I simply must brag that I had the best tour guides in all of Portugal, The Putzgrilla DJ’s Miguel Lamelas and Rui Martins. Traveling around with DJ’s has many perks: crowd vantage points, speaker proximity, groupie seniority, and endless flow of beats and beverages. Then there is the access to music festivals such as NOS Alive.
Upon arrival to Lisbon (Lisboa to the locals), the first perk I experienced was being taken to an all you can eat sushi buffet called Sushi Time before we hit the town. We let our food digest by casually strolling up many intimidating vertical staircases in the focal part of the city. I quickly say a thank you to myself for changing out my Choo’s for Toms wedges. If you don’t want to brave it on foot city planners developed a series of funicular railways to help with transport to and from the neighborhoods above the city. It’s a real joy to ride on some of the tracks such as the old Ascensor do Lavra which dates all the way back to the late 1800s and has been honored with a national heritage tag.
I peek in a locals open apartment window to get a glimpse of life in the central city of Lisbon. It feels almost medieval with the cobblestone streets and old stone buildings. I try to keep my steady stride while asking copious amounts of questions.
“Has anyone ever been to San Francisco?,” I ask as we reach the top of a hill. I am retorted with the hearty laughter from Bruno, the Putzgrilla DJ’s manager. “Lisboa is known as Cidade das Sete Colinas, or the City of Seven Hills. The highest of the seven is Castelo de Sao Jorge, or Saint Georges Castle,” Bruno educates as he points to the well-lit castle.
“What hill are we on now?” I ask peaking with curiosity as I look down at a trolley car coming towards us. “A few more to go,” Bruno laughs back at me. “We are heading to Bairro Alto where the nightlife is,” says Miguel. He stops off at a convenient store and buys us all Super Bock, the local beer. It goes well with the journey. Yes, you can drink and walk here.
We arrive at the rooftop bar and lounge ironically called Park, as it is located in an unassuming parking garage. “This keeps most tourists at bay,” I am told by Bruno as I step out of the elevator into an elegant lounge that mirrors a garden party. The panoramic view of Lisbon is astonishing. This is a perfect way to celebrate entrance into a fascinating European city.
I marvel at the romantic 16th-century architecture around Bairro Alto as we bar hop, although we never really go into the bar. One person elects to buy a round of beers, not even one Euro in price, while everyone else congregates outside. Music fills the streets from open doors to bars and street performers. People walk up and join our group who are standing outside other bars. It’s a great way not to limit yourself to one place I think, especially for me who wants to see everything.
The following day my DJ hosts wake me up early and feed me toast and fruit. We have an adventure planned. These are the days I live for. Step one is going to the supermarket to stock our coolers with beer, wine, champagne, and things to make for lunch. Step two: get to the charming traditional fishing town of Sesimbra where their boat is docked. I can already tell by the excitement of Rui’s face as he hands me the GoPro while he secures the wakeboard to the boat, it is going to be a fun day.
The coastline of steep cliffs and sandy beaches is breathtaking. We stop off at Praia da Ribeira do Cavalo where I am the first to jump into the crisp water and latch myself to the inner tube as Rui revs up the engine harshly swinging me through the wake. I finally let go and spin through the air, resurfacing to cheers and laughter from the boat.
The coastline is riddled with giant caves with holes at the top allowing sunlight to peak through providing the only light. We drive the boat into the cave where I jump off and free dive down the sliver of sunlight.
We make lunch and drink champagne and wakeboard. After wakeboarding, we anchor the boat and swim about 100 meters (328 feet) to a rocky shore where each of us proceeds to climb up the steep cliff. I stop off at around 9 meters (30 feet). “This is me,” I tell the boys. Without hesitation, I plunge into the royal blue waters below. I hear my girlfriend Ana Rocio cheering me on from the boat.
While the boys are impressing us with their back flips from higher rocks I decide to climb back up and dive head first, something I have never done in my long history of jumping off rocks into bodies of water. I am conquering a fear.
Exhaustion has yet to kick in as we arrive back to the fisherman’s village of Sesimbra. We sit down outside at a tiny restaurant where an older gentleman stands outside by an outdoor wood fired oven turning over whole fish. Red wine is brought to us in pitchers as our table began to fill up with freshly grilled sardines, salted cod, and horse mackerel, each with different sauces. Plates of potatoes, rice, and vegetables are added. Our diverse dinner party full of robotics engineers, entertainment professionals, public relations giants, and me – representing Packed Perfectly chatted the night away. Each of us agreed that while people might view Portugal as a small country, it’s a 5-hour drive from Viana do Castelo in the North to Faro – the municipality in the south, it is massive in the nightlife, architecture, and food.
Torre de Belém
This great tower displays a veritable fusion of architectural styles from the Mudejar to the Moorish, the Gothic to the Romanesque. It has stood watch over the mouth of the Tagus River since its construction under the patronage of Saint John back in the 16th century.
Ride Tram 28
Tram 28 is a city icon which has been working its way up the steep cobbled roads and into the old Alfama district for decades.
The people-watching opportunities from the windows are second-to-none, and you’re bound to discover decades of history as you pass the various majestic palaces and castles along the route.
The Alfama District
This is the oldest part of the city, although this one dates back to the Moors of Africa instead of the kings of Latium. There are remains of old city walls and hidden squares with al fresco cafes aplenty.
The Great Monastery of Jerónimos
This massive landmark is nestled close to the banks of the Tagus River. It was built to mark Portugal’s most glorious age which was called ‘The Age of Exploration’. The fusion of architectural designs, known as the Manueline style, stands as testimony to the cultures encountered by Lisbon’s explorers.
Mercado da Ribeira
Lisbon’s most famous food market. The downstairs is local fruit and vegetable vendors and the upstairs is filled with modern quirky food stalls and eateries.
The water can get pretty chilly, but surfing in Portugal is top notch. The 100ft wave in the world was surfed here by Carlos Burle in 2014.
The country is packed full of exquisite beaches, plenty of extreme coastal sports, culture, history, deliciously fresh food, thriving nightlife, and some of the nicest people you will meet. Why NOT go to Lisboa?