Drinking Port in Porto

I really did not want to leave Lisbon. It had become my favourite European city to my surprise, which is why it was all the more disappointing that I was all lethargic and man-fluuy for my stay there. I would have extended my Lisbon time, but after noticing what the date was, and realising how wide the top of north Spain is, I knew I needed to keep moving if I want to make it to Barcelona in time for my next flight.

Porto was the next destination heading north, and the second biggest Portugal city. I wasn’t feeling too excited about going there, but as  my bus drove over a bridge arching over the massive river gorge that separates Porto from another city called Villa Nova, I was pleasantly surprised by how bewitching it was. My mouth may have dropped open a little.
Checking into my hostel, I was pleased to notice it was a similar level of awesomeness to my Lisbon one although still not quite good enough to make it into my top 5. It was pretty close though. No pancakes in the morning might have contributed to that. But it did have a free shot of port at 11pm every night.
The first evening I went stalking one of the many bridges crossing the gorge with my camera until I got too cold, then headed back to the hostel for a traditional Portuguese cod dinner and that free shot of port.
The next day I spent doing walking tours. The hostel offered a morning and afternoon tour with each covering different sides of the city. The second one included some Harry Potter lore (sqee!). J K Rowling drew her inspiration for the Hogwarts wizard cloaks from the Porto university uniform (which is still worn today). There was also a bookshop that is considered the 3rd most beautiful in the world that inspired the Hogwarts library and staircase. Sadly it was closed that day. I would have loved a chance to look around and breathe in the smell of books.
Love the Portuguese orange roofs
These are real university students!
Unique cancerous trees
We also saw a church with about 500kg worth of gold inside. I had to say for that much gold, it looked pretty dusty to me.
And the best viewpoint of the river gorge. And me.
For lunch I had a traditional Portuguese dish called a Francesinha as recommended by my walking tour. It is designed to give a person a heart attack with the rather unsafe amount of calories contained.  It looks quite innocent initially..
But on the inside is many layers of meat and bread and egg all stuck together with a lot of cheese.
Heavy breathing. 
I was unable to finish my francesinha which is okay! For dinner that night I had a really healthy tuna salad to help my poor shocked body recover. Along with another tasty port shot to speed the recovery.
Another early-ish night (I was just about recovered from my man-flu with all the extra sleep yahoo) and the next morning I was off to my next destination again. This time in North Spain.

Where I stayed: Yes! Porto
Price: €15 a night in a 4 bed dorm (which was half empty for my stay boo yah!)
Overall: Yet another great Portugal hostel. It ticked all the right boxes with being very clean, modern, friendly and comfy beds. Free shots in the evening along with plenty of hostel activities to choose from.


Feeling like a man in Lisbon, Portugal


A Lisbon sunset from the main square

I arrived into Lisbon feeling pleased as punch. My Blablacar (ride share) driver and his wife had turned out to be really lovely so I’d had a pleasant five hours riding with them for the cheap price of €20. The sun was shining and the metro system was easy to navigate. Within no time I was at my hostel and stunned at the awesomeness of my dorm room.

Notice the cool light-shade?

Within five minutes the Living Lounge hostel had jumped to the top of my favourite hostels list. Neat touches like each room being uniquely themed and painted (check out the above photo) was just the beginning. Each bed had large lockers underneath with plug sockets inside, meaning you could safely lock your valuables up and let them charge at the same time! The décor was all chosen carefully with meticulous cleanliness. But my favourite part was the breakfast. The hostel had a chef who would specially prepare pancakes every morning for the guests. For free!

I felt like I never wanted to leave the hostel again within that first five minutes.

But Lisbon was way too cool to stay in my dorm room the whole time as tempted as I was. The only thing I regret about my stay there is that I was a bit under the weather from so many nights of poor sleep in party-city Sevilla. I had a moderate case of man-flu so I couldn’t make the most out of my stay in Lisbon. Not that I let it stop me from getting out and about. But it did mean I had early nights with no alcohol (boo) to try and feel a little less pathetic.



