Lisbon + Lagos = perfection

I was in dire need of some vitamin D after three trips to cold, wintry (beautiful) countries so I booked myself a mini-break to the beauty that is Portugal. Things started very well when I secured a £9 flight to Lisbon – it would have been rude to say no!


Since I was by myself for 6 days, I decided to stay in an excellent hostel so I wouldn’t become too much of a loner. It was a lovely clean, modern hostel in a handy location. Recommend.

I started my trip with the Sandeman free walking tour – three hours of walking around the old part of Lisbon with a very knowledgeable guide. Poor Lisbon was basically decimated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in 1755 which wiped out 90% of the population. There’s still remnants of the gothic Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel – a cathedral without a roof as it was destroyed in the quake which measured what would have been 9 on the richter scale.

I had lunch at the Time Out food market (was ok), then took a bus to Belem to sample the world famous Pastéis de Belém – delicious baked custard tarts (best eaten with a sprinkling of cinnamon) that were amazing! I was very lucky to avoid the crowds as I was able to walk straight in without having to line up. It’s worth the trip to Belem! Very close by is the Jeronimos Monastry, church and archaeological museum (the latter all in Portuguese but you get to see some mummies and ancient jewellery!). I ended the day in the best possible way: eating incredible seafood at Ramiros  you order off an ipad and I had the most delicious garlic prawns, giant prawns and delicious bread (not a vege in sight on the menu). But be careful, everything is charged by the weight and you only find out the weight when they bring you the bill so don’t get too carried away!

A day trip to Sintra is a must see and I decided to try something new – a tour of Sintra and the coast in a jeep! Francesco was our tour guide and he runs the company with his family. He was so passionate about showing off Sintra and a great host! It was an  incredible day seeing the sights of Sintra, and seeing things off the beaten track (and avoiding the tourists as much as possible!). The Quinta de Regaleira was beautiful – a 20th century residence with stunning gardens styled to represent ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels and concealed symbolism. They were obviously too concealed for me as I missed the symbolism of the Masons and the Knights Templar. The well is well worth a visit (haha) and symbolises the initiation ceremony for the Knights Templar and there’s also a hidden passage that goes down 27 meters with tunnels going everywhere down the garden – very easy to get lost! Our lunch stop was a traditional Portugese restaurant where we all had fish soup followed by fish fillets which had been soaked in milk, and a dessert platter. The shot of ginja (cherry liquer) was pretty horrendous but obviously a requirement!

Next we tested the quality of the jeep on some off-road dirt tracks and out onto the coast to see some breathtaking scenery. There was also a rope going literally straight down the cliffs onto the rocks where fisherman clamber down to remove the barnacles to serve to restaurants. Pretty impressive! Our last stop was Cabo da Roca, the most western point in Europe. Good to tick off but it was just full of tour buses so not my fave place!

The next day I took a train to Lagos (took about 5 hours all up) and it was so good to be back at the beach! I even managed a very brief dip in the water (the Atlantic is freezing at the best of times so 2 March 2019 wasn’t exactly going to be tropical. Spent three days wandering around, walking along the Algarve coast and along to Luz, eating delicious food – I had the best tuna steak of my life at Casa do Prego and I went back twice (potentially for both the food and the waiters!). There’s not a lot to do there if you don’t have a car and I think it just gets overrun with tourists in summer so going off season is definitely worth it (accommodation is also 1/3 of the price!).

The highlight of my time in Lagos was sunrise SUP with an Aussie called Dave! I met Dave on the beach at 7am and the beach was empty except for a guy from the Hawkes Bay coaching triathalon to some locals. I’d only ever been on a SUP in very flat water and we had a bit of a swell thanks to Storm Freya – my board bumped into Dave’s and he ended up in the drink so that was satisfying! I only fell off as we were coming into shore, but I’m saying that was intentional. We went through the grottos and along the coast and it was such a magical way to start the day. Make sure you book a trip with Dave if you’re in Lagos and tell him I sent you!


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