Portugal: Lisboa

On my first day in Portugal, Erin said she was shocked that I hadn’t already come up with a book. On my second day, my mom asked if I’d been there eight days already. Each day does truly feel like I’ve fit four days worth of activities in, but it’s been absolutely perfect, and Lisboa was such a fantastic way to start. (Warning: this is very long.)

Day one: March 19
Castelo de São Jorge

Technically, I left on 3/18, but I was on an overnight flight, so the adventure really began on Saturday, March 19th. Unless you consider getting a text at 10AM on 3/18 that said my flight was cancelled and had been rescheduled for the next day, so I spent two hours trying to figure out what to do with United only to ultimately decide to cancel my flight through them altogether and just book with SATA airlines, which meant I didn’t actually have a flight to Portugal for about ten minutes and had to book two one way tickets rather than a roundtrip–if you consider that the start of an adventure, then sure, it started on 3/18, but it was awful, so let’s move past it to Saturday.

Everything went so smoothly at the airport after all the horror of the morning. I got through international check-in no problem, practically flew through customs, made it to my gate two hours early, got through international customs on São Miguel no problem, almost couldn’t find my bag until I realized I was waiting at the wrong carousel, and finally, finally, got into Lisbon to my Airbnb, and it’s adorable. I didn’t want to stay at a hotel because I really wanted to try to get as much of an authentic Lisbon experience as possible, and I think staying at an Airbnb in which cars can’t access it because it’s deep in a neighborhood surrounded by eight million stairs is pretty much as close as I’m going to get.

My Airbnb is still literal seconds from downtown, but rather than waking up to cars on the street, I wake up to cats meowing in the alley and the church bells counting the hour. There are two lemon trees across the street, a view of Castelo de São Jorge outside my front door, and red tiles on the roofs everywhere. On the way in, it honestly looked very similar to California, but the second I started wandering through the streets, stopping to ask an old man how to get to my Airbnb, it was very different.

I got to my Airbnb at about 2:40PM, and though I was exhausted from my flight and kind of just wanted to collapse, I also needed to find dinner and figured I had enough time to also see Castelo de São Jorge. After a quick shower under a rainfall head (!!), I packed my bag and headed out into the streets. I honestly don’t know anything about how Lisbon is setup, but holy moly, the stairs. The hills! This place is just made up of up and down & up and down & up and down. Castelo de São Jorge is visible on a hill across from where my Airbnb sits on another hill, so I had to go allllllllll the way down–I’m only kind of exaggerating, there’s probably a minimum of 30 stairs to get down from my Airbnb, and at least triple that to get up to São Jorge–and then back up again until I finally reached the castle.

Tickets were €10, but I spent at least an hour and a half wandering around the castle. It was honestly a wild experience. We just don’t have architecture like that in the US. We don’t have castles, and to walk up these huge towers that look out at the whole of Lisbon is amazing. Not to mention the peacocks! There are just birds everywhere in general, and the pigeons fly so close to your head, but there were a dozen or so peacocks just wandering around the castle grounds, and they were so unfazed by humans that they kept walking right up to people. I even got to see one extend its tail!

After leaving the castle, I wandered around the streets aimlessly until I stumbled across Altar, which had one of Portugal’s traditional dishes, bacalhau no forno, so figured I’d spend my first night diving headfirst into the cuisine. I got some garlic butter shrimp to start, and I would have stayed for dessert, but it was getting really late, and I didn’t want to walk home in the dark in an unfamiliar city. I will admit that the fish was definitely cooked way more than I’m used to in the US, so it was pretty tough and chewy, but it was an adorable restaurant, and the shrimp were divine.

Things went a bit off the rails at this point. I was rushing to get back before the sun fully set, and I don’t know what it is about Europeans and not putting in stairwell lights, but there was not a single damn light in the stairwell up to my Airbnb. (Because, of course, after climbing eight million stairs, I want to climb three more flights in a narrow, spiral staircase.) I made it back in good time, but I could not open the door for the life of me. I tried literally everything I could think of, and the door just wouldn’t budge. Poor Jen got the “I’m hyperventilating in a dark stairwell” texts while my Airbnb host just got me desperately asking for help, and it was only when he finally said to pull instead of push that the door opened. I was well and truly past saving at that point, though, so I got inside, dropped my backpack, fell face down on the bed, and sobbed for about a half hour. All I wanted at that point was to be in my own bed with my cats and as far from the moment as possible. Needless to say, I slept really good that first night, and I was up and at ’em for the first full day of adventures.

