Back to the beginning: a few days in Lisbon

Back in December, when Kevin and I were in Canada for Christmas, we planned out a trip that would involve a couple of weeks in Lisbon followed by travels through Spain, all the way to Paris, where we’d then fly back to Cambodia.

We booked plane tickets to Lisbon, Portugal for January 4th.

Back in November, I’d been planning a January trip to Vietnam with two of my lady friends, Julie & Komal. Due to the complications of life and travel visas, that hadn’t worked out. However, Julie planned to be in Lisbon for 2 days along with Kevin and I.

When Kevin was hit in the mouth with a hockey stick on January 2nd, I was admittedly freaking out. Not only had we booked tickets to Lisbon, but my friend had booked a trip to meet us there. Needless to say, we didn’t miss our flight. I hopped Kevin up on pain killers and got him on the plane to Lisbon. His godfather met us there, and showed us to an incredibly wonderful few days in one of my favourite cities that I’ve been to yet.

Many photos are attached, because we were able to cram lots of fun into a few short days. One of the most important things to note is how much we were able to do while also being completed relaxed. Julie was coming off a serious bout of food poisoning, and Kevin was obviously also in quite a bit of pain. However, Lisbon is such a welcoming and easy-to-access, non-touristy, relaxed place that were able to really make the most of our time there.

Rather than crash at a hotel, we rented an AirBnB through a group called Travel & Tales. The fine gentlemen who run Travel & Tales, Pedro & Duarte, rent out a series of apartments in the chic Lisbon neighbourhood of Principe Real.

One of the most bizarre things about Lisbon is how similar (also better than) it is to San Francisco. Hills are one such similarity, and when Kevin’s godfather drove us up into Principe Real, and then parked on one of the steepest hills imaginable, I knew we were in for an authentically Lisbon experience. Pedro helped us check in and hooked us up with some free SIM cards for our phones, and we were off on an adventure. Oh, and the apartment we were renting? Absolutely beautiful. Historical. Interesting. Clean. Well-located. I cannot say enough good things. It really represented the best of what Lisbon has to offer.

Relative to other European capital cities, Lisbon is geographically small and rather inexpensive. And yet, as the capital city of the once-massive Portuguese empire, it’s jam-packed with history, old-world beauty, and remnants of the colonial wealth that created it.

The city has many interesting neighbourhoods, and an hour or two of walking can really take you through a great cross-section of the best of Lisbon. We walked everywhere and saw a lot. It also helps that the hills of Lisbon mean you’re never far from an incredible, heightened view of the city. From old plazas with fountains and monuments galore, to the city’s oceanfront, where colonial ships once presented their wealth to kingdom, to ruins, and one of the first elevators in Europe, we walked and saw it all.

Kevin took a couple of much-needed naps, as well as an afternoon trip to a private hospital to see if his lip was actually recovering, so Julie and I also had a couple of long exploratory jaunts. On one occasion we hopped in a cab to the Belem neighbourhood. There, we sat by waterfront along the Tagus river and enjoyed some lovely January sunshine. We also saw the Jeronimos Monastery, and the “Monument to the Discoveries”. We also caught a glimpse of the Ponte de 25 April (April 25th Bridge), which is essentially Lisbon’s version of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It’s 27th largest suspension bridge in the world. I highly suggest you click on all those links and read what Wikipedia has to say about all these sights. So many interesting things to learn! On another jaunt, we decided to start walking and just see where we ended up. Turns out that we ended up at a lookout point behind a neighbourhood that had enticed us with a long yet lovely staircase. It was the perfect spot to watch the sunset, though regrettably I didn’t have my camera. That type of magical experience is exactly what makes Lisbon so enchanting.

With all that walking, we obviously needed to eat, and Lisbon had us covered there as well. Because Lisbon is so old, almost every building is special in some way, which makes dining that much more interesting. We opted for a couple of low-key local places for lunch, and tried some fancier dining at night. Portuguese food is simple yet delicious, and I think that would describe our Lisbon culinary experience as well.

If you can’t already tell, I’m a big fan of Lisbon. More than that, I’m a big fan of spending time with the people who I care about. I’ll let you see more of what we did by perusing the photos below. What really made this trip special was getting to explore a beautiful city with Kevin and my dear friend Julie. If you’ve never considered visiting Lisbon, I suggest that you add it to your to-do list, but more than that, I hope that you make the time to have interesting experiences with the people who you love.


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