Portugal and Ireland

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August 26th 2012
Published: September 5th 2012
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I've decided that it's time to end the international portion of my trip. In Italy I decided that I would go to Portugal and Ireland and then head back to the US. I've been traveling for 7 months now and feel that it's time for me to head back home. I've had an amazing trip so far. However, I'm looking forward to being in the US and driving cross country with my dad.

Leaving Italy was tough. I wanted to stay in Venice as long as I could. The hostel I stayed at had some weird rules, like opening at 7:00 am. I had to catch my bus at 7:20 so it didn't leave me much time. My flight to Lisbon went through Brussels. On the way there we circled over Venice one last time.


Lisbon - I arrived in Lisbon and took a cab to the Sheraton where I was staying for one night. I hadn't been in a hotel like that for over a month and I definitely took advantage of the amentities. I relaxed for awhile, went to the gym and sauna, and enjoyed the happy hour in the evening. Basically, my first day in Lisbon was in the hotel.

The next day I switched to a hostel I had booked for 2 nights. This hostel was closer to the old part of the city. Walking around the old town reminded me of Macau (former Portugese colony) I had been a few months earlier. The old city had some great walking roads and huge plaza by the water. The bridge that stretches across looks just like the Golden Gate bridge. I took the tram to the Jeronimos Monistary and walked around the park right across the street for awhile. I seriously felt I was in San Francisco with this bridge that clearly was a copy (and ironically built by the same company that built the Bay Bridge in SF). The last thing I attempted to do was to see the castle at the top of the hill, however, by the time I got there it was closed.

Fatima - The 20th was my birthday and I decided to go to Fatima, the site of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three Portugese children. Fatima, like Lourdes, has been a huge pilgrimage site for many Catholics for decades. Since it's only 1.5 hours away I decided to take the bus. The site at Fatima is huge. There is a huge plaza in front of the main basilica. On the other end is another church and confessionals underground. The information desk gave me a map and I set a small course to see everything I could in 3 hours. One interesting thing I saw were these flames that people would throw candles into, rather than lighting them and setting them on a stand. They would just take the whole thing and throw them into the blaze. The stone ground around it was slick from melted wax and you had to be careful not to slip.

Porto – The last city I visited in Portugal was Porto. I took the train from Lisbon that morning. The girl at the hostel told me to go to one station, but the train actually left from another. It all worked out in the end. I took a short train to the second station and waited an hour and finally got my train. The train ride to Porto was nice. Part of it goes up the Atlantic coast. It made me think about what was on the other side of that ocean. By this point in my trip I was pretty burned out. I noticed in Scandinavia that I wasn’t doing research on the cities I was heading to as much other than to just read the Wikitravel write-ups. I decided I was going to make Portugal and Ireland my last stops before heading back to the US.

I got to Porto and took a taxi to my hotel. I stayed at a Sheraton and used 'cash + points' to pay. It was nice being in a good hotel for a change. I made good use of the gym. However, the spa would have cost me 10 Euros a day. I couldn’t believe it. I had never had to pay for that. Don’t they know who I am – Mr. 9 years at Platinum!

The first night I stayed in to catch up on some things and to enjoy the lounge. The next day was similar. I had made plans to go into town and walk around. I thought I would get a bit to eat in the lounge. I went back to my room to rest for a bit and 5 hours later I woke up. I think the traveling had caught up. Another day shot.

The third day I was there I was finally able to see the city. I had taken the tram downtown. I had got on without a ticket because I didn’t see them selling them anywhere and I didn’t want to wait 20 minutes for the next tram to only go four stops. In Rome I used to pull that stunt all the time. Sometimes I got caught and sometimes I didn’t. Southern European countries generally don’t have good controls when it comes to public transportation. However, I did notice a serious upgrade in Rome with huge doors to prevent people from riding for free. When we got to the 3rd stop I saw an office hanging outside the tram. I thought he might board so I decided to get off and walk the rest of the way.

