It’s been a while since we visited Lisbon but I thought it was about time to finally got around to finishing my blog on the city, the reasons for the delay was the small matter of my fourth heart operation (it’s not as dramatic as it sounds) and also trying to fit in my many other interests. After our day taking Castile St Jorge we decided to take the train to which is about a 30 minute train journey from Lisbon and is a very popular day trip from the city. The main attraction for visiting Sintra apart from the quaint little town is visiting Pena National Palace a truly magnificent piece of architecture sitting on the top of a hill overlooking the town, and apparently on a clear day it can be seen from Lisbon itself, but the day we visited Sintra it was torrential rain which did not let up for the whole day, we got thoroughly soaked through so apart from the castle itself, which incidentally is well worth the visit but due the rain we did have the opportunity to really appreciate the town itself.
On our last day in Lisbon it was time to sample the local delicacy of Pasteis de Nata which is basically a custard tart, but with a taste to die for, truly delicious, and what better place to sample them was at the Pastéis de Belém restaurant in Belem which was recommended to us by the receptionist in our apartment rental.
Incidentally the transport system in Lisbon is very good and along with the norm, trains, buses and metro it also has a very good tram system, so we took the short walk through town to the tram stop to make our way to Belem, The route takes you along the Rio Tejo River which was rather nice but owing to the tinted windows and the very gray weather conditions there was not much vista to see. After a journey of about 15 minutes we arrived in Belem, a very nice town situated right along the river’s edge, and as it was coffee time we made our first stop the famous Pastéis de Belém restaurant. The restaurant was originally sited next to a sugar cane refinery and was built-in the late 18th century. Here is an extract from the restaurants website. I quote”At the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, in Belém, next to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (the Heironymite Monastery) there was a sugar cane refinery linked to a small general store. As a result of the liberal revolution of 1820, all convents and monasteries in Portugal were shut down in 1834, the clergy and labourers expelled. In an attempt at survival, someone from the monastery offered sweet pastries for sale in the shop; pastries that rapidly became known as ‘Pasteis de Belém’.” It well worth a visit as the taste of the Pasteis are to die for, they also do a large selection of various other cakes and pasteries to suite all tastes. It’s worth wandering around the restaurant as there are lots of little rooms where you can sit and eat it’s quite warren once inside, you can also see them baking the various delicacys behind a glass wall, there is also a small museum telling the history of the place. Well worth the visit. Nest stop was the museum of modern art the Museu Berado, entrance is free and it is well worth a look around, with works by Picasso, Warhol and many more interesting exhibits.
Inside the famouse restaurant Pastiche de Belem
After our not so good sightseeing tour on Tram 28 we decided today to visit the Castile St Jorge which sits atop of one of Lisbon’s seven hills, luckily Tram 12 passed our apartments which like Tram 28 goes to the Castile, and luckily for us just as we left the apartment one had just arrived,the Castile dates back to the 2nd century BC. It sits atop of one of Lisbon’s hills with magnificent views over the city and the sea, and can be seen standing proud from most parts of the city below. You can walk around its ramparts and explore the many courtyards inside also inside the Castile there are some resident peacocks. Now I’m not sure if it was mating season or the girls good looks but the male birds were showing off their magnificent plumage, a great spectacle indeed. Another must see is the Camera Obscura which is housed in the towers. “Camera obscura, an optical system of lenses and mirrors, which provides a detailed 360º view of the city in real-time, including its monuments, most emblematic areas, the river and the bustle of Lisbon itself.” Once you leave the Castile the small narrow streets which surround the castle are also worth spending some time exploring, with their quaint little shops and small restaurants and bars. After a couple of hours visiting the Castile we made our way down the hill to take a look at Lisbon’s cathedral which was built In 1147 and has had many transitions since, it also has survived many of Lisbon’s earthquakes, worth a look but not as impressive as some of the cathedrals I have seen. I suppose I am spoilt living in Lincoln with our magnificent cathedral. As it was soon time to be thinking about dinner we decided to head back to the area our apartment was in “Baxia Chiado” and look for a restaurant, walking about the day before we liked the look of a small little family restaurant close by us called “Adega de S Roque” in. Rue da Misericòrdia, we were attracted by its intimacy and of course it’s menu,a restaurant I would certainly recommend, also don’t be put off by the many football scarves attached to the ceiling apparently it is a legacy of the previous owner, there are no big tv’s showing football, and in my opinion the huge splash of colour adds to the quaint decor. After leaving the restaurant we decide to take a walk back to our apartment along Rue de Norte which is one of the many narrow streets in the Barri Alto district which is famous for its many small clubs, pubs and restaurants and have a nightcap. We liked the look of a small bar called Alface Hall, where some musicians were setting up their instruments also another thing that attracted us was the fact that happy hour was on so we wandered in. Luckily for us it was quite empty so we found some seats close to the stage and ordered our drinks. The bar soon started to fill up, the music started playing, which incidentally was brilliant, so from what was supposed to be a nightcap turned into a very late night, of excellent music, plenty of belly laughs and drink a great night was had by all “we did pay the price the next day but it was worth it”.
