I was invited to Portugal for one of my best friend, Afonso Martins’ (far left), birthday the summer after my first year of university; and the picture above perfectly describes our trip. Afonso was one of my first friends in Nottingham; we were both foreigners, and he made me feel very welcome in the Volleyball society. He’s now VP of activities for NTU and could not be more suited for the role. I was joined by one of my other best friends, Andy Austen (far right), who I also met through volleyball, is one of the funniest guys I know, a lady-killer, and studies Architecture. Anyway, one day I set out for Basingstoke to meet Andy and stay with his lovely family for a night, and the next day we flew out to meet the remaining musketeer.
Lisbon was immediately incredible- we flew in on an early EasyJet flight into the central airport, and could see the whole city from above. We ventured out as soon as we arrived, and went to a lesser-known rooftop bar where we could drink and take in the whole city-scape. The ignorant American in me thought of Portugal as under-developed, poor country, but what it lacked in perfect infrastructure, it made up for in old historic culture, and a friendly and exciting energy that was palpable.
We went back to Fon’s home in Cascais, a paradise-like beach town, and had some super bocks (the local beer) at a place called Deck before meeting his family and going back to his house. Or should I say mansion. Safe to safe his family was, and still are, some of the nicest people I’ve met-they were very inviting, and we all had dinner together every night. One of my fondest moments of the trip was drinking port (Portuguese Port in Portugal!) with Fon’s dad, Luis.
We explored Cascais from laying and playing volleyball on the beach, to biking up the coast. We went to a huge Portuguese birthday dinner celebrating Fons and one of his close friends, which over 50 people attended. From this I learned that Portuguese people, women especially, are incredibly beautiful and mysteriously ageless- have fun guessing if someone is 14 or 24, its difficult and odds on your wrong. We proceeded to spill out into the street and drink caipirinhas at outdoor bars until it was time to head to the club- at 1am. We went out to the most famous club in Lisbon- Urban- and didn’t get home until 7am the next morning. It was an interesting night out- my first experience at a club where people could smoke freely inside, and there was a giant pristine swimming pool that no one could swim in- an experience nonetheless. The next day I wearily said goodbye to everyone and boarded a plane back to England- some of us still a bit delicate from the night before- Andy in particular.
I’m happy to say this trip has become a (short-lived) tradition.
Borrowed clothes: For this trip I brought along with me one of my most prized possessions; my uncle’s Australia sweatshirt (Worn in the picture above). He died when I was in my early teens, and the sweatshirt is one of, if not the only, thing that I have left from him. He was a chef in Australia and before that all around the globe, married to my beautiful aunt Nerida, and was an amazing Uncle; even so I wish I had the opportunity to know him better.
Pro travel tips:
- Portugal is very hot and sunny. Bring sunscreen. Almost goes without saying- but Andy made this mistake and so could you.
- Portuguese is a very unique language, I call it “drunk Spanish”, but if you learn a couple phrases people will appreciate it. Luckily I didn’t have to as I was with a local…
- Drink super bock.
- Eat bistec a la Portuguesa. Apologies if I got this name wrong.