A far cry from my confusing late night arrival in Beirut in the beginning of the year on my own with only the number of the hostel I was staying at (and no phone, useful, I know), my arrival in Portugal was as stress-free as possible. The availability of all the information I needed to get from point A to point B upon arriving in Lisbon seemed like a luxurious change of pace from the wild guessing, personal recommendations, and shady operators I had to base all my Lebanese travel on.
A bull decorated with the Portuguese flag.
From the airport, I was able to take a bus straight to the main bus station heading south and immediately found a bus to Lagos, where I would be staying for the next two and a half days. The simplicity and ease of this journey, along with the availability of wifi and A/C on the bus, already had me liking Portugal quite a lot.
I arrived in Lagos in the late afternoon with enough time to pop down to the beach for a couple hours before finding dinner. Dinner was picanha, my favorite cut of meat due to its delicious flavor and tenderness. The next day, I explored the small town for a few hours before signing up for a kayak tour of the famous Lagos grottos through a random operator I stumbled upon. The kayak ride was the perfect way to spend the afternoon, gliding along the glisteningly clear water and dipping in and out of beautifully formed grottos, despite a man on my tour getting sick and eventually having to be picked up by a passing motorboat. My shoulders were aching by the time we crash landed in a small cove and were able to soak up the sun and relax for a few hours before heading back.
A Lagos grotto.
After dinner and a fantastic burger at Nah-Nah-Bah, I went to a gem and minerals shop I had discovered earlier that day to pick up my custom made amethyst necklace. I spend nearly an hour earlier in the day speaking to the owner and rummaging around the store for the perfect stone so he could drill it and tie it up just for me. I love it, it’s beautiful!
While Lagos was undeniably beautiful, the next time I have the pleasure to visit the Algarve I will skip it and find a town that’s not packed with Australians coming to Portugal to party and get wasted every single night. While I have nothing against Australians and actually love talking to them because of how many places they have all been, drinking to forget the night every single night is just not my cup of tea. Especially when visiting a small beach town, I like a relaxing atmosphere with the opportunity to meet more locals and really enjoy the culture. Next time I visit I will definitely make sure to take the suggestions of a Portuguese guy I met in Jordan who recommended a couple less well-known, small beach villages in the Algarve.
The next day I made sure to catch a bus and make it to Lisbon in time to check in to Yes! Hostel (which was perfectly located, clean, and welcoming) and visit the Oceanario before it closed. The Lisboa Oceanario is well respected for a reason! Set up with a giant, two story central tank in the middle of the building, the walkways wrap around it and transition through every ocean on the planet with examples of the wildlife and fauna of each. My favorite was the exhibit with the otters, my favorite animals because of their playful natures and cuteness. Otters really know how to love life.
An interesting sculpture in the park in front of the Oceanario.
The front of the Lisboa Oceanario.
Otters…need I say more?
The crazy-looking sunfish, something I had never seen before, also caught my eyes and I enjoyed watching it slowly drift through the central tank peacefully coexisting with sharks, rays, and schools of shiny fish and other ocean critters.
The sunfish, or Mr. Derp as I like to call him.
I really wish I could have spent more time in Portugal, but I’ll just have to be satisfied with a commitment to myself to return. I only had just that one evening to see a bit of Lisbon before heading over to Madrid for my program, though I loved what I saw and wish I could spend more time there. Somehow, I don’t think it will be too hard to find a time to go back…
Lisbon, I need to return.