Sintra, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal in 1 Day

 

I hope you have more than 1 day to spend in Sintra, Portugal, but in case you don’t, I’m going to tell you how to make the most of your day-trip to Sintra. We made a number of driving mistakes when visiting Sintra, and it cost us hours out of our day where we could have been sight-seeing.

 

Before I get into the best things to do in Sintra, Portugal I am going to give you a few tips on how to make the most of your time there.

 

DON’T DRIVE TO EACH ATTRACTION

While it’s true that you can drive to Sintra and drive from sight to sight, I don’t recommend it in the slightest. Driving is difficult there – the roads are beyond tiny, and the streets are small, steep, and winding. When we went, it was also so foggy that we could barely see a couple feet in front of us. We were also in a van, which was almost too big to even drive on some of the roads. It was doable, but if I could do it again, I wouldn’t have driven a van into the center of Sintra.

 

The other issue is our GPS had no idea where we were. We were probably ¼ of a mile away from one of the places we were trying to see, and the GPS took us in the wrong direction and we ended up driving around for literally 2 hours trying to figure out where to go. We only had 1 day for Sintra travel, so wasting that much time driving around was not fun.

 

A good option is to just take a full day tour to Sintra from Lisbon, where they take you to the main attractions and are responsible for getting you to and from these attractions.

 

Alternatively, you could just get yourself into Sintra (bus, drive) and then take the bus/walk to the sights that you want to see. Honestly, if I ever go back to Sintra, I think I would pay the extra money for a tour, unless I had more than 1 day there. Trying to get everywhere and mapping it all out to fit into one day was incredibly difficult. Paying the extra money to have someone take us to where we needed to go would have been more than worth it. I think driving around for 2 hours and almost getting stuck on the tiny roads has scarred me a little bit – it’s probably not as difficult as I’m making it seem to make your way around Sintra without a tour.

 

After doing a lot of research, it seems it would be easy to take the bus to most of the attractions I recommend seeing, so that’s probably a more cost-effective option than taking a tour.

 

 

WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES

Everything worth seeing in Sintra is going to involve a significant amount of walking. Wear something comfortable that you can walk around in all day. For example, Pena Palace has the grounds around the palace, and we walked around there for at least 2 hours. If we weren’t wearing sneakers or comfortable shoes, there’s no way we would have been able to do that comfortable, or probably at all.

 

WEAR/BRING LAYERS

It seems that Sintra, Portugal is around 10 degrees (F) colder than Lisbon, so make sure you wear or at least bring layers. Once you’re up on top of those windy roads and in the grounds around the Palace, the wind picks up and it’s a bit chilly, even in the heart of the summer when we were there.

 

So if you only have 1 day in Sintra, Portugal here’s what I recommend seeing.

 

Pena Palace – Pena Palace is almost indescribable. The entire town of Sintra is kind of magical and fairy-tale like, but once you get to Pena Palace, it’s like you’ve arrived in a different land. It almost looks like a Disney World castle, but it’s so much more than that. The palace itself is beautiful and historic – it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site – but the most amazing part of the visit to Pena Palace was the grounds and gardens around the palace. We spent at least 2 hours exploring the area around the palace. The Palace sits at the top of a hill, and all around the palace, there are paths, bridges, plants, churches, and so much more. It’s like exploring a magical forest – it’s honestly so incredible that it’s difficult to describe. Make sure you visit the High Cross when exploring the grounds around the palace. Grab a map on your way in so you know where you’re going! When we went, there was so much fog that we couldn’t see too far in front of us, which made it feel so much more surreal.  If there’s one place you must visit when you’re in Sintra, it’s the Pena Palace! I recommend getting a skip the line ticket for this one to make sure you don’t waste time standing in line.

 

 

 

 

The Castle of the Moors – also a must visit when you’re in Sintra. The castle sits atop a hilltop, and is one of the most incredible expansive castles you could imagine. The castle is also classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Views from the castle are said to be phenomenal – the day we were in Sintra, it was too foggy to see much of anything. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for something fun to do while on vacation, this place is a must-see. It may be worth getting a skip the line ticket for this one.

