Lisboa

Dearest Lovers of Random – I promised a post about my latest city of habitation, Lisbon Portugal.  As referenced in my past post, Lisbon has been a different feel for me.  I’m an employed woman now and I am throughly enjoying being an accounting badass again.  I’m running a fitness challenge and have started a new weightlifting program, so I’m enjoying slinging weights again (thanks Dustin!). Budapest may have felt like home, but Lisbon feels much like my old life…. with a European twist, of course.

What can I tell you about Lisbon? Well, for starters, its dirty. In the midst of an economic rebound, there is construction everywhere, which means there is dust everywhere. Also, most of the drinking is done in the streets. So is the male relief of the by-product of that alcohol. Speaking of the drinking in the streets, Lisbon is also loud. At least my home is. Situated between the two bar districts in town, Barrio Alto and Pink Street, and having a few lively places of our own, there is always a chorus of drunken madness wafting it’s way up to my windows. Also directly beneath my window, a tram rail and a bus stop. Both run frequently. The sidewalks are narrow. The locals hate tourists. In the dead of summer, every day is hot and there are hills everywhere. But all of this is just as much a part of the unique charm of Lisbon as the tile buildings, towering staircases, stone walkways and street art filled walls. I’ve learned that Lisbon is a lot like me…. you love it for what it is, or you move on. It does not apologize for what it is.

In most cases, this dedication to culture is heartwarming and satisfying in the form of decorated plazas, delightful local dishes (I recommend the duck rice at Castro), and a wine culture that rivals any I have ever seen. Seriously, two buck chuck has nothing on the bottles you can get here for 3 euro. Some if it is better than a $50 bottle at home. There is a craft cocktail bar – 4 Caravelas – where I can walk through the door and order a Bulliet rye, and the Australian expat who owns the place automatically puts the dash of bitters that I enjoy so much and only had to ask for once. We can talk about the subtleties and differences of rye, bourbon and scotch while I sip my cocktail and it reminds me of HBG at home, because my glass is never really empty. There’s Helio, the local who runs the aforementioned Castro’s, a quaint bar and eatery offering open air seating in vintage upholstery served with a side of conversation about local culture. There’s Red Frog, a speakeasy that reminds me of Death & Co in NYC, although the door guy is a midget instead of a towering ape in a tux. There is Foxtrot, with it’s open courtyard and smoky old fashions. And one of my personal favorites, Baguettes & Cornets, a French corner bakery with the best baked treats and the friendliest staff in Europe.

But Lisbon also has a dark side, and it is ugly. I never personally experienced it, so I don’t feel I have the right to write about it, but you can read my tramily’s takes on the events of one horrible evening here and here. I have no respect for those who fuck with the people that I love, and I love my fellow Earharts deeply, so Lisbon will always carry a scar on my heart. But if I were to lump all of Lisbon in with the few neanderthals that perpetuated the events of that night, I would be no better than them.

In the spirit of open mindedness, I climbed the hills of Lisbon and watched sunrises and sunsets. I peered down it’s picturesque alleys and enjoy local wine in it’s parks. I ran along the river and watched the rising sun sparkle across it. I boarded a sailboat with friends old and new to see sunset from the Tagus and eat homemade stew between bouts of uncontrollable laughter. I wandered Pink Street and Barrio Alto after late night shifts. The Goddess visited and we sipped sangria with DL on top of a parking deck while watching the sunset over a bridge that resembles the Golden Gate. She and I swank it up at the Palácio do Governador with pool time, spa visits and girl talk in hotel rooms. I enjoy meals and drinks and late night deep chats with the 11 other souls living in my building. I do my best to make the most out of my time in Lisbon. That said, I’m not disappointed to leave.

My European adventure has come to an end. I’ll spend a few days in the Middle East before starting my life in Southeast Asia, and I don’t even have a clue what to expect, so I’m ready for anything. Stay tuned for the Random adventures: Vietnam addition.

