Portugal & Spain: 6/11 – 6/17

Lisbon >>> Lagos >>> (Spain) Seville

6/11 – Rest and Research in Lisbon
6/12 – Lisbon Oceanarium, Castelo de Sao Jorge, and Party in the Alfama district!
6/13 – Our First Laundromat!
6/14 – Brazilian Steakhouse in Portugal
6/15 – Explore Sintra
6/16 – Explore the coastline in Lagos

6/17 – Travel into Spain starting with Seville

Rest and Research in Lisbon
+ With our sleep schedules still horribly out of whack, Corey stayed up all night knocking items off our to do list (and Liz only slept a handful of hours too). Not only were our dorm mates early risers here, but one of them in particular was very inconsiderate of others in the morning and would open the doors to outside letting in the bright light and loud sounds. Then he, along with the others would proceed to talk and bang the beds as they readied themselves for the day. It was rude because we always take such precaution to be quiet at night and not disturb others, and didn’t receive the same respect in return.
+ Corey ate the free breakfast offered by the hostel of sandwiches, cereal and fruit and then did some more work until about 12:30 when he finally decided to sleep/take a nap.
+ He tag teamed with Liz by waking her up so she could begin her work on the list. Then he took a 4.5 hour nap and rejoined Liz to call some friends back home that we hadn’t talked to in months! First we spoke to Jamez/Sarah and then Connor/Alexa and got to speak to each of them for over an hour! It was really nice to connect with friends back home and made us feel less homesick.
+ Neither of us felt like going out for dinner and some people at the hostel were cooking frozen pizzas which smelled delicious. So we decided to copy them and found the nearest mini market and bought some frozen pizzas and also Pepsi for Liz (all the coke on the cruise varied widely in quality, depending on the station and syrup/carbonation mixture and most of the time it as awful).
+ This would be our first time eating frozen pizza since before we left on the trip and we (especially Corey) were really excited! This was due to either the frozen pizza not being available, or our hostel not having have an oven.
+ After we finished our pizza, we talked to Doug for a bit and then planned out our route through Europe for the next month. We were getting excited because our hard work was paying off and our plan was finally coming together. We did that for the next 4 hours or so and then finally called it a night, going to bed way too late again at around 4am.

Lisbon Oceanarium, Castelo de Sao Jorge, and Party in the Alfama district!
+ After only a few hours of sleep, we woke up in time to make the end of breakfast and both made sure to eat a lot to give us energy for the long day ahead. Then after a shower and Liz preparing her purse for use for the first time all trip, we headed out of the hostel before noon! We finally did it! Lol.
+ (Liz had bought a travel appropriate purse to use on the trip but throughout central and south America it ended up being way too flashy to use most of the time. So the purse had remained buried in her backpack this whole time! She is excited to actually get some use our of it now!)
+ The first thing we did was take the metro over to the Lisbon Oceanarium which was about 25 Minutes away situated right on the water. It’s the second largest in the world and since we enjoy aquariums, we were excited to visit. After a 15 minute walk through this entirely different looking part of town (lots of corporate buildings and modern art sculptures) we reached the Oceanarium.
+ It was really neat looking and situated right on the water with a cable car suspended above the water going right by it all the way to a building that looked like a sail boat. Way different than all the old historic buildings we had seen thus far (and everything in South America too).
+ Touring the Oceanarium was really interesting and we were definitely not disappointed by what we saw. Lots of unique fish and invertebrates that came from this side of the world and looked like cousins of the aquatic animals we knew and swam with in the Atlantic and the Gulf. In the middle they had a huge tank that, to Liz’s delight, housed two Mola Mola fish. Her favorite! One was huge and the other tiny and they swam amongst all sorts of sharks, rays, and other unique fish. The cool thing was no matter what area (or floor) of the building you were in, you could see in the aquarium from a different angle.
+ Besides their main attraction, they also had otter and penguin exhibits, and a separate temporary display from a Japanese artist who had created a freshwater plant exhibit modeled after his rainforest experience. Pretty unique but Liz and I are more animal people than flora fans so we preferred the first part more.
+ Hungry when we left the Oceanarium, we were looking for a cheap and quick place to eat when we saw the McDonald’s sign and took the bait. Still impressed with the ease and coolness factor of their electronic ordering boards, we had our food 3 times faster than we would’ve in the states. Then after we ate we caught the metro back into Lisbon and got off near the Alfama district.
+ Our goal was to make it to Saint Jorge’s Castle and despite having a map that did it’s best to show us all the intricate paths and alleyways of this maze-like Alfama neighborhood, it still took us half an hour to make it to the entrance of the castle (even circling around it once).
+ This castle was at the top of the hill right in the middle of historic Lisbon and provided great overlooks of the entire city, river, the look-alike Golden Gate bridge, and many different churches and cathedrals. The castle itself was also very impressive with it’s many towers and walls and was overall a formidable looking fortress.
+ When we finished at this tourist attraction, we decided to wander through the streets of Alfama again and enjoy the party atmosphere. Since tonight was the culmination of the 3 week long festival, it was extra celebratory and every single street was extremely crowded. There were food and drink vendors every few feet and all of them had people lining up in droves to buy beer, sangria and sardines. We decided it was only right to partake in the local customs and grabbed one for ourselves.
+ The popular national beer company, Sagres, was also giving out free hats to everyone and although we wanted the one with the funny sardine on top, we instead received one with funny green hair which resembled a potted plant. Then we continued to walk around with those on our heads. It was great.
+ The little potted topiary es are the symbol of the Alfama district and could be found everywhere: in the decorations, on dresses and heads of the girls in the parade, and even live plants for sale everywhere!
+ We tried to see Fado but every restaurant we checked had canceled their usual weekly showing due to the crazy party outside. So we decided to head over and catch the parade that was starting soon. After getting seats right after 9 (when it was supposed to start) we eventually became annoyed and tired of waiting when a whole hour had gone by and nothing except for one random, lonesome Chinese dragon group had come by. So we decided to split for dinner.
+ We had read about a place with fantastic craft burgers so we went there. The options though were rather disappointing and the prices were high so we just decided to split one instead. Luckily it came with a lot of fries so we got mostly full.
+ On the way back to the hostel, we ran into our friend Ian from the cruise again. He had just shown up with his Couchsurfing hosts to enjoy the parade but it seemed like it had just ended. So after talking about things we did/need to do around the area we said goodnight and caught a metro back to the hostel.