 

photo credit @mandi.photography

                                                                    

 

Quinta da Regaleira – probably my biggest regret of our trip to Portugal is that we didn’t get to see this place. We chose to see the Palace of Monseratte instead, and I regret it quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the Palace of Monseratte was nice and worth visiting if you have the time, but if you only have 1 day in Sintra, go see Quinta da Regaleira instead! We had planned on coming here but because of our driving mishap, we just didn’t have the time to get here. I strongly suggest putting this on the top of your list. Based on all the research I’ve done, this seems like one of the best places to visit while you’re in Sintra. There’s so much to explore and see there, like bridges, towers, underground passageways, wells, waterfalls, and so much more! I wish we had found the time to see this place when we visited!

 

 

 

Convent of the Capuchos – if you have time, I would add this to the list. Not surprisingly, we didn’t have time to visit this, but I really wish we had. I’ve seen some incredible pictures and it looks like a place worth visiting.

 

Once you get to Sintra, you can take bus 435 to Quinta da Regaleira. From there, you can wait for the 434 bus, which will take you directly to Pena Palace. Once you’re finished with Pena Palace, you can just walk a few minutes down the road to get to the castle. If you don’t feel like taking the bus, you can probably find a Tuk Tuk to take you to any of these sights. It doesn’t look like the bus takes you to the Convent of the Capuchos – it looks like the best way to see this would be to take a taxi or a Tuk Tuk.

 

If you plan properly and know what bus to take or how to get to where you want to go, you should have time to see all 4 of the places mentioned above, especially if you start your day early. Get to town early and take the bus to the sights you want to see. Don’t make the mistake we did and drive around for 2 hours!

 

I strongly recommend purchasing skip the line tickets for Pena Palace and the Castle of the Moors if you only have 1 day to spend in Sintra, Portugal. I have read that the lines can get quite lengthy, and you won’t want to waste your day waiting in line when you could be exploring the magical town of Sintra!

Campervan Travel Packing List

If you’re planning a campervan vacation but you’ve never taken one before, there are some things you need to pack that you might not have thought of. When we took our first campervan road trip, it was an incredible experience, but there are definitely some things that we wish we had prepared for. Keep reading to see our travel packing list for a campervan vacation!

 

BEFORE YOU EVEN START PACKING, YOU’LL NEED TO DECIDE WHAT YOU WILL BE PACKING IN

 

Should you pack in a large suitcase, a carry on sized trolley, a duffel bag, a hiking backpack, or something else? My first piece of advice is this: Do NOT pack in a suitcase. Most campervans have pretty limited space, including storage space, unless you’re renting a very large RV or motor home. Even if you are renting something bigger, there’s no reason to take up all of your space with a big suitcase. I wouldn’t even recommend bringing a carry on trolley if you can avoid it.

 

The times we have traveled in a campervan, we have always had a trolley/carry-on suitcase, but that’s because we were traveling to other places before we got the van, and found it easier to roll the trolley around than carry a duffle bag. That being said, once we got into our fairly small van, it would’ve been way better if we had packed in some sort of duffle bag that was smaller and a bit more flexible than a suitcase. It was a pain to need enough space to open our suitcase completely every time we needed to get something. With a duffle bag, we would’ve been able to just reach inside and grab whatever we needed. Keep in mind, bringing a duffle bag means being a bit more organized, because if you just keep throwing stuff back in the bag, you’ll never know where anything is!

 

It’s certainly not a disaster if you feel like you need to bring an actual suitcase, just keep in mind that it may limit your space quite a bit.

 

iceland van inside storage

CARRY ON/TRAVEL BACK PACK OF SOME SORT

 

This could be a small hiking backpack or whatever you normally use as your carry on backpack. It should be small enough that you can put stuff in it and carry it around for the day without being too much of an inconvenience.

 

SMALL PACKABLEWATERPROOF BACKPACK THAT FITS INSIDE OF YOUR CARRY ON BACK PACK

Make sure it’s something that you can empty out and basically shove to the bottom of your carry on and pull it out once you get to your van. If you are hiking or going to the beach, you’ll definitely be happy that you have a small waterproof backpack for your daily essentials. I recommend something like THIS. This is crucial to have on your travel packing list!

 

 

SMALL BAG FOR TOILETRIES

 

This should be something that can hold toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, any soap or travel sized shampoo, things like that. It’s really nice to have all of this stuff in one place so you don’t have to search for these items every morning and night, or throughout the day when you need them. Inside of the toiletries bag, also bring some bandaids, Tylenol/ibuprophen. I also recommend having cortisone cream, bug spray, and sunscreen (if necessary), but if you don’t want to bring all of that stuff with you, you can just go grab it from a store once you get to your van.

