Portugal Kitang Hinintay

Dear Portugal,

Portugal kitang hinintay (can be translated as “I have long waited for you, Portugal)!, Was I happy? Are you kidding me? I wasn’t happy! I was enamored, over-whelmed (insert all superlatives here). Okay, so how did the desire to visit this travel destination start? Read along…

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2013. I was watching Leg 4 of the 23rd season of the Amazing Race. This Leg was filmed in Portugal, and the detour task then was a choice between putting together a life-size puzzle using porcelain tiles or retrieving a giant-sized compass at a monastery called Jeronimos (with which the team will use it to map out the distance traveled by Ferdinand Magellan). Search on Youtube should you be interested to see more of what happened during that episode. Because of this feature on Portugal, I randomly tweeted “makes me wanna see Portugal #AmazingRace”.

Since then, I always have Portugal in my list of “Places I want to Visit”. You see, I often jot down the things I want to accomplish, and that includes enumerating in my journal the places I want to see. (If only you’d get a peep at my personal notes, you’ll see a loooong list, hahaha). Last year, I managed to go to Europe for the first time. It was a 10-week backpacking across the continent. At the end of that one-of-a-kind solo adventure, I realized that I wasn’t able to put into fruition my desire to set foot on Portugal. (Magellan must be really disappointed in me). I, myself, was tad disappointed. I guess it wasn’t the right time, just yet.

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Fast-forward 2018. Another opportunity to visit Europe came about. This time, I made sure that Portugal is on top of my list. I asked my boss at work if I could go for a vacation after my work-related travels, and boy I was glad he would allow me to. Just this 1st week of May, my long-time longing of seeing, experiencing Portugal came into realization. And wow, what an experience!

The moment I set foot outside the Porto airport, and that time I left the Lisbon airport, everything that happened in between during my stay in Portugal was just beyond happy, memorable, and nothing short of amazing! My first post on my social media accounts about Portugal was all praises, and words of admiration. I was all smiles sharing stories about Portugal, and I feel genuinely happy reminiscing every bit of my experience. When someone asks me why I speak so much joy and love for this Iberian nation, I end up being speechless just because.

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You know that feeling when you are in love and you are being asked what made you fell for that person you love? You just can’t put it into words. I try, but, I think I am failing big time. I mean, I have lots of reasons in mind but I just can’t seem to find the proper way to put them into words. It felt like Portugal and I were fated for each other. Hahaha. Okay, I may be a little exaggerated. Nonetheless, I will try one more time in this write-up to share reasons why “a feeling of certainty” came over me when I was in Portugal. I hope that the photographs I took will suffice what you would perceive maybe lacking later on.

I find Portugal’s Porto and Lisbon to be vibrant, and really charming. It felt like these cities have a pinch of something from the various European cities I have visited since last year. I’d be hypocritical if I’d say I didn’t set some expectations prior to my visit. Having been elected as the BEST European destination for 3 years — 2012, 2014 and 2017, Porto, specifically made me really excited. But I had to manage my expectations as well since I was already getting jaded of seeing street murals, cobblestone streets, historical monuments, museums, and the like. BUT, both Lisbon and Porto will prove you and your anticipated boredom, mistaken!

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Porto is amazing BECAUSE:
The view overlooking the Douro River is just impeccable. The colorful houses that dot the riverside, the Dom Luis metal bridge, the sighting of the Rabelo boats, the unsullied cold air wafting at my cheeks while atop Mostero da Serra do Pilar – were just too good to be true. Except that they were real and really lovely.

Walking along the narrow (and sometimes confusing) cobblestone streets seem to have transported me back in time. Every corner of which is “instagrammable”, hence one MUST stop every now and then to capture some moments.

It’s romantic! How do we know that a place is romantic? We just do! Or maybe the old art deco cafes, the street graffiti, and other architectural wonders (from churches to museum to apartments) within the city all contribute to this romantic sense.

Just like Lisbon, the mode of transportation, especially their tram and train, are not just cool ways to travel but are also aesthetically delightful pieces you’ll see in Porto.

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Lisbon is love BECAUSE:

Food is splendid. From the renowned “Pastel de nata” (Portuguese tarts) to their bacalhau, and seafood risotto — every restaurant and cafe I ate left me feeling tremendously gratified, without being guilty of spending much on food.

I am such a big fan of murals and street art. Colorful tiled buildings are everywhere. One thing I have noticed while walking along the streets of Lisbon, graffiti on walls (even houses), and abandoned buildings (with some garbage) are everywhere. BUT, unlike other cities I have seen with this similar depiction, I didn’t feel perilous. Instead, the shabby vibe added to the charm I mentioned earlier. It made Lisbon have a more distinct personality.

I love long walks through meandering and hilly paths. Reaching the top portion of these hills (whether you are on a castle or some random viewpoint within the city), you will be rewarded with an all-encompassing view of the city and its picturesque classic red-roof houses.

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I love the people I have met. As my travels get more frequent, the people I meet in a certain place is now a big factor towards the creation of a long-lasting impression. And the Portuguese surely made a positive impact on me for they are genuinely helpful and approachable (especially in time s I find myself getting lost). Special shout out to the staff/people I met at the hostel I stayed at!

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There are other reasons why I fell in love with Portugal but I am leaving those for you to find out. I left Portugal with admiration and respect. The way it impressed me has been lingering since I got back home here in the Philippines. It made me realize that just like people, only a few places will leave a lasting impression. And now, I have come to recognize why a lot of people speak highly of Portugal. I do, too, now. And as my plane took off from the Humberto Delgado Airport, I said my prayers of gratitude and hoped that soon, I will get to see Portugal again.

Most of my travels started as a dream, which eventually became part of my goals. I did put them into writing, wrote down possible steps how to achieve them. I directly and indirectly claimed they will happen. And guess what? A lot of them already did.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy.