Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lisbon in five days!

Our first impression of Lisbon was its size. It seemed huge so we were surprised to read that it only has a population of 580,000. We crossed a really long bridge to arrive at our hotel where we stayed five nights. This included breakfast and very lumpy pillows!

Thursday 16th was Mr B's birthday and we decided to thoroughly explore the city. We went for a short run before brekkie up the street and into a nearby park where again we had to climb uphill. To make it easier both on the uphill and the downhill on the other side we ran across the path in zigzags which made it seem less steep. What we lacked in distance we made up for in degree of difficulty!

After brekkie we caught the underground train into town and headed for the No 28 tram. This goes to the suburb of Alfama - up a very very steep street. The views were picturesque and the ride was very exciting as we wound round the steep very narrow street so close to the edge that you could reach out and touch the walls of the shops as we rode past. The tram itself was very old, probably built in the early part of the 20th century, tiny and creaky but such fun. We rode on lots of trams that day stopping to admire the amazing views at the top of the world and peeking in cute little souvenir shops and marketplaces. We stopped for pastel de natas and found an elevator (Santa Justa) in the oddest place which took us straight up to another amazing lookout. Oh, so many photo opportunities!

We found a cafe recommended in our guide book, aptly named Cafe Vertigo. Here we enjoyed a lovely lunch and had fun watching people walk up, up, up the steep cobbled street outside. The cafe itself was fabulous with wooden panels, walls covered with old photos and a steep vertical staircase leading down to who knows where, although I saw a couple of staff disappear down there! Here in Lisbon there are cobbled pavements everywhere and you have to watch your footing as both of us have nearly tripped a few times on the uneven cobbles.I wonder how many people have fallen flat on their faces as some of the high heels that are worn look a little precarious and we have seen a few near misses (no pun intended)!

In the evening we found a delightful local restaurant for Mr B's birthday dinner. The service was fantastic and we thoroughly enjoyed the recommended fish and pork dishes and of course the vino!

On Friday we headed for Estoril to spend time at the beach. The wind blew and the breakers were big with a strong undertow but it was sheltered lying on the sand and fun to cool off in the ocean. It was a lovely way to spend some relaxing time today. However parking the car back in the hotel carpark was another story. With me directing and Mr B maneouvering - backwards, forwards, sideways and phew, finally success with a squeeze! Now we know why there are so many 'Smart' cars driving round Spain and Portugal (way to go speedyMiranda)! We do have narrow tight carpark buildings in some hotels in Oz but this carpark is simply ridiculous. No wonder they offered to park our car for us when we arrived! Since that experience we have stuck with the trains and trams!

In fact over the weekend that is exactly what we have been doing - exploring every part of Lisbon by every means of transport available. We even included another short steep run. We have discovered a green ticket available at the station which covers all travel on buses, trams, trains, elevators and cable cars for 24 hours. We had such fun catching trams to the end of the line, catching all the cable cars straight up the steep, narrow streets and down again. We found an elevator in the middle of the city that shot us straight up to an amazing lookout at the top. We found 'miradouro' (lookouts) in the most interesting places, had daily indulgences in pastries, freshly squeezed juice and coffee (not often up to much but a dash of sugar helps the bitter strong taste). We also caught one of those 'on and off' tourist buses to cover all the sights in more detail.

One of the highlights was our visit to Castelo de Sao Jorge which towers dramatically above Lisbon. The bus took us to the hill nearby and we walked up the steep cobbled streets to the castle. Every tower involved steep (and I do mean steep) narrow steps to reach the narrow edge around the turret. I have an unadulterated fear of heights but I determinedly plodded up those steps, gripping on to the sides of the walls with heart in mouth, to be rewarded by breathtaking views at the top - so worth the beating heart!

The visit was made complete when we returned to the bottom of the castle to find a full orchestral band singing and playing Fado music - it was amazing.

On Saturday we decided to sample Lisbon's exciting night life. We took the train to the city at about 10.30pm and went into the centre of the city where it was all happening! Every night club was buzzing and the narrow streets were wall to wall people. There was music, loud laughter, singing and bright lights everywhere. We found a very quaint cafe/bar to have a drink where the walls were covered in vintage art decor. It was fun to experience such a fun city at night. However, when we caught the train back to the hotel just before 1am the station was quiet and there were few party animals heading home that early!

This morning we managed to wriggle our car out of the carpark building without scraping any walls and drive about three hours north to Porto where we are staying a couple of nights. This is the second largest city in Portugal and after an explore we have noted that there are more very old trams here - what fun! Life continues to be an adventure.


  1. Hi there SpeedyStrewth. I spent some weeks in Lisbon many years ago -- great place. Loved your photos. Looking forward to seeing you back in Freeeeezzzzing Cbr soon! [Miranda]

  2. Cold? I doubt it even made one degree today. Stay where you are Strewthy!

  3. Happy belated bidet Mr B!

    Lots of snow on the hills today!