Pretty Porto

Letter 101

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since leaving Portugal, but I have to tell you about my last stop there which was Porto. I met my mum there and we stayed in a suburb near the beach but ventured into the city and wine country as well.

This week was mainly a holiday with my mum and we stayed in Foz do Douro which is right on the beach and around a half an hour walk from Porto city centre. Completely recommend the area! Much quieter than the city centre, with good restaurants, lovely beaches, great parks and easy proximity to the city! We stayed in a stunning airbnb apartment which I loved so so much! Now I’d like to tell you all about Porto, one of the prettiest cities I have visited.

CITY

The city centre effortlessly combines tight colourful cobbled streets with sprawling avenues and plazas and almost every street is on a steep incline. I’ve gotten used to these hilly cities now. One thing this does mean is that around every corner is a brand new view to discover and the bright orange rooftops and blue river Douro make for postcard perfect images.

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PARKS

We stumbled across some beautiful parks both in and around the city, perfect for a shaded rest after climbing the hills. I would recommend the gardens around the Crystal Palace – couldn’t go inside but the surroundings are wonderful.

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LIVRARIA LELLO

As far as attractions go, we did very little. We didn’t have much time in the city as it was, but I did go into the bookshop made famous by J K Rowling and Harry Potter. It is exquisite inside and worth a visit!

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BEACH

The beaches are not typically stunning like those down south in the Algarve but they do have character being formed of craggy rocks and the fierce Atlantic waves. We also happened to be here for Portugal Day when a military parade graced the shores which was really great.

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DOURO WINE REGION

This has been the least-budget part of my trip, and lucky for me it was paid for by my mum. The day trip was extortionate but it was a treat and we loved it very much. We had a private car (as no one else was on the trip), we had octopus for lunch and we tried Port in a few vineyards. Not to mention the boat trip in one of the most stunning locations and seeing some beautiful Rolls Royce’s. All in all, a fantastic day.

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My week in Porto was the perfect end to a month in Spain and Portugal. I flew out of Lisbon on the 16th June and I can’t wait to catch you up on what I’ve been doing! It’s been super busy but it’s starting to settle down now so I’ll be writing more frequently.

All the best,

From Lou

About Me

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Castles + palaces + forest = Sintra

Letter 100

Sintra was a fairy tale and a place that is now very very high on my list to return to. As I was staying in Lisbon I took only a day trip here with a big group from the hostel and we had the most fantastic day. It was so great to get out into the countryside, do some walking and chill out in a beautiful setting. It blew me away and there is so much more I want to explore there. I would love to go back for a week or two.

The town

Sintra sprawls up into the forested hill heading to the castle and is a collage of brightly coloured unique buildings. The tight uphill cobbled streets contrast the wide open squares lined with restaurants and pastries. On a beautiful day like we had it really looked spectacular.

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Walking to the Moorish Castle

The uphill walk through the shaded forest was very refreshing after walking under the blazing sun in cities. It was also great to do some exercise. You can get the bus up but the walk is well worth doing for the stunning views and little surprises along the way.

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The Castle

This may be the most spectacular castle I’ve ever visited. The walls follow the contours of the land and allow for views across miles and miles of Portugal. We continuously got lost around the small stone rooms and coming to dead ends of plants. If you don’t mind many many steps then you’ll love it. I loved it.

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Pena Palace

We walked to the palace through the park from the castle. The route is lovely and upon approaching the palace you will be speechless. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many bright colours on one building. So many exquisite details, tiles and shapes. I would have loved to go inside but as a group we decided not to. Even so, we could walk around the whole building taking in the views of the surrounding countryside and the various parts of the palace. It was incredibly stunning.

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Valley of the Lakes

We kind of came to this by accident. I was keen to head up to the viewpoint but everyone was tired and hot so we walked down to the town instead. On the way we passed this lovely collection of ‘lakes’ – I would call them ponds but whatever. It was very peaceful and the colours of the trees, plants and lakes were stunning. So very different to the beaches and cities I’d been surrounded in for the past few weeks.

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Sintra was one of my favourite days of my trip so far. I loved getting to know lots of new people and enjoying the peace and quiet of the town and it’s countryside. I will 100% be returning because one day just is not enough.

