Our second week in Lisbon has been quite enjoyable…well except for some fog and rain issues on Thursday…but we can’t complain. We are three months into this adventure and we have only had two or three days of less than ideal weather and so far we haven’t had any days where it has been ll unlike Houston which hit 106 this week according to friends there. We had to find a long sleeved shirt in the unpacked bag, close windows and snuggle under the duvet to ward off the chill of this apparently unusual weather Lisbon is having this week. From what the locals have told us, it is at least ten degrees cooler than normal….we are not complaining!
Early in the week, we attempted to take the #12 tram to go up the hill to the fortress that overlooks Lisbon. We took the bus into town (we have gotten comfortable using the local transportation) and found the tram stop. Of course we weren’t the only ones waiting for it and since the trams are so small and we wanted to be able to sit so we could see out the window we decided to go have lunch and catch a later one. Of course we weren’t the only ones with that idea. When we got back, there were even more people in line waiting. So based on my understanding of the tram’s route, there was one stop before the main one where we (and the hordes were waiting). So off we headed to it…..halfway there, GoogleMaps suddenly says we are going the wrong way, so we turn around and head a different direction….halfway there, it does it again. I get frustrated – I mean its not like we are walking on easy sidewalks in a flat city. Everything is either up or down a hill and the sidewalks here are stone pavers which while beautiful to look at are very slippery (thank goodness we haven’t had to walk on them in the rain) and uneven. So instead, we just wandered around the center part of town and decided we would get to the fortress another day. Ah the joys of “slow travel” and not having to do everything right now.
During our wandering we went into the church of Sao Domingos which was heavily damaged by the 1755 earthquake. From what we could see and learn from reading bit, the roof collapsed during mass killing a lot of worshippers. In addition to the roof which as you can see was replaced, there was damage to the altar and other parts of the church.
We also went by the convent up on the hill which was not rebuilt after the earthquake. We would have taken the elevator (designed by a student of Eiffel) but the line was too long….but it does say something about how hilly a place is when your bus ticket is good for an elevator!
Once at the church we elected to not go in as they wanted 10 euros….to see the sky, nah, we are unemployed you know! LOL
We then planned on taking Tram 28 (the one we took on our first day) back towards our apartment with a stop at the local market for supper. Alas, after waiting well past when it was supposed to come by and seeing locals give up, we decided to do the same. We walked downhill towards the other market where we had a wonderful supper.
As usual we halved and halved our meal. We had cold tomato soup and hot “market vegetable” (mostly sweet potatoes I think), some croquettes, seared tuna with beets and sweet potatoes and cod with potatoes and greens. All were yummy!
After finishing our dinner, we took the bus back to our neighborhood and then walked up the hill to our apartment as our local bus was also running way behind schedule. It was a long frustrating day but while we did nothing that we had planned to do, we did see sights that were on our list and certainly met our walking goal for the day!
June in Lisbon is when they celebrate the Lisboa Festival which has a concert every night it seems (Katy Perry is the closing one on June 30th) and every square has at least one and sometimes multiple stalls set up grilling sardines and other tasty goodies. We understand that on June 11 – St. Anthony’s Feast Day that these squares will be alive with music and fun. Unfortunately that is the day we leave for Porto but most of the squares are already up and running a few nights a week. So last Wednesday evening, we walked down the hill to the square nearest us and had dinner. We each had a bowl of traditional and delicious Soda Verde (potato garlic soup with kale), a grilled sardine apiece and split a pork sandwich. The sardines are bigger than what we get in the cans in the USA so you had to remove the bones. They were really tasty but I sorta felt about them the way I feel about King Crab claws – good but not worth the work. LOL There were a few others out in the square and they had recorded music playing from the stage where I presume a band will soon be. I can only imagine how much fun we will be missing tomorrow night!
Thursday we used our rechargeable transportation ticket and headed northwest to Sintra. This involved a walk to the train station located right below our apartment (if there was a zip line from our sun room we could be there in two seconds instead of the 15 minute walk), a train to the next stop where we transferred to another train which about 30 minutes later we arrived in the hill town. There we bought a day pass on the circulator bus that went to all the sights. Unfortunately as mentioned about, we had picked the wrong day weather wise to visit so we never got to see the view which purportedly allowed one on a clear day to see downtown Lisbon as well as the Atlantic Ocean. However, the mist and clouds did add a certain mystique…especially to the Moorish Castle.