Downtown Porto is quite nice. I walked around a bit and checked out some churches. I had lunch by the river and then took a cruise up the river to see the bridges. I got off by one of the wineries and took a tour of a port winery. Port is not my favorite wine because it is so sweet, but it’s nice to have once and awhile.


Dublin – I decided to make Ireland my last stop on the international leg of my tour. I didn’t make it here fourteen years ago when I traveled Europe for three months. I’m part Irish myself so I was looking forward to being in the land where I have heritage (though it is in Northern Ireland). It was also nice to be able to speak English again and not have to play charades to get something.

Dublin was what I expected. It was raining lightly when I got in and it was a lot cooler. I got a cab to my hostel and had a good conversation with the driver, Jimmy. Jimmy was telling me about Irish people and how I would enjoy hanging around Dublin for a few days. I told him I was expecting to see a lot of head butting. He said he wasn’t so sure about that but it does happen a bit. Jimmy also told me about the ‘feckin’ English’ and how they had been brutal with the Irish. He also told me about his mate who was in the Irish Republican Army and killed about 20 people and now is struggling with it all. He said his friend witnessed his dad, brother, and mum getting beat pretty bad by English police and vowed revenge and joined the IRA when he was of age. That brutal time isn’t that far away but it seems like things are all good now, especially with the younger generation. I noticed this in the former Yugoslavia as well. It seems like the war never happened for the younger generation – and hopefully it doesn’t again.

After I got to my hostel I took the bus downtown and went to the Temple street area. I had fish and chips at the Auld Dubliner and went to the actual Temple bar. I spent the rest of the day walking around. The next day was pretty much the same. I went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and took a tour of that as well.

Galway – Next it was off to Galway. I hadn’t really planned for this trip but two people both randomly recommended it so I thought I would go check it out. This nice Irish town on the west coast isn’t far from the Cliffs of Moher. I decided to take a tour to the cliffs as well. They are the classic cliffs you seen in advertisements for Ireland. There was some great scenery on the way too. The cliffs themselves are amazing and I would highly recommend them to anyone who goes to Ireland!

On the bus I met three American girls – two sisters from St. Louis and their cousin from Boston. They let me hang out with them, which was pretty nice. After the cliffs we went to this ancient grave site that was older than the pyramids.

Cork – My final stop in Ireland was Cork. I had a friend from Los Angeles who had been working there since the beginning of the year and I was also expecting to see my cousin Meagan who was on her honeymoon in Ireland. The first night I met my friend, Karen, and we had dinner at this vegetarian restaurant. Afterwards we headed to a local bar to meet her boyfriend and their friends and to compare Guinness with Murphy’s and to play trivia. It was a good time but unfortunately some people have to work so we called it a night early.

The next day I headed to the Blarney Castle. I met three Italian girls on the way and the let me tag along with them. I also randomly saw my cousin Meagan and her new husband Casey. We all hung out together and walked around the grounds. It would rain and then be sunny all day. That even I met Meagan and Casey for dinner like we planned and then met the Italians and another guy for drinks.

Before heading to Dublin I met the Italians one more time for coffee and then lunch. However, I was the only one eating lunch since it was so early. I headed back to Dublin on the bus and spend my last night eating at the Auld Dubliner. Apparently Notre Dame was in town to play Navy for the first game of the year and there were a lot of Americans. I always thought it was funny since Notre Dame was founded by a bunch of French priests that they call themselves the Irish. I think the term ‘Fighting’ has been dropped because they really haven’t won much in the last 15 years or so. Oh well, I guess Lou Holtz was right about them destroying that program when they sold their souls to NBC for 30 million dollars – very similar to the 30 pieces of silver Judas took for Jesus. Go Navy! One cool thing though was that I was at the bar and Mike Golic (from ESPNs ‘Mike and Mike’) came in and was at the bar right beside me. He seemed like a cool guy and bought beers for the poor Notre Dame students sitting beside me.

Next stop – The United States of America!!!

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