Little side note – this is letter 100!! I began this blog over a year ago and I now have 100 posts about some of the great places I’ve been lucky enough to visit and some random things in between. Thanks for reading, I hope you’re enjoying my posts! I’m currently rounding off my month in Spain and Portugal and will be leaving for Budapest very shortly. I’m excited to start the next part of my summer! Stay tuned!

From Lou

About Me

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13 reasons why … Lisbon was the best.

Letter 99

Sometimes a place becomes special to you, not because of the city itself and the things you see, but because of the people you meet and the experiences you have with them. That’s Lisbon for me; it is a very special city. Here are 13 reasons why…

1 Friends

I suppose I should thank my hostel for the wonderful people I met during my stay in Lisbon. I made some extremely good friends who I know I’ll see again, and I also encountered people from countries across the world who I had great times with. I felt I was constantly busy spending time with people, chatting, relaxing, doing trips and seeing the wonderful city. How great is it to travel solo?!

lisbon new friends

2 Belting out songs in numerous languages in a Portuguese restaurant

I felt truly happy when sitting in a small restaurant on a sofa alongside an Aussie, German, Swiss and Canadian singing with a Portuguese woman who had tailored her songs after asking us our nationalities. We discovered this lovely little place, called Patio do Bairro, in the heights of Bairro Alto and hearing the live music we headed in for a drink. Turned out to be the best night of all of our trips so far. We tried and failed to sing Portuguese, even with lyrics, and then she began to sing English songs for us. She even threw in some French and Italian for us to have a go at. She was a wonderful singer and the whole atmosphere was made even better by the large local family celebrating a birthday. I felt so at home in this foreign but familiar country.

3 Graffiti gallery disguised as a car park

Within Lisboa Parking, a 6 storey car park hidden in the tangled city streets, are walls of colourful artwork from various artists. Not only this but on the top of the car park is a stunning viewpoint across the Lisbon, perfect for catching a sunset, as we did.

4 Local flea market

I love markets and go searching for them everywhere. We were told about this one by the guide and were not disappointed when we got there! It stretched for ages and people were buying all sorts. I managed to find some postcards written on decades ago – my favourite kind – and added to my foreign comics collection. It happens on Tuesday and Thursday and is located right next to the Panteao National. The market gave me a chance to work on my Portuguese skills, and realise that I have none.

lisbon flea market

5 Pastries all day

Portugal and pastries go hand in hand and made my stay in Lisbon even better. Pasteis de Nata is a custard tart, common in Portugal and essential in Lisbon. There are entire pastry shops dedicated to this tiny treat and I visited 3 of them. My favourite was Manteigaria located in Bairro Alto. I can’t even explain the taste explosion, but I quickly became addicted.

lisbon pateis de nata

6 Terrifying tram ride

Trams are a symbol of Lisbon, the colourful carriages transporting people up and around the hills that the city is built on. Of course I had to use one before I left. Tram 28 runs between Praça do Martim Moniz and Bairro Alto and passes through many beautiful districts in Lisbon, lasting around 40 minutes. The reality of the ‘enjoyable’ tram ride is that aside from the 20 people seated, everyone else stands tenuously hanging on to anything in reach whilst the tram jolts it’s way around Lisbon, sending many flying forward. As one of the lucky seated people, it was hilarious. I swear the driver does it for a laugh. Maybe there’s just too many people on it, because on one particularly steep incline, the tram struggled and I was convinced we would slide straight back down. We also came across some Portuguese road rage. Quite right as the driver was on the wrong side of the road. It’s an experience to say the least, and I kind of loved it.

lisbon tram

7 Watching a wedding photo shoot

I love weddings and especially being able to silently gatecrash someones photo shoot and watch them. We came across this couple in a park near the hostel called Miradouro do Parque Eduardo VII, which was a stunning area with a pop up book fair too. The location was perfect for the photos and they looked stunning.

lisbon wedding

8 BOWL of sangria

My friend and I were recommended a bar to go to for sangria. We were told that for €4 you get a very large amount of sangria, and we were not let down. After getting lost trying to get there, being offered drugs in the street and stumbling into the dark bar, clearly being the only tourists, we were pleasantly surprised. THE largest glasses I’ve ever seen and the sangria was very yummy. Very alcoholic. It took us a couple of hours of sipping and chatting and ended in us slightly foggy-eyed heading back to our hostel. We laughed so much and it was a great evening.

