Lisbon's Many Sites and TastesApril 8 in Portugal
On Thursday we completed our cycling trip across the Algarve with a triumphant arrival at the very windy Capo St. Vincent, the most western point of Portugal and mainland Europe. After a look at the beautiful vistas and a celebratory beer, we were transported by van to the lovely hillside town of Loule. We enjoyed another excellent Portuguese meal where Helen and I had cuttlefish done in lots of olive oil and garlic. Can’t go wrong with that. We all really enjoyed Loule the next morning. It felt much more like a real working town and not simply one that was overrun with visitors. It seems that the secret is to get away from the coast a bit.
Friday afternoon we arrived at one of Lisbon’s many rail stations. The entrance to the city was quite impressive over a bridge like San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge . Lisbon sits by a large, natural harbour that is at the mouth of the Tagus River. Much of what happens in the city is centred around the waterfront.
Helen has been in charge of our Lisbon visit and she has kept us going at a very fast clip. She even wrote notes for the blogs- she took her job of Lisbon convener very seriously indeed. She rented us a large and well appointed 2 br apartment in the Estrela area which sits on one of Lisbon’s 7hills. Wéve been walking up and down cobbled roads for the past 2 days. Thank goodness we decided not to bike this. Would have been impossible!
Helen writes: We arrived Friday a bit north of our rental flat and, after a bit of argy bargy, found the cab stand. More argy bargy while the cabbie discussed our address with his fellow cabbies - pointedly avoiding us or our gps - and we set off and shortly were settled in a very stylish flat overlooking the old town.
By the time we headed out for dinner it was late so we were modest in our ambitions. But we had found a promisingly well reviewed restaurant in the neighbourhood so set off down the hill to explore. we found the restaurant but it was fully booked, sigh, so we repaired to a wine bar next door. Only to discover that at the wine bar we could not only sample the best regional wine but order anything we wanted from the restaurant (too full to accomodate us) next door. Private party! Great food and an absolutely brilliant bottle of Douro red.
The young server also gave us some interesting incites into lofe in Portugal these days.
Saturday we had a leisurely start at the well appointed flat and then set out to explore old Lisbon. We started at the Basilica nearby - v grand- then caught one of the old trams towards the old fort. The little wooden tram was a great way to chug through the twisting and narrow old streets. We then worked our way on foot through several alleys and, pausing for coffee and portugese pastries, to emerge at the gate of the fort...rebuilt on similar lines by all the armies that occupied lisbon over centuries.
Despite the historic importance of the site, we were put off by the VERY long ticket line, and decided to just walk through the district up to one of the viewing points on one of the seven hills of Lisbon. We ambled through the flea market, took in the Pantheon, and enjoyed the view. We also entertained ourselves watching a freshman pickpocket trying to work the crowd without skill or success. Poor chap - we nearly asked him to pose for a photo under a sign that warned tourists about pickpockets.
Time to tackle more transit....quite a bit of head scratching and we finally cracked the metro tickets and headed north to the site of the 1998 Exposition to indulge in a little modern architecture. ( ps Heather immediately recognized the architect as Santiago Caletrava). We managed to dash into a restaurant for lunch as the heavens opened. But rain was to be our fate for a bit. We hopped into a cable car to get an impressive if watery view of the longest bridge in europe - the Vasco da Gama bridge. There are a lot of significant things named after Vasco Da Gama.
A bus ride back towards town and we ended the cultural part of the day with the National Tile Museum. This may sound dry but was absolutely stunning - a beautiful old monastery adorned with Portugese tiles in the most imaginative of expressions.
Our feet were cold and sore by this point so we headed home to dry out/warm up. A bit later we headed out to eat simply in a nearby place. Our first choice - a convivial Italian - was full. Or so we thought. Turns out they were happy to accommodate us in another room across the street! We finished off with a limoncello and headed ´homé. Belem and Baixa await tomorrow
Update from Sunday. Helen had another full day (23000 steps worth) for us today and we walked around a couple more of the interesting barrios in the city and made a quick stop to sample the Regional cherry liqueur known as Ginjinha. 10 am was A bit early to be sampling liqueurs but we were too pooped to go out last night and Helen and Laura are purists and insisted that we go to THE little shop for a tasting. It was actually not unpleasant. Next we were off for more squares, statues and then made a stop at Time Out Market which is a food market set up in an old market building. There are a number throughout world and the idea is for people to sample excellent regional food and drink. We tasted some delicious fish cakes made with salt cod and potatoes. Kind of like a croquette. After that, we were off to the Belem area which had been the Centre of Portugal’s former maritime glory. It is now a residential district but has a few good things to visit including an ancient tower guarding the harbour and the beautiful monastery built to celebrate - yup you guessed it - Vasco da Gama’s successful journeys to other parts of the world, including India, He is buried in the church there.
We have only touched on the many things to see (and eat) in Lisbon. It is an interesting city with nooks and back alleys to explore as well as some significant museums and sites. The food is wonderful, the weather is normally better than the rain we’ve had and we’ve had no problems getting around. It feels like a safe city with the obvious cautions. They could do a better job on the dog dirt front and also get the graffiti under control. Certainly worth another visit.
Tomorrow we set sail north. We pick up a rental car at the airport and will overnight at a Pousada in Obidos. We are expecting luxury for one night in the castle. ( Mike thinks for what we paid that he’s actually bought the place)
That’s all for now. Boa-noite for now,
Love Mom/HeatherRead more