 

BABY WIPES, BABY WIPES, BABY WIPES!

 

I can’t say it enough. Bring some baby wipes. Also bring Clorox or something similar. You can usually find the small travel sized packs that will just lay flat in your bag, so they’re easy to transport and bring with you.

 

When a van is your living room, bedroom, and every other room, it can get messy. Having Clorox or something like that to just clean stuff up from time to time is extremely helpful.

 

Baby wipes are great for cleaning your hands, face, etc and I recommend bringing them with you in your day travel bag as well. They can be super helpful if you’re on a long hike or doing something where you won’t be back to the van or a campsite for a while.

 

inside portugal van

 

ANOTHER ITEM THAT WE FOUND TO  BE INCREDIBLY VALUABLE WAS A QUICK DRY TOWEL

 

We almost never had time to really do our laundry (I guess we could’ve made time, but we didn’t want to), so it was awesome to have towels that dried quickly. They were also great to have for day trips to the beach or while hiking, and they can be rolled up and made pretty small so they don’t take up too much space.

 

DON’T FORGET SHOWER SHOES/FLIP FLOPS

 

I remember going to sleepaway camp as a child, and the one thing I always brought with me was shoes to wear in the shower. You’re going to be showering either outside your van (some have portable showers) or in a hostel or a campsite, which may or may not be clean. I’m not usually a ‘germ person’ or very worried about things like this, but taking a shower without having flip flops on is something I wasn’t willing to do! We bought flip flops at the dollar store and the sole purpose was to wear them in the shower and then throw them away before we got on our flight to come home. You’ll be incredibly grateful to have this on your travel packing list!

 

van lunch

DON’T FORGET A CIGARETTE LIGHTER PHONE CHARGER

 

I think all of the vans we have rented have had USB ports where we could charge our phones, but every single time, at least one of the USB ports was broken, so we had no way of efficiently charging all of the things that needed to be charged. Get a charger that has 2 USB ports so that at least 2 things can be charging at the same time. The vans we were in had more than 1 cigarette lighter port, so we could’ve gotten 2 and then been able to charge more items at the same time. It just depends what you have and how often you need to charge them.

 

LONG PHONE CHARGING CABLE

 

Sometimes when we were getting ready for bed, we would want to spend some time on our phones before going to sleep. If it was the end of the day, often our phones were almost dead and we had to be plugged in to do this. With a long charging cable, this is no problem. If we had only had short ones, it would’ve been a bit more annoying. It’s not a disaster if you only have a short one, but a long one is definitely more convenient.

 

PORTABLE EXTERNAL BATTERY

 

On the note of charging things, bring a portable external battery so that when you go on hikes or are going to be away from the van and campsite for a long time, you can recharge your phone if necessary. We used our phone for directions while driving, as well as directions once we got to places to go hiking or wherever it was that we wanted to visit. We also use our phones to take pictures, as we don’t use cameras, so it was very important that our phones had a charge throughout the day.

 

BRING A FLASHLIGHT

 

We had one that used batteries, and one that you could twist to power up. We didn’t want to bring extra batteries so we brought the little twist one just in case. You can probably find extra batteries wherever you are, but we didn’t use the flashlight enough for battery life to be an issue. We used it mostly late at night when we were going from our van to the campsite to get ready for bed or go to the restroom. Some of the campsites we stayed at were super dark and it was helpful to have a small flashlight to guide the way.

 

 

iceland van manu rae

 

 

We had one that used batteries, and one that you could twist to power up. We didn’t want to bring extra batteries so we brought the little twist one just in case. You can probably find extra batteries wherever you are, but we didn’t use the flashlight enough for battery life to be an issue. We used it mostly late at night when we were going from our van to the campsite to get ready for bed or go to the restroom. Some of the campsites we stayed at were super dark and it was helpful to have a small flashlight to guide the way.

 

No matter how many times you make your travel packing list for a campervan vacation, you are probably going to forget something, or end up needing something that you couldn’t have imagined you would need. Usually it’s an easy fix, but no matter what, you’ll figure it out! Just have fun and learn how to make a better travel packing list for your next campervan trip!

