I thought about trying to do one big honeymoon post but since we ate all the things in all the places, I’m going to do country by country.
We started in the Azores, which are the small islands off the coast of Portugal. I think it has to be the western-most point of Europe, and it literally a 4 1/2 hour flight from Boston. It’s been described to me as the Hawaii of the Atlantic ocean, but when we got there that wasn’t my perception (though to be fair, I’ve never been to Hawaii).
We did an overnight flight from Boston so we had two pretty full days and one night. We stayed at this resort and it was really awesome (thank you for the recommendation, Nell). Not anything ostentatious but nice rooms and a gorgeous pool.
We were on the largest island, Sao Miguel, so you have the rocky coastal views but then there are also these insane volcanic lakes scattered throughout the island that are stunning. I think one of the cool things about it is that it just feels very rural. They haven’t done anything to make it appealing to tourists aside from making the views accessible. “Miradouro” is the Portuguese word for “come check out this ballin’ view” and we continued to use it throughout every country.
You aren’t seeing trendy tiki bars on every corner, or at all for that matter, it’s mainly just local restaurants. There isn’t much of a foodie scene at all, really, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for that kind of trip. It’s 100% a hiker’s paradise. We didn’t do much hiking because A) we aren’t hikers B) we only brought backpacks for 16 days so that would have been too much gear and C) I discovered not too long ago that when I fall down my bones break, so I’m not as sure-footed as I once was. But we did hike down to this lake and it was unbelievable.
The best thing we ate while we were there was the slow roasted octopus at this little restaurant in Mosteiros. I’m going to try to replicate it ASAP. It wasn’t chewy at all and was braised in some kind of sauce with red wine. Ugh mouth is watering.
Another cool thing we did was the pineapple plantation. It’s really cute and you get to see the pineapples growing at all phases (apparently the ones they grow take like 2 years?!) and they had great pineapple mojitos.
If you do go to Azores, a rental car is essential. Ethan also planned ahead and downloaded the offline map in Google maps, which was key for getting around. We spent a lot of time in the car there but everything is so pretty we didn’t mind driving. Hydrangeas and honeysuckle grow wild EVERYWHERE there.
From there, we flew to Lisbon. We stayed in a great AirBnb in the Bairro Alto neighborhood- it was a small loft apartment but had everything we needed and was a good home base. We did SO much walking in Lisbon (like 10-12 miles a day) and it’s a crazy hilly city to walk.
We had an episode of Somebody Feed Phil as a starter guide, as well as some suggestions from my friend Lisa. Ethan had researched and found a place that had cold brew (The Mill) so we went there our first morning, and then stopped to get pastel de nata which they have at basically every bakery.
Kind of like an egg custard in flaky pastry and probably more dessert than breakfast but oh well.
We wandered aimlessly for a while and then realized around lunch time that we were pretty close to Ze da Mouraria, one of Lisa’s recommendations. There’s no way we would have walked in to this place, or even found it, unless we were looking for it.
Part of the restaurant culture in Portugal is that they bring you “couvert” which is basically any kind of appetizer, when you sit down. It’s your job to say no to them, otherwise you get charged. It would be like going out in the US and a waitress bringing over mozzarella sticks without you asking- you would just assume they were free- but then they show up on the bill. We knew to expect this and didn’t really care because we wanted to try everything anyway. So we had some couvert and then we got the seabass.
Insanely delicious whole fish that was really simply prepared in an open kitchen. We cleaned the plate.
That night we went to Cerveteca Lisboa, which was a tiny corner bar for all the craft beer fanatics. They had some local Portuguese beers (the craft beer scene there is still pretty small) and some international ones too. Such a cool spot.
Then we went to Local for dinner, which may have been one of my favorite meals of the entire trip. They have one table with 10 seats, and they do a 7:30 dinner and a 10:00 dinner. Three courses. Not only was the food amazing, but it was so much fun to sit with total strangers and share a meal. There were two other couples from the US, one from Denmark, and one from Paris.
Again with the Portuguese nailing octopus.
Day 2 we took a cooking class at Lisbon Cooking Academy. Can’t recommend this enough. The instructor, Ana, was so great and has really found her calling.
She took us to the market to buy all of the ingredients which is always a really fun thing to see in any city.
We made 3 dishes and I will probably blog them so I won’t go into too much detail but a chicken dish, a fish dish, and dessert.
She also sent me a Google drive link to all of the recipes that they ever make in the class, so I have a whole Portuguese recipe book now.
That night we went to Time Out Market for dinner. We had seen this on Phil and knew we wanted to go. It’s very cool and we had some great tartare, but I would recommend going for lunch instead of dinner because it was an absolute madhouse in there and we never found a place to sit down.
On our last day we got up early and took the train to Sintra, which is a town about 45 minutes north of Lisbon. It literally feels like you’re in an amusement park because it is so immaculate and maintained.
We didn’t plan this very well because the two main attractions (Castle of the Moors and Pena Palace) are about an hour walk away from the center of town. We didn’t discover this until we got there around 8:30AM, and we knew we had to be back on the train by 11 to check out of our AirBnb. Luckily we did visit the Quinta de Regaleira which was SO cool and should be on your list if you go. Just give yourself a full day.
They have a pastry that is specific to Sintra, too, the travesseiros. Obviously we had to try it.
For lunch that day we went to Ramiro, a recommendation from Phil. It opens at noon and I think when we got there at 12:30 there was already a line out the door. They have super super fresh seafood, and it’s a dining experience with an open kitchen and waiters running all over the place. But honestly I would skip it. It was REALLY expensive for basically still being hungry when we left.
Then we took the train to Marvila (public transit there is excellent, by the way) to go to Dois Corvos brewery. The area is SO random and weird but the brewery was really great. I just thought it was hilarious to be drinking a New England IPA in Portugal.
We stayed for a while chatting with one of the brewers, and he told us that there was another brewery right around the corner called Musa. We had actually seen those beers at our resort in Azores, as well as at the beer place on our first night. We had no idea the brewery was up there so that was a happy accident.
We hung out there for a while and got some food before heading to the airport for our late evening flight to Barcelona!
It was a really solid start to our trip and I would 100% go back to Portugal, not just to do Lisbon again but also to go down south to the Algarve area. I know there were some things we missed (we never got to Belem, which is the original spot for the pasteis!) but our whole trip was about bouncing around and getting a taste (pun intended) for different spots. Hopefully this wasn’t too annoying- stay tuned for Barcelona next!