A European Adventure – Visiting Paris, Lisbon, Sintra, Reims, and Epernay

I just got back from an absolutely incredible trip to Portugal and France!

As a wedding gift, my long-time best friend Kristin gave me a flight to Paris with her for a much-needed girls trip (our first one together!). (Also, sorry Aidan, apparently this wedding gift is just for ME :)).

We knew we wanted to visit somewhere other than France since we had both been to Paris before, and spent a while deciding where to go. First we though Barcelona might be fun, but since we had both been there before too, we wanted to find somewhere new to the two of us.

We were looking at cheap flights from Paris to other destinations in Europe and stumbled upon Portugal! Now, I’m a big traveler and of course I have a huge list of destinations that I want to go to…surprisingly, Portugal hadn’t been on it. But, boy, it DEFINITELY should’ve been.

I absolutely loved our time in Portugal, which I’ll tell you about in a bit!

First stop, Paris!

So we flew into Paris and stayed one night at the Terrass Hotel in Montmartre (complete with an awesome rooftop bar – check out my video below!). A really nice hotel – we loved our stay there.

Montmartre is a super cute little area with tons of shops and restaurants lining the hilly streets. We spent our night there relaxing, ate delicious food, and explored the cemetery right outside our hotel the next day before our flight to Lisbon.

The Montmartre Cemetery view from Hotel Terrass

Creepy feet on a grave in Montmartre.

I love finding random graffiti… Thought this one was particularly cool!

Then it was off to Lisbon, Portugal!

 

Oh, Portugal, you’ve completely stolen my heart.

The Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon. (Pro tip: Check out the Carmo Convent behind it to get up to the second level of the lift without having to pay to take it. You can’t go all the way to the top without paying, but you get a darn good view on the second level!)

The spectacular Carmo Convent. This place is awesome and well worth a visit. Won’t take you too long to go through it, but it’s pretty amazing.

 

Honestly, Portugal in general was really amazing. The people there are incredibly kind. After coming from Paris where you get pushed around in the metro until you’re ready to punch someone (sorry, Paris, I know you’ve got some things going for you but you’re just not my cup of tea…), Portugal was a breath of fresh air.

Literally EVERYONE we met was so friendly and helpful and it really made a great impression on me. I only hope travelers coming to NYC think so much of us 😉

 

Lisboa <3

 

We stayed 2 nights at the Living Lounge Hostel in Lisbon. While it wasn’t anything to rave about, it was reasonably priced accommodations in the heart of the city. It’s also a great place to meet other travelers, so if you’re traveling alone I’d highly recommend it!

But we learned one thing about ourselves during our time there — even though we thought we could hack it without a private bathroom, by the end of two days there we decided we needed our own bathroom! So we moved to Brown’s Boutique Hotel down the street. Our room didn’t have a window, which I found a bit odd, and they were also doing construction there. Can’t say our stay there was the best, but hey, we had our own bathroom!

Our first full day in Lisbon was unfortunately a rainy one, so we opted to visit the famous Lisbon Oceanarium (Oceanário de Lisboa).

I grew up in Massachusetts and have been to the Boston Aquarium quite a few times in my life, so let’s just say I’ve got high expectations for any famous aquariums. While I can’t say that Lisbon’s aquarium beat out Boston in my mind, I still absolutely loved it and would highly recommend a visit!


Some stunning aquatic life

 

After the aquarium, we headed back to the center of Lisbon for some lunch!

Now, if you’ve read anything about Lisbon, you probably know that it’s home to the Time Out Market, which is every bit as amazing as you think it will be.

So. Much. Amazing. Food.

I only got to eat there once during my stay, but had we spent more time in Lisbon I definitely would’ve gone back! Affordable meals from so many amazing restaurants in Lisbon.

 

A food lover’s dream…

An amazing piece of cod with a potato and egg concoction. Portugal is a GREAT place for a seafood lover!

