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My First Experience in Portugal

Sarah loves to travel and has been to many places around the world. She has been to Italy, France, the UK and many places in the US.

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I visited Portugal for the first time in February of 2022. My husband and I often talked about me going to Portugal to see his hometown, but we never had the chance until this year.

We didn’t stay very long, because we also visited Spain and France on the same trip. In this article, I'll share my first impressions of Portugal.

grilled salmon and boiled potatoes from a Portuguese restaurant in Caldas de Rainhas

grilled salmon and boiled potatoes from a Portuguese restaurant in Caldas de Rainhas

I Liked the Food More Than I Thought I Would

I wasn’t sure what to expect at first in regards to the food in Portugal because I don’t like the Portuguese food that my husband cooks at home. He previously told me that Portuguese food is a blend of flavors and a blend of cultures that becomes its own unique and rich flavor. I was really worried I wouldn’t like any of the food at the restaurants in Portugal because my husband cooks everything with onions or garlic and I can‘t eat his food. Also, when I went to a Portuguese restaurant before in London, I didn’t like the food either.

I ended up being pleasantly surprised though when going out to eat in Portugal. There were many dishes similar to what my husband cooks at home that were full of rich flavors, but there were also many simple dishes.

Many of the most common dishes consist of some type of grilled meat like beef, pork, or fish with a side of boiled vegetables, potatoes, or fries. The meat is usually grilled with only salt and the side is usually plain or salted too. When going out to a restaurant, I usually ordered grilled fish with boiled potatoes or fries and the fish I had was some of the freshest fish I’ve ever eaten.

Another really great delicacy in Portugal to eat is their grilled chicken. It’s similar to rotisserie chicken in America and unless you ask for it to have sauce, it’s just grilled with salt. You can order the grilled chicken as a quarter, half, or whole chicken and it usually comes with fries. I actually ended up eating this twice during my trip.

desserts at the Portuguese bakery

desserts at the Portuguese bakery

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Food Prices Were Incredibly Cheap

My husband had previously told me that the price of food in Portugal is very cheap. I believed him, but it wasn’t until I visited Portugal for the first time that I realized how cheap food actually is there.

I was so amazed by the low cost of food especially because everything was really fresh and high-quality. For example, lactose-free milk in America costs $3–4 but in Portugal, it costs only about $1.

Also, in America, the same type of grilled fish with potatoes in the picture above usually costs around $20, but in Portugal it costs around $8. That’s a huge difference!

Unfortunately, the cheap prices in Portugal are due to the Portuguese citizens earning very low monthly wages compared to other countries like America or the UK.

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The Homes Didn't Have the Comforts I'm Used To

On my trip to Portugal, I learned that most Portuguese don’t have all the same creature comforts that we’re accustomed to in America. For example, there’s no AC unit or central heating in the houses or cafes. Since I was there in February, it was very cold and I really needed central heating at my husband’s family home. I ended up wearing a jacket and a sweatshirt the entire time I was in the house because it was so cold. His parents had a fireplace, but it’s not the same as having central heating. I was so cold in their house that I actually had to buy a heated mattress pad for the bed so I could sleep at night.

Also, there’s no dryer in their home. I’m used to having both a washer and dryer at home when I do laundry, but his parents only had a washer. His mother would wash the clothes in the washer and then hang the clothes outside to dry them. I found it very strange that no one had dryers in their home.

There Was More Countryside Than Big Cities

In my opinion, Portugal is more like a developing country rather than somewhere like America, the UK, or Japan. Some parts of Portugal are very modern and developed like the main cities of Porto or Lisbon. However, most of Portugal is full of countryside farms, mountains, and old towns. Most of the towns are small, have stone roads, and the buildings are old.

If you like seeing nature and historic places, you will love Portugal. However, if you’re looking for the big city feel, you won’t find it in many places in Portugal and you'll feel disappointed on your trip. I like nature and old towns, but I prefer seeing big cities so while I thought Portugal was cute, the scenery and environment weren’t for me.

© 2022 Sarah Wong

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