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hello! i’m juli!

welcome to design to explore! a blog dedicated to design, travel, and storytelling!

L I S B O N

L I S B O N

May 30, 2018 - Lisboa

We started our day by getting our way to the train as we were headed to our next stop, Lisbon! It is just 3 hours south of Porto so the train wasn't a huge inconvenience, especially cause the train was so freaking nice OMG. Nj/Ny transit really needs to step up their game in comparison.

I, as usual on moving vehicles, passed out and was asleep for most of the train ride, except for when the woman behind me was recieving a phone call cause she had her volume at FULL STRENGTH and didn't pick it up till the last second, and it was one of those super tacky ringtones cause Im pretty sure it was a flip phone….

Anyway, we got in a uber and went to our hostel. But when we got to reception turns out we were at the wrong location, so we called another uber and guess what, it was the same uber driver as the first ride! I was very excited about this cause he had an amazing candy selection and promised myself I wouldn't leave Portugal without this candy.

Once we were finally at the correct hostel, we loaded into our tiny room before heading out to explore. The first thing we did was get some food from Panaderia Portuguesa, it was essentially the equivalent of an Au Bon Pain in the USA, so nothing super special about it, except that they had amazing fresh squeezed orange juice which I indulged in.

Then we just walked around the city, it was in an extremely better location than the first hostel was located, so it was a happy accident. We went around the Bario Alto neighborhood, its very hilly, not a good neighborhood for old people, YET old people are everywhere. We made our way to a cool lookout point across the northern part of the city, then found another lookout point in a park area looking over the south side of the city towards the water. Very cool, the city is very similar to Porto but a whole lot bigger.

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We walked along the water for a while and enjoyed the sunshine before heading to the Time Out Market. Its just a giant marketplace with different restaurant stands that you can order from. We were overwhelmed with the amount of choices we had, but eventually I settled on chicken pad Thai and Steph settled on some pork pancake/omlette thing. Both were very delicious and we planned to come back tomorrow.

We started to walk back, and we wanted dessert, so we started checking out different pastelarias. Unfortunately, we walked into a super sketchy one where I almost got pickpocketed and reaked of cigarettes, but we walked out immediately and landed on a different pastelaria closer to our hostel called Sacolinha. I got a box of treats and so did Steph, so we just sat in the plaza and enjoyed our desserts as the sun went down. 

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Tired from the day, we decided to head back to the hostel and relax for the remainder of the evening (it was about 9:30/45 at this point). So we showered and got ready for our day tomorrow by planning out what we wanted to do.

May 31, 2018 - the stair master aka Lisbon life

Since this hostel doesn’t provide a free breakfast and isn't as bougie as our last hostel, we started our day going to the GoNatural grocery store to buy some granola bars and fruits for us to eat in the mornings. Once we loaded up and were ready to go, we hit our first stop which was the Castelo de Saint Jorge. It’s basically this giant castle grounds that you get to explore with incredible views over looking the city.

We walked around that and it was really cool. You could see a bunch of the archaeological ruins from when the castle was in actual use, and you could climb up most of the castle walls, although, these stairs were most definitely not up to code. They even had signs that suggested you might plummet to your death, despite that, we took this risk and went on to see some amazing views.

There was one part of the castle on the map that we really wanted to see, because it seemed to be the best lookout point separate and far away from the castle. HOWEVER, this map did a POOR job of indicating the fact that it was about a MILLION flights of stairs to get to this lookout. We walked down it, and then had the freaking CLIMBBB on the way up (buns of steel are most definitely starting to form). Again, these stairs were NOT up to code either, but we didn't let that stop us, and still this place was flocking with old people and I have no idea how they were making it through as I was struggling at times lol

One we hit all the stops, we continued on to our next stops for the day. We visited yet another church before heading to a flea market for an outdoor food market. But once we got there, there was nothing going on! We then remembered how it is actually a national public holiday today in Lisbon, Corpus Christi day, so it was probably closed because of that, sad.