Our First Laundromat!
+ Corey woke up at a normal time but Liz wasn’t feeling well and needed more sleep so we decided to have a day at the hostel instead of sight seeing. After he worked for a bit, he eventually decided to take a nap too since Liz looked like she was enjoying hers so much!
+ In the afternoon we woke up and did work for a bit before taking a break to do laundry. For the first time this trip, we didn’t have a place we could just turn it into and have them do it, or just give it to the hostel. So instead we went to a laundry mat and did it ourselves!
+ We picked up frozen pizzas from the mini market again and copied our night from a few days before. Then we continued to knock stuff off our to do list and ended up staying awake for way too long (Corey all night long – no sleep at all!). Why are our sleep schedules so mixed up!?

Brazilian Steakhouse in Portugal
+ So although we’d planned on going sight seeing today, Corey needed to sleep at some point so he decided to go to sleep around noon and try to wake up in a few hours. But then he changed his mind and decided the best chance to not repeat the same sequence of events the next day was to sleep for a long time today, then stay up all night and next day to ensure he was tired the next night.
+ So he did sleep around 6 hours and then went and joined Liz and some hostel people in the living room to watch the Portugal soccer game. They were having a giant projection of the game down in the main square in Lisbon, but we chose to just hang here instead of making the journey into town.
+ One of our dormmates, a nice Brazilian guy who was in the process of moving to Lisbon, recommended we eat at this Brazilian Steakhouse down the road. Except instead of costing $50/plate like it would have at home, it only cost about $12! What a great deal! And Corey decided to show them how Americans can truly pig out in these situations and, let’s just say there’s no way they could’ve made a profit that night by the time he finished. Overall the variety of meats were delicious and after we’d finally had our fill, we eventually had to waddle back to our hostel.
+ After some more trip planning for our future backpacking excursions, we watched 2 Game of Thrones episodes and then Liz went to bed.
+ With Corey still not feeling sleepy (oddest insomnia ever!), he decided to just stay awake all night and through the next day so he would be tired enough to sleep at a normal time the next night.

