So once upon a time in 2008, the summer I took my first backpacking trip through Europe, I decided I wasn’t ready to come home just yet- so I ended up inviting my brother to backpack Spain and Portugal for two and a half weeks.
That may sound fairly kosher, but we were both laughably young at the time- Panda was 15 and I was 17. (Yes, we have awesome parents. And yes, we have weird affectionate nicknames for each other.) When we would introduce ourselves at a hostel, the reaction was generally, “Wait, sorry- he’s 15?”
Our first stop in Portugal was Porto. It was grungy. There were tiles absolutely everywhere. We stayed in a hostel run by an eccentrically lovable Brazilian woman who was as frazzled as her frizzy mane of hair.
Our first activity in Porto was to hunt down the Francesinha sandwich our hostel owner had raved about- and let me tell you, for the rest of our trip we couldn’t stop talking about how vile it was. lt was essentially two slices of soggy Wonderbread loaded with with hot dogs, drenched in the sauce that canned pinto beans come with and broiled with American cheese.
Next, we made a happier discovery- Portuguese pottery. Poor Panda had his backpack loaded to the gills with bowls, mugs and vases because I just couldn’t help myself.
Our next find in Portugal was an adorable tiled chocolate shop where, naturally, we bought a box of chocolates. We were then were inspired to watch one of our favorite movies- Chocolat.
So yes, we spent the rest of the afternoon in Portugal watching a chickflick at the hostel eating box chocolates. Have I mentioned my brother is awesome?
Our final agenda in Porto was to sample some Port. We found a little place right on the river, and tasted Port wines while the Douro glimmered in the background. Our port was of the alcohol-free variety, mind you, because teenage drinking is very bad. Ha.
Next we were off to Lisbon- or as we had fun pronouncing, Lisboa.
Panda on a Lisboa-bound train!
Lisbon in my opinion is one of the world’s most beautiful cities- the crumbling, pastel buildings, the contrast of the orange Spanish terracotta roofs with the bluer than blue Atlantic, the bright purple begonias falling from garden walls. It is also extraordinarily photogenic.
On our last night in Portugal we decided we would class things up with a fancy restaurant meal, complete with Fado- which as I captioned this photo on Facebook as a 17-year old, is, “really weird Portuguese singing.”
I stand by that. I probably have not matured at all, because to me it will always just be “really weird Portuguese singing.” While I’m sure when done properly it’s really beautiful, at this Rick Steves-recommended tourist joint it was… well, interesting.
Overall Panda and I had an incredible, if wacky time in Portugal. We still talk about the trip to this day, and if you have a sibling I highly recommend that you travel with him or her- it’s a great bonding experience that will give you a lifetime’s worth of inside jokes and fond memories.