It has come to my attention that maybe I’m a little too old to be country hopping like I did this past week. Far gone are the days of my 20s where doing eight countries in 12 days was light work. No, this is no longer light. I am exhausted.
Very much worth it. But I am so damn tired.
Prior to leaving on this trip I wrote the post about the budget for it. You can find that here, and as you will find out, maybe I shouldn’t have made certain concessions for a good deal. But overall, I am thrilled to have been able to fly from Toronto to Lisbon, Portugal for $300.00. If there is any point to this post, it is that this may be the best money I have ever spent. Aside from the $50.00 for a Nexus card. Clutch.
To break it down for you simply: I spent two-ish days in Lisbon, Portugal, one day in Monaco and one day in Nice, France.
Sunday, June 19th
Today I went to work and figured I’d get off two hours early to make it for my 8:50pm flight. Why miss out on a whole shift right?
As I was getting ready to leave work I got the first notification, the flight has been delayed to 9:30pm. I thought okay, I have a 90 minute layover in Munich, so this still gives me time to make my connection. Cool.
I should mention, this is where a sign of things to come became EVIDENT.
Not only did I get the notification that my flight was delayed, I go to take the subway to Dundas West (so I can take the UP Express to Pearson from there), and SHOCKER, no service from Ossington to Kipling. FML.
I had to get off at Ossington, then take the shuttle bus on Bloor St, and missed my train at Dundas West to Pearson. Superb. Waited another 30 minutes for the next train. But it is all OK, because my flight is still delayed so whatever.
One good thing was that when I finally arrived at Pearson, my wait was literally six minutes to get through security. I was already checked-in online with Lufthansa and had my carry-on backpack, breeze.
This is where I thought, ‘hey maybe things are going to look up‘, I was wrong.
My flight got pushed even further back to 9:55pm. Why? Because of its late arrival from Europe, the airport had no gate for the plane to disembark. As you see from the above pictures, this meant that my plane was going to arrive in Munich two minutes after my plane to Lisbon was scheduled to leave.
A total mess.
I will take this moment to give BIG kudos to Lufthansa as a company and all the staff I encountered on this trip to Europe and returning from. They kept me updated via their app, they made check-in really easy, I got fed twice each way on the flight to and from Munich, and the plane seats were spacious. I am 5’9 and when I have leg room, I am thrilled. All the seats had charging ports and even an option to cast your phone video/music to the screen on the back of the seat in front of you. Loved it. They did a great job and I want to make sure everyone knows THEY weren’t the problem on this trip. Also, HELL yeah best $300 I ever spent.
Monday, June 20th
Of course, I missed my connecting flight to Lisbon. I assumed this would happen before I even boarded the plane from Toronto. Again, Lufthansa came through, before I even got off the plane they had rebooked me on a flight in 2hrs with TAP Portugal. Bless.
You see that? Yep. Delayed again.
I went from initially arriving in Lisbon at 1pm to a new flight and now another delay, getting me there at 4:30pm. Therefore, I would be arriving during rush hour. Felt like I lost out on half a day of shenanigans. But, that is travel during Covid-19. You just don’t know what to expect.
This is where I’d like to mention that going into Munich and Lisbon was very simple. I did not require any forms or any testing prior to entering. Right before I arrived I read an article that Portugal was letting American and Canadian citizens use their e-gates now! Easy peasy.
At Lisbon airport I called an Uber to my hotel. Note that the pick up places at the airport are at the kiss-n-fly at Terminal 1 and also their parking lot. I chose to be picked up at the kiss-n-fly area. Just look for the signs and follow the crowd.
Cost of the Uber? Only 8 Euros. Loved that.
I was able to check into my hotel for the next two nights, Vila Nova Guesthouse.
This place had an awesome location, great staff, comfy bed and a superb price. For a solo traveler, this room was perfect.
I took a speedy shower and got dressed to go explore Lisbon for the evening. Losing half a day meant that I had to make the remainder of the day count!
Time for an Uber over to Belem Tower. I had seen photos of it and I knew it was a MUST visit.
Let me tell you, this entire walk was beautiful. The area along the water is so picturesque and I really can’t even describe it as well to you as the pictures below can show you.
Do believe, I had no less than 100 photos in this area but because this is a blog post and not a dissertation, I cut it down.
Now, while I was in the Belem area – I had BIG food plans as well.
The very very very famous Pasteis de Belem was a walking distance from the Tower.
