About 2 years ago, Vic & I made a trip to Portugal with her parents, David & Honor. The memories have begun to rust a little but they’re no less sweet. We took a car from Porto down through Lisbon and finished in the Algarve, with a brief stint out in the countryside of Aljezur.

I broke my foot on the first day (nothing exciting, just a lapse in coordination met with unforgiving sidewalk) and this slowed things down a bit. Annoying, but maybe all for the better in a country as mellow as this. In spite of the crutches, I saw a lot — thanks in no small part to the patience of Vic & her family.

The many terracotta roofs of Porto Pastel front door. A metal letter slot reads 'Cartas'
The facade of a building in a narrow, bright-coloured footpath which houses a shrine and the words 'Senhor da-boa Fortuna' ('Lord of good fortune')

"Lord of good fortune"

The bust of a small man in top-hat serves as a bookstop in the Livraria Lello Peering up at the bust of a stately looking gentleman housed near the ceiling of the Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello: the bookstore that inspired JK Rowling's wand shop

A church facade lined with murals of blue paint on white tiles A close up of a king and his counsel painted in blue on white tiles in the São Bento Train Station
A classic white scooter sits parked in the sun Bright blue mesh sculpture set inside a collapsed building. Seen near the São Bento Train Station
Reflections from a mirrored sculpture

Above: bits of Porto

Terracotta roofs in Lisbon. The harbour beyond
Bougainvillea flowers bloom behind the iron bust of some gentlemenly character A function center of some description, maybe, possibly

Bougainvillea on fire in Lisbon

Portugal’s a beautiful place. Arabic influence reigns supreme and its collision with European culture is visible everywhere. The cities are a wash of crumbling stone and pastel, and the coastline is as wild and rugged as ours is back home.

We made a trip out to Sintra, a playground of castles and estates just outside of Lisbon, and it was staggering in both age and beauty. It was an odd feeling to stand in castles built centuries before New Zealand was even discovered.

Castelo dos Mouros, a Moorish castle built over 1,200 years ago in Sintra

Castelo dos Mouros, a 1,200 year old castle

Vale dos Lagos, a small castle turret in the middle of a small lake The Tivoli Palacio de Seteais, a hotel in Sintra
Palácio Nacional da Pena, the crown jewel of Sintra The ceiling of the entranceway to Palácio Nacional da Pena

Estates in Sintra

Rugged coastline, Aljezur

Aljezur, on Portugal's west coast

My injury had one small fortune in that it absolved me of all the bag-carrying duties a son-in-law might expect on holiday. Vic’s folks put me in charge of navigation instead, but this quickly proved to be a bad move. We made many circles on our way out of Porto, and things did not improve much from there.

Down south in the Algarve we were joined by Peter & Liz, Vic’s Uncle & Aunt from the UK, and a fastidious survey of local bars and restaurants was made. The Algarve is a handsome location but it felt a lot like a British retirement village. Restaurants served bangers & mash and we found more English fare in the supermarkets there than we’d ever seen in Germany. Vic & I made sure to fill our suitcases with Marmite for the trip back to Berlin.