Oh Lisboa, the capital city of mother Portugal. A fascinating city with steep climbs and steeper descends, full of life, music, and bacallao ( salted cod fish), elaborate tiled walk ways, and a history full of royal regalia that help to circumvent the world for Western Kingdoms. Although Most of Medieval and ancient Lisbon lay as rubble under newly refurbished buildings after the devastating 1775 Earthquake that shook and destroyed most of the city, Lisbon still has that old world charm that just beckons you to pull up a chair while balancing yourself on your chair like a fool on the hill, and listen to the wailing sounds of the Fado, crying out for those lost lovers out at sea.
In the spring of 2015, Lisbon was my first stop on my journey to rediscover the paths of my ancestors. Being ( at least I think I am ) 30% Portuguese, I considered this trip, a return to the motherland. My father’s father comes from the Azores but his mother’s family comes from Mainland Portugal, and being that Lisbon holds so many secrets, history, and is a metropolis, I couldn’t think of anywhere better to first start this path to discovery of my ancestors.
Arrival: I came on a quick 55 minute flight via Iberia Air from Madrid: A return to my favorite City on Earth with my dear friend Debra with whom I’ve been traveling with for almost a week and a half, and landed at LIS: Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport, also known as Lisbon Airport or Portela Airport. Lovely airport , easy to navigate, but waiting for baggage at the domestic terminal took forever. We pre-ordered our taxi via http://www.lisbontaxis.com.pt and for €34 round trip so we weren’t too worried about getting to our place. Since we already had euros from Spain, we did not need to take out any money.
When we exited baggage claim, our driver was there holding up a sign with my name on it. I told him we needed to pick up 2 more things then we will be on our way. We proceeded to the TI in the arrivals terminal and found a very long line. After about a quick 15 minutes we were able to pick up 2 very valuable items from the TI.
- The Viva Viagem Metro card. This is great to have as it allows you to ride Buses, trains,trams, and the metro, which we used extensively on our journey.
- Lisboa card: Lisboa Card Web which gave us free access to many museums and attractions. We picked the 3 day journey and to start the following day. This really came in handy.
Finally we were on the road with our charming Taxi driver who was so excited to hear that we have portuguese heritages and was proudly explaining places as we passed them by ( I couldn’t understand a word he said) Finally we arrived in Chiado ( pronounced Shee ah doo ) area of Bairo Alto. A hilly area of upper Lisbon with tiny streets, close quarters, and full of life, especially at night. We are meeting our 2 other dear friends, Michael and Dan, a lovely couple who checked in early for us, and got the sort of lay of the land. I was so excited to see them both as we have been planning this trip for 2 years since I last saw them here in Honolulu,Hawaii.
Apartment: Our 3 bedroom apartment was stunning and perfect for 4 people. We scoured and searched high and low on Airbnb for the right place to accommodate us all and be close enough to the action, yet far enough for some rest, and be comfortable, lovely , and perfect. And we found all of that here at Christina’s place on Rua De Rosa. The apartment was gorgeous. Spacious living room, Nice dining room, gorgeous kitchen to store the multitude of wine bottles we would consume, 2 bathrooms, one of em super large, and 3 gorgeous bedrooms. It was heaven on earth. Lisbon Apartment Link on Airbnb
After our initial greetings, we decided that we would explore our area of Bairo Alto and Chiado and follow Rick Steve’s walking tour of the area. We headed up to one of the Miradoras ( look outs) and feasted on the beauty of the city. One can only imagine what it was like prior to the great earth quake. Miradouro Sao Pedro De Alcantara is a lovely and peaceful spot, even when it’s full. With lovely sculptured gardens
Of course we stopped to quench our Thirst at a Wine Museum, with free tastings. It was my first introduction to Port Wine. We Decided to head back to our apartment to get our bearings for the surrounding area and to relax a bit and get ready for dinner.
For dinner, we headed next door to our apartment at Restaurant 151, which I heard is now closed. Sad to hear, as the food was unbelievably delicious, and the owner/ host Valentina was just as spicy as her cocktails and dishes. It was a lovely place.
