The San Francisco of Europe

Next stop on the trip was Lisbon, the capital of Portugal and a different type of coastal city than Porto. I noticed the striking similarities quite quickly between San Francisco and Lisbon…
-Street cars
-Rust colored suspension bridge (Lisbon = Ponte 25 de Abril bridge)

We got in late the first night in Lisbon and decided to get some sleep because we were actually going on a day trip to Sintra. Sintra sits on the coast of Portugal and is about an hour away from Lisbon and known for its castles and palaces. We woke up at the break of dawn to get on the train out to Sintra because we knew it was going to be crowded. Missed the 8am so we got on the 9am. We really only planned to the the Pena Palace so we opted for an Uber versus taking the bus that takes you in a loop around all of the palaces. We also opted for the garden ticket, which lets you roam around outside the palace and all around but does not permit you to go inside the palace. We were fine with that because we spent plenty of time outside! Plus the line to get inside wrapped around.

After wandering around for a couple hours, we ubered back to the main area of Sintra, grabbed some quick lunch and made our way back to Lisbon. We walked around the central area and even happened to find this random pink street.

By now we were hungry again and made our way to Time Out Market, which is a large food hall. A pretty fancy food hall too! It had lots to choose from. We opted for some squid ink pasta with seaweed salad, pork belly with green puree (forgot what it actually was), and fries with spicy mayo (not pictured).

Our adventure continues! After full bellies, we made our way on the train to the Belem area and walked along the water. It’s located on the west side of Lisbon, along the water. It’s iconic for the tower of Belem, built as a fort to protect the city. We also saw a huge monument that commemorates maritime explorers – notice all the beautiful tiling on the ground.

No stop is complete in Belem without a visit to Pasteis de Belem! More egg tarts. Yum.

After that, we headed back to our Airbnb. We did lots and were completely pooped for the first night in Lisbon.

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I was excited for this next part of the trip because I had never been to Portugal before. Ang and I were split between seeing Porto or Lisbon because they’re both quite so different. We decided to just do it and see both. We first stopped in Porto, a smaller laid back city that’s by the water and known for their port wine and bridges. We got in the morning, checked in at our Airbnb and started off the day with some food. Breakfast sandwiches and a drink were only about 6 bucks! Portugal is a super affordable country compared to its neighbors so we were glad for this break. We decided to also do a tour of Portuguese egg tarts.

One of the attractions we stopped at was this beautiful bookstore called Lello & Irmao that is rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter. As you can imagine, the place was packed. There was also a huge line to get in.

Portugal is known for their beautiful tiles and artwork. The Sao Bento Railway Station was gorgeous!

The next day, we got some brunch nearby at Zenith. It was packed and we had to wait a bit but I can see why.. Love me some shashuka! Johnny got the avocado toast with a fried poached egg and a side of bacon.

We took a stroll towards the water and across the Ponte Luis bridge to do some wine tasting. We walked across the bridge on the bottom and on the way back, we went on the top! We went to this family owned winery called Augusto’s. Port wine is a dessert wine and was incredibly sweet and strong, especially the tawny that we had sampled. Great tour to learn about the aging process and they were very knowledgeable! Walked around and got to see some really cool views of Porto.

Last stop in Porto included dinner before our flight out to Lisbon. We asked some locals where to get grub and they directed us to this bar called Taxca. They had hunks of cured meats hanging from the ceiling. My meal with Johnny came out to only 10 euros! (Sparkling wine, pork sammy, salami & cheese sammy, and squid salad).

Small city where you can get around everywhere by foot
Friendly people
Cheap food
Gorgeous scenery by the water

Didn’t know the language at all
Only stayed for one full day, but I feel like we got the gist of it all

Really quaint city/town that’s chill enough but still bustling with people. I’d definitely recommend coming here, even if it’s just for a day! I think it was really worth it.

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A Quick Layover

We decided to make a quick stop to Madrid, Spain’s capital for one night. I’ve never been and was interested to see how different it is from Barcelona. Since it was just a night, we decided to stay at a hostel that was centrally located. I’ve never stayed in one in Europe so it was definitely an experience. We were spoiled and had a bathroom in our room. We eventually got a roommate and she was not sketchy at all. Phew!

Airbnb had a cute roof

Madrid is quite walkable so we ventured out and about. Our first stop was to La Mallorquina in Puerto del Sol, a famous bakery in Madrid. We got these 2 croissant like pastries – one that was filled with chocolate and the other was almond.

We wandered around and checked out Plaza Major. It had beautiful archways. Buildings here definitely felt a little more regal and business like. I’d say even less touristy than Barcelona.

Before we walked to the palace, we got some tapas at the food market. Compared to Barcelona’s food market, this is definitely more modern and indoors. It was quite fancy! Again, too much food to choose from haha.

As you can see, lots of good stuff to choose from! It was a little pricy, but tasty. After all the food, we walked it off some more and wandered down to the royal palace and garden.

