Heat Wave 2015: Spain & Portugal

I wish I had blogged about our last year’s trip to Spain and Portugal sooner but blogging wasn’t really part of my priorities back then. Now, nine months later, I am trying to gather all the photos we have taken, checking my journal to refresh my memory, and collecting our invoices from that trip for the prices of our activities to share it all with you.

Planning

At the start of 2015, and by that I mean literally on New Year’s Day, we have chosen our summer getaway destinations, picked out the dates, and booked our flights. The plan was to leave for Barcelona and come back from Lisbon two weeks later. Then we hit the maps to find some other cities between these two that we can check out along the way. So that day we had come up with these cities, and in this order:

Barcelona → Valencia → Madrid → Lisbon

That was the easy part, though. The hard part was, of course, the waiting game! Waiting seven months for a holiday was just dreadful but, on the bright side, we’ve had enough time to organise everything else like transfer from city to city, accommodation, and the like. Also, knowing you have something to look forward to has helped a LOT.

Outline

July 16-20, 2015 – left for Barcelona from Berlin SXF with EasyJet. Booked a private room via Airbnb for four nights (but ended up having the place to ourselves because our host was away). Airbnb 92 € for 4 nights / EasyJet flight – 133,58 € for two BER – BCN

July 20-23, 2015 – left for Valencia via ALSA Bus (ca. 4h bus ride). Booked a private room via Airbnb – 51 € for 3 nights / ALSA bus ride – 20,- € each

July 23-26, 2015 – left for Madrid with Avanza Bus (ca. 4h bus ride). Booked a private room via Airbnb – 58 € for 3 nights / Avanza bus ride – 29,75 € each

July 26-27, 2015 – left for Lisbon via Renfe Trenhotel (night train, ca. 10h 30m ride). Standard tourist bed in cabin for 4 people 37,80 € per person.

July 27-28, 2015 – Arrived in Lisbon. Booked a hotel room with shared bathroom for three nights – 40 € per night. Ended up canceling after first night without refund.

July 28-30, 2015 – Rented a car and drove to Sintra. Booked a private room via Airbnb (more like a suite for we had our own bathroom, and the place had a garden and swimming pool). Car: 165,- € for 3 days. Airbnb – 112,- € for 2 nights.

July 30-31, 2015 (night) – watched a movie until around 3:00 AM then went to the airport and stayed there until it was time for the first flight out back to Berlin SXF.

The highlights of each city can be found in individual post with the links below:

Barcelona → Valencia → Madrid → Lisbon

Lisbon and Sintra

July 27, 2015

Our planned last stop was Lisbon. We had a bit of trouble finding an Airbnb here because we have mistakenly booked one early on including the one night we were to sleep in the night train. We, of course, refused to pay double for that one night so we asked to move our check in date to the next day. The host didn’t agree, though, so we just canceled the whole deal (with free cancellation) and tried to look for another place. By this time, our trip was only two months away and all the cheap apartments with good reviews were gone. So we bit our tongues and booked a hotel room.

Hotel Macedo for three nights: 120,- €

Allergic reaction

While we were walking to our hotel that morning, I suddenly felt a burn on my bare shoulder. At first I thought it was a cigarette thrown from one of the balconies above that so happened to land on my bare skin. So when I looked, I was surprised to see a wasp! I had never been stung by a wasp before so I didn’t know what would happen next but soon after, I felt my throat closing up and I was short of breath. Good thing I’ve got some AH with me because of an unrelated incident that happened a few weeks prior where I also reacted badly to something I still haven’t figured out yet so I made sure to always keep some AH handy especially while traveling. I started breathing again almost immediately after taking the pill. The swelling on my shoulder was still there but it was gone completely by afternoon.

After we got checked in, we started to explore the old town. I did not do much research about Lisbon so I did not know what to expect. Oh, but it was gorgeous! The town’s aesthetic, the water, and the cool wind from the atlantic have made it easier to walk around. We decided to check out the Elevador de Sta. Justa. It’s an old urban lift completed in 1902 that takes you from the lower streets of Baixa to a higher part of town. We rode the lift for free because we had a public transportation ticket but you might want to check out the view up stairs for a small fee.

