Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lisbon, Portugal

OK.  Time for a proper travel catch-up.  From the previous post, it's obvious