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So we went on to see the National Parthenon before looking for a spot to stop and eat lunch. Again, we were finding that a lot of places were closed because of the holiday, but we ultimately decided on a place called Wine and Burgers. It was empty and immediately regretted our decision to eat here, but then the food completely shocked us! It was way better than expected, I got a Portuguese burger with beef, egg, ham, lettuce, tomato and it was great. 

We kept walking along and eventually made our way to the water where we found a nice spot to lay down away from the crowds. We sat, and put our heads back and caught some rays. It was nice, but then the path started getting crowded and it sounded like all the bikers and walkers were about to run over our heads.

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So we walked around a little bit more, before heading back to the hostel to shower and regroup before heading out to dinner. We decided to go back to the TimeOut Market cause we both saw things we wanted to try, so I ended up getting some strawberry and ham salad and Steph actually got the same, didn't even plan it.

At this point, our switches flipped, and we got sick of how crowded and overpriced the market was, so we headed back to our neighborhood to find a pastelaria for dessert. Tonight was quite the hunt, since it was the holiday, a lot of local places were closed, and the ones that were open had the smallest selection. Eventually, after walking into over 5/7 places we found one near our hostel called Pastelaria Benard. I got two slices of cake, one cookie cake and then a smaller chocolate cake and it was honestly the perfect combo.

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We ate our sweets outside in the plaza before heading back to our hostel and calling it a night. We wanted to get to bed early cause we were planning to wake up early and head out to the mountain outside Sintra for a day of hiking and fun.

June 1, 2018 - el dia de ejerciso numero tres

Today we were up early for our day to Sintra! We got on the train at 7:11 and both fell asleep pretty much until we arrived at the final station. There was a cute cafe, so we stopped for a quick caffeine boost before really starting our day.

Our first thing on the agenda was to see the Castello de Dos Mouros (the moorish castles). This was quite the hike, as you could see the towers from the train station and it was p much a straight vertical incline. So we climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed and we finally made it to the castle. And then we had to climb some more stairs again to get to the watch towers, but the watch towers had the most incredible views. You could see the city of Lisbon and the Atlantic ocean from the top of them! But it was also kind of scary at the same time because there was no railings and it was super windy, so getting close to the edge felt v risky.

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Then to make matters worse, we got a burst of rain, clouds, and chills. Steph and I were wearing workout clothes while everyone else visiting was wearing winter gear, even though climbing up the mountain we were overheating. So, enjoy pictures of me crouching away from the rain, then steph basking in the sunlight moments later....

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We walked around the castle and enjoyed the views before heading to our next point, Pena Palace. When we got there it was PACKED with tourists. SO MANY. It was because it was one of the only attractions where you could take a bus or train right up to the entrance rather than hike it. So we waited inline for about 20 minutes before we heard a couple say “sad how they don't realize how much longer they have to wait”. So then I went to check out the line and we weren't even halfway to the entrance, so Steph and I made a game time decision and decided to skip the tourist filled Palace and head to Cruz Alta.

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This one we knew wouldn't be crowded cause its pretty much a straight vertical incline to get to, but once we got there it was empty and beautiful. From there you could see the Atlantic ocean and the city of Lisbon so it was quite beautiful. We hung out up there and enjoyed the breeze before heading back down. On our way, we spotted a tiny rock formation area with a bench and climbed through some bushes to get to it, and again it was an amazing view, with a bench.

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We continued our way down and walked through a crazy fern sanctuary garden, literally wall to wall with ferns I never thought I would see so many at once. So we kept walking until we hit the road back down, but somehow we missed the walking trail down, so we ended up walking down the car road where theres no side walk but plenty of cars whipping around sharp turns. A little scary but we managed to survive as we ran from turn to turn so cars could see us.

Eventually we made it down, and a bunch of the tour guides were stopping people from walking up the road we had just come down, and as steph said “some might call us dumb from walking that way, but Im gonna call it badass.”

