Europe 2017, Day 4: Put a ring on it
Note: This entry is part of a 6 week (44 day) journey through Portugal, Spain, and France. Click "Destinations" from the main menu or home page to read more entires on this great adventure!
We slept late last night (actually, early this morning) and woke up in the early afternoon again today. This time we made our own simple breakfast at home from the bare amount of groceries we stocked our apartment with: bread, soft cheese, and some Greek yogurt. After sipping our espressos (made at home with the Nespresso machine provided by our AirBnB hosts) and letting our small breakfast digest, we did our Focus T25 workout first (Speed & Agility) to get it out of the way for the day. I was able to do some of the regular exercises, woohoo! I dug deep during the "burnout" phase and found some energy to give 100% effort for a few minutes. But I still mostly had to follow what Tanya the modifier was doing. Someday, my friends, I will be strong enough to handle a whole 25 minutes of Shaun T.'s none-modified exercises. SOMEDAY.
After working out, we cleaned up and managed to get out of our apartment early enough to wander around the city in daylight. We walked down one of my favorite streets, right at the end of our block. The aged buildings are a faded pastel pink, tinged here and there by streaks of gray dirt or beige and ivory stucco where the plaster peeled off. Graffiti adorns beautiful dark green doors with intricate scrolling designs -- a contrast of old-world aesthetic with today's urban expression. Even the worn and dirty cobblestones make me smile, adding to the street's charm and character. The photos below are my attempt at capturing the simple magic of this city that I've fallen in love with.
Today I noticed that I was tolerating the walks up and down Lisbon's hilly streets. When I first got here, I was huffing and puffing and about to pass out every time we climbed a hill (...almost all the time). But not today! I could actually focus on the beauty around me rather than the failing of my cardiovascular and respiratory systems. The result? More photos today of beautiful old buildings and gorgeous tilework. I also realized that I'm having a bit of a love affair with Lisbon's windows! Aren't they fantastic? I hope you like them too, because there are tons of Lisbon windows in this entry, hah.
I also wanted to share one of my favorite nearby wall murals/street art. We walk up and down this curving street many times, and I've begun to use it as a landmark. I have a terrible sense of direction, and I rely on memory of surroundings (colors and decorations on walls, storefronts, plants, etc.) to get me around. So I love that Lisbon has such a colorful and unique assortment of architecture and art all over...it truly helps me not feel so lost in a new city.
We stopped at a local cafe for espresso and a late lunch: Shaun had eggs & sausage (which tasted more like hotdogs or Vienna sausage) and I had a meat and cheese platter. It's funny, I've always associated charcuterie with fancy-ness and a fat bill. But it's sort of a staple snack/lunch item here, and not very expensive for the amount of food you get. Shaun and I barely finished and it only cost us 10 euros. My plate included 3 different varieties of meat: some tasty prosciutto, spicy chorizo, and quality salami. The meats were paired with a spicy Gouda, soft buttery Brie, and a yummy hard cheese that I don't remember the name of. All of this came with sides of toasted bread, marmalade, and marinated olives. Side note: I've never been a big olive person, but I'm officially a convert. They're delicious, especially with the right meal to complement them!
After lunch we headed for a walk along the shore, which is only a few minutes away from our neighborhood. We passed several restaurants with a view of the ocean, and a seemingly abandoned brick building right in the middle of two hip and expensive-looking bars. The building had, you guessed it, colorful graffiti all over and a broken window. The effect was kind of cool though, and didn't seem to bother anyone. I tried to get a photo of the buildings next to each other, but I couldn't stand far enough away unless I wandered into the water. And the shot wasn't that worth it to me, haha.
Our stroll took us to a long boardwalk with live music and stands selling food and souvenirs. It had an outdoor market vibe, no pushy purveyors of junky stuff, just laid back people with art and other goods to offer.
Looking back, I wish I had taken more photos of the market stalls. I am new to blogging and taking photos, and still get a bit self-conscious about standing among a bunch of people, potentially in an awkward position, to get a good shot. Any suggestions? I probably could have gotten some cool shots of the locals enjoying their drinks by the shore, or the market sellers. Oh well, looks like you'll have to satisfy yourself with the one stall I took a picture of: the Lechon (whole roasted pig) stall. Because I'm Filipino and it doesn't creep me out.
