Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Thoughts on Portugal

So my family just came back from Portugal – a rather quick but jam-packed trip that gave us 5 full days there.  One of those we spent in Sintra, the rest in Lisbon. Herewith are my musings:

Best Christmas-themed thing we did: As Europe is famous for its Christmas markets, we made sure we hit a few.  We ultimately went to two different markets two times each.  It was a great way for us to get in the Christmas spirit while we were away from home. We also did a night walking tour in parts of town where there were lots of Christmas lights so that was special.

Most addictive local treat: Pao con Nutella. This is basically warm pizza dough with Nutella incorporated throughout.  But it is hearty heaven.

Most delightful surprise: Discovering that Lisbon has the oldest continuously open bookstore in the world - the Bertrand which opened in 1732. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records and everything. We got to go there twice, and of course purchased a book which they stamped as such.

Most unusual sight: The Initiation Well at the Quinta da Regaleira estate. This “well” is better described as a gothic spiral staircase that descends 90 feet underground, apparently to simulate nine circles of hell.  Once you get down to the bottom, there is a maze of underground tunnels for you to wander around seeking salvation. How this thing never made it into Game of Thrones is beyond me.

Best last minute find: the Banksy Museum.  We had moved our schedule around a bit and decided to check out this small museum.  It was a nice break from palaces, castles and larger museums.  The best part was that each piece of art had a little explanation next to it giving the context of the art.  Very helpful considering Banksy’s work is so politically/culturally/societally motivated.

Best overall fun thing we did: we took a four hour Tuk Tuk tour of the city.  Our guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and it was like being outside but still in a sheltered vehicle. Very easy to pop in and out to look at various views and sights. It was an easy and convenient way to cover a lot of ground.

Hope you enjoyed my comments! Feliz Natal!


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