We left for the first leg of our trip to Portugal on an evening flight in first class with a layover in Boston...
It was just long enough to enjoy a glass of wine and a movie before getting on the overnight flight...
Brian has been traveling so much recently and has been saving up his flying points to get us upgraded to Delta One first class for our overnight flight, and it was amazing! We had all kinds of goodies given to us, our seats laid down into beds, we had real pillows & comforters, and had a delicious breakfast. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I actually wish the flight was a little longer, so I could have gotten to enjoy it more! But, it did help us get some good sleep so we could hit the ground running when we landed at 11am in Portugal! Thank you for the pampering, Brian... I'll try not to get used to it :)
I was a little disappointed when we landed, because I've been learning some Spanish for this trip, and the only thing I can reliably say is, "Donde esta el bano?", which means, "Where is the bathroom?". The problem is that they don't actually speak Spanish anywhere we went... it's either Portuguese or Catalonian... When I saw the first sign for the "bano", that was actually for the "Lavabos", I knew I was in trouble! We found our way around most of the time though, through various pictures- I had no idea there were so many versions of the man and woman stick figures!
Leaving the airport, we braved the subway system to the hotel, and we made it pretty easily! (The other trains on this trip weren't always so smooth, but this was a good start).
I have to admit... my first impression of our hotel was not a great one! Those tight, black hallways were a bit horror movie feeling...
The room was nice... but a bit odd, with the bathtub/shower in the middle of the room, next to the bed and without a shower curtain!?!?!?!?
The halls, and the room may have been a bit odd, but the view from our balcony was beautiful!
We couldn't wait to hit the streets to start exploring! Lisbon is the hilly capital city of Portugal on the coast, and is best known for its ornate architecture & tile work, it's old colonial history and multicultural roots, and its friendly locals.
I was blown away with all of the amazing tile work on their streets, their squares, and their buildings!
Many streets were not for cars, so shops and restaurants spilled out everywhere!
So, we stopped right away for drinks & tapas... We found that a lot of places had menus in various languages, so we USUALLY knew what we were ordering! Portugal is well known for its seafood dishes, since it's a coastal country, so Brian started with the octopus salad, and I began with prawns.
It was a delicious start to the trip!
There were street performers everywhere, but this guy was on another level! He was a blind man, pushing around a shopping cart with a stereo in it, blasting music everywhere he went. It wasn't quite like the other performances, but it was interesting... and loud!
One of the famous places we started at was a square called Praça do Comércio, or the Square of Commerce. The buildings house government offices that regulate customs and port activities. It sits on the banks of the Tagus River, and has the first monumental statue dedicated to a king is Lisbon from 1775, King Jose I. There are long sides to the building under domed archways, where vendors line up to sell their crafts. It was a beautiful place to start!
We walked down to the Tagus river to catch our river tour, and stopped for our first mojitos of the day!
We went by several monuments on our tour, so let me share with you some of the sites we saw and learned about! We crossed under the Salazar bridge, also known as the Tagus River Bridge.
To the left of the bridge, you can see a monument up on the hilltop. "The Sanctuary of Christ the King is a Catholic monument and shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Lisbon situated in Almada, in Portugal. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited the monument. The project was inaugurated on 17 May 1959. The giant statue was erected to express gratitude because the Portuguese were spared the direct destructive effects of World War II." LINK
"Belém Tower, officially the Tower of Saint Vincent is a 16th-century fortification located in Lisbon that served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon." LINK
"Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a monument on the northern bank of the Tagus river estuary, in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém, Lisbon. Located along the river where ships departed to explore and trade with India and the Orient, the monument celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery (or "Age of Exploration") during the 15th and 16th centuries." LINK
After we got off of our river tour, we took back to the streets to find more interesting stops, and we quickly came across the famous Santa Justa Lift. The line was WAY too long for our time frame, but it was beautiful to see! Here's some info I learned about the lift:
"Santa Justa Lift (Elevador de Santa Justa in Portuguese) is an elaborately Gothic wrought-iron lift reaching seven stories high to a lookout for visitors to enjoy a stunning view over one of Lisbon’s main neighbourhoods. The Santa Justa Lift was completed in 1902 by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a student of Gustav Eiffel (the architect behind the Eiffel Tower). One of four early-20th-century historic elevators still in operation, Santa Justa was built to provide locals with an easy way to ascend from Baixa’s lower streets to the higher elevations at beautiful Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square) and the only one designed to move vertically. The other three lifts, or funiculars, carry passengers along a diagonal slope. Like the city’s other lifts, Santa Justa initially ran on steam but was transitioned to an electric motor a few years after opening." LINK
After walking by the lift, we found ourselves stumbling on this store, called "Cirque de Sardine". I had actually heard about it before our trip, and this description I found online describes it perfectly!
