Sometime in November, I remember feeling bored with my current everyday life – not necessarily in a negative way – I was craving to do something somewhere that wasn’t in Sheffield.
Last year one of my new year resolutions was to travel more. I’ve touched on this before in previous blog posts but I’ve always had “travel anxieties” – I would only travel with my family because I felt safe and comfortable. Heck, I wouldn’t even go on trains alone until last year. I think this “fear” of traveling without my family actually stemmed from them constantly telling me as I was growing up about the bad things out there in the world, sorta like that song from Tangled – but of course, my parents have great intentions and only care for me. But the protection did deter me away from traveling anywhere else I was unfamiliar with – even places in my own hometown.
Since last year, I have definitely improved my confidence in traveling in the UK. It’s not a big deal to most people but someone who has had these anxieties and fears for as long as I can remember – it is! Remember when I traveled to Oxford and Peterborough alone? Yes, I am still so proud of myself because it took a lot out of me to do that!
So when I was on my lunch break with my best friend, Hamdah and was telling her about how much I wanted to explore outside of Sheffield and maybe even outside the UK, I surprised myself, later on, that week when we met again and booked flights and hotels to two different countries one after the other. When I booked it and confirmed everything, I felt that rush of excitement I feel whenever I’m about to do something I’ve never done before which was slowly followed with dread, worry and anxiety running up closer to the date. I quickly realized that this is normal and accepted the feelings as they came, but I can tell you now that the trip was one of the best times of my life.
I learned a lot more about the countries I visited, the whole “traveling without my family” experience (which is COMPLETELY different) and about myself. It was a step out of my comfort zone but I gained so much. Our first trip was to Lisbon, Portugal. My manager at work had just been the month before and gave me lots of guidance so I felt quite prepared.
This is a long blog post, I tried to summarise each day as much as I could! You can quickly navigate to each day here:
Day One: Exploring Lisbon, weird Italian men, rooftop swimming pool
Despite being stopped at the airport and going through security taking longer than expected, missing breakfast because our gate opened and required boarding, leaving us both hangry (hungry and angry and tired) we remained positive and the excitement didn’t disappear at all. I always thought take off was the scariest part of flying and I was initially very anxious but it turned out to be really fun! The last time I flew was to Barcelona last summer and I remember feeling in awe by airplane views, clouds still don’t look real, I kept asking if I could somehow open the window just to touch it. Of course, this is extremely dangerous. 😆
Upon arriving in Lisbon, we went straight to our hotel but couldn’t check-in straight away. Instead, we left our luggage with them whilst we went to explore central Lisboa!
Storytime: At the lobby of the hotel, we came across these two Italian men who I caught staring at Hamdah and I as soon as we got in the hotel. I didn’t think much of it until we left the hotel to explore Lisbon and I noticed that they were right behind us. We took several turns to see if they actually were following us, went into the metro and they went straight down, crossed the road and yep – they were there.
We eventually lost them after taking turns more frequently but it really freaked me out – especially with it being my first time travelling without my family (my dad usually scares everyone off, can anyone relate? Woo, dads are awesome!) The remaining time in the hotel I’d always be looking out for them – I was spooked! Hamdah would sometimes joke about how they were right behind us again.
Not. Funny. 😂
Thankfully we didn’t come across them again!
Running on about 3 hours of sleep, we explored the following districts: Baxia, Rossio, Chiado, Alfma, choosing to walk to make sure that we understood Lisbon’s steep hills and views whilst soaking in the sun!
Even though it wasn’t as warm in the evening, we spent the rest of it on the roof floor of our hotel. The pool was so tempting but it was freezing!
Day Two: Aquarium, lots of walking, castles, Rosa, Cool Canadians
It was forecasted to rain but thankfully it didn’t – after our *amazing* breakfast (buffet breakfasts are the best, eat all the things) we took the metro to Oriente. The metro system was just like the ones in Paris and Barcelona so it wasn’t too hard to get our heads around it – plus I learned that Hamdah can hack every public transport across the world. 🙄
Oriente had a more modern feel compared to the bright buildings we came across on our first day, it was mostly tall glass buildings – it sorta reminded me of parts of London.
Oceanario de Lisboa
I bought tickets to go to Oceanario de Lisboa the night before so this was primarily why we visited this area of Lisbon. I hadn’t been to an aquarium since I was about 9 and I don’t remember it being great (sorry Hull!) Sat at the center of the aquarium was a huge tank – I really did feel like a mermaid. You know, with two legs, but it was still cool.
I didn’t die on the cable cart
When I was looking at stuff we could do in this area, I pointed out to Hamdah that they have a cable cart – it was just a passing comment but she really wanted to go on it. I’ve seen the cable cart in Barcelona and even on my bravest days, I could never get on it. Hamdah managed to persuade me that I won’t die going on it but for the first few seconds I genuinely wanted to jump out 😂 I got much more confident with time! The sights calmed me 😍
“Can we do it again?” – me after stepping out of my comfort zone
Portas Do Sol
After exploring Oriente, we decided to travel further on the metro.
Storytime: On the metro, we heard familiar Yorkshire accents from two travelers. Hamdah pointed it out and we started talking about how it was nice to hear the accent after hearing all sorts of other accents! A couple next to us had overheard us and started asking where we were from. They ended up being from Nottingham (just an hour or two away from Sheffield) and were on the exact same trip as us – a two-week break in Portugal and France except that they went to France first. It was strange but they gave us some awesome pointers for our trip to Nice! Thanks, Rosa and Robert ✌🏼
We ended back up in Alma where we decided to walk up to Portas Do Sol. There was an option to take the tram/uber/train/bus but as I always say you may see some gems! Whilst walking up, we came across some beautiful street art and not so glamorous parts – there were stray dogs everywhere that made us re-think walking. But once we got to Portas Do Sol, it was so worth it. Check out that view!
