Portugal, in so many words

📍 Blogging from: Norwegian Flight, London to Oakland

Bon dia my friends!

I would love to share some highlights from my recent trip to Portugal with besties Katie and Kelly (smiling, below). Between the three of us, our shared album on iCloud has 593 photos and 23 videos to cover 5 days. You do the math. That’s roughly 40 photos per girl, per day… Needless to say, there’s a lot I *could* cover, but I want to brief and only share the highlights.

To stay on track, I wrote an outline and I’ll try to limit myself to 300 words per day. Since I’m on a plane, I can’t do my usual googling for extra nuggets of info, so I’ll do my best to be accurate.

Day 1: Arrive in Porto (346 words)

Our Airbnb host gave us some recommendations and our first taste of pasteis de nata. They are probably Portugal’s most famous pastry – a circular flaky crust about 2 inches in diameter filled with 1-inch of eggy custard. I remember seeing them highlighted on the Great British Bake Off last season. They are incredibly tasty and there’s definitely some competition to see which pasteleria produces the best version.

After inhaling those and some cappuccinos, we went straight to Café Santiago to try our host’s next recommendation francesinha a lupa. It’s another Portuguese staple, a gooey, cheesy, meaty sandwich. It’s kind of like if you gave a hungry college student some sandwich ingredients and asked them to make something “unique” after a night out on the town. I would honestly skip it the next time in Portugal… but I wouldn’t skip the green wine we had along with it. I’m already going overboard explaining things, but… green wine is made from really young grapes and it’s everywhere in Portugal. It’s awesome, cold, refreshing, and so easy to split a bottle among friends on a sunny day.

We starred a bunch of landmarks, churches, and places on google maps that had good lookouts over the hilly city and set off! Our final and furthest destination was the garden of the crystal palace, a 19th century landscaped garden area near the Douro river. BUT, before we got there for sunset, we had time to stop for a drink at BASE – a trendy outdoor spot in the Jardim da Cordoaria. There were tons of locals chilling on the grass, playing music, and soaking up the sunshine (foreshadowing!!).

Finally, we grabbed a late dinner at Taberna do Largo, a casual eatery on the same street as our Airbnb. The funny staff gave us a hard time (rightly so!) because at first we walked in, thought we could find something better, walked out, COULDN’T, so we came back 10 mins later. It was funny. We drank wine, shared stories, and had a truly wonderful first meal together in Portugal.

Day 2: Bike, Rain, and Port in Porto (339 words)

Our day started with a midmorning “Bike & Bites” tour hosted by Ester. We rode along the river, from the historic city center out to the beach. We then took a barge across the river to Gaia (the name of the town directly opposite of Porto) where we explored a fishing village. Along the way, we had another pasteis de nata with an espresso (“café e nata”), vinho verde (green wine), mexilhao and patanisca de bacalhau (mussel and fried cod bite). On the way back, we had our first sample of port wine – a ruby (younger) and a tawny (older).

Here’s the other part of the story: when we reached the beach, it started to rain and thunderstorm. Once we took the boat to the other side of the river, our tour guide went in search of rain jackets for a few of us who were unprepared for the conditions (myself included). She returned with trash bags that we wore with pride. It was pretty amusing to ride around town in them!

Later in the day, Katie, Kelly and I reserved a formal tour and tasting at Cockburn Port Lodge. The guide we had there (Philipe I think) was so so so good. He was funny, informative, and a little self-deprecating in a cute way. I definitely have a much bigger appreciation for port than I did before doing the tour… and I’ll say this: if you can get past the initial punch on the tongue, a few sips later, that port is tasting mighty fine! I would highly recommend taking the tour here and sampling a few of the ports at the end (basic level is 15 euros).

That night we had dinner on our street again at a place called Cantina 32. It came recommended by a few people, so we made sure to grab an official reservation the night before. We had amazing seafood and another bottle of the green stuff.

Day 3: Roadddd Tripppp! (607 words, shoot that’s double the limit)

I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t the best travel companion this day because I was doing some work and on the phone quite a bit. We picked up a rental car with a manual transmission and Kelly fearlessly drove us out of Porto towards some small towns.

We stopped in Obidos and walked around for an hour. The highlights include a really cool bookstore, a historic city wall you could walk on top of, and our first taste of this famous cherry liqueur called Ginjinha that they serve in edible chocolate cups. We luckily escaped the rain of Porto and were able to see beautiful meadows and wineries whilst walking along the worn-down wall (alliteration for the W-in).

