Portuguese culture: etchings from my first few days

Cute Old Bench on Streets of Faro PortugalHere is an extract from my travel journal, entry dated 10 June 2013
Having spent a week now in Portugal, I’ve made a few cultural observations. One being that outside of Lisbon, most other cities seem disproportionately more rural.

For example, there are no train times in digital displays at stations – and you don’t even know what platform a train will arrive on until the last minute.

When I left Faro for Lagos, I was told the 10:20 train would arrive at either linha (platform) 2 or 3.

The south of the country seems noticeably more touristy – particularly in the Algarve. Faro was a beautiful little medieval town (almost an exception to this idea).

Most people fly to Faro, then hop on a transfer to a resort such as Albufeira or Lagos. Having visited both, they were very Anglocized.

Despite both having beautiful beaches and fantastic weather, they were packed with Brits as well as Australians and Americans – particularly in Lagos, which was more English-speaking than Portuguese!

The more north I’ve travelled, the more Portuguese it has felt – which I love. Lisbon (Lisboa) is an impressive city, built on many steep hills – something I am very acclimatised to having spent four years in Sheffield in my student days.

The capital has many similarities to San Francisco (as Rose was telling me). She has been on a six month journey from Cisco – a nickname for the city, not San Fran as most would call it.

Lisboa is similar in the fact it is built on many steep hills and has a vast tram system pushing carts up and downhill, whilst also possessing a bridge which looks the spitting image of the Golden Gate – named the 25 Abril Bridge.

Today, I’m going to Porto after a slight change of plans. Today is a national holiday in Portugal, celebrating the country’s respective saints: St John in Porto, St Antonio in Lisbon etc.

As such, there is a celebration for each saint, but on different days of the week. That is why the Monday is treated as a bank holiday and day of rest for all saints.

In 45 minutes time, I will leave for Porto – the former capital of Portugal. I am told it is beautifully majestic – and a must-see. There are also more hills; steeper than Lisbon, I’m told.

I am interested to see how Porto compares with the rest of Portugal and plan to tour the city by boat, taste their famous Port wine and call in at the bookshop where JK Rowling’s Harry Potter was created.

Keep reading to see what I explore…

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