 A very cool fountain in one of the squares


There were trams!

The first day I signed up for the hostel-run day tour of a nearby town called Sintra. It’s a small place well known for being like a fairy-tale with beautiful palaces, gorgeous mountainous setting and stunning greenery. You can feel the difference in climate as soon you enter the Sintra region due to the massive difference in humidity.

First stop of the tour was the guide’s favourite palace called Quinta da Regaleira. It’s not the biggest palace in Sintra, or even the prettiest one such as this one that is usually on all the postcards:


Image from travel.msn.com

But it has the coolest garden. And a palace (admittedly not as pretty as the above one). And was designed by a crazy man.


 Some gargoyle statues on top of the palace





The chapel along with a neat door knocker


Mysterious garden door..


 Looking up from the bottom of a well shaft at the spiral staircase


 The palace itself which looks quite Gothic

It is actually like an adventure exploring the many paths and layers of the garden surrounded by unusual flowers and trees not usually seen in this part of the world. There were labyrinth caves, ponds, spiral-shaped wells, and underground tunnels.


One of the many caves. This one came with stepping stones across the water which are just out of sight in this photo. But how cool are stepping stones! And caves!

I could have happily stayed there all day but it was time to move on and eat some Portuguese pastries within the bustling town centre of Sintra.


I don’t know what this is called. It contained egg and I suspect a shit-load of butter. And was utterly delicious

With happy bellies we then headed to Europe’s most western point to admire the view.


It was stunning. And freezing cold with the wind. This photo is me getting blown off the cliff.

Next was a Portuguese buffet style lunch where we all ate far too much and felt ill. It was a hard compromise with wanting to try all the different Portuguese foods and being able to walk.


Next we had a bit of beach time to recover and staggered across the golden sands to watch kite boarders do their thing zipping around in the beautifully chilly seawater.



To finish off the day, we stopped by a famous bakery in a part of Lisbon which sells delicious little custard pies.These pies are considered rather special as this Belem bakery is the original inventor of them and still produces what is considered the best recipe. People travel specially to Belem to buy these rather cheap little €1 tarts. I have to agree, my pie was mighty delicious and the by far the best thing I’d eaten out of ALL the food that day.


I was worn out by that long day and actually felt too feeble and full of snot to do much the next day. All I achieved was going to a flea market, a rather long nap, and then wandering the streets looking for street art graffiti. There was a lot more I could have done with being in Lisbon, but I just didn’t have the energy. I even made myself go to bed early despite invitations from a couple of really fit Irish lads to go for drinks. Although I’m sure those invites were just out of kindness as surely my red drippy nose and coughing can’t have been that attractive.




I woke up feeling a bit better the next morning and decided to do one of the local free walking tours to try and squeeze one last bit of awesomeness out of Lisbon for my final half-day there. I managed the first hour of the tour and then realised I’d left my iPhone on my hostel bed when I’d checked out! Shock! Horror!

I raced to the hostel and got my iPhone back safe and sound. But then failed at relocating my walking tour group. Silly nomophobia. It had been a seriously good tour too. I’d learnt really interesting things such as how Lisbon was mostly destroyed by an earthquake back in the 17th century. Sounds similar to the Christchurch ones I experienced? Well kinda. The Lisbon one was much worse at a richter scale rating of 9 and lasting for a whole nine minutes! Be glad that wasn’t us fellow Cantaberians.


Getting felt up by a statue during the tour. Notice how his hand is in the perfect place to… um yeah.

With that I decided it was time to head to my next destination – Porto.


Where I stayed: Living Lounge Lisbon Hostel

Price: €22 a night in an 8 bed dorm

Overall: Lisbon has a reputation for amazing hostels. You really can’t go wrong with booking your accommodation. This particular hostel was considered the 4th best hostel in the world in 2012. I consider the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in.


Another beautiful Lisbon sunset