Kickstarting Summer on the Algarve Coast

As one of the lesser known “coasts” in Europe (Amalfi being the the usual go-to for travelers), the Algarve Coast is a quickly growing tourist destination thanks to the hundreds of picturesque snapshots floating around on social media (and really the only reason I knew this place existed). After discovering some of these pictures myself, I immediately added Lagos to my “while living in Europe” bucket list. I mean, come on:

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A few months ago, I was on a work trip to Cologne and expressed interest in going to Lagos to one of my coworkers and sure enough, he wanted to go to Portugal that same weekend. Yay! I had to do zero convincing and we booked the flight immediately (literally on the bus en route to Cologne). We sent the flight info to a few others in hope they would join and before we knew it, we had a group of five to travel with. The more the merrier! The following two months crawled by as I anxiously waited to get back to some sunshine. It had been way too long since I was able to drink some fruity beverages with a cute umbrella on the beach.

Memorial Day weekend finally came and I was headed for some saltwater and sunshine! A mid-afternoon flight was quite the treat as RyanAir flights usually leave around 6:00AM and I live 90 minutes from the airport, so you do the math- those days are usually a little rough. However, leave it to me… I still had to rush to make that afternoon flight (thank goodness for the unrestricted speed limits on the Autobahn otherwise I definitely would’ve missed it). We made it to the airport, checked in, and were off! Shout out to RyanAir for randomly putting me in the front row (without the extra fee). I was spoiled with leg room¬†and it partially made up for my horrible experience with them a few weeks ago… We arrived around 5:00PM, hopped in our rental, and drove the the 90km from Faro Airport to Lagos.

Our¬†Airbnb¬†was in an apartment complex walking distance from city center and the beach. It couldn’t have been more perfect! Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a pull out couch- perfect for our group of five. Our host greeted us with a¬†beautiful ocean view, fresh fruit, and a delicious bottle of wine.¬†We freshened up, drank the wine, and headed into town for the night.

Sorry you got cut from the photo, Josh…

For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called¬†Nah Nah Bah¬†and it was honestly one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life. It is a burger joint run by a group of ex-pats who know exactly what they are doing in the kitchen. After a few drinks, we were able to convince the owner to join us for a round of shots and it was exactly what we needed to kick-start the night.

Was too hungry to get the “before” picture…

As a major weekend destination for college students who are “finding themselves abroad” [no judgement- that was me five years ago ūüôā ] it was very easy for us to revert back to our college days. Beer bongs and all (sorry mom). This place knows how to party!!! After dinner, we roamed around town to check-out a few more bars and for sure danced off all the calories from dinner. I can promise you if you’re ever in Lagos, just walk into any bar and you wont be disappointed. Night one was a total success!


TIPS

  1. Rent a Car.¬†When traveling to Lagos, or anywhere on the Algarve Coast, flying into Faro is your best option and you’ll want to rent a car to get to your destination. It is a little more expensive, but very worth it. If you can book your rental in advance, DO IT! We ended up paying a little extra for not having a reservation, but still worth the price for the convenience. We packed the car up¬†and drove off while so many others had to wait in line for shuttles and sit through all the different hotel drop-offs. Plus, who turns down a road trip through a foreign country with great company?
  2. Use Airbnb.¬†There are so many affordable options! Hostels are good for the price, but not always good for the quality. We only paid $27 per person, per night (aka…the same price for a hostel and/or cheaper than some) and the experience was incomparable. There are good hotel options (very nice, new construction) but many of them are pretty expensive so I stand firm on my Airbnb recommendation.
  3. Eat at Nah Nah Bah. Just to reiterate: Best. Burgers (and fries). EVER. Make a reservation if you can. The restaurant was packed when we arrived, but were lucky enough to sit down right away. The service was awesome and the owner is a pretty cool dude.
  4. Travel here before it explodes with tourists.¬†Don’t ask questions. Just listen to ya girl.

 

Thanksgiving in Paris

My original plan for Thanksgiving was to spend my weekend in a cabin in Zermatt- drink coffee (…wine…) and eat pastries while watching the sunrise over the Matterhorn (so majestic). Logistically, Switzerland was a bit more complicated so I decided to book Paris¬†instead! Rough life.

