The human mind is a strange thing sometimes. In the height of summer, the few days that pushed past 35°C, Alex and I couldn’t wait for winter. Trapped at home in minimal attire, blinds down and fans on full blast, we longingly dreamed of cooler, happier times when everything didn’t feel so… sticky.
Well, here we are, less than two months later – with exactly what we asked for. And yet somehow the damp cold, grey skies and rapidly encroaching darkness isn’t quite as romantic as we imagined. So nowadays, our thoughts drift back to summer. To warmer, happier times when everything didn’t feel so… gloomy.
When our thoughts do wander away, they usually head to Portugal. We travelled all across Europe for work this summer, but Portugal is where we enjoyed a much-needed escape in July. We returned to Frankfurt two weeks later, much browner and rounder, but a chunk of both our hearts definitely stayed behind.
What was it about Portugal? What made it so special?
For us, it was the narrow, colourful streets of Alfama in Lisbon.
Actually, all of Lisbon.
It was the packed restaurants spilling out into the road, TV screens set up everywhere, as crowds cheered along Portugal in the UEFA finals. And getting to be a part of the electric energy when they won!
It was our visit – followed by a second the next day – to Pastéis de Belém. Any attempt to ration those custard tarts over more than one day is doomed for failure. Believe me.
It was our three glorious nights at the NOS Alive Festival, where I got to see many of my favourite bands.
It was the heart of Portugal that we really loved, though. After three days in Lisbon, we hired a car and headed up north to a tiny village near the town of Góis.
It was our little mountaintop cottage (that we rented for next to nothing) in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely no internet and cellphone signal meant we could really get away from it all.
And our daily visits to the local river for a refreshing summer swim. On the banks of the river were the most beautiful 19th century stone ruins from an old olive press.
It was our long afternoon walks spent picking wildflowers, because we had nothing better to do.
It was that time we tried to go to the beach… and failed miserably. After two hours of driving, we were welcomed by stinging wind and icy water. We counted our losses and headed back home.
We did stumble upon a beautiful castle on the way there, though.
It was our visit to Coimbra University, one of the world’s oldest.
But most of all, it was sitting on our cottage’s little terrace – overlooking the valley below – and eating ourselves sick. Three times a day. Every day.
And something we just can’t quite put our finger on. Maybe it was the dry countryside, red earth, countless eucalyptus trees and easygoing atmosphere – but somehow Portugal reminded us a lot of home.
So thank you, Portugal. Thank you for all the things mentioned above and everything else that there just isn’t enough room or time to write about. I don’t know when, but I know we’ll be back.