Finally. The weekend that I had been most looking forward to. My best friend in the entire world coming to visit me!!! My mother!!! If that sounds weird to you, you can stop reading this post now…
Friday morning, or late Thursday night, I’m not completely sure how it is categorized, but I left my apartment for the airport at 5 a.m. in order to meet my mom in Lisbon, Portugal. No, you aren’t reading this wrong. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning in order to be out of my door at 5 a.m. I was not about to hail a taxi at that hour, so I used the app on my phone called MyTaxi. It is the Uber of Barcelona but sucks 100 times more. I miss Uber. MyTaxi was great in this case, and if there was no cab at 5 a.m. waiting for me they would have heard from me, but luckily when I got outside there was the taxi waiting. The driver’s ringtone was “Call Me Maybe.”
She was actually the first female driver I’ve had. Anyway, MyTaxi is not always reliable… and especially without Wi-Fi. Once I leave my apartment building, I no longer have Wi-Fi so when the driver says he’s there and isn’t… that’s generally an issue.
Regardless, I got to the airport very quickly. I definitely could have left later than I did, but everyone makes me more nervous than I already am about flying. Well thanks to the amateurs who never have anxiety and now do abroad. I fully blame you. I even went out of my way and researched alternate routes to the airport and the times of rush hour. Well seeing as everything starts later in Barcelona, I’ll know for the next time that a 5 a.m. drive to the airport (that’s 20 minutes away from my apartment in Gracia) for a 7 a.m. flight is an immense amount of time to just sit there and curse yourself for not setting your alarm later. With that, I passed out on the flight to the point where I was annoyed we landed since it disrupted my peaceful sleep. I cleared the floor of the airport in order to get a running start when I saw my mom. If you didn’t already know, we are two peas on a pod, aka very close and it’s been somewhat of an adjustment for me to be this far to her. Yes, while I go to school in Miami and rely on flights to go and come home, being in a different time zone and not being able to call every five seconds has been tough… but probably necessary for us to do. I still text her for her opinion on where I should go out for dinner, as if she knows the restaurants in my area. She did come bearing gifts– that being all of my gluten-free favorite treats from a store near my house in New Jersey, Squirrel and the Bee.
We arrived at our hotel quickly, and immediately started our day. We began by going to Sintra. In order to go to Sintra, there is a metro that takes you directly there. We walked over to Rossio Square, which is historically known for the train station. It was very helpful that Starbucks was there to help re-energize our day. Then, I kid you not, the train was departing in 30 seconds, and so we sprinted there. Sprinted. Seeing my mom run like that I almost fell over my own two feet. This man held the door open for us as every other door was closing and he couldn’t help but laugh too. The train ride was very easy and about a half hour. The only confusing part is that the train doesn’t have an automated voice that says the next station. So my mom and I were frantically looking around each time in order to see what stop we were at and if we should get off. By the end of the ride, we realized that the next stop appears on a screen at the end of the cars. Oops. For those of you who don’t like walking around a lot, Lisbon is not the city for you. It is ALL HILLS. I didn’t mind… not that I’m bragging about my gym obsession, but I thought my mom was about to slide down every climb or even push a baby aside in order to sit in their stroller. I don’t think their parents would be thrilled although her height is deceiving and could be mistaken for that of a teenager. (Sorry mom)
Sintra was absolutely beautiful but as I said, Lisbon is all hills. It was essentially the equivalent of the trek to Parc Güell. After arriving at the Sintra train station, there are a few options as to how to tour around the area of Sintra ranging from private tours to shuttle buses at different points up the hill. It can be a tour that is an entire day or just a few hours but definitely not less than an hour. It would take an hour just to get the shuttle up that hill! The shuttle took us to the last stop, which was the Palace. It was painted in many pastel colors, which was interesting because my OCD was kicking in. We bought tickets and waited in line for the next shuttle to take us fully up the hill to the National Palace of Pena. Little did we know that we had to pay for that as well, and we had been waiting for such a long time at that point that we decided to walk up. I told my mom that if the mother with her stroller got to the top of the hill before us that I was going to be seriously annoyed since they started a good 10 minutes after us. (We only beat them by 10 seconds, but it definitely served as some motivation!) When walking around the Palace, I couldn’t even imagine how people let employees walk down the narrow path that goes around the entire perimeter of the palace! It was a little nerve-wracking!
