Ever wonder what it’s like to update a guidebook for an entire country? Join me on a whirlwind 3.5 weeks through Portugal. Compiled below are the brief, daily Facebook updates I posted while on the road. Let’s roll!
25 Apr · Ok, suitcase is packed. And look at all that extra room! Coming soon: 3 weeks of Portugal pics, then 7 weeks of Spain photos. Already imagining that first sip of vinho verde…
26 Apr · Delayed flight to Barcelona in Ezeiza, but I returned to the VIP lounge after hearing the announcement. Another glass of wine will help calm my nerves about possibly missing my connection to Lisbon…
27 Apr · Wow, do I love Portugal. Even while fighting the hordes at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Tip: Never, ever, nunca, jamais, go on Sunday between 10:00-14:00 when it’s free. Two lines *around* the corner of the monastery… pay 7€ to go at another time. It’s worth it. [Update: Now it’s 10€ but still worth it.]
28 Apr · It’s midnight, & more or less I have an idea how my workday will begin tomorrow… more or less. Right now I’m hoping for sleep & a little post-coffee epiphany in the morning. Portugal 8th edition, here I come.
Wow, do I love Portugal. Even when I take the wrong bus. I can blame it on the 5 hours of sleep last night, right? Rather than stress out, I knew I had to stay put until the end of the line… then hop back on. Got to see two crazy churches + MASSIVE housing projects in Moscavide. Frango piri-piri for dinner with some ginjinha afterwards made everything ok.
29 Apr · Wow, do I love Portugal. Even when I get a little sunburnt. Part of the job, I guess… especially with my complexion! Back to Belém today to update the book & do a few listed places along the way. So much good info to input that tonight will be dedicated to typing & more typing. Thanks to the wonderful staff at the Museu de Arte Antiga. Easily one of my favorite museums.
30 Apr · Wow, do I love Portugal. Even when my nap is interrupted. Crazy, insane day getting a ton accomplished, but I needed just a 15 minute break when I checked into the new hotel. I think I got 10 minutes before the phone rang, & the owner wanted to show me his other properties. I know the routine… no time like the present. At least it’s a chance to speak Portuguese…
01 May · Dang, this is a lot of work. It’s been two years since the last edition, & everything has changed. A lot. Where’s my vinho verde??
Wow, do I love Portugal. I laugh so much when I’m here. Going down to breakfast this morning, a woman held the elevator for me. She said, “You look like you’re working.” I smiled & said, “Thank goodness, because that was the look I was going for!” We had a blast at breakfast.
Hotels & more hotels today. Then lots of computer time followed by a classic supermarket moment. A woman behind me said after we’d waited for an eternity in line, “Passa tudo em camara lenta” (Everything’s happening in slow motion)… she was talking to herself, but I couldn’t help but laugh. She then said to me, “All we can do is laugh.” We lost it. Finally, as I said goodbye, she said, “Há varias maneiras a matar gente.” Love her to death.
02 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. But Sintra, not so much. Don’t get me wrong… the sites are amazing. But it’s so overcrowded, so overpriced, & lines are so long that I wonder if first-time visitors think it’s worth the hassle. At least I figured out a work-around for the Portugal guidebook. And the bus staff are particularly pleasant… in spite of answering the same questions over & over again. Can’t say the same for the surly TI girl, but we’ve all had those days. And I got to work on my “tan” today with a toasty 29ºC :-)
People who have Skype conversations in public places without earphones should have their account blocked for life. That means you, Russian woman sitting across from me! If I could work in my room, I would but there’s only wi-fi in the lobby… time to call it a day, I guess.
03 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Historic treats seen for the first time, warm weather, way too much fantastic food & a trip to Évora! I may be exhausted, but it’s so worth it.