 

Overview of our recommended travel packing list when vacationing in a campervan in case you didn’t feel like reading 🙂

 

  • Pack in a duffle bag, not a suitcase
  • Don’t forget a carry on backpack
  • Inside of your carry on backpack, bring a small foldable water proof backpack
  • Small toiletries bag
  • Shoes/flip flops to wear in the shower
  • Quick dry travel towels
  • A travel sized pack (or 2) of baby wipes
  • A travel sized pack of Clorox wipes (or something similar)
  • USB charger that goes into the cigarette lighter
  • LONG phone charger cable
  • Portable external battery pack
  • Small flashlight

 

Have you been on a camper van vacation? What is an absolutely must pack? Anything I’m missing? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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Camper Vans

CAMPER VANS - THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP?

iceland van manu rae

 

Until last year, I didn’t realize the popularity of camper vans. We were planning our trip to Iceland and I was looking for an Airbnb to book in Reykjavik. Additionally, I was going to have to rent a car and then plan out all the rest of our Airbnbs along the way so that we had somewhere to stay. Alternatively, I was just going to rent the car and then figure out where to stay along the way – I figured there’d be hostels or hotels to stay in and since we weren’t going at a busy time, it would’ve probably been okay to do this.

While I was researching places to stay in Reykjavik and other parts of Iceland, an ad for camper rentals popped up. I obviously knew that people traveled in RVs, but I had never really heard of traveling in camper vans before, and I had certainly never thought of it for my own trip.

Once I saw that ad, I started looking into it and researching it more and it became a very appealing option for us. We wanted to travel around Iceland, not just stay in Reykjavik, so a camper van seemed perfect for us. We would have somewhere to sleep at all times and we would also have our rental car – it was 2-in-1 and would make the planning of our trip so much easier.

van lunch

 

I didn’t fully know what to expect. I mean it’s not that complex– you show up and you live in a van and find places to sleep at night – but if you’ve never done it before, it can take some getting used to. We immediately fell in love with traveling this way, so much that it’s our dream to leave everything behind and travel Europe in a camper van! We love being able to go where we want when we want without planning anything in advance. We love being able to stop and eat lunch with some of the most amazing views ever! It’s just an incredible experience.

There are many different things to consider when deciding if you are going to rent a camper van, and then more to consider when deciding which one to rent.

You’ll need to think about price, what your plans are and where you want to travel, if you need a sink, shower, or a toilet, what size you would need your van to be, and more generally, you’ll need to decide if traveling and living in a van is appealing to you.

 

For us, it was easy to pick which campervan to rent. For our trip to Iceland, we basically wanted the cheapest one we could find but one that was obviously still reliable and wasn’t going to break down. We researched companies and found what seemed to be, and in my opinion is, a very reputable camper rentals company – Kukucampers.

 

We got the smallest, most basic model they had. It was a van with a bed and some storage in the back, basically. There was no toilet, no sink, no TV, and no bench or table for eating inside the van. Additionally, they provided us with a hot plate to cook our meals, as well as some plastic plates, bowls, cups, and utensils. The van was stocked with everything we were expecting and we didn’t have any significant complaints.

SMALLER VAN IN ICELAND
iceland van inside
SMALLER V AN IN ICELAND

 

When you get a campervan this small, you can drive it pretty much anywhere. We had no issues driving it through the city and finding places to park because it’s essentially just a small van. If you rent something larger or end up with an RV rental, you would likely have some issues driving through cities with small streets.

 

That being said, there are also some limitations to small camper rentals.  Because there wasn’t even a sink, anytime we needed to brush our teeth or wash our dishes or use water for anything, we needed to stop somewhere – a gas station, a hostel, or a campsite. There’s also no shower or no toilet, so again, this means you have to find somewhere anytime you need to use either of those things.

 

In most countries/cities with camper rentals, this won’t be an issue because there are so many hostels and designated campsites set up all over the country. In peak season it can be difficult because the places get so crowded, but generally you’ll be able to find somewhere if you plan accordingly.

When we went to Portugal and rented a camper van, we got one that was slightly bigger, but still considered a van and not an RV. The bed transformed into a bench, so we could sit and eat inside if we wanted to. Of course this wasn’t really necessary in Portugal because it was so warm outside. In Iceland, we would’ve preferred this type of van because it was below freezing throughout most of our trip in early March.

 

Our van in Portugal also had a sink, which was a huge bonus. We could wash our hands, wash our dishes, and brush our teeth without having to stop anywhere. There was even a hand held ‘shower’ in the back that you could use to rinse off if you didn’t feel like finding a designated campsite to stop at.

van
SLIGHTLY LARGER VAN IN PORTUGAL
inside portugal van
SLIGHTLY LARGER VAN IN PORTUGAL

We again didn’t have a toilet, but we could’ve rented a portable one to keep in the van if we had wanted to. Personally, I’d prefer to stop and find a bathroom than keep a portable toilet in the van and have to empty it all the time.