Day two: March 20
Palácio da Pena, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Cascais

This was my first full day in Portugal, and my goodness, what a beginning it was. After getting lost in Lisboa a few times the day previous, I was excited that I made it to my pickup point with my guided tour with absolutely no fanfare. I did mostly guided tours for day trips for this entire trip because what better way to see a country than to let the people who live there take you around? Our guide’s name was João, and he was fantastic. He’s from Sintra, and he had so much knowledge about the history of the Palácio da Pena, as well as the town itself, and it was just wonderful to have him along for a tour through the palace.

It was raining when we set out in the morning, and though it was still sprinkling when we got to the palace, I decided to take the walking route up rather than get in the minibus. I was the only one that chose it, so I got some extra time with our guide as he introduced the palace around us. It was a quick walk, though, and it’d mostly stopped raining by the time we got up to the palace. Pena is located 480m at the top of a steep hill, and holy heck, but I would never try to hike this thing. Despite not being all that tall, it’s a beast of a climb and just goes straight up. I was grateful that we had a tourbus for most of the way because even that small walk was rigorous.

I’m a big architecture person, and so, while I was very interested in the history of the palace, I was much more interested in the actual physical palace. Getting to see inside was really neat, though, and our guide had a lot of knowledge about what felt like literally everything Pena. The grand hall was probably my favorite because it was just so decandent and overtly wealthy, and it was one of the few rooms with ceilings that were high and open. The structure of this palace is so wonky, though, because the red side was built after the yellow side, and so the ceilings are super low in the red side, and it all feels kind of small and quick, but the yellow side is just enormous. Even still, everything kind of winds in on itself, so although the red was reserved for the bedrooms, the yellow was still part of the living area, where the kitchens & the great hall were located, and everything just wove in and out together.

My favorite part of this tour was definitely the free time, not gonna lie. There’s a wall walk where you’re able to walk along the outer edge of the castle (behind a hip-height stone wall, don’t worry), and this provides views not only of the town of Sintra, but of Pena’s resident castle, Castelo dos Mouros. One of my favorite facts of this trip so far is the difference between a castle and a palace, which I didn’t realize were technically different things, although it does make sense.

A palace is a place of residence, always for a royal family, and it’s where they lived day in and day out. A castle, however, is a means of defense for that palace. Thus, if you look out at that very last picture, above, you can see Castelo dos Mouros in the distance. This does make me wonder, though, what palace Castelo de São Jorge is protecting. (I just Googled it, it was a citadel, and it was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake that leveled quite a bit of Lisboa.)

This was honestly probably the highlight of the day for me. I mean, not only have I never seen a palace, I’ve never seen a palace in the mountains. That’s just about the coolest thing I can imagine, and it was an utter delight being able to experience the beauty and majesty that is Palácio da Pena. I know it’s a very touristy thing to do, but it’s well worth it, and I am a tourist, after all.

I feel like we’re not talking about the elephant in the room, which is my enormous European hair. It started on Saturday, when I absolutely had to take a shower after my flight, but I still wanted to walk up to São Jorge, so I just said screw it and did it anyway, and my hair grew about three times the size it is usually. I left it overnight, though, and it was still looking pretty fantastic the next day, when we were headed up to Sintra, so I decided to let it do its thing. The rain does what rain does and made it even crazier, but you know what? I’m really enjoying it! It’s truly psycho, and I don’t know if I’ll cary on this trend when I get back to the States, but I washed my hair in the morning for a second time, so clearly I don’t hate it.

After the palace, we went back down the mountain to the town of Sintra. I couldn’t see the palace from the streets, but I could spot Castelo dos Mouros, so I’m wondering if you’ve just got to get the right view to see Pena. Sintra was absolutely beautiful, though I do only have one photo of it, and it’s this fountain that I discovered while wandering around the town. I ended up snagging lunch at Lord Byron’s Cafe up on one of the hills, and there was just Byron poetry everywhere. I was really craving not-fish, so I got a goat cheese & tomato panini, and the bread had olive oil & oregano on it, and holy moly. I also ordered food in Portuguese for the first time in a bakery, Piriquita, that our guide recommended, and I tried both his pastry of choice, travesseiro, and a peach juice, which was exactly what I wanted & needed.

