Just as soon as I started getting used to life in the UK, I found myself on a plane to Portugal mid-month to immerse myself in a new language and culture completely.
You would think after all my years of travel I would have little to no culture shock by now when arriving in new places, but I always forget how challenging the first couple weeks can be in a new country, especially non-English speaking ones, and especially when you plan to live there for awhile (i.e. you’re not just a tourist).
On a whim, I decided to base myself in Porto for a week and a half before my friend Adi from San Francisco arrived at the end of June, and before my sublet started in Lisbon at the beginning of July.
Porto was a good start to my summer in Portugal (partly because it included a lot of wine tasting!), and I’m glad I was able to enjoy a northern city before settling down for awhile in Lisbon.
I’ve only spent about a week in Lisbon, but from what I can tell, Porto is a much more traditional Portuguese city than cosmopolitan Lisbon. That’s not to say you can’t find traditional aspects of Portuguese culture in Lisbon, but I felt much more surrounded by it in Porto.
I also found it much harder to speak English in Porto than in Lisbon, where almost everyone who works in the service industry knows at least a few words.
By the end of the month, Adi flew into Lisbon and we enjoyed a whirlwind week of exploring southern Portugal, including the stunning Algarve region, and even managed to fit in a quick impromptu trip to Seville, Spain.
Besides a nasty bout of the flu while I was in Spain, it was everything I could’ve hoped for. I always love when friends visit from home, and it was even more fun to get to know Portugal, a completely new country for me, with someone who I already know and enjoy spending time with.
Without further ado, this was my June!
PLACES & MEMORIES
London | My June started with me still in London and moved into my short sublet in Fulham. I spent most of my two weeks in the city sightseeing (the options are truly endless), going to events around the city, and catching up on work.
My friend Laura invited me to the Stoke Newington Literary Fest, and we spent a sunny Sunday going to different talks around the neighborhood – ranging from topics about travel to Trump & Putin – and trying my first proper Sunday Roast.
I took a day trip to Bath and Stonehenge mid-week, and realized how many more English cities I need to visit on subsequent trips, because I absolutely loved Bath and its traditional English vibe.
I also managed to fit in visiting a few more peaceful places around the city to do research for this post, with the most notable spot probably being the expansive and impressive Kew Gardens. The rest of my time I went on more lunch dates with old friends, and took advantage of the free museums (anyone else in love with the fact that all the museums are free in London!?).
Porto | After one night in Lisbon, I took the three hour train up to Porto to check out the beloved northern city for just over a week. I found beautiful blue azulejos (Portuguese ceramic tiles) all over the city, a relaxing riverside with a gorgeous view of the Dom Luís I Bridge, and plenty of sights and tours to fill my days in between work. I even stumbled upon a beer festival my first few days in town.
I especially loved the tours run by Porto Walkers – so much that I ended up going on every single one of their tours except for the pub crawl because I ran out of time. (Note: I wasn’t sponsored, I just loved their tours that much).
I went on their two historical walking tours to learn more about the history of Porto and Portugal as a whole, including the divisive dictatorships and past wars that the country has faced, and I also enjoyed their Port Wine Tour and Tapas & Vinho Verde tour.
It’s a fact that you have to drink wine while you’re in Porto, especially Port. I was glad to be able to do that with some background facts and a good group of other travelers.
My last day in Porto was the start of Festa de São João do Porto, where everyone drinks in the streets and hits each other on the head with plastic hammers, but I was only able to stay for part of it before jumping on a night train to Lisbon to meet Adi at the airport the next day.
Évora | Évora was the first stop on my trip with Adi and we unfortunately found it to be a completely dead, although beautiful, little city since we arrived on a Sunday and almost everything was closed.
We made the best of it by staying in the special suite at a historic Pousada that used to be convent. Our room used to be a Monk’s Library and it is probably the most impressive hotel room I have ever stayed in, especially with the 16th century art on the ceiling.
And even with most things closed, Évora was a picturesque city that was perfect for getting lost in its winding cobblestone streets full of white and yellow buildings.
Seville | Once Adi realized how close we were to Spain, he asked me if I would be down for a spontaneous trip to Seville for a couple of days. Since I had never been to Spain either and Seville is a place I had already set my sights on to visit this summer, I didn’t need much convincing to cross country borders.
Unfortunately, my body had other plans for me and I ended up coming down with a bad flu and high fever my first night in Seville. I managed to fit in one Flamenco show and a few tapas before I realized I had to call it a night because my head was throbbing and my skin was hot to touch.
Adi somehow came out unscathed without getting sick at all even though he took care of me for the next two days, bringing me food and company and making me laugh when it felt like I was on my deathbed. Okay, maybe that’s an over-exaggeration, but I felt pretty terrible.