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We were going to hit another spot in Sintra, but it was packed and you had to pay to get in, so we decided we didn't need to see it that bad. We walked back through the cute town of Sintra before heading back on the train.

At the hostel, we were able to recover from the day as we had climbed 180 flights of stairs, and then headed to dinner. We went to a Mexican place called Pistola y El Corazon. As we got there 5 minutes after it already opened, we were surprised at how crowded it already was, but we easily got a table. Five minutes later, all the tables were full and the place was bumping. But we sat down, ordered guacamole IMMEDIATELY before picking out some tacos. I got the carnitas and steph got the spicy Tinga chicken, and clearly she hasn't learned her lesson when it comes to spices cause she was crying and sweating after only a few bites.

Afterwards, we decided to walk around a bit, but classic Portuguese people, they don't start doing things at night till like 11pm, so nothing was really happening. That didn't stop us from walking around, but we knew we wouldn't make it to 11pm out tonight considering the physically exhausting day we had. So we went to McDonald’s to grab a McFlurry for dessert (lol) and sat in the plaza before heading back to the hostel to go to bed.

June 2, 2018 - Belem

Today, naturally, we slept in. We needed it. Then we made our way to the train station because we wanted to head to Belem, another town within Lisbon that was just a little further away. Here, is the home of the original Pastel de Nata, its the unique Portuguese pastry that has a fluffy, croissant like shelf, and a custard innside. Its delicious, IF you have the right one. Ive had about two, and they were eh, so I was excited to try the OG and the best apparently as Pastelies de Belem. The line wasn't too long, they had a freakin SYSTEM when you actually got to see the inside, so we each bought a pastry and then sat at a Starbucks table to enjoy. It was amazingly perfect. Do not eat any other pastel de nata if it is not from this place.

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We continued to explore Belem, first walking past the monastery before heading to the botanical gardens and the national palace. But, it honestly wasn't that exciting. The gardens were cool but other than those three places, there wasn't much north of the city. So we headed back down to the main street where, we shamely/no shame at all, got lunch at McDonalds. Everything in the area in terms of restaurants were clearly overpriced tourist traps, so we settled on a nice American classic before walking down the main strip of Belem along the water.

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This road had a lot more to offer compared to the north part of the city. We saw the statues of the Padroas de Descubriemientos (Fathers of discoveries), which was really cool as I believe 34 major Portuguese discoverers, scientists, intellects, etc. were sculpted into this structure.

Walking along the water the rest of the way we saw the Torre de Belem, basically a watch tower. At that point, we were kind of done with Belem so we decided to head back to Lisbon’s main center on the train. It was actually really nice that we went back early, because we stumbled across a couple of small street shops opening up in the city center and found some cooler, more authentic souvenirs than the ones in the typical souvenir shop.

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We decided to wander our way through the shopping district for the rest of the afternoon, we didn't have any big plans to shop, but we didn't get to see the area that much in the past few days, so we figured this was a good time. We soon realized why we didn't bother come here, cause its packed!! Not quite Times Square packed, but just wall to wall of people.

Because we just had to, we made one last stop in our favorite grocery store, go natural for some last minute snacks for our train ride tomorrow to Lagos before heading to dinner. Steph used the power of yelp to find local restaurant of Lisbon called Beira Gare, and it was AMAZING. Similar to our last meal in Porto that was the mom and pop shop, this was the equivalent. It was packed with local people all eating then Bifina sandwich, which was their special pulled pork. Instead of the sandwich I got the bifina platter and it was TO DIE FOR. One of my favorite meals of the trip so far, the pork was seasoned in such a unique way I was all about it.

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Of course we needed some dessert afterwards, so we went back to Scalofina from our first night and got some sweets while we watched some street dancer. He was trying to get us to interact with us while he danced but we were more concerned about eating, lol. We have an early train tomorrow, so we decided to go back to the hostel and get packed and situated since we got an early wake up call. But, we made it to our last stop in Portugal - Lagos of the Algarve Coast! And as always, I will keep you updated.

L A G O S

L A G O S

P O R T O

P O R T O