What a lovely rest I had, and I couldn’t wait to seize the day. Got up and made some Nespresso coffee ( I love Europe for this) and soon everyone was wiping the boogers out of their eyes, and enjoying a lovely cup of coffee, as we strategize the day. Today we wanted to be inspired by art, so decided to go to the Gulbenkian Museum and start our 3 day Lisboa Card.
We walked a bit back towards the miradora we saw earlier the previous day, to catch the infamous Lisbon trolleys. I can’t remember the number of the trolley but it was godsend. The super steep hills make it a necessity. Lisbon has so many similarities with Sam Francisco, from their own Golden Gate Bridge and trolleys. From the trolley we transferred to the Metro
Metro: The metro is so easy to use, at the top of this article, I explained about getting a Viva Viagem card, which can be used on Busses, trams, and the metro. It’s super easy. There are stairs, escalators and elevators at most stops, and it is clean and pretty with the famous Azulejos style tiles decorated the floors and walls at many stops. It is easy and very cheap to use and can whisk you away to one part of town a lot quicker than a taxi stuck in traffic would.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum was a lovely little museum filled with all types of art ranging from Ancient to Modern. The T shaped building with its architectural wings allows the visitor to experience art in all mediums . I was very fascinated by the Lalique collection of beautiful hair pins. It was a nice visit .
For Lunch we walked around the neighborhood and came across a street filled with restaurants. We check the menus and decided upon one which had all the trappings of a typical Portuguese meal. We sat Al Fresco and I ordered the sardines. I have no idea I would be getting such a large order of sardines. I mean I’m used to the can sized ones, not the actual size. My fish came with potatoes and a huge salad. I guess we could’ve shared it.
The day was so beautiful and sunny and with full bellies, we continued our day with a journey through Bairo Alto following our lovely leader Rick Steves and his guide book.
We started back in Bairo Alto and at the famous and beautiful Sāo Roque Church. Built in the 16th century , this Baroque style church is one of Portugal’s first Jesuit churches. The grandeur is reminiscent of the Vatican , and it is probably that way due to the fact that it was commissioned and made in Rome , disassembled and restructured on its present location. Now that’s dedication. From mummified bishops to an altar dedicated to the relics of spiritual leaders and another one of screaming babies , made our visit one Holy endeavor.
Next we moved on following our perfect guide’s advice a few steps to the oldest beer hall in Lisbon Cervejaria da Trindade. With its interesting 19th century tiles, beautiful interior arches and beer on tap, we thought it a perfect time to quench our thirst. This was once the dining hall for monks and priests of the rectory
Passing by Largo de Carmo with its antique fountain we came upon the ruins of the Convento de Carmo. Destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, its gothic arches remain to remind others of the devastation.
A few steps away is another vantage point worth viewing on the top of the iron clad Santa Justa Elevator. It looks like a tower with a web of metal encasing it’s too like a crown jewel taking its passengers to the city below. We decided instead to continue walking down until we came across Café A Brasileira. This 100-year-old interesting cafe with relics of a gone by era , dark interior , and the air of its literary Past, we ordered a Bica ( espresso) and a famous Pastel De Nata ( custard tart ) and soaked in the aroma of Avant-garde poetic history.
Directly outside was a statue of the famous poet Fernando Pessoa and the Baixa Chiado metro atop. A bunch of escalators whisks you away down for some fabulous shopping. But we of course stopped by the Nespresso store to gaze at, indulge in and acquire some necessary coffee pods of all types.
Cutting straight through, or rather straight down the Chiado shopping plaza and passing some interesting art and of course Azulejo ( painted tile) decorated buildings. We finally reached the flat part of Lisbon and into the Baixa (Bah ee shya) or flat valley between the two mountains.
