Week 27 – Roadtrip to Lisbon

  • A month before we return home to Sydney,  so with time running out we headed off for a week in Lisbon, Portugal. We stopped for lunch in Faro on the Algarve – we must have gone in the tradesman’s entrance – all a bit run down, but we found a nice restaurant in the harbour and headed out via a far more attractive part of town.
  • We expected Lisbon to be old, a little tired, and somewhat sleepy compared with some of the bigger European cities – how wrong could we be – Lisbon is pumping!! We discussed this with a taxi driver, (most speak good English), because we saw many places from the outside, but the queues to get into the main attractions were just way too long for us. He told us that the explosion in tourism really only started a few years ago and many are still hesitant to employ more people – sadly this meant that we left many euros unspent, including restaurants we actually left because the service is so slow.
  • The first two days were showery so we took two day passes on the tourist buses and saw a lot of Lisbon – it is a beautiful city full of magnificent boulevards, gardens, fountains and buildings – but has odd areas of urban decay and rampant graffiti – add this to often chaotic parking and you have a city that is not quite aligned in it’s self image, but is definitely on the up and worth a visit.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos – monument to the Portuguese explorers – they are rather proud of the likes of Vasco da Gama
Belem Tower – medieval defensive fort at mouth of Lisbon port – note queue across entry bridge on left – Adrienne started thinking Morandi bridge collapse so we did not venture in
Jerónimos Monastery – World heritage listed Gothic monastery – queue was about 200 meters long, hardly moving, and there was a storm coming – we reluctantly got back on the bus
Arco da Rua Augusta – what’s not to like about a triumphal arch to enter the old city!! We had lunch in this square every day – it is beautiful – surrounded by an ornate portico and great restaurants that employ staff!!
We added a few grams back to the waistlines with some fabulous treats, and they have Pauls Boulangeries – baguettes to tempt the strictest diet. The famous Portuguese tarts, (bottom right),  are delicious.
Elevador de Santa Justa – built in 1902 – queue out the door, (so no visit for us), but still a stunning construction and view over the old city
  • So we didn’t get into some places, but that gave Adrienne more time to trawl through the endless shoe and leather handbag shops ….
  • Portugal is cheaper than Spain in many ways – we had some lovely lunches with a couple of glasses of very nice wine each for about 45 euro all up.
  • We found a number of supermarket wines for 5 euros that are really very good – their Syrah pushed Portugal into second place in my European wine order of merit list. (No one will pass Puglia Primitivo …)
Luscious brownie and tangerine sorbet – all for 4 euros after a very nice “modern” fusion lunch
  • Thursday we headed for the Fado museum. Fado is a distinctly Portuguese style of music originating in the late 1800’s in shady lanes and houses of ill repute. It is now very mainstream but has had a very interesting evolution. Adrienne now has a “best of” CD so be warned – if I was to suggest “sounds a bit like” Edith Piaf you will get the drift.
  • We then headed for Castelo de S. Jorge, (11th-century, hilltop Moorish castle and royal residence with palace ruins and archaeological museum), but who would have thought – an entry queue stretching down the hill for about a hundred metres!! Did we need to queue for another castle – afraid not – we headed back to the square, did lunch, and went shoe shopping.
    I’m sure it is a nice castle but after Ghent and the Italian castles we don’t feel the need to queue for more
    Odd brand name if you are Australian …. but nice leather shoes made in Portugal for 35 euros

    Portuguese food is very heavily slanted to seafood and there are shops dedicated to canned fish – there are cans of sardines going back to 1916! It is a real “thing” to have artistic cans.
  • Friday was set aside for a trip to Sintra – one of the premier tourist destinations with spectacular castle and palaces. We headed for the train station, (don’t drive to Sintra, no parking), and OMG – the queue for tickets just to get there stretched around the station and out the door – the quick decision was “stuff this” so we headed for the Oceanário de Lisboa.
  • This is the largest aquarium in the world with ocean habitats for sharks, rays, penguins and tropical fish and is well worth a visit. These folks are utterly devoted to preserving the seas and sea life and the aquarium is a testament to their work and research. Their enthusiasm is palpable and make it a wonderful experience.
The main tank is 9.5 million litres – the figure bottom centre is a diver cleaning the sand with a vacuum cleaner
The rays actually show off by coming to the glass and pausing for photos
They have an active sea otter breading program – these otters showoff like crazy – they hold food in their forearms and lie on their backs to eat it
The rays all stay by the glass where the children are
Sunfish can grow to about 2 tonnes – this bloke wasn’t there yet but was still about 1.5 metres across
Everywhere you look you see different vistas into the main tank. the small fish hang out in this area as the big fish can’t get in
A couple of moray eels just hanging out waiting for a feed to swim by
Estação do Oriente – Modern, Gothic-influenced railway hub near the World Fair exhibition site – another spectacular building
  • So we did not get into a number of premier historical sites due to long queues and the lack of staff in some places was irksome, but Portugal must be on any bucket list – it is being discovered so again – get there soon before the queues get even longer! The food and wine are brilliant value, and the leather goods are soooo cheap – what’s not to like!!

5 thoughts on “Week 27 – Roadtrip to Lisbon”

  1. Hi Grant, we plan to go to Portugal next September, all these places that you couldn’t get into because of the queues, can you pre buy tickets for ?
    Adrienne must have bought about 30 pairs of shoes by you reckoning, have you actually been sending stuff home along the way ? . I’m still waiting on a Postcard, and I’m not joking come on . 4 Tolls Ave, Mentone 3194. Love Jenny

    1. Hola Bruce, I am dreading having our bags weighed when we get to the airport – no let up in the purchase of shoes, handbags and now even a leather jacket. cheers

  2. Hi G & A, just checked the long range forecast for our Italian dinner night at Cucina Casareccia is planned to be a cool night and as we are possibly outside a new leather jacket is perfect!, I might suggest you should invest in one as well as you have missed the end of season sales down under.
    B & G

  3. whoah this blog is magnificent i love reading your articles.Keep up the good work! You recognize, lots of persons are searching around for this info, you could help them greatly.

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