Sunday, 18 October 2009
I cant believe we've been back in Sydney for almost a year month now and I still havent written about our time in Portugal. Being the last country in our European summer 09 itinerary we arrived in Portugal with mixed emotions. It was sad to be almost at an end to our backpacking adventures and yet we were looking forward to seeing all our friends and family back in Sydney.
I've always wanted to visit Portugal and it didnt disappoint. Our first stop was in Lisboa the capital. We stayed at a fantastic hostel right in the heart of town. The hostel was only a few weeks old and everything was brand new. It had funky modern furniture, great dorms and everything was pretty high tech - with RFID chips as our room and locker keys and Macs available for internet browsing. We got to know the owners during the course of our stay who were 3 young entrepreneurs who really knew how a hostel should be.
It was also the hostel where we met some great fellow backpackers from all over the world and really bonded. There was the most unamerican-American Nick, who was over from Morocco as it was Ramadan there. Nick had a deal with the hostel owners and he cooked many fabulous meals for the residents in exchange for his board. He made a fantastic chicken curry on the first day which totally won me over. The only difference it had to my chicken curry was that it lacked a little heat but the flavours more than made up for it. On many nights we stayed in for dinner with many of the other residents to enjoy Nick's fabulous food over unlimited wine and beer and unforgettable company.
While Nick was busy in the kitchen we got to know a whole band of like minded and crazy people staying at the hostel. There were the two Finnish beauties - Saijja (pronounced Saya) and Lotta who became part of our air band with a couple of extremely friendly French guys (their names escape me). Then there were two more Fins - Artur and his friend who always wore a red hat and was known simple as the guy with the red hat. Nick's meal while tasting great took a very long time to arrive at the table so we had ample time to get to know these lovely folk.
Our time is Portugal and Lisboa in particular really stands out in my mind because of the great food we had. Portugeses food is rustic, simple and delicious. They use a lot of seafood in there diet which Pramod and I ofcourse love. I dont remember ever having a meal that I didnt like.
Coming from an ex-Protugese colony we also felt a subtle connection to the country as we recognised many common words in the two vocabularies and could see the Protugese influence in Sri Lankan food and architecture. Every Protugese person we met there was friendly and welcoming - I really would like to go back again and spend more time there. In Lisboa we went out with our new hostel buddies a quite few times so it didnt feel like we did a lot of touristy things. We did visit the castle overlooking the town, took a ferry across to the other side of the harbour and did a day trip up to Sintra. Somehow the place got under our skin so to speak.
After about a week in Lisboa we went up north to Porto and Braga which were quite different in character to the capital. Porto felt old and gritty especially around the old port. Braga was small, beautiful and cosmopolitan - the only thing I didnt like about it was a big Macdonalds they had allowed in the main historical square with the most out of this world fountain.
Then all too soon it was time to fly back to London to spend a few days there before heading home.