The Baixa with its militant grid like streets is newly built ( post 1755) We kept walking and ooohing and ahhhing our way until we came upon a harbor setting with a grand arena and yellow and gold buildings spilling into the river of sea water in front of us. We reached Praco do Comèrcio , trade square. Once upon a time ships used to Doc here and offload their merchandise for sale. It was also know. As palace square as it was the palace square for 200 years before the great earthquake moved both the king and his home to Bellem. We enjoyed sitting around the water and watching ships go bye , imagining what it may have been like in its high days. Amazing. As you look back towards the mountains of Alto and Alfalma, the grid like steeets becons you to search their alleys for hidden shops and mysterious hideaways.
We continued our walk back towards the mountains and Chiado , but this time through the welcoming arches of the Rua do Cómercio.
Like every busy capital city , this famous street was lined with over priced cafes , al fresco dining , tinker soldier tourist spy shops , and name brand stores. What made this street so interesting though were the beautiful intricately tiled pedestrian walkways.
After some quick gelato and bobbing in and out of some stores , we arrived at Praca do Rossio. This square with its beautiful fountains and city center vibe is full of life And a bustling cultural center. We of course had to do some liquid sightseeing as well as stopped at the many different Ginjinha (zheen Zheen ha) liquor made from the sour Ginga berry, sugar and grappa. Absolutely delicious I procured a bottle to take home 😉 bit of course !!
Next to Rossio square is Rossio Station with its stunning studded horse shoe like entrance almost slightly reminiscent of some fabulous casino or entrance one might expect in Montecarlo.
We tucked behind the station a bit and made our way to Praca do Restauradores, with a large obelisk marking the independence of Portugal from Spain in 1640.
We found a nice cafe and sat down for some wine and cheese as a rest was absolutely necessary if we were going to Brahe the mountain of steps to get back to Bairo Alto.
There are a few easy ways ok maybe not so easy, to get back up to Bairo Alto. There is a metro , a funicular, and of course the STAIRS. We opted for the best way, the stairs. Climbing up and up passing the touts of waiters coercing you to eat at their restaurants (overpriced) , some with seating literally right on the stairs, we kept on trudging with occasional stops at second-hand stores to engage in eras gone by. Finally at the top , with calves and buns of steel we made our way home.
We woke to the beautiful sounds of children on their way to school , escorted by their grandmothers and the melodically sounds of the garbage truck. There was definitely a party going on in Chiado last night because I woke early for a quick ciggie at around 5 and people were still in full swing on our street.
After breakfast and coffee at home, we got all dolled up and re-checked our notes, as today we make the 3 mile trek from downtown Lisbon to Belém.
Bèlem ( pronounced Bay Leng) is an important area that played crucial parts in analogs of history. It was the send off point for voyagers during the Age of Discovery and is a check off point for so many important sights from Portugals Golden Era when Vasco Da Gama among others , helped turn Portugal into Europe’s richest power. It was also the only place in close proximity to Lisbon that was not affected by the earthquake of 1755 and subsequently is where the royal family moved to and stayed, establishing their place of power, and currently where the president’s seat of power is.
Getting here was easy ( enough). Instead of taking the funicular down to Praca do Commercio, we decided instead to retrace our walk from yesterday and headed down those steep steps until we came Praca do Libertad. Today though , there were celebrating something , as there were a pop up of white tents everywhere next to the elaborate fountains , with people selling everything from furs to sausages. Of course there were wine and beer for sale and consumption and I think a few people were already well consumed. A quick skim , a few shots of Ginjinha, a little munch , we made our way back down to Praca Do Commercio to catch the modern looking trolley #15 it takes a little under 30 minutes with stops to reach Bélem and at the time of the morning , it was standing only.
Warning : Take care to mind tour belongings when traveling on any Lisbon trolleys I’ve read about this but thought nothing of it as I always have my crossover bag in front of me and I’ve never witnessed anything shady happen. That is of course until our ride on this trolley. About half way into our ride I heard a loud scream from an American , followed by the words ” get your hands out of my pockets you son of a Bitch ” everyone turned to see what and were the commotion was coming from. All eyes darted to this short strange-looking guy and followed by whispers and hisses until he quickly hopped ooff the trolley at the next stop looking all upset as if someone had done him wrong. Wow !!!
