Friday, 19 April 2013

Off To Where the Sun Sets on Europe

Check one off the bucket list.

Having seen the majority of mainland Western Europe, I felt reluctantly obligated to see Portugal. Given a lucky window of opportunity, waiting two weeks for my Visa to Russia to process while in Madrid, instead of waiting around, I packed my bags once again and headed west.
Apparently you can buy love in Lisboa
But I did much more than just "knock Portugal off the list." In fact, I had a really great time there!

Portugal gets as little attention as central and eastern Europe but after visiting it I see why it is a rising star of tourism in Europe. Lisboa (Lisbon), the capital city, is a city that has it all, tied up in a neat little package. It has all the traits of a historical European city, castle on a hill overlooking a romantic old city by the water, plus it also offers many modern attractions and provides a good base for day trips to the countryside.
Mirador (lookout) of Lisboa
While I am not a shopper, I love visiting markets to see what the locals have to offer. In Lisboa, I was ready to throw my wallet at everything I saw. The second-hand markets, set up in first rate outdoor spaces in the city, sold absolutely anything and everything the slightest bit useful or desirable, from old plastic toys to film cameras and rusting silverware. If you are looking for new things, there are markets thriving with creative energy for the arts and crafts from jewellery and household decorations down to keychains and postcards. In fact, the Iberian Peninsula which includes Spain showcases the best arts and crafts in Europe. I managed to fish a few dollars out to buy my first magnets of the trip.

From Lisboa, I made a few day trips. My first day trip was to Cascais, a little oceanside town full of villas and yachts, to join a Couchsurfing photowalk event, and to get my first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. My second day trip was to picturesque Sintra, complete with a dreamy Disney-like castle on a hill, and a view of the westernmost point of mainland Europe.
Castle at Sintra
I also had some of the best seafood of my trip in a little hideaway restaurant that indicated, through no indications at all, that it was a local joint. Eating here reminded me that I always had the best dining experiences by straying off the main street and finding places that didn't want to be found.

From there it was on to sleepy Lagos on the southern coast of Portugal. A day trip took me to Sagres and slightly beyond, to the southwestern most point of mainland Europe where mighty waves crashed into mightier cliffs.
Checking out the cliffs and beaches in Lagos

Back in Lagos, I went on a kayaking tour along its less mighty yet wonderfully abstract cliffs, its red and white hues of rock curving mysteriously, and unveiling pristine beaches in its bosom. The kayak tour stopped at one of the beaches for a rest. While most people were deterred from the water, still dreadfully cold and slow to warm up, it did not stop a Canadian like me from going for a swim! The irony here is that there were other Canadians on the tour who did not even consider dipping a toe in the water.

On my final day in Lagos, one where the sun shone down soothing warmth and with not a cloud in the sky, I descended into a rocky nook on Batatas Beach all to myself, and did some yoga. My mind cleared... bliss, happiness... and nothing needs more to be said about Lagos!

Flickr Photos:

Also photos from Sevilla:
Plaza De Espana, Sevilla

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