Summer season on the eastern end of Long Island is quickly coming to a close and with that comes our last holiday, Labor Day Weekend. Being that I had the weekend off the last thing I wanted to do was have to deal with the insane crowds and inability to do even the most basic of tasks in a timely fashion. So i decided to book a trip! But where to?Having only a week and a half I didn’t want to travel all that far so I began researching unfamiliar to me countries that I haven’t been to within a six hour flight. I then stumbled across some pictures of the Algarve and immediately knew thats where I would be going, tomorrow…
After a brief 6 hour flight I landed in Lisbon. First stop:food, In the form of a delicious ham and cheese on a Portuguese roll and I was on my way to find the train station. My plan was to immediately head south to Lagos and work my way back up to Lisbon before flying home. The train ride south reminded me very much of Spain, beautiful yet deserted country side was basically my entire view for the four hour journey, and at 6 PM I arrived.
I ended up staying at Old Town Lagos Hostel on a whim, and it surely did not disappoint. After walking into the hostel I instantly knew I had made the right decision picking that one because it had that family vibe that you don’t always get with a party hostel. My original for an easy night in after my half day of travels is definitely not what happened…kind of hard to say no to a giant communal bowl of delicious sangria. What ensued next was a mostly a blur and probably inappropriate but it did include everyone in the town rushing into the water for some sort of festival(that I’m still not entirely sure of) at midnight.
Within walkings distance from the hostel was amazing views and so many secluded cave strung beaches. I decided the best way to discover as many of these as possible id need to rent a scooter. So off to the scooter rental I went and $100 later I was on the road! Over the next four days I took my trusty yes extremely slow hog “Rosie”(a 49cc pink and white scooter) on just about 250 miles of open road exploration. Heading as far east as Faro and all the way to the southwestern most corner of continental Europe, also known as the end of the world, Sagres.
After almost a week of countless Super Bocks, cavern boat trips, ham sandwiches, and pub crawling until sunrise, I knew I had to start heading back towards Lisbon or Id “accidentally” miss my flight home. So it was off to Old Town to pack up my bags and head back to that old sweaty train to make it back to Lisbon. I dropped off “Rosie” said my goodbyes to the hostel family over the last week and walked away from Lagos knowing it would not be my last time. Four hours later and I was right back where my journey all started.
Back in Lisbon and with only three days to spare I knew I wanted to spend atleast one full day in beautiful and fairy tail-like city of Sintra. Castles, mountains, cliffs and no shortage of winding and car sickness inducing roads. I chose the hop on/hop off bus once getting off the train so I could check out all the city had to offer. Most noticeable for me:Pena Palace, is set atop a giant hill overlooking the coast and forests. An almost lego like and mismatched colored castle with sweeping views and beautiful architecture. With such beauty also comes downside because it was just about impossible to find an area not completely saturated in fellow tourists. Next up was Moors Castle which somewhat resembles the Great Wall of China from a distance. Had I purchased the audio tour I would be able to offer you some background info on the castle but unfortunately I try and travel on a budget to see as many places as possible. Last up inside of Quinta Da Regaleira was the mysterious yet beautiful Initiation Well which is alleged to have been used for meditation yet looks more of something used for sacrificial purposes. Stretching up to almost 100 feet tall a spiral staircase leads up to the backside of a giant hill and of course plenty of massive tour groups. Getting close to sunrise I decided to run back to the bus and chase the sunset over at Cabo Da Roca before getting on the train back to Lisbon to shack up for the night.
Being my last day in Lisbon so decided to take it easy. Had a few amazing meals at Mercado Da Ribeira, or Time Out Market, an elaborate food paradise. Housing dozens of stalls and daily demonstrations this is the by far the most amazing food hall I have ever seen, so much in fact I came back later for a second lunch! In between I hit up the usual tourists destinations:trams, bridges and just exploring with no plan in mind. For sunset I had a tip from a fellow traveler to check out Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and what a great tip that was. Having to only share the view with around two dozen people,mostly local, was a treat. Having a six AM flight the next day it was straight to bed for this old man.
All in all this spontaneous trip to Portugal surely paid off and I merely scratched the surface as to what is there is to experience in this amazing and most importantly cheap(by European standards) country.