After arriving and settling into our AirBnb, we decided to take the iconic tram #28 which departs up the hill (yes, another town with hills….think Genova but with more ups and downs rather than just all up or down – ugh). The ride is roller coaster in some places but we got to see some of the city.
Here is a video of part of the ride. You can’t tell how steep it is but the the higher the whine the steeper and faster we were going. Also watch Mike’s sleeve bouncing That’s whAt looks like Grandma’s sofa in the left corner of the frame, it’s a good indication of how much we were moving.
After arriving at the lower (flat) part of the city along the river, we had dinner at the old Market half of which is now a food hall/restaurant center priding itself on local chefs with star power at lower prices.
WOW, what a delicious meal! We started with the appetizers that Portuguese restaurants put on the table without you asking but aren’t free! Below are (clockwise) marinated olives (eaten and paid for), tuna and anchovies “pate” (yummy on bread and paid for), some kind of soft cheese (didn’t try it but bought some at the supermarket-it’s ok)
Teen for the first time we had razor clams – omg, so good.
The octopus was braised and served with a roasted tomato slice, almonds??? and potatoes and was very good.
We also got to try the chefy version of Bacalhau which is a dish made of formerly salted cod, olives and potatoes. It was very tasty and not at all fishy or salty which is what I was worried about. We are hoping to have the traditional version this week at a restaurant our waiter recommended. That one will have real black olives and not “dust”.
Thursday, we again headed uphill and went to the local neighborhood’s market which also has devoted a portion of the space to food stalls. After buying some vegetables and lettuce for use at home, we had a late lunch – hamburgers! We have both been craving one since they used to be a staple of our weekend eating and haven’t had one since we got off the ship on March 17th. Didn’t take any food porn there but here is the stall I hope to visit next time we are there!
On Friday, we got haircuts at the barber up the street (yes UP another hill) for the first time since we were in Milan. While not quite the full family experience that was, it was fun and a third of the price and we both look a little less shaggy – me in particular!
That afternoon we went downhill (finally) and wandered through a nearby former warehouse/industrial area that has become a trendy multiuse development of startups, restaurants, food trucks and shops…felt very Portland.
We had delicious chicken, grilled veggies and chips along with really tasty iced tea.
Saturday, we took a cruise up and down the river. What a great afternoon and early evening.
We went under the suspension bridge that is the view from our apartment twice. I really love the paintings on its foundations.
We also sailed by Belem, a neighborhood to the west of downtown that was originally the port for all the explorers we heard about in elementary school. We sailed by both the monument to them and the tower that was the last thing and first thing they saw of the old world.
Yesterday, we took public transportation west about 15 minutes to that town of Belem.
While there we visited the National Carriage Museum. Queen Amelia realized that with the advent of the motor car that carriages were going to become a relic of the past so in 1905 she started this museum. It contains not only all of Portugal’s carriages but many from other countries as well as several early pope mobiles! One portion of the collection is housed in the beautiful old riding school while the larger part is in a new purpose built building. The intricate carvings on the coaches is amazing.
We then walked along the riverfront past the monument to the explorers – one side has sculptures representing DeGama, Magellan, etc. while the other portrays those who financed the voyages.
I had hoped we would have a pastel de nata (the stereotypical egg custard tart from Lisbon) from Pasteis de Belem where they were invented so I could compare them to the supermarket ones I tried. But the line down the street and around the corner wasn’t something I was willing to wait in. Hopefully we will get by there during the week…and if not, we think we are going to try to stay in Belem when we are back in September with Mike’s Mom and surely then the line won’t be as long! <fingers crossed>
While in Belem we also visited the Monastery where the explorers used to pray before leaving to find the new world. The line for the cloister was longer than that for the pastries so we will see that in September but we did go into the church. It is one of the few structures that remained after the big earthquake and has interesting details. For example the ceiling over Vasca DeGama’s tomb is (as Rick Steves described) a veritable Scout handbook of knots. At the main altar, the tombs of the kings and queens are held up by elephants which is Portugal were considered more royal than the lions used in most places.
The elephant also appears elsewhere in the city. For example in the main square (Praca do Comercio) of Lisbon where we headed on the tram after leaving Belem, the statute of King Jose the 1st also includes elephants!
Before the earthquake this space held the palace, afterwards it was moved uphill and this space was created. If you look at some of the pictures from our boat ride, you can see it from the water. In addition to the (very) grand arch at its entrance there is a small beach here too. It is the largest square in Europe. This square is also where Carlos the first was assigned in 1908 while riding in one of the carriages we saw earlier in the day!
After wandering from the bus across the square to the beach, we had tapas and dinner at one of the cafes lining the square. Once again octopus was the centerpiece – both as a cold salad and as a warm entree in olive oil with garlic along with some fries. Yummy!
So that catches me up….finally.
This coming week we hope to visit two Airbnbs under consideration for our stay when we are back with Mike’s mom, go up the hill to see the castle/fortress and take a different iconic tram ride through the hilly narrow streets – this one is #12.
We leave a week from today to Porto and have rented a car – it will be strange to be driving again after three months of letting others do it but we think it will let us see some of Portugal we wouldn’t otherwise see.
Have a great week!