This weekend marked our first bit of solo travel! Perhaps the first trip I’ve ever taken without adult supervision… I mean we’re all 18…. (: All things considered, the trip went great! It was a huge success.
We began our adventure on the bus from Seville, Spain to Portimão, Portugal. About 4 hours on the bus later, we arrived. The border, or lack thereof between the two countries could be likened to the border between Texas and New Mexico. We crossed a bridge without slowing down and voila! We’re in Portugal. No passport control, no sign, nothing. The only way to tell was to check Google Maps. The ride itself, while quite long, was incredibly scenic. Rivers, farms and trees galore. It was beautiful.
Once we arrived in Portugal, we grabbed a few Ubers and headed to our Airbnb home. We were a little surprised to realize we were in a quieter, wealthier area, Armação de Pêra, about 15 minutes from the much larger and livelier city of Albufeira. A little worrisome at first, but a fear that quickly faded into the background. We got settled in our lovely 10 person home and a small group of us ventured out to find our other Airbnb, big enough for the remaining 2 folks, while another group headed to the nearby grocery store for food and drinks. We settled in nicely, everyone claiming a bed, except for yours truly, who ended up on the, surprisingly comfortable, couch.
Our first night, we headed out for some authentic Portuguese food. I had fresh swordfish and we all tried the Portuguese green wine, it was pretty good. We finished dinner and thought we’d stop by the beach, an absolute beauty! We retired home and spent the night hanging out at the house and in the pool. And for some, still unknown, reason, there were fireworks over the water! Perhaps celebrating our arrival? A great night, all in all.
The first (and last day) we made the most of our time. During the day, we hung out on the beach, a sight to see. It was like something you’d use as a screensaver. We tried to take a boat tour of some nearby caves, but due to a nearby hurricane, the water was to choppy. We had another portuguese meal, this time I opted for Chicken Piri Piri. Delicious again! And the view only made it one hundred times better. After eating, we headed to a nearby lookout point for the view, famous as a place to get married. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It’s hard to believe that all we have to thank for it is mother nature.
That night, a few of us decided to head to the nearby city of Albufeira to experience more Portuguese cuisine and some of the nightlife. We were directed to an area known as ‘The Strip.’ The night was good, although very touristy. Food and drinks were pricey, and every place we passed had someone stationed outside to lure tourists in. We called it a night early and headed back to our house.
The next morning, some folks considered going back to the lookout point for the sunrise at 7, but none actually made it. We had a relaxing morning, and thoroughly cleaned up the house. Did the dishes, stripped the beds, swept, etc. We ordered a couple of Ubers (with a massive wait time of 20 minutes) and headed to the bus station. Luckily the Portuguese Uber drivers all drove like they were being chased, so we made it to the station with about 10 minutes to spare. The ride home was short and sweet, on account of my sleeping the entire way. I made it home for dinner, and bounced out of bed the next morning for classes. All things considered, it was a great success!
A few observations about Portugal:
Uber is great! They don’t have Uber anywhere in Spain, for legal reasons I believe, but it’s all over Portugal. I had almost forgotten how easy it is! Although one of our group members got taken for a ride on both of her Ubers. (Get it?) Her total for the two came to about 50 EUR, my total for the same two at the same time and place came to closer to 30 EUR. She’s complained… maybe Uber will make it right?
English is everywhere! We expected to stumble over the language at every turn, but in our entire time there, we didn’t meet a single person that didn’t speak English. I’ve been told that it’s a combination of three factors. 1) Tourism is about 25% of the Portuguese economy, so anyone even remotely in the field has to know it. 2) Portugees is really only the main lounge of two large countries, Portugal and Brazil, so most visitors don’t speak it. 3) Movies and TV (Hollywood and Bollywood) are generally not dubbed in portuguese as they are in other languages like Spanish, so in order to enjoy them, people must learn another language, or they learn watching. All the Portuguese I learned: obrigado (thank you).
The cats! There were cats everywhere! We must have seen 50 individual cats in our 2 days there. They were cute, but I could see how they would get irritating. Phoebe had a blast with them! She befriended them and even gave them names! We were all sure she’d bring one home at one point. (she didn’t.)
Lastly, we may not have had adult supervision per say, but we were pretty responsible! The twelve of us left our Airbnbs in tip top shape, no one got hurt or in trouble and we caught both of our busses! At the risk of jinxing the next trip (Morocco this Thursday), I think we did a pretty good job!