Specifically Yours,

SR

 

Sintra in 4 hours (or less)

Boa tarde meus Amantes.  In an attempt to keep you up to date on the adventures, I’m doing something I’ve never done before: writing about a side trip the moment I’ve returned from it.  You would think that this is the most logical step: the events and sights of the day fresh in my mind, thoughts and words just ready to tumble out with precision…. but considering I haven’t even started my post on Porto yet (that trip was nearly three weeks ago), consider yourselves lucky that I found a few free moments to address you, my ever so faithful Lovers.

As my time in Lisbon is winding down (very quickly, I might add), I find myself with a laundry list of things I wanted to do while here that have not been checked off the list yet, and Sintra was one of them.  Sunrise is another, so after missing yesterday’s monthly sunrise hike with the crew (snooze and stop are too close together on my alarm), I rounded up Marky and Isaac (who also failed the initial trip) and we drug ourselves out of bed and up the hill this morning to watch the sunrise over Lisbon.  You can read more about this in my Lisbon post, but after the big ball of fire was adequately high in the sky, I made my way through the streets of Alfama to the Santa Apolina station to catch the 7:45 train to Sintra.  It is an hour train ride, and I have to be back at 2pm to knock out some work before tonight’s farewell junction, so when the train hits the station in Sintra, I’m off to the races to fit everything in before catching the 12:36 back to Lisbon.  Throw in me getting off at the wrong stop initially, and I’m down to less than 4 hours….

My first piece of advice for doing Sintra in 4 hours or less: don’t be that asshole.  Sintra deserves so much more, and I am kicking myself in the ass for not giving this castle and garden laden city it’s proper due…. alas, I vowed to do the best I could, and stubbornly did it all on foot.  From the train station, I set out and began the 1,477ft ascent to the Pena Palace, ducking into the woods at my first chance to hike the majority of the way through woods so quiet, I felt my labored breathing was disrupting the serene environment.  It is still early when I arrive at Pena, but the ticket lines are already long and a Remote Citizen who visited the day before has told me she didn’t think it was worth the wait, so I duck around the corner and make my way up to Castle of the Moors instead.  I don’t regret this decision at all, and I’m like a kid at Christmas climbing all over this castle, along the walls and up the watch towers to see all of Sintra from above.  The view is fantastic and the castle has expansive walls and nooks and crannies a plenty –  I want to stay there all day, but I’m a dick and I only have 2.5 hours to go, so it’s down the hill into the city center I go.

My previously mentioned amazing city team member Tomás (who happens to be from Sintra) has provided me with some must dos, should dos, and if-you-have-the-time dos.  I obvi only have time for the must dos, and one of those is hitting Piriquita to sample the local pastries, travesserio and queijada.  After my insane trek up the mountain and rather fun walk {hop/skip} back down, I’m famished and order one of each and an iced coffee.  Here’s the thing about Portugal: you never know what you are going to get when you order an iced coffee…. sometimes you get an iced coffee.  Sometimes you get hot coffee with ice.  Today, I got a hot cup of coffee and a glass of ice beside it… but it all works out, and the pastries are delicious.  If I didn’t have more walking to do, I would not have hesitated to order an entire box of travesserios and brought them back…. to share of course….. But I have castles to see and gardens to walk and only 1.5 hours left, so I pay the check and move on.

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I’ve been previously warned about how crowded Sintra is, but I’m still pretty amazed at the sheer number of people all going to do the same thing.  The next stop on my list is Quinta da Regaleira, and it is absolutely mobbed with people, even though it is just coming up on 11am.  I’m still high from my castle adventures earlier in the morning, so not even the line gets me down, but it does eat into my allotted time, so once I get through it, I kick it into high gear again so I can cover as much ground as possible.  I open the map and quickly realize that even at my fastest pace, I can only afford to hit about 10% of this place, so I steer away from the main (read: crowded) attractions and spend my time dipping through the gardens in hidden staircases and off the path trails.  The gardens are intricate and expansive, with waterfalls, lakes, grottos, caves and everything in between.  The statues are especially breathtaking, and include a hall of the gods, and my particular fave, the lion {who does not concern himself with the opinion of the sheep}.  Sadly, my time here in Sintra is fast approaching it’s end, so I exit stage {garden} left and head back the the train station via the National Palace of Sintra and whatever this place is:

