When I visited Lisbon, I learned a lot about taking time for self-reflection. I arrived in the late afternoon and was able to navigate easily to my hostel near the waterfront. The first thing that struck me were the bold black and white tiled roads and sidewalks! These are a tradition in Portugal and are called Calçada. After checking into my hostel, I walked around the shopping area nearby and got some dinner. Since Portugal is a coastal country, many of the dishes feature fish.
The next morning, I was so excited to wander around the beautiful city and the ruins of the Castle of Saint George. But, when I woke up it was raining! I decided to risk it and walk uphill to the castle in the hopes the weather would change. It got worse. By the time I had entered the ruins, it was pouring and I ran for cover in the small museum. I engrossed myself in the informative museum displays, learning about the history of the castle and its inhabitants. After considering my options, I bundled up as best I could, opened my tiny travel umbrella, and headed out into the storm.
It was a little spooky being the only one wandering the grounds, but I was able to go at my own pace. I saw a flurry of peacocks, feathers damp from the rain and squawking in protest of the water that dripped from every branch and stone. After hopping over a few puddles, I climbed the slippery stairs to look over the castle walls at Lisbon below. What a beautiful sight! The rain only highlighted the red roofs of the city.
I spent the rest of the day wandering the ruins and surrounding area, picking up gifts for family and friends, and enjoying the waterfront. It did stop raining and turned into a wonderfully sunny day. For dinner I tried a Portuguese dish called bacalhau com natas which is essentially cod cooked with cream and potatoes. It was a bit rich for my tastes, but it is always good to try something new and local!
The next day, I went on a cheap tour organized by my hostel. The tour included a visit to the Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery, lunch, and the infamous Pastéis de Belém. Our tour guide was great and she had so much knowledge. I even bonded with a few of the other people on the tour and found we had a friend in common back home. What a small world! I spent the evening wandering the area near my hostel, peering in the local shops, and even visiting the Design Museum.
The morning of my departure, I was able to easily take the bus to the airport and fly back to Rome, no issues! I enjoyed my time alone and it gave me something to swap stories about with my housemates upon reuniting. I think the time we spend truly on our own helps us to grow in ways we can’t when surrounded by familiar faces. Now that Lisbon is filled with fond memories for me, I know I’ll return soon!