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.