Famed poet and Lisbon native Fernando Pessoa once wrote “The value of things is not the time they last, but the intensity with which they occur. That is why there are unforgettable moments and unique people!” Such, fittingly, was my short but sweet time in Portugal: a quick let’s-grab-a-Ryanair-flight-and-go-explore trip to a country of which I embarrassingly knew very little.

The fact that I knew little about Portugal is perhaps another indicator of how under the radar this country is: although replete with history, architecture, literature, fabulous food, and out-of-this-world (and affordable) wines, Portugal remains second fiddle to its neighbor, Spain. And you know what? I’m OK with that. Those who have been to Portugal know. And when being in the know involves such incredible food and photogenic cities and landscapes, I feel privileged to be one of the lucky ones who ventured to places not often on the radar for American tourists.

On two separate trips we explored the most well-known cities in the country: Porto and Lisbon. In both cases, we braved the European winter (hey, we’re from California: this was a feat) and traded the Barcelona/Mediterranean climate for the cold and dreary Atlantic coast. But just as London seems better dreary with its moss-covered stones, Oporto and Lisbon seemed their most fitting when overcast or wet from a recent rain. Here’s a little of what I learned during our travels.

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The gardens are as romantic as that of any I’ve seen in Spain, France, or Europe . . . but this one in particular had peacocks, so it gets extra points.

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The squares and fountains

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How beautiful is her face? I’m not kidding when I say this was one of my favorite places in the world to photograph.

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The grit is real and (if you ask me) beautiful.

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The cathedrals and monasteries are just as grand as any you’d see in other European countries . . . but this one also houses Vasco de Gama and Fernando Pessoa, so it kind of wins.

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My general obsession with taking photos of adorable elderly people extends to all corners of the world, apparently.

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Remember what I said about these cities being photogenic? The pop of yellow . . . I. DIE.

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More grit. More awesomeness. My hatred of graffiti IRL suddenly disappears when looking behind the lens.

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Portuguese tile is indeed some of the most beautiful.

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Just sigh. #OnlyInEurope

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The monastery in Belem (cathedral with de Gama’s grave pictured above) is most certainly worth a visit while in Lisbon. And not just because of the pasteis de belem that you can buy down the street.

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I know that the word “charm” is overused. But come on now . . .

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Speaking of charm. . .

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TILEWORK.

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ARCHITECTURE

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I know, right? So ugly.

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Food. OK, let’s stop here and talk a little about Portuguese food, which –only second to wine–is the most underrated thing . . . ever? With the sea flanking the majority of the country, seafood reigns supreme, but the barbecue, the pastries, the perfectly cooked potatoes, the stews, the . . . Portuguese food is outstanding, friends. And I’m spoiled and eat Spanish food daily and I still can’t stop thinking about some of the dishes we were lucky enough to have.

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Eat all the pastries.

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A river cutting through a city always makes for a dramatic scene (and beautiful bridges).

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Bridges like these.

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I want to take all the pictures.

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Ughhhhhhhhhhhh

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No caption. I have no caption.

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Make it stop.

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Not ugly.

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Even the murals are awesome.