I was in Portugal this past week, spending time with my friend Laura from Texas.
Every time I meet her, we spend hours just talking. So it doesn’t actually matter where we go. One year we spent a whole week at my place just relaxing, painting and catching up.
But here we were in Lisbon and Porto where there is stuff to see and things to do.
We met up at our Airbnb, and after the hugs and a first catchup we realized that we had no plan and not even a book to guide us around the city. Right…
We took the advice of our Airbnb host Carlota and took an Uber (instead of a taxi) and ended up in Rafael’s car who gave us lots of advice for the days to come.
Our first restaurant was Rio Maravilha at LX Factory with a wonderful view over the Tagus river.
So our first night without a plan was a success.
The next morning we had breakfast in the tiny cafe under our apartment and decided to just walk the streets of Lisbon according to the right left right left method. We ‘accidentally’ seemed to end up in all the most lovely places!
I must admit that I do have a pretty good overall sense of direction. And it’s hard to really get lost in a big city because there are big landmarks like churches and towers and a river or tram lines that give you an idea of where you are.
Then again, I believe there is something else guiding us and it is our intuition. Unfortunately we live in a world that is so full of noise and electronics that we do not really hear or have a need for our inner voice.
A holiday though is the perfect place and time to start tapping into that. Especially when you have no guide book, no cell phone data plan and no stressful travel partners who ‘want to see it all’.
For two days we had been happily roaming the streets without a map or gps. We ‘got lost’ only once. Or we thought we did. Only to find out minutes later, that we were in the street just below our apartment!
The next day, we wanted to find a specific bar and restaurant that was recommended to us. We uber’ed it to the bar. It was closing as we arrived. On to the restaurant, we used our phone’s gps and got completely lost and actually passed the place a few times without noticing it.
The restaurant was also closed. It was as if the Universe was telling us ‘girls, what was wrong with roaming the streets freely with no plan and letting me do the guiding?’ So we ditched plans and gps and found ourselves in a tiny Italian street food place that served excellent padinas and had a sweet waiter boy.
All was good and in Balance again.
While roaming the Lisbon streets, we took many pictures of tiles, trams and churches which we posted on Instagram for the world to see. The world turned out to be a rally reporter friend covering the World Rally Championships in Porto and we agreed to meet for dinner in a few days.
After three days in Lisbon we had decided to go to Porto, by train.
Years ago I would have fretted about figuring out schedules, prices and reserving seats in advance. No more.
At the counter we debated going first class (cause we can) but went for 2nd class thus saving money for dinner. There were however no two seats together in the driving direction of the train, and we agreed on two aisle seats in the same row.
And that ‘going with he flow’ decision put us next to Ali, who was on her way to do the Camino. We had wonderful conversations with her and found lots of similarities and common interests. We agreed to meet up for dinner.
Our Porto Airbnb place was a little centrally located house from which we could easily get to the sights and take pictures of more tiles.
In the evening we met with our serendipitous friends and had a typical Portuguese dinner at Taska which was really good and cheap as hell.
Back In Lisbon we wanted to take an Uber to our next Airbnb apartment. However, there was a lot of constructions going on so most little roads put to the place were closed. We had to take a detour and sell of s sudden the whole ‘going with the flow’ became less easy. Getting closer to the apartment, it seemed that the whole area was blocked off by police because of some street fight. Where? Just underneath the windows of our first Airbnb place! Looked like we missed out on all the action by a few days!
We got off the Uber and decided to walk down the hill with our luggage – not an easy undertaking in cobblestones, hilly and staircased Lisbon. I hear someone call my name but thought I must have been mistaken. But no, our friends whom we were to meet later for dinner were in that exact same street at that exact same moment we got off. What are the odds of that?
So that’s what that detour was all about!
We joined them later for dinner at Cantinho do Avillez, a restaurant by famous Portuguese chef and had a lovely time afterwards listening to some music in a wine bar.
The following day we had a short trip to Sintra to visit the palace and the Moorish castle which are both stunning.
So the bottom line of this trip is:
- Having no plan is the best plan
- Serendipity is EVERYWHERE
- Detours happen for a reason
- Go with the flow, you’re on holiday