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.
Have you ever taken a trip with a sibling? How did it go?
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17 thoughts on “A Sibling Trip to Portugal”
I loved seeing you two and hearing about your trip together to Portugal. I enjoyed Lisbon as you did. We heard the singing too, which is different, I loved going to the museum and seeing all the lalique crystal. They have a large collection there.Love, Gamma
I definitely liked Portugal much more than I was ever expecting to, especially Lisbon. I’m jealous of the Portuguese pottery you got. As a potter myself, I would have loved to gotten a chance to see the pottery when I was there and possibly discuss it with the artist. I’m also jealous that you got to have this grand experience with your brother. I’d love to have a similar adventure with mine some day!
Ahh my beloved Portugal! Isn’t it just the best country ever? Your pictures made me miss it even more :)
Well, we’ll just have to go back then, won’t we?
This is the cutest. Your little brother is awesome! Me and my brother would probably last about 6 seconds on a trip together haha. Also loved the photos of Portugal, my grandparents live there for six months of the year every year but I’ve never even seen photos, it looks lovely!
It really is an amazing country so definitely pay your grandparents a visit, how lucky!
I thought the SAME thing about Fado when I was in Lisbon last. Hah. Too funny!
When I lived in south-eastern Turkey, my sister and I would go into the big city near us. It was a ton of fun to get have all those experiences with her. Now that we live in Korea we are planning to do some more travel before I go back to America.
We both look forward to the day when we can go on a long term backpacking trip together though.
That’s so cool you’ve lived around the world together, wow! And I’m hopefully going to do some long-term backpacking with my brother soon… fingers crossed!
Loved to see this story about my country (which I miss)! About the Fado there are many interpretations, you actually went to a place where they might “improvise”, I once went to one that the lady singing was wearing some jogging clothes! ;)
Haha, interesting! I definitely want to go back to Portugal, it was such a quirky, beautiful and mysterious country… I loved it!
Love your Francesinha description – we actually loved the ones we got in Portugal but it was definitely a stomach wrecker.
And gawd your parents must be teh coolest letting a 17 and 15 year old loose in Europe!
Haha they’re pretty awesome! Though if I have kids I highly doubt I would let them do the same. And I could definitely see how a Francesinha could be a stomach wrecker!
Glad that you enjoyed Portugal. It’s not that is my home country, but it really is a bliss. Francesinha normally has more different types of meats – not only sausage hot dogs – like steak, sausage, linguiça, etc. In any case, it’s a caloric bomb!
Haha I can only imagine! I’m guessing it would be great hangover food though :)
Nooo Ashley! You totally missed on the Francesinha! Good thing you took a picture of how yours was.
That is not a “real” francesinha, that’s the cheap-shitty version that no one eats! If I were to guess I’d say you had it at a coffee shop, for maybe 4 or 5 euros, would I be right?
Even at a good place (you should have looked it up on tripadvisor or asked some locals) I would say you’d struggle to find a decent one in the South.
That is a typical dish of the North! Sorry about your experience, you should definitely give it another go next time, at a good place, and this time in Porto. :)
Oh bummer :( Yeah I had no idea what I was doing, this post is from when I was 17. But I’d love to go back to Portugal!
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