 

The van we had was still small enough to drive through the small streets in the city, though just barely. If it had been any larger, it would’ve made traveling through the cities far more difficult.

 

We absolutely love the convenience of camper rentals and would travel that way forever if we could. We find the price of the camper van to be pretty on point with paying for accommodations and a rental car.

 

Whether you decide to get a campervan or not will certainly depend on where you’re traveling and what your plans are. If you plan on going to Iceland but all you’re doing is staying in Reykjavik, obviously there’d really be no point in getting the campervan unless you just wanted the experience of living in a van for a little bit. If you want to travel around the country, camper rentals make a lot of sense.

 

If you need to shower every morning and style your hair, maybe a campervan isn’t for you. Or maybe you just need a big fancy RV! We saw a lot of people driving some pretty big campers that had bathrooms, and even had TVs and satellite dishes.

Lunch with a view
LUNCH WITH A VIEW
van lunch view 2
DINNER WITH A VIEW

We also saw people traveling in camper rentals with young children, teenagers, and even dogs, so if this is something you want to do, you can make it happen, even if you’re traveling with a crowd or young children! You can definitely find the right van for you, you just need to figure out what you want and need.

 

We have friends who just have no interest and say there’s no way they’d ever want to travel like that, so if it’s not for you, that’s okay also. All I can say is if I could recommend one type of vacation to take, it would be a campervan vacation. I think it’s something everyone should experience, and I bet most people would end up enjoying it!

If you have any questions about camper van traveling, feel free to reach out and ask us some questions! We’d be happy to share our van experience with you and offer you some advice if you need it!

Lisbon in a Day

LISBON IN A DAY

I don’t necessarily recommend seeing Lisbon in a day – there’s no way you’ll be able to see everything worth seeing. However, if that’s all the time you have, you can make the most of it and see as much as possible in that day! In this post, I will give you a sample itinerary for your very full one day in Lisbon.

First thing’s first – you need to wake up early! Lines get long and you will quickly run out of time if you don’t start your day until 10am. I recommend being ready to head out the door by 830am.

9am: Torre de Belem - 45 minutes

This is definitely somewhere you should stop during your trip in Lisbon. The Torre de Belem is basically a small fort that was built to protect Lisbon. We were staying at a campsite right outside of the city center, so we took a taxi to the Torre de Belem, for about 6 euros. We didn’t go inside because the lines were insanely long. It is for sure worth seeing from the outside, even if you don’t go in. If you want to go in, I strongly recommend getting fast track entrance ticket, otherwise you’ll spend at least an hour waiting in line.

torre de belem

Outside of the Torre de Belem, there are a lot of little shops set up and street vendors walking around trying to sell you stuff. The souvenirs are actually pretty cheap here, so if you’re looking to bring some stuff back to family and friends, it’s not a bad place to buy things like magnets, book marks, bottle openers, etc. Keep in mind that the tower doesn’t actually open until 10am, so if you want to go inside, it pushes your day back a little bit unless you want to go somewhere else first. I’d say 45 minutes is enough time to look around outside, get some nice pictures, and take a look at some of the shops and street vendors. If you plan on going inside, expect to be here far longer than 45 minutes.

10am: Padrão dos Descobrimentos – 30 minutes

Another cool place to visit on your way into the main city center of Lisbon. As long as you’re in good health, you can walk here from Torre de Belem in approximately 15 minutes. This opens at 10am, so if you get here right around that time, I imagine the line won’t be very long. I wouldn’t spend the money on any type of skip the line ticket. It seemed like everyone was at the Torre de Belem, so it wasn’t very crowded when we arrived.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos

Padrão dos Descobrimentos was built, originally as a temporary piece, to represent adventurers and explores who helped establish Portugal. We paid the 5 euros each to go inside, and didn’t have to wait for more than a minute to get on the elevator. Once you get off the elevator, you walk up maybe 35 stairs and get to the top to see a nice view. I didn’t find it to be anything spectacular, but still thought it was worth the visit. The actual structure from the outside is far more interesting than the view you’ll get from the top. Assuming there’s no line, plan to spend about 30 minutes here.

10:45am - Jerónimos Monastery – 10 minutes - ?? depends if you go inside or not

 

Another place in Lisbon where we skipped going inside because of the insane lines to get in. Jerónimos Monastery contains the tombs of King Manuel and other Portuguese royalty, as well as other important people from Portuguese history. We didn’t buy a fast-track ticket, and didn’t want to waste our one day in Lisbon standing in line. This wasn’t something I was dying to see, so I didn’t have a problem skipping the inside. We did go inside the church part, which was free and had no line, which for us was a good alternative. If this is something you just can’t leave Lisbon without seeing, I strongly recommend buying a fast-track ticket. Standard tickets for just the monastery are 10 euros, and the combined ticket for the monastery as well as the museum are 12 euros

travelgum

We didn’t want to spend the money for the fast-track tickets, but again, if Jeronimo’s Monastery ison your absolutely must-see list, then I recommend the fast-track ticket

 

From Jeronimo’s Monastery, hop on the 15e and get off at Praça do Comércio, which is right in the center of Lisbon – it’ll only take you about 10/15 minutes.  It was 2.90 euros per person, and the tram was very clean and comfortable. It even has free wifi.

Praça do Comércio

11:30am – snack/lunch – 45 minutes

There’s a lot to do when you’re trying to see Lisbon in a day, so at this point, we needed to replenish our fuel and get something to eat! We started walking toward the castle and looking for a place to stop along the way. There are plenty of restaurants right in the center where you get off of the tram, but they were very expensive. The restaurants were a bit cheaper once you walked away from the center square.

12:45pm - Castelo de São Jorge – 1.5 hours

 

After lunch, we made our way to the castle, which you definitely shouldn’t miss. It was a long walk up some very steep hills, but we made it. We passed some cute little terraces with nice views along the way, as well as some cute churches. Just keep your eyes open as you walk because there’s plenty to see along the way. Once we got to the castle, there wasn’t much of a line to buy tickets. Each ticket was about 8 euros, and you can spend a decent amount of time in the castle, so it seems like a fair price. If nothing else, you will get to see some incredible views from the castle, which makes sense since it is situated on the highest hill of Lisbon.

view from the caste

We aren’t big history people, but we still enjoyed the castle and the views. The castle consists of ruins of the former royal palace and part of the neighborhood for the elite, but it’s mostly just walking around open space – there aren’t really any buildings you can go inside. There is also a little wine food truck once you enter if you want to stop and have a drink, and a restaurant/café on your way out if you need a snack. Visiting the castle involves A LOT of walking, so absolutely positively make sure you have on comfortable shoes. As a side note, once we left the castle, we saw some beautiful peacocks – it was a nice surprise!

230pm – Alfama District - 2.5 hours

 

After we visited the castle, we made our way to the Alfama District, which was by far one of the best parts of Lisbon. We just looked at our map and started walking toward Alfama. As we started walking to Alfama, we went from being in the big, crowded city of Lisbon, to what felt like a small town where everyone knew each other; there were women selling homemade liqueur out of their living rooms! We didn’t have any specific destination in mind, we just wanted to see why everyone recommends going to Alfama, and we definitely understand it now.

We walked around, went in the shops, had some samples of wine and liquer, and sat down and enjoyed some homemade sangria. Then we made our way to what appears to be the main center of Alfama, and there are locals who have set up shops all over the main square. There are shops with homemade bags, homemade shoes, homemade bookmarks – basically anything you can think of and they’ll be selling it there. The prices were reasonable, also. We bought a homemade bag and homemade shoes from one of the shops! It’s definitely still touristy, but it feels quieter and less crowded than around the castle area and other parts of Lisbon. We probably spent a couple hours walking around Alfama, and it was something we really enjoyed, so don’t miss it!

530pm – Santa Justa Lift (or the secret cheaper alternative) - 45 minutes

 

By around 530pm, we made it to Santa Justa Lift. This was on my list of things to do from the very beginning, but for some reason it didn’t even occur to me to either buy tickets ahead of time or to see if there were skip the line tickets or something like that. When we got there, the line was incredibly long, and there was a sign next to the line that said the wait time would be 1 hour and 30 minutes. At this point, we had been out all day, we were tired, and there was no way we were going to spend the last 2 hours of our vacation waiting in line. We decided to skip it, not knowing that there was another way to see the same views without waiting in line for the lift.

