The Iberian Peninsula Part 1 - Portugal

As a preface I probably explained in this post when I was leaving New Zealand - I haven’t been to a lot of different countries. So it did seem to make sense to leave England almost as soon as I had arrived there to go and check out some other nearby places.

OK, so “as soon as I had arrived” is a bit of a push - I had been there for about a month hanging out in Cambridge, visiting Lords, and watching football - as you can read all about in those links.

But, with that behind me, and a week of interviews with recruitment agencies set up for when I returned, it seemed appropriate to go to Portugal and Spain for the better part of a month.

Flying within the EU

Even without a European passport I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I arrived in Porto I was able to just wander right through security and customs without being held up at all. I had heard such things were possible, but I kind of figured it didn’t really apply to me.

It was the greatest thing ever (probably not ever).

Getting through an airport quickly is something that is highly underrated (and by many people forgotten as a possibility) these days.

Portugal was going to be alright.

(Granted I wrote this long after all the events, I would be eating these words when I arrived back in England from Spain later on this same trip)


The actual flying… well… TAP is an airline. We didn’t crash. They weren’t, bad. It was a bit strange though.
I mean, the safety video wasn’t in English (expected), but it also sounded (and looked) like it was recorded on a cell phone in a shipping container. I don’t expect all safety videos to be elaborate Air New Zealand productions (which they shouldn’t be, because they are all 45 minutes long), but a safety video should at least inspire safety. A safety video shouldn't be reminiscent of a ransom demand.

The only other thing to report from the flight -  I was convinced our plane was running a two stroke engine. I’m not one to cause a fuss, but I was close to asking a staff member if everything was alright based on the sound it was making. It didn’t help that I saw someone on the wing starting them with a pull cord.

Actually, one other thing, more about flying in general - the “we are our beginning our descent” announcement is always disappointing. Sure, we don’t have to turn of electronics now, but it still seems to come a long time before you are actually on the ground. Maybe planes should descend faster?


Porto, the city of Port and, Oh… other things?

Unsurprisingly a lot of my time in Porto was spent wandering around the city without really knowing where I was (this got sorted out once my phone finally got a GPS signal). Why is that unsurprising? Well… the rest of my time could best be described as either

  1. drinking port; or,
  2. waiting to drink port

I am not saying all I did was drinking, but lots of the best parts did involve drinking.
See, look how happy I am

There was actually a lot of walking and looking at stuff too, but some of it was almost certainly directly related to the hunt for port.


Lisbon and Peri-Peri Chicken

As an uninformed foreigner I ‘knew’ only one thing about Portugal - they make awesome chicken.
Apparently I am that tourist.

OK, so, I know more than that about Portugal. Also, I kind of thought that maybe that wasn’t even a thing - what if the people at Nandos were just trying to use our lack of understanding of Portuguese culture to cash in?

Anyway, Lisbon became my opportunity to find out for sure if Peri-peri chicken was a thing in Portugal.

To cut to the chase, yes, you can get it places, but, I have no idea if that is normal food people there eat. I still suspect it isn’t.

It was still awesome though.


Some other quick thoughts….

  • Apparently I look like the person in our group who is looking for drugs. I can’t tell why this is, but when walking around at night (and in the day… so I guess just when walking around), I was constantly singled out by not-necessarily-legitimate looking individuals and offered drugs. No one was particularly pushy, but they were abundant opportunities for purchases to happen.
  • Whatever this is... is horrible. But apparently lots of people line up for it.


  • I have never quite seen a McDonalds sign look quite so awesome

  • I just don’t even know...


Iberian Peninsula Controversial Opinion - Sangria isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

There, I said it. I am sure a lot of you probably are thinking the same thing but have been afraid to the be first, so here I am taking the bullet for you.

I am not saying Sangria is a bad drink per se, but more that if you are buying it from a bar or restaurant you are wasting your time and money. Why not just buy a bottle of red wine instead? Cheaper + all alcohol = better.

If you are after the nice taste of the fruit and stuff, you are going to be disappointed as you are more likely to get the unfortunate taste of paint thinner and cheap orange juice. Generally speaking you are probably going to get cheap wine with cheaper other drinks added in to have a final product that isn’t really all that tasty at all.

And, if you are after the cool refreshment of it… then, drink a beer?

(This is really an argument against bar/restaurant brought Sangria - if you are making it at home you are probably fine)


So then…

Portugal is nice. You get good weather (I guess depending on when you are there) and you can drink a bunch. There is also old cities and stuff to look at, and I can only imagine there are also museums and art galleries you could go to. There are probably even nice beaches too.
Maybe you need slightly longer there to see some more of the stuff?
Seemed a safe and fun enough place.

I have since been back to Lisbon for ‘work’ and saw more of the city and those parts were nice too.


Next up, Spain (where I spend more than 4 days!)