Ready for lunch, we drove about 20 minutes east towards the ocean and had one of the best meals of our trip at a place called Taberna do Ganhao in a surf town called Peniche. We had squid with a balsamic reduction (AMAZING), clams that were caught 45 mins before we ordered them, and a cornbread-kale-black eyed pea hash. Sitting there looking at the surfers and seafood eaters, I decided that one day I’m going to do a surf trip and try to officially pick up the sport.

The next stop was a little lookout that had one of the craziest rock formations that I’ve seen (not like I’ve seen very many rock formations though… hmm…) It was fun to hop from rock cluster to rock cluster, and it was all right next to a breathtaking cliff/rock/ocean view.

From there we drove to Sintra, which is a large foresty area outside of Lisbon where there’s a famous palace on top of a windy one-way road. We got there too late to explore the castle and palace, but it looked like the perfect place for a day trip. By the looks of the tour map, there’s loads of hiking trails and areas of interest, plus I heard that the castle inspired some of the Disney castles so… there’s that.

And finally, we got to Lisbon! A bit later than planned, but we still had plenty of time to settle into our Airbnb in Alfama (one of the oldest neighborhoods). We walked about 10 feet from our place and grabbed wine, cheese, and meat at a nearby spot with lots of locals (I think). It’s a good thing we had a snack, because it took a while for us to determine where to go for dinner. Ultimately, we ended up at one of Lisbon’s most famous seafood restaurants, Cervezeria Romero.

At first we saw a huge crowd and said, “no way Jose” but then we were like “well, we could get some vinho verde and wait Jose.” We were SO GLAD we decided to stay. Here’s how it works: find the kiosk at the front door, enter your country and how many people are in your party. The machine spits out a ticket with a 4-digit code on it. Go to the bar on the ground floor and order a bottle of wine or beer and walk outside to re-join the crowd. Wait at least 45 minutes for your number to be called… and when it is, discover that the restaurant is actually 3 stories with tons of seating. Sit down and be handed an iPad with the menu… most (all?) of the things are priced by weight. When your waiter comes by, ask for his recommendations and just GO WITH IT. We had spicy shrimp, giant prawns, and crab two ways, along with a ton of crispy buttery bread. OMG. We left very happy and very full!!

Day 4: Shopping and Rooftops (575 words)

I really enjoyed this day, it just brought a smile to my face looking at my bullet points of what to cover. Ok, so I woke up hella full from the seafood chow-down at Cervezeria Romero. I decided to go for a run for the endorphins and whatnot – 10k later I had looped along the (flat) riverfront to the Golden Gate Bridge lookalike. By the way, have I mentioned that both Porto and Lisbon are **extremely** hilly?? Talk about a workout!

After showering and eating some fresh fruit (ok and another pasteis de nata!!) that Katie grabbed at a nearby market, we were ready to explore Lisbon during the daylight. Our first stop was an iconic gelato parlour called Santini (established in 1949). I ordered the hazelnut and marabunta, which is their version of stracciatella and translates to “swarm of ants.” The two were such a great combo and kind of reminded me of Baskin Robbins.

Ok, next up… one of my favorite things we did while in Lisbon… we visited a pottery shop called Cerâmicas na Linha. We spent a good amount of time perusing the shelves and deciding what to bring home with us. I picked two chipped items that were only 1 euro each and some other items for a few friends. I’m going to use one of my items as a cereal bowl I cannot waiiiit.

Sorry, I’m getting wordy. 6 things in 6 sentences:

  1. We stopped at a trendy, healthy restaurant that is totally ‘gram-able called Nicolau for a late lunch and shared an acai bowl, veggie burger, and chicken bowl with cappuccinos.
  2. After dropping off the heavy bags of pottery at our place, we tried to go to the touristy castle on the hill… however we realized it costs a bunch of euros just to get to the lookout point – so we bailed.
  3. We then stumbled upon an awesome tile shop called Cortiço & Netos, where we spent almost an hour looking through their boxes of tiles before picking a few to take home with us.
  4. Then we went to a seemingly random rooftop bar called Topo where we were bamboozled into drinks we didn’t want to drink that were covered in candy (I’ll spare you the details) – the view was lovely though!
  5. Just when Katie was saying “I wish we could have had the Aperol Spritzes like I’d ordered,” we stumbled upon an Aperol Spritz pop-up stand! Serendipitous!
  6. Also, Kelly introduced me to a really fun mobile app (drinking) game called Picolo, which we played while at Topo and in a plaza near one of the only churches that survived the 1755 earthquake/fire/tsunami.