04 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Even without a day off! Today was supposed to be free to relax (in reality, catch up on typing the mess that is Sintra). But so much will be closed tomorrow that I had to do a lot today. Found a great new wine tasting place to add + the cathedral has changed everything around. More work for me…
05 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Hot weather for May, but I managed to accomplish almost everything. Without doubt, the best part of the day was going into a hotel & being greeted with “O Robert!!” I hadn’t been back in 4 years & they remembered me. So nice. Quick post cuz I need to go to dinner!
06 May · Day 10 & I’m still pushing through… even though my tablet bit the dust today. It was just one of those days. Lots of travel time, a little work done on the 5-hr bus ride (free wi-fi!!), & lots of ultra-cranky tourist office folks. I swear; they must have had a contest to see who could be the bitchiest. They all tied ;-) Heading out to check restaurants in a bit & get a well-deserved half-bottle of vinho verde. Or heck, maybe even a whole bottle!
Tryin’ to be all hi-tech updating the guidebook when, oops… so that’s what happens when tablets meet Portuguese cobblestones. Toast. I think it brought out my best Florida Evans impression though.
07 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. But man, has the Algarve changed. My last visit to this region must have been 2007? Or 2009? Lagos is as gorgeous as ever but seriously out for the tourist dollar/pound/euro now. Best part of today was talking to staff in the hotel where I’m staying. Me: in full work mode but very polite, asking for updates, etc. Director of hotel: “Wait a minute. How long have you been in Portugal? Where did you learn to speak Portuguese?” Me: “Huh? Oh, I’ve been here for about a week… hopefully it’s improving.” They crack up, & I tell them about my love affair with Portugal. Fantastic way to begin a busy afternoon.
08 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. And Salema certainly showed its best side today. Not only did I get a chance for a quick stroll on the beach, but I also got to see two of my favorite people: Sigrun & Jørn, Danish expats that have lived in this cozy, little beach town for over a decade. Along the way, I helped a woman dismantle her bike for packing, then she rode the bus back to Lagos with me… along with a bunch of other Rick Steves fans. I got tips from them, & they got a few from me. Fun day!
09 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Even when it’s hot to cold. This morning I had to catch an 08:15 bus in the toasty Algarve to get back to Lisbon. Then a taxi ride to another bus station. Next, a bus ride to Óbidos where it turned grey & chilly… followed by another bus to Caldas da Rainha… and yet another bus to Nazaré. Work went very well, but my only meal in 12 hours was basically a second breakfast. Dinner was extra tasty!
10 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Especially when I run into a Rick Steves tour! I thought somewhere along my research route I’d run into Cristina & sure enough, today was the day. I became a temporary tour member, hitching a ride to the monastery in Alcobaça, returned to Nazaré for more research by taxi, had a wonderful lunch, then met the group again for dinner after researching Sítio. They’ve given me some good suggestions for the book, so it’s been a very productive day. And the food! I think I’m gaining back the weight I lost :-)
11 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Even when I switch my day off! Cristina’s group was headed to Batalha & Fátima this morning, & they said they’d love to have me come along. So instead of a quiet day on the beach, I strolled through Gothic cloisters & listened to pilgrims sing during their pilgrimage. Now I’m so tired that I can’t decide whether to skip dinner altogether or go get a pizza.
12 May · Taking one for the team: If you think my job looks fantastical & glam, well, it is :-) But not every day. With just a couple more restaurants to check out in Nazaré, I walked past a recommended place at lunch time. Not really convinced, I did a few more things on my list then returned. It couldn’t be that bad. Well, it was. Probably my worst meal so far. Won’t go into details about the sanitary conditions, but I’m hoping my immune system can handle it… Immense pleasure in deleting them from the next edition. Ugh.
Wow, do I love Portugal. Is it Day 16 already? I’m tired, but there’s another week of research to go. I took that remaining half day off today, then finished up Nazaré. And to counteract that horrendous lunch –three hairs on the plate is unacceptable by any standard– I had a wonderful afternoon of petiscos & wine overlooking the beach. It’s all good.