Today we decided to take a tour of the city on one of Lisbon’s famous trams, in particular, Tram 28. Now in the guide books they all refer to tram 28 as a must do as it's route takes you around the many sights of the town. Lonely Planet guide book advises you to catch the tram at it's starting point which is Praça Dom Pedro which was not to far from us, the only snag is a lot of people now use the Lonely Planet books as a guide on their trips it can result in a bit of a log jam, which was the case with the stop for the 28 tram. Anyway the weather was nice so we didn't mind the wait. The trams are supposed to be every 15 minutes but like all things abroad this wasn't the case. Top Tip You can buy a single journey onboard the tram but if you intend to get on and off at the various tourist sites it is worth buying a 24 hour card, which enables you to use the buses, trams, and the metro for, you guessed it 24 hours, these can be bought at most Tabac shops around the city. At time of writing the cost of these are €6.50. We boarded the tram and wound our way up and down hills and through the narrow streets of Lisbon, as there was a large queue where we boarded the tram and we had managed to get seats right by the window, we decided to do the whole circular tour of the city first, then get off at various points of interest, but our plan was scuppered when about half way around the tram terminated and everybody had to get off while the driver had his break, and to get back on you had to join the equally large queue already waiting to board. So it was decided that we had done enough queuing for one day and took the walk down to the river front and get the train back into the centre of Lisbon. In hindsite in my opinion it would have been better to just get any tram to the various points of interest around the city, you will still get a ride on one of Lisbon’s famous trams but you will avoid the large crowds of tourists, we were visiting in March, so what it would be like in the summer one can only imagine.
Well it’s trip time again, and we are off to the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. Now the last time I visited Lisbon was back in the eighties when I was a lot younger, it was a fleeting day trip from Albufeira the city seemed very overpowering back then for a little traveled young man as I was in those days, but years on I love nothing more than a city break. So as with most recent years we decided to visit for my birthday. As we had an early flight and the drive to the airport takes around two hours we decided to stay in one of the trusty Travelodge chains hotel just a short drive from the airport, getting up up at 4am was a bit of a shock but it’s a lot better than leaving at 2am with a two hour drive to deal with. Flight was painless enough and we arrived in Lisbon around 10am. The weather initially did not seem a lot different than back in the uk which was a surprise, but that was ok, at least it was dry. Getting through passport control was painless enough, located our pickup from the airport and we were soon on our way to to our apartment for the duration of our stay. Chiado Apartments. When we arrived at our apartment we discovered that it could not have been in a more perfect location, overlooking largo de camões square right in the heart of Lisbon in the Baixa & Rossio area. So it was a quick unpack and off out to explore the area. First port of call was a to get some lunch consult our guide book and get our bearings. So just a short walk from our apartment was a little wine bar called Grapes & Bites Wine House, where we formulated our plans over a nice glass of red wine and some excellent local cheeses.
Next we moved on to the Rossio area of town, on the way I could not help noticing that the architecture of Lisbon is in my opinion a bit lacklustre compared to the many other European cities we have visited, even the squares and monuments had that something lacking. The time flew by and our thoughts were turning to where to go for dinner, their were plenty of restaurants to choose from, some with some very nice outside seating spots, but the evening was a little on the chilly side for that so we took the indoor option. Whilst walking around we did stumble across a small little place where a very friendly old chap was trying to beckon us in but we replied ” maybe later” but the place looked really nice. So when we were ready to have dinner we decided to return to the friendly old chaps restaurant which was called. Restaurante Portas in Rue dos Corrreeiros,in the Baxia district. The restaurant itself was very plain and simple, but very clean and the food was excellent especially the sardines. A good way to end our first day in Lisbon;