by smokinchestnut

“Never go full turtle,” I told Matthew while also asking him to carry our second backpack.

“You know what time it is?” He asked me in response. “Turtle time.”

“OK, Hunchie….”

And then we started cracking up and I made him stand still for a photo. Then I wrote down the quotes on my iPhone in a folder called “Portugal Funnies” so that we would never forget those memories. There’s a seagull vomit story, a quote about 50 liters of beer and countless others, but they will come later. For now, Óbidos.

Or, as Matthew called it, “Óbi-DOUCHE.” No, I’m serious. Óbidos, like many Portuguese words that end in “s,” has a “shh” sound. So you pronounce it Óbidohsh, right? Not Matthew!

“Where is the supermarket in ÓbiDOUCHE?” he asked the owner of our hostel. “How many people live in ÓbiDOUCHE?” “There sure are a lot of cats in ÓbiDOUCHE.”

Finally I gave him a confused look and told him I was pretty sure I had heard someone say ÓbiDOHsh, not DOUCHE. But, since he’s a guy, he thought it best to keep pronouncing it his way (at least in private). In fact, he STILL pronounces it this way! I told him I was going to write about Óbidos tonight and post my photos and he said, “You mean ÓbiDOUCHE??!”

Sigh! Men.

The only time during our two-week trip that we nearly missed our bus, which would have meant leaving us with zero places to stay, was on our way out of Lisbon to Óbidos. We took the metro to this huge bus station, where there were no signs to conveniently direct us to our Óbidos bus. After wandering around looking like lost tourists, we finally found someone in the metro station who pointed us in the right direction of where the bus tickets were sold.

“But today is a holiday and I’m not sure the buses run to Óbidos,” the woman said apologetically.

Well…. but… er… our hostel people said the buses went there today! Thankfully the hostel staff in Lisbon knew more about the bus schedule than the metro people did, because we found a place to buy tickets and EVENTUALLY, after seeing our bus and then immediately losing our bus because it hid from us (sneaky Portuguese buses…), we were on our way.

By the way, traveling via bus in Portugal is REALLY nice. Plush seats, tons of windows, lots of space. Despite the fact that they travel at warp speed on tiny, curvy roads like the Knight Bus in Harry Potter, it’s a great experience and a cheap way to travel. We never once rented a car and never felt like we missed out on anything.

Except for the part where I reeeeally wanted to visit the horse fair in Golegã, but ah well. Killian would have been jealous anyway.

Our hostel was the , which was another incredible hostel experience. I cannot thank our guidebook enough for suggesting HostelWorld.com as a place to find beautiful, unique and highly-rated hostels throughout Portugal. The owner of the hostel was a woman from Spain (we called her Señora because we never actually figured out her name!), which made understanding her a lot easier because we understood Spanish a lot better than we did Portuguese.

Her dog, a beautiful brindled female mix, was named “Moo” (or Mu?) and meant “tiny mountain.” She showed us to our room and told us we had the entire top floor to ourselves since no one else had booked the other rooms for the next few nights. Yay! Our window looked out onto the beautiful countryside. We soaked up the blue sky for as long as we could, as the next few days meant rain, rain and more rain.

After cleaning up a bit, we grabbed a map and a few suggestions from the owner and set off to explore the tiny, quaint city a bit. And quaint describes this town PERFECTLY! I have a special affinity for small towns, always have, and this one was no different. I love that everyone practically knows everyone and there is little to no crime. Even though I’m sure there were the annoying throngs of tourists in the summer, months like November meant a quieter, calmer pace.

The one thing that would stop me from living here would have been the food. I’ll try not to complain overmuch about the food in Portugal since I’ve already mentioned disliking most of it but…. still… the meal I photographed above had to be the saltiest meal I’ve ever eaten in my life. Salty grilled pork, the saltiest fried egg of my life, with salty french fries, white rice and… OLIVES. Which are inherently salty! GAH!!!

“Vegetables… where are the vegetables?!”

The cat who sat meowing next to our table — as SOON as our plates were placed in front of us and not a second before, mind you — was happy to eat our salty food, if we were so inclined to give it. Which we were not, as the couple right next to us had already fed the cat half of their own plate!