Fish and chips with local cod and house-made tartar sauce. (Yes, I eat gluten when I’m on vacation – I tolerate it just fine, so it’s something I’ll enjoy when I’m away from home!)

Pasteis de nata – the famous dessert of Portugal. They are custard tarts…so good! I only had them once while I was there, and now I’m craving them…

Lisbon is a perfect city to just wander around and get lost in. There are signs all around for “miradouros” or lookout points where you can climb up the many hills of Lisbon and see beautiful views of the city and the ocean. Below are some of my photos from just wandering around!

The view from one of Lisbon’s many “miradouros”

Be still, my heart…

My favorite street art find of the whole trip. I’m utterly obsessed with this.

The homogenous (and beautiful) rooftops of Lisbon.

You see some bizarre things when you travel… (The sign reads “More love, please”)

These adorable little trams are all over Lisbon to help bring people up and down the 7 hills the city is built upon.

The night before we left for Sintra, we ate at a delicious restaurant called Bistro Gato Pardo. I had the most amazing shrimp in a buttery, herbed sauce that I just sopped up with bread. I’m still daydreaming about that meal!

If you’re in Lisbon, check this place out!

Next, it was off to Sintra – a quick 40 minute metro ride away!

If you’re planning a trip to Lisbon, you’ve probably read that you should go to Sintra.

It is literally a fairy-tale of a place, and you absolutely MUST go.

But! Almost every article and guide I read before going said to do it as a day trip. I disagree entirely.

If you love amazing historical sites, nature, and good food I recommend that you spend more time here. Sure, you could do it all in a day, but you’d definitely be rushed and exhausted.

We stayed one night at the Moon Hill Hostel (which we loved! We had our own suite, complete with a bathroom and everything. Highly recommend staying here if you’re in Sintra!). It was so nice to be able to take our time at the many different sites in Sintra (and we only ended up seeing 3 — there’s way more!)

I still feel like I could’ve spent more time there, and in fact, we almost decided to add on another night at the Moon Hill Hostel to stay longer! I guess I’ll just have to go back someday 🙂

So if you’re going to Sintra – trust me, you should stay the night unless you’re planning to take the 40-minute train back out the next day. You won’t have time to see everything you want.

Here are some of my photos from Sintra’s amazing sites.

Walked up tons of steps to get to the top of this mountain to see the beautiful historical sites of Sintra… Climbed the equivalent of 116 flights of stairs that day! You can take a cab or bus up the mountain, but if you’re able to hike, it’s really worth it to do so. So much beauty on the way up!

Simply incredible. The Castle of Moors of Sintra (Castelo dos Mouros).

This place was the highlight of the trip for me – it was so cool to be up this high and explore this castle. If you’re headed to Lisbon and thinking about skipping a trip to Sintra – DON’T! You simply can’t miss this.

 

Next up was Palacio de Pena (i.e. real life Disneyworld). I can’t believe this place even exists.

Yeah, this place is real. I know. It’s crazy.

After spending the day hiking around visiting these sites, we were sweaty, exhausted, and of course ready for some food!

We chose Incomum by Luís Santos, which was a quick walk from Moon Hill Hostel, and deeeeelish.

We started with a cheese plate (as we did almost every night!). This one was particularly good…served with toasted bread with cranberries in it (I think?) and tomato chutney.

Scallops and mushroom risotto. (Also, anyone know what those green things are? They tasted kind of scallion-like and were really yummy! I’m curious to know what they are as I haven’t seen them anywhere else.) My friend had the sea bass, which was utterly amazing, but I didn’t get a picture of it. Guess I was too jealous of her for ordering it that I couldn’t bring myself to take a pic…

Before we headed to Cabo de Roca the next morning, we had to fit in one more historical site in Sintra – Quinta de Regaleira. If I’m being perfectly honest with myself, it was a slight letdown after the absolute wonder of both Castelo dos Mouros and Palacio de Pena.

