In March 2012, at the end of my 3 years stay in France, I decided to check one more item off my bucket list: Lisbon. I had long heard stories about Portugal’s stunning capital. On top of the list was the yellow tram, then the spooky one of a kind elevator, the street arts, and historical landmarks.
On the first of March, my plane landed at noon. I took a cab and headed to the hotel.
While inside the car, it’s hard not to notice the charming buildings, the smiles on peoples’ faces, the beautiful hills surrounding the city. Lisbon should be a top travel destination, was the first thought I had.
I arrived at the hotel and immediately asked about available tours to book. Since this was my first solo trip, I thought that joining guided tours will help me meet other solo travelers.
My first night in Lisbon, I went wandering in the small vibrant streets of the city. I hadn’t planned anything, I just followed the wind, the music, and the lights. I walked for hours in avenues filled with culture and arts. Time passed by so fast, it was midnight already; I realized that it’s hard to get tired of walking around Lisbon but since I had to join an early morning tour, I decided to go back to the hotel.
This first night was enough for me to fall in love with this city!
The next morning, a bus picked me up to join the half day tour around Lisbon. The trip was very interesting! In a few hours we visited so many of the city’s important landmarks.
We started with Belem Tower (Torre de Belem), built in 1515 on the bank of the Tagus River, a UNESCO world heritage site that played an important role during the age of discoveries. Monastery of São Vicente de For was our next stop, built in the 12th century and one of the most appealing and charming historical buildings of Lisbon. After that, we had a stop at the incredible National Coach museum with its awesome collection of old carriages.
Our tour ended in the beautiful Alfama old district with its appealing narrow streets and ancient houses. We stopped for wine tasting at a small shop before heading back to the hotel.
This tour has shown me how fascinating Lisbon is on so many levels. I was anxious to join other tours and learn more about this city’s beauty.
The next day, I joined a sightseeing tour that took me to Sintra. This popular destination is famous for its amazing historical buildings, castles and beautiful nature surrounding it.
Later we reached Cabo da Roca. Well… I can’t seem to find words to describe this place. I can fairly say that you do not want to miss a chance to visit it. It’s the westernmost point of mainland Europe
“Where the land ends and the sea begins”. You stand on top of the cliff with the raging Atlantic ocean waves beneath you. The scenery is just marvelous. You can only think of these courageous sailors, that, hundreds of years ago, used to leave from this point to discover the world.
During these tours, I met other fellow solo travelers from Switzerland and Japan. We went out for dinner and drinks many times; exchanged travel stories and most importantly agreed that Lisbon is a must-see city for everyone.
The following days I continued touring on my own. I took a ferry and crossed the river to visit Cristo Rei, the Christ statue of Lisbon. From there you have a magnificent view of Lisbon. It is said that the statue was constructed after Lisbon avoided the horrors of the second world war.
On my last day in Portugal’s capital, I made sure to visit Our Lady of Fatima monastery before heading back to the city and bid farewell.
5 hours before my flight, I sat on a bench for about an hour. I was looking at the city, watching the cars moving, people walking, I wanted to capture that moment in my head so that I remember it whenever I think of Lisbon.
4 hours before my flight, I decided to go buy some souvenirs from a nearby shop. I didn’t know that the best souvenir was waiting for me along the road. After walking for 10 minutes in Rua Augusta, I noticed a girl, sitting in the middle of the street drawing a painting. I came closer and started watching her, the painting was very abstract yet attractive. I kept watching for about 30 minutes.
– “Do you like the painting?” she looked at me and asked.
-“A lot, how long do you still need to finish it”? I replied.
-“About 40 minutes”
-“Then I’ll be back in 30”
I went to walk one last time in the streets I spent the last few days in. Thirty minutes later I came back, I sat next to her and started talking to her. She told me her name is Sarah and that drawing is her hobby. We talked for about 10 minutes, got to know each other, until the drawing was done.
I still remember her beautiful smile and how happy she was when I told her I want to buy the painting and that it will be the best souvenir from Lisbon.
“Obrigado,” she told me. I thanked her, said goodbye and left straight to the airport.
One thing I am sure of is that I chose Lisbon and I chose well! I got to discover a city that has big potentials. It’s a city that has something for everyone. Rich culture, beautiful scenery, awesome nightlife, smiling sociable people, amazing streets and landmarks, it simply has it all.
I always remember Lisbon as the city that introduced me to the solo traveling world. I did what I wanted to do, I met new friends, I took my own decisions. It was a great experience that gave birth to awesome memories. I loved every second of wandering in the city. It was a great solo travel experience. To wander and to get lost in Lisbon was just amazing!
Until this day, I am still in touch with the friends I met during the tours I joined. We still have these plans to meet back in Lisbon one day. I’m not sure if it will happen or not but nevertheless, we will always share the great memories we accumulated during this trip.
As for Sarah, well I always wished to go back to that street and meet her again. It would be nice to run into her and tell her that her drawing is hanging on my wall at home. Who knows…?
To be honest, I hope she’s not on the streets anymore, I hope she got an opportunity to publish her beautiful work and moved on in her career. Perhaps one day I will find out.
Anyway… this is my Lisbon story!