As it enters into November, not only meaning that my study abroad journey is 70% done, but also meaning that it is almost my birthday! As a celebration and by chance (because I found a cheap flight ticket), I decided to go to Portugal! I have always been curious about the history of Portugal, how it colonizes its oversea colonies, and most importantly, I AM HERE TO EAT THEIR EGG TARTS!
So the trip planning dates back to last week, when my professor mentioned to us that Transavia is having their happy hour flight tickets. I immediately went on it and checked the destinations they offered, and, boom! I saw Lisbon! And there comes my Portuguese friend Angela in the class telling me all about Lisbon, and how you can get these hot egg tarts, Pastel de Nata, almost everywhere. I all of a sudden got really excited, because I grew up eating these egg tarts! I thought that they are a specialty from Macau and from the region of south China, but after some research, these tarts actually originated from Portugal and it was introduced and became popular in Macau and the region.
After seeing photos of the beautiful sights of the city, being persuaded by Angela, and having this warm fuzzy feeling of home coming up from the bottom of my heart because of Pastel de Nata, I immediately decided to get a ticket to Portugal.
My flight with Transavia landed at 6PM. I then took a bus to the city center for 3.50 euros. I found my hostel – Oasis Hostel, recommended by my friend Alma. It’s my first time staying in a Hostel and I was quite nervous about how it would turn out, but it was better than I expected. I had the chance to meet people from all over the world; French, Polish, Canadian, American, Korean, Dutch, etc. Staying in hostels, you lose some, you win some. You lose more privacy by staying in the same room with others, but you gain more expose to people from all over the world. It is highly recommended to stay in a hostel when traveling alone.
I had my first two Pastel de Nata from Manteigaria. They were warm and freshly made, crunchy from the outside and creamy in the inside. The tart “cracks” in your mouth when you bite through the burn caramel and the crisp, and soon the warm custard will melt in your mouth. If you ask me how much I love these, I had six in total today!
After breakfast, it was time to join a walking tour. I joined Sandemans’s New Europe walking tour to discover both the city center and Alfama. We started the tour in Chiado, where one will see the statues of Luiz de Camoes and Antonio Ribeiro. Luiz de Camoes is Portugal’s great poet. He wrote many poems in Portuguese and fortunately, they were all passed down and saved until today. Antonio Ribeiro was a Portuguese cardinal of the Roman Catholic church.
Next, we walked through the streets of Lisbon, and came to Rua Garrett to find the oldest operating bookstore in the world – Bertrand Bookshop. It’s light blue tiles will be easy to spot by anyone. As you enter the bookshop, you will even see its Guinness certificate assuring that it is the oldest operating bookstore in the world!
We climbed some hills and saw some picturesque views of the coast before descending to the seaside. I am very impressed how different the architectures here compared to those in France even though two countries are so close. I am also impressed by how similar the architectures here are compared to the Portuguese colonies.
Portugal is a country that has gone through many catastrophes, one of the biggest being the earthquake during 1755. In this earthquake, architectures collapsed, people were washed away by Tsunami, and the city was torn and burn by a fire that went on for five days. All that happened during All Saints day in 1755. It was a shake that woke up the people of Portugal, questioning their faith, religion, country, future, and destiny. However, it is the rise and fall throughout the history that made this country so rich and interesting in any aspect.
We took more walks and came to Elevado de Santa Justa. It is an elevator that provides panoramic view of the city. I haven’t had the chance to go up yet, but I might give it a try tomorrow.
We walked through the Rua Augusta Arch and finally came to the commercial center by the seaside.
The commercial center by the arch and the statue of King Jose I mark the city center. It is the best place to get some vitamin D, listen to the ocean and look far to the 25 of Abril Bridge and National Sanctuary of Christ the King.
We entered the stairs to go up to the Alfama district. It is the oldest district of Lisbon that didn’t get burn down during the great earthquake of 1755. The buildings, fountains, and churches survived for years and years. The Lisbon Cathedral was built not only as a church, but also as a fortress for wars. It is not too elegant and grand as Notre Dame de Paris, but it is practical and served its purpose. There is even a Jewish symbol on the wall, showing how much the Portuguese really wanted to unite the world.
We sneaked through the narrow and steep streets of Alfama, enjoying the Portuguese white wine and, most importantly, eating more sweets!
We finally came to the top of Alfama during sunset. Looking at the ocean and the houses shining in gold is the best reward after all the walking. And there ends my first day in Lisbon!