The first stop as you enter the coastal town of Bélem is the National Coach Museum. Against the advice of our beloved Rick Steves , we decided to stop and start our tour of Bélem at the Monastery of Jerómimos.
Monastery of Jerómimos: This beautiful and elaborately detailed gigantic church and monastery was erected in 1495 by King Manuel in honor of and with gratitude to the Discovery’s made by the early Portuguese explorers. The line can sometimes be long here, but not to worry as it moves quickly. The church is free and an absolute must , for it holds an absolute treasure. The cloisteres, however , is 7€ to enter
Once inside I was in awe of its Neo-gothic and Manueline styles. Intricate carvings and curves decorate the interior walls and the small yet beautiful courtyard is a tranquil reprieve from the outside world. There are little rooms with historical facts and items but for me the true beauty was the courtyard which soaked up the dreamy sun.
The interior of the church was refitted to march the renaissance and baroque styles of the time. Statues of King Manuel and his queen sit upon an elaborate throne and on top of the backs of lions. If That doesn’t portray power , I don’t know what does. But the jewel of the church in my opinion, is the tomb of the Geear Portuguese explorer, Vasco Da Gama. I just get a huge kick out of this. This would be the second explorers tomb I’ve visited with the first one being Christopher Colombus in Seville: Al Andalus and the Flamenco Capital of the World.
After standing in awe at the sarcophagus of this great explorer , we decided to make our way out and onto the Stage Coach Museum, but first with a very special and much anticipated stop at Casa Pastéis de Bélem.
Casa Pastéis de Bélem is an absolute must stop. It is the birthplace of the famous portuguese custard tart called Pastél de Nata. Don’t be put off by the very long lines, they move quickly. Also make sure to take home a few delights to enjoy later, but don’t let it sit too long as there is nothing like having it fresh. When you order, it comes with cinnamon on the side. An interesting concept but wow, what a perfect condiment. Since 1837 , locals have been coming to establishment for their tarts. The recipe is known to only 3 people and are locked away in a room to mix the ingredients daily. It is absolutely delicious!
After grubbing down on a few of the tarts , with bellies filled and hearts content, we made it over to the National Coach Museum. I have to admit, at first I wasn’t too thrilled about visiting this museum, as horse-drawn coaches, as cute as they are, weren’t really top on my list. However, I ‘m so glad Dan and Michael convinced me to visit this super cool museum. The coaches are out of this world. from Pure gold and silver coaches fit literally for a Queen and King. They are phenomenal and absolutely beautiful. I can just imagine the sweat and tears these poor horses went through pulling the tons of pounds of opulence through Lisbon. The cost to enter is 5€
Even with our Pastel De Nata, we became very hungry after visiting the Coach Museum, so lunch was absolutely in order. We stopped at some local eatery to which i can’t remember ( this was 2 years ago)
After lunch we walked towards the water an through a lovely park on our way to the Monument to the Discoveries ( Prodrão dos Descobrimentos). On our way we passed by the most interesting kiosk selling our staple liquid libation, WINE… Too cool.
The Monument to the Discoveries cannot be missed. Infact it is impossible not to miss this absolutely powerful monument to the explorers of Portugal who literally put the country on the proverbial “map” . Shaped like a huge Ship with Sail, with the carved effigies of the great explorers and contributors to exploration. This 170 foot monumental sculpture , if you can even call it that, is beyond belief. At the head of the ship is Prince the Navigator flanked by kneeling kings and princes , Vasco de Gama, and Magellan. The tiled grounds near the Ship/ Monument looks like waves , giving an optical illusion of a moving ocean, with the ship on its way to discover more of the world. There is an elevator that takes you to the top of the monument to which offer a commanding view of Belem, and Lisbon, 2.5 €
About a 10 minute walk from the Monument to the Discoveries is the quintessential Manueline style Bélem Tower. Built in the early 16th century, this tower was the last thing sailors saw as they left Portugal on their journey to discoveries. Although you can visit inside, we primarily just visited the exterior.
