Portugal was amazing!! I didn’t know what to expect at all when first coming here. I think Portugal is a country that usually gets brushed aside by Americans but it is a beautiful country and I wish we had more than 3 days to visit. We were docked in an area with a great view. When looking out our window we had a view of their independence bridge which looks a lot like the Golden Gate Bridge and a statue that resembles Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. The first day I signed up for a scavenger hunt through Semester at Sea. We boarded a bus and got dropped off in the city center and were given a booklet with directions and questions. We spent the morning wandering around Lisbon up and down the hills looking for places. We were directed to a castle, a restaurant where we tasted a local wine, and to a store to buy a local fish. It was really intense because my team was really competitive. We ended up coming in second but were happy to see most of the city and get a lot of exercise climbing those hills! We went back to the ship for lunch. The food on the ship is pretty bad but when in port it tastes a lot better because they don’t have to make it for as many people. We took a taxi to Costa de Caparica, which is about 20 minutes away across the bridge. Taxis are a lot cheaper here than in our previous ports. It only cost 16 Euros for the four of us to get there. We spent the day on the beach and in the ocean. We didn’t bring a camera because we were swimming but I regret it because it was gorgeous there. It was probably a good thing though because we were all lying out on towels when we heard people screaming so we jumped up. A huge wave had just come and our towel was sitting in a little pond. We ended up all getting matching Portugal towels, which will be a sweet memory to bring home. We sat on the beach watching the sun set and it ended up being a perfect day.
The next morning we boarded the bus to go on another SAS trip. We went to Sintra and Pena Palace. It was up the mountain and took awhile to get there but it was well worth the drive. We had about 2 hours to look through the palace and take pictures. Walking down we went through the gardens that the King had made which were huge. They took us to a restaurant for an official Portuguese meal. We had enough food to last us a week. They gave us white and red wine and started us off with bread, cheese, and meat. Ten minutes later they came out with our soup. We had salads, rice, fries, and kebabs. They gave us flan for dessert with coffee. Soooo much food. When we got back from the trip we took a train to Cascais. It was quite the adventure. When we got to the stop we didn’t see anywhere to get a ticket. It was just a platform with little shelters. We thought we were supposed to get our ticket on the train, which is like our light rail. We got on and saw there was nowhere to buy it. Halfway through our ride there we saw someone coming around checking tickets. All we could picture was the show Locked Up Abroad. We jumped off at the next stop and had to get someone to let us use their ticket to get through the turnstiles to buy tickets. We finally had it figured out! We stayed at a hotel right on the beach and spent the night sitting on the beach. We walked around town where we met up with people from the ship for a little bit. Cascais would have been a nice town to be able to spend a little more time in.
The next morning we got up early and went to the pool on the top deck of the hotel. We later walked around town and went in little shops. We took the train back to Lisbon. We had to be back on the ship by 6 and it was 4 at this point. There were still sites we wanted to see in Lisbon that we didn’t cover on the scavenger hunt such as their Presidents house, Padrao dos Descobrimentos, and the monastery. We ended up finding a cab who drove us to all of them and stayed there so we could take pictures and move to the next place. We were really lucky he stayed because we communicated solely through my limited Spanish. I guess I had enough for him to understand we were coming back but it sure was an adventure! We made it back on the ship with 10 minutes to spare!
Last night we had a mandatory ship meeting where we were told that unfortunately we won’t be visiting Morocco on our voyage. With all of the political unrest in the area it wouldn’t be safe enough for us to go. Instead we will be spending two extra days in Spain and then going to the Canary Islands for two days. I’m sad I won’t be able to go on a camel trek to the Sahara Desert but I understand our safety is much more important. I’m excited for the spontaneous planning that is to come in the next week! Tomorrow we dock in Spain early and have six days to adventure! Can’t wait!