Lisbon: The Other SF

We spent a fun and culture-filled 5 days in Lisbon, Portugal. The city is A LOT like San Francisco. We arrived on bus from Lagos and crossed over the bay Lisbon lives on via a big golden/bronze bridge that has to be modeled after the Golden Gate Bridge. It looks identical. Amanda and I both had a weird deja vu experience entering the green, hilly city over the bridge.

The Lisbon 25th of April Bridge – looks just like the Golden Gate!

DSC_0224Lisbon is a beautiful city. It’s very hilly and has lots of districts with unique vibes to them. There is a mix of old and new areas sprinkled throughout. The oldest area (the Alfama) is basically the only place to have survived a 9.0 earthquake in about 1750 that wiped out much of the town with the quake, tidal waves, and fires. The areas directly around the oldest town are “European New” but still feel old to us! Then there are modern areas further away from the old town and city center.

Our favorite district is the Bairro Alto, which is on top of a steep hill (it’s name literally means tall neighborhood in Portuguese) packed full of bars and restaurants on the bottom floor and apartments above. At night it gets crazy there with college kids through people in their 30’s having a good time.

A cable car (purchased from SF!) going up, up, up!

We haven’t done much partying at all on our trip, so we decided we had to give the famous night life of Lisbon a shot! We matched with the true Lisbon timeline and left our cute little flat a bit after midnight… we didn’t go to bed until 7:30am!

In order to pull this off we took a nap from 9 – 10:30pm (I’m the king of naps) and then had a morning ritual before starting the party… I did a body weight workout and Amanda enjoyed yoga. We both had some espresso and then, we hit the town!

Espresso shots after midnight!!
Crazy packed streets!

In the Bairro Alto the streets were PACKED full of people. and this was just a typical Friday night. What they do is get a drink (1Euro beers and shots) in a little bar and then drink it outside in the streets with their friends. We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

We got to our club called “Urban Beach” at 3am(!) and it was just starting to fill up. There were a handful of rooms with different styles of music and a pool and beach outdoor area. We decided to call it a night at 6am after a ton of dancing and then headed back home for breakfast!

The next day was pretty much a waste :) totally worth it though.


We enjoyed Portuguese food in typical restaurants that feel more like German beer halls than cozy Italian restaurants. You get a lot of good meat and seafood pretty cheap in a social setting – it’s fun and tasty!

We also enjoyed our first European Christmas markets! We enjoyed people watching, mulled wine, Ginja, mimes, and more! We (especially Amanda!) can’t wait to find more Christmas markets in Germany.

Three other cool things:

1) We took what turned into quite an adventure to Belém to try tasty Pastel da Natas (egg pastries in flaky crusts) from their birthplace and also saw an old castle on the river that defended the Lisbon ports and a monument to the famous Portuguese explorers.

Pastel do natas!!
Pastel da natas!!
A monument dedicated to the Portugese explorers

2) Our first night we wandered down to the main square from our really comfy flat to find a huge crowd gathered in front of a big countdown being projected onto Lisbon’s version of the Arch of Triumph. To our surprise, an awesome projected light show slash Christmas movie short played on the arches following the columns and design perfectly – it was really impressive and fun to see.

The “Enchanted Doors” light show!


This main square used to be the premier port in the world. The Portuguese were the first to explore much of Africa, India, Asia, and South America and to bring back the riches and sell them in the Lisbon port (that was unfortunately destroyed in the big earthquake).

3) We got to see a professional fútbol game! Go Benfica! One of the best teams in Portugal.

Go Benfica!!

We really enjoyed Lisbon. It’s one of my favorite cities for sure. We found a great cafe to work in and went on a few beautiful exploratory runs. If only the people didn’t speak such a funny language…

We are excited to be heading to Frankfurt, Germany and to see the Nespor family, they are meeting us there for Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Cambridge: a History and Tradition filled College Town

Being in Cambridge feels a lot like walking through Hogwarts grad school. There are tons of college kids all dressed nicely and some in college dress clothes (colored gowns aka cloaks ;) ). Most older people are quite professorly.

We really enjoyed the town. It’s nice and clean with a lot of old brick buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. There is a river running through town and almost all of the college buildings are right along that river. There are some exceptions with lecture halls dispersed through town as well.

Amanda and I ate at the pub, The Eagle, where Watson and Crick announced the discovery of DNA. Pretty cool!

The Eagle Pub!
The Eagle Pub!

There are 20 something different colleges that make up Cambridge University. Unlike Cal Poly the colleges aren’t specific for majors or focusses (like Orfalea College of Business at Poly). Instead each college offers a vast amount of majors. There is also quite a rivalry it seems among the different colleges academically, socially, and athletically. The University is the second oldest in England behind Oxford and was started in the early 1200’s. Apparently a group of Oxford academics spun off into Cambridge after getting into arguments with the rest of the Oxford town people.


There is a growing tech and bio tech center around Cambridge known in the UK as Silicon Fen. It seems there are lots of these popping up and always with a name play on silicon valley.

We really enjoyed the academic feel of being in Cambridge, it would be nice to live near a good university, there is just so much they offer…

(Written from the terrace/roof deck of our Spanish apartment in Nerja :) )