We then took the train back to the Rossio station and decide to walk around the shopping areas. Every time someone mentions great shopping in a city, I am immediately determined to find clothing, trinkets or even shoes that are unique to the culture as opposed to the mainstream H&M‘s that I have seen in every country…literally. I was told that Chiado, Barrio Alto, Baixa and Principe Real were the main shopping areas. We started in Chiado because that was the location of our hotel. It has truly become a Murphy’s Law. When I am actively seeking something to buy, there is absolutely nothing. Nope. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Then, when I’m told I can’t buy anything, just about everything within my peripheral vision is something that I would “die” for or is “so unique.” Typical. We then headed over to the Principal Real area to a place called Embaixada. I had previously researched Embaixada because it wasn’t just an ordinary mall, but one that is a renovated palace. Each room of the palace is a different store and there is a central restaurant. The building was beautiful and although I didn’t buy anything, I loved the concept of it. It also wasn’t as touristy, which was great for me considering I didn’t want to go to the mainstream stores. Outside of the mall was a small fair with different kiosks of trinkets that were handmade. There was one stand in particular that stuck out to me which was a bike stand (obviously). Think of any bike accessory or enhancement, and they had it. They even went as far as a bike pizza cutter!
After that, we made our way around the area a little more and headed back to the hotel to regroup. This is where it got interesting. My mom is a huge planner, which is where I get it from. Everything is organized, color-coded, with lists and lists and even lists for those lists on yellow sticky notes. I planned our entire itinerary up to every second (with a color-coordinated sticky noting nuances such as rainy day activities). All I asked is that my mom look into restaurants. We started our night at an Italian restaurant called Come Prima. I looked up the menu prior to our trip and it seemed fine! There were a few risotto dishes to choose from and some salads. Well, when we arrived at the restaurant, put in our drink orders, and started to eat some of the snacks they put on our table, we soon realized what we were getting ourselves into. I asked our waiter for the Wi-Fi password, and his response was “Well how am I supposed to know that? Why would I know that?” It wasn’t a language barrier issue, but the only think I kept thinking to myself is the lack of intelligence this guy has for saying that to a customer and that he really didn’t know who he was dealing with. Okay, whatever. Moving forward, I began to order one of the risotto dishes since I had about six to chose from. The waiter’s response was “Oh sorry we don’t have risotto tonight. We aren’t making it.” EXCUSE ME? That was basically the only thing I could eat on the menu, and how do you just delete six options off of your menu? My mom and I instantly looked at each other, and we got up from the table and told him we couldn’t eat here. He was so offended. Sorry that you suck. I mean come on, no risotto? Wi-Fi? Try to cater to customers a little LESS why don’t you. This wasn’t a local Portuguese-style restaurant, it was Italian!! Learn your menu.
Well, after that great start, I told my mom that we were trying this other Italian restaurant that had a Gluten-Free menu called La Trattoria. IT WAS FABULOUS and just what we wanted. They were more than accommodating for every dish and the waiter was so sweet. I ordered a goat cheese salad and for my main, I had a great risotto (suck on that Come Prima) that initially had meat in it but they substituted it with cheese for me. Yum. My mom ordered a caprese salad and ravioli. The ironic part was that I had made a reservation here for the next day and seeing as the night went well the first time around, I kept it just in case we needed to repeat night one.
The next day we woke up and decided to do a Segway tour of the medieval area of Lisbon known as Alfama. The company leading the Segway tour was Lisbon By Segway. The tour was amazing and my mom and I had never been on Segway’s before. WOW, some great blackmail let me tell you. I have never laughed so hard yet had to contain myself for the sake of falling off of the Segway. The tour was an hour. I had thought it would be more of a set path so that we weren’t in the way, but to the contrary. Weaving through people, in the middle of traffic, I was so nervous to even look at the sights for the sake of hitting someone on the street!!! We zoomed by the secrets of the Alfama area, Castle of Saint George, the area of Graca and the Church of Santa Maria.
