I mentioned in my Spanish expat memoirs that I had a five day holiday in early December. For this puente, a fellow teacher at my school and I rented a car and drove to Portugal. I planned this round-about road trip and in four days (five nights) we hit two cities and four towns. This is part one of two on our round about road trip.
On Wednesday and Thursday we did the first half of our trip starting in the capital and followed by some towns along the coast. We left Córdoba on Tuesday evening and arrived in Lisbon that night. We crossed right over the border between the countries and cruised on the smooth highway. Arriving in Lisbon, we drove over the river on the cabled bridge. It was long and we watched the city approach, night sky illuminated by the city lights.
As we crossed it, it reminded me of Pittsburgh. Up and down the hills I felt like I was back in Pennsylvania. But either way I felt sure I was out of the biblical olive countryside of Spain. I didn’t exactly get to see Lisbon that night except for the cars and road in front of me. All the hostels I booked for our trip included free parking. As a result, our hostels were not in the busy city center. Which was okay for me. We were in quiet residential neighborhoods.
On that first night our hostel couldn’t be found– anywhere. It had been such a long day and I just wanted some of my kinder bueno and my bunk. We had had a full day of school, a bus into Córdoba, and then a five hour drive to Portugal. Ana doesn’t drive so I was the chauffeur for the whole holiday. Eventually we found our hostel in Belém, a neighborhood next to Lisbon. There was no sign on the nondescript door and the only way we finally found it was when a couple walked out.
The Belém District of Lisbon
(Wind) Blown away by the blue skies and white monuments of this capital neighborhood. We spent the morning walking around these sights. They were close by to our hostel which was perfect. Then just a fifteen minute taxi ride into the city center.
The title of this post is called “Crying Over Curry” and you might be wondering if this means I had such amazing curry I was crying tears of joy or if it was so disgusting I was crying tears of pain.
We ate at an Arabic restaurant and ordered curry. I got a tasty traditional red chicken curry served with rice. And while in Portugal, I drank all the wine. Our meals arrived and I dug in. It was amazing! Not too spicy either. My bowl was garnished with a green bean. I love veggies and just plopped the whole thing in my mouth. It had the same juicy crunch as a green bean and same smooth texture. But it was not a green bean.
It took about ten seconds before I realized my massive mistake. Time slowed and I had to decide whether to spit it out into my napkin or suffer the consequences. I decided that I was already this far and swallowed the hottest pepper of my life.
It was sliding down my gullet and I regretted my decision to not just take a nibble but chow down like a dragon. I started to sweat. My face was getting red and sticky. I took off my jacket and was trying to play it off. Then my tongue went up in flames. I felt like I could have breathed molten lava.
“The rice,” I thought and started to shovel fork fulls into my mouth. But I couldn’t taste it! I couldn’t taste anything. My tongue was sandpaper. That wasn’t helping so I sat back and continued to feel the onslaught of burning from the inside out.
At this point, Ana started to notice my inability to cool down. I murmured “No pienso un pepino. Caliente. Muy caliente,” as I fanned myself with my hands. My eyes smarted and I blinked rapidly to stop tears from spilling over and ruining my mascara.
I chugged wine hopping that would help. I left it sit in my mouth but my mouth soon boiled the wine. I took deep breathes and looked around. The restaurant was small and quaint. And unbelievably silent. It was full of couples who lacked conversation. They stared at their menus, stared at their phones, stared at their food, or stared at each other. At no point did anyone so much as whisper. There I sat trying my best not to babble about my predicament.
Ana snapped at the waiter and gestured a hand at me. I tried to wave him off knowing it would fade eventually. I just needed time. At this point I was crying. Water streamed down my face and I whipped under my eyes with my fingers. I sniffled and whipped under my nose with the back of my hand.
The waiter got me a slice of naan and a glass of water. I was thankful and starting eating the bread. The flour on the bread coated my tongue and I could finally start to taste again after fifteen minutes of crying, sweating, and generally “waiting for it to pass.” I sipped the water and tried to relax as my senses went back to equilibrium.
And then I started to laugh. What else can you do? Ana stared at me like a crazy person but I don’t think she truly understood the life altering moment I experienced.
All in all, I found Lisbon to be a lovely city with a lot to offer. There were many shops, restaurants, and sights. With all the touring we did, I worked off my meal of curry. We walked a ton and, if the pedometer on my phone is to be believed, a grand total of 30,000 steps. I definitely earned another kinder bueno after that day.
On our way north to Porto we split the drive by stopping in two small towns. Each of these towns were easily seen in half a day each. I’d say I created the perfect itinerary. We left pretty early Thursday morning so we could have enough time in each town before dark.
Our first stop was a small medieval town. The old fortress wall that surrounds that town is still completely intact. I decided to wear wedges and try to fit into the higher fashion of Europe. We climbed the steep stairs to the wall and there were sweeping views of the surrounding farms filled long lines of grape vines. But the path was only two feet wide and had only a wall on one side– while the other side dropped into the town houses below. Wearing heels around this treacherous and cobbled stoned city was not my best idea.
My favorite part of Óbidos was an old church that was converted into a book store. The smell of dusty literature and polished wood floors filled my nose. The old wood creaked underfoot as I explored every nook and cranny. I went up a small staircase and found an old woman making lace. Everything she made was absolutely beautiful and delicate. The whole upper loft was bathed in warm yellow sunlight from the windows in the high vaulted ceilings. I browsed her lifetime of work and talked to her. She only spoke Portuguese but it is similar enough to Spanish that we could have a simple conversation about her craft.
Óbidos, all of Portugal really, is known for it’s ginjinha, or ginja, which is a super sweet cherry liquor. It’s typically served it in a chocolate tea cup. For one euro, Ana and I each sipped this dessert before crunching down on the chocolate that had started to melt in our finger tips.
Just an hour away from Porto is a beach town called Nazaré. Well, maybe not so much a town as a small sprawling city. The picturesque beach spreads for miles on the coast of the Atlantic while the buildings sit on the massive cliffs.
It was a bit touristy like any beach town but it was a little cold for the beach so we beat the tourist season. It had a nice little historical part and the main town center on top of the cliffs had sweeping views of the ocean. There were shops with souvenirs and trinkets and many restaurants with fresh fish.
We walked down to an old lighthouse on the edge of the world. Nazaré is known for being a big surfing destinations. They have record breaking waves that only the most experienced surfers dare to surf. We watched dusk descend over the lighthouse and headed back to town for sunset. On top of the massive cliff, we watched the sunset in awe. With the darkness descended we left and headed off to the start of part two: Porto and the next– rainy– part of our road trip.
This was our route for our whole journey:
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