It was a random Friday evening a few months ago when just before drifting asleep, Shawn said to me, “Oh, yeah, I forgot- if you could visit Portugal in March would you?” What a random question. First of all, yes, why not? I’ve always wanted to return to Europe, although Portugal wasn’t necessarily at the top of my list to visit. Secondly, why was Shawn asking this? Was there the opportunity to really visit Portugal or was he just gauging my interest in the Iberian Peninsula for no good reason?
As it turns out, yes, Shawn’s work was sending him to Lisbon for a sales kickoff event and he wanted me to join in on the fun. I decided to fly in a few days after Shawn to avoid being all alone in a foreign country while he worked all day and night. I knew nothing about Portugal and had no idea if I would feel safe, let alone find anything to do on my own. How naïve I was. Had I known how majestic Portugal truly was, I would have flown in the minute Shawn asked and taken up residency.
What’s not to love about Lisbon? The architecture is amazing, the food is amazing, the wine is amazing, the people are amazing, it’s just pure amazement all around. There is more than enough to do around Lisbon itself. Aside from eating and drinking our way around the city we also visited the famous Lisbon Oceanarium and Time Out Market. We also made our way to historic Sintra, home of the Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, mountains, and hilly streets with tiny restaurants oozing with European charm. Shawn and I fell in love with Sintra’s beauty and history. There is something truly awe-inspiring looking out at the view from a castle that was built in the 1200’s. There is nothing like that to experience back in the United States. Heck, I brag that our neighborhood bar is the oldest in Michigan (it was built in 1832).
This was my first vacation in over a year that didn’t revolve around running a race of some kind. That being said, Shawn and I did sneak in a few runs around the bay in Lisbon. There were plenty of bike paths, piers, and breath-taking views of the bay and famous Vasco de Gama bridge to make our runs exciting. Our runs probably burned off about 1/32nd of all the wine and cheese and bread we consumed, but that wasn’t the point.
This was also the first vacation in a very long time in which I wasn’t ready to go home. There is something so different, so relaxed, about the way of life in Portugal and I wanted to be immersed in it forever. Something so simple as grabbing a delicious ham and cheese sandwich and hopping on a train and watching the scenery go by was enjoyable and something that we just don’t do back home in Michigan. Our ham sucks in comparison, and public transportation is non-existent.
For Americans with dreams of travelling abroad, Paris, London, or Rome usually top the list of dream cities to visit. I’ve been to London and I’m sure Paris and Rome are wonderful, but take a chance and go off the beaten path and experience Portugal if you’re ever so lucky. One sip of Ginga (sour cherry liqueur!!) and you’ll be in love.