As we were walking by the elevator, we passed a nice young man who started speaking to us, asking if we spoke English. I didn’t really want to engage because I didn’t know what he wanted, but eventually we realized he was trying to help us. He told us if we walked just a couple feet straight ahead of us, we could go into a store, get in the elevator for free, and then walk to the observatory deck where the Santa Justa Lift takes people.

santa justa view2

We weren’t sure if he was trying to mess with us or what, but we figured we had nothing to lose by checking. Low and behold, we walked into the store, got on the elevator, and ended up on some sort of rooftop terrace with a bar and an outdoor rooftop movie theater. We looked around and saw some other stairs, so we kept walking. Once we walked up some more stairs, we ended up on some sort of metal platform that seemed to be part of the Santa Justa Lift. We were met by an official looking person, who told us we had to pay 1.50€ each to continue up the spiral staircase (tickets to take the lift are 5€ each), where we’d get to the top, exactly where the Santa Justa Lift would’ve taken us. We paid the money, walked to the top, and were met by some phenomenal views!

santa just view3

We were quite excited because we didn’t think we were going to get to see these views without waiting in line for 2 hours! In the midst of all of the excitement, I forgot to write down the name of the store we went into – but here’s exactly how to get there.

Looking at elevator, walk past it to R. Do Carmo.

Look in front of you/to your right. One of those first two stores has an elevator you can use to go most of the way up to where the elevator takes you. When you get out of the store elevator, you’ll come out on a little terrace/bar area. When we were there, it was being used as a rooftop cinema. Look for the stairs and just keep walking up. Then you’ll get to a platform where you have to pay the €1.50 to take the spiral staircase all the way to the top. Then you are in the exact same place that the elevator would’ve taken you!

After the views from the lift, we just walked around Lisbon for a bit before we were too tired and had to head back to the campsite. We went to Rua Augusta and walked up and down there for a while. It’s very touristy and crowded, but it was still enjoyable. There are a lot of people in the streets doing magic tricks, singing, playing instruments, and all sorts of other things so we stopped a lot to watch, which was cool. We also stopped for a snack and a glass of wine, though I wouldn’t recommend getting dinner here as it’s definitely more expensive than if you just walk a little bit away from all of the crowds.

r augusta

Another thing you shouldn’t miss is trying some of the porto wine. You can get a small shot glass of it in the center of Praça do Comércio, or by the castle. I’m sure there are places all over the city where you can get tastes of it. It’s definitely worth trying!

Overall, I definitely don’t recommend seeing Lisbon in one day – it’s tiring, and there’s way too much to see! However, if all you have is a day, you should definitely make the most of it. The itinerary I’ve given you is a good one, though you can certainly tweak it as you see fit. Figure out what you want to do the most and just get started. Start your day early so you can make the most of your day in Lisbon!

If you have any questions about visiting Lisbon in a day, feel free to contact us and we can help you plan your day!

See the interactive map below for some of the main attractions in Lisbon– some of them we visited and I talked about in this post and some of them we didn’t get a chance to visit. There’s always next time!

To Italia – Trains, Plains, and Automobiles

We left home around 645pm on June 27 – a train ride, plane ride, car ride, and 24 hours later, we finally arrived in Cosenza, Italy. I can’t say it was easy!

The train from Philly to Newark was easy, as usual.

Checking in at the airport – also super easy. We checked in at the kiosk and then realized one of our carry on bags was likely too big. We went to check our bags since we had paid for it anyway, and that took about 10 minutes.

Security was a different story. It took us about an hour and a half to get through security, so good thing we arrived early. I’m not sure whether this her anything to do with flying Norwegian or not honestly.

Then it was time to relax and grab some wine and snacks at Vino Volo. The wine and the food – we got mozzarella tomato salad and the salmon – was quite good, as was the service.

After our wine break, it was time to head to the gate for check-in.

This was our first experience With Norwegian Air, and it was a bit stressful. Shortly before boarding started, I realized that the seats on our boarding passes were not the ones we chose. When you travel Norwegian, you only get to pick your seats if you pay for them.

I’m terribly afraid of flying and didn’t want to risk sitting alone, so we paid for our tickets and the meal. We chose seats next to each other, obviously.

We made our way up to the counter to find out what happened, only to be met by some very stressed and slightly rude employees. We were told that because of an aircraft swap, the seats had been automatically changed and there was nothing they could do about it. We were then told to contact Norwegian to get our money back.

If you are afraid of flying or often travel with someone who is, you can understand that my issue here wasn’t being reimbursed – it was being put in the seats we chose.