Explore Sintra
+ Running on only a few hours of sleep from the previous afternoon, Corey showered and prepared breakfast as he slowly tempted (more like prodded) Liz out of bed.
+ When all our bags were packed and breakfast was gone, we headed out to venture towards a town about 45 minutes west of Lisbon called Sintra. Here, they had a bunch of unique sites to visit, including fancy gardens, castles, and palaces.
+ On the way we met a nice couple from Ohio who had just been to Morocco recently and we chatted with them the whole time, getting some good tips and advice.
+ When we arrived, we caught a bus to our first stop of Quinta da Regaleira and spent the next few hours exploring the grounds. The whole place turned out to be way cooler than expected and one of the coolest things we’ve done the whole trip! Corey especially loved wandering through the maze like trails and underground tunnels, as well as exploring subterranean towers and climbing through thin castle passageways. Liz was more impressed with the beautiful flowers, picturesque ponds and flawless landscaping everywhere.
+ The highlight of this estate is the Initiation Well which is actually more like a subterranean tower!
+ Eventually we pried ourselves away to visit our next stop in Sintra, the multicolored Palacio da Pena. This castle is way more well known (and therefore more crowded with tourists) than Quinta.
+ Unfortunately we didn’t have near enough time to explore all of the grounds and only got to wander through a small part of the estate and around the outside of the palace along it’s towering wall with fantasting views of surrounding Sintra. While also very neat, we couldn’t fully compare this castle to Quinta since we had to leave before seeing it all. But Sintra definitely makes the list of spots to come back to in the future!
+ After the bus ride and then train ride back to Lisbon, we grabbed our bags from the hostel and caught the metro to where we thought our train for Lagos (our next stop) was going to depart from. Despite the information online and our hostel worker confirming this information, the train station employee informed us there was no train here and we had to leave from a different destination in just a few minutes. So we quickly boarded the metro again changing lines and jumping onto trains to beat the closing doors. Luckily, we made it to the other train station and were relieved to still be able to buy tickets to Lagos.
+ We each took naps the best we could on our train ride to Lagos, which is on the south end of Portugal. But with stiff seats that don’t recline and having to switch trains halfway, we didn’t sleep much. We eventually made it to our destination and after a short taxi ride, we made it to our Air BnB (only our second time using it on the trip) and relaxed on our double bed (the first since the cruise).
+ Not wanting to leave the room to grab dinner, we simply cooked some Ramen we’d been toting with us since Colombia in the kitchen and got some sleep, oh glorious sleep!

Explore the Coastline in Lagos
+ The combination of not sleeping much the night before and not having to put up with dorm life made us sleep in much later than anticipated. By the time we got ready and ate at a restaurant, it was already late afternoon.
+ Not wanting to waste anymore of the day, we walked around a large portion of the coast, admiring all of the dramatic views we’d come here to see. The Algarve coast here is famous for its spectacular scenery of crystal clear waters meeting impressive cliffs and open grottos. It was very pretty and we lingered for as long as we could until it was too dark to see anymore.
+ Back in town we strolled through the old town and it’s many narrow alleys (though not as many as Alfama) until we returned to the hostel. Before going to sleep, we watched X-Men Apocalypse.

Travel into Spain starting with Seville
+ Since it still wasn’t technically summer/the high season here in Portugal, we found out there were limited buses running to Seville, Spain- our next destination. So our last direct option out of town was at 1:45pm, giving us hardly any time for fun activities before leaving.
+ Not only was our time limited, but the online system to buy the tickets wasn’t working. And our luck always seems to be that if we don’t buy a bus ticket ahead of time, then the bus ends up being full/sold out. And if we do buy it ahead, it turns out it wasn’t needed. But still, not wanting to risk the former option happening, we spent an hour of our time walking to the bus station and back to purchase the ticket.
+ After checking out of our room and getting the bus ticket, all we had time left was to eat a nice brunch at a restaurant Liz had found and a very short trip to the beach again just to take pictures and put our feet in the water for the first time since … Ecuador! Although this was a different ocean.
+ With our bags in hand (and on our backs) we stood in the street in front of the hostel waiting for our taxi to the bus station to come. Our Air BnB host had called it and after 15 minutes of waiting, just before it got to us, it picked up another couple on the street who waived them down! The driver must’ve thought they were the ones who called! Arghhh! So now with very little time left before the bus was to leave, we had to book it all the way across town again, with all our bags. Luckily, we made it to the bus just minutes before departure. We were not liking all these stressful, rushed departures in Europe so far!
+ Our bus ride was about 5 hours long and we passed a lot of pretty countryside along the way. We also passed into Spain and lost another hour on our watches. We were now 6 hours ahead of Orlando time, which made talking to family/friends back home tricky! Luckily we’re night owls so calling them at 1 am now seemed perfectly normal to them! 🙂
+ After we arrived in Seville, we carried our bags into the town center and checked into Black Swan Hostel. Even though we were in a dorm, this was probably the best dorm sleep we’ve had all trip! The room stayed dark and cool. The bunk beds were big and sturdy (not like the flimsy metal bunks that creak when you move a muscle) and each bed had a plug, light, and shelf.
+ After settling in, we went downstairs and order two craft beers and watched the end of the Eurocup game that was on.
+ For dinner we found a place called The Good Burger with good deals and ate there. While the deal was good, it didn’t fill us up so we ordered some nachos for dessert. This also gave us more time to sit and enjoy the free delicious refills of coke from the soda fountain! While this may not sound like a big deal, it’s the first time since the U.S. we’d been able to have free unlimited soda refills at a restaurant! Even on the cruise they had to pour you the drink and the coke always tasted awful. So this was a welcomed surprise to say the least.
+ When we returned to the hostel we pretty much just got ready for bed and passed out. We only had 2 days in Seville and needed to rest up for all the fun exploring coming up!

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