The weather was getting colder, not cooler, and we needed a quick reprieve from the wind and chill, so we stopped in a lovely restaurant for some wine .
Making our way back to the Trolley stop was brutal. The wind had picked up and we were cold and tired and just wanted to say goodbye to Béllem for now and be in the comfort of Lisbon. Armed with awareness, we all clutched our bags tightly and jumped into the trolley back to the city. Once there, we walked around the Rossio area for a bit and pushed our butts up and up those steep stairs back to Bairo Alto and Chiadoo to relax a bit in our apartment. As night fell ( at 9;30 pm) we decided to wander about in search of food. In our neighborhood there are a plethora of indoor/ outdoor restaurants, bars, Fado Bars, and little eateries. We tried our best not to be too touristy, but couldn’t help ourselves because our stomachs dictated that we needed to eat, and soon, so we found this quaint little eatery with Al Fresco dining. Cocheira Alentejana was an absolute great decision. Although it was cold , sitting outside was so beautiful and such a cool experience and so Europe. The restaurant staff offered us very warm blankets and of course some wine to warm our tummies. Dinner was spectacular, even for a touristy restaurant. You can read my review here : Cocheira Alentejana Sometimes its worth it to just be a tourist instead of trying to rack ones brain trying to find that special restaurant that only locals go to, and enjoy . On our way home, we of course stopped at a few of the pubs as it was party time on a Thursday evening ( its that way every evening).
What a wonderful day and night yesterday was. We were so thrilled to have seen all we have seen but today for me will definitely be a huge highlight of my trip to Lisbon….
We started out early as our journey will take us a bit out of the city. Not waisting any time, we made our way from Chiado down to the Baixa and to Rossio Station to catch our early morning train to Sintra. We bought our tickets upstairs for 4€ roundtrip and booked it straight to our platform for the 35 minute ride.
Sintra was a favorite retreat for the Royals of Lisbon as it is today for tourist alike looking to escape the city for a more tranquil setting in the beautiful hills. Pulling up to Sintra station is unique and beautiful. Upon disembarking we walked to the nearest bus stop to catch the famous bus #434 which loops you up to the Pena Palace and Moorish capital, and back again . We decided to just purchase the 10€ day pass for hop on hop off options . As we arrived a little early, we grabbed a quick coffee and a ciggie until the 9:30 bus started its first fair up to the palace. First stop, Peńa Palace
Pena Palace ( Palacio de Pena): This magical Disneyesque looking Palace built by the romantic German born Prince Ferdinand , is so deliciously ornate and colorful you would swear its made out of paper. The Palace sits high upon the hill in Sintra overlooking the city and the Moorish castle nearby. After exiting the bus, it’s a short walk to the ticket booth where you secure your ticket, get it torn, then walk across the fantastical draw bridge to the base of the Palace. The fauna around the palace is so exquisite and beautiful and just adds to the allure of the place. The courtyard is your true first introduction to this palace with Golden tipped minarets, red renaissance domed ceilings and as you make your way to the center courtyard, a commanding view of the vicinity. Something funny happened on the way inside the palace.
There were these absolutely colorfully and beautifully dressed Chinese visitors who looked so familiar. I remembered one because I took a picture for her when i was visiting Segovia a week or so ago. Madrid: A return to my favorite City on Earth I approached her and said ” Hi Segovia?” she said and kept saying “NO Chinesse” I said “No, Sayyyyy Go Veee Ah” and made picture-taking sign and she said “Sayyyyy Go Veee Ah!!!!! Sayyyyy Go Veee Ah !!!!!” So we took pictures with each other, had a laugh and moved on.
The interior of the Palace is beautiful. Room after room we were able to see how elaborately and decadent the royals lived. It was really cool and a really lovely exploring the palace. In the basement of the palace and upon exit, they do have a lovely gift shop selling all sorts of things and I do admit I did secure a few gifts for my family and friends back home .
After a good 2 1/2 hours going from room to room and taking it all in , in the magical kingdom , we walked around 15 minutes from the Palace through the “enchanted forest” ( it really looks and feels like it) to visit the Moorish Castle ruins.
Moorish Castle: The thousand year old ruins nestled within the enchanting forests of Sintra , tells the tales of a time when the Moors once ruled much of the Iberia Peninsula . Although pretty much a skeleton of what it must have been like, it is definitely a worthwhile visit. 6€ to enter, there is a much appreciated cafe where you can enjoy a nice cold beer while viewing these ancient walls.
After climbing a bit and enjoying the fresh air from on top of the world , we took the bus 434 back to town for a bit of exploration .
Sintra town is such a quaint place and full of shops and town life. With hilly and windy lanes spilling into artisan shops and restaurants, our walk around the town was heavenly. Starving, we again chucked it up and sat at a touristy spot on the second floor watching life and tourists go by. To me , lunch was lovely and exactly what we needed. WINE… While in Europe, wine is my bread and butter. We shopped a bit in town after lunch , and the boys found a quaint artisan shop who personalized some Azulejos ( portuguese tiles) for them to take home. Debra and I hit the clothing stores, and although we didn’t walk away with much, it was still much fun checking out the fashions of the area.
We still had one more absolutely important place to visit ( especially to me) and that was Quinta De Regaleria. About a 10 minute lovely stroll from town, Quinta de Regaleria is a Mansion and gardens of epic mystical and masonic proportions. Think Narnia meets Alice in Wonderland. Magical, beautiful and mysterious, I was jumping up and down the minute I entered the property. The gardens with its etherial setting romantic sculpture gardens is only a tiny highlight of the place. Trying to find your way through twists and turns of the property led us up a small pathway to an alcove where an operatic group were rehearsing for their evening concert. A small cave intrigued me and called me in and after using my phones light to try to find my way through the dark cavern dimly lit by candles , I came out to a very interesting sight. I was at the bottom of the famous well that can be seen in hundred of pictures of Sintra. Climbing the spiral well to the top made me feel like I forgot to wear my long robes. Secret gardens, hidden ponds and magical secrets made visiting here and the Masonic inspired mansion the highlight of my day.
The end of the day was drawing near, and we were ready to head back. We decided to walk back to the train station which took a little while but so worth the walk as the scenery was fabulous. When we reached the station, we discovered that we were famished ( surprise). Fortunately we found what one could easily mistake for a Michelin star restaurant where the menu boasted delectable delights that coerced us into staying just a little bit longer in Sintra. We were so happy we did as the food was spectacular . If I could only remember the name of the restaurant .
Finally about 8:30 pm we bordered our train back to Lisbon , reaching our apartment a little after 9 pm, exhausted and ready for bed. Like literally!
Today was a late start day. Exhausted from the fabulous day before, we rose from the depths of our chambers , and sloshed around making coffee and talking about yesterdays amazing journey. Today we are staying close . Today is the Alfama, the second hill over from where we were and we are excited to explore it.
We again made our great trek from our apartment down the steep hill to Rossio to catch bus #37 from Praca da Figueria, and as you can imagine, that pop up fair of tents selling everything, is still there, including the same drunks. Pleasantly, I was offered cocaine and weed from a marvelous gentleman to whom i replied that I was all hooked up already ( of course i didn’t have any drugs) Seriously its such a weird problem in Lisbon with people trying to sell you drugs right on the street . A few minutes of waiting and a few minutes later, we exited the bus #37 at the top of the winding streets of the Alfama at the Sao Gorge Castle gate. Following Rick Steve’s Alfama stroll, we started here as it is at the top and all sights can then be seen and experienced walking down. Awesome Idea. Today is Saturday, and the Alfama is teaming with tourists and people. There are supposedly some huge swap meet somewhere around here ( we never found it) and everyone is out It is a glorious day, the sky is so blue and beautiful and the temperature is a lovely 66 degrees. We decided against going into the Castle as the lines were long and we weren’t that interested in it. Instead we cautiously walked down, avoiding speeding cars and motor bikes and hopping on and around trolley tracks until we came to the Miradouro de Sao Jorge where you can view the ships docking as well as the Tejo River and the April the 25th Bridge. We kept winding ourselves down and down through little squares and tight corners passing by cheering tourists enjoying a morning beer as well as eerie stares from the well-worn women who probably were authors of the haunting Fado music so famous in this area We came across a beautiful couple , no doubt Brazilian, singing some Bossa Nova type music for diners sitting outside. They sounded so beautiful. I have to admit that we didn’t really follow Rick Steve’s advice that very much this time, as were having so much fun exploring on our own. We finally sat for lunch and wine and a good 2 hours later we slowly trekked it back on foot to the Baixa and as usual up those steep steps back home for a little rest. Tonight is Saturday and we plan on going out and enjoying the nightlife so famous in our neighborhood.