All you have to know is, order the Pastel de Belem (three of them, minimum), and you’ll never ever be able to eat them in Canada again. I swear to you, OUT OF THIS PLANET GOOD. It will never ever compare anywhere else. Don’t even bother. But you must try them here.
I think after the sweets it was about 7:30 or 8:00pm and I wanted to catch the sunset somewhere nice, so I hopped in an Uber again and made my way over to Costa de Caparica.
The ride over the bridge to Caparica was pretty cool, you get a nice view. The bridge reminds me of the one in San Francisco.
Once I arrived, I literally just took a stroll right above the beach. I got lucky and arrived just as the sun was starting to set. Gorgeous views. There were hoards of people just hanging out, surfing, riding bicycles and skateboarding. The perfect evening.
It was at this moment I also realized I hadn’t eaten a real meal since I left Toronto.
As I was gallivanting I saw this place called O Barbas.
A caipirinha, swordfish with a side of fries and dessert. Complete meal to complete a crazy day.
When the sun set, it got slightly chilly so I knew it was time to get back to my hotel. I was ready for a nice full night of sleep after a super long time of travel.
Tuesday, June 21st
Today was going to be my day that goes right.
Okay, minus the damn rain. I was unlucky in the morning/early afternoon as it decided to pour outside.
The first place I went to was called Zenith. I tried to get here before noon, because at 3:00pm sharp I had a lunch reservation elsewhere.
This place has a LINEUP at all times. They do not take reservations so you will just have to get there and hope you get in quickly. I only stood in line for about 10 minutes before they had a table for me.
I have never in my life seen as many SIDES available for a meal like I did at Zenith. That list was no less than 30-items deep, being able to choose Sourdough Toast to Smoked Salmon to Vegan Cheese. So. Many. Options.
I went for a ginger drink, some Nutella pancakes with ice cream and banana, with a side of bacon and eggs. Delicious. I probably ate way too much, but I regret nothing. The service was really good for such a busy place, and the pricing was good too.
Now I had to make sure I did a ton of walking for three hours to build up an appetite for the lunch reservation.
You name it, I walked there.
I literally had no plan and sauntered towards anywhere that looked cool and new to me.
Eventually I made it to the Alfama area in Lisbon.
Make sure you have very comfortable sneakers on, the walk around Lisbon is lengthy, but the walking in Alfama is a whole new level of up and down. I knew I could do it because I survived Dubrovnik, but gosh, my legs were starting to burn.
I really liked the Alfama neighbourhood.
The colours and the streets there just looked so different from the central area of Lisbon I was staying in.
Eventually I began to follow my GPS to make it to my lunch reservation. I had walked for three hours and I wasn’t sure I was starving yet, but I could go for a little something something.
Time for another famous place, Cervejeria Ramiro.
When you look up ‘places to eat in Lisbon‘ this place will undoubtedly pop up. You will read the reviews of how good the food is, how busy this place is and how the prices don’t make sense. I, personally, knew of this place because Anthony Bourdain had eaten here in an episode of his show.
If you want a good tip on avoiding the line – pay for your reservation. That is what I did. If you make a reservation at 25 Euros per person, you won’t have to wait. You will be seated immediately. The 25 Euros will also then be included in the total of your meal. Win win. Glad I made the reservation.
Before I visit restaurants I look at menus religiously so I know what to order before I get there.
I wanted the gooseneck barnacles, the garlic clam and any version of the crab.
No, those are not baby dinosaur feet. Those are gooseneck barnacles.
Think of them like a very thin clam. That was the best way for me to describe the taste and texture of them. I liked them.
The clams were also delicious, and the crab? Oh my. When you order it, they bring the crab out alive for you to say if you approve of it or not. So cool.
Make sure you don’t eat the bread immediately and leave it for dipping in the garlic sauce or the crab sauce.
I included a screenshot of the menu they give you there for pricing, but I imagine they don’t have that online because market price for seafood changes every day. On the day that I was there, you can see how much it cost.
Total was 56 Euros for everything and with the 25 Euros I had already paid for the reservation, I only owed 31 Euros.
I have to tell you that I was pleasantly surprised as I thought this meal would be no less than 100 Euros.
Another tip, before you start beating the hell out of the crab shell with your mallet, place a napkin over it. This will help you avoid having pieces of the crustacean flying at other nearby diners.
Now I decided to go visit one last place I had read about in the Lisbon area, Cascais.
I’ll tell you from now, this ended up being my absolute favourite place for this entire trip. If I return to Lisbon, I would 10000% choose to stay in the Cascais area.