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Back safely on the train, I attempt to grab some shut eye, but a woman and her two young boys post up next to me and the younger one is still learning spacial relations, so I abandon hope at a nap, open the blinds for him and switch seats so he can plaster his face against the window.  Once I hit the Oriente station, I plunge underground to take the metro the rest of the way home, because let’s face it… you haven’t mastered a city until you’ve conquered the subway.  I navigated my two line ride back to Cais de Sorde and slid into my home office chair taking only 14 extra minutes over my planned return – leaving just a few moments for my current Love Letter to you.

As far as Sintra goes, if you come to Portugal, do as I say and not as I do.  Make time for Sintra.  I’d say 4 days.  Visit the castles early to beat the crowds.  Take Tomás’ recommendations and besides Pena and Mouros, hit Palácio de SeteaisChalet do Condessa, and Palácio de Monserrate.  Spend your afternoons on the coast at Praia da Ursa, Praia da Adraga and Praia Grande.  Spend an ENTIRE day seeing every corner of  Regaleira.  Eat your weight in travesserios.  Every day.  Don’t be an asshole like me.  Give Sintra it’s due.

Randomly yours,

 

SR

 

 

Lisbon > Lagos {And Every Beach In Between}

Olá, meus Amantes. I’m coming to you today from my perch atop a small cliff at Praia do Figueira along the southern coast of Portugal, somewhere between Lagos and Sagres. I’m watching waves of the prettiest blue green water crash in as the sun bakes the salt from my dip in the icy Atlantic into my already darkened skin. I’m rolling solo today as my cohort has been bed down with the wine flu, but that’s ok with me. I have you, my Lovers, the ocean, the waves, and a handful of naked Europeans to keep me company.

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In each of our cities, we have a group of two or three locals deemed our City Team who run our local experiences, give recommendations for everything you can think of and just make sure we have a good experience in general. This month’s team provided us with 3×5 cards in the first week with a few local recommendations. At the bottom of mine was suggestions for an epic west coast road trip. Never one to turn down a local recommendation, when Starbucks Lightning messaged me last week and said he just felt like he had to get out of Lisbon, I knew just the trip. When I told one of the team we were going, he lit up and gave me another (two) handful of beach recs and a pizza place that he said was the best he’d ever had. We rented a Panda, mapped it out, and planned to head south via the west coat of this gorgeous country.

I had previously stated that one of my goals this year was not to drive at all, but this itinerary was epic and worth it, and SL’s Brit ass is incapable of driving on the correct side of the road, so I slipped into the driver’s seat, got my stick shift skills in gear (see what I did there?) and we headed out. Over the next 11 or so hours, we wound through a national park, stopping at every beach the city team threw at us. From Sines we hit Porto Covo, where we hit the cliffs and took in the views. From there we would down to Praia do Tonel and Porto das Bracas where we pulled into a fishing cove and the locals were not impressed. Onto Zambujeria, where SL napped on the beach – exhausted from a long day of riding passenger – and we got lunch, and I ordered way too much shrimp because I don’t understand the metric system. From there it was Odeceixe. We hiked down to the beach waded across a makeshift river, and trekked across the black cliffs that were laced with marble to get the best ‘gram photos. By this point we are torn between hitting all the beaches and conserving daylight, so we hightail it back up the cliffs (after I asked and SL said “fuck the stairs”) to hit Arrafina, where other remotes are, but we are up on the cliffs and they are down on the beach. Time for just one more, we park it at Praia do Amado until I drag us back up because my old ass doesn’t see well in the dark and the sun is going down.