I will admit I probably wasn’t as polite as I could have been after being told to contact Norwegian for a refund, but that wasn’t a suitable answer for me. After 30 minutes and some back and forth, they did end up seating us together.

We were a couple of the lucky ones, though. As everyone boarded the plane, it became clear that families and other people traveling together had been split up, presumably because of the airplane swap.

Seems we were lucky to have caught the issue before boarding and be persistent enough to get our issue corrected.

Despite the late boarding and the seating issues, we only took off about 20 minutes late, and made up that time in the air.

I have heard horror stories about late and canceled Norwegian flights, but that wasn’t our experience.

Now onto the actual plane and flight experience.

The airplane was old. There wereno USB chargers for our phones, the headphone jacks for the screens don’t really work, but that actually doesn’t matter because there isn’t any in-flight entertainment. There was one channel that was showing something grainy but I couldn’t even make out what it was.

The leg room was pretty tight, though the seats reclined quite far (which was part of the reason it felt so tight I think).

The meal was terrible. The only saving grace was the glass of wine they gave us with our meal.

The plane was either so cold I couldn’t feel my ears and toes, or so hot I felt like I was suffocating.

The flight attendants were great, though. Any time someone brought the temperature issue to their attention, they adjusted it. This meant they spent literally the entire flight adjusting the temperature between unbearably hot and unbearably cold, as those appeared to be the only two options. They also do not provide pillows or blankets, which makes sense given that they’re a budget airline. They didn’t have them available for purchase, either.

The plane was clean, the bathrooms were clean, and the flight was smooth, so while it seems like I’m complaining, it actually wasn’t that bad. I’m just trying to give you all a heads up.

This is the first time we flew Norwegian so I can’t say if all the planes are like this or not.

I would fly Norwegian again because the price is honestly unbeatable. I would just make sure to be better prepared. If you plan on flying Norwegian, I recommend doing the following:

– bring a charging case or battery pack for your phone

– make sure you have movies or TV shows to watch – phone, iPad – or have books to read

– bring a blanket and/or a sweatshirt

– definitely bring a neck pillow or something you can use as a pillow

– pack sandwiches and snacks

– if you paid for your seats, check before boarding to make sure your seats haven’t been changed

– if you plan on bringing only carry-on, make sure it’s actually the right size

– expect what you’re paying for – it’s a budget airline

Again – it wasn’t actually that bad. Now that I know what to expect, I would be better prepared and would probably have no issue flying Norwegian again.

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Paestum Ruins

I’ll be honest – there’s not a lot to do in Paestum, at least not where we are. There are two pizza places, maybe one open bar, and one tiny supermarket. There are a lot of shops that look like they used to be open but aren’t anymore. 

Obviously having the beach around is enough for a nice vacation, but i was worried we might get bored and not have a lot to do. 

I was looking for things to do and found something pretty cool only about ten minutes away: The Paestum Ruins.

I enjoy learning about other cultures and other countries, but I’m not a big “history buff” by any means.  Still, the ruins loomed really cool so we wanted to go see them.

When we got there, they were way bigger than I expected. There were also a bunch of restaurants and souvenir shops, however the restaurants were expensive because it’s all tourists in the area.

The Paestum Ruins are, interestingly, Greek ruins

They are probably the best preserved greek ruins on italy’s mainland, though there aren’t many left in Italy. There are some on the island of Sicily.

There are 3 main structures here.

There’s the Temple of Hera, which is the the oldest of the buildings. It may have been the temple of Apollo based on inscriptions and archeological finds, but this is not confirmed.

There is also the Temple of Athena – this is the only temple that they’re absolutely certain of the identity of who it’s dedicated to. It is situated at the highest point of the city 

There is also the Temple of Neptune (though it’s still unclear if this was actually a temple dedicated to Neptune),  which is the largest temple at Paestum and the best preserved 

The blocks are held together with simple dowels without mortar which has allowed it to withstand earthquakes and other forces of nature.

We were also able to see part of an amphitheater but apparently half of it was covered when a new road was built in the mid 1900s.

The entire Paestum archeological site is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it was a pretty phenomenal site. I highly recommend visiting or if you’re in the area, even if you aren’t a history buff!

 

I apology for the brevity and the lack of pictures – we are basically in the middle of nowhere and don’t exactly have a lot of cell service or wifi! Please visit our Instagram to see pictures!