Oh, and remember my window obsession? I ended up buying two square tile photo prints of colorful Lisbon windows that I hope to hang in our kitchen at home. I haven't taken a photo of them, but I will when I get the chance.
Past the boardwalk market is the main road that runs parallel to the shore, along which can be found some artfully configured rocks. Some are painted, but I'm pretty sure they're glued together. I didn't want to test that theory by attempting to push one over, though. I didn't want to be that tourist (...but I was tempted).
Further down the shore we came across some street musicians and a sand artist. I filmed the singer (and a few other things), but I haven't yet figured out how to post them here. I will probably have to upload them to YouTube and then link to them...but that's too complicated for this vacation. I'll wait until I get home for that, sorry!
Down the steps from the little area with the street musicians, past the giant dog sand sculpture, we found a little open sandy area. Shaun led me down to presumably look for seashells and rocks -- something we do on every trip we take. (Shaun is a geography major and I enjoy organic, nature-y things...so we like to decorate our home with rocks, shells, crystals, etc. It's extra special if it's something we found on a trip together.)
I tried my best to capture the colors of the sand, rocks, and shells. I'm really feeling this color palette! Neutral shades of beige, cream, and ivory, punctuated by the occasional blue, black, and terracotta orange. Shaun informed me that a lot of the "rocks" are actually broken bits of buildings that washed away and have been worn smooth by the ocean. The orange beauties are pieces of brick, a lot of the white ones are actually broken tiles, and the grayish pieces are cement and street stones. There are also big chunks of "conglomerate" which is a metamorphic rock made up of little pieces of other rocks. (It's handy traveling the world with a Master in Geography)
We were enjoying the view of the ocean from the edge of the shore, being generally mushy and sentimental, when Shaun blurted out that he had a question to ask me. Honestly, I thought he was joking because...we just started our trip! I knew "the question" was coming, but I really thought he was going to make me wait a little longer. So I quipped, "Is it, 'Do you want to go to the castle today?'" I thought he was being silly and wanted to ask me to climb up the hills to St. Jorge Castle. This wouldn't be the first time he jokingly said "I have a question to ask you." The last time was in a donut shop at home in front of a bewildered employee and a few customers (to which I responded, "As much as I love donuts, you are not about to propose to me in a donut shop.") He was joking, of course. So I thought this particular "question" was going to be the same joke.
Well, I was wrong. He got down on one knee (despite his injury from snowboarding), pulled out a wooden box, and popped the question. It was picturesque, spontaneous, and not at all where/when I thought it would happen...which made it perfect. He said he left our apartment with the box in his pocket, not knowing exactly when or where he was going to ask me. I do appreciate that despite my already knowing he was going to propose in Europe, he was still able to surprise me. It's also fitting because Lisbon is a first for both of us, so it's not only a new adventure, but the start of a new chapter in our journey together.
For those who are curious, the ring is crafted by independent jeweler Kristin Coffin. The band is a real twig cast in 14k white gold. Meaningful to us, because Shaun is outdoorsy and I've always wanted to be, but never found the motivation. In the past year and so many months since I've met him, I've done more traveling and outdoor exploration than I have in the past 10 years of my life without him. I'm excited to see where else our journey in this life together will lead!
The next part of our day went by in a daze, due to the general excitement over the proposal. Shaun even tried to snap some photos of me sitting against a bright yellow building (it matched my yellow top), but I was making the most awful facial expressions because I was trying so hard to stop smiling like a goofball. I just couldn't stop smiling, guys. (Okay, okay, I'll stop with the mushy feels). But eventually I got my act together and started taking more photos again.
We somehow ended up in a lovely area full of colorful buildings piled together like so many Legos. The colors in Lisbon! Another reason I'm in love. This city is so vibrant during all times of the day and night. I truly wish I had more time to explore, as we've been sticking to our local neighborhoods for the most part. Our stay in Lisbon will be short so I've chosen to forgo my long list of Must See's and Must Do's, in favor of doing as much walking as I can and stumbling onto little discoveries by chance. Well, for the most part anyway. Our plan here is to wake up and set an idea of what we want to experience, then set off on foot in that general direction and see what happens.
