For those not in the know, I went to Portugal for a week between September 16th to the 23rd. It was a trip planned in three weeks, from the moments I got my vacation days approved to the day I stepped on the plane. This was my first vacation in years and the first time that I had been on a plane since 2019. I felt like a born again virgin with traveling and I was a bit nervy. The last time I solo traveled was in the summer of 2019 when I was in Japan and Hong Kong – granted in HK I do have family but when I wasn’t with my grandmother, I was on my own doing my own thing. And leading up to this trip I was quite anxious, probably more anxious than excited but boy, was there nothing to be anxious about because it was one of the best trips that I had ever been on.
In about a week, I split my days between Porto and Lisbon and lived in hostels. I had never stayed at a hostel before but now I don’t think that I will ever solo travel again without one. Hostels are a cracking time, between the people, the events, and how close some of them are to the tourist destinations. It was truly the best way to go about solo traveling. Met some really friendly English blokes, some German guys, some Dutch folks, some French folks – honestly, just being able to meet so many different people from different parts of the world was like 60% of the fun. Being able to learn about culture, make new friends – it was just the best. Thoughtful Bear now has an international readership, how about that!
Let me tell you something about Portugal – it’s hot. As things got cool over here in Canada, things were still warm as fuck over there. It was consistently in the 30’s everyday and I wish I had brought more shirts because I was soaking through my clothes. Everyday I would wake up and have to strategize on what to wear so that I didn’t smell like yesterdays beers. Speaking of, beers were dirt cheap. I made the mistake of ordering a vodka tonic at a bar, only after realizing that beers can go from 3-5 euros in bars and clubs – fuck I’ll take the beer all day everyday. At one point I wasn’t even drinking water anymore, I was just drinking Super Bach and Sagres. Nightlife was great and although I know that nightlife can be had in Canada, it was just awesome being able to go out to a new bar/club – listening to different music and with a different crowd. Shit, if you’re charging me 3 euros for a pint, I’d go anywhere. Also, they’re allowed to smoke cigarettes in the club – insane.
In Lisbon, I went to all the big tourist spots and buildings, I tried the local cuisine, and enjoyed the sun a little too much. I was at The Arch (a beautiful historic area outlooking the water) enjoying the view and I had a real moment of detachment that I was far away from work. I let out a deep breath and enjoyed that for the first time in years, I didn’t have to worry about my inbox. It was really nice and I can’t wait to have that feeling again on my next trip. As a Hong Konger, I made sure to try the pastel de nata at Pastiche De Belem, and let me tell you – shit was crack. It had a great crisp yet chewy crust, the filling was gooey, maybe a tad sweet but that’s just me. The crust was also just salty enough to offset the sweet of the custard. Yeah it was bomb. The ones in Hong Kong are less gooey, less sweet, lighter, and have a flakier crust. Don’t know which one I could say is better but the one at Pastiche De Belem was a must try. Lisbon was a good time and I had the best coffee I have ever had while I was there. Shout out to Lisbon.
I spent less days in Porto but enjoyed my time in Porto even more than Lisbon. Although smaller, Porto felt familiar – it actually felt like Hong Kong. Tight roads, tons of hills and viewpoints – just like HK. It was like a combination of Hong Kong and Diagon Alley from Harry Potter. I was only there for like two days but it really is the type of city that you could see in one day if you tried. Many scenic views of the water and the sunset. It might be the most beautiful city that I’ve ever been to. And I also happened to meet some pretty amazing people there too just like I did in Lisbon. But the most amazing view was at Vila Nova de Gaia. I sat on that hill with someone I met at the hostel and split a bottle of port wine. By the way, a lot of port wine comes in beer bottle sized bottles and I also don’t drink wine – so there I was drinking this thing like it was a beer . . . classic Baron. Anyways. it was probably the best time I had on my trip. Just the peace and calm, the feeling of knowing that the world is bigger than you but that’s OK because that doesn’t matter and you can still enjoy it. Yeah, I left my heart in Porto.
Portugal was an amazing time. I was only there for a week but about two days in I told others that if I knew that I was going to enjoy it this much, I would have tried to get more days off work. I honestly needed this break so much. I partied a lot. And it reminded me that I’m still that guy. I still love partying, and drinking, and doing single fuccboi shit. I am still that dude. Guys, this just in – I’m awesome. I can still slam drinks like a frat boy. Yes, I am cool and I don’t plan on stopping being this cool. I felt like I rediscovered an old friend that I wasn’t aware was still there. Honestly, I’m impressed with myself. This is like when Mike Vick went to prison for dog fighting, then the Eagles signed him as a backup, then Kevin Colb got injured and Mike Vick stepped up and we were reminded that Mike Vick was still that dude? Yeah I’m Mike Vick in this situation except at partying. I’m a dual threat too, just like him – drinking and dancing. If you have ever considered going to Portugal, I highly recommend it. Between the historical monuments, nature, and the friendly locals – this destination is a must! One day I hope to go back, maybe with friends, maybe to other cities. Portugal, I will be back! (Btw, I shared some photos below!)