Almost done with the Day 4 recap! Two *key* things to highlight about our evening: PARK bar and Time Out Market. The first (PARK bar) is a lively rooftop bar that’s literally on top of a parking garage. We watched the sunset over the river, had some drinks, and decided to get tattoos. It was so neat! Second, Time Out Market is a massive, buzzing food hall with so many options! We decided to make a game out of deciding on dinner – we each went in search of something the group would enjoy and reconvened to split everything. It was nice to be surprised by the decisions Katie and Kelly made.

Despite walking to the “going out” area, by the time we finished dinner we decided to just call it a night and headed home.

Day 5: Street Art and Tattoos! (330 words)

Our final day in Lisbon can be summed up quickly: coffee, LXFactory, street art tour, LXFactory, tattoos.

JK I’ll explain more 😉

First up, coffee at one of Lisbon’s best – Copenhagen Coffee Lab (yea, ironic right?). We shared a cinnamon bun, tomato focaccia, and Denmark’s take on a pain au chocolat. Then, we went to the other side of town to make an appointment at one of the only tattoo places open in Lisbon on Sunday, the Queen of Hearts Tattoos. It is conveniently located in the uber cool LXFactory, described by Google as a “historical industrial complex that houses an array of artsy retailers & unique restaurants.”

After walking around and checking out said retailers, we grabbed a sandwich-and-salad type lunch at Café na Fabrica. We were in a bit of a rush to get back into town for a street art tour organized by Sightseeing Lisbon, a sustainable tourism company led by two really cool ladies. The tour was one of the best parts of our trip – we learned a lot about the history and culture of the city, as well as the street art styles of various Portuguese national artists. We “left our mark” by spray-painting on the city-sanctioned graffiti walls.

When the tour ended at LXFactory, we walked straight over to the tattoo shop and met Julien, who inked each of us up with an ampersand tattoo. I’ll also mention that we shared a piece of the “world’s best chocolate cake” from Landeau Chocolate before getting the tats and it was probably the best decision ever. That cake was incredible!!

Afterwards, we celebrated with margaritas and (not so great) Mexican food at a place called Mez Cais LX. (Technically we had reservations at a place called Damas that was highly recommended and featured in all sorts of places, but we didn’t feel like rushing out of the LXFactory.)

And that was it! We went back and packed and slept for a few hours before heading home!

I may have rambled a little… but there truly was a lot to cover! My biggest takeaways are:

(1) I want to return to Portugal and explore south of Lisbon (surf trip?)
(2) I also need to visit Lisbon again for their huge festival on June 12-13th and just to explore more of it
(3) Katie and Kelly are awesome travel partners – we walked, we biked, we ate, we drank, we played games, we saw the sights, we did it all!
(4) Port is actually pretty good and the history behind it is very interesting
(5) Pay closer attention to street art! Our guide had really interesting stories about art of all sizes and media.
(6) Eat more gelato.


I have a new roommate!

Posted by Lauren

📍 Blogging from: our sofa, Fulham, London

NEWSFLASH: NICOLE IS HERE!!!!! Like, for good.

We were originally hoping that she’d move to London last September …and then we thought it would maybe be after Christmas… and then we just wanted it to EFFIN happen already! So, after living here for the past 10 months alone, I now have a new roommate. 🙂

Q: Wait a s-e-c-o-n-d… what is this Sisterly Sojourn thing?

A: About a year ago, when Nicole and I were chatting with our respective companies about moving to the UK, I thought it would be fun to resurrect our blogging habit from the good ol’ days of Sugar Coated Sisters (#RIP). We could share photos and talk about our travels and weekends in London. The target audience is 90% our mom, 10% friends and family. Nicole wasn’t too “keen on” the idea of blogging again, but she has changed her tune since stepping foot on this island. I’ve only put together two other posts, When I Moved in June 2017 and a check-in after my First Four Months. I also made an Instagram account, which I think will be a lot easier to update than WordPress (although I haven’t updated that since the end of January, whoops).

PS: you know the Yanny-Laurel thing?? Well, our lovely friend Ari designed both our “logo” and the Yanny-Laurel calligraphy mashup that’s making its rounds online. SHE is TALENTED!

Now that Nicole is here, we will post updates more regularly (I hope).

Let’s rewind to M-Day (move day).

