We just recently took a trip abroad and got back just a few days ago. This time around our traveling ways took us to Portugal. We did a few days in Lisbon and then a few more days in the Azores. It was lovely all the way around. I find that often when you are in the middle of a trip it is almost hard to know how much fun it is until you have time to reflect back on it – that’s when you KNOW it was a good trip!
This particular journey had its genesis with my sweet Niece Hannah. She is a smartie-pants that doesn’t act like one, but we all know how powerful her brain is. She is finishing up a Fullbright scholar program in Lisbon (hence, the amazing brain), where she has been for the past year. She has had the travel bug since she started college.
She did a few semesters abroad during college and one was in Madrid. My Mom, my sister and I were able to visit her there. The three of us added in Seville, Granada, and Barcelona – Hannah was able to join us in Barcelona only to get food poisoning, which was totally sad, so she missed most of Barcelona. We all hated that for her, but she is about to spend a year of grad school there. We all knew then that particular time in Barcelona would not be her last. And now, apparently, it will not be our last either!
We had a lovely time on that trip, there is something special when the ladies are all together. Hannah is an only child and I don’t have children. She doesn’t feel like a child to me, more like a little sister/friend. She has a special place in my heart (all of our hearts) and we all sit in awe of her accomplishments thus far in her life. It is such a joy to bear witness to an incredible person becoming themselves.
Okay, enough gushing! We had a tribe go and visit Portugal. In Lisbon, there was 8 total, and in the Azores, there were 9. My husband, my parents, my sister, and two longtime family friends were the first crew. Then lovely Lisa joined us in for the Azores part. She is always good to have around – kind and light-hearted, fun – and this gal does her research to boot!! You always need a few researchers in the group.
I’m the front end planner… but that is where I stop. Once we are all where we need to be, the place to stay and the transportation are all secured, I’m out. Peace be with you. 🙂
What a city! My word! The streets are hilly, the architecture is just stunning! Most buildings were covered with tile, all the streets were pretty much cobblestone, but white, pretty cobblestone. ALL The sidewalks had that cobblestone look too (did I mention the cobblestones??? 😉). There are gorgeous vistas everywhere due to the steep slopes, the people were kind and everyone speaks English, which is always helpful.
There is no tipping, so everything is up front and it is, dare I say, cheap? No, inexpensive is a better word. I don’t want to apply “cheap” in any way to this fantastic city. Dinners for all of us would be 130 euro. That always included wine, dessert, and coffees after too! Beyond reasonable. Considering the way we like to consume the vino, it really helps when the bottles are btw. 3 to 7 euro a piece! Good stuff all the way around.
Highlights in Lisbon:
Castelo de S. Jorge – You can get tickets in advance, which I suggest doing. There was a LONG line when we went, but that fabu Niece of ours went ahead and got them for us while we shopped our way up to the castle. There are amazing views from the castle grounds, so don’t miss this one. We ate at Chapito before we hit the castle – great views there too!
We had two nights and about a day and a half in Lisbon, not enough time for sure, but enough to get a good feel for the city. I’d suggest going across the bridge to see Cristo Rei, the Christ Statue of Lisbon, and walk the waterfront there too – lots of cool places to eat! That is where Joe took the top photo on this post… amazing.
Also, make sure you get and devour a Portuguese Egg Tart (Pastéis de Nata) – not on the low carb diet, but hey, it’s vacation!
Next, we were off to the Azores. Delta is about to start flying direct into the Azores from Boston, and Azores Air (SATA) currently does. So if you skip Lisbon, it could be a great vacation to just do the Azores!
This lush island has much to do and see, and there are several islands, but São Miguel was the island we went to and stayed on. You can fly (or ferry, I think!) to other islands, but we had a lack of time so we rented 3 cars for the tribe and didn’t move between islands.
We stayed in Furnas, which was GREAT for us! We rented two houses through Air B & B, and if you need more info from me on that I’m happy to share.
Parque Terra Nostra – this is an incredible botanical garden, with winding pathways to amazing flowers, ferns, fish, moss carpets and more! It has a thermal pool in the center which you can swim in. Notice the operative word of “can”. The water in the pool stays brown and I just can’t get my head around that – click here to see the thermal pool, the front page shows the color of the water. No, thank you. Not me. No can do.
The Parque was right next to where we were staying and we saved it for the last day. There is also a hotel as a part of the Parque, here is a link to that. It looked like a lovely place to stay.
The first day we did Lagoa das Sete Cidades or Miradouro da Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth Viewpoint) – This is the viewpoint for two beautiful lakes, we then lunched at Ponta da Ferraria, where the food was not so good, but the views were! Supposedly you can swim in the thermals here (there was a pool, but kinda yellow looking and that is another full stop for me!). But this day, the seas were rough and there was no way we were getting in!
We did a whale watching 🐳 tour, which was really a dolphin watching tour 🐬 – and we felt like we were held captive… on the never-ending non-achieving whale finding mission! People were sick, really sick, lots of them, sick! We appreciated the effort from the captain, but it was about 2 hours too long. So, its a toss up for you if you want to do this!
Otherwise, Ponta Delgado – the main city, (and where you fly into) is quite lovely, with a lot of options for shopping and eating and sightseeing. The Poça da D. Beija Thermal Spa (which we could walk to from our house) was really nice too – clean water! Lots of people, but manageable.
What a trip!
All in all, this was a lovely time. We all got on really well and found it mostly easy to accommodate us all at restaurants, which can be daunting with 9. But this time, it really wasn’t.
Travel is a funny thing, there is a mundanity in the actual travel to your destination. It took a long time for us to get to Portugal, and we experienced many delayed flights for one reason or another.
Jetlag sets in, hot and sweaty airports where you can’t find relief can be overwhelming, heavy computer bags that exhaust your shoulders make you think you need a new bag – one that isn’t so heavy somehow, clothes that are on their last leg of cleanliness because you might not have brought enough pairs of pants for this trip, humanity all around in crowded airports, you know – the fun stuff!
I remember reading a book once about an author who traveled a lot and he mentioned ‘seeing romance dancing on the wings of an airplane’ as it took off. Hmmm. I guess I can maybe understand that sentiment, but really, I disagree. When I am finally seated inside the plane in a cramped, crowded often extra-hot plane that is about take off, I just settle in and hope for a smooth ride while I pass the time listing to a podcast, an audiobook or watching a movie. I feel and see no romance in those moments.
But, I am grateful for the opportunities, I am thankful we get to do these great trips, I am humbled by the kindness and beauty in the word and I am better for having had the experience. Plus, I found Gandalf the Grey, waiting for his fellowship of the ring to show up at his table – so there’s that 😊. See him below!
Head on out to Portugal and the Azores, you won’t be disappointed! I found this gal’s blog really helpful, and you might too. It is much more detailed than mine, and it may provide you with some good ideas and itineraries in the Azores…
Questions? E-mail or comment below! I’m happy to help!