Entrance fee for viewing platform (per person): 1,50 €
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Like, seriously, you gotta see this for yourself.

July 28, 2015

We took a long walk up (more like, a hike) to Castelo São Jorge on this day only to find out on the way down that there is an elevator. The walk was uneventful but the view from up there, again, was magnificent.

Entrance fee at Castelo São Jorge per person: 8,50 €

Finally, we’ve had enough of our city tours. We had never done anything like this before and we had no idea how exhausting it could be. At this point we just wanted to relax and unwind before finally going back home and, with just two nights left, we decided to ditch our hotel and go to a relaxing place called Sintra. It’s just outside of the city and it’s famous for its castles and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So after we booked our Airbnb, we had to rent a car to get there because it was otherwise not possible to get to the house.

Rental car for three days: 165,- €
Airbnb private room for two nights with breakfast: 112,- €

July 29, 2015

We got to our Airbnb rather late the night before so all we could do was rest. In the morning, breakfast was served in the garden. The place was so lovely and it had a swimming pool and our room had its own bathroom so it was more like a suite. One of our hosts then gave us a map and some tips for places we could go to. We chose three destinations out of seven, and we got a combination ticket for it. On this day, we only visited one of them, which was Palácio de Monserrate or Palace of Monserrate. 

Combination tickets for three out of seven destinations (per person): 26,78 €
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Ceiling of Palace of Monserrate

We went back to our Airbnb for a short swim then we went out to look for a grocery store. I guess we drove a bit too far out because, at the end of the road, we found a beach!

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Praia do Magoito is a small surfer beach on the Atlantic coast. The waves are pretty strong here and the water is really cold even in the afternoon! It took me a lot of courage to take a dip because I couldn’t feel my toes anymore but when I did, it was the most liberating experience! There is no entrance fee to the beach but there are also no lockers so we went in individually. There’s also a small bistro so you don’t go hungry.

July 30, 2015

It was our last full day in Portugal and we said our goodbyes to our hosts and headed to our two remaining castles namely Palácio Nacional da Pena or National Palace of Pena and Castelo dos Mouros or  Moorish Castle, respectively. Palace of Pena is a Romanticist palace and probably the most popular one in the area because of its colourful front.

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Moorish Castle, on the other hand, is a medieval castle that has more of an eerie feel to it.

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We went back to the city after our tours and just looked around for souvenirs and to see other places we have missed out.

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Not the Golden Gate bridge but Ponte 25 de Abril connecting Lisbon and Almada

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Not Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro but Christ the King of Almada, Portugal

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Torre de Belém

At around 10:00PM that night, it was finally time to return our car but our flight wasn’t until the next morning. We did not book a room for the night because we were to take the first flight back home at around 6:00AM and we thought we could spare ourselves the trouble of finding a place for the few hours, not to mention finding a way to get to the airport that early. The plan was to sit around inside the airport but we found out there was a shopping mall nearby (Centro Colombo) that was open until midnight so we went there and had dinner and bought some snacks for the road. We also found out that the Portuguese liked watching Hollywood movies undubbed or in their original versions (that just isn’t the case back here in Germany) so we watched Paper Towns (the movie just came out at the time) which started after midnight and we were out at around 3:00AM. And with that, we only had a few hours to kill off at the airport and that’s how we saved one night of hotel costs. 🙂

July 31, 2015

I am just so glad everything worked out the way it did. This whole vacation had been such a great learning experience for us especially when it comes to planning our next travels. We’ve learned how it’s alright to make mistakes, be spontaneous, and to spend a little more than what we’re comfortable with if it meant a better experience. I remember getting back home and we were still in such a haze and we just sat in the park across the street (which we’d never done before) at night talking about the past two weeks we’ve just had. Coincidentally, there was also a Blue Moon that night.