A brief trip back to England for a friend’s hen do, and I was getting itchy feet already! With the world as my oyster, I decided I was sticking with Europe for now. After perusing the map, I decided to give Portugal a visit. With a couple of days to go until I wanted to leave, I booked a flight to Lisbon, an apartment in what I hoped would be a good location for exploring, and before I knew it I was on my way to the airport again.
After the easiest check in, security and boarding, I found myself with a whole row to myself for the flight to Lisbon. Wow, this was already going so well! Arriving in Portugal I made the transfer to the city with little trouble, and I left the train station to see the sun. Yes – happy Becky!! I’d been told that Lisbon was hilly, and I thought nothing of it until I saw the hill to get to the apartment I’d booked. I soon found out it was difficult enough without carrying a big backpack up it too. Needless to say, there were a few stops on the way up, and although glad the apartment was on the top floor I didn’t appreciate having to climb all the stairs after tackling the hill. After a quick freshen up, it was straight out to explore! The apartment was in an old building, meaning the steps aren’t all the same height or width. This threw me off a little, leading to a tumble down a few steps the first time I left the apartment. With a mixture of laughter and ouch I took the rest slowly and made my way to the nearby viewing platform to check out Lisbon.
Up more hills, it soon became clear that the mirador was under renovation and the best view I’d be getting was of the diggers, so on to the next stop – Rossio Square in the heart of the city. Most of the shops there were closed and there weren’t many people around so it was sadly a bit underwhelming. Hmm, not having the best start. Heading back to the apartment, I spotted the well-known Santa Justa Elevator and thought this’d be the chance to soak up the stunning panoramic views at sunset, but after joining the queue it quickly became apparent I’d be here for a very long time. Not having the patience to wait it out, a quick Google search showed that you can also get great panoramic views from the nearby church ruins, at the top of another hill. As it was kind of on the way back, I made my way there, took the obligatory snaps before grabbing dinner and heading back for an early night, ready for exploring tomorrow.
The aim was to get up and out by 10am. The reality was that I decided this would be the day to make an effort and straighten my hair, so when I finally left it was a double blow that it was now raining and I had to put my hair up. Heading for Ribera market – also known as Time Out Market – I had a pleasant surprise to find it more like a huge food hall than the usual food markets I was used to. After a brief look around at all the stalls, more like mini restaurants, I grabbed a coffee and tried to wait out the rain. Eventually giving up hope that it’d stop, I whipped out the umbrella and took a wet stroll alongside the river towards the large square Praça do Comércio. With the rain coming down more heavily, my soaked Toms and I didn’t hang around too much, and with much slipping and sliding over the wet stones, it was on to the Cathedral.
A big part of the Lisbon character are the trams that scuttle around the city. A tram ride is a great way to see the city, but the first tourist tram tour I spotted was €14. After visiting the Cathedral, I looked online and found that a cheaper but still worthwhile tour could be made on the local tram 28. Paying €3 for my ticket, I was crammed on to the tram and held on for dear life as we jolted from one side of the city to the other. It was a great experience as I don’t think I’d been on a tram before, and being thrown around inside was a great way to get chatting to people.
I jumped off the tram in Estrela, where I stopped in another church and saw an amazing nativity scene. Although I’d enjoyed the tram ride, I decided to walk back to the apartment so I could explore the area on the way back rather than just pass it by. The plan for the evening was to go to a Tango class I’d heard about, but the place had shut down so it was a more quiet evening of discovering amarguinha, the Portuguese version of Amaretto. Just as delicious, soooo much cheaper.
Waking up to yet more drizzly rain, I wasn’t sure that I had actually seen the sun shining when I had arrived in Lisbon. The plan had been to head out to Sintra, but I thought the sun would allow me a more enjoyable visit, so I planned that trip for next time I was in Lisbon. Instead, I made my way to the train station to venture out to Belem. Although I had second thoughts on the way as to whether the rain would make it a miserable day, I gave myself a push with the thought I’d be able to take some great ‘moody’ photos.
A quick ride later, and I was wandering along the riverside in Belem to Padrão dos Descobrimnetos monument. Thankfully the weather meant it wasn’t too crowded and I happily snapped away before walking to Torre de Belem. I didn’t go in as there was a bit of a queue and I’d been advised it wasn’t really worth it, so I allowed that to justify my ‘I can’t really be bothered’ thoughts and instead wandered towards the monastery.
I took the opportunity to sit and rest my soggy feet in the stunning gardens in front of the monastery before heading in. As I got closer the tour buses to the side loomed into sight and already I was dreading the crowds and the queues. Surprisingly, there was no queue to get into the church, and as I hadn’t been expecting to visit a church I of course popped in and had a wander. Everyone in there was chatting until the loud tannoy announcement of ‘SILENCE’ boomed out. Ironic, as always.
Next up was the monastery, and again there was no queue. Not sure what all those tour buses were for, as the monastery was very quiet. It was getting late, the rain was coming down much heavier and I was tired from so much walking and a late night last night, so took a few photos before making my way back to the station and back to the apartment.
Despite my best intentions, I had another late night and it made it very difficult to get up and packed – I had a train to catch to Porto! Although I left later than I planned, I still made it to the station with plenty of time to spare, and enjoyed a mostly comfortable ride to Porto. Time for a new city!