On our last day, since I was feeling about about 60% better and could walk around for more than an hour without having to lay down, we tried to fit in as much sightseeing around the city as possible, seeing the grand Seville Cathedral, Giralda, and Alcázar of Seville (aka where they filmed the Dorne scenes in Game of Thrones!!).
Even with the little bit of the city that I saw, I could tell that Seville is a captivating city and one that I want to explore properly someday soon when I’m feeling better.
The Algarve | Our time in the Algarve was cut slightly short due to our excitement over Spain, but we still fit in a couple of cities and got a taste for why this area has become so popular with tourists in recent years – hint: because it’s drop-dead gorgeous.
The first place we stayed was in the small fishing city of Tavira, which, even with its now touristy nature, still felt like it was stuck in another time. There wasn’t a whole lot to see in Tavira, but it is a good base for day trips and for simply relaxing near the ocean.
The second spot we stayed at was on the other side of the coast in the popular Lagos (pronounced “La-goosh”), and it was just as pretty as the guidebooks made it out to be.
We did an afternoon boat tour to explore some of the limestone caves around this part of the coastline, tackled most of the popular and very scenic Seven Hanging Valleys Trail, and experienced the nightlife in Lagos for our last night (which was nothing to write home about – it was mostly backpacker bars full of young drunk Brits and Aussies).
On our way back to Lisbon the next day we took our time exploring more of the coastline, stopping in at Praia Dona Ana, Camilo Beach, Ponta da Piedade, and the more local and secluded Praia da Bordeira further up the coast.
Lisbon | And finally, we made it back to Lisbon at the very end of the month. For our first night, we stayed at one last nice AirBnB with a lovely private patio view of the red rooftops over Lisbon.
We watched the heartbreaking Portugal vs. Uruguay World Cup game in Praça do Comércio with the rest of the city, experienced the famous Lisbon nightlife (much better than Lagos’) where clubs don’t close until 6am, and went to our first live Fado show at a local tavern in Barrio Alto.
Adi helped me move into my sublet on the 1st of July and we had one last evening to explore the romantic streets of Alfama together (and share a ridiculously delicious churro filled with Kinder bar), before parting ways the next morning.
Similar to Men Explain Things to Me, Bad Feminist is a collection of (mostly) feminist-inspired essays, however I enjoyed reading the latter much more than the former as I found it to have more depth and intersectionality.
Being a Haitian-American, Gay tackles the issue of race in mainstream feminism and all the ways she might not fit into what people think of as a ‘traditional’ feminist, and how that’s okay.
Some of her essays might come off as a bit too rambling or unfocused at times, but as a whole I enjoyed reading her perspective on a range of topics from popular songs that degrade women, to books like 50 Shades of Gray, and what it’s like to be a black feminist in America.
In general, I’m not huge on essays, I much prefer to be immersed in long-form stories, but I resonated with a decent chunk of Gay’s writing, learned some things in the process, and enjoyed reading most of her essays.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was a completely different perspective from a guy who likes to swear a lot and likes to tell it like it is (although it did feel a bit put on at times).
Contrary to what you might think from hearing the title, Manson isn’t recommending not giving a fuck about anything, but instead choosing wisely what you give a fuck about. He argues that true happiness doesn’t come with always staying positive, but by keeping it real and allowing yourself to feel what you really feel, while learning how to not care about social pressure.
Honestly, there wasn’t any new epiphany I got from reading this book and there wasn’t anything in here that I haven’t read or thought about before at some point or another, but it was still a good reminder to not sweat the little things and to not care so much about what other people think.
My new show obsession this month was – SUITS!
I mainly started watching it because I was in England and Meghan and Harry’s wedding had just happened recently, and I wanted to see what all the fuss over the show was about. I’ve heard too many people rave about it over the years. And now, I finally get why.
Although I find Meghan’s character a bit insufferable at times (anyone else?), as soon as I got into the storyline and characters I was hooked.
I binge watched the first couple of seasons in June (damn you Netflix!), and I’m still going strong with watching multiple episodes a week. This is mainly what I blame my lack of productivity on, as well as traveling a lot this month.
I just moved into my sublet in Lisbon this week and I’m slowly setting up my summer and getting settled in the city.
I’ve already signed up for intensive Portuguese classes twice a week (my first class was last Thursday!), and I also plan to take regular kickboxing and yoga classes while I’m here. I’m even looking for a good coworking space to work at part-time this summer, to get serious about my work and productivity.
I plan to mainly stay around Lisbon for July. After a couple months of travels around Iceland, the UK, and other parts of Portugal, I’m happy to finally be in one place again and to have a bright room in a good location to unpack my bags and start setting down some temporary roots.
The past two weeks have been quite the start to my summer in Portugal, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next couple of months have in store for me.
Until next month! x
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