The one exception will be a visit tomorrow to the Algarve region, which I was told by multiple people has the most beautiful beaches (even more so than popular Cascais, which is much closer to Lisbon). Algarve is far enough that we will need to take the train. Which is perfect, because a train adventure is something I hope to experience multiple times on this trip! Now, on to the photos of more windows, colorful buildings, and hilly streets.
We headed to a castle we had seen in the distance, high up on a hill. On the way, we encountered a cathedral. I forgot to find out its name, as I kept getting distracted by the rest of the scenery. We passed a few little souvenir shops, where I purchased some postcards to send for those who asked. (Um, as of the posting of this entry, I am now in Barcelona and have yet to mail them...sorry!)
The Castelo de São Jorge is up, up, up, on a very high hill. Lots of climbing, and dare I say I managed most of it comfortably? I can't give Focus T25 all the credit, it's only been a couple of days after all. I was able to make the climbs mostly because I took a lot of little rest breaks, enjoying the views and architecture around me. And of course, when I stumbled upon a little pastelaria that served ice cream...I had to get a couple of scoops. Fuel, and such. For walking up the hills. Right? Right.
Since we got a late start and meandered so much on our way to the castle, it was closed by the time we got there. We satisfied ourselves with looking at the outside and wandering around the surrounding neighborhood. I definitely recommend doing this if you ever make it to Castelo de São Jorge. It's like entering a time-machine. These buildings are the same ones that have been there for centuries, with modern updates (such as plumbing, lighting, etc) done in such a way as to not retract from the overall old-world charm. The alleyways between the apartment buildings are so narrow, with windows often thrown open to let the sweltering humid air circulate. As a result, passing each household brought brief sound-bites to my ear: families talking, yelling, eating, music or television blaring. How strange it must feel, to have tourists walk past your windows every day, catching little glimpses of your everyday life. I didn't want to be intrusive, so I didn't stop to take many pictures...but I couldn't help getting a few (of closed doors, mind you).
We passed under a display of what looked to be some sort of craft project, almost like a classroom of children made them. Several paper maché hearts covered a church doorway, and more were strung across the alleyway on festive streamers. They were a colorful surprise.
Upon exiting the little neighborhood, we passed many restaurants that smelled so very enticing. Even though we weren't that hungry, we stopped at one and shared a simple meal: vegetable soup and traditional octopus salad. The salad wasn't what I expected! It looked similar to ceviche, so I was thinking it would be light and citrusy. Nope. It's basically grilled octopus with cilantro and onion, dressed in olive oil. I'm glad I tried it, and I love octopus, but it wasn't my favorite dish. The olive oil makes it feel heavy, and I found myself wanting to cut the heavy oil and bitter onions with some kind of lighter flavor.
After our light dinner we wandered around the area and found a neat tunnel with a comic-strip history of Lisbon painted inside. Unfortunately, I couldn't understand much of the Portuguese. But the drawings were interesting. On the way down some steps, I managed to capture Shaun stretching his arms in the background of a funny graffiti face.
I'll end this entry with the rest of our photos from our evening walk back to the apartment.
These are poor attempts at capturing the beauty of the city on a summer night...
Summer nights in Lisbon smell of grilled fish and seafood. Fragrant plumes of smoke billow from outdoor eateries, crossing your path and tempting you to sit and stay...stay for just one more bite, just one more drink. Summer nights in Lisbon sound like laughter and fast, lilting Portuguese interrupted by the occasional siren. Glasses and silverware clink, music drifts from around every corner. Summer nights in Lisbon look like dark cobblestone streets and old tiled buildings, dimly lit by string lights and street lamps with a yellowish glow. Colorful graffiti adorns the walls of narrow alleys, twisting up and down steep hills, frequently splitting off into secret stairways and hidden streets. Taxis and scooters ramble by, and groups of people carrying cigarettes and bottles smile as they pass.
Lisbon, you are truly beautiful.
I hope you enjoyed sharing my memorable 3rd day in Europe with me.
Until next time...lots of love,
Disclaimer: As of the posting of this entry, I am not affiliated with or profiting from any of the products or places mentioned. All opinions are my own, stated for the sole purpose of sharing experiences and being helpful to other travelers.