The day we arrived in Lisbon, the weather reminded us of Melbourne: four seasons in one day. Starting with gentle sunshine, it quickly dissolved into the liquid variety as we made our way to our guest house in the nearby Bairro Alto (Upper District.) First, the wind whipped up, cooling us off. Then, just as we had donned our rain capes, the sun reappeared, heating us up again. The cobblestone streets, slick with rain, were tricky to maneuver. Our hosts, Andreia and José, at Ritz and Freud guesthouse, Rua da Paz 1, in the São Bento area, welcomed us and armed us with a map and brochures. https://www.ritzandfreud.com We dropped our bags and headed off to explore.
|Electrico #28 on Rua do Poco dos Negros; Tuk-Tuk on R|
|climbing the steps near Rossio Station|
|modern white building, EDP Headquarters, "Visions of the Future"|
|building near Av. da Liberdade, old and new together|
|Marques de Pombal, Parque Eduardo VII|
|Pacos do Concelho (town hall), on 45th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, Apr. 25, 1974|
Once a fashionable residential area of Lisbon in the 17th C., the Bairro Alto’s origins go back to the 15th C, when expansion grew west of the old walled city. Today, recent renovations have led to the opening of new restaurants, clubs and trendy shops, but the area still emits its old charm. We were staying downhill from the Assembleia da Republica (Parliament Buildings), near the Basilica da Estrela. Like San Francisco, trams are the way to travel the hilly streets, and Electrico #28 ran right by our guest house. Taking it is like a ride back in time, over hills and medieval streets. You just need to purchase your Viva Viagem card, and load it with some credit, and you can ride the trams, buses, trains and metro. The tricky part is, you can’t reload a card until it runs out, so if you want to take a train that costs more than you have on your card, you have to buy another card, for .5€.
We had not spent time in Lisbon for about 14 years, and we noticed a lot of changes, including gentrification and increased tourism. We mostly stayed away from the more touristy areas and soon found an easier way to navigate by going downhill to the water and along, avoiding climbing up and down.
A favourite area we revisited, though touristy, was the Alfama, inhabited by the Visigoths as far back as the 5th C. The Moors gave the district its name and atmosphere; during their occupation, it was an upper-class residential area. Later it became a working-class neighbourhood, full of tangled alleys (becos and travessas) and steep, twisting stairways. Alas, we learned, Airbnb has arrived and driven prices up so that Portuguese can’t afford to rent in this district, but there are some old residents still providing a village atmosphere, sitting on chairs outside their doors and even selling tastes of home-made Portuguese cherry liquor, ginja.
|Arco da Rua Augusta, entrance to the Baixa district|
|The cathedral and Alfama behind us|
|One of the travessas in the Alfama|
|from Largo das Portas do Sol, above the Alfama|
One popular tourist site is the refurbished warehouse, Time Out Market Lisbon, where you’ll find at least 32 upscale restaurants and bars, as well as vendors selling meat, fish, fruit and flowers. The stores are around the perimeter with seating in the middle. You can get authentic Portuguese dishes or foreign ethnic dishes. It’s located near the Cais do Sodré train station at 24 de Julho @ the Mercado da Ribeira. https://www.timeoutmarket.com/lisboa/en/
Generally, we preferred to eat at small local places with simple Portuguese fare, usually fish, chicken or pork, cooked in olive oil and garlic, often accompanied by large servings of French fries or rice, sometimes with vegetables on the side. You can order side salads, and the local wine and beer is cheap. If you accept the bread basket or dish of olives, you’ll pay a small “cover charge.” A favourite was Churrasqueira Da Paz at Rua da Paz 80, where you line up for a table in this popular, intimate eatery, rubbing elbows with locals and tourists alike. We ate there several times, once sharing a table with two Parisian sisters and one’s daughter. Jim had the ribs, served only on Mondays, and I had the Bacalau, both accompanied by potatoes, and we shared a salad. With a half-litre of wine and a dish of olives, we paid €16.50, plus tip.
Day excursions from Lisbon were to Cascais and Estoril, about a 40-45 minute train ride west from Cais do Sodré. Cascais is a fishing village turned sophisticated holiday destination offering stunning beaches, historic buildings and museums. Well worth spending a few days if your budget allows for the accommodation, but an easy day-trip from Lisbon. We cooled off on the beachside walks, west to Boca do Inferno, and east to Estoril, where we caught the train back to Lisbon.
|Palacio Seixes, Cascais|
|Praia dos Pescadores, Cascais|
|Casa de Santa Maria|
|Palacio dos Condes de Castro behind fort lookout|
|near the fort in Cascais|
|Boca do Inferno|
Another day trip we took was to Sintra, leaving from Rossio Station, just under an hour. It’s best done early in the morning before the crowds grow too enormous, and probably not on a Sunday unless you want free admission to Pena Palace. The palace is a long walk, 1 – 1 ½ hours, mostly uphill, but there’s a local bus you can catch from the station. Cars are not encouraged as roads are narrow and steep and parking is minimal. We’d had enough climbing and took a Tuk-Tuk back down to the station for a thrill and some local commentary from the driver!
|view of the palace from Palace of Seteis, now a hotel|
|partial view of Pena Palace|
Our last two days were spent at the Millenium Estoril Open Tennis Tournament where we saw some good matches on clay (João Souza, Frances Tiafoe, Jérémy Chardy) and tried to dodge clay dust blowing off the court on the first day.
On May 1 we headed for London-Gatwick and what turned out to be two nights as our flight the next day was cancelled. We got to explore the town of Crawley before our 10-hour “rescue flight” with only 39 passengers on the 3rd. Nice to have lots of room to spread out.