If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you can’t help but be reminded of it when visiting Lisbon. The city’s multicoloured buildings rise up above the hills in all directions, streetcars wind their way up and down narrow lanes, and there just so happens to be a spitting image of the Golden Gate Bridge stretching across the Tajo River from Lisbon to Almada. Comparisons aside, though, it’s a cool place to explore — just so long as you don’t mind being approached every 15 minutes by someone looking to sell you everyday kitchen spices passed off as drugs. The walk along the waterfront to neighbouring Belém is nice, where the town lays claim to an ancient monastery and some excellent pastries (more on that below).

On my last full day in Lisbon, I took a train with some friends to nearby Sintra, an historic area full of castles, palaces, and mansions. Near Sintra, we also spent another day learning how to surf in the chilly Atlantic. It was some of the most fun I’ve had on the whole trip, and despite swallowing what felt like a litre of salt water in the morning, by the afternoon, we were riding the waves more frequently than we were falling.

Porto is relaxing — that’s the best way I can describe it. The weather isn’t quite as warm as Lisbon, but it’s comfortable all the same. I was there during the Serralves Festival, where I got to hear some fantastic live jazz and a little-too-experimental-to-be-enjoyable piano performance. Mostly, though, I was content to walk around the city.

Things I’ve seen:

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Streets of Lisbon.

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Moorish Castle, Sintra.

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Porto along the river.

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What I’m watching:


What I’m listening to:

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf

What I’m reading:

Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind

What I Want My Children to Know about Being White in America

Best local food I’ve eaten:

I’ve had too much good food to pick one. Instead, I present my top three…

1. Portuguese tapas in Lisbon. My hostel prepared a nine-dish tapas on my first night in Lisbon, serving calamari, chorizo-stuffed biscuits, beer-marinaded pork, stuffed mushrooms, and a healthy amount of sangria. (I forget the rest of the dishes. I’m sure it’s unrelated to the sangria.)

2. Feijoada de Lulas in Lisbon. Another hostel meal, this time prepared in a cooking class. Essentially, it’s a chorizo and squid stew made of pureed tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil, and wine, seasoned with cilantro, basil, and piri piri, and served with rice. I ate three plates of it.

3. Pastel de Belém in — you guessed it — Belém. The egg custard tarts are a source of pride in the Portuguese town, and after having one, it’s easy to see why. They don’t melt in your mouth; rather, they explode in a hot burst of flavour, gushing out of the tart’s flaky crust.

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