Portugal Part I
02.01.2013 - 11.01.2013 16 °C
We flew from Amsterdam to Lisbon, a quick express bus ride into town and we finally arrived at our apartment (which by the way is an absolute bargain for 40E a night in the centre of town!). We were pretty exhausted from the flight, so we just had a stroll around the city, sat by the 'beach' and did a bit of people watching.
Eventually we ended up in the Bairro Alto district which has a lot of small restaurants and bars and a pretty good vibe. By the time we finished dinner the streets were starting to fill up with people spilling out of the small bars onto the sidewalks. The street itself was like a long bar
We started the day with a walk to the Castelo de S. Jorge via the Alfama district. Went past the Casa dos Bicos which is an odd building with points on the front face of all the masonry.
A quick look in the church and we made our way up to the Castelo de S.Jorge which is situated on top of a hill.
The view of the city there was amazing. We could have spent hours in the castle looking over the city, or in the museum (which we ran out of time for unfortunately). The sunshine was out, it was almost tee shirt weather if only we had a book and a bit more time we would have sat there all afternoon. But we were getting hungry so we finished looking throughout and Michelle bought an awesome bag made of recycled coffee packets. It looks far cooler than it sounds...
Walking along the castle walls:
The Castelo de S.Jorge in the evening - on the very top of the hill:
On the way back down we found some of the smaller alleys in the Alfama district with the old nonnas leaning out the windows watching the day go by.
We made it back to the only place we've seen so far that actually sells flame grilled chicken (Nandos style - sort of). It was nice but not hot and it really went down well with the 1/2L of white wine (2.50E) and a slab of salmon. Most of the portuguese restaurants have bread, sheep's cheese (yum), sardine pate and sometimes olives. None of it is free but they are all quite cheap and I've (Blake) really enjoyed them while waiting for my main meal. After lunch we went home and had a siesta. Just chilled in the arvo, planning the next few days we had in the Lisbon area.
The chestnuts here are cooked perfectly and are slightly salted and smoked. Michelle is really into these things, she gets about 2bags a day (well a bit less as I end up stealing a couple for myself). It is only 2Euros for a bag of about 10 chestnuts! Pretty good value.
Rossio Square; Santa Justa Elevator (opened in 1902 and was originally water powered!) which we didn't want to pay E5 to go up. So we just admired it from the street.
Day Trip to Sintra
This place is worth more time than we had planned for it unfortunately. We only had one day spare to visit so we just had to fit in what we could. Sintra has always been a prominent place with a Moorish castle from 12th century and multiple palaces and monasteries in the area. We were going to buy the "see it all " ticket but the lady at the desk told us that we had no chance of seeing it all in a day (fortunately for us). We settled with seeing the Moorish Castle, the Pena Palace and the National Palace. By the time we fit lunch in there that was about the most we could have hoped to do. We caught the tourist bus up the hill to the Pena Palace to start. This place looks like it was built by three or four different people that just merged it together in the middle. The fact that all these opposing styles seem to fit makes the place perfect. The interior was nicely decorated (not as indulgent as the French or as spartan as the Italian palaces) with the interior decorated with Azulejo (which are the painted and glazed tiles in most of our photos here).
We then made our way down the road and up the forrest path to the Moorish castle:
After lunch, we headed to the National Palace in the town centre, at the bottom of the hill. The two towers poking out the top of the building are chimneys from the kitchen ovens. Good to see this ruler had his priority's straight!
Day Trip to Evora
A 2 hour bus trip out of Lisbon is Evora. We were pretty lost the minute we step off the bus. Luckily we managed to get a map and somehow found our way into town.
The centre of town: Giraldo Square
After a quick lunch of the local cuisine: grilled black pig (which Michelle said was so smelly- so resorted to eating prawn omelette); we headed down to the Aquaduct: you can see houses built in between them.
We decided to conquer Belem today- a quick 15 minutes tram ride from Lisbon city centre. Fortunately for us it was a sunday and all monuments and museums in Belem are free from 10am - 2pm. It meant it was really busy but saved us about 20E. The photos of the Monastery do not do it justice. It is pretty much the nicest monastery we have seen on our travels, huge and intricate.
Belem tower: Torre de Belem
We made our way to the tower of Belem which is where a lot of the Portuguese explorers departed from when exploring the world. The tower was OK, probably looked a bit drab after seeing the monastery. The spiral staircase was wide enough for people going either up or down. As it was free, the place was packed and I think we must have spent 10minutes standing there waiting for people to either go up or down.
The view from the top of the tower:
Before we went home, Michelle had to just try the best egg tart in Lisbon at Pasteis de Belem. Having already tried a few that did not live up to Michelle's egg tart standard, there were high expectations for this place- recommended in the guide book & by Paulyn:
I think it is safe to say that Michelle was pretty satisfied. (Paulyn: she didn't quite eat a carton of it!!)
Last day in Lisbon
We spent the morning chilling out, people watching in the middle of the street with a cup/ or 2 of coffee.
Portugal has surprised us so far- not what we expected. Lisbon itself is very clean, the streets are wide, and people are very friendly and relatively cheap. We didn't quite expect being hush to buy drugs though- we (or should we say Blake) were asked more than 15 times in 6 days whether we wanted to buy drugs.. One day Blake while walking on his own, was asked 5 times whether he wanted some drugs.. They kept coming up and saying (hash hash or shh, shh). The guys looked like they had small bags of brown sugar and one of the tour guides says its one of their tourist scams. One of the local tour guides says that they sell fake drugs to tourists, pretend the police are there then run off... Guess I had the dodgy/gullible look. LOL
Can't wait to see what Porto has to offer