After a good 4 hour Siesta we got all dolled up and ready to hit the town. I’m to sure if we ate anywhere as I just can’t remember. We started off on a hunt for a gay club my friends were talking about. We found it but it is a Niche setting. With Debra and I making up the only 3 girls in the club, and the erotic videos on the screen, we found it a bit boring. The boys were enjoying themselves, so we had a few drinks ( 1 included with the price of entry, girl have to pay) talked a bit and then left. We headed closer to our apartment to a few streets where the pubs fill out into the street. We popped into so many clubs and bar that I can’t remember. Needless to say, I was pleasantly intoxicated and had a blast. The last bar/ club we went to was only 5 doors down from our apartment which made it very convenient for us when it was time to book it home.
Today is Sunday and its a pleasant day. We really didn’t have much on our agenda except for exploring more of the city. We walked around down to a plaza by the metro stop and walked around viewing the endless street stalls selling antiques and some not so antique. We then took the metro down to the River to see what the coastal area next to the very large main Train station , Oriente and enjoyed their version of the Board Walk. It wasn’t too busy down here, but it was pleasant, and the minute I saw a casino my eyes got big. Unfortunately it was not open that day. That evening we walked around our area again in search of a Fado house to finally indulge in the haunting songs sung by these amazing Fado singers who tell the sorrowful story of someone long gone, a love no longer, or traditionally a sailor lost at sea. We did find this one cute place where you eat cheesy tourist food, but the singers were awesome. This one lady sang her heart and soul, and we found out later that she was one of the celebrated singers of her time. After her gig , she walked over to sell us her CD which of course i felt bad and bought. It was cute.
Today is our last full day together in Lisbon. We leave tomorrow for the Azorean Island of Sao Miguel. Another one of my absolute must do is to go to Fatima. The boys decided to join me, but Debra felt like doing something else. She was so brave and so cool to have found a surf instructor who picked her up and took her stand up paddling, something she does regularly here in Hawaii. She told us that she had the time of her life albeit a few wipe outs, and that she found an amazing hole in the wall restaurant that we n eat at when we come back from the Azores.
Michael , Dan and myself made the long 1.5 hour trek to Fatima from Sete Rois bus station. Bus tickets must be purchased before the journey and can be bought from Sete Rois bus station or from the internet at http://www.rede-expressos.pt. On-line tickets can be purchased up to thirty days in-advance and passport information must be entered to process the transition. The Rede Expressos website has an English section and details the latest timetable, which often has seasonal variations. We pre-purchased our tickets online and easily picked them up at the station . The bus ride was nice but nothing that worthwhile to look at except for some small towns. At the bus station it is a short walk to the sanctuary and spot where the Madonna appeared to the 3 children of Fatima.
You can feel the spirituality in the air. There is a definite powerful spirit. Walking into the complex and church area is filled with influential statues of Popes and Saints. Once at the spot where the Virgin appeared, there is an area to sit and pray or to kneel and walk around the state of the Virgin of Fatima praying the rosary. There were many groups visiting Fatima, some started on their knees from the top of the entrance to the complex all the way to the where the statue is , crying, praying, and some fainting. It was overwhelming and powerful. There is a store shop behind the main statue altar where you can buy religious items as well as wax effigies of arms, hands, hearts, babies, etc which you offer up to the fires in offering to help with and pray for a miracle. I through some things in for my family and friends.
