One Week in Beautiful Portugal: Lisbon, Cascais, Sintra, and Cherry Liqueur
Hi, fellow adventurers! Welcome back - it's been a minute, hasn't it?
I wasn't just sitting around, either, y'all! I was traveling around Portugal and spending quality time in Lithuania with my American friend who was visiting for the second time. As I mentioned in a post when I first moved here, The Scientist and I took bets on who would visit us first from America: no surprise when this travel-loving friend showed up at my doorstep. And even more, I was honored to have her back a second time and show her around - especially now that I have so much more to share than in August of 2021. I'm basically a local now! ;)
But today, I wanted to hone in on my time in Portugal. This blog isn't just about Lithuania, but how living here creates easier access to travel around Europe and beyond.
As someone who previously had an entire ocean between sparkly, ancient Europe and myself, I still can't believe I've been afforded an opportunity this large. You'd think my sense of awe would have worn off by now, but it hasn't. But why Portugal?
Portugal was already on my list, but I knew I wanted to explore it with a friend. Life is just better with people you care about, you know? When I called this friend to catch up, I realized she was the perfect go-with-the-flow candidate. Happily, she gave an enthusiastic yes!
Armed with tips from my Portuguese classmate and a sweet Ukrainian friend (thank y'all!), I hopped on my Ryanair flight and prepared for whatever would come my way.
Beyond the incredible welcome hug between my friend and me, I was taken by Portugal right away. So much vibrant green, after a long season of muted whites and greys in Lithuania - which, to be fair, also has its beauty as a contrast. So as the last of the season's snow falls here, I've got a few things to share about my travels. Let's get into it.
Aperol, Aperol, Aperol (and Ginjinha!) - One thing I've noticed about Europe is its unabashed, unapologetic love for that glimmering orange drink called Aperol Spritz. They're not only everywhere in Vilnius, but I've seen them sported in all of my European travels: Oslo, Vienna, Heidelberg, Bratislava, everywhere. At this point, I'd be surprised if I didn't see one. ;) I personally don't think it tastes that great - keep in mind I don't care for the taste of alcohol - but somehow I nudged my friend to try one in a playful European rite of passage moment. Well, she tried it and wasn't impressed with its taste (I feel so validated!), so that was fun. We quickly moved on to a recommendation from my Portuguese classmate: ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in chocolate cups. This, my friends, is way more my speed. If I'm going to have alcohol, why wouldn't it also include a chocolate cup? Should I be implementing this as a hard-and-fast rule? My classmate recommended I try as many cherry liqueur varieties as possible, as they had subtle differences. Sounds like a worthy challenge! We went through our fair share of ginja and custardy pastel de nata on this trip, and even found our favorite ginja without a chocolate cup (gasp!): Ginjinha Sem Rival. (Our favorite chocolate cup variety was Ginjinha do Carmo, which, at the time of writing, is right next to my favorite pastel de nata!)
Top Up Your Travel Card and Travel Smart - If I can recommend two things, be sure to top off your travel card before getting onto any transport, unless you want to get stuck inside a train station and have to be escorted out by a kind stranger. (Ask me how I know!) So stressful - don't do it and be prepared! If you have the means, I also recommend walking down hills onto cute Lisbon streets and taking public transit up Lisbon's surprising number of hills. Down: walk, up: cute trolley bus. It's a perfect system, y'all. Here's the good news: it was incredibly easy to get back and forth from Lisbon to other smaller beach towns like Cascais. I spent as much time as I could near the beach - for many reasons - and this transport system made it easier than anticipated. (Thanks, Ukrainian friend, for this tip!) Use the Cais do Sodré station if you visit any beaches along Cascais, São Pedro do Estoril, Carcavelos, etc. And use the main train station if you're heading out to Sintra or beyond. You may even get treated to an accordion performance on the way to your destination. ;) I did like historic Sintra and its numerous castles, but I was far more taken with Cascais and its neighboring beach regions. Are we surprised? No.
Skip the Crowded Overlook Sunset (Or Don't Stay Too Long) - I mean, listen... It was beautiful but also incredibly crowded. It was a vibe, just not my vibe. We visited a few overlook sites at sunset during our week in Portugal, but nothing really beat watching it at the coast. This preference completely aligns with my love for the beach... If you like tourist-adjacent gatherings with flowing beer and fun music, hit up one of the many mirador spots. Otherwise, you may get more from watching it near the water in Lisbon or at a nearby beach.
Beaches - I'm clearly having a beach moment, so let's just lean into it. My favorites were located in Cascais and São Pedro do Estoril. They spanned from rocky to wide and open, with lots of surfing and sun-drowsy humans. The São Pedro do Estoril beach especially reminded me of home, and I went back there as much as possible. But I also really loved walking along the water in Lisbon, where I enjoyed a surprisingly delicious piña colada in a pineapple. Do it.
Tiles (Azulejos) - If you're lucky enough to visit Portugal, keep your eyes open for the beautiful tile designs on buildings. A relic from the Moors' occupation of the area, these tiles (azulejos) were initially used inside Portuguese buildings, but eventually made their way to the outside. I noticed that most of these beauties were blue, and upon a bit of research (y'all know I hate that!), I discovered this was an influence of the Dutch and the Ming dynasty. Either way, they're colorful, intricately designed, and everywhere. Don't be afraid to look like a tourist and take, um, too many pictures of tiles.
And now, the main question: Would I go back to Portugal?
Yes, absolutely - although next time, I'd really like to check out Porto. There are ways to travel affordably and smartly, and I'd certainly recommend visiting Portugal in March and April. I can't imagine how crowded it gets in the summertime, whew! Have any of y'all been there in the summer? Let me know!
And I'll definitely be on the lookout for cherry liqueur here in Lithuania, I'll tell you that much!
Can't wait to jump back in next week - see you then!?
As per usual, feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive a bi-weekly email from me on whatever's on my heart that day! And as always, I'll see you next time here at Into the Forests I Go - iki pasimatymo - see you soon!