Portugal Day 8

Saturday 23rd November

We got up at 5.30am as it’s a 2.5 hour drive to Lisbon and as we had only a day there, we didn’t want to waste any time! The road up to Lisbon was so empty. I appreciate that it was early, but in the UK, the motorways would be full of lorries at that time. For the first hour I think I saw less than 10 cars and just one small van. During the entire journey, until the last 40 miles, I could drive many miles before seeing another car.

Leaving the Algarve, I got to see more countryside through the dark and rain. There were swathes of countryside for many miles with no signs of habitation which had until recently been baking hot and it was grateful for the rain.

Glyn drove the second part of the journey and despite Lisbon being a capital city, the traffic in was minimal. We passed over a bridge that looked like a mini Golden Gate bridge and soon arrived at our destination as programmed into the satnav. Only we couldn’t see our hotel. We got out of the car, checked the address and wandered about, until Glyn noticed a door down the street with a sign for ‘Lost Lisbon’.

It turned out that our ‘hotel’ was a few rooms, three floors up a building that had other businesses on other floors. Dragging our luggage up the huge and long staircases was a laugh…. But the hotel is so awesome! They have two tabby cats!!!! Both of which are super friendly. There’s warm and friendly communal areas with a fridge (and cat food and litter area!!) and sofas, playing jazz music. I hate jazz but it fitted in here ok for a small while. The fridge is full of beer with an honesty box at only 1 euro per beer. The bed looks comfy and the room homey. The corridor is dimly lit with posters for anti-pop festivals and such like.

Lost Lisbon is by the river Tagus, only a few minutes walk from Praca do Comercio which is basically the start of all the general stuff to see. Praca do Comercio is a huge open square that once was the site of the royal palace and has a triumphal arch that is regarded as the welcoming area of the city.

We walked up to the Elvador de Santa Justa which is a Neo-gothic lift designed by Raoul Mesnier who was once an apprentice of the bloke who designed the Eiffel Tower, so it has a similar look. It’s 5 euros to go up and down in the wooden lift, the top being either a viewing platform with a grand view of the city and nearby Carmo Church. You can also get off at the top as it is level with the Chiado district, but we soon came back down.

As we had only a day to see as much of Lisbon as possible, we decided to go for a tourist tram ride, costing 18 euros each. The old style tram left from the Praca do Cemercio and took us around the regions of Baixa, Avenida, Alfama, Bairroalto and Estrela. My favourite part was Alfama which went up tight hills with cobbles amongst coloured houses with washing hanging from the windows. There were azulejos tiles aplenty. We discovered from the pre recorded commentary that the tiles were popular not only because they are pretty, but are cheap and great insulation from the sun in hot weather. Some streets of Alfama are barely wider than the trams going down them and pedestrians had to merge into the walls to avoid being squished. The entire trip took about 70 minutes and well worth it, especially as our tickets could be used for other transport later.

Next we headed up on foot to Alfama and got a little lost, quickly passing through the plethora of gigantic cathedrals, each one on a steeper bit of hill than the last. There were more azulejos tiles than you can shake a stick at and lots of washing too.

Eventually we found the Castelo de Sao Jorge which is up one of the seven hills of Lisbon and has been a castle since 1147 when King Alfonso Henriques recaptured Lisbon from the Moors and turned their citadel into a residence for Portuguese kings. This castle is the biggest we have seen in Portugal and had a lot of battlements to get around with good city views and a few cats fighting. We wandered quite quickly past the broken pottery section. Seriously, at what age does broken pottery become interesting? We saw the camera obscura but the weather made it too dark outside, so it wasn’t all that.

It was getting dusky by this time and we headed down the hill only to get lost again. But that was ok because we found a Portuguese ice cream parlour that had Port Wine ice cream, I’ve never had this before so I had to give it a go, it was alcoholic too, not just flavourings. It was very good, the best ice cream I have had this holiday, but not as good as the raspberry flavour that I also had. Glyn had a very tasty hot chocolate, actually made with real melted chocolate.

We walked down the hill and found a modern lift that took us down from an upper pavement into a supermarket a few ‘floors’ below. I think we were somewhere in Baixa at this point and we walked up past various important squares, monuments and big buildings (Prace da Figuueira, Praca dom Pedro IV etc), past the various homeless begging and dodgy guy who tried to sell us some hash and then claimed he could get us cocaine. Eventually we (purposely) came upon a funicular as it was included in our tickets from earlier and Glyn had a craving to ride it. We went up the hill, we hung around the top for a while and then we came back down the hill.

We then headed back towards the river, stopping to eat at a restaurant that claimed it had authentic Portuguese food – don’t they all? We both had bread, cheese and egg soup which was interesting and then Glyn had pork and clams, with the tiniest clams in the world. I had my last sangria of the trip which was my first made with white wine, it was nice but not as good as the stuff I had on the first night.

We headed back to our hotel at around 8ish, both knackered as we’d been up since 5.30am. We sat in the communal area, having a well earned drink, Glyn reading, me typing this blog, accompanied by two cuddly cats and god awful jazz music.

Doing Lisbon in one day is an impossible task but we’d given it our best shot! There is still the Belem area to see plus lots more in the areas we have covered. I do like Lisbon, it feels friendlier than a capital city, and it’s not chock full of high rise building but instead covered in multi coloured smaller though at times shabby buildings. Id like to come again.

Tomorrow we get up at 5am to arrive at Faro airport for 9am. I doubt and hope nothing interesting happens tomorrow, so for now, this is my last blog – until the next time!

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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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