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Adventures in Travel: Portugal

By Miriam Rutzen

[Editor's Note: Using the opportunity between jobs to pursue her dreams of travel over the course of one year, Miriam Rutzen of Sciota is sharing this series of her thoughts on her travels and stops along the way over six months, sixteen countries, three continents, and "a great deal of jet lag", she says.

"I made a bet with my dad that I would make it to all seven continents by age 27."

Miriam already had ventured to Australia in 2009 and Europe in 2013 leaving her with only the most difficult-Antarctica. Her first columns were Peru, and Toyko, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore, Germany, London, Scotland and this week is.

Portugal

"What was your favorite destination in all of your travels so far?" Easy. Lisbon, Portugal. Hands down, no question about it!

The stunning colors, the architecture, the music of the city, the transit system, the language, the people. I loved every minute of my 30 hours and would love to someday return.

Quick Facts:

I have heard the remarks numerous times when sharing my stories that :

1) "That must be SO expensive!" and:

2) "I wouldn't even know where to start!"

Actually, you would be surprised the deals you can make when you have a little flexibility on the time factor.

When planning my trip across southern Europe, Lisbon looked like a neat place to check off the list. The only European capital city along the Atlantic Ocean, I loved the idea of saying I had touched foot in both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on this 7-week trip around the world.

Having called an audible that took me north to the UK, all travel decisions occurred only a day in advance.

I checked out the flight prices from Edinburgh to Lisbon and it was reasonable ($147).

Then I brainstormed with my teammate on a place to stay. She recommended using AirBnB.

Finding a beautiful apartment right near downtown Lisbon owned by a guy with copious good reviews,

I booked a room for one night at $38. Add on the additional cost of subway and ferry costs (approx. $40), eating pretty simply (approx. $40), loads of walking and site-seeing ($0), and an outbound flight to Barcelona, Spain for $190, the grand total equaled $455.

A little more planning ahead on the flight purchases and I would have likely spent around $70 on both legs of the trip. To put that price in perspective relative to the wild unpredictability of travel costs: my round trip ticket to Thailand cost $630 total, a one-way flight from Washington D.C. to Peoria cost $95, and looking up a one-way flight from Peoria to New York City for this weekend costs about $250.

Connection:

Not a one. David, who owned the apartment where I stayed, was a gracious host and had great ideas for where to go and what to do. Showing me an excellent map, we chatted about a few ideas before I loaded up my little travel day pack with the essentials for the day: water, snacks, map, money, passport, credit cards, back up portable phone charger, cellphone, and Flat Stanley and the Quill. Bringing along a small hiking day-pack in my tote bag was an ingenious move and one I would highly recommend if you are trying to travel lightly. This kept my hands free, the weight balanced (I could wear it on my back, or front for security purposes), and allowed me to stash the rest of my belongings somewhere safe while I gallivanted around exploring the new world outside my door.

Favorites:

Considering I walked about 15 miles from 10am on Tuesday morning to 5pm on Wednesday evening, the favorites were numerous. Lisbon is a massive port city and lauded as the oldest city in Western Europe. Known for its tile production, the sidewalks, streets, houses, and wall dcor is more often than not beautifully decorated tile. Bright, bold colors, sometimes creating humorous designs; for example, the rabbits holding stopwatches that stretch two stories tall inside one subway station. People pass by on the moving walkway and can't help but slow down a minute to appreciate the art and the irony. The city is incredibly diverse and a popular holiday destination for Europeans and non-Europeans alike. Everyone wore bright colors, often smiled, were polite and kind to all; and not overly talkative but not eerily silent either. I felt like I had lived there my whole life and simply went with the flow. The Portuguese language is soft on the ears, but the whole city hums with the melody of different languages. There are water fountains, open plazas, parks, and statues around every corner. The streets are narrow, but there are plenty of sidewalks. There are TONS of stairs! Up, down, around, over, under-my step count was off the charts. Given my time limitations, I barely explored half of the city. I did make it to the Atlantic Ocean just in time for a stunning sunset.

Challenges:

Because I loved the city so much after my first day of exploring, I grew quite courageous the second day. I knew I wanted to check out the miniature Cristo Rei on the other side of the Tagus River, which would require a ferry ride. The morning started out a little cool and cloudy though, so I changed direction and went off to the inland part of the city to check out a ftbol (soccer) stadium and the University of Lisbon. Based on the atmosphere while I wandered the streets, and later hearing David's exclamation of that being a dumb move, I was fortunate yet again to make it out safe and sound. There are parts of cities tourists should not go and I had managed to check off a few of them on my morning impromptu excursion. The sun did eventually come out so I headed back down to the ferry and then took the bus up the hill to the base of the Cristo Rei overlooking the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge's sister, the Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge. Spectacular. And a great place for a quick nap.

During my short stay in Lisbon, the weather was absolutely perfect: right around 75 F during the day and 50 F during the evenings. The breeze was gentle and smelled delightful. Windows were kept open in all of the apartments, people strolled the streets contentedly, and no one was rushing anywhere. I did find myself near some of the largest shipping vessels I have ever seen in my life, but not being a big fan of ocean travel, they didn't interest me for long. A must see if you ever find yourself in Lisbon is the Time Out Market. All of the very best restaurants have mini booths on one side of the market with a large dining courtyard. On the other side are all sorts of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish. I could have easily spent a fortune there, but knowing I still had a few more countries to hop before going home kept me in check.

Am I glad I went on a trip around the world? 110% Absolutely! Would I do it the same way again? Absolutely not. But for this wild adventure it worked. The next few articles continue the journey through Southern Europe. Keep in mind this hectic 12-day schedule started in Germany, followed by England, Scotland, Portugal, Spain, France, and then a departure flight from Italy to take me to Tokyo. It was crazy. But totally worth it!

Photos of my travels can be found on Facebook or Instagram: mrutzen25 and more in depth stories are chronicled at www.miriamrutzen.blogspot.com.