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Portugal Part 1: A Quick Visit to Lisbon

I didn't even bother to write up my Sicily trip, and here I am, a week at home inbetween two visits to Portugal. The first and subject of this trip report, was a long-planned girl's trip to celebrate being able to travel again/a 40th birthday/hanging out with a bunch of women who have never traveled without kids before (and the last time we all got together sans kids was just for one night at a friend's wedding 4 years prior...before that, 7 years ago, at another wedding. You get the idea.)

We had rented a villa in the surf town of Ericeria for 3 nights, but since the flight was cheaper departing Thursday by almost $100, I decided to go solo that day and meet up with my friends in Lisbon the next afternoon. Aside from one night in Paris after friends left, I've never actually traveled solo and was nervous, not about navigating on my own or safety, but simply of being bored or lonely. Couldn't have been further from the truth! I enjoyed these 24 hours or so on my own so much that I think I might have to try this out again for longer!

I flew the very early 7:00 am flight on Eurowings from Stuttgart to Lisbon. I checked in online and had my boarding pass in the app on my phone, where I'd checked a box to confirm I met the Covid-19 rules for entry. That was it. My (German) vaccination pass was not checked once the entire trip and no test was needed (I did research all this extensively to make sure before I left). Despite this, the queue at the new T1 security area in Stuttgart was surprisingly long at 6:00 a.m., over 25 minutes. I tried my usual gambit of using two bags for toiletries to get with my two carry-on bags per EW's new horrible pricing structure, but the security guards didn't agree with my logic, but let me take my items anyway. Everyone on the flight was masked per the current rules, but it was about 50/50 in the airports themselves.

Upon arrival in Lisbon, I knew a bus supposedly took me closer to my hotel but when faced with the choice, I decided to take the metro instead, bought my card loaded with a 24 hour day ticket from the machine and was quickly whisked into Lisbon, where I caught a bus easily, "zapping" the card as I entered the bus. I found the public transit really easy and efficient, but I had researched in advance and used Google maps to navigate transit which worked great.

I stayed at the Ritz & Freud B&B just down (then up again) from the Parliament building in the Misericordia district, which I really liked, even though I nearly got clipped by the 28 tram as soon as I got there. It was a nice mix of a historic neighborhood that old timers clearly still lived in (from the laundry to the old men drinking wine with friends just out their front door somehow not getting clipped by the tram) and some trendy cafes, hipster restaurants, and artisanal boutiques.*

*on a side note, I guess I've lived in Europe too long, because I did not realize what a trendy place Lisbon and Portugal has become for Americans and for Californians in general to relocate to, but I was shocked at the number of young North American hipsters, some of whom definitely seemed more like expats than tourists. There were also tons of young Germans and Brits. I don't know if I've ever been somewhere where the average non-native seemed more likely to be under 30 than over.

The B&B let me drop off my luggage at 11:00 (no regular front desk hours) and gave me my key so I could explore while my room was made ready. I was already enchanted with Lisbon but was also starving so I headed to the highly-rated Seventh Brunch Coffee nearby (up a hill...everything is up a hill) to have a fabulous Eggs Benedict and mimosa with incredibly friendly service. Great food and friendly people became a theme of the whole trip!

Continued in the next post..

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After eating, I decided I'd head up to the Bario Alto to follow the RS self-guided walk, and decided I'd get there via the Bica funicular...only to walk very far downhill to find it closed for refurbishment, set to open next month. The geography of Lisbon is a little confusing, especially if you're trying not to constantly go up and downhill, and later I'd realized from my brunch spot I was practically in the Barrio Alto already. Shoot. Well, already down the hill I decided to check out a place for our group to gather tomorrow as the different flights came in prior to our planned lunch at the Time Out market, and was enchanted with the Quiosque Sao Paulo, a lovely square with a kiosk bar, just 2 blocks from Time Out. From there I elected to walk to our luggage storage place for tomorrow at Rua de Alecrim and pick up the 758 bus to Bario Alto - totally easy.

At the Miradouro Sao Pedro there were several booths set up selling various cocktails and sangria with some various nibbles. Prices were touristy but the shady garden and amazing view made up for it. I followed half the RS walk here, debating with myself if I was going to try to make the (prepaid) Lisbon Food & Wine walk I'd booked for 16:00. In the end I cut the walk short to walk back down to my hotel, enjoy the fan and a shower (it was humid and warm and I didn't have A/C in my pleasant but no-frills single room) and got a very cheap (under $4) Uber to the tour starting point as I was running late by then. The tour was kind enough to wait a few minutes for me!

I don't often take tours when traveling as I am independent and like to do my own research, but being solo I decided to give it a go this time and was glad I did. Our tour guide for the 3 hour tour in Baxia was both knowledgeable and really fun, and every stop but the last one was top-notch. We had truly fabulous cod cakes with vinho verde, ginjina, port with cheese and quince marmalade, a pork "trucker's sandwich" which was my first introduction to housemade Piri-piri sauce, a new obsession, and finished at a fairly touristy old-fashioned family-owned restaurant full of other tour groups for bread, olives, cheese, sausage, and garlic shrimp and plenty of red wine. We were all hot and stuffed by that point so that stop didn't wow like the others (and it was indoors) but it was still fun to mingle with the group of about 12 others - an older Israeli couple, an Indian-British family that lives in the same London suburb as one of my best friends, a solo guy from Singapore, a couple from Columbia, two Kansas bros, and two different American women traveling solo. The latter invited me to get some wine with them outside and we spent a fun couple hours chatting about travel, politics, and the like. We're Instagram friends now!

