Saturday, November 19, 2016


Portugal was a surprising delight! It melds old world Europe with a modern urban vibe, plus it is well priced. We spent our time in Lisbon and Porto with a day trip to Sintra. This trip we opted for carry-on only made possible by our fabulous Patagonia Headway MLC bags - the perfect size and thoughtfully laid out. They convert easily to backpack, suitcase or shoulder bag.  Carry-on only made the trip a breeze; no waiting for luggage, and easy to lug around while walking or taking public transport. I can't say enough good things about the bag and found it easy to pack all the required items including a spare set of shoes and flip flops. Check out the video:

We arrived first in Lisbon and rented a great airbnb apartment in the Chiado Neighbourhood, which is very central to the metro, museums, shopping, the ocean and most importantly right in the middle of the quaint winding, cobblestone streets. Our favourite thing to do in interesting cities is to wander about and see what we find. The streets of Lisbon did not disappoint! 

While we generally do not buy much when travelling we do like to continue the world wide search for the retitrement Picasso. This search brought us to the flea market; "Lisbon's flea market is called locally the Feira da Ladra, often thought to mean "Thieve's Market" (in Portuguese "ladra" is a woman thief) but it actually derives from "ladro," a bug found in antiques. A market of this type is thought to have been in place in Lisbon since the 12th Century and the name Feira da Ladra was first mentioned in the 17th Century." The market sprawls along narrow streets perched on a steep hill and sells assorted junk, art, ceramics, used clothes, household items and antiques.  We love antique stores and flea markets; they give a great glimpse into life over the years. It is like going to a free museum where if you really like an item you can take it home! I couldn't resist and picked up a colourful, small, locally made ceramic sardine. J asked me several times if I might want to purchase a second but I insisted one would be fine. (Of course days later we made the trek again when I needed a second). We try to not have a completely packed schedule so we can be open to what ever comes our way, which also allowed us to stumble across a Vintage Festival packed with vehicles, antique furniture, art and other treasures from Portugal's past.

Lisbon is also home to several terrific museums. We checked out; MNAC Museum of Contemporary Art, MAAT Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, and Museu Berado. (Sadly we missed out on the MUDE - Design and Fashion Museum as it was under repairs). All three museums were well worth the visit. MAAT is also connected to the Electricity Museum which is inside a historic power station, filled with very educational exhibits and a cool 1970's electric car; the Enfield 8000. We were very fortunate to arrive just the same week that MAAT opened and we had the special treat of attending a lecture from Ray and Charles Eames grandson; Eames Demetrios. He brought a very personal feeling to the works of his grandparents. The museum collection also showcased an original prototype of the famous Eames fibreglass chairs and a touching love letter from Charles to Ray. Museu Berado has a phenomenal contemporary art collection and it is totally free to visit! It is a nice collection of international superstars such as Picasso, Warhol and Calder as well as local works. It also allowed us to stumble upon a terrific recycled, trash graffiti racoon artpiece by Artur Bordalo on a nearby street.

From Lisbon we took a day trip on the train to nearby Sintra, a quaint town with amazing monuments, castles and gardens. We were initially going to take the cheap tourist bus loop to hit all the sights but it was very crowded. We decided take individual tuktuks and cabs between the sights; more expensive but also more delightful. We made the rounds to the National Palace, Castelo dos Mouros, the brightly coloured Pena Palace, and Quinta da Regaleira filled with secret tunnels and the awe inspiring 27 foot deep Initiation Well that looks like an inverted tower. The last three on the list were all surrounded with lush, magical gardens with water features. We spent a very full day wandering around all these sights. Below are photos of Pena Palace and the Initiation Well.

Then we set off for 5 nights in Porto taking the train north and enjoying the scenery as it rushed past. We again had a well situated airbnb which happened to have 2 bedrooms which ended up coming in handy. Porto has some amazing graffiti art so we spent quite a bit of time exploring the streets taking photos.  Our luck followed us to Porto and we arrived just after the exhibit featuring works by Joan Miro, opened at the Serralves Foundation. The works were confiscated from a bankrupt bank and had not previously been on public display. Joan Miro is a favourite artist of mine, and while his museum is Spain is even more impressive, this exhibit was full of very interesting works and we enjoyed a documentary of his artistic process. The museum also had several other fabulous exhibits and is situated in a lush garden. While in Porto, we had the extra special surprise of being joined by our dear friends for a night, on their way home from hiking in the Azores. We spent a day with them checking out the amazing bridges, architecture, a ride in the Funicular, and shared a great Thanksgiving dinner.

After Porto we took the train back to Lisbon and spent a luxurious night in the Memmo Alfama boutique hotel before heading to Morocco. Check out my Portugal Photos here:


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