Travel Diary: Making Memories in Portugal
This post is definitely long overdue. With the closing of our house, diving into renovations, my best friend’s bachelorette in Saratoga Springs, NY, her gorgeous fall wedding in Quebec, and my new job being busier than ever we have definitely had our hands full. That being said, I’ve been dying to share about our adventurous family holiday in Portugal.
We spent two weeks driving the entire country, but there was so much to see, and we really only braised the surface. In a 9 passenger van, Mike, Kayla, their two cousins Melanie and Michelle, Melanie’s long time boyfriend Justin and I started out driving from the Lisbon airport to the tiny town Mike’s mom, Lidia, grew up in. Lidia’s parents still live in that same small town, and it was very special to hear about all of the childhood memories Mike, Kayla and their cousins shared while seeing first hand where it all happened. Mike’s parents were also visiting Portugal while we were there, and they were thrilled to have us all visiting at once. After all, it was Justin and I’s first time in Portugal, and it had been 15 years since the cousins traveled together.
Every morning Lidia ventured out to the bakery a few steps away, and came back bearing the freshest bread I have ever eaten. It was so delicious, and piping hot that I ate it plain (no butter, no jam, just bread) every morning with my cup of coffee. It was a treat to spend most mornings sitting around the table with family, especially Lidia’s mom, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time on this trip. She was juggling a lot, as her husband is quite ill, but it was easy to see that despite her current struggles, she was beyond happy to be surrounded by loved ones. She doesn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Portuguese, but her simple state and kind heart made it easy for me to understand her. She invited me into her home with open arms, and hugged me with all her heart when I left.
Most days we got up early, ate our amazing fresh bread, and headed out to a new location. We visited Obidos on one of the first days of our trip, and I was instantly blown away. It is a picturesque castle on a hill, surrounded by a colourful, cobblestone village. It was remarkably beautiful, and was one of my favourite places we visited. Between the coloured tiles, and the flowers, I was in heaven.
Although it was just the start of our vacation I knew that was just the first of many insanely beautiful sites we would see, and I was right. In the days to follow we saw castles, caves, beaches like you’ve never seen before, exquisite architecture, historical monuments and churches. That country is like a dream, but the best part (for me anyway) was seeing the back country and villages.
Both of Mike’s grandparents have homes in two different towns. Winding roads and tons of roundabouts leading you through a million tiny villages, all a little different than the last, but each equally charming. His mom’s parents, who live in Portugal full time, live on the south shore in Burfarda (a tiny farm filled town close to the surfing village of Peniche), and his dad’s parents who live there 6 months of the year have a house in the Northern tip of the country in Pardilho (another small village about 40 minutes from gorgeous Porto). That made it convenient for us to literally see the majority of Portugal in all it’s glory. We were so lucky to be able to visit touristy sites as well as spend time sharing family dinners, and making a ton of memories.
Visiting Mike’s dad, Americo’s, parents in the North was a lot of fun. I know them well, as they live in Hearst 6 months of the year, and we get to see them fairly often. They were very excited to have us all over, and they did what most European grandparents do, feed us. ALL. THE. TIME. The family dinners were absolutely hilarious (and delicious). Especially the one that ended with us all screaming and standing on chairs when Mike’s grandpa caught a quick scurrying mouse with his bare hands. After our initial shock, we all buckled over in stitches laughing, and each confessed how scared we were of finding another mouse in the house (well the girls anyways)!
Of all the memories made on our holiday, the highlight was when Mike’s cousin, Melanie, and her long time boyfriend, Justin, got engaged. After a day of adventuring around Obidos, we headed over to the remarkable rocky cliff in Peniche where Lidia and Americo took their wedding photos 30 years earlier. Lidia smiled from ear-to-ear telling us about how this very spot was her favourite place in Portugal. Little did we know, Justin was locked and loaded with one serious diamond, setting up his soon to be sister-in-law (Michelle) with his DSLR, and prepping to get down on one knee. It couldn’t have been more beautiful, and we were all so incredibly touched to be a part of such a cherished memory for Melanie and Justin.
Being the motivated tourists we are, I have a ton more to share about our picturesque Portuguese holiday, but that will have to wait for another day…
Until next time!