Well, Switzerland, you definitely have some competition. Portugal is now in contention for my favorite trip of abroad. I had two midterms and one big presentation last week, so this trip was extremely well-deserved.
Madrid is fully into its fall season, which we ultimately noticed on the brisk walk to our dreaded 9am class (we have to leave an hour earlier to get there too; we have traded our 5-minute UCSB bike ride in for an hour-long commute, lucky us…). Basically, Lisbon was sweet relief from the Madrid weather. Because everyone is trying to travel as cheaply as possible as we have reached the *cue silent crying* halfway point of abroad, we opted for the cheaper, 7-hour bus ride to Lisbon instead of the 1 1/2 hour plane ride. When we boarded the bus, we mentally prepared for the trying journey that stood in front of us. Surprisingly enough, I had such a pleasant experience because a) I got the whole row to myself, b) I actually slept on the bus for a bit (which never happens to me) and c) I was able to read my book (The Jungle by Upton Sinclair) for so long without getting carsick. The bus ride flew by and we were soon in Lisbon.
We headed straight for our Airbnb when we arrived in Lisbon. It was a private apartment on 3º (3rd floor in Europe, which would actually be considered the 4th floor in the US) with our own TV, kitchen, dining/living room and a tiny side balcony. It was a nice change from a hostel to a real apartment, where we could actually have some privacy rather than sleeping in a shared room with smelly Europeans. We dropped our stuff and headed out to see the famous Lisbon nightlife. The streets around us were buzzing with activity and people pouring in and out of every bar we passed. We ended up at Pink Street, where the street was actually painted pink! We had drinks and some appetizers, then stumbled upon a wine bar with really good live music. They only played American music…might be why we were so drawn to it.
The next day we woke up to explore Lisbon for the day. We got brunch at a trendy restaurant called Dear Breakfast, where Hailey and I split Caramel Crunch Pancakes and an Eggs Florentine dish. That was one of the best breakfasts that I have had in a loooong time. Definitely an upgrade from my normal rice cake, egg and avocado. We headed out towards to water, where we could see the entire bay (water finally!) and the famous Golden Gate Bridge look-alike in Lisbon. We covered a lot of the city that day exploring little shops, new streets and big statues. Like everyone told us, “You will soon discover that Lisbon is not a flat city.” And boy were they right. There are so many stairs and ascending streets and little alleyways to navigate in order to get around. That night we signed up to do a Sunset Sailboat Cruise!!! We boarded this real-life sailboat that really resembled a pirate ship because of the wooden deck and flags hanging all around. We had two very cool tour guides who taught us about Lisbon and the importance of the bay. Another perk of this tour was that we got unlimited wine on board, and yes, we took advantage of this. The tour was two hours and we were the youngest on the boat by far, but we befriended a lot of the older crowd because of how charming and personable we are. 😉 That was such a relaxing end to an otherwise busy day.
The next day, we woke up early and headed an hour north to the city of Peniche. We coincidentally were in Portugal at the same time that the World Surf League was having its second-to-last surfing competition of the World Tour. The MEO Rip Curl Pro is a surfing competition for both men and women in Peniche, Portugal where surfers from all over the world come to compete. There are 11 competitions this year and we happened to see the 10th in Peniche. We rented a car, which was a journey in itself.
We signed up to rent a car, then found out that the deposit was almost quadruple of what they advertised to us on the website ($1600!!!), and of course, no one in our group felt comfortable putting that much money under their name. But, we finally found another company to help us out and headed up the coast. We arrived at the WSL campground and entered a world full of surf and sun. We saw so many of my favorite surfers who I have been following on the WSL World Tour all season: Jack Freestone (husband of Alana Blanchard), Italo Ferreira, Jordy Smith, Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks and, my all-time favorite female surfer, staright out of Carpinteria, California, Lakey Peterson.
Ever since starting to really surf at UCSB, I have been so captivated by the culture and sport of surfing, so it didn’t surprise me when I found such an interest in the WSL and its athletes. That is where I discovered who Lakey Peterson was and where she came from; since then, I have followed her successes during the 2019 World Tour. We watched surfing all day, non-stop, with of course a break to grab a Corona to sip on the beach. This might have been one of my favorite days since being abroad, comparable to my day in Lucerne, Switzerland on Mt. Pilatus (a big claim, I know). I absolutely loved being on the beach again, surrounded by people who are equally as interested in surfing as I am. Since the surf report was so good that day, they decided to run the quarterfinal heats, semifinal heats and the final heats for both men and women. Italo Ferreira won for the men’s, putting him ranked at #1 in the world. And for women, Lakey unfortunately lost to Carolina Marks in the finals, but Caroline is another American, so it was fun to see the US representing all the way in Portugal. The final competition in Hawaii is in December, which will determine who will be the 2019 Men’s and Women’s World Champions. We drove back to Lisbon once the competition ended, a little more burnt than when we arrived and with some complimentary straw hats to cherish forever.
We were so tired that night, so we got a quick dinner at Time Out Marketplace, then headed home to finally get some sleep. The next morning, before boarding for our 7-hour bus ride back to Madrid, we ended up sitting at a coffee shop for almlost two hours, just chatting and reminiscing about our trip, right on the water. That was something that we really cannot do in Madrid, so it was a nice place to stop before we left.
I knew that I would be really bummed if I didn’t go to Portugal while I am in Spain because they are immediate neighbors and it seems dumb to not take up an opportunity like that. It was such an amazing experience and I went with such good people and ate such good (cheap) food and saw water again and felt real sunshine and was truly refreshed when I returned to Madrid. I definitely need to go back to Portugal because there are so many different coastal cities to see that are all so unique and diverse. Honestly, if they spoke Spanish in Portugal, I would have 100% chosen to study abroad in Portugal, alas, Portuguese it is. I love Madrid so much, but Portugal was something else.