We started by visiting Pina Palace. The palace was built in the late 1800s by one of Portugal’s princes who was a cousin of Prince Albert (you know, the one married to Queen Victoria). He was also a contemporary and cousin of “Mad” King Ludwig and apparently wanted a romantic castle like his cousins. He began by renovating a 16th century monastery using its cloister as the center point for the private apartments. These were created by combining several monk’s cells and creating bedrooms and bathrooms (the first indoor flush toilet in Europe supposedly along with bathtubs and showers!). These spaces are in the portion of the building that is reddish in the photographs. The entertaining spaces are in the gold colored building and are a mishmash of architectural styles – renaissance, gothic, and even moorish! I was impressed with some of the details – some were a bit overwrought but then so is the whole building. As has been the case through Portugal, the ceramic tile work is incredible.
We had hoped to walk through what appear to be absolutely beautiful gardens (you can see some of the plants above) to the Moorish Castle ruins a little lower down the hill. Alas, the fog and mist had turned into full blown rain by the time we finished touring the palace so instead we took the bus back down to the center of town where we had intended to eat in one of the many local restaurants. However, they tended to have very small interior dining spaces with huge exterior umbrellaed cafes for al fresco dining with views….however today those weren’t the places to eat. So we ended up at Pizza Hut! I was just thankful there wasn’t a Taco Bell as I know Mike would have demanded we “dine” there. And it was fun to have a refillable soda!
After lunch we boarded the bus and headed back up the hill to the Moorish Castle. Thankfully the rain had stopped and there was only a drizzle. We actually really enjoyed the walk (hike for us) to and through the castle ruins. The grounds were beautiful and the mist and fog gave it a “Game of Thrones” feel. We walked throughout the complex though I have to admit we only climbed up to one of the two towers – since we knew there was no view, we elected to not risk a broken hip (or worse-the crenelated walls were the only banister) by visiting both of them.
After the castle, we returned to the apartment and stopped in at an indian restaurant at the bottom of our hill. We split a most wonderful garlic soup, some samosas, and a mango chicken dish. It was so good (especially the soup on the chilly rainy day) that we went back the next night and got take-away! After dinner we ended up riding our local bus up the hill as we had already walked over 5 miles and I was about to drop!
On Friday we visited two Airbnb apartments for our four day stay here with Mike’s mom in September. One is in Belem (the town just west of Lisbon) and one in Lisbon. While we really loved the one in Belem – we both want to live there, it was unfortunately on two stories up a narrow staircase and the upper level had low ceilings (I couldn’t stand up in the shower or in half of the bedroom) whereas the other is about in the center of town, has a view of the river from its terrace and has an elevator. So, we have booked the place in town. If however you ever want a beautiful apartment in Belem, let me know. The host was most kind and the place just lovely.
Before leaving Belem we had an early lunch at Pasteis de Belem-the bakery with the long lines for the tarts. After having had one (well at least one) I can say they are worth the wait. But we didn’t have to-we went inside and got a table (they have seating for 400 in their dining room and most tables were full) in their courtyard. Why anyone would wait in line I don’t know.
We had several (!) different morsels (including the Portuguese version of a Houston kolache) for lunch but OMG were the tarts tasty! They have a huge kitchen where they continually bake them so they are always warm and fresh from the oven. We also saw someone else with Mike’s grandmama’s sofa shirt!
June is when the jacaranda trees bloom here so everywhere there is a riot of purple-just beautiful!
Yesterday, we took the train to Cascais. This is the seaside town about 30 minutes west of here. That’s a picture of the main beach at the top of this post. It is Lisbon’s beach community. We really liked it. It is the first place we have both said, “we ought to consider this for a long term locale.”
We had a wonderful lunch based on a Trip Advisor recommendation-the best moderate priced restaurant. Sangria, Delicious tuna salad for a starter, greek salad, Bacalhau (the salt cod/potato casserole) and a whole octopus, and chocolate charlotte (with port) for desert – then the restaurant offered us either a sip of port or of a local almond liquor…we went for the liquor. It was like amaretto but better!
After lunch, we wandered around Cascais and then along the paved beachfront esplanade to the next train station (about 30 minutes on foot) back towards Lisbon. On the train, we made notes about each of the towns along the train route so we can do some research if we decide this area is worthy of a return visit before we head back to the USA in November. At first blush, I am afraid we may not be able to afford it, but I remain hopeful of finding an accomodation.
Today, we are going to pack and finalize our google maps (I hope they work better than the one we used downtown earlier in the week) for our drive to Porto tomorrow morning. Presuming we get that done, we are planning on going out for lunch in search of the other traditional lisboa dish we haven’t yet had – Duck Rice. I will probably do a short post about it if we find it.
Have a great week – pray or think good thoughts depending on your spiritualness tomorrow for our safe drive (EEK) to Porto!