For many years, I have spent New Years at home, watching the ball drop on the TV, eating loads of food and going to sleep at a reasonable hour. When my roommate, Tracy, suggested we meet up in Portugal to ring in the New Year, I was ready to welcome the change!
I flew into Lisbon from Denver on Friday, the 30th of December. I hadn’t slept much on the flight and we arrived in the morning. I was so eager for a shower and a change of clothes, that I couldn’t wait to get out of the airport, but was stuck in the queue to enter the country for an hour and a half! I was exhausted by the time they looked at my passport and let me through.
With my limited Portuguese, I managed to direct my taxi driver to the AirBnb. The room was adorable! It was clean, and even though it was small, everything was so thoughtfully laid out. The owners even left us slippers to wear for our stay there. It was If I ever come back to Lisbon, I will definitely try to stay in this flat again!
Even though I was completely jet lagged, I knew I had to power through! Since I was starving, Tracy and I decided to eat at the first restaurant that we could find. It was a small, hole-in-the-wall cafeteria, but it was perfect for us. We had a simple, but filling meal, and we had enough energy to take on the rest of the day.
We wandered down to the city centre for a bit and then we made our way to the banks of the Rio Tajo, where proceeded to stuff our faces with ice cream. There was something so peaceful about sitting near the water in the Portuguese sunlight whilst eating ice cream.
There was a Christmas market in the city, and we made a short stop to wander through. It’s always so pleasant to see what Christmasy gifts and decorations other countries love… Mulled wine may have been involved…
The view from up top was amazing…
That evening, we finished off the day with a nice meal in the centre, and we decided to go to bed fairly early. I, after all, was still jet lagged.
[Typical Portuguese Breakfast – pastry and coffee]
On Saturday, we got to sleep in to a reasonable hour, but we decided that in order to take advantage of what the city had to offer, we would go to a free walking tour of the city. We had a quick stop in a cafe for breakfast, and then we were going to start the tour. The tour was awesome, because we learned a lot about the history of Lisbon, and what the sites represented to the locals.
[Barrio Alto – One of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon]
[In the Praça do Comércio]
After the walking tour ended, we had lunch with a few people we met from it. We went to a local restaurant, and it had 2 choices for the menu of the day – meat or fish. I went for the meat, and it was delicious. The rice and potatoes were a nice addition to the massive place of meat, and it gave me some energy back from the entire day of walking around hilly city roads.
[I’m pretty sure this counts as paleo-friendly…]
Belem was next on our list. It is just a small suburb/village outside of Lisbon. We took the train to get there, and it took about 7 minutes. We were told Belem Tower and the monastery were a few of the essential cultural sites in Lisbon to visit.
It was definitely worth the hype. We didn’t go inside, but the views outside the tower were incredible enough.
[Pretty sure this was a dream…]
One of the things we were recommended to try were the Pasteis de Nata. These are best made in Belem, and they are little pastries filled with cream. After touring around the Belem Tower, we made our way to the bakery called Pastéis de Belém, and stood in a queue for about 20 minutes. It was worth it. We sat with our pastries in the garden in front of the Monastery, taking in the sounds of the fountains and the Portuguese chatter around us.
[Waiting for Pasteis de Nata]
[The famous bakery from the inside]
That night, we signed up for a bar crawl to ring in 2017 in the Barrio Alto, one of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods. We started out in the city centre, and moved to the Barrio. Of course, the beer, “shots” and champagne were really crap, but it was an excellent opportunity to meet people and break the ice. I was really surprised with how many actual Portuguese people came to this event. I met Australians, (more) French people, Portuguese, American and Canadians! Additionally, I noticed that there were lots of Brazilians out, as well as Spaniards. Lisbon really is a cultural melting pot!
[Beautiful Lisbon at night]
After a long day and night, we woke up on Sunday to realise that there aren’t very many places open for a few reasons:
- It is a Catholic country
- It was New Years Day.
After some discussion, we headed to the airport extremely early, but that was fine for us, as we were tired, and Tracy was feeling a bit ill. I didn’t feel like we were missing out on much because I doubted we would have been able to enjoy ourselves with everything being closed for the holiday.
It was an amazing experience. Portugal is a place where you still see the aftermath of many economic crises, yet is still frozen in time with it’s beauty and history. I can’t wait to come again, and hopefully be able to spend a bit more time exploring more in depth.
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