Sights on the Segway Tour:
To be honest, I was convinced that I was going to do this tour by sliding down the narrow streets of Alfama. The Segway’s were easy to maneuver, but going downhill became a struggle… just for me…obviously. I think I almost gave the tour guide, Candy, a heart attack when we went down one street and I couldn’t slow down to the point where I was screaming help and going so fast that the Segway felt as if it was lifting all the way up and I should be saying hello to my new method of transportation–sliding. That would be some serious degree of cobblestone-burn. I apologized immensely to Candy and she basically held my Segway like a child for the remainder of the tour–attached to her hip as she effortlessly guided the two of us with one hand on her Segway. (show-off). My mother continues to gloat and I probably won’t live it down that for one time, she was actually better at an activity than me. After that, we walked around to find tiles to bring home. Lisbon’s tiles are beautiful but I knew the amount my mom was looking for wasn’t going to fit in her suitcase. I’m sure she can find it online. We had a small snack at a coffee shop called Quinoa, and then walked around for a little more around the Chiado area. For dinner we made a new reservation at Sacramento. It was recommended to us by a friend. I couldn’t see the menu online, but I knew I had the reservation at the Italian restaurant if need be. It ended up being really great! My mom and I shared a few vegetarian dishes and loved them. As we went back to the hotel, we stopped at the Santa Justa elevator to see the view from the top. Once again, this is something that would only happen to my mom and I. All day we had passed the entrance and the line was around the corner. As we walked after dinner, there was no line. We didn’t know it was the last group allowed to go up, and went we went to go down, it was locked. We had to walk an additional ½ hour to get back to our hotel after seeing the beautiful views!
The next day we made our way back to Barcelona. It was so exciting to be able to show my mom my city and everything that I love. I wanted to show her everything, which is hard because she didn’t have that much time here. It seemed as if it was the day from hell though, because everything went horribly wrong. We immediately got in a cab from the airport and the driver didn’t understand my address. I know that I don’t have an accent, but it’s never taken me seven times to have to explain myself. I live on a very “popping” and “trendy” street in Gracia. He then went this abnormally obscure way to my apartment, which didn’t lessen my anxiety whatsoever. We dropped our bags off and made a move on it to have brunch. We went somewhere that I had never been before but wanted to try, Dostrece. It was really yummy until by stomach felt like it was lighting itself on fire which quickly subsided. Whatever, what else is new.
We then walked over to La Boqueria. Well, thanks to no one for telling me that it was closed on Sundays… epic fail #1. Epic fail #2 was then tripping over my own two feet getting back into a cab and now being seriously injured and not being able to work out the week before Spring Break. YUP. Epic fail #3 would then be the fact that we trekked all the way up to Parc Güell, to find out that the next opening was at 5 and we were there at 3:15… and we had reflexology appointments at the W Bliss Spa at 5. My mom didn’t care but I really just wanted the trendy picture (blaming it on her needing to take that picture since she’s in Barce and everyone HAS TO take that picture) and not wanting to waste a really cute, well thought out outfit just for that picture!! We walked around Parc Guell anyway, with my foot being in more and more pain, but getting some amazing photo shots in the park area. Then the W. Ahhh, relaxing. Any massage appointment is such a tease. You get situated and then it’s already over. After that, we went to the bar of the W for sangria. We were sitting there for about a half hour and our sangria never came. The bar wasn’t even busy… and we didn’t even order filet mignon… so we got up and left once we sat in their really fun swivel chairs and took the requisite pics. I’m sure their sangria wasn’t good anyway and I was satisfied that I didn’t waste the calories. After that we needed to get into a cab back to my apartment in Gracia. Well again, thanks FC Barca vs. Real Madrid game. That took about 30 minutes (but Barca won!). After that, we got ready for dinner and went to Cornelia& Co. I really liked it there and I’m hoping to go for brunch sometime soon.
The next day my mom and I took it kind of easy. We finally went to the Boqueria, then a leather store I had been meaning to go to buy some leather jackets, brunch at Milk, and then some walking around the Gothic Quarter seeing the church and the historical synagogue, and obviously a pit stop at Happy Pills. I needed a rest so we recharged ourselves and ate dinner after at La Luna. I love the area of El Born. There’s so much to do there and has a lot of great shopping! We ended the night at Ice Barcelona, being more frozen than Elsa and Olaf and then pulled an all-nighter talking the hours away.
We had an amazing weekend and I was so sad to see my mom go but I am sure her tears filled the Atlantic Ocean as she flew home. She’ll be regretting the feeling of missing me now when I come home and annoy her every day!!
Love you mom!!!