2.5 hours was more than enough for us, so we headed back towards the bus station, stopping first to have a nice little lunch outdoors. It was a little early quiet there but all in all it was definitely worth the trip for this catholic grown ( now universal ) child. Upon our embarking the bus and waiting for it to leave, there was a huge fight that broke out because a couple ( Italian) didn’t want to give up their seats ( their tickets were for a different time) and the arguments , spitting profanity , massive hand gestures, and screaming went on for a few minutes till they finally left.
The rest of the day was spent packing it up, making sure we are all ready for our flight tomorrow to Sao Miguel, and finally our last dinner in the same restaurant we ate at when we first arrived.
Pre-booking our car to the airport was Godsend as they arrived but not with a big enough car. So we needed to take 2 separate cars and were whisked off to the airport. Debra and I consolidated our two suitcases into one large duffel bag so we could store our suitcases at the airport and travel lighter ( we shopped a bit too much ) . It was about 12 € for 4 days ( practically free) and it is open 24 hours a day. Something to keep in mind if you don[t want to lug your luggage around .
Return to Lisbon:
Our time in Sao Miguel was interesting, blog to follow.. For our last two nights here in Lisbon, we decided to stay in a hotel. The Hotel Mercy ( now called 9Hotel Mercy) is located right on Rua da Misericordia which is the main road in Chiado/ Bario Alto and so close to where we were staying in our apartment. It has a very chic boutique contemporary style rooms. Debra and I shared a large King sized bed with a very alluring and dark bathroom. Space conscious it made great use of every nook and cranny. It also had a lovely rooftop bar with view of the ocean and the Alfama. We went up to the rooftop to enjoy a few cocktails before heading out for our last meal as a family together at the recommended restaurant Debra secured when she went surfing a few days back at Cantinho Do Bem Estar. It was so excellent and super affordable. You can read my review on it here: Cantinho Do Bem Estar
Sad that it was our last night together, we moped around the area re-living all our journeys together until we came across Restaurante Tavares Rico, established in 1784. 1784!!!!!!! We popped in and was oohing and ahhhing at the decadent decorated gold dripped restaurant. Already full, we decided to do desert and Port wine. What an excellent decision.
We headed back to the hotel , full of life and memories yet sad to know that this was the end of our journey together. We said goodnight and headed to bed. Early in the morning , the boys knocked on our door to say goodbye and it wasn’t easy.
We really enjoyed our time together. It definitely was one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken. And I find it such a blessing to have been able to do it with them.
Debra and I still had a full day and night left in this city, so we decided to walk around and shop till we dropped. We went north of our hotel up to Principe Real area were boutique shops line the streets. Well we did some damage and enjoyed walking around the neighborhood. That evening, we got all dolled up and walked around the Chiado area, following the young ones around to see where everyone was going. There is a square there that I’m not sure what it was called, but is filled with the youthful beauties enjoying their evening. We found a rooftop bar on top of a parking structure that was so packed and busy. We had a few cocktails and left s the crowd was way too young for us. Around our hotel is a performance theater and a few shops an and barbers. Interestingly enough, the barber shops turn into bars later on in the night, and beautifully dressed ladies and smartly dressed handsome men were dancing to live music, and we instantly knew this is where we wanted to be. We ended our night with cocktails and some dancing and put to a close a wonderful time in the capital city of Lisbon.
Lisbon had been a very lovely introduction to the mother land, and is also a really cool and underrated city. Well maybe I’m glad it’s underrated or it would be swarming with crazy tourists ruining my time. It was only the beginning of my journey through Portugal, but I would happily return back in a heart beat.
The next day we check out of our hotel, secured a taxi, and headed over to the Oriente Train station for our train to Porto for a week of decadence. From there we will be visiting Coimbra, Staying in the city of Evora , and finally a solo few nights in Caiscais. Standby for my report soon.