DISCOVERING MY ROOTS

Well… Some of Them
by: Samantha
● June 14, 2024

Being 13% Spanish and 7% Portuguese (according to Ancestry.com), I wanted to return to the Motherland and see the land of my peoples!

Just kidding! But I really am 13% Spanish and 7% Portuguese… the other 80% is good ol’ Mexican-American.

This spring, my husband and I thought it’d be the perfect time to visit Spain. Why? Well, my sister-in-law happened to be living there, and we figured she could be useful to translate and show us the cool “local” things (beside from the fact that we missed her). The thought of visiting Portugal came up because it was listed as one of the “top travel destinations in the world” by Travel Leisure Magazine, so that piqued my interest. Since they share a peninsula, the Iberian Peninsula to be exact, I figured I could easily do both in the same trip. We did A LOT so let’s see how much I can fit here.

Our journey started in Lisbon, Portugal. This capital was our home base for the first week of our adventure. Nicknamed the “City of 7 Hills” (for good reason), this place was hills on hills… just thinking about it makes my legs tense up. It is often called the “San Francisco of Europe,” so it’s worth mentioning they have cable cars as well as a “Golden Gate Bridge” – which were inspired by and purchased from the USA, go figure! *cues the National Anthem*

The colorful houses lined the hills just below an incredible medieval castle, Castelo de Sao Jorge, perched at the top of the tallest hill in Lisbon. I was surprised by the history of Portugal. Learning about the devastating 8.5 earthquake, followed by fires and a tsunami, was eye-opening. Equally surprising was discovering that Portugal had only recently gained independence from dictatorship just 50 years ago. Portugal is also famous for their nautical inventions and exploration. If you’re a history nerd, I suggest reading about it.

The Castelo de Sao Jorge

Monument of Discoveries

 

While in Portugal, we ventured off to several cities: Sintra, Cascais, and Porto.

Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a quaint little town (about a 30 minute train ride from Lisbon) and is home to Pena Palace. Pena Palace is an incredible and eclectic palace constructed by a few people, but most famously by King Ferdinand II. It was originally intended as his summer home – which came after the devastating earthquake that left the then monastery in ruin. Sintra is also home to Quinta da Regaleira, a palace famous for its appearance on the show, Game of Thrones. This palace and its underground tunnels are incredibly interesting parts of the history of Freemasonry. It gets weird, but you can research that on your own.

Pena Palace

Quinta da Regaleira

Initiation Well

Anyways, Cascais and Porto are two well-known cities by the water. They’re dressed with mosaic stone roads, tourist shops, and cafes as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, the rain and clouds beat us there, so there was not much fun in the sun.

Overall, I would recommend Portugal to everyone. There’s still so much to see… including the Algarve, Madeira and the Azores – all known for breathtaking beaches. I’m still kicking myself in the butt for not going to at least one of them. Seriously, look them up and tell me I’m dumb for not going.

Off we went to Spain, with Seville as our next destination. Seville is a beautiful city located a few hours above Morocco, separated by the Alboran Sea. Seville is not very close to the coast, which often results in warm summer days. From what I’ve heard, it gets up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you go to Seville in the summer, be advised that you will melt. I was sweating in 80-degree weather, so I can’t even imagine.

I was shocked by the beauty of Seville. The energy of the city was palpable, it just felt good, ya know? Teeny tiny alleyways, rooftop bars, and the infamous Alcazar of Seville situated in the middle of the city. There was a beautiful Moorish palace dressed in 16th century tiles, wood carvings, and stones with a medieval wall surrounding it… simply stunning. The Alcazar’s garden was huge and had a shrub maze like the ones in the movies, you know, the ones people get lost in? Yeah, well, I got lost in it, don’t judge me.

Inside the Real Alcazar

From Seville we went to Granada, because my sister-in-law was living there while studying. This took a spontaneous turn, shifting our plans unexpectedly. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get tickets for the star of the city… the Alhambra. But from what I saw from the outside, it was truly amazing. The Alhambra is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture in Europe.

The Alhambra

From Granada, we made our way to the coast, landing in the sleepy seaside town of Nerja. Here, we finally got to go into the extremely cold ocean. It was the kind of cold that crushes your lungs, making it hard to breathe… but no big deal, I was NOT not going to go in the water!

The last part of our trip was Barcelona. Sadly, due to some rearranging of our days, we only got to spend two days there. It was kind of a bummer in the end. People had always told me that Barcelona is a big city and that they didn’t enjoy it as much as the smaller cities… but I shouldn’t have listened. I really enjoyed Barcelona, even for the short amount of time we were there. The city just felt alive. I say that because people were out enjoying each other’s company at all hours of the day. Spanish people would eat dinner at 10pm and stay out until 3am… on a weekday… like goodness, don’t you people work?!

While we were there, we saw the Sagrada Familia, the largest unfinished Catholic Church in the world. A massive cathedral with insane details designed by artist Gaudi. Gaudi buildings are everywhere in Barcelona, and are easy to spot due to his unique style of architecture.

La Sagrada Familia

We also managed to visit the aquarium and several museums. If we had an additional day, I would’ve taken a train to Costa Brava to see the clear, blue sea and enjoy the day… but c’est la vie (that’s life).

As stated previously, Barcelona is a bigger city, which means more variety, choices, and things to do. Most importantly for me, more coffee and food choices. By this time, I had been dreaming of an iced coffee. You would be surprised how hard that is to come by in Europe. I also needed a pizza or cheeseburger. No shade to the Spanish and Portuguese, but their authentic food was kind of simple and, dare I say… bland. Maybe my taste buds are just over seasoned. *shrugs in American* We often found ourselves in Italian, Chinese, or Indian restaurants to curb our cravings.

All in all, I loved traveling around the Iberian Peninsula. I highly recommend visiting these two spectacular countries, especially if they are on your list of destinations to see before you “kick the bucket.” For me, my favorite places were in this order: Seville, Sintra, Barcelona followed by Lisbon, Granada and Porto.

The landscape, history, and people made this trip a once in a lifetime experience, and I am so grateful for it.

It’s now time for me to plan what’s next! I know I have a problem, but there’s still so much world out there! Until next time…

 ❤️, Your Fave Undiscovered Travel Influencer

K.I.T (keep in touch)

(because we make kits, DUH)

ABOUT THE WRITER…

Samantha

The only thing Sam loves more than the smell of an early crisp morning at the airport, is Jesus. If you need to know random and often useless information, she’s your girl! Killer at trivia games, the queen of spin, yet wildly uncoordinated in every other respect. Hates being on camera, but she was in a Cottonelle toilet paper commercial and will never let you forget it. As a recent plant mom, it’s safe to say that none of her veggies or plants have died. Yet.

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