13 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Started off the morning locked inside the hotel… had to ring a bell & wake up the staff to get out at 07:30. Sorry! I had a bus to catch. With only today scheduled in Coimbra, I wanted to arrive as early as possible. In town by 10:00, I began checking hotels & was pleased at how warmly people responded to my request to nose around. Really solid listings now. Also ran into Steve & Tina from KY using Rick’s book who wanted my job… sorry, but no :-) They gave me a couple of good tips for Porto. Now it’s time for two restaurant checks & much later, fado. No sleep tonight!
14 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Somehow I recovered from my late fado night, mainly because the first bus to the Douro Valley left at 10:30. Small miracle. Gorgeous scenery along the way, but I had my head buried in a book & worked through most of it. Peso da Régua is super small, super cute & what views!! Incredible people too… well, with the exception of the tourist office woman who could *barely* be bothered to hand me a map. Wow. The funny thing is that everyone else I talked to today complained about her attitude! Since the entire town shuts down at 19:30, I’ve been typing away & correcting maps for a few hours. Glam, I know.
15 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Landscape impossible to find anywhere else in the world, a taxi driver that was totally into my mission, & almost catching up with input. On a whim, I bought a €25 bottle of wine at one of the places I visited & it was worth double that. Easy. Quote of the day: “The Douro gives us everything.” So true.
16 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Practically no one was on the train this morning to Porto, so I had a chance to talk to the ticket-check guy for 20 minutes. FINALLY I understand the train system in northern Portugal better… & it’s all going in the book. Then I got organized & hit the ground running. Porto has changed so much since I was here last year. I guess it’s for the better. Definitely more touristy but at least there’s life where there wasn’t any before. In the afternoon, I checked out 3 places for wine tasting among other odds & ends. Another long but super rewarding day!
17 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Even after 3 weeks straight on the road. Great weather today to check hotels, Rick’s resto additions, two port wine lodges & a few of museums. No telling how many hills I climbed today! Several memorable moments but probably the best was with the two gals at the tourist info hut on the Ribeira. I walked up & said, “Do you mind if ask one little thing?” The answer: “You? You can ask *anything* you like.” I bust out laughing… my Portuguese must be improving ;-)
18 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. And a real day off is very welcome. I strolled around taking pics of whatever caught my eye, revisited the Mercado Bom Sucesso where they absolutely ruined the building with a stylish “restoration,” then visited the nearby cemetery… on my list for years. You know me. Always going to a cemetery. Afterwards, I had the best meal of this entire trip. TKO. Honestly, I could not believe how good the food was. I came across this place by chance, trying to avoid the crowds at a nearby square. At the end of the meal, I asked the waiter: “São tudos os pratos tão bons como este?” His response, oh yeah… & gave me a few solid recommendations to try. Not cheap but I know I’m going back. On days like today, I really love Portugal :-)
19 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Met a wonderful couple from south of Sydney in the elevator this morning… I said, I’ve been to Jibbon Beach! They even knew who Rick Steves was :-) Not many photos today because I checked out a couple of new hotels to add first thing, then it began to pour. First rain since I arrived & perfect weather to work on text. I only ventured out to get a francesinha for lunch at Café Santiago. How could I leave Porto & not have one?! No dinner needed tonight, for sure.
20 May · Wow, do I love Portugal. Especially when a hunch works out. I officially ended guidebook research yesterday, but as always, there are lots of loose ends to tie up. Behind my hotel is a huge construction site. No problem at night but during the day impossible to concentrate. I googled “biblioteca municipal porto” & wouldn’t you know it, there was a public library 5 minutes away. Not only was it a quiet paradise, but the building was an old convent & had many tile panels saved from demolition. A treat. Later I found a great hotel to add to the book, had an good lunch (saved from the downpour!), spent the afternoon working on maps & trying to figure out flights for September… no easy task.
Thanks to everyone for all the positive comments during the past 24 days. Researching is a lonely job (in spite of talking to lots of people each day), so these posts have been a quick way to have some “me” time. And honestly, I think the Portuguese board of tourism should pay me for all the publicity!! Mañana, Barcelona!