lisbon sangria

9 Horse parade in Belem

On disembarking my bus in Belem, after a bad nights sleep and stressful morning, I was greeted by a huge expanse of park leading to the water, a grand pearly monastery and a parade of horses and guards spanning between them. The whole scene instantly relaxed me and made me happy, partly because it reminded me of home. One of my favourite things to do in London is watch the changing of the guards, and this was just as exciting, and shared with far less people.

lisbon belem parade

10 The whole city is an art gallery

You don’t have to walk far to find graffiti, and here it is celebrated. There are so many beautiful pieces around the city and getting lost and finding them is so much fun and the best way to see the true Lisboa.

11 The viewpoints are insane

There are so many places around the city to observe the buildings, plazas and parks spanning out below you. A little exercise will get you to some pretty impressive places not to be missed. You sometimes have to pinch yourself.

lisbon viewpoint

12 Dazzling colours and patterns

Most of the buildings are either coloured or tiled, the pavements are Portugal’s version of mosaics and the terracotta rooftops, blue sky and green parks combine to create a city full of colour and character. Each corner is unique and a walk is always eventful.

13 I met someone from my college

I never meet English people whilst travelling – don’t know why. So I was unbelievably surprised when the guide for my walking tour was indeed from home and we attended the same college, at the same time! It was so great meeting her and even better finding out about her job as a tour guide for the summer. What a coincidence. The walking tour was also one of the best I’ve ever done and we got so much advice about what to do in Lisbon. Many of the things on this list came from her. (The company offer many tours, free and paid, and is called Discover Lisbon.)

 

Lisbon for me was a whirlwind and I enjoyed every second. I loved the people I met and the amazing experiences we had together. Lisbon blew me away and I can’t wait for my day there next week. What a city.

From Lou

About Me

Relaxing on the Algarve

Letter 98

After a few quick stops in cities it was time, once again, to slow down and relax for a while. I don’t like rushing around and only scraping the surface of a place, and luckily in Portugal I was able to stay in each place for a longer time, which I’ve enjoyed far more.

Lagos

This was the main part of the holiday where we stayed in a Portuguese lady’s beautiful house, lazed on the beach all day and ate great food. It’s always a nice break from hostel dorm rooms to stay in a private room with your own space and a familiar face. We stayed here for 4 days and even this wasn’t enough to soak up all Lagos has to offer. The pretty town is only the tip of the ice burg with this place, and the beaches are where the beauty really begins. The walk around the headline stopping off at numerous beaches is completely stunning. The rock formations, crystal clear water and sandy coves are postcard perfect. We tried a few of the beaches and our favourite was Praia do Camilo. I felt so relaxed in Lagos and loved our time in this stunning place. One thing not to be missed is the Ponta da Piedade which is reached on foot and contains rock formations, caves and grottos around emerald green water. I came here early in the morning when it was deserted and peaceful – absolutely perfect.

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Faro

My trip in Portugal actually began in Faro where I met up with my friend from university. We stayed here for a couple of nights and then headed to Lagos. With pretty low expectations of Faro, I was pleasantly surprised. Although we found there really isn’t much to do in the town, it is very pretty to walk around and the harbour is lovely. We spent our only full day in Faro on Ilha Deserta, a deserted island 40 minutes away from the city by ferry. I had my doubts about how deserted this island would be, but it was honestly paradise. For a very long time we didn’t see one person. Complete bliss. On this island you can also reach the most southern point of Portugal by following the trail around it.

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You really can’t beat the Algarve for beaches. Such a wonderful, relaxing stay which set me up perfectly for Lisbon (which I can’t wait to tell you all about!!).

From Lou

About Me

PS. The ‘hostel’ we stayed in was just wonderful and I would highly highly recommend. It’s private rooms in a house right in the centre of Lagos with access to a stunning kitchen, lounge and terrace. Complete perfection! Link here.

lagos room

Finally… here’s us having a fab time on the only cloudy afternoon we had…

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