Ahhh, Portugal. Almost a year ago today, I was jetting off to my explore this beautiful country. If I’m being honest, the real motivation was to visit Spain. Specifically, Salamanca; a city that has a special place in my heart since I studied abroad there. Taking a leap to move to that foreign country, even if for a short time, sparked my love of travel and adventure. While I will always love Spain, plane tickets to Portugal were significantly cheaper, and Salamanca was just a short drive away. And lo and behold, I found out Portugal is pretty freaking amazing too. I picked up a hitchhiker in Spain (sorta! the truth is, I met another solo female traveler from Japan, and after a big, meandering loop around Spain, we decided to explore the Algarve region of Portugal before heading up to Lisbon). Together we hiked along the rocky shores of the southern coast. My new friend (who had been traveling the world solo for almost three years when we met in December of 2015) told me that whenever a place was really, extra special, she doesn’t take a photo, as she prefers to see it only with her eyes and let it slowly fade from her memory. She said it so poetically in her mix of broken English and Spanish (the two languages we used to communicate); much more poetically than I could ever hope to write. Though she has visited countless beaches around the world, she proclaimed the Algarve as her new favorite and never snapped a pic. I, on the other hand, took enough pictures for the both of us and we enjoyed the crisp weather and off-season that scared all the other tourists away. (My absolute favorite thing is visiting places in the opposite time as is recommended!! Like winter on a beach!)
After a few nights in the Algarve, we headed up the coast to Lisbon, and were blown away by the beautiful city. Super welcoming people, generous yet inexpensive meals, Fado bars on every corner, pastries that still make my mouth water, and my new favorite wine, Vinho Verde. Pure perfection. I can’t wait to go back- there is so much more to see.