From the white sand and sparkling beaches of Playa del Carmen, we’ve flown over the North Atlantic ocean to the historic cities of Spain and Portugal. Our lives have quickly sped up from the leisurely pace of snorkeling and beach-going to match the buzzing, vibrant cities of Southern Europe.
It’s our first trip to Spain and Portugal, and we’re finding ourselves caught up in a whirlwind of visits to lovely local bakeries and wandering through seemingly endless city plazas full of history and monuments. We spent our first week in Madrid adjusting to the seven hour time change and touring its cobblestone streets.
On our last day in Madrid, we rented a car, made sure we’d processed our international driver’s permit, and are slowly driving over three weeks across Spain and along the Portuguese coast. From Madrid, our first stop was the beautiful mountain town of Avila, Spain, where we walked along the medieval fortress walls and experienced a quieter side to life. From there, we took a short drive to the university town of Salamanca, with wide streets perfect for walking, and took refuge from the chill and even snow next to looming cathedrals and trendy cafes.
After Salamanca, we veered West across the border to the warmer city of Porto, Portugal, a city so picturesque and quirky that I swear it’s impossible to take a truly bad photo.
After port tours and boat rides along the Douro River, we headed south and I’m now writing this from Lisbon, Portugal. We’re right in the heart of this charming city, in the Bairro Alto district, with steep, crazily vertical cobbled streets that are hundreds of years old and dodging century-old trolley cars careening through the twisty cobblestone roads.
From our window, we can see people walking at all hours of the day along streets so narrow that you can touch the walls on both sides of the buildings if you roll your car windows down! Driving is crazy down here and we now understand why most of the cars are tiny and trains are so popular.
After Lisbon, we’ll be driving to Portugal’s Algarve region, before turning inland to the orange blossoms of Seville and eventually the beaches of Malaga, Spain.
We’ll write more about our trip in the next few weeks, when we settle down for a while. We’re hoping to rent a villa in one of the white villages in Andalusia, Spain, and catch up on some school work for the kids and write a backlog of posts for us.