After 3 weeks of back-to-back city hopping through north Portugal, Denmark and Norway, we were ready to catch our breath and sink into the culture of everyday life in Portugal. We found an incredible penthouse beach condo right outside of Lisbon where we took a week for some solid R&R.
For the first time in our travels, we began to really sink into the reality of our new life — a life no longer just vacationing as a tourist, but transitioning into the digital nomad life living abroad.
Although it rained for much of the time we were there, it provided us the time to settle into a solid routine. Mornings were spent doing yoga, pilates and meditation, and evenings spent drinking wine on our balcony or cooking our own delicious dinners at home.
We became even more strategic with our money – grocery shopping, enjoying meals at home and bypassing the expensive tourist attractions in search for more local moments like walks on the beach.
Of course we still went exploring to see the amazing sights of south Portugal, including the historic town of Sintra and the exploration of the Parque National – which was breathtaking! It’s incredible to see historic palaces sprinkled everywhere throughout the entire country.
We made it our mission to hike to the top of the mountain to seek the famous view of el Palacio de Sintra, very similar in style to the famous German Neuschwanstein castle in it’s 19th century Romanesque architecture.
We then ventured to the most western point continental Europe. From here we could see across the atlantic ocean to say hi to the USA! Amazing how similar the environment is to the Big Sur coast of California.
After a week of beach life in Caiscais, we were ready to get back into the action of the city, and made our way to Lisbon – Portugal’s capital.
We spent the days exploring the cobblestone backstreets of the romantic, historic Alfama district and the surrounding neighborhoods. Tiny shops lined every corner, with a blend of old rustic charm and modern graffiti art.
Because this city is built upon hills, our favorite places to be were the rooftops! Bars and restaurants line the skylines with breathtaking views of the area.
When we needed a break from the crowds, (because Lisbon can be quite touristy with cruise ships unloading passengers daily), we took our cute little Clio rental car down the coast for a day trip to the beautiful town of Setubal.
After playing on the beach, and driving the coastal cliff backroads that resemble Highway 1, we stumbled upon this beautiful old fortress de San Felipe and decided to picnic at the top overlooking the beautiful bay. In the 1600’s, this incredible fortress was used to protect Portugal from pioneers coming from France to conquer.
It looks like some of the city’s protectors have still found this a nice place to call home!
We ended our day trip in search of the best seafood Lisbon had to offer – which was across the bay at a little restaurant nestled into the cliffs called El Farol Restaurante – which means the lighthouse, appropriately named situated right on the peninsula across the bay overlooking Lisbon proper.
We feasted on the freshest mussels, shrimp and crab legs caught right outside from local fisherman as we watched the sunset over Lisbon. It’s incredible how right at home we felt — as if being right back in San Francisco. Fun fact: the architects that built the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco were the same builders that created the Lisbon Bay Bridge! Truly impressive.
We ended our trip with something truly unique, and what Lisbon is most famous for: Fado Music tracing back to the 1860’s.
Most of the famous places that share fado music are all housed underground in small intimate basement- like rooms as pictured below and are quite popular! We had to make reservations days in advance to secure a spot. After serving our meals and ensuring we were happily fed, our hosts took out their guitars and stood in the middle of the tables and serenaded us for 2 hours.
In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. Although we weren’t able to take photos while performing, here’s a video that explains fado in more detail and gives you a sense of what we experienced. Have a listen and let us know what you think:
After a truly memorable night, and a full 2 weeks exploring the Lisbon area, we were ready to pack up the car and continue our journey onto Spain!