At this point I was a little socialized out on my lonely solo day and said my goodbyes, stopping at the Kiosk Sao Paulo for a nightcap while marveling at the nightlife scene. This area from the infamous "Pink street" well towards Bica and into my neighborhood was intense, and made me feel a little bit old because compared to the revelers, I am! Google maps had said the fastest way home was on foot, and it was, but it's suggested route went way, way, way uphill...only to go significantly downhill - that's what i get for staying out past the time the trolley stopss running, I guess. I clocked over 27,000 steps that day, much of it uphill - not too shabby. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I didn't call an Uber!


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But at least that meant that the trolley wasn't rattling past my window all night, so I slept soundly until about 6:30 when I woke up to one and closed the window off my cute little balcony, then continued waking up until I caught wind of missed/delayed flight drama causing a hassle for my friends. I went to work as the point of contact for our group transportation later in the day (as the other girl handling that was in the air by that point), took an Uber to drop off my luggage, and walked to the nearby Dear Breakfast, as it was now nearly 10:00 and I hadn't eaten since 19:00 the night before. Unfortunately there was a huge line out the door - American-style brunch is popular in Lisbon! - so I hiked way, way up the Chiado neighborhood to Caffe de Marzano Vermuteria, which had a beautiful shady setting and another great Eggs Benedict with an Italian twist.

By then the earliest flight had arrived and my Berliner friend managed to finally meet me after some hassle with the bus from the airport (not working) and the Metro, and we had another friend meet us at the Mirador Sao Pedro after dropping her luggage off down the street. Eventually everyone met us by the Time Out market as planned except 2 girls still having serious travel issues (one had her flight from Nuremberg cancelled at the last minute and drove to Frankfurt, the other got delayed leaving Birmingham connecting in Frankfurt and missed her flight stuck in passport control - thanks, Brexit!) But eventually we got the 9 of us back to the luggage storage and the bigger group took a minivan to Ericeria while I took a taxi to the airport to collect the stragglers and head to the Intermarche in Ericeria to stock up for the weekend.

I do not recommend trying to shop for 11 women's weekend at a villa at 18:00 on a Friday! That was an experience. Over 400 euros later, the taxi picked us up, and we had arrived with a sea view, private pool, and I let the other women grill the marinated chicken I'd purchased for dinner.

Most of the rest of the trip isn't of interest to the forum (nor is some of it fit to print!) but I will say that Ericeria is a lovely town, and while I know most North Americans don't visit Europe to do a beach house trip, there are worse ideas for groups, as the prices for very nice homes are very reasonable by US standards, as is the food, taxis, Ubers, etc.

We did have a fantastic group dinner at Setesois that I'm still dreaming of. Fabulous friendly chef and waiter, most of us ended up letting him deliver the food he wanted, and it was amazing - octopus rice, monkfish rice, and grilled Bacalo with some codfish cakes to start and lots and lots of wine, dessert, still less than 35 euros per person for a meal that would have been at least double or triple stateside. I'm a food snob and this was one of the best meals of my life. Oh, and some firewater we ended up buying off the restaurant contributing to an insane night back at the villa. The others went wine tasting nearby while my bestie and I enjoyed a couple hours of sunshine poolside during the day, and the last full day a few took a taxi to Sintra with no planning, resulting in them wandering around gardens in pea-soup fog, while the rest of us wandered around town, all reuniting for a late bu giant lobster and grouper lunch at the beautiful but much more expensive Esplanadas Furnas restaurant. (I gave the group a choice of 3 restaurants for every meal - I probably would have gone with a cheaper option, but everyone was happy regardless).

No issues getting back to the airport Monday morning, and everyone is home and happy but exhausted except one who extended her stay in Ericeria and is enjoying better weather than we had.

Wednesday I depart for Faro with my husband for a week, where we'll return to Lisbon for 3 nights and then spend the rest in the Algarve for some beach time. Will report back (and maybe squeeze in my Sicily report, too!)

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Thanks for an interesting report! Sounds harrowing but at least you all finally got together and had a great time. We love Lisbon so I am happy you enjoyed it. Hooray for you and your friends for not letting transportation issues spoil your trip!

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enjoyed reading your report. it makes me want to go back to Libson. (i was just there a couple of months ago!)

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Sounds like a wonderful trip! Do you mind mentioning or linking to the actual food and wine tour you took in Lisbon? My daughter will be there on a 1 1/2 day stopover on her way to Africa and it sounds like something she'd love to do. She's 24 so apparently will fit right in with the Lisbon scene ;) Thanks!

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My bad, I took this tour and I hate to say I forgot the name of my tour guide but she was fabulous, but the tour only runs 3 days a week - Tue/Thurs/Sat - so you don't get a choice but they're very well reviewed so I'm sure they're all great:

I do food and wine tours myself so I'd like to think I can both recognize a good guide and good food stops. I've done a few others in my travels and this was by far the best!

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Thanks Sarah! She will be there on a Tuesday so that would work! I'm taking notes too for a future trip of my own :)