Hey, there! 🙂
Next up on my travels during February vacation: Lisbon, Portugal!
I have to say that this particular destination holds a dear place in my heart, as it was my favorite city to visit from the holidays. ❤
Interestingly enough, my first impressions of Lisbon weren’t exactly positive, as I landed in the airport from Madrid to gloomy, drizzling weather. However, after taking the metro and a train to the city center, my opinions changed. Dramatically.
Everything was absolutely pristine when I arrived at my hostel around 13h00 (after spending a good hour trying to find it in the windy, narrow streets of the Alfama district), and even though check-in wasn’t until later, the hostel staff were super kind to let me drop off my big travel bag there while I went out and explored the city, especially in such good weather.
My hostel was located near the Church of São Vicente de Fora, and so I went towards that direction. It was nice to look at, but what was even nicer was the rooftop view of the city behind it. With the sun and cloudless sky, the red roofs perched on the hills were absolutely stunning; just like with Barcelona, I felt incredibly ecstatic looking at such beauty of the place, located near the sea. Makes me think of and miss my Los Angeles hometown…
That viewpoint was one of the three spots that I found while in Lisbon, the others being at the top of the Santa Justa lift and the other at the Santa Luzia miradouros (aka “lookout point”). The latter was my absolute favorite, as it was under this terrace with a café and swimming pool nearby. So beautiful…
After visiting the Church of São Vincente de Fora, I headed down to the heart of Lisbon, passing by the pretty old town of the Alfama District along the way. Arrived in the Baixa District with the grand Augusta Arch facing the open sea across the street. It was amazing.
Went underneath the arch, and explored the Baixa district, which was filled with souvenir shops, tourist-trap restaurants, and plenty of other things in between. Decided to check out the Santa Justa lift, which takes you to the top of a hill with a view of the city. But got lost trying to find it, and somehow I ended up in the Bairro Alto district (aka the bar/clubs district). Re-traced my tracks, and found the Santa Justa lift; didn’t take it to the top, as it cost money (overpriced, too) and I was already at the top by then. Views were incredible as well.
Afterwards, I decided to make the loop back to the hostel- passed by the Lisbon Cathedral and the Santa Luzia viewpoint before returning to the hostel around 15h00 to rest in the lobby, while waiting for the other assistant (let’s call her “Beth”) who was arriving later that day and had booked our rooms under her name. We had made plans beforehand to travel together around Portugal, so it wouldn’t be too lonely (or boring!).
Beth got in around 16h30, looking tired and not very well; apparently, she had fallen ill the day before when traveling in Paris, and so wasn’t in top shape upon arrival. She checked us in, and I let her rest up while I decided to go out and get dinner. Unfortunately, it was a Monday, and apparently most things are closed that day; however, there was a restaurant near the hostel that was opened, and so I went in there at 19h00. It was funny, because the waiter spoke Portuguese to me, assuming that I knew the language (which was very strange, because I don’t look like I would know Portuguese!). Had no idea what he was saying, but responded in English and somehow, we ended up understanding each other through our two-language exchange. Ordered the bacalhau (codfish) with potatoes, a typical Portuguese dish, along with a HUGE (500 mL) beer (only for 2,50 euros!).
Food was great, but also interesting, as I was given an entire fish, bones and all! Now, I have had whole fish before in Chinese restaurants, but it had been a while since I’ve eaten it, and so it came as a mild surprise for me. It was tasty, though: tender and flaky, albeit a tad over-salted. Good meal!
Went back to the hostel, where Beth was already awake, feeling a bit better from the rest. We explored a bit of the area that night, although nothing really was going on. Returned shortly, and turned in for the night.
We explored more the following morning, after a wonderful (albeit chilly) breakfast outside on the patio. Considering that I had arrived in Lisbon a few hours before her the previous day, as well as had explored a bit of the area, I took her around to see Santa Luzia, the Lisbon Cathedral, Rua Augusta Arch, the Baixa District, and the Santa Justa lift. We also went to see the São Jorge Castle, which was pretty nice, even though there wasn’t much too it except walking along the outside walls and the *also incredible* views of Lisbon.
Later, we spent the afternoon in the Belém district, which required taking the 30 to 40-minute tram over from the city center. Arrived in Belém around 13h00, where we immediately went to eat at a café for lunch. I ordered the leitão (Portuguese suckling pig), which was super juicy, super fatty and flavorful (still salty, though, like other dishes that I had tried, but not a big deal). After lunch, we tried entering the Belém Palace, but unfortunately, it was not opened when we went (it was a Tuesday, and the palace is opened on Saturdays). We ventured on to the Jerónimos Monastery, whose architecture was grand and quite a sight to see! Had to pay to go inside, and although it was definitely overpriced, the interior was still lovely:
Afterwards, we walked all the way over to check out the Belém Tower, which was about a 20 to 30-minute walk from the center of Belém. Any case, we arrived there; wasn’t too keen on paying more to climb up to the top, as I didn’t want to spend more money, and so we just admired it from the outside, took a couple of photos, and made the *long* walk back to the center.
Before leaving Belém, we stopped by the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, a well-known pastry shop known for its pastéis de belém, which is very similar to the pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart). Looks something like this:
Now, the pastel de nata is not new for me, as I have eaten many of them before as a kid. I am of Taiwanese descent, and so back in the day, Taiwan had been colonized by the Portuguese, which led to influences in food, including this egg yolk-based pastry. Had a lot of them while growing up, at Chinese dim sum/Taiwanese restaurants, and funny enough got tired of eating them so much. But trying the Portuguese version was an experience, even if the difference in taste is extremely subtle; I would probably say that the Portuguese one is a bit sweeter than that of the Chinese/Taiwanese, but really, it’s pretty much the same thing.
Any case, Beth and I took the tram back to Lisbon’s city center, where we caught one of the smaller, cute trams back to our hostel (if everything, taking the VW-type trams around the city is an experience in itself!). Rested for the remainder of the afternoon, before deciding to sign up for the hostel dinner and a Fado tour later that night. The hostel dinner costed 9 euros each, but surprisingly was very good! Wasn’t expecting much, but seriously, it was a three-course meal– soup, pork and clams (the Portuguese’s take on “surf-and-turf”), and cinnamon rice pudding– along with bread and wine. Really, we were stuff afterwards! Made our way to the bar-restaurant with the Fado performance at 21h30 with another hostel-goer from Mexico (super nice), where we spent the rest of the night listening to performers sing fado (a type of Portuguese lament song, traditionally sung by women whose husbands/loved ones have gone away to sea and/or war). Pretty neat, but by 23h30 we were getting super tired, and decided to bounce after intermission. Walked back to the hostel, where we turned in past midnight, tired but accomplished from the long day of exploring.
The following day was our last day in Lisbon; Beth and I planned for a day-trip to Sintra, which was about 40 minutes away by train, before heading out to our next destination in Aveiro. More to come about those places in the next post, but overall, Lisbon has got to be one of my favorite cities that I visited in February: the weather was fantastic during the entire time, and the atmosphere with the sea and pretty architecture just made me feel so happy. I admit, I never appreciated the sun and beach when I was living in Los Angeles, but now having been to Portugal, I miss them. All was lovely. ❤
More to come next time- stay tuned!
— The Finicky Cynic
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