It is so beautiful. The beach is so chill and there are so many shops and restaurants in the area too. For about an hour or so, I picked a spot on some rocks and just sat there taking in the sights.
Do you see the photos? Urgh. Amazing.
This was the only moment where I wish I had brought a bathing suit. But after the amount of sea creatures I had just digested, I was worried their relatives would come for revenge.
I decided to do some more walking and ended up at Cascais Marina. There was a lot of nice yachts parked there, I get the sense this area is a bit on the fancy pants side.
The palm trees and the waterfront are a total vibe. I understand why the fancy pants folks would want to be here.
Naturally, I ended up at a dessert spot because my sweet tooth is something fierce.
I couldn’t decide what I wanted, so I chose my top 3 and ordered those.
This was at Amor Aos Padacos.
Do you see the selection? Can you really blame me for being indecisive?
I went for the coconut chocolate cake, some other chocolate cake thingy and the apple pie. If you don’t have the stomach capacity like I do, make sure to get the apple pie option. SOOOOO good.
Shockingly, I didn’t put on any weight on this trip. I ate so much but please see below for the amount of steps that were taken just on this day.
Wednesday, June 22nd
Another early morning today! I wish I had gone to sleep earlier as I didn’t know this would be the last time I slept for a while.
It was time to head to Nice.
I had an 8:20am flight from Lisbon to Nice, France.
This flight was with TAP Portugal and I left on time and got to my destination at 11:45am, local time.
I hopped on the train from Nice airport to the center of Nice. I love this train, it is so straightforward and takes you exactly where you need to go for 1.50 Euros.
Prior to the trip I had contacted the place I was staying at, Open House Hostel, to let them know I’d be arriving early. They are only staffed from 3:00pm-8:00pm so I was worried I’d have nowhere to leave my bags for the day.
I think the persons name at the front desk was Viera and she was there when I arrived at 1:00pm. She had my room ready and everything! So sweet. She said because I had notified them of arriving earlier, they made sure to have the room set up for me so I could get changed, leave my bags and be on my way.
So happy, for now.
This place is very basic. Which is what I expect for hostels, that’s fine. I refuse to share a room or bathroom with others, so I paid for my own private room. This was the most economical option in Nice.
I will let you know later in this post why I will never ever choose THIS level of economical ever again. Now was the time for me to head to country #47 – Monaco.
The walk from the hostel to the main train station wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, again, it was raining. I was wearing an all-white linen outfit. Brutal. I had zero luck this trip with weather.
Once I got to the station the cost of the train ticket from Nice to Monte Carlo was 8.40 Euros roundtrip. I think that’s a good price. I have put pictures below of the machine to use and what the card and options will look like on screen.
Because I got lost and slightly confused while there, I will let all of you know something.
The line to take you from Nice to Monte Carlo is called ‘Ventimiglia‘ in one area of the train station and ‘Vintimille‘ in another. One of the names is in Italian and the other is the French name for it. NOWHERE did it say which line takes you to Monte Carlo, so know, take either line with those names and Monte Carlo will be a stop on the way there. You’re welcome.
The ride from Nice to Monte Carlo is only 21 minutes. Nothing too wild.
I spent most of the ride sad because the beautiful blue waters I wanted to see were not blue, because the weather was still shit. I was so so sad.
On arrival in Monte Carlo, the first place I went to was the Tourism Office. I knew that like Liechtenstein, this would be the only way to get a stamp for visiting the country. However, here they do not stamp inside your passport, they just give you a little booklet and stamp inside that (for free). Cool.
I actually didn’t have any particular path or plan for Monte Carlo. I had a dinner reservation at 7:30pm but right now it was like 3:00pm – and still raining.
Because of the damn rain, the first place I walked to was a mall. Fanciest mall I’ve ever seen in my life. The streets to the mall and then inside the mall? I felt broke as fuck. What do you mean there’s a Baby Dior store? There’s chandeliers in the mall? Whoa.
Note, I don’t care how cute you want to look – don’t wear heels or sandals if you intend on walking around Monaco. I made this mistake and paid for it dearly. I should have just stuck to sneakers but they wouldn’t have looked as nice with my outfit. Dumb. By the end of the day I actually was limping to get back to my hostel. Learn from my mistakes. Bring the cute shoes in a bag for photos only!
The sun began to come out and I felt happy.
Basically ended up trying to walk close to any beach in the city I could and made my way down and down some more. Seeing the World’s Most Famous Bend and then the Princess Grace Japanese Garden.
Once I finally got to the beach area, I was thirsty so I decided to take a seat and get some drinks and a little sustenance.
