Who knew it would take me traveling to Europe to see the Golden Gate Bridge, well at least its semi-twin. 

In Lisbon, Portugal the 25 de Abril bridge is the longest suspension bridge in Europe and happens to look like a cross between  the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge. The Portuguese bridge was built in 1966, has a reddish-orange tint, and was constructed by the same company, American Bridge Company, that built the Oakland Bay Bridge. One of the girls on the trip cracked the joke that San Francisco was coming to us, I thought that was funny since I have been all over the world but not all over the United States. This sounds melodramatic but going to Lisbon, seeing the Golden Gate Bride/Oakland Bay Bridge look-alike, and traveling Europe has made me realize I have not seen enough of my home country. An early New Years resolution: Go to a national park before another country next year. Lets hope that happens. 

Back to Lisbon. What a beautiful country. When we arrived we were astonished by how beautiful and modern it was. We took the metro to our hostel, Yes! Lisbon Hostel, and each metro stop was absolutely gorgeous. The metro has been called "an underground gallery" since many of the stations are decorated with modern art, and the architecture is there to match. Unfortunately I was so in aw of what I was seeing I didn't take any pictures, luckily there is such thing as the internet and a website for the metro. 
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Photo courtesy of Metro Lisboa
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Photo courtesy of Metro Lisboa
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Cristo Rei monument, Lisbon.
When we arrived at the hostel we dropped our belongings off, changed and headed out for dinner. Irene, my señora said Lisbon was very cheap and my goodness was she right. My dinner of fresh salmon, potatoes, wine and bread cost ten euros, I was pleasantly shocked. After eating dinner we walked around the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and saw a beautiful view of the water and across the way was the Cristo Rei statue. I had seen the Catholic monument on the television and travel shows but never did I think I would be seeing it myself. We never went very close to it, but I think I will leave that for another visit to Portugal. The monument was built in 1959 as a symbol of gratitude to God for excluding Portugal in WWII. Many statues and national monuments in Europe are from centuries before the United States was founded and it was nice to see something that was more modern and relatively close to the ages of many sights in the U.S. After gazing at the water for a bit we headed back to the hostel to get some sleep for our big beach day the next day. When you take later flights they are always considerably cheaper, but you have to be prepared for the trade-off of being tired that night and OK with having a quiet evening. 

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Cascaes beach in the early afternoon.
The next morning we headed to Cascaes, a suburb approximately 40 minutes from Lisbon via train. The weather that morning was chilly but once the sun poked outside of the clouds it heated up and turned into the perfect beach day. Lisbon and the surrounding areas are known for their beaches and are extremely accessible. You can take the train, bus or taxi. It was strange to be in the capital of a country and a big city and have a number of beaches nearby, but I am not complaining. Being from Minnesota I was positive that the Atlantic Ocean was going to be absolutely freezing in mid-October, I will have you know that it was great. The water temperature was between a Lake Superior and summer beaches in the city of Minneapolis, more towards the latter temperature. It took a while to become acclimated to the temperature but once you creep in little by little it is not so bad. Throughout the day at the beach I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to be in Madrid and be able to travel. We all laid on the sand , attempting to tan, soaking in the bright blue water and listening the different languages surrounding us and I still could not grasp that I was in Portugal, at a beach, in the middle of October. It is all still very surreal.  

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Rachel soaking up the hot Lisbon sun.
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Braving the water! From left: Kevin, Emily, Andrea, Rachel
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The Minnesota crew. From left: Kevin, Rachel, Andrea.
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The day came to an end. Sunset on the beach in Lisbon.
The day on the beach was relaxing and rejuvenating. With sun kissed faces we headed back to Lisbon to shower and get ready for dinner and a night out in Lisbon. There is an area named Bairro Alto in Lisbon and is known for having a big nightlife where you hop from bar to bar, all the locals go to that area so we decided to make an appearance. Well, it proved to be more difficult than what we thought. In Madrid you can tell that a bar is a good place to go by the loud music, numerous people coming in and out and it all just seems to be alive, in Lisbon it was different. It was much more casual. It is customary to grab a drink at a bar and take it outside to drink in small groups. If you don't want a drink from one place you can go grab it from another and you all reconvene in the street. The music was decently loud but nothing like we have become accustom to in Madrid. In order to blend in a bit more we went to a bar to get a drink and sit outside, to our liking it played 80s and 90s music. One word: perfection. We sang to a few songs, gasped at ones we missed hearing and soon began a conversation about what music from our generation would be popular when our kids would be growing up. We were all over the map, but we came to the consensus on three: Lady Gaga (because you just can't forget her), Britney Spears (obviously), and Taylor Swift (of course). After our heated, intellectual conversation we decided to call it an early night so we could be prepared for our culture day.

When you're traveling  you want to get the best of both worlds; the fun, local experience and the touristy side where you learn the history and see the important monuments. Hostels are a good way to find cheap, and periodically free, tours, transportation and activities that allow you to do so. A free walking tour was offered at our hostel Sunday morning we walked around Lisbon and saw amazing views and learned more about the Portuguese culture. The six of us and two Canadian girls, backpacking across Europe, walked in the rain up and down the cobblestone hills and roads getting our workout in. When it's raining and you're on a European adventure you can't really be mad, that's my philosophy at least. With umbrellas in hand and raincoats on we learned about the Fado, a Portuguese music genre that originated in the 1820s, saw tile art posted on apartment buildings (a common sight in Portugal),  and a beautiful rainbow on top of a grocery store of all places. There are not many monuments in Lisbon, it is mostly populated by towering apartments, quaint houses, narrow streets and of course the beautiful ocean view
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Kevin by tile art illustrating a Fado performance.
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Rainbow over Lisbon. Photo courtesy of Emily Schmidt.
Following the tour we headed to eat pastries, what else is new? My diet totally went out the window the day I arrived in Spain. Lisbon is famous for a pastry named Pastéis de Belém and ironically the best are found at the bakery called,   Pastéis de Belém. The custard tart was absolutely to die for. They give you packets of cinnamon and sugar to put on top of the palm-sized piece of Heaven and I swear, once you have had one you can't stop craving another. After we nommed out of control and ate our daily consumption of calories in two pastries we went to Jerónimos Monastery. The building was beautiful but by this time in our trip we have seen so many beautiful churches and monasteries that they all are beginning to blend together. It's a sad truth. 
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Pastéis de Belém before first bite.
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So happy to have the Pastéis de Belém.
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Best Pastéis de Belém I have ever had.
All in all, Lisbon was a great decision. If you're looking for a nice weekend getaway this is the place to go. It's reasonably priced, the people are great, and the views are incredible. You will walk away sad you have to go back to reality, but everyone needs a few days of R&R, and what better way to do just that than at a beach in Portugal?
7/6/2013 21:46:42

So many breathtaking pictures. Cant wait to visit this city.

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7/11/2013 19:56:20

Me and my friends and are just entering our 2nd week of visting Portugal and think we did a perfect split of our first week.

We spent three nights in Leira and then took the train and spent 4 nights in Lisbon. 4 full days in Lisbon was perfect for us and then we did a day trip on the train to Porto and Estoril. We had a wonderful last few days in Lisbon and there's still so much more we'd have liked to have seen. I completely understand your enthusiasm for it.

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