Portugal – the last of the 27…

There are two big topics that seem to dominate the tours of Portugal, the first (and most important), is fighting the Spanish. This is not surprising, the history between the two neighbours has been long and bloody. Independence was hard fought for and the Portuguese didn’t hold back when it came to moving forward, generally killing as many Spanish as they could in the process. The second is nostalgia for the golden age of Portugal. Back in the 1400’s when most of the world was trying to work out which leg to put in their trousers first, Portugal had established themselves as the most important nation in the world by exerting a stranglehold on the trade out of Europe.

With the biggest trade empire on the planet stretching from Europe out to the Americas and down to most of Africa and then having to constantly defend those trade routes (mostly against the Spanish but with a few Danish, French and English thrown in there as well), Portugal managed to achieve an incredibly efficient army and become disgustingly rich. Both of these things put you at a pretty significant advantage when it comes to being a world super power. However, just as America is discovering at the moment, both of these elements are ultimately pointless if the person in charge has all the leadership qualities of a wet sponge. Portugal’s fate as a global powerhouse was doomed when King Sebastian the first had a brilliant plan to take the whole of Portugals armed forces and march across the Sahara towards what he thought was Jerusalem. Unsurprisingly of course they perished down to the last man along with all their national hopes and dreams, but at least it meant cheaper holidays for us Brits in the long run so there are a couple of positives there for the Yanks to look forward to if they re-elect Trump in 2020.

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Pastel de nata, a kind of custard tart – this one was from the Pastéis de Belém bakery connected to the monastery where the cake was apparently invented. I don’t know about if it’s authentic but I do know if it’s delicious!

And speaking of holidays have you ever visited Portugal? I had a grandmother who retired out here whom I never visited so it’s only been a few business trips. Because of that, I’ve never actually managed see anything other than the inside of an office which, let’s be honest, are very similar the world over. The final country in our epic two year tour of Europe brings with it a lot of mixed emotions. Sure, driving across Lisbon and up through the country to Porto is a beautiful thing. Both cities are wonderful places to be, so I’m happy? Well, it also reminds me that this is the end. The end of two years planning, dedication and commitment. It’s certainly something that the Family P. will remember forever, who knows maybe The Child will even appreciate it one day.

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But before I finish with a tear in my eye, let’s talk Lisbon and Porto. Summer temperatures can peak at 30ish degrees which isn’t too bad but which still inevitably leave me cowering inside the closest air conditioned building I can find and gasping for water like some dehydrated gibbering wreck. Thankfully we visited in the spring and so it was warm enough for me to walk around like a normal person much to Mrs P’s relief. Lisbon’s Moorish heritage is as beautiful as it is fascinating; the blue tiled building facades and friezes, incredible food and wine as well as the rolling olive and grape groves sitting in between the gorgeous villages dotted in between farms that sit on either side of the main roads for miles and miles. It’s certainly true that the action is all in the cities and the street side café’s with their fresh fish or grilled meats smell incredible  and do a roaring trade for most of the year.

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Porto does a great line in tourism boasting inspiration for JK Rowlings Potter universe with the students wearing their traditional robes, the name of an unloved ex-president providing the name of a Hogwarts school house and even the very shop whose style expanded to Diagon Alley’s Olivanders wand emporium. Then of course there is the Port wine still bottled and made on the dock side of Porto’s river, it is something of a mecca for travellers to the country who arrive only to realise that as with most hubs that become synonymous with a single popular product: there is an awful lot of cheap and nasty tat to distract an unwary traveller before getting to the really good stuff.

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Port. A lot of port.

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The famous Porto rubbish Rabbit

Portugals capital, Lisbon is a wonderfully cosmopolitan city with a fabulous energy unencumbered with the single defining feature that it’s more northern cousin suffers from. Unless you count the sardines of course, sardines are your constant companion in Lisbon. Every shop, and every street seems to have some form of motif or connection to the fish and while of course they are delicious, you can take some things too far. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was law that sardines are tattooed on to children at birth!

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Mighty tasty sardines!
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Inside the Clérigos Church and Tower in Porto
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A slightly moody photo of the castle in Lisbon

So there you have it, we’re done. Well, almost – we’ve travelled all through Europe, 27 countries talking Brexit and giving you a couple of insights into our family dynamic along the way. We’ve made some great friends in the most unlikely of places but as I sign off on what has been this more than incredible adventure, I’ll leave you with a few words from Marco, our Uber driver in Lisbon and who we think summed up the trip pretty well;

‘I don’t know if Brexit will happen or not but we should never stop being friends.’

Wise words. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Brexit any by the look of things, we’re not much further forward than where we were when we started. But one thing that I will hold on to from this whole experience is Marco’s advice; the more friends we have, the happier we are. As an individual, as a country, or as Europe, I can see that it would be too easy to give up and walk away from the friends we’ve made. Brexit ot no Brexit, it’s only through working together that we can tackle the much bigger problems facing the world today.

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The awesome Marco

If you’ve followed me since the beginning then thank you so much for staying with us on this journey. It’s been sometimes epic, often ridiculous but always interesting. I have no idea what’s going to happen next but I’ll be sure to let you know.

Thank you all for reading, goodbye and peace out.

Rob

 

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