Monday, August 7, 2017

Final Thoughts on Lisbon

I’d intended to write this up on our last night in Lisbon.  But between laundry, packing, and adventures out in the heat to run errands, I just didn’t have it in me, especially knowing we had a 3:30AM start the next day.  But I figured it was worth a bit of reflection, even if now I’m a week into life on Sao Miguel. 

As you can see from our list of possible preferred things to do, we made a good dent:

One big question for us on this trip was how we’d feel staying for a longer time in one place.  On our last longer trip, we moved locations about once a week:  Reykjavik, Paris, Arles in Provence.  It’s hard to know how that would feel with the kids as they are today; it ended up feeling like a little much, like we should have maybe just made two stops versus three.  I left Lisbon feeling like we could really saw a lot of Lisbon and the nearby areas—it was enough time to not feel compelled to go-go-go all the time while also being enough time to see the sights we were most interested in.  It was nice to have a place to feel like home, nearby grocers we got to know, some routines (like daily gelato) that could be established.  Leaving Lisbon after 12 days really cemented the idea that we need to try more often to have two-week long vacations to decompress, really feel the time for adventure, sightseeing, R&R and needed down time.

At this same time, I think we also left Lisbon feeling like we might have been even happier in some of the nearby, smaller towns.  While I love living with the conveniences and benefits that come from being in a bigger city, on vacation, I don’t mind having fewer choices and a quieter life.  In retrospect, I would have happily spent a week in Sintra and a week in Sesimbra, both coming in around 30,000 people.  Towns that are not full on built for tourists but still have a good handful of interesting things to do (usually involving some hiking/walking/being outdoors) and some of the conveniences of having some tourist trade (decent restaurants). 
Last views of Sintra--was definitely sad to leave here after just one day
Sesimbra--cute beachside town that we could have easily spent more than a few hours in
This hike by the westernmost point of Portugal was another highlight--with better preparation, we could have made quite a hike out of it

In retrospect, this was true for Tyler and I on our trip, too.  Toward the end we had the same realization, which led us to stay in places like Pushkar and Bundi, in Rajasthan in India, versus Udaipur.  Or Veliko Tornovo, Bulgaria, versus Sofia.  (Or, for that matter, seeing only Tasmania versus anything on mainland Australia.) 

As I’ve gotten older, I also feel more keenly the loss of really getting to know a place by not knowing the language.  Portuguese just throws me for a total loop.  (One example:  Setubal looks like it should sound like “Set-too-bull”.  Nope, it’s “Schtu-bul”, naturally.  I’m sure if I took a few lessons or did Duolingo I’d at least understand the logic of the sounds, but that just wasn’t something I could squeeze into our pre-trip schedule.)   While we could easily get by with ordering, going to tourist locations and otherwise getting around town with English, I know we’re getting such a moderated understanding of Portugal.  Sadly, I don’t have the “language gene” and don’t easily pick up languages, so that’s not likely to change anytime soon, but I notice it more than in my younger days.

I can also tell we still straddle the inclinations between budget, longer-term travelers.  Tyler and I are still inclined to walk/bus/train versus cab/car for getting from Point A to B.  Pack lightly so we can carry our stuff as needed.  Figure out how locals do things versus tourists.  Sometimes with the kids this may work against us, but maybe it’s not a bad ethos to instill early on.
One thing about travelling as a family that's good and bad is we tend to get more roughly on the same schedule.  The kids go to bed, sleep later.  It's makes planning easy, and is convenient because, even with two bedrooms, our places are usually pretty cozy.  But it does mean that Tyler and I get *less* one-on-one time together than at home, where we usually have a good hour or two between the kids' bedtime and ours.  I tend to be ready to sleep with the kids.  (Hence Tyler's more prolific blogging--gives him something to do while the rest of us sleep.)  One positive development is that often the kids are more interested in talking to each other over dinner, so we do sometimes get some time together then.

A bit of time with the boy over dinner
As for final thoughts on the kids?  Well, Stella left only wanting to call Lisbon “Lisboa.”  Otto gained a lot of confidence in navigating the narrow, often sidewalk-less streets. 
Here are the kids' thoughts on staying in Lisbon, their favorite things, and if they would have preferred to move around more:

Per Stella:  “It was great, and it was nice and relaxing with lots of fun things.  My favorite part was all the cool beaches.  Oh, and I liked the Ascensor.  I would have rather moved around more."

Per Otto:  “OK.  I'll be the same as Stella."

Being cute together
Despite Otto's lackluster response above, he was legitimately pretty thrilled with this hike
Sounds about right.  We definitely know the kids love beaches, generally like hikes, and--frankly--probably would be just as happy in Kauai right now...

I’ve definitely left Portugal wanting to see more.  We didn’t get south to the Algarve region, which is full of parks and more rustic beaches.  We didn’t get north to Porto.  I don’t know when our travels would bring us back, but I leave with an appetite for more, which doesn’t seem like a bad way to depart.

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