I traveled to Paris in Spring of 2012 and was lucky enough to go with an amazing group of girls. We hit all the touristy sites and were typical college students who got caught trying to sneak in extra people to our hostel room to save a few bucks (sorry, Lauren). We checked off the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, the windy climb up the Eiffel Tower, and most importantly eating an entire 25 cent baguette and a banana-nutella cr√™pe on the steps of the Sacr√©-CŇďur¬†. This time however, I was looking forward to a much more relaxing visit (still inclusive of all the¬†baguettes and cr√™pes, of course)!

Thanksgiving morning started off with an early train ride from Kaiserslautern to Paris; roughly about 2 1/2 hours and only two stops along the way. It’s still hard to believe I live THAT close to Paris and I waited this long to go! We arrived around 9:30am and immediately hopped on the subway to get to our¬†Airbnb. This was my first time trying one out¬†and I was really excited for something a little different. We stayed on a busy pedestrian street (Rue Montorgueil) lined with restaurants, caf√©s, cheese shops, wine shops, flower stands- you name it! It’s centrally located between two subway stops that could get us anywhere in the city; couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our host requested we pick up the key at one of the local¬†caf√©s, but just to my luck my phone died just as I got off the subway and I had no idea where this caf√© was. Stubborn me decided I’d try and find it on my own, but quickly failed at doing so. My level-headed friend asked for some directions and much to our luck I didn’t get us (too) lost.

After picking up the key,¬†we headed to the apartment where we struggled at figuring out how it worked. We entered the building with a door code, but the key itself didn’t fit in the apartment door. We tried for a couple minutes (how many different ways can you put a key in a door idk…), made sure we were on the right floor, and still after no luck, texted a picture of the door to our host who quickly responded telling us we were in the wrong building! But then how did the door code to the building work?! Sketchy.

After climbing six flights of stairs in the correct building, we dropped the bags in our adorable Parisian room and took off on our day of sightseeing! We spent the day galavanting around the Eiffel Tower,¬†Champs-√Člys√©es, and a wonderful Christmas market we coincidentally stumbled upon. The weather was perfect and I had my first taste of¬†gluhwein- hot mulled wine made with plenty of spices and christmas love! But then again, maybe that’s why the weather seemed perfect ūüôā

That evening, I had a great Thanksgiving celebration with my cousin and some friends, complete with all of my favorite dishes. At the end of the night, my cousin was walking me home and we were given an up-down by part of a film crew as we were about to walk through their scene. Didn’t think that’s something we’d stumble across¬†at 2:30 in the morning… but luckily we were dressed “nice enough” for their film and were walking in a straight(ish) line on the cobblestone. So lucky for us she let us walk through and we didn’t need to take a detour (thank goodness because I was actually wearing heels and definitely struggling on that cobblestone). So hey, if you’re into French films maybe you’ll see the back of my head at a theater near you!

The next day we got off to a late start but still made time for a delicious brunch at¬†Claus; a chic, bakery-style caf√© just a short walk from our apartment. We ended up waiting in line for about twenty minutes, but reviews made this place sound like a must so we braved the cold to give it a try. I ordered the “super bowl” which I assumed to be more or less similar to an a√ßa√≠ bowl- which it was! Very delicious, but it unfortunately wasn’t “American size” and I had to fill up on an assortment of breads. Always worth the carbs.

Following brunch we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Louvre and Notre Dame- not as rushed as the last time I went so it was nice to avoid the crowds. When we made it to¬†Notre Dame, it was already dusk so we decided to spend more time inside the Cathedral- it was amazing compared to my first experience! Not as many people, dimly lit by candlelight and honestly a little of spooky. I was just waiting for Frollo or Quasimodo to emerge from the dark corner behind the moving Nativity scene. Unfortunately, the candle I lit for the ND football game didn’t make it to God in time because, well…yea….
We spent the rest of the evening walking around the city and ended the night with some decaf and pastries.

I’m noticing this blog is getting long, so really the only important thing about our third day was CHIPOTLE! Yes, Paris has a Chipotle. Portions are half and the prices are double, but I had no choice. Chipotle withdrawals are a real thing.

As I end my weekend¬†in Paris, I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given and smile when I reflect on the last year of my life (thirteen new countries later, like what?!). This was my third year away from my family for Thanksgiving and as¬†wonderful as Paris is, it’s still not home. So I hope you kissed your parents,¬†cuddled with¬†your dogs,¬†and didn’t take watching football games at normal hours for granted¬†‚ô•