I have always been a city girl. I have lived in urban places for most of my life. My home is in Houston, one of the biggest cities in the United States, and I go to school in Atlanta, a sprawling metropolitan where there is always something to do. I have no complaints about the city life because I love it so much, and for most of my life, I have dreamed of moving to New York City because it is the type of place that appeals to me and calls to my soul.
I must face the facts though: the views in the places I’ve lived in in the States pale in comparison to what I have experienced here in Portugal. My studies are primarily focused in Lisbon. I live on a busy street in the middle of the neighborhood of Anjos, surrounded by tall buildings. The underground subway system is efficient and covers most of the city, and I have plenty to look at every time I get lost walking on a side street. City life has been great, and nothing could prepare me for the beautiful sights I’ve seen while being in this country.
Lisbon has become increasingly touristy in the past few years, but even before then, miradouros, or belvederes, had been set up at different points throughout the city so that locals and tourists alike could bask in the views of the city. Known as the Cidade das Sete Colinas, or the City of Seven Hills, Lisbon’s topographical layout always leaves me surprised. Its most historic neighborhood,
Alfama, is home to the oldest structure in Lisbon- the Castelo de São Jorge. To get to the castle, you must walk up the old, winding streets of Alfama to the very top of the hill. The castle is so large, it can be seen from several spots all throughout the city. There have been so many times that I have been walking in the street and catch a glimpse of the castle, up high on its hill, between the tall buildings.
While Lisbon is gorgeous, I have also been able to see some amazing views outside of the city. One day, we decided to cross the Rio Tejo to Setúbal, a fishing town south of Lisbon. There, we visited a historic fishing market, tried a variety of fresh seafood, and got to visit a pretty beach nearby.
My favorite part, however, was the winding drive up the Serra da Arrábida, a tall mountain with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean below. I had never seen such a beautiful sight in my life. Fortunately, the bus stopped for us to take some pictures, and I took advantage of that opportunity.
Once we got to our destination, a historic convent that had been build in the 16th century, I could not believe the serenity of the location. I’m in love with Portugal because I can have the best of both worlds here: beautiful views of colorful buildings and historic sites within the city, and peaceful, natural scenery from atop high mountains.
Perhaps I’m not as much of a city girl as I thought I was after all.