After my trip to Palma, I spent most of my time in December finishing up things at work and starting to prepare for the holidays. Bryanda came from Mallorca to visit me in Galicia and after a few days we went to Portugal and explored Porto and Lisbon for Christmas break. Originally, we had wanted to spend Christmas in Germany, but because we are the definition of procrastination that didn’t happen. So we went to Lisbon with a short stop in Porto. *I talked about Porto in my other post so I will mostly be focusing on Lisbon here*
Lisbon was fantastic and it made me realize even more how underrated Portugal is. Seriously, it is so great. We were able to explore a couple of the surrounding cities as well, such as Belem, Cascais, and Sintra. My favorite day of the trip and the one I remember the most was going to Cascais on Christmas Eve. We woke up early this day and caught a short train to Cascais. The town was recommended to us by a local that we had met our first night in Lisbon named Anthony. He said that he was originally from Cascais and that he may have been a little biased but Cascais was one the best parts about the Lisboa district. After we arrived there, I couldn’t have agreed more with Anthony.
Cascais is a smaller ocean village located on the Atlantic Coast. The city is well taken care of and most of the people that live there appear to be rich. Needless to say, I think I now know where I want to retire.. We didn’t spend too much time walking around the actual city because the shops and restaurants were closed or were going to be closing because of Christmas Eve. We found our way to the coastal walking route and followed it for the rest of the day. At the end of the route is the famous Praia de Guinchos, a beach popular for surfing competitions and it’s amazing views of the ocean and mountains.
We hadn’t planned our trip too much to Cascais but we knew that we wanted to see the ocean from there because we had heard from Anthony and others that it was amazing. Portugal is very famous for surfing and their beaches because of the strong, enormous waves. Along the paseo we stopped every few km so we could climb along the rocks and the cliffs. Climbing these rocks was very scary and peaceful at the same time. It was so calming to be there and to see nothing but the Atlantic; scary, because with one wrong step you would probably fall off and get caught in the strong tide. At one point we found a place on the rocks to sit and eat our packed lunch. We ended up sitting there for an hour and a half. We realized that after sitting there so long we needed to start walking faster because we had about 3 miles left to walk until we got to the beach before sunset.
Unfortunately, time was not on our side and we were not going to make it walking. Instead we asked some locals for help on where to catch a bus and they told us we would have to walk clear back into town and get one from there. Discouraged we knew that it wasn’t going to happen and started making our way back to the city center when we heard a car pull up behind us, it was the locals that we had stopped to ask for help. They offered us a ride to the beach because they were sad that we had come all that way and wouldn’t be able to see it. They were a very nice, retired couple. They had explained to us that all of their daughters were going to be spending Christmas in different places instead of coming home to Cascais and they would be celebrating it alone as a couple. Bry and I understood what that felt like considering that it was our first Christmas away from home while abroad as well. Finally, we made it to Praia de Guinchos and we were able to see the waves and enjoy a drink before we headed back to Lisbon.
Originally after we arrived to Lisbon our plans were to buy food for Christmas the next day and for that evening so we could celebrate the appropriate way; but everything was closed and we were left eating cereal, bread, and sandwich meat for Christmas. That evening after Cascais we relaxed in our Airbnb because there wasn’t much to do with everything being closed for Christmas. On Christmas Day, we decided to take advantage of zero people on the street and sightsee around Lisbon, which turned out to be a great idea because we didn’t have to wait 20 minutes everywhere to get a decent picture. We explored through the Alfama district, the overlooks, Barrio Alto, and many other places. We literally just walked around Lisbon all day and even got a ride on the famous yellow trolleys while making friends with some very hyper Italians as well.
On our last full day in Lisbon, we made a day trip to Sintra. Sintra is a small, tourist city with many different castles to see. They are kind of expensive so we only paid to go see two of them, the Palacio de Pena and Castillo de los Moros. Palacio de Pena was absolutely amazing. The palace is very quirky and is painted in very bright colors. It was very busy with it being the day after Christmas and was full of tourists but it was still worth the view to see it. From the Palace you can actually see Cascais because it is at the top of a mountain.
Lisbon is a great place to travel if you are looking for a bigger city that isn’t super touristy and it is cheap! The food is also amazing as well. I recommend trying the Pasteis de Belem, which is a small cream cake that you can find. They sell them all over Portugal but the originals are from a particular restaurant in Belem, located in the Lisbon district. The restaurant is busy, but it is worth it to try these little desserts. So much happened on this trip that I can’t possibly type it all out but altogether, Lisbon turned out to be a very great, last-minute choice for Christmas vacation. The city is very beautiful and has a perfect temperature all year round. It is old, colorful, and has a lot of character. It made me love Portugal even more than I already did.