Ok! This next stop was a definite highlight. Ang had found about these almond cookies that were supposed to be pretty good. They are located at this monastery and made by cloistered nuns. Once inside, there’s a sign to show you where to go. So pretty much there’s this window and you put your money on the lazy susan. They spin it and then cookies magically appear.

Secret cookie success! If you didn’t think I had enough sugar consumed this day.. it continues! This last place had been on my list. It’s Chocolateria san Gines for churros and chocolate. It’s 24/7 so there was no time crunch. There’s also a line to regulate seating, which I thought was really organized and not chaotic.

It’s definitely not the sugary churros at Costco. They’re a bit more bland and oily, but once you dip it into the chocolate. Yummmm. Okay after all that, we went back to the hostel to rest and chill before some real non sugary food. For dinner, we went to a small restaurant known for yummy tapas. Sangria looked prettier than it tasted. Salad was pretty good. The pork tenderloin was the best part – tender and delicious. We also went out on a limb to try the octopus. It was decent!

Large regal buildings
Less touristy
Secret cookies were so cool!

Not enough time to check out museums

We got about 24 hours here and it was nice to walk around and check out the main area. We’ll have to come back for more! I know I say that about every city but it’s true.

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Hola hola Coca Cola

Next stop on the trip was Spain! Our first stop in Spain was Barcelona, the land of Gaudi! We got in and immediately went to La Sagrada Familia. Tip: make sure you buy tickets online ahead of time. It always sells out and this will ensure your entry. We opted to also pay a little extra to climb up the steps to see the top. Worth it in my opinion. You can see they’re still finishing the construction on it. The architecture and stained glass were breath taking!

We were pretty hungry after this so we hit up the famous Mercado de la Bouqeria on La Rambla. After the incident on La Rambla and my friend being pick pocketed recently, we were extra careful around that area. We caught the tail end of the market and there was still a ton of delicious fruits/veggies, and food around. They even had fresh pressed juices and smoothies. We decided to eat dinner at one of the stalls and it was pretty tasty. Fresh too!

The second day we got up early and checked out Park Guell before all of the crowds came. It’s located upon a hill and it’s quite convoluted to get there by public transportation so we opted for an Uber.. and they still got lost. It was early, but we got to see all of the mosaic tiles without so many tourists. We also walked by some of the other buildings designed by Gaudi.

After that, we met up with my good friend Angie, to get some grub. We were on the hunt for some paella and the place we found was just okay.. slightly disappointed. We walked along the beach and even up to Montjuic Castle. We also caught the Magic Fountain water show. Quite pretty and nearby to where we had stayed. Worth a visit if you’re nearby.

For dinner, we went to this teeny tiny hole in the wall bar called Quimet y Quimet. I wouldn’t even call it a restaurant because there is no seating and it’s all tapas. It was quite the crowded experience! I enjoyed the food and sangria. They’ve got a ton of tapas and mandaditos (small sandwiches pictured below) to choose from.

Some of the mandaditos we ordered were the salmon, yogurt, & honey; pate, mushroom, onion; mussels, caviar, & red pepper; prawns & red pepper; codfish & liver pate.

Everything we wanted to see was pretty much in walking distance minus Park Guell
I love sangria and tapas
Art and architecture
Right by the water
I knew a little Spanish
Stayed in Poble Sec – tons of food everywhere

Of course we had to be careful with pickpocketers
Spent about only 2 days there

I really enjoyed Barcelona and people were generally nicer than in France. Wish we had more time in our itinerary to explore more.

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A climber’s playground

After Paris, we rented a car and drove to Fontainebleau, a small city an hour outside of Paris. It’s known to have world class bouldering. There are soo many places within the forest to climb and sadly we only got two days to climb. Even sadder, it rained on our second day so we had to climb as much as we could on the first day. We decided to climb at one of the most dense areas of boulders to maximize our climb time. A really interesting thing to note is that the boulders are painted with numbers that correlate to the book. We got an Airbnb in Milly la Foret, a really cute town right outside Font. It had bakery with fresh baguettes/baked goods and a few restaurants. The reason I chose it was because they offered 2 crash pads with the rental. Perfect for us!

We got rained out the next day so we decided to explore what was nearby. We found this really cool outdoors store and decided to check it out and they actually had a lot of climbing gear. The mall also had a store that seemed like a Fred Meyer on steroids. We decided to go grocery shopping and make dinner… aka lay out some cheese and meats. Baguettes were so cheap and fresh. I think it was 3 for 1 euro. Everything was soo good!

Can’t leave Milly without some breakfast and pastries… Yes the crepe was amazing and such a different style than back home.

Despite it getting rained out, it was an experience to drive and not so scary. I actually really enjoyed being in a smaller town where it’s more low key and chill. Everyone is much nicer and welcoming. It was a nice rest day after all of the fast paced things we did in Paris. After seeing what it’s like, I’d stay for at least a week. Can’t wait to come back and climb.

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