Though I have been to Portugal once before, I was a good deal younger and spent the entirety of the week there in the Algarve by the beach. However, my sister recently had a conference in Lisbon and asked me to join her for the weekend afterwards. I am not one who usually makes impulsive decisions and goes travelling on a whim (though that is slightly who I aspire to be) but nevertheless, her question came after the months of winter we have had this year so I slightly rashly said yes.
But thank goodness I did. It was honestly such an amazing trip! I am sure that this whole post is going to seem incredibly boastful as I detail each of the things that made this trip amazing, but that is not the intention I assure you (well not entirely at least). My aim is, in fact, to encourage others to both make an impromptu decision about travelling at least once and to extoll the virtues of lovely Lisbon.
Though I am partial to a trip where you spend your entire time manically running between tourist-crammed sites and returning more tired than when you left, I am also favourably inclined to a trip with equal architectural magnificence but less frenzy. That is perhaps the greatest advantage Lisbon had over other culturally renowned cities or areas of the world I have been to. While I am sure there were places that Google and the lonely planet would have told me that I had to visit, I felt no such compulsion to listen to their every word of advice. The whole city of Lisbon is so wonderfully higgeldy-piggeldy and beautiful that I felt no particular urge to rush through it as I tried to make my way to somewhere equally beautiful and twice as crowded. That is not to say that I spent every minute wandering the streets aimlessly (though I did do a fair amount of that). I visited many of the google-advised sites such as the Praca do Comercio (Market Square), an absolutely stunning square reminiscent of Paris but painted bright yellow and leading down to the expansive estuary, and Sao Jorge Castle with expansive views across the wildly colourful city.
Despite making an effort to visit these beautiful sites, and a few others, I felt no pressure to get that perfect picture in front of the Eiffel tower or coliseum. It was that lack of expectation and absolute charm of the city itself that made Lisbon one of the best places I have visited in recent years. There was inevitably language barriers as my Portuguese consists of the three words I picked up travelling in Mozambique, and unsurprisingly and completely justly, many of the people in their native country spoke little to no English. Despite this, there was never the sense of exhaustion with the foreign tourists that so often come with culturally significant towns or cities, and through a combination of Spanish, Portuguese, English and some wonderful charade-style gesturing, we usually managed to form a vague amount of comprehension. Excuse the cliche but the effort people put in to help and understand us was the icing on the wonderful sangria-filled cake of one of the best trips I have taken.
Having extolled the virtues of Lisbon endlessly I hope I have left you with a sense of desire to travel spontaneously and with few expectations because it could lead to the best holiday of your life and a new favourite city.
And of course as always stay funky. Xx