Carcavelos… Cascais, a super cute town where costs of living are a bit higher than the capital city; Setúbal, Sesimbra, Nazaré! (I will tell you more about this last one some other time).
Surf is such a thing here that I saw myself almost forced to try it 😛
It was a random and very warm day of December when with 4 or 5 friends we took a train to Carcavelos, rented board and wetsuit for 20€ and just jumped into the water trying to ride those waves…
I was able to stand only once.
I still was pretty proud of myself anyway… come on, first time I’ve ever “surfed”!
But let’s talk about what else you can visit here in Portugal, where moving around is super easy and not too expensive.
Or better, let’s talk about what I visited so far during my three times here in Portugal…
If you are enough familiar with geography, you probably know that Portugal is located at the the most western extremity of Europe and not far from the capital you can get to “the westernmost point of the continental Europe”: Cabo da Roca, «where the land ends and the sea starts».
Don’t do like me and wear comfy sneakers because you’ll have to walk mountain path – we could actually say you’ll have to hike. Get prepared for the strong wind (I don’t know, maybe bring a hairbrush) and open up yourself to meet the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean.
In case you are wondering about how to get there from Lisbon:
take the Comboio for Cascais from Cais do Sodré station then bus number 403 from the Cascais Terminal.
Bring a sandwich if you don’t want to starve because there is nothing around there; on the way back you can do like us and have dinner in Cascais which is worth a stop (we went for a very typical Portuguese dinner… in Marsala Restaurant 😛 very good Indian food but not 5 stars service).
Another daytrip I had (note: it’s worth it only if you stay long time in Lisbon) is Azeitão, province of Setúbal.
As you can guess from the huge grape in the photo, this little town is known for its wine and obviously with my friend we wanted to go for a wine tasting; we opted for the Quinta de Bacalhoa: we paid (online) 8€ for the guided tour of the Quinta and from there we had to take a taxi (we supposed that the guide could not drive us for covid reason) to the winery where we were offered a glass of white wine, one of red and another one of Moscatel – a sweet wine which I then learned I shouldn’t drink with ice and lemon like I used to do.
In case you decide to follow my steps and go to Azeitao, don’t miss other two specialties: the Queijo de Azeitão and the typical Torta of the place, which I did not like too much because it tastes like a rolled up sweet omelette.
Let me make a quick statement: Sintra is a “must visit” when you are in Lisbon, but – shame on me – I haven’t been there yet.
My valid excuse is that I’ve been told it is always humid up there and being myself a spring-born person, I want to wait for better weather to go there and be able to fully enjoy the visit.
During my second trip to Portugal, my brothers and I scheduled also 2 nights in Porto: we landed in Lisbon (note: we could not find a convenient flight, but Porto has its own airport) and took a cab to the Oriente station (in front of the beautiful Vasco da Gama mall) for our 3 hours train.
Just a couple of days are surely enough because Porto (or Oporto) is pretty small but I promise you that the azulejos you can admire in this city are incredible, even the station is a masterpiece!
Unmissable in Porto? Port wine tasting!
(I have just realized that in this current post I may sound like an alcoholic but I am not, I swear! The fact is that I always go for typical things and coincidence wants that both Azeitão and Porto are known for wine… it’s not my fault).
We chose Taylor’s – actually I think it was one of the first choices I found on the internet: 15€ for visit and tasting (this was the price at the end of 2019) then we also bought a pretty little box of 4 small bottles to bring on the plane and give mom and dad back home.
Before heading to Lisbon, we spent a day in the small Braga where – let me say it – the only… ehm, I mean… the main thing to see is the impressive Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte.
Seen that, we moved to the city centre by bus looking for something to do; since we could not find much, we started to buy scratch and wins wishing to get a money miracle which, of course, never arrived.
After a couple of unsuccessful tickets scratched… we changed our train ticket and took an earlier one to leave.
Going back to the geographical topic, between Porto and Lisbon is Coimbra, a super cute city which I visited together with other little jewels during a curfew-escape with my friends, but I will talk about this in another post so…
For now, this is it. Over and out.
Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page…
I’ll read ya!