This trip to Lisbon was supposed to be a trip to visit David and eat all the things in DC, but he was hosting other folks. I planned a week off between jobs, but then found myself in need of a new travel plan. In Europe, this is never a problem. You pop your dates into Momondo and see where you can fly for reasonably cheap. Portugal, they said. And so it was. The first thing you do after somewhere from Sweden is breathe a sweet sigh of relief that it is warm here. That's exactly what I did on my first morning. I woke up early and walked down by the ocean, which was not blowing ice air in my face. It was the day after the French elections and the Portuguese people were feeling lucky at least some parts of Europe were not choosing the path of populism, bigotry and fear. It did seem a bit wrong to arrive in Lisbon and immediately jet for Sintra, but that's exactly what I did. The weather people were predicting lots of rain for the rest of the week. Forty minutes later, I was in the tiny resort town famous for its royal palace up on the mountain. The Pena Palace is a pretty crazy place - colorful, remote, and surrounded by the most delightful gardens. View of the Moorish castle from the Pena Palace. I did visit it, but by that point I was so exhausted from walking up and down all these hills I did a bit of an in-and-out situation. It was a cool ruin that the king and such renovated. People of the past liked hanging out in ruins as well. Honestly, I would skip the actual ticket for the palace. You see the inside, and they are some small royal apartments that look like a lot of other royal apartments. With the entrance to the gardens, you get to do all the really great stuff with the castle - walk around the walls, just go around and see the views and stuff. The inside is missable, unless you are into taking pictures of people juxtaposed with butts. These were so baller royal gardens. Normally you have some manicured hedges and things to walk around, or just a big old forest that is also nice. But these had all these lovely little spots to stop and look at things - like this 16th century well built by monks and fed by water from a mine. There were benches where the queen used to sit and little groves and meditation caves. They were the best royal gardens I've seen and I've managed to see a whole bunch of royal gardens. I hit up the aforementioned Moorish Ruins and then bolted back to town to hop on the Chill Out Lisbon tour, which promised to be a tour about non-touristy stuff but was basically just your normal walking tour, but long (four hours!) We saw Barrio Alto, a bit of the Baixa and the Alfama, the oldest district in the city. Lisbon is a bit of a weird place. It seems pretty active and prosperous and vibrant, but there are lots of abandoned buildings and things that are weirdly run-down. There were broken windows on what was essentially a back-side of the national palace. That's... weird. I honestly didn't learn much about modern Lisbon but in 1755, there was a huge earthquake and tsunami and 80% of the city was destroyed. Areas was up on the hills (Lisbon is very hilly) like Barrio Alto and Alfama were spared a lot of the damage of their lower neighbors, but that probably just means the buildings are much harder to maintain now. This was one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen. After the Chill Out tour, I was starting to feel pretty crummy. I woke up the next day determined not to be sick and pressed on through some wanderings around town. I did come back to the hostel and take a long nap in the afternoon, before setting off again in the evening. By the time I got back, I realized I was in for some serious down-time. The following day, I barely left the hostel - just to get some lunch and then later for a little stroll. I spent most of the day hauled up in the TV room of the hostel watching movies and feeling miserable. Nothing like being sick on vacation, in a public place, with no kitchen and no private bathroom. I was also supposed to travel to Porto that day for two nights, but I canceled it. What's the point of being sick in a new, more foreign place? So I never made it to Porto. Fortunately, I felt much better the next morning! Lisbon is hilly as fuck. My legs hurt so damn much when I was sick - that achey feeling when you are really ill but exacerbated by serious normal-soreness from walking up and down hills all day. They kept this church as a partial ruin to remind everybody about the earthquake. It was a pretty big deal in Lisbon's history. Lunch in Bélem - grilled sardines. I heard they were not quite in season, but who cares? I'm a tourist. Bélem also is home to the famous Pasteles de Nata, which are amazing little custard tarts. In Bélem, they crank out something like 20k/day, so they are hot out of the oven when you eat them and so, so tasty. Bélem is also home to the Jerónimos Monastery, a pretty seriously awesome-looking courtyard thing. I went home and forced another nap because I was hanging around 75%. And then managed to get it up enough to go on a Fado night with other folks from the hostel. It was nice enough, but, as normally happens when I attempt to experience the "local music", I was pretty bored. Fado is lovely but old-school. My hostel, Travelers' Hostel, had a really interesting mix of folks. A fair amount of party people, as is common with all hostels, but a number of folks my age and even some legit older folks. It's always nice to find a hostel that is catering to all types and not just the free-shots-bar-crawl crowd. The next day, I went to the Oceanarium. I've been on a bit of an octopus kick lately after reading Soul of an Octopus. I like to travel alone expressly for this reason: I can go do something stupid like visit the aquarium. It's what I felt like doing, and so I did it. There were fishes. It was lovely. I had heard all about hipster-haven Lx Factory but it was all sit-down restaurants and I just wasn't feeling it. That evening I had the most amazing dinner. I declare crab to be the perfect solo fancy dinner choice. First, it's super-delicious. Which is great for times when you are dining with others as well. But crab also takes forever to eat. One can enjoy the ambiance, while having something to focus your attention on. I happened to be sitting in front of the crab tank and the little guys watched me eat my meal. I actually saw this bugger get scooped out of the tank, which I admit did give me the teeniest, tiniest pause. But then this meal arrived and I just dived in. Eating this made me deliriously happy (plus two glasses of wine). A little extra strolling the morning before my flight, and that was that! I really enjoyed Portugal and I'm sure I'll be back, hopefully with fewer viruses brewing in me.