The happiest sight I have ever seen is that of two fluffy dogs frolicking on the beaches of Lagos, Portugal. You can’t want anything more in life than to be a beach dog that gets to play on the beach every day: now that’s fulfillment. The joy emanating from them was a tangible force. I unfortunately forgot to take a picture of them but I can see them vividly anyway, fetching rocks with silly, floppy, uninhibited joy.
The second happiest thing I have ever seen is the happy trees of Portugal, which I also forgot to take a picture of. While the bus ride to and from Portugal, at a whopping 13 hours each way, was an extraordinarily painful experience, these trees made it worth it. They grew in a naturally round shape, perched atop a spindly trunk. There were miles and miles of these on rolling green hills. They were simple and unpretentious, much like the Portuguese dogs.
That’s what I like about Portugal. It is a better version of Spain, a return to simplicity. I began to breathe after being strangled for so long by the city. Yes, it lacks Baroque architecture and shoe stores, but it makes up for all of that in natural beauty. I climbed on top of enormous grottos in the face of an oncoming storm, I went out into the Atlantic Ocean and saw baby dolphins, went kayaking, and frolicked on the beach countless times. Once, I even braved the water and went swimming. I enjoyed observing the Portuguese people, who are interesting, casual, and weather-beaten. And best of all, despite the high tourist population of Lagos, it still has the appearance of being untouched.
When it was time to leave, I had no desire to go. I dug my heels (literally) in the sand. I realized that the phrase "parting is such sweet sorrow" is a huge lie: leaving was not sweet, just sad. I wanted to stay and become a Portuguese beach dog.
Never have I met a place quite like Portugal. Any number of things made the trip a disaster- rainstorms which ruined almost all of our plans, horrific bus rides in which I barfed in a bag and had to wait for an hour or so until a stop to dispose of it, sleeping through the bus I was supposed to take, losing 200 euros, trying desperately to canoe with kayak paddles in a harbor, being called unspeakable names by a random drunk guy with a Liverpool accent, etc. But still the best word I can use to describe Portugal is “happy.” Wordsworth used to find one word which he thought best suited a subject and use it repeatedly: I used to think it was a tonteria, but now I understand what he meant. Portugal is happiness incarnate.
That's all I feel I need to say about Portugal, but you should go and see it for yourself.