Despite my irresponsibly large shrimp lunch, I’m famished shortly after arriving at our hotel, so I put on a pretty dress, invite my British travel companion, and descend to the restaurant alone after he declines. I wasn’t that way long though, as they had mushroom truffle risotto on the menu, and SL loves his truffle. We wine and dine (well, I martini’d) and decide to check out the Lagos bar scene after gathering some recommendations from the hotel bartenders and some regulars at the bar. None of the bars are particularly impressive, so we spend our evening hopping from one to the next before attempting to grab a cab home…. thing is, there are no cabs. The hotel is 3 miles out, so I vehemently oppose SL’s poorly crafted plan to walk, stubbornly plop down on the sidewalk and pull out my phone to call Hey Jude, my virtual assistant app. In my slightly inebriated and full on tantrum state, I instruct my VA to get us home. Where are you going? I don’t know, but you made the reservations for me, so look it up. Where are you? I don’t know. Pinpoint my location. And they did. 15 minutes later, a taxi shows up and whisks us home. Hey Jude FTW.

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The next morning, a full fledged hangover and a full English breakfast take SL down for the count, so I’m left to go beach exploring by myself. A little me time never hurt anyone, and when you’re rolling 47 deep at all times, it’s actually a refreshing change of pace. I take off in the Panda, park at Praia Cabana Velhas, and before I can get out, four fellow Earharts on scooters pass me by. We exchange pleasantries and they scoot off while I head up to the top of a cliff. The beach itself is neat, with bean bags and straw umbrellas, but I’m not feeling it, so I load up and move on to the next, where I find myself now. This beach is by far my favorite despite the 15-20 minute hike to get it it. When you approach the beach, to the left is a cliff with the ruins of an old fort at the top (which is where I run into my fellow remotes again), a lagoon straight on, and to the right, a neat rock laden bridge across a tiny stream that leads to a small, not so crowded beach with cliffs that wrap around to tinier and more private beaches. This is where you find the naked people. And my perch. I don’t want to leave this place. Ever. There is no cell service. The waves are perfect and the sky is clear. Alas, there are more beaches to see, so we will pick this up later.

I’m now finishing this post from the Lisbon airport on travel day. I should have stayed on that beach. I carried on to two more beaches, Zavial and Ingrina, but my love for Figueira was too great, so after being as disappointed as one can be in South Portugal beaches, I check back in with SL to see if he has rejoined the land of the living. He has, so I circle back to get him and we head to a tiny little village in the hills of Portugal to have what Tomas called “the best pizza he’s ever had”. The village itself is quaint and quiet, with Pizza Pazza very obviously being the focal point of 80% of visitors. We both gaze out at the hills while each devouring our own pizza (Tomas did not steer us wrong). Before we make our way back to civilization, we climb up a hill to investigate an abandoned house where all you can hear is the bells on the cows in the pasture below.

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After our adventure in the hills, we drive down into Sagres to catch the sunset across the cliffs. SL uses his nerd brain to explain deep space matters to me, including what kind of eclipse is coming and why we can’t look directly at it. Hey, I may be able to talk taxes and numbers backwards and forwards, but science is just not my jam. After the sun dips below the cliffs, we leave the beaches and head into town to meet other remotes for some good wine, good food, great convos and even better theatrics regarding a lonely bar patron that we stalk across multiple bars.
Monday we are ready to head home, but not before one last trip to Figueira, one last climb up a hill, one last dip in the Atlantic, and one more bask in the sun. Our drive home is relatively uneventful, although SL does take us on a few “adventurous detours” and we get a taste of Lisbon rush hour traffic. Luckily our workspace has a shower, so when I slide in nearly two hours after planned, I’m able to go straight there and rinse off the sand that’s still clinging to my legs, thereby officially ending our west coat adventure.

Stay tuned for Sintra and Lisbon my lovers.

Specifically yours,

SR