Not that it’s not amazing, of course – it is! – but after seeing the incredible views the day before, this was just slightly less exciting. I’d recommend visiting it before you go to Castelo dos Mouros and Palacia de Pena so you’re not totally spoiled 😉

Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra

 

After Quinta da Regaleira, it was off to Cabo de Roca. You can take the 403 bus from Sintra to get there in about 30-40 minutes. Absolutely worth the trip.

Cabo de Roca is the Westernmost point of Europe, so you’re on the edge of the world! We could’ve easily spent more time here than we did, but we were in a slight rush to get back to Lisbon. There are tons of walking paths around the cliffs to explore, so make sure you book enough time to really enjoy it!

We spent a few hours here, and like I said, easily could have done more.

I walked down to those people on that skinny edge of rocks (you can see them, but they’re really small from all the way up here).

Where I walked from…See the tiny people at the top?

Me, down on the rocks. Awesome views!

After spending some time in Cabo de Roca, it was time to head back to Lisbon. We were trying to get back for a Fado show (the famous music of Portugal), but accidentally missed it due to some travel issues (oops!).

Instead, we settled in our hotel for the night at Hello Lisbon São Bento Valley Boutique Apartments. I don’t know why we expected anything different given that “apartment” is in the name, but we totally weren’t expecting to walk into a fully functional apartment! Here’s a video of ours below.

Once we settled in, we looked for a restaurant to enjoy our last night in Portugal. We ended up at Churrasqueira da Paz, which was a great choice!

They bring over the options of fresh fish for you to choose, then grill up your choice. They also have steaks (which, by the way, are a very common thing to find in Portugal and always good). I won’t say I was blown away by the food I ate here, but it was simple, super affordable, and delicious. We also got a pitcher of the house wine (which was 3 euros!) and shots of ginjinha, a sour cherry liquor made in Portugal.

It’s a tiny little restaurant, and due to the proximity of the tables, we ended up meeting many travelers that night and talking for hours. We closed the place out!

My food photos from that night weren’t very good since I didn’t bring my big camera, so I’ll just leave you with our cheers to Portugal!

The next morning we flew out very early, so we got a look at the sunrise. Ciao, Portugal!


Then we were back to France!

We headed straight to Reims, part of the Champagne region of France, after landing at the airport.

What were we here for? Why, champagne tasting, of course!

Our first stop was Mumm Champagne house. We had a few others on our list, but sadly some of them don’t operate in March when we were there.

Look at that bubbly goodness…

Their cellars were interesting and it was definitely fun to be there, but I will say that I had a better time at Moet & Chandon in Epernay next.

I liked their tour much better, their cellars were more interesting to look at, and for about the same price as Mumm, you could opt for a tasting of two different champagnes (a white and a rosé).

I’d still recommend both tours because it’s fun to see different cellars and taste different champagnes, but if you’re just going for one I’d choose Moet & Chandon!


After exploring the Champagne region for a day and a half, we went back to Paris for the final night of our trip.

And of course, we had to go out with a bang.

We booked our tickets for the famous Moulin Rouge show! I didn’t know what to expect for this, and part of me thought it might be over-hyped.

But I had a lot of fun! It was less raunchy than I thought it would be, but it was an amazing spectacle. The costumes, the acrobatic acts, the dancing…it was all incredible. Sadly, no photos were allowed during the show, so I can only show the evidence that we went!

Entering the theatre.

The sparkly stage.

Our terrible selfie in front of the entrance.

There you have it! Our entire trip to France and Portugal. We were so sad to leave, and I can’t wait to go back!

Leaving Paris!

Interested in the places we visited? Check out my Google Maps Lists for the cities below. Note that I didn’t end up going to every place on these lists, but they were things I was interested in checking out!

Paris

Lisbon

Sintra

1 reply
  1. Joe
    Joe says:

    Thank you for sharing this.
    You’ve given me the urge to return to portugal.
    The people are amazing,
    Food and the weather heavenly

    Regards

    Reply

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