Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lisboa, Portugal

This past weekend I traveled to Lisboa with Eleanora, Caitlin, Jen, Connor, and Tara. Despite the near consistent rain, I had an incredible time! Portugal is absolutely beautiful. We had another crack-of-dawn flight on Saturday morning at 7 AM but it wasn't too bad because we got to Lisbon early. We headed to our hostel - the Traveler's House which was probably the best hostel I've stayed in so far. It's set up like a row house and has a really great communal feeling. A bunch of other people from our Spain group went a few weeks ago so they were a big help in planning what we should do.

The first day we took the tram uphill to the Church of Grasa, which is an area of Lisbon. The view was incredible, you could see the entire city, the ocean, and everything. It was beautiful. We were so thankful that the sun came out so we could fully enjoy it. After, we walked to St. Vincent's Monastery and went through a flea market being held there. Next we went to the Se Cathedral before heading to St. George's Castle. Again, there was an incredible view and it was so cool to be inside a castle build in the 13-14 centuries. You could almost imagine how they defended the city hundreds of years ago.

By this time we were able to check into our hostel and shower. After all six of us were ready, we asked the reception for a good place to get inexpensive Portuguese food. I had a grilled sea bass, obviously with the head and tail still on - always a little bit of a shock even though I expect it. It was delicious though. We got dessert and headed back to the hostel for the night. We took it easy the rest of the night but had a great time. On Sunday we really wanted to do a tour of Sintra and some other places sponsored by the hostel but there were only 4 spots left for the 6 of us so Caitlin, Eleanora, Jen, and I found another tour that left in the afternoon for a cheaper price. It actually worked out perfectly because we wanted to go to Belem to see the tower and monastery over there in the morning.

We got up early Sunday morning and caught the bus to the Jeronimos Monastery in Belem. It was so beautiful. We even got to go inside the church during Mass and see Vasco de Gama's tomb which was pretty neat. We saw the Discovery Monument on the way to the Belem Tower as well. The weather cleared up just enough for us to see the Tower in all its glory. We climbed to the top and enjoyed the view. Afterwards, we went to the Pasteleis de Belem where we ate the famous pastel de Belem, a custard like pastry which was delicious. Obviously, I got two!

Next we went back to the Plaza near our hostel and caught the bus to Sintra - about 30 minutes outside of Lisbon. It's a cute town in the mountains home to the National Royal Palace. It's also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is pretty neat. The kings of Portugal used to live there. The tour guide spoke to us in Portuguese and Spanish and we were so excited that we were able to understand everything perfectly. We got some more pastries that Sintra is know for (an almond custard filled pastry and a cheescake) and headed to the Atlantic Coast. We saw the beautiful beaches and rock formations such as the Boca del Inferno (Hell's Mouth). We went to the western most point of Europe. We also stopped in Cascais, a beach town right on the water home to the biggest casino in Europe (the world?). We headed back to Lisbon and our hostel after. Overall, I had two incredible days in Portugal and I saw everything I wanted to see which makes me very happy!

Check out my pictures! http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2035686&id=1091100120&l=72395fc2bb

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