Lisbon, my favourite solo trip to date!

So stephmylife’s insta was a big influence on me choosing Portugal and Lisbon, specifically so I could see a place called Sintra. Being the fancy camera wanker I am now I was all set to bring my tripod and get those gorgeous photos for my blog and the gram! Portugal is also on the list of European countries I hadn’t been to yet which was another big reason. I’m trying to see as much of Europe as I can while I live on this hemisphere. Us Europeans are really spoilt and we don’t know it, trying to soak up all the cheap Ryanair flights while I can.

I had booked this day trip to Sintra and Cascais literally months in advance. Booked via Viator, via my AerClub app so I got my points and was relieved to have it sorted well in advance. Other than that, I have fuck all else planned. I’d created my Lisbon google map so when wandering around I could see what was close to me and have a nosy but that was it. I’m glad I did this because I actually fell in love with Portugal and now I’ve loads of reasons to go back. Lisbon is very hilly, loads of steps so bear this in mind if you’ve any mobility issues. That being said, Ubers are dirt cheap here! It was about €7 in an Uber from the airport into the city where I was staying.

Trying to do this trip for under €250 meant I booked the cheapest possible flight, no carry on or check in luggage so just me and my backpack. For this one it meant an 11am flight, which ended up delayed. This is what I get for recently bragging to my friend I never get delayed or have flight issues, all the bad luck has transferred to me which is no more than I deserve for my big smug Irish head! As much as we all hate getting up at stupid o’clock to get to the airport, arriving at your hostel at 4pm really sucks. I felt like I’d lost the whole day. As luck would have it, as I arrived another solo female traveller was also checking in. Thus my first holiday friend was found! We made plans to go for dinner, then clocking the heavy rain outside said we’d stay and have a drink in the bar till it stopped. Two hours later were still on the ‘Caipiroska’s’, a fucking gorgeous citrus-y cocktail made by the Brazilian barman who kept us topped up over the rest of the trip. I NEED to learn how to make these! 

Where I stayed:

So much of how this trip turned out was down to the hostel I stayed in. I stayed in Rossio Hostel, which is the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in for meeting people. From the moment I arrived the woman checking us in introduced us to other solo travellers on the way to our rooms, people we later spent a lot of trip with. Now the room I stayed in had no place to lock away my luggage, but it did have a safe so I could lockaway the passport, cards etc. I was the only woman in the room so figured my makeup was probably safe enough and not very likely to get nicked. I felt this based on the fact that some of the lads were drying their boxers on the windowsill. If this sort of stuff in a mixed dorm would bother you I’d suggest booking into a female only dorm or vice versa, you get me. The view from my room was unreal though! It was the sort of view you’d expect from a hotel, not a dorm room costing 26 euro a night. I was in room 3A btw, if you need this view in your life. 

This vibe on this trip was very different to my solo hols so far. Normally I’m very happy to do my own thing, decide where I want to eat, drink, what I want to see and I go do this. Sometimes I find if you become friendly with people on a trip you can end up compromising out of politeness and end up missing out on the restaurant/bar/place you wanted to see so learning from this I’ve kept to myself a bit more than would be normal for me. Sometimes if I’m chatting to someone who is very easy going and has no set plans I’ll say something like these are my plans for the evening, you’re welcome to join me if you like. When I was younger this ability to get talking to strangers was a skill that felt so beyond me, it blew my mind how people did this in hostels. Now it’s so normal, it literally just takes a bit of practice. On the first night when me and check in girl were enjoying our drinks and comparing beautiful places we’d visited I noticed a guy in the corner reading a book on his own who had been there for a while. I leaned over to ask if he’d like to join us for a drink, but to feel free to decline if he was enjoying his book. Turns out his book was boring, he knew other people at the hostel as he’d arrived the day before and we ended up all going out to this traditional Portuguese restaurant with Fado music. Now I didn’t have a fucking breeze what kind of music this was but was loving that someone else was taking the lead for once, it can be hard being the ‘group mammy’. If you know, you know! 

Fado music was beautiful and intense and emotional and the table of 15-ish Irish lads (presumably on a stag do) at the next table very clearly had been expecting a very different vibe and had been on the drink since lunchtime. Isn’t it funny how an Irish can spot another Irish, especially if they’re drunk, even without hearing them talk?! Fado music, so you know, must be played in complete silence in the restaurant. This meant there was lots of awkward sushing at this table’s direction  from the waiter whilst we all waited for the silence so they could begin.  I couldn’t help being mortified and felt bad for them, this was not what they had signed up for at all ! If you’re in Portugal make sure you find some of this music to listen to. We went to which I recommend but obviously check if they have it on that night, I don’t think its an every night thing. 

