This is what I know to be true. Portugal is the oldest country in Europe, Pastel de Nata’s are humankind’s greatest invention, sunsets by the sea can truly soothe the soul and 2pm is a great time to get drunk by yourself in a port cellar.
A sweet sunshine escape, an expedition of one’s own, this time around I put Portugal on the map. Think pastel-hued buildings and €1 egg custard tarts, plus idyllic viewpoints and traditional streets without a gentrified, tourist gloss. A country with a ‘carpe diem’ charisma and historic heart, I solo travelled from Lisbon to Porto across a five-day break. Distinctly different and yet equating to the same, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As my Uber driver put it when he picked me up from Campanhã railway, “Portugal is good to life. Good vibes, good people and really good wine.” Yes João, how right you are.
Ola, I write to you from Portugal,
With anecdotes worth a pocketful.
Lisbon then Porto, a ticket for one,
A five day break under the Portuguese sun.
Terraces, trams and azulejos tiles,
Monuments and miradouros for sunset skies.
Rooftops found in inconspicuous carparks,
Reunions with Lauren for cocktails after dark.
Pastal de Nata’s for dinner and tea,
Plus breakfast, lunch and the snacks in-between.
Bairro Alto for an authentic touch,
And LX Factory where creatives come.
Rossio Square peaks a foodie interest,
Plus Praça do Comércio and the Alfama district.
Then crossover to Porto for the last stop abroad,
Sea breeze, coastlines and a galleon of Port.
Baroque cathedrals on cobblestone streets,
Bottom bunks in hostels where internationals meet.
Luis I Bridge and panoramic views,
Rabelo boats for a historical cruise.
And such was my experience as I arced from place to place,
A quest for beguilement, a sweet sunshine escape.
WHERE I STAYED
Lisbon | Goodmorning Hostel
I stayed in a mixed four-bed dormitory which was surprisingly very quiet and private. This hostel has the friendliest staff, the most central location and the cleanliest bathrooms and communal spaces. Plus, they make waffles with Nutella for breakfast.
Porto | Bluesock Hostel
Was I sleeping in a room with three other 40-year old males? Sure. But I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable. This place feels more like a hotel and is right on the banks of the Duoro River. It’s a beautiful space with exposed rock walls, modern interiors and a lineup of friendly, helpful staff!
WHERE I ATE
Pastry San Antonio (Lisbon) – In my opinion, this is one of the best places for a Pastel de Nata!
Time Out Market (Lisbon) – Spoilt by choice, this indoor food hall is the equivalent of Eat Street in Brisbane or Borough Market in London.
Hungry Biker (Porto) – Stumbled upon by chance, and good heavens for that! If you’re up for generous doses of avocado, waffles, actually good coffee and Billie Holiday over the radio, then this is your spot.
Majestic Café (Porto) – For an expensive steak, an Oporto Passion cocktail and free bread-rolls because the waiter pities you for dining alone. Dating back to the roaring 20’s, this cafe was a glamorous spot for thinkers, artists, politicians and writers alike.
Although I couldn’t muster my might to try these, you should also venture onto sardines, Bacalhau (dried and salted cod) and a Francesinha – a traditional Portugese sandwhich that layers pork, smoked sausage, bacon, beefsteak and topped with a fried egg and cheese. Not one for the vegans.
WHERE I WENT
Elevador da Gloria
Pastry San Antonio
Portas Do Sol Viewpoint
Praça do Comércio
The Pink Street / Rua Nova do Carvalho
Time Out Market
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
Monument Church Of St Francis
Palácio da Bolsa
Luis I Bridge
Taylor’s Port Cellar
Igreja do Carmo
Avenida dos Aliados