I recently came back from a week-long trip to Portugal, stopping first in Porto, followed by Lisbon and Sintra. Although we had limited time in each city, we were able to pack in as much site-seeing as we could in this vast & various, colorful, and culinary country. From drinking the region's famous wines, to exploring unique countryside, to hopping from restaurant to cafe to taste as many local tapas spots as possible, my only regret is that I couldn't stay for the rest of my life.
Following a short and sweet week in England, my boyfriend and I were on a plane to Porto, googling the sites nearest our hotel and watching clips of Anthony Bourdain's travels to this culinary-forward city. Running on little sleep when we arrived, we took a much-needed nap. Finding it was already dark when we emerged hours later from the hotel, and very hungry, we decided to see where walking could take us.
Some entertaining street art down my favorite Porto alleys.
We maybe walked for an hour through the streets, through the parks, and down some excitedly artistic alleyways. I’d already fallen in love with the city! By the end of a week-- in Lisbon-- I was engaged… really! My boyfriend of 5 years-- my best friend and the love of my life-- dropped to one knee next to the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, fulfilling what has felt like our destiny, and making our vacation a dream come true!
What has drawn me to Portugal?
Me with friends near Xindian, Taipei.
In 2010 I moved to Taiwan, an island nation off of the coast of China. Taiwan is a country that deserves independence— throughout its history, it has always been occupied by imperial forces. To this day, it struggles for liberation.
The Portuguese were the first of the western world to discover Taiwan, but History quickly intervened and the island was passed on to another invading force.
While I was in Taiwan, I’d hear often of this piece of its history, I’d see some influence of the Portuguese around the city, I met many Portuguese who were also living there. As I heard about the homeland of my new friends, I was aching to see it for myself.
Hint: he's in the middle.
But then on New Years Eve 2012, in Taiwan, I met a handsome man who grew up an hour from me back in California, and who was one of the most fun people I’d ever met in my life.
Fast-Forward Five Years.
We were headed to the shore to grab a drink and a bite at the late-night Cafe Piolho, across the street from Igreja do Carmo, a rococo-style church covered in awe-inspiring azulejos-- but we got sidetracked by Bao’s, a Taiwanese-Portuguese fusion restaurant! We were beside ourselves, and the nearly-closing restaurant was sweet enough to make us their last customers of the night.
The beautiful azulejos at Igreja do Carmo.
We felt the omens were in our favor. We continued from there to the Igreja do Carmo, marveling at its azulejos, and after a sharing a beer at the cafe, we returned to our hotel (again by foot).
The next morning we set out on the town. Porto has so much history and character down every street, from 16th century churches, to the hand-painted tiles and the street art that decorate the buildings, to the monumental government buildings, old palaces, and even Moorish castles that are sprinkled throughout the city.
The impressive Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar.
Its unbelievably picturesque, against bright blue skies and the glittering morning light off the Douro River. We walked along Cais da Ribeira, to the Ponte Luis I suspension bridge, connecting the Muralha Fernandina and the foot of the Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar.
After a day of wandering in the sun and heat, we taxied back to the hotel, again to nap and refresh. This time we woke earlier in the evening so that we could wander the city’s restaurants and eat our way through the night.
One of the employees at Bao’s had recommended we check out Museu D’Avo, a hot spot for tapas and live music. So once again we walked the narrow streets, passing art galleries and interesting store fronts, all adorned with painted tiles.
Along the way we passed Taberna dos Esquecidos, a quaint spot with a romantic vibe that served incredible food. It was just the two of us in the entire restaurant for the length of our meal. Alone we sat in a 3-story windowsill, with the sun setting behind a cat, grooming itself on the red-tiled roof tops of the city.
From there it was straight to Museu D’Avo, recognizable by the loud, live jazz music coming from inside, and scores of people waiting to be seated. Somehow, we didn’t need to wait more than 10 minutes before getting a bar-top table in the very back of the room. Stoked, we observed the energy of the room and gnoshed on more tapas, like the chouriço assado!
The next morning we boarded a train for Lisbon, spent a day in Sintra, and got engaged! Read about the rest of our week in Portugal!
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