I stepped inside from our balcony to grab my camera and suddenly heard a loud boom, this one much closer than the others. I whirled around just in time to see the flash of light fading into the thick, damp summer air and a few wisps of smoke rising off the hot pavement just outside the gate to the US Embassy.
Cheers erupted and several other bright flashes continued to dot the Buenos Aires skyline. It was midnight on Christmas Eve and all seven of us huddled on our tiny balcony on the twelfth floor to watch the Porteños usher in Christmas with a traditional citywide display of fireworks.
Sweat dripped down my temple as I hurried to set up my camera. I positioned myself between two strangers-quickly-turned-friends and took my shot.
If you read my post about Porto, you know what big fans we are of Portugal. And as I said in my last post, if Porto has the Portuguese charm, Lisbon’s got her spunk.
I think we saw more of Lisbon at night than during the day. The city has a bridge like the Golden Gate in San Francisco, a statue like The Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and clubs that stay open till 6am rivaling those in Madrid.
Make sure to check out at least one club if you visit Lisbon. We partied at the popular club, Lux, right on the harbor (only about $15 USD per person cover charge and that included two free drinks). Compared to the States, that’s a steal.
If you are thinking about visiting Portugal…stop thinking; go! This little country surprised us. Although often overshadowed by its bigger, more suave, European neighbors like France, Italy, and Spain, Portugal packed a big punch. Don’t underestimate this lil’ sport.
Portugal competed at all levels (except for maybe in Fútbol) with all the other European countries we visited, but at a fraction of the cost. She had hospitable locals, beautiful architecture, historical monuments, gorgeous coastline, hip nightlife, and tasty wine. And between Lisbon and Porto you can experience all of the above.
In my opinion, Porto holds the charm and Lisbon’s got the spunk.
As I hobbled in to El Burgo Ranero, my right knee had mostly healed, but four new blisters had formed on my feet after several days of walking in the rain. And what had started as a slight tickle in my throat in Hontanas had now turned into vicious fevers, aches and chills. So in need of a good night’s sleep and to be sure I didn’t spread my germs to the other pilgrims, Tom and I decided to take a break from the albergue and get a private room.
After unloading our bags, Tom took off his shirt to take a shower. I squirmed when I saw his entire back and arms still covered by itchy, small, red bumps. Bed bugs attacked him a few nights prior in Fromista. The bites were itchy, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part about bed bugs was fearing them.
Climbing into bed at night after a 25km+ hike should feel like a warm hug for a tired pilgrim, but because of these little pests, going to bed was now a fear-ridden ritual of checking seams and praying that we make it through the night bug-free. We were completely defenseless against these microscopic nocturnal monsters and we knew it.
We sat down for dinner with 25 strangers; we enjoyed dessert with 25 friends. On our second night on the Camino, Tom and I stayed in a small village named Larrasoaña. The town had a crummy albergue with no heat and squeaky beds, and only one restaurant. As such, almost every pilgrim in town ate there for dinner. We took our seat at the end of the table across from unfamiliar faces. But by the end of our meal we had sparked several new friendships that would last beyond Santiago.
Later that night, when Tom and I cuddled together on the lower bunk (the only way for us to stay warm without a sleeping bag), we looked up to read inscriptions from previous pilgrims. One in particular resonated with us, “Why am I here?” I believe that the night’s communal dinner was the Camino’s response to our doubt.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!