On a recent Uber ride in Virginia, my Russian driver asked me if I had ever been to Portugal. It seemed he was considering going there on a vacation, but didn’t know much about it or if it was worth visiting. I had recently divulged my love for travel (we were en route to the airport so it made sense) and very quickly jumped at the opportunity to sell him on Portugal.
I started gushing about Lisbon. I told him all about the fairytale beauty of Sintra. I described the beaches of the Algarve. And I told him that I couldn’t wait to go back to Lisbon, as well as visit Porto.
He was surprised by how much I raved about Portugal and it seemed that I had convinced him to go.
When I went to Portugal I (mistakenly, ignorantly) assumed it would be just like Spain. Of course they speak a different language in Portugal, but I thought everything else would be similar. But there is something really special about Portugal, something that I think comes from it being adjacent to Spain and, for so long, in fierce competition with its neighbor. The people are warm and friendly, the beaches are beautiful (though the water is cold), the seafood is incredible, the port is delicious. I found Portugal very comfortable, very welcoming. Lisbon, especially, felt very small and neighborly compared to other, larger European cities. The proximity to the sea and the brightness of the buildings in Lisbon make it feel lighter, more open than those older cities in Europe. There is a busy, buzzy energy but it never feels overwhelming, just alive.
Our trip to Portugal kicked off in Lisbon (with a day trip to Sintra), and then we rented a car and drove south to the Algarve where we spent six days in Sagres. The road trip down to Sagres was actually one of the highlights of the trip as we took a long, scenic route to get there and were able to see more of the country than had we just taken the highway. Read more through the links.