Ophelia Ding

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10 Days in Spain + Portugal

Wahhh— has it really been more than a month since my last update? Major apologies for the crickets on the blog — it’s been such a hectic couple weeks juggling traveling and attempting to be a student (anyone else out there cramming in psets before plane rides?!). Since my last update, I’ve explored cities outside my London home (Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor to be exact), been enamored by Monet in Paris, blown away by the beauty of Iceland, and charmed by the weather and food of Spain and Portugal.

But for now, a recap on the sunniest, yummiest and most glorious weathered places I’ve been thus far: Spain and Portugal! My friends and I planned a 10-day trek across Spain and Portugal for reading week. Yes, “reading" week, aka the time that UCL gives us to catch up on our assignments (aka, an extended travel break for us exchange students heh). Over the course of our trip, we had so many memorable outings — way too many to recall here — but here were some of my highlights:

First stop:

1. Barcelona's most beautiful Basilica: La Sagrada Familia. I loved seeing famed architect Gaudi’s gorgeous work in the flesh, and just about died watching the light pour in through the basilica's gorgeous stained glass windows. The detail work in La Sagrada Familia was unbelievable and took my breath away. Seeing Gaudi’s work across Barcelona (Park Guell (where the Cheetah girls sang Strut) and Gaudi’s Casas) was a definite highlight. 

2. Eating endless amounts of tapas! Barcelona is famous for it’s delicious tapas, or small plates/bites. Each tapa was only around 1-2 euros (so cheap, especially for us Londoners!). There were smoked salmon tapas, shrimp tapas, codfish tapas, corn dog tapas, dessert tapas — the list goes on and on. It was so much fun getting to try all the different types of tapas (and attempting to figure out what exactly we were eating haha).

Honorable Mentions: Getting 4 euro sandwiches at Bo de B, hot chocolate and churros before dinner at Granja La Pallaresa, and seeing the Mediterranean Sea at Montjuic. 

Next stop,

1. Wine tour at Ferreira Winery. My friend Stacy and I took a wine tour in Porto, and it was one of the highlights of my entire trip! It was so much fun to tour the wine cellars and learn about the winemaking process (I even took notes — gotta impress if I ever head back up to Napa hehe). We got to taste two different port wines and basically felt as classy as two twenty-somethings in Portugal could ever feel. Might I add that the entire tour and tasting cost us a total of 6 euros — crazy, huh!

2. Dinner at O’Caracas. Hands down. The. Best. Dinner. Ever. The restaurant was run by two twin sisters (who were our servers, baristas and hostesses) and their mom and grandma (who were our chefs). The four of them amused us throughout the dinner with their friendly Portuguese banter and I felt like we were dining in a Portuguese home. We had the most wonderful bread and cheese (coated with this gorgeous red spice), traditional green wine, veal and codfish (for entrees) and chocolate pudding and yogurt mousse for dessert. The environment was so laid back, charming and intimate and definitely an experience. A definite must do in Porto. All for 12 euros each (yes, we were quite amazed at the prices of meals in Porto — we had lunches for 3-5 euros daily and cried over how much food costs in London)!

Honorable Mentions: getting free roasted chestnuts from Lello Bookstore, listening to a Bach concert at Casa da Musica and way too many 3 euro pulled pork sandwiches. Also, 1 euro coffees with a Kit Kat is a thing here —  I love it!

Final stop (aka the San Francisco of Portugal):

1. Lookout Lisbon Hostel. I have to say that I looooved our hostel in Lisbon! After staying in various Airbnb’s and hostels across Europe — this place has definitely been my favorite. The common area and breakfast area was gorgeous (that light though!). Our room (though it had 9 beds) was so cozy, clean and comfortable — and came with a privacy curtain around each bed. Free breakfast (with the most delicious bread), friendly staff and a great location too! A huge thanks to my friend Emmy for recommending this hostel :)

2. Pasteis De Belem’s egg tarts. I thought I had the world’s best egg tarts after trying the egg tarts from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bakery. Pasteis De Belem’s traditional Portuguese egg tarts blows them out of the water! The egg tart is the most perfect consistency, the most perfect sweetness, and the crust reminds me of a flaky, layered egg roll crust instead of a traditional egg tart crust. I had 4 egg tarts and have been thinkin’ about them since. Should have bought more for the road! 

Honorable Mentions: Taking a day trip to Sintra and seeing the storybook Pena Palace, eating clams and calamari at Beira Gare and watching the sunset at Europe's westernmost point, Cabo Da Roca. 

Stay tuned — will be recapping Iceland, Paris and my UK adventures soon! Sending y’all Thanksgiving love from London!