Portugal Proud: Traveling Sober in Portugal


Delusional popular truth: Wine is culture.

I am a contrarian. I used to be a drunk contrarian. What does that mean? I used to drink a lot and then argue. But, what does it mean now that I am sober? It means strength. It means that I have the ability to think for myself. I will never back down on my contrarian viewpoint. Wine is not culture. Culture is culture. 

I traveled to Portugal for a week long vacation with extended family. At one point an in-law told me that the best part of her trip was Portuguese wine because it is so inexpensive and delicious. I acknowledged her opinion and smiled. She's not unlike the majority of people that travel to Europe and try out the local fare. Portugal is known for its wine. I would go into the interesting varieties they produce like a white port, but this is not a wine drinker's blog. This is the diary of an ex-wine drinker. A sober lady to the same culture-loving degree. I drank my way through 42 countries, and I still love to travel. So, I go. I go in sober style, and always on a budget.

I did not drink on my way to Lisbon on the airplane even though I received a much appreciated complimentary upgrade where wine was offered so many times. When I ordered my cheese plate, I was given a glass of port wine without requesting it. I just smiled and said no, thank you. That is the most powerful phrase I've learned in sobriety. From a Portuguese server, you might casually get asked more than once even upon refusal. That's ok. No, thank you is a phrase that cannot be overused in all languages. I ate my cheese, ignored the wine, and slept the entire 7 hour flight. No wine induced coma, and I was 100% rested upon arrival. My man sat in economy. Maybe I am an asshole for taking the last upgrade and not giving it to him. But, people keep telling me self-care is not selfish.

We flew into Lisbon and rented a car at the airport. Enterprise does a great job and has flexible return policies with time. Traveling in a foreign country is always a bit iffy. It is important to know local laws. In China, if you are in a cab and the driver gets in an accident, you are held liable as the passenger...run fast. Lisbon was quite easy, though. Car rental was easy. Most people spoke English. The signs were very easily understood, we drove on the right side of the street, and safety was not lost in translation.

A cork tree along side the highway that had been harvested recently. 

A cork tree along side the highway that had been harvested recently. 

We drove about 2 and a half hours outside of Lisbon to a coastal town named Tavira. The drive was enjoyable. Seeing the local landscape is always like a self guided tour. Tavira is quaint. We stayed at a resort that used to be a small tuna-fishing community until the tuna population disappeared. It sat empty until someone rejuvenated it as a small resort community. There was air conditioning. It was happy yellow. I was in heaven. 

Attached to our hotel was a beach that was in a tiny inlet from the Atlantic ocean. It was perfect and calm for children. Also, you can take a private boat shuttle from the hotel to Tavira Island which had a long stretch of beaches attached. The shells were top notch.The waves were strong enough for kite boarding and you could see for miles into the choppy waves of the Atlantic. If you were looking for a partying area, there was a beach for that. Nudity, there was a beach for that. Child friendly, a beach for that. We dipped into all of them aside from the party beach. We visited the anchor graveyard from our long lost tuna fishing community. It was surreal. 

The anchor graveyard.

The anchor graveyard.

Amazingly clean beaches.

Amazingly clean beaches.

In the quaint town centre of Tavira, there is pottery, cotton tunic, and cork shopping galore. Most of the stores stay open until almost midnight. The local restaurants served food very similar to spanish cuisine. Arroz de marisco was similar to paella and equally delicious. Our portion was enormous at Restaurante Abstracto. The cobblestone street is lined with restaurants, and the location is prime. Reservations are recommended, or you can pop in early before the rush. We walked down the cobblestone street and found gelato. I had one every day. Vacation, y'all.

We sat on the cobbled streets and drank sparkling water out of wine glasses. We said "no thanks" more than "please" to wine offers. We drank coffee and smiled at each other. We watched sunsets and smiled at each other. We smiled a lot.


On the way back through Lisbon we visited quite a few local tourist attractions and relaxingly jumped on a plane home. When in a large city like Lisbon, I always consult Viator for great deals on tours and location advice. My top three things I noticed about the Portuguese culture were....wine wine wine. Just kidding. I noticed so much more than wine. I noticed so much more.

1. The beauty of the cities and countryside is unparalleled.

I saw century plants, cork trees, enormous stork nests, naturally sandy beaches, people so brown that they almost looked purple, older men sunning their willies on the beach, homes covered in colorful tile, mosquitos, square marble tiles lining the streets, and churches that had existed for longer than my entire home country. It was an amazing taste of culture. I sipped it up. 

2. Everything is extremely clean.

The beaches, the cities, the train stations... I did not see one piece of litter the entire vacation. They have recycling bins and trashcans everywhere and you can tell people respect each other and their land.

3. Friendly faces were everywhere.  Even the graffiti was kind.

4. The food was amazing. The seafood in particular was outstanding and fresh. 

As we drove into the car rental portion of the airport the signs kept telling us voltar aqui (return here.) I thought...yep, we'll definitely return here.