On Wednesday, May 2nd, I was in an airport in Tanzania 🇹🇿 (more on that later) when Nicole packed her bags and drove to the Oakland 🇺🇸 airport with our mom. Besides a mixup where she ended up boarding the plane with a bison burrito instead of a vegan burrito, all went pretty smoothly. Nine hours later, after my Tanzania > Amsterdam > London 🇬🇧 flights, I was back in town grabbing balloons, a bottle of champagne, and some snacks to welcome her to the flat. 🙂

Nicole arrived 2 hours later and brought some California weather ju-ju with her, because we had “record-breaking hot weather [during] the first Bank Holiday of May, which saw temperatures reach a sweltering high of 28C.” That’s 82* F! So not only was the weather effin’ amazing, it was also a 3-day weekend thanks to the glorious bank holiday on Monday.

Here’s how we spent our first weekend together:

Friday, 4 May

The day after Nicole arrived, I asked my coworkers to stick around for post-work drinks with the new Londoner. We toasted to her with some lovely prosecco 🥂 in our WeWork atrium before heading over to Clerkenwell Social. After a few al fresco rounds there, we grabbed a table at Wedge Issue Pizza + Beer for (you guessed it) pizza and beer. The pizza reflects their “Pacific West Coast” roots which I’m all about.

Saturday, 5 May aka Cinco de Mayo

We started with an impromptu brunch at The Glasshouse Cafe in Fulham. I brought my laptop intending to do some work, but Nicole joined me for smashed avo on toast and a round of cappuccinos. From there, we walked over to Fulham Palace, which was a country home for English bishops from the 11th century until 1973. It sits on 12 acres and has a beautiful garden and a busy cafe inside the historic house.

We looped back to our flat, dropped off our backpacks, and kept walking north towards Shepherd’s Bush. Since it was Cinco de Mayo, we were on a mission to find (good) Mexican food to satisfy our late lunch needs. Here’s the deal: I’ve yet to encounter phenomenal Mexican food here, but it doesn’t mean I won’t keep looking! For some reason, the UK interpretation of a burrito comes out more like a panini. It’s always really flat, with grill marks, and cut in half. In other words, no bueno. When we walked into Killer Tomato, I had a hunch that the burrito and taco gods were smiling down on us.  Nicole ordered the sweet potato & feta burrito, I opted for the carne asada tacos, and we shared the generous tortilla chips with red salsa and guac. We definitely enjoyed every bit of it!

From there, we walked some more… and more… 6.5 miles to be exact. We walked through 20% of Holland Park and 2% of Hyde Park and through South Kensington and Chelsea and back to our house to regroup before dinner.

At this point we realized Saturday = walking and eating day.

We had plans to meet my friend Linnea at this new market / dining hall thing that recently opened up about a 10-minute walk away from our flat. Their website describes the location as an “ornate and well-preserved entrance hall of an Edwardian Underground (tube) station in Fulham Broadway, which has retained the former ticket hall from the original 1880 station.” There are 10 vendors inside Market Hall Fulham, serving up all different types of cuisine. We shared an order of Persian fries and a tuna poke bowl, along with the “Fulham Spritz” and an espresso martini. On the way out, Linnea and I grabbed ice cream from Soft Serve Society (mine was charcoal-coconut flavored!). We ended the night with a few drinks at The White Horse pub in Parsons Green area.

Sunday, 6 May

It’s tricky to think back 2 weeks and remember what we did… on this particular day, Nicole and I meandered up to the Angel / Islington neighborhood and walked around the high street there. We passed ourselves off as Arsenal (soccer team) fans to get into a restaurant that was for ticket holders only (on game day). From there, we spent the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine at pubs like The Alwyne Castle and Rosemary Branch. We walked along the canal and through beautiful neighborhoods before making our last stop: dinner at Standard Balti House for some classic, Brick Lane Indian food.

Monday 7 May

Bank holiday!! The only photos I have are from the river walk Nicole and I went on at sunset. Romantic, right?

Well, folks, that’s it. I think the next post will just be photo highlights. 🤷‍♀️


First Four Months

Posted by Lauren

📍 Blogging from: the hive sw6, Fulham Road, London

Hahahahah I just need to take a moment to laugh at myself for writing on June 4th and then NOTHING for F-I-V-E months. Oye vey, Lauren. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry… that’s what they say, right?