I found all the kids birth years on one wall! I thought they would appreciate a picture of it more than they would a can of sardines as a memento from Portugal, and I was right :)
Brian and I found one of many beautiful rooftop restaurants to enjoy some drinks, tapas & breathtaking views!
From the rooftop, Brian and I could see the beautiful Rossio Railway station in Rossio Square that was built in 1891. The buildings are magnificent here!
It was a wonderful first day exploring Lisbon!
Day 2 in Lisbon:
Our goal was to head to the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon called, Alfama.
When I read this description, I knew it was the place where I wanted us to explore and get lost
for the day in!
"Thanks to its dense bedrock foundations, it was practically the only neighborhood that wasn’t greatly affected by the disastrous 1755 earthquake. Its maze of cobbled “becos” (alleys), “escadinhas” (steps) and “largos” (small squares) is just as it was centuries ago, and it’s a joy to wander around, finding unexpected river views and incredibly picturesque details." LINK
When we saw how many hills there actually were in this area, we decided to get some scooters to help us get around. It was a wild & bumpy ride with the tiled walkways, cobblestone streets & steep hills, but it was an adventure for sure!
After braving the rough roads on scooters, I needed a break, so we stopped for a "small" beer (there aren't really different types of beer here... just different sizes), before realizing they didn't take credit cards like everywhere else. Luckily, Brian found an ATM nearby and got some euros!
The tram line still runs throughout the small streets of the city, and historical 28 tram, is still in working order!
I'm not sure what I found most charming about the town... the small, windy streets, the colorful buildings, the old cobblestone roads, the old fashioned trams, or the lived-in feeling you got as you walked past peoples' apartments with windows open and laundry drying in the sun. It was so quaint and authentic feeling!
I read that Lisbon gets its rich culture that results from many influences, including Celtic, Lusitanian, Phoneician, Germanic, Visigoth, Viking, Sephardic Jewish, and Moorish. I'm not sure what all of those even are, but I'm so thankful we found the Danish influence in the form of the Copenhagen Coffee Lab!
After a stop for iced coffee and fresh baked cardamom buns, we took off on our scooters again to explore some more of Alfama.
We found some beautiful churches along the way:
Church of St Vincent (Mosteiro de Sao Vincente de Fora) from the 17th century.
Lisbon cathedral, which is the oldest building in Lisbon, dating back to 1147!
We got the chance to hop on one of the trams for a tour around Alfama as well, and it was a fun way to make sure we had seen all of it!
Some of the roads are so tight, that in some places, as the tram passes, pedestrians have to wait to pass down the street!
I loved seeing all of the unique architecture and stunning tile work throughout the city... not just on the sidewalks, but on the buildings as well! Each one was so different from the one next to it!
Alfama truly was a picturesque kind of town, and I'm so glad we spent so much time exploring there!
We heard that you can't come to Portugal without trying their most famous dessert, the pastel de nata, or the cream custard tart. They sell them everywhere, but we happened to find some that were still warm out of the oven. They were delicious!
The pigeons enjoyed the pieces people left for them too!
We had dinner down by the Tagus river before heading onto our next destination, and again, enjoyed some local seafood... This time, scallops for Brian & shrimp and clams over squid ink pasta for me!
As we got ready to head off to the airport and leave Lisbon behind, it was so fun to see people dancing and singing in the streets to send us on our way to the next adventure!
Thank you, Portugal, for a quick, but amazing adventure!