And so we wandered about, me exclaiming how “beautiful” and “old” and “lovely” everything was, snapping photos every few steps while Matthew wore (I’m sure) an amused expression. There was just something about the city that drew me in so quickly. Perhaps it was that I knew I wouldn’t be getting lost within its castle walls, since A) we had a map, and B) it was small enough that getting lost meant you were only a street away from knowing where you were again.

I was hungry to photograph this city, too. “This is Portugal. THIS is the kind of stuff I wanted to find and photograph!” Little did I know there were even more incredible sites to photograph later on but, for now, I was held captive by Óbidos. We wound our way up to the top of the city, found a mini trail behind the castle walls, and looked out onto farmlands. We found cute little coves filled with character, homes etched with the evidence of time and stairways leading us to nowhere, where we sat smiling at each other and taking in our surroundings.

We had read that the castle’s walls, built over 500 years ago, took you completely around the inner city and had several points of access. We found our first access point by wandering up a rocky path spotted with spiky aloe plants. I’ll tell you, it’s quite a rush standing in these historic spots, imagining soldiers standing in your same place hundreds of years ago. Except I’m sure soldiers back then were grimacing more than grinning, as I was.

Or at least they were not COMPLETELY freaking out during one section of the walls, whereas I was. It was high up, it was misting, the path was narrow, slippery and there was nothing to hold onto! And there was a good 40-foot drop on one side of me with the wind blowing me TOWARDS said treacherous drop. While I practically hyperventilated during this portion of the walk, Matthew gently encouraged me to keep walking until we reached a battlement/stairs section of the wall.

I believe he also said “It would be a lot worse to try and turn around and go back right now.”

That was true enough but it did not make the last 15 or 20 feet of walking any easier. But made it I did and I’m alive to tell the tale!

That evening had to have been one of the most memorable of our entire trip. The hostel owner gave us directions on how to find the nearest grocery store (maybe a 15 minute walk), which had us eager for a new experience (and dinner). Matthew says he loves grocery stores in other countries because they are so different.

We grabbed some vegetables (my body was craving them at this point!) and figured we’d do a bread/cheese/ham type of dinner. With wine… vinho verde, to be exact! One of Portugal’s claim to (my) fame is their “green wine.” It’s slightly tangy, almost sour in some cases, while bubbly in others. Always white. And always so good!

So we set up a table by the fire the owner made for us and ate and drank and then roasted chestnuts old-school style. The owner showed us how to do it, and since it was chestnut season, she provided us with a bunch of fresh nuts. Some of them didn’t open as easily as we would have liked since we didn’t cook them long enough, but it was the memory that mattered.

I can’t forget to talk about the pennyroyal liquor the owner offered us after our dinner. It was, to be honest, not my cup of liquor. I’m not a liquor kind of girl anyway (except for tequila… give me a good tequila any day!), but when she set a bottle of liquor that she had made herself, we couldn’t refuse.

But it tasted like… licorice. And mint? But mostly licorice. Thankfully I just took a tiny sip and had Matthew do most of the smiling and nodding while I gulped the rest of my wine. Ahh, then a fuzzy night ensued, but the day had been well spent.

Next morning (well, early afternoon by the time the torrential downpour ended and after we finished our lunch of leftovers) we headed back out to explore the rest of the town. We also bought a few gifts and sent out some postcards to friends. OH! And the photo of the pastry? It’s called Pastéis de Belém, or pastry of Belém, a city near Lisbon that is known for their amazing pastries! It’s a flaky, buttery crust filled with a vanilla, eggy custard. Too much custard for my liking, but I devoured that crust like no other.

It’s very popular in Portugal and rather than actually try and visit Belém with its hoards of tourists, I found a shop in Óbidos with one of said pastries. And it was very yum.

One of the last photos in the bunch is of a drink called ginjinha. It’s a sweet cherry brandy that is often served in tiny chocolate cups. I’m sure the two go together great, but I was all sweeted out so I stuck with wine with of sip of Matthew’s ginjinha.

Next stop? Coimbra! Big university town that took me a few days to get used to… but I ended up loving it.