Friday, 11 March 2016

Mug #16 - Lisbon, Portugal

As I write this, it is exactly a week since my flight from London Stansted took off bound for Lisbon, Portugal. 

I had the most wonderful 3 days - it's just a shame the trip was so short - it was especially nice to get a little taste of where my lovely girlfriend Liliana is from and to meet her family for the first time. 

As is almost traditional, maybe a ritual even, this adventure started like pretty much all of my previous adventures: with running, rushing, stressing and panicking. As always just getting myself to the airport proved to be quite the drama. What with washing clothes in the bathroom sink the night before after the washing machine broke and making sure that they were dry enough to wear in the morning with the assistance of a fan heater and a hair dryer. Then leaving the flat late, getting on the wrong train and missing my coach. Waiting 30mins for the next coach before being told that it might be best to get the train, as the traffic is bad and I will be pushing it a little on the coach. 

But in the end I arrived with "plenty" of time to spare and got onto my flight without any further hassle. The flight was uncomfortable - I flew with Ryanair, something I had already promised myself I wouldn't do again after flying to Dublin with them last August - but short and turbulence free.

This is my first sight of Lisbon (from the air).

It looked quite nice from the air but even nicer from the ground. 

Liliana - who went to Portugal a day earlier than I did - picked me up from the airport (eventually haha) and we drove the short distance to the city centre. Where we had a fantastic Portuguese meal at a nice little cafe/bar/restaurant.

Before doing a little sightseeing. Taking in Rossio Square:

 And Rua Augusta Arch:

While also walking down to the coast to take pictures and selfies:

And of course making sure to buy myself a mug (getting the purchase out of the way quickly so that I didn't forget):

The next day (Saturday) - my first full day in Lisbon - was all about the wedding. Seeing as Lisbon is where my girlfriend was born, where she spend most of her childhood and where most of her family and friends live, I was bound to visit sooner or later. However, this trip happened - or happened now - because one of Liliana's friends was getting married.

I've never been to a Portuguese wedding before, or in fact any wedding that has taken place either outside of the UK and/or involving a couple that are not from the UK. So I was obviously really looking forward to the day and I was not at all disappointed! It was one of the best weddings I have ever been to and I think that it is probably one of the best
I will ever go to.

The ceremony started at 11am. Except it didn't. I mean it was supposed to begin at 11am but apparently nothing ever runs on time in Portugal? When we arrived at the church at 11am - me stressing out that we were running very late - we were one of the first people there! Here is a picture of the church when we arrived:

The church was really lovely inside and out:

The groom arrived at 11.05am and the bride finally arrived at 11.40am and even then some of the guests continued to arrive after the ceremony had begun. But that was ok because it was a Catholic ceremony and so it lasted about 3 weeks!

From the church we had a 30 minute drive to the venue for the wedding reception. It was a wonderful venue, out in the hills outside of Lisbon. Unfortunately the weather wasn't quite as nice as the weather forecast had suggested but it was mostly dry and not too cold (around 13 - 14 degrees).

I don't have too many pictures from the reception but then that was because we were too busy enjoying ourselves.

A Portuguese wedding is a lot like a British wedding, only with more of everything. More food. This is the food menu, one course after the next, after the next.

I ate so much it was insane! It's definitely the most I have eaten since I spend Easter in Italy last year (Milan & Mantova). We had soup, fish, pork, strudel and ice-cream (including seconds whenever you wanted).

Then after a lot of dancing - Portuguese weddings definitely have more dancing! - there was a buffet at around 11pm with seafood, cheese, fruit and cake (lots and lots of cake!). I think I tried six different types of cake/desert haha.

And then at midnight, when you surely couldn't possibly eat anymore. They brought out the wedding cake! But don't worry, I loosened my suit trousers and somehow managed to squeeze in a slice of wedding cake (or two haha).

As well as more food and more dancing - apart from when everyone was eating, the dance floor was rammed from 5pm until 2am - a Portuguese wedding also has a lot more noise haha or at least this one did. People ousted seems to be cheering, toasting and laughing all day. I had the most wonderful time at the wedding, I really did. A big part of that was being there with my girlfriend Liliana who really is great. It was also thanks to her friends and the bride and groom who all made me feel really welcome. And it was great to experience how a different culture (or two, the groom was from Angola) celebrate a wedding.

The wedding was amazing. So much fun. But it was also a very long day which had started at around 9am - rushing out for breakfast and to find a card for the happy couple - and didn't finishes until around 2am. So we were pretty tired out by the end of it and so the next morning we made sure to enjoy a nice long lie in.

On the Sunday (our last day in Lisbon) when we finally got out of bed, we visited an area of Lisbon called Belem. If you go to Lisbon, I would highly recommend a trip to Belem. We enjoyed a beautiful afternoon walking by the river and seeing the sights (including Torre de Belem, Padrao dos Descobrimentos & Cristo Rei):

While we were they we also made sure to visit Pasteis de Belem, which is the home of the famous and extremely delicious Portuguese custard tart. I would also highly recommend a visit. Although expect a long, if quick moving queue:

But they're famous/busy for a reason! We took our custard tarts around the corner to the Jardim Botanico Tropical (gardens):

Where we found a quiet bench - away from the aggressive ducks - with a nice view and stuffed our faces yet again:

There wasn't an awful lot to see in the tropical gardens - although for 2 euros each you cat complain too much - but we did get to see these male peacocks calling to the females on the other side of the wall:

And that was my our super short but fun packed trip to Lisbon. As I have probably said already many times, I had a truly wonderful time in Lisbon. I definitely hope to go back again soon, only for longer next time!

Now where to next? Well I already have my next trip planned (for the beginning of June) but I can't tell you where I'm going, as it's something of a secret and I haven't told Liliana our destination yet.