Here’s the details from the other half of our trip…
Ever since I decided to travel for myself, I have stayed (or tried to) in AirBnbs. If you’ve never used it, give it a try. You can opt to stay in a house, a spare room, or a shared room depending on your budget. It is the perfect way to travel on a budget because you can get a great little home for half the price of a hotel (at times). And it makes for a unique experience, where you feel like a local rather than a tourist using a hotel.
Our AirBnb was a studio “apartment” with its own mini dining table, mini sofa, microwave, hob, kettle, double bed, sink, big bathroom, small cable tv, amazing entrance with stairs and a mini garden, and it even came was a three-legged dog that we named Champion (this is from a tv show called Parks and Recreation, go watch it; my brother’s girlfriend mentioned it and it just stuck for the whole trip!)
We loved it. It was close to the beach, about a 10-minute drive, and so we ended up going to Praia da Faro 4 times. It had cafes and shops close-by, too. The best thing was that it was close to the airport, so when we had to wake up at 5am, we didn’t have far to go in the Uber to catch our flight.
I am so grateful to Julio, our host, as he suggested we visit Sagres, which is right at the end of the South of Portugal. I had planned for us to drive to Albufeira and Lagos, but I didn’t think Sagres was close enough to Faro. It was Julio who said it would be worth the 2-hour drive, and so we did it. And he was so right. We saw sights like no other…
Aside from the food, or perhaps alongside the food, the best thing was the nature we saw. I read a quote recently that said, “Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by nature.” I feel that it was so apt that I read this whilst we were away, because I was incredibly overwhelmed by what I saw.
I am a very emotional person. I love and hate this about myself. But it was only a good thing that I was emotion when myself and Patrick got out of our car, wrapped up in jackets and jeans, and then ascended the hill to find the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my life. Sagres, where we were, is called “The End of the World” which is so appropriately named. I felt like I was looking at the end of the world, over the cliffside, and staring out at the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing the edges of the cliffside, cut by the waves that weren’t vicious, but instead glorious.
I haven’t travelled far. I haven’t seen much. There are so many times that I have felt like the world is against me, and that it is ugly, and that it is unfair. But that view proved me ever so wrong. It showed me that my problems are so, so small. That I am capable of so much more than I realise. And that the world can never, ever be truly ugly. The sea may be cutting those rocks, but in doing so, it is creating something so wonderful. If nature can be that beautiful, how can the cuts from my life be seen as ugly?
Thank you, nature, for showing me that when I truly needed it.
Then Lagos gave us the opportunity to explore and sit amongst the rock formations, looking over the edge at the ocean, the boats, the waves washing over the rocks, and the cloudless sky above. It was…ineffable.
We learned a few Portuguese phrases before our trip. These were “hello”, “do you speak English?”, and “thank you”. The whole trip, we said hello and thank you, of course. But we hadn’t yet used our key phrase, “do you speak English?” And so, I made it my duty to do so. When we were ordering our lunch at McDonald’s, I went up to the counter and ever so bravely and fluidly said “Voce fala Ingles?” I felt like a rockstar, I’m not going to lie! The young man smiled and said that he did speak a little bit (which I understood because it kind of sounded like Pequeno which is “a little” in Spanish, which I learned in my GCSEs!)
I loved that throughout the whole trip, I found myself saying “that word’s like such-and-such in Spanish.” My 16-year-old self was coming out, remembering the language I used to love learning. I received a B grade for Spanish in my GCSEs, and apparently, a lot of the words had stuck with me, even if I didn’t realise it. Thank you, Portugal, for reminding me that I love foreign languages. I really hope I can kick myself into gear and start learning more languages and brush-up on the Spanish, French, and Japanese that I already know parts of.
Of course, no trip abroad is complete without sightseeing. We spend some time on the beach, chilling and reading and having a tussle. We parasailed and went on a boat to see the coastline caves and the vastness of the ocean. But we also had to look around at the monuments, the culture, and the town.
We were staying in Faro, and so we looked around their Old Town. This didn’t take long, as there’s not much to see really. We loved the rickety old trains, the marina, the pastel coloured buildings, the graffiti, the statues, and the cathedral. It was awesome to eat whilst we looked over at the ocean, watching boats bob atop the gentle waves. In Lagos, we looked around their town a bit, too. It was amazing to just wonder and accidentally find hidden gems like cacti, palm trees (huge and miniature), dogs and cats, dirt paths leading to the water’s edge, and gelato shops.
All in all, Portugal was just what I needed, right when I needed it. I got to relax under the sun, sand in-between my toes and tickling my back. I got to read without feeling like I was getting a quick chapter in before bed or before starting my work. I just got to read unapologetically, with no time limit. I got to not only see the ocean, not only put a foot in the ocean, not only brave the waves of the ocean on a bobbing sickly boat, but also see the ocean from 80m in the sky on the parasailing! That’s pretty incredible.
I got to eat, and eat well. I got to sing along to the radio on the best road-trip-like journeys I’ve ever been on. And most of all, I got to do it all with my best friend. We changed and grew and experienced it all together, which is all I ever want for us. There is no one else I would have wanted to scream with in the air in the parachute or marvel at the rock formations that were Google-picture-worthy.
Thank you for the trip of a lifetime, and here’s to many more!