I found this place called La Note Bleue.
This place was beachfront and was giving ‘Hamptons Rich People‘ vibes.
I’ll also say, this place was EXXPENNNSIVE. Holy. But I know, I know, Monaco.
I got this orange drink, flatbread, some edamame and this crazy chocolate ice cream concoction.
Sixty Eight Euros. LMFAO. Alright. Fine. Can’t be a broke bitch visiting Monaco.
Also, that last photo above is of their bathroom. I know that’s super random, but this may have been the nicest restaurant bathroom I’ve ever seen so I had to take a photo because I’m slightly strange.
After the lunch I wanted to somehow make my way back to where the famous casino was. Shout out to the local lady who put me on this secret tunnel to take an elevator up instead of taking stairs. Big help.
I mean, luxury is not the word. The entire area in front of the Casino is something to behold.
I have worked in Yorkville for 11 years in Toronto, I’ve visited Dubai, Singapore, Miami and St. Moritz. They don’t have SHIT on what I was seeing in this little space of Monte Carlo. The cars? Whewwwww.
Basically spent a couple of hours sitting outside and looking at rich people and their outrageous vehicles. I love people watching and this was a great space to do that.
At 7:15pm I made my way to the Hotel de Paris for my dinner reservation. I had made this reservation three months ago. That is how serious I was about going here.
The restaurant inside is called Le Grille.
Michelin star-rated. Fancy pants. Luxurious. Nice view. All of it. I wanted all of it. I got it.
First of all, just entering the Hotel de Paris is beautiful. I said I would dream to stay here one day, but the cheapest room is 800 Euro a night. Nope. I’m good. Dinner will suffice.
Off to the eight floor for me, that is where the restaurant is.
They had my seat outside, right on the balcony overlooking the marina. A dream.
Got myself a bottle of water and a rum and coke to start.
Then they gave me these little appetizer things, followed by a burrata with pesto around it. I figured the super luxury of this place was also showing when they brought out butter that had the name of the restaurant in it. Oooh la la. Then the server came around with a bushel of bread (six kinds) and every time you finished your portion, they’d come back and offer again. Yes.
For my main course I chose to do some fish and mashed potato. Best mashed potato I’ve ever had. Period.
The dessert portion I went with a chocolate and praline cake that was also really good. But then they ended up bringing out this tray of small sweets? I didn’t ask for them, they just sent them over as a part of my dinner. Awesome.
I think I have been to some exquisite restaurants in my life, but I have never received service like I did at this restaurant. From beginning to end I think no less than six people served me. I was looked after throughout the night and really felt like royalty.
As the night went on the place got packed, it was couples and families. I was solo but I didn’t care. I spent the evening enjoying my food and taking in the breathtaking view.
Total for the dinner was 141 Euros. Not exactly a cheap dinner, but I’d do it 10x over. Once in a lifetime experience, but I hope it isn’t. I’d love to go back.
When I was leaving the restaurant I also caught these photos of the hotel. So beautiful.
I made my way back to the station for a return train to Nice.
When you go to the Monte Carlo train station it may be one of the nicest train stations you get to step into. Definitely reflects the city you’re in.
The other fun thing is if you use a GPS to get back to the train station in Monaco, you’ll be notified that you may cross a country border. I thought that was pretty funny.
Thursday, June 23rd
No, this does not begin the next morning, this is still the same night.
I got back from Monaco at about midnight and walked from the train station to the hostel.
Bad enough I am limping and had to try and grab as many band-aids as I could find to help my poor feet, but it just kept getting worse.
Thought I was going to get a nice night of sleep, I had been up super early to travel to Nice and the following day would be long as well.
I laid down and from midnight until 3:00am the guys in the men’s dorm that was next to my room were loud as heck. Drunk I think, but super loud. I am not the heaviest sleeper, so I remained awake. They finally shut up and at that point other noises began. The balcony/window of my room faced the back of an alley. In that alley was also the back of a bar or restaurant. They had closed up for the night and were throwing away their garbage – which sounded like thousands of glass bottles. Oh man. It went on forever it felt like it was INSIDE my room. Still no sleep.
When they finally stopped their noises, the garbage pick up came by. Yep, for all that glass. More incredibly loud noise. It was 6:00am and I hadn’t slept even a second.
Basically, if you are a light sleeper like I am – this hostel is not for you. I was miserable. Check out was at 11:00am and I had packed up my items and left the hostel. Exhausted. With my bags on me.
Oh, and it was raining again. Super.