Day 2:

Day two was the long awaited Sintra day trip. I love these small group day trips for solo travelling as you always meet other solo travellers and people from around the world. Another perk is you’ve someone else to take those cute photos of you! The Sintra castle tour was good, not too history heavy and time to take the photos. Do keep up the pace though as the guides trying to get you there for 9am are doing you a massive favour, I couldn’t believe the queues when I was leaving around 11am! We were offered the choice of lunch in Sintra which our guide said was very touristy and the food wasn’t the best so we took his suggestion and he drove us to a restaurant outside the main town which offered a set menu of €25 for starter, main and desert with unlimited wine, yes your read that right. Unlimited wine. I could hardly say no to that. Two hours later we’re all in the van not giving a shit where we go next and I’m demanding Disney tunes! “Don’t pretend you don’t have Moana on that phone of yours Diogo, you’ve two daughters!”. 

If I could do this day again I’d choose a whole day trip in Sintra or just get a taxi there and back, turns out it’s around €20 there and presumably the same going back. Saying that, the people I met along the way made the day too. Amazingly, ‘check in girl’ who had booked the trip with my encouragement the night before (over many cocktails) managed to make it, showing up like some sort of travel ninja! This is despite the fact she had stayed out in the Irish bar long after I’d gone home, a classic example of 20’s vs 30’s travel. In one of the towns we stopped in we went to the guide’s recommended pastry shop and got one or two of each pastry and tried them all (you proud of me Carol?!). Pasta del Nada was just gorgeous, both light and really sweet without leaving you feeling full. Imagine a little jam tart but made with fluffy flakey pastry and custard inside cooked enough so it’s not hard on top but solid enough it doesn’t break away when you bite into it. I’m not a massive custard fan but so glad I tried these. Yeah, I miss them.

That night I was fucking wrecked and just wanted some easy carbs and an early night, two nights in a row on the drink just isn’t an option anymore. At this point as well I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed from socialising. I was not expecting the trip to be this social and the only time I’d actually had to myself was lying down at night to sleep. I was also conscious I had seen fuck all of Lisbon and what I had I was drunk. I had a few particular spots I still wanted to see too so the next morning I was up and out before 9am. Super chuffed with myself, makeup on ‘n’ all. On my wander I found myself near the Castle (Castelo de S. Jorge) on the top of the hill and there was no queue so said fuck it and wen’t in. It was €15 entry but the views over the city and the castle were so much more impressive than the ones in Ireland. You could see how this place would actually have survived an invasion. There were beautiful peacocks wandering around the grounds too so yeah, a lovely spot for a wander. 

The famous blue tile view over Portugal is in the Alfama area, I recommend an uber if you’re hungover or struggle with steps/hills. There were buskers there playing and I regretted having no cash to tip them. I was aiming to make it to this spot for sunrise, which didn’t quite happen. It was still early and there were loads of tourists. I am at this stage very comfortable asking strangers to take photos of me, 80% or more of them are happy to do it. The odd person will do it reluctantly and take a shit photo, I just wait for them to wander off and ask someone else. I’ve found that people there with boyfriends/husbands actually take great photos most of the time, clearly they’ve gotten used to knowing the good angles! 

Santa Justa Lift hack:

One of the other things I really wanted to see was the view from the Santa Justa Lift. Our lovely Brazilian bar man showed us a way to get up there and enjoy the view without having to pay or queue. Now, to be clear this isn’t skipping a queue or ripping anyone off. So how do you get there? So you’ll walk up R. Aurea (the road the lift is on as if you’re coming from the square) and you’ll see the lift and queue on your left. Keep walking on up the road, this is a literal up by the way. You should be walking up the hill. You’ll see a sign for Lift Luggage a blue sign and if you look right here you’ll see stairs. Climb them, go right at the top and basically keep going up till you can’t anymore. You’re welcome! 

Last Day:

There’s a lovely rooftop bar up here called Carmo Rooftop, their pizza is good. I sat here for a few hours with a cup of tea and got stuck into my book. It was very chill and a lovely way to spend my last few hours here. 

I was missing a maxi dress on this trip and thought I might see if I can find one here and I stumbled across this shop and fell in love. After spamming my friends with stunning dresses I ended up buying 4 and then panicking as I had no way to get them home. I’m still getting use to packing light as you can see. I was fully prepared to wear 4 dresses on the plane if I had to but luckily that duty free hack you see online worked. I queued up at duty free with the cheapest item I could find and asked if I could just buy the bag when I got the till. 10c I paid and I put my new dresses in here, got rid of the bag they came in and Ryanair just assumed I was carrying stuff bought in duty free. Felt like a fucking badass, have to say haha! If you’re in Lisbon check out Natura, but know the credit card may be getting pulled out when you’re done. 

We briefly got into NAVEGA restaurant and bar but they’d no tables for us all so we had to leave but I would definitely be making a reservation for next time! If you go there go up to the top level and enjoy views out over the city, its very flush and I think like €15 a cocktail but worth it for one maybe!

There is still so much I want to see in Portugal so I know I’ll be back. I’ve made a google maps saves list which I’ve linked here if you want a nose. Is there anywhere I’m missing? Please do message below and I’ll add it to my list!

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