Castelo de S. Jorge
“Just a few minutes from here is the huge castle! Let’s go?” I say as we continue to walk up for another 40 minutes, oops, sorry Hamdah 🤣
There was an entry fee to enter the castle but we got the best view of Lisbon there is. It was fun walking around the castle too!
Storytime: We decided to take a quick ice-cream break in a cafe. We found one that was guarded by peacocks, yeah, peacocks. I’ve never seen them in real life so I was amazed by them! To be honest, I think feeling amazed by everything because I’d only seen them in pictures was the main feeling throughout the trip. ✨
When we were in the cafe, we met a couple – Stephen and Katrina from Montreal, Canada. Stephen had begun talking to us after Hamdah accidentally got ice cream on his arm when he walked past. We didn’t realize until he pointed it out a few minutes later. 😆 They then went on to tell us about their amazing European adventure (which I have to say was on a much bigger scale to ours!) where they drove from each European country to the next. They’d explored different places in Spain, France, Portugal, Italy – road-trip style!
The stories they shared from their travels excited me and motivated me to travel further – you really do get the best experience “on the road”, meet the most interesting people, see the most amazing things and create the most valuable memories!
Day Three: Questioning Art in Belem
It was raining on our third day and it never really stopped until we left Portugal (typical) To get to Belem, we couldn’t use the metro (which quickly became our best friend – I loved it as much as I love the tube in London #unpopularopinon) we decided to opt-in to Uber it. It was my first time using Uber and ever since my solution to getting to places (even upon returning to the UK) is: shall we Uber it?
Our Uber driver was so friendly and chatty – not scary with large fangs and pointy fingernails and a hook like I had imagined 😹 He basically covered the history of Lisbon, main attractions in Belem and Sintra (our trip the following day) in that 15-minute drive. 👌🏻
Museu Coleção Berardo
With the weather being quite bad, we didn’t walk around as much and after asking on Instagram/Twitter on where we should go next, we were recommended the Museu Coleção Berardo.
Hamdah and I recalled that the last time we went to an Art Gallery together was when we were 14 in Tate Modern, London. We went down memory lane trying to dissect the meaning and emotions involved behind the interesting “art” we came across.
Storytime: My favorite has to be the black canvas (pictured in the middle), three Portuguese guys were as confused as we were. I didn’t understand what they were saying but there was a mutual “wtf” shared between us. We bumped into them a few times and every single time we’d overhear just pure confusion, it was hilarious! 😂
We spent that evening in the hotel at the spa. Before that day, I’d never been in a steam room and now it’s where I want to be. Like all the time.
Day Four: Sintra – Disney?
Traveling to Sintra was the highlight of my trip. My manager had said that I’d love it in Sintra and was she right! It was my favourite day even though it was tiring (spending more than an hour and a half travel time plus walking, lots of walking, uphill and sometimes climbing 😹) and freezing (we were so underdressed omg, I had to buy a scarf from a local shop because I couldn’t deal with the UK-winter-like weather)
This cute very picturesque town is filled with history and beautiful scenery and did I mention there’s a magical Alice in Wonderland-like pathway to the most colorful castle I’ve ever seen…
Warning: the following photos show true happiness from a little girl who grew up wanting a castle. Especially a castle that matches her outfit.
Storytime: We did take a bus up to Penna castle – the bus driver stopped us before we went in just to ask where I was from. I told him that I’m from England and he didn’t believe me and kept asking if I’m from Australia.
Dude, I told you I’m from England but if England = Australia then sure, please let me on the bus.
Moors castle or as Hamdah liked to call it “the Weetabix castle” (because apparently, it resembles Weetabix 😂)
or someone needed cereal that morning, gave us some more wonderful views. We had to take pauses for photos of course but also for a second to take everything in.
Day Five: Cascais, seagulls fighting and Portuguese food
Our last “full” day involved taking the train again to a small coastal town – Cascais. We spent the majority of the time watching the waves and practicing irl Calm. Although it was a little cold, there’s something about being by the sea that makes me the happiest. ⭐
Storytime: This was the day we actually had our first Portuguese meal. The rest of the time we had Italian food for lunch and dinner (I have had weird cravings for Italian food for over a month now 😂)
We were sort of forced into going into the restaurant. We were just looking for where to eat and weighing out our options when a really loud waiter started yelling in Portuguese. Shouting at us to eat at his restaurant. It startled me (Hamdah would tell you how funny my I-am-terrified face is) but the approach worked! 🙀
Obrigado, Portugal! 🇵🇹
Although it was one of the only trips I’ve had in my life that tired me out to the max because of all the walking we did, I enjoyed exploring the beautiful streets of Portugal. I would definitely recommend Lisbon to anyone who likes sightseeing because there are SO many wonderful things to see and do!
I was anxious at the start of the trip because of “all the things that could go wrong” but it was one of the most successful things I’ve ever planned. This time last year I would have gone on my first trip to London without my family and the planning of cramming events into two days for me was an achievement at the time! Who knew that I would fly all the way to Portugal a year later with a plan to get a feel of Portugal in just five days? I beat you travel anxiety, now let’s go on further! Onto France! (Next week’s blog post 😉)
“Wait, you’re actually going?” YES. YES, WE ARE. YES, I AM.