This post comes to us from Abbey Wozniak from the University of Massachusetts Amherst who is currently studying in Barcelona, Spain.
The velvet blue skies compliment the rippled water dancing with the sailboats at sea.still in thought, permeated by the street music, laughter and glasses clinking around me. A Put-Put driver honks the horn insisting that my friends and I hop in for a tour. We politely decline, knowing that we will have the chance to tour the cobblestoned city by foot later in the evening. For an entire weekend, I was surrounded by raw beauty, friendly energy, and good company. Thanks to API, my study abroad program, I am sitting here, feet dangling over the water, in Lisbon, Portugal.
I find myself getting used to waking up long before the sun. I’d like to believe that the sunrise is always better when I am among the clouds anyways. Luckily, API coordinated a bus to and from the airport, as well as all of our flight information, so traveling was smooth and stress-free. Once arriving in Portugal, the one-hour delayed time difference gave us the entire Friday to explore. Having been transported from the airport to our centralized, downtown hotel, we took off to tour the beautiful city on our way to brunch. After eating a delicious and well-needed meal, we walked along the water with which we presumed was the ocean. Later in the evening, we learned that it was not the Atlantic Ocean, but Tagus River, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula along the border between Portugal and Spain. Despite our misunderstanding, the water was still so soothingly stunning, and by simply walking through the hilly, cobblestoned streets, so were our grounded surroundings.
Our two-hour walking tour set off mid-afternoon. We were led by Lisbon locals, who were clearly passionate and innately knowledgeable about the city. As we climbed our first steep hill up towards the Barrio Alto neighborhood, Lisbon’s central neighborhood filled with historical landmarks, bohemian aura, and a bustling-atmosphere (especially on weekend nights), we immediately became aware of the winding terrain of the city. Yet, this is what makes the city so unique. To feed into the authenticity of the city some more were ample amounts of colorful street art pieces. Not only do these pieces compliment the vibrancy of the city, but they create urban splashes throughout this historical city.
After the tour, a few friends and I found a panoramic rooftop view at PARK Lisboa, a rooftop bar above a parking garage. Given our confusion to find the entrance, we were kindly directed by two elderly Portuguese women who knew exactly what we were looking for even though they did not know any English. After quickly reaching the top, we were in awe of the views. I had to constantly remind myself that yes, I was watching the sunset on a rooftop in Lisbon, Portugal. Some moments feel so effortless.
Once the sun went down, the temperature seemed to feel a bit colder than before, and our stomachs began to talk over us, we decided to check out Time Out Market for dinner. This modern tourist attraction was created in 2014 by global Time Out journalists and critics based off of editorial curation to bring the best of Lisbon’s food and cultural experiences all under one roof. The market consists of 23 restaurants, 10 food stalls, 8 bars, and 4 shops, all conveniently open to the public to choose. Whether I was craving pizza, burgers, seafood or Thai, I could try it all. This night, I decided on a seafood dish. After all, I was in Lisbon, Portugal.
My Saturday morning began with a bus tour, another coordinated activity through API. This tour allowed us to see the Belém Tower and its surrounding area on the bank of the Tagus River. This landmark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it marks the significance of the Age of Discoveries for the Portuguese. While over here, we were recommended to try the infamous Portuguese pastéis de belém, a crisp pastry with custard filling topped with cinnamon, served best at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém. We used the remainder of the day to walk the city center and enjoy the sun’s heat.
Since I am usually using my Sundays to travel back to Barcelona, it was a treat to dedicate the entire Sunday to Lisbon, as our flight back was not until late that evening. A few of us decided to create a small excursion to Cascais, Portugal, a coastal resort town about 30 minutes west of Lisbon. This was easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. I couldn’t help but think about how badly I would love to return during the popular summer season. Yet, Cascais was breathtaking nonetheless. While walking along the coast I found myself comparing the area to a greater Martha’s Vineyard. I’m in Portugal, I had to continuously remind myself. I love it here.
Just like every weekend, I spend while abroad, the weekend was filled with beautiful sights, delicious food, and great people all around. Yet, I left Portugal with the mentality that I would certainly be back. I would say this has been one of my favorite weekend destinations to date, and I am so grateful for the opportunity API has granted us to experience Lisboa, Portugal.
The velvet blue skies fade into an aura of pink and orange as I wave goodbye to one last Lisbon sunset. Left in the dark, the sailboats continue to dance with the sea.