Looking back on the past four months I’m pretty lucky to have visited (even if briefly) the following places:

  • Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and The Dead Sea in Israel
  • Bethlehem, Palestine
  • Madrid, Spain
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Geneva, Switzerland
  • Annecy, France
  • Phoenix, Arizona and LA Baby
  • Berlin, Germany

And, I’ve been fortunate to explore London’s theatre and sports scene:

  • 42nd Street (musical)
  • An American in Paris (musical)
  • The Play That Goes Wrong (comedy)
  • Kinky Boots (musical)
  • Beginning (drama)
  • Fulham v. Preston (“football”)
  • Browns v. Vikings (NFL)

I also found a flat, moved into said flat, and found my rhythm being more domestic (we were starting at level 1 on the domestic scale of 0-100). I visited beautiful lavender fields outside of London. I brunched. I went to Broadway Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Maltby Street Market, and Borough Market. I walked through parks and museums. I joined a [hunger-games-inspired] gym. I rode on (and one time fell off of) the city bikes. I made friends. (!!!!!!!!)

I’ve also had a wonderful clan of people come and visit me here, including high school bestie Katie and her hubs Doug and my wonderful mom Shirley and her pal Kerri. Nicole’s spent as much time over here working in her UK office as she’s spent in California, which warms my heart. I’m lucky that she’s able to spend so much time here!

It’s been a pretty great four months and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.

I’m also ready to travel MORE MORE MORE starting in December. My philosophy will be to take the road less travelled and visit lesser-known cities. Here’s my current list, in no particular order (simply because I’m at a coffee shop and feel like googling this right now to get inspired 🙂 )

  • France 1: Montpellier, Camargue, Avignon, Gordes, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, St Tropez, Cannes, Nice, La Turbie
  • France 2: Etretat, Normandy, Calvados, Mont Saint-Michel, St. Malo
  • France 3: Rochefort, Charente-Maritime, Bordeaux, Dordogne, Monpazier, La Roque-Gageac, Najac
  • France 4: Laruns (Pyrenees), Lourdes, Toulouse, Carcassonne
  • France 5: Locronan, Rochefort-en-Terre, Nantes, Tours
  • France 6: Paris, La Roche-Guyon, Versailles
  • France 7: Lyon, Roussillon, Le Puy
  • Strasbourg and Eguisheim in France –> southwest Germany
  • Amiens and Lille in France –> Belgium
  • Corsica –> ? where do you go from an island 🙂
  • Skiing: Chamonix, Verbier
  • Antalya and Mugla, Turkey
  • St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia
  • Edirne, Turkey –> Burgas, Bulgaria –> Bucharest, Romania
  • Italy trip 1: Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Amalfi
  • Italy trip 3: Manarola, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence
  • Italy trip 3: Lake Como, Milan
  • Marrakech, Morocco
  • Ok… I know there’s a lot more to add. Like places in Croatia and Norway and Sweden and Slovenia and Portugal and Spain and Denmark and Germany and Greece… and, and, and… but I spent WAY too much time making sure my bases were covered in the France lineups.

That was an interesting use of time. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m just going to push publish and get on with it!


Welcome to London

On 2 June (that’s how they say dates here, so I need to get used to it), Nicole and I boarded a budget Norwegian flight in Oakland and took off for Gatwick Airport, which is about an hour south of London. We arrived around 4 pm on Saturday and grabbed a taxi that fit our 6 (SIX!) bags. Before jet lag could sink in, Nicole and I dropped off our luggage at the AirBnB and then went to Sainsbury Local to grab the food staples of travel warriors everywhere – bread + cheese + rosé. Classy!

Our first “night out” we grabbed dinner at a fancy gastropub called The Malt House, followed by drinks at The White Horse — both in Fulham. Maarten and his sister Eva joined us and gave me loads of pointers on what to expect of different neighborhoods, how to make friends, you know… that sort of thing. The four of us grabbed brunch together on Sunday as well. This time we ventured up to Shepherd’s Bush to a great spot near the Westfield Mall (btw – so nice) called Balans Soho Society. The crushed avocado, scrambled egg, and smoked salmon toast with cracked pepper was everything I could have wanted in that moment.

It’s starting to sink in that I’ll be moving here. I am moving here. It’s happening, like, right now.

While at The White Horse on our first night here, we heard about the attack happening near London Bridge. Many somber people got up from their tables and decided to call it a night. It’s really crazy to think about that happening only a few miles away… For everyone who sent us a text message, snap, or tweet to check in on our safety, thank you. In the words of Mad Eye Moody, constant vigilance.

So… what is this blog supposed to be?

Ideally, Nicole and I can use this blog to share quick updates with family and friends about our sojourn. Yes, that’s an awkward word to say out loud… but it fits the theme so nicely, don’t you think? We started a separate Instagram account as well, so check it out if you want pictures of pretty buildings and cappuccinos.

That’s all for now.