After Sintra, it was off to Cabo da Roca, which is the westernmost part of Europe, and I’d like to state, for the record, that despite being an Aries in Aries season, I did not go past the sign that said unstable cliffs like everyone else did because damn it, I had my sights set on a monastery the following day, and I was not going to die just to get a good picture. The cross pictured is said to point directly across the ocean to New York, too!

It wasn’t super windy, though a massive storm did roll in just as I was walking back to the bus. It continued to downpour when we arrived in Cascais, so I have no pictures from this stop because I found the nearest café that offered tea and hid inside it for forty minutes. It was a nice little reprieve after a long day, though, and I tried Mediterranean tea for the first time, which was pretty good! That was it, though, so we headed back to Lisboa, where I got into my Airbnb successfully on the first try, collapsed for a bit, and then went back downtown to have homemade raviolis from an incredible place around the corner, Locanda Italiana. I’d love to be able to go back and try more on their menu, but I’m trying to eat as much food as possible in Lisboa, so I’ve got no time for repeats. I ate while reading Circe by Madeline Miller, which is the first time I’ve cracked a book since before I left for this trip, and it was honestly the cherry on top of a really good first full day in Portugal.

Day three: March 21
Santuário de Fátima, Mosteiro da Batalha, Nazaré, Óbidos

Not gonna lie, I definitely picked this day trip purely for Batalha and had absolutely no idea what the other three stops were. I’m going to start with Fátima, but just be aware that the Batalha section of this day is going to be longggggg.

It was, again, raining. I mean, I did visit during rainy season, so I’m not sure what I was expecting, but as I’m writing this the following day, it’s raining again, and it just makes me laugh. I’m glad that I brought two rain jackets because I’ve definitely used them a lot already. It was mostly clear skies when I left in the morning, and my new thing has been to wish São Jorge a bom dia on my way down the six hundred stairs to get into town. Anytime I see the castle on the skyline, really, I say a quick olá, and I’m going to miss having that view when I leave in a few days. My guide for the day picked me up at the bottom of those six hundred stairs–seriously, my takeaway from Lisboa is a lot of things, but mostly stairs–and then it was off to pickup the rest of our group before we made the journey north. We’d be driving in a diamond, heading east, north, west, and then south again to return back to Lisboa, and our first stop was Santuário de Fátima.

We arrived at around 10:30AM, and mass was due to start at 11AM, so our guide recommended that we check out the sanctuary first before making our way down to the altar. The sanctuary is truly massive, and it’s setup with the main sanctuary at the top of–you guessed it–three sets of stairs, and then there’s a massive open space encircled by the sanctuary’s arms, almost like you’re being hugged by Fátima. There are two altars–one where mass is held outside in the warmer days, and another where there’s a small icon of Fátima. She was said to have appeared suddenly one day with three pilgrims, and the location of her icon is right next to the tree where she appeared. There was also a space to light a candle for your loved ones, so I bought two candles and lit one for my mom and sister.

I hadn’t quite expected this start to the day, in quiet and solitude, but it was very much needed. I spent most of the morning just observing the sanctuary, walking through the arms to see the varying stages of Christ’s last moments before crucifixion, and crying a little over the church bells, which are always going to get me, but were especially beautiful at the sanctuary.

Next up was one of my main reasons for coming to Portugal. There’s three, truly, and while the most important is that my great-grandfather was from Portugal, the other two are big in my heart, too. For the last seven years, I’ve been working on a single character’s story, Andrew Levi, and he has grown and changed over the years in ways that I was never expecting. From having amnesia & hating everyone to ruling as king of the vampires & wanting desperately to be loved, Andrew has grown and shed so many layers over the last seven years that I am truly in awe of him sometimes. And I know that I created him, but to witness the journey he’s taken has been wonderful, and I’m really going to struggle putting into words why Batalha means so much to me.

Andrew’s story is being told in nine parts. For each of the lovers in his life, I’ve dedicated anywhere between 20-40k words. The length of the entire novel is going to be around three full novels put together, though at the rate I’m going, it’s probably going to be closer to four. His first eight lovers are all human, and the sorrow that he’s experienced over falling in love over and over just to watch them die again and again is something that sits in my bones in a way I’m never going to forget. I hadn’t always planned to write Andrew’s two thousand year history, but every time I tried to write him in modern times, there was this hollow of knowledge, and I knew that the only way I could truly write him would be to experience all of it. And though Andrew’s story starts in Greece, though much of it takes place well before the 1300s, Batalha is where it ends.

For every lover, we see only their time with Andrew. We never see their beginnings, and though we see their ends, it is only through Andrew’s heartbreak. All of them are their own people, but through the lens of Andrew, and it’s only right that the last, the ninth, would be different. He must be, because why else would he be the last? Rafael Vilaró was born in 1358 and immediately orphaned. To this day, he knows nothing about his parents, not because he doesn’t want to, but because by the time he got over the grief of being abandoned by them, his own death had already come and gone, and there was no way to find information about them. He was given to the church, was raised and ordained until he later joined the king’s army, and died in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. He had befriended the young king, John, during his youth, though, and John refused to be parted with him, so he ordered Rafael’s body to be entombed so that he might rise again. He had no way of knowing what would happen, but in 1391, Rafael rose again beneath a monastery built in honor of the Battle of Aljubarrota, and it was there that he found his way again.

The Mosteiro da Batalha is a huge focal point of Rafael’s story. It’s where he’s laid to rest and risen again as a vampire. It’s where he learns the parameters of this second life. It’s where he finally confesses his love to John, who has been patiently waiting for such a thing. It’s where, years and years later, when he is confined to the palace in Lisbon, that he dreams of constantly, that he yearns to return to. And it’s where, at the end of his time in Portugal, Andrew brings him after a nearly fatal wound. It is the center of Rafael’s life, and being able to step inside it was absolutely breathtaking.

Did I cry a little when it appeared on the horizon as we were driving to it? Yes, 100%. I was speechless when we got out of the car and started to approach the monastery. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it again. It’s just–it’s incredible. It’s awesome, in the truest sense of the word. I could apply countless adjectives to it–majestic, magnificent–but none of them would truly do it justice. And that’s even before I stepped inside! I could have sat in that courtyard, staring at its façade, for hours. The only way I can think to describe the inside of it is with the scene in Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf says, let us have a little more light, and there’s a great swell of music as the halls of Moria are revealed.

One of my biggest takeaways from the architecture in Portugal thus far has been the sheer size of it. I think the pictures from the convent on my last full day do better justice than these at trying to show just how big these structures are, but even still, you can’t really understand unless you’re there, staring up at a ceiling so far away that you can only just make out the bigger details of it.

Unlike previous days, where we had full access to the places that we were visiting, we were only scheduled to visit the main nave of the monastery. Our guide told us that if we just peeked our heads in at the door to John’s tomb, we’d be able to see most of it, and that was just not going to fly with me, for obvious reasons, so I asked if how much time did we have in the monastery, and could I skip the history portion to tour the rest of the monastery. I’d already talked a little about how excited I was to see it, so she told me that while she usually says no, she could see how stoked I was, and she sent me on my way. And wow. If I hadn’t been able to, I would have found a way to get back there. I am still tempted to figure out a way, but I’ve got such a jam-packed rest of the week ahead that I don’t know how I’d find time to go out to Batalha for the full day that I’d like.

John is a big enough king in Portugal that he’s got a monument down in one of the squares in Lisboa, and he’s going to be one of the main kings that I write about with Rafael, so I know a lot about Batalha, since he was the one that ordered it built, and getting to see his tomb, where he was finally laid to rest, was just incredible. I had such a fangirl moment and immediately took a video to screech to one of my friends, Sara, about being in the exact spot where Andrew & Rafael kiss for the first time, and it was just so much fun.

After John’s tomb, I went outside into the cloister, which is gorgeous beyond words. It’s this huge courtyard surrounded by a beautiful walkway of stone arches, and you can see the rest of the monastery through the pillars. The cloister was a place that John would have walked in solitude and reflection when he was alive, and to be able to follow in his footsteps was pretty remarkable. I knew there was another part of the monastery, too, but I wasn’t sure how to find it, so I was very grateful when one of the staff pointed me in the right direction. The unfinished chapel doesn’t have a ceiling, but it’s still beautiful to witness, and though I didn’t have a lot of time to look at it, it was enough that I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

Though I was sad to leave Batalha behind, I was also really curious about these hundred foot waves I’d been hearing about at Nazaré. This was a quick stop, too, since we were really just there to walk down to the lighthouse, watch the waves for a bit, and then head out. There were not hundred foot waves that day, but the ocean was still pretty rough, and it was a joy to watch her bash against the rocks and soak everyone who dared to get too close. And then, to close out the day, we headed down to Óbidos which was, much like Nazaré, full of hills!

If it’s not stairs, it’s hills, though as I’m saying that, I’m remembering that Óbidos had both because not only did I have to climb a steep hill through the town to get to the castle walls that surround it, I also had to climb a heck ton of stairs to get up to the castle walls so I could walk around them. Óbidos sits inside of a castle, so you have to park outside and walk in through the castle walls, and it’s hella cool to walk in through the great stone arches of a castle and find a small town inside. This was reminiscent of Cascais, where it was more just a period for us to walk around and shop if we liked, so I made a beeline for the castle walls, hung out up there until it started raining, got lost a bit trying to find the main streets of the town, and eventually made my way to a gelato place.

I ended up with a blueberry raspberry chocolate gelato, which was divine, and a few round chocolate puff cream things? I don’t really know, but they were good. We got back much later than I was expecting around 6PM, and I was hella exhausted, so I stopped at a restaurant at the bottom of one of the nineteen sets of stairs on my way up to my Airbnb, Catmandoo, and it was fantastic. The service was spectacular, the food was out of this world good, and not just because I was starving and exhausted, and if I had longer than four days in Lisboa, I would definitely go back again, but I’ve got more food to try! They even tried to give me a shot on the house, which was adorable.

Overall, a good day, but definitely glad that I have a day off tomorrow. It was a longgggg day full of a lot of walking, and though my day off is going to be a lot of that in the morning, I do think I’m going to take the entire afternoon off to just lounge in bed. And I know that might seem blasphemous because hello, we’re in a foreign country, see and do all the things, I don’t want to keel over dead from too much, so expect a hopefully shorter section for tomorrow.

Day four: March 22
Convento da Ordem do Carmo

When I tell you that I really needed this sleep, boy oh boy. I went to bed at midnight because I was working on some planning for the day and catching up on social media, but I slept straight through until 8:30AM, and I didn’t get out of bed until 9:45AM, and it was amazing. I started the day with brunch at Café O Corvo, and their oat pancakes are to die for. They also served Earl Grey tea, and I almost cried over it. I have tea here, but the mugs are so damn small that it’s honestly more trouble than it’s worth to make tea, so I was really hoping to get something halfway decent at the café.

After that, it was off for about four hours of walking! On the way, I said hello to the monument of King John I because he’s my fave, got super sidetracked on the way to the convent, and swerved off to check out the monument to King José I and the truly enormous Arco do Rua Augusta, realized I was seconds away from the ocean and went to sit for a second, and then finally made my way back into the streets to find the convent. I know I sound like a broken record, but Lisboa names it stairs, and the one leading up to the convent was called Calçada do Sacramento, and it’s definitely a holy experience walking up them because I feel like I’d done some kind of penance by the time I finally made it.

I want to give a quick shoutout to how much Lisboa clearly loves its people, too, because not only do they have public Wifi, they have public bathrooms that are well-maintained, and the US needs to get on that level.

It was only €5 to get into Convento da Ordem do Carmo, which is an absolute steal for the amount of time you can spend in there. Not only is about half of the convent open to the public, half of that half is a museum dedicated to its history, which includes a twenty-minute presentation. Like I said above when talking about Batalha, I do think the pictures of Carmo show a little better how truly enormous many of these structures are. I don’t have a ton to say about Carmo because I think the pictures do really speak for themself. This is a beautiful place to visit, and the fact that this much of it survived the 1755 earthquake is remarkable.

I walked around outside a little to look at the façade of the convent, and then it was off to lunch. Fernando Pessoa, one of Portugal’s most lauded poets, has a statue right near Praça Luís de Camões, so I hung out at the square for about thirty minutes to catch my breath (more stairs) and relax a bit before I headed down to the café. This was probably the most enjoyable experience I’ve had yet, which is saying a lot considering none of my experiences have been bad. I got a caprese salad that had nuts & rosemary honey in it, and my goodness, it was good. I also got the best damn mushroom risotto I’ve ever had, and my waiter said I was very beautiful, so, all in all, a wonderful day.

As I’m writing this, I’ve been sitting in bed for a little over two hours, and I don’t really care that I’ve spent my last afternoon in Lisboa resting. It’s been a really long start to this trip, and I still have over a week to go, so I want to be in top form for the rest of it. My plan is to get dinner from an Asian street market I passed on my way up to my Airbnb, eat that in the square, and then pack, go to bed, and wake up bright and early for my train to Porto.

EDIT: Well, I wrote that above paragraph ahead of time, and none of that happened because someone followed me back to my Airbnb, and I want to be transparent about it so that I can maybe help others avoid a situation like that. The Asian place doesn’t do noodles on Tuesdays, so I started walking around downtown, and there are, like, six different squares within walking distance, so I was walking for probably around thirty minutes or so trying to find a place to eat. I just didn’t want Portuguese food, so I was trying to find either pizza or a different Asian or just not fish, but it wasn’t working out, so I figured that I’d go up to the pizza place that’s near my Airbnb and call it a night.

I was on my way back, walking down the street, when a man appeared suddenly next to me and started keeping pace with me. Like, very specifically walking alongside me, not faster, not slower, and it was freaking me out, so I cut across him and crossed the street toward the square, and I heard him say, “Aw, fuck,” like he was mad that I’d gotten away. I had half a mind to walk up to the castle and just find dinner there because I know there are a ton of restaurants along that walk, but I really didn’t want to make the climb, so I decided to just go back up to my Airbnb, wait until 7 when the sushi place would open, and go there.

In hindsight, when I saw the man waiting at the bottom of the stairs to my Airbnb, I should have turned right around and gone into Catmandoo because they were so nice the other night, and I could have just eaten there and asked one of them to walk me up after, and they probably would have, but my brain just short-circuited and said get inside right now. I went past him and up the stairs, hoping he wouldn’t see, but then I heard, “Hello! Miss! Excuse me!” so I half turned around and asked if he needed help. He started coming up the stairs, asked me where I was from, and I said, “Not here.” and kept walking. He said, “You’re American, aren’t you? I can always tell Americans by their faces, they just look like they’re not from here.” Which, what the hell? What does that even mean? I promise you I did not look like a tourist tonight. I had on my jacket and nothing else, I knew where I was going, so I wasn’t consulting my phone, and I have some serious resting bitch face, so it wasn’t like I looked uncertain or scared while I was walking. I didn’t answer him, so he keeps going. You name it, he asked it. “What are you doing here? Are you on holiday?” I told him yes, and that I was leaving tomorrow, which I realize I shouldn’t have, but I was starting to panic between don’t give him any information, but also don’t piss him off because that’s what it’s like to travel as a woman, you have to be polite enough that they won’t get physical with you, but also lie through your damn teeth. “Why are you leaving? There’s so much left to see! What are you doing later tonight? I can show you around?” I said that I was going to bed because I had an early start, and he was so offended by that. “Girl, it’s early, there’s so much time left to chill and hang out and get to know each other.” I said that I had to pack my bag, so I was going to head inside, even turned toward my building and got out my keys because, at this point, I’m in two terrible positions. I either keep walking so he doesn’t know where I’m staying, but then am walking alone with him, or I go inside behind two locked doors. He says, “Wait, what’s your name?” I told him Mary, but nothing else, he says his name is Joe and holds out his hand for a shake, but I know that game, I know the second I touch him, he grabs me and that’s it, I’m done, I’ve been kidnapped and trafficked, and it may sound dramatic, but I am a single female traveling alone. This is what happens to us even when we’re not traveling.

I told him that I wasn’t touching people anymore due to COVID, so he tries to fist bump me, so I give him an elbow tap. He tries to convince me to come out again, says that he’s just looking for a friend, but also, “You’d make a nice girlfriend, though. You seem really nice and sweet.” On what planet has anything I’ve said given that indication? I said that I was all set and had to get back upstairs to my friend, who was waiting for me, so he says, “Let me get your Instagram,” and I just couldn’t think of a way out, so I said, “Sure, show me your username, and I’ll follow you right now.” As I was searching his username–and I found him, he’s a real scumbag, there are videos of girls in bars that are obviously taken without their consent all over his page–he says, “You know, you got a real nice body, I like it,” and apparently, that’s my line. I mean, I know it is, I’ve drawn that line before, but men usually say that to me in front of other people, so I didn’t know that I was going to react the exact same way when I was alone in an alley in the middle of a foreign country, but apparently, the second you comment on my body, that’s it! We’re done! I put my phone in my pocket, said, “alright, thanks but no thanks,” and body slammed into my Airbnb.

It was less badass than that, admittedly, because my hands were shaking, so I couldn’t get the key to work, and the doors in Portugal are the width of a person with narrow shoulders, and I didn’t want to turn my back, so I was in this weird half turn trying to get my key in, but it happened quickly enough that I was able to get inside before he realized what was happening and slam the door in his dumbstruck face before I ran up three flights of stairs, actually body slammed into my room, and immediately called my mom. Luckily, by the time this post goes live, I will no longer be in Lisboa, but three hours north, and he knows none of my personal information, so here are some tips in case this ever happens to you:

  • Don’t give out your personal information. Lie about your name, say your phone is dead, don’t tell them where you’re going or where you’re staying, be as vague as possible.
  • Tell people that you’re staying with friends, always. The only time I’ve told people that I’m traveling alone are when I’m on guided tours that I’ve booked through a popular service that vets its guides, and I’m with usually older couples.
  • Lie and say you have a significant other! Tell them you’re married, or that you have kids, or that you’re on your back to your boyfriend/girlfriend. Say you’re with your family, or that you’re meeting your friend, or, if you’re in a country like Portugal where most of the people speak English, find the nearest woman and act like you’ve been looking for her because she’s your friend, and you’re so happy to see her. I promise you, 9 times out of 10, that woman is going to protect you.
  • Go into a restaurant or an establishment where there are other people. I guarantee that if I’d gone into Catmandoo, they would have either a) called the police, or b) taken care of me. Normal people don’t want to see other people trafficked, and if they can stop it easily, they’re going to.
  • If you’re in a public space, start shouting. Loudly say that you don’t know this person, that they’re making you uncomfortable, and that you need help. They’ll back off if there are other people witnessing it. If you’re alone, be polite, but firm until you can get inside somewhere. Don’t turn you back to them, don’t shake their hand, don’t allow them to come close to you. Hold your ground, and maintain your boundaries, but don’t be too aggressive. I know this is an awful thing to say, but you don’t want them to think they can be aggressive in turn. Just no thank you and keep walking.

Thankfully, my windows are very intense, and they have wooden pieces that close over the actual locked window, and they latch in three separate places, so I’m battening down the hatches tonight, and I’ll be gone tomorrow. Until then, here are my last thoughts on Lisboa.

There’s a lot that I could say about Lisboa. I don’t think that it’s somewhere I would ever want to live, and not just because of the stairs, though that’s a big part of it, but because it is so very much a city. Although there are gorgeous ruins sometimes right in the middle of a downtown, or there are beautiful monuments to the previous monarchy, it’s still very busy. There are people everywhere, cars everywhere, and just everything everywhere. There is a big draw to that, but, at the end of the day, I like that my Airbnb is away from the city center, and I’m excited to head up north and to somewhere a bit quieter.

5 responses to “Portugal: Lisboa”

  1. I'm All Booked Up YA Avatar
  2. Sandi Drover Avatar
    Sandi Drover

    Very nice honey! Gosh, I’m so proud of you for so many reasons. I feel like I’m there with you when I read this, but happy I don’t have to climb those stairs!! Xoxoxo Mom

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Zezee Avatar

    Oh wow! What an experience! And I’m so sorry that asshole dude popped up at the end there. I was so scared for you as you read and I can’t imagine how freaked out you must have been in the situation. That was scary and I’m glad you made it back okay and he didn’t get any of your info/IG. And thanks for sharing those tips on what to do in such situations.

    I enjoyed reading your post and felt like booking a trip to Portugal as I read (after whipping myself in shape by climbing stairs several times a day, lol!). It sounds wonderful, and the architecture there are beautiful. The photos you took of Batalha are fantastic. Makes me want to see the place IRL.

    Btw, I cracked up laughing at the part about being an Aries in Aries season and not risking unstable cliffs to take photos cause you gotta make it to the monastery the next day, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary Drover Avatar

      Thank you! ❤ It was definitely not the ideal way to end my stay in Lisboa, but at least it was the end and not the beginning!

      There's so many damn stairs! São Miguel has been a lot better so far, but mainland Portugal was just hills upon hills. It's definitely worth a visit, though, and I'm already thinking about the next time that I can come back.

      I got things to do! I will not die being stupid, haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. March Wrap-Up – Mary and the Words Avatar

    […] I’m not going to rehash Portugal, so here are the posts for Lisboa, Porto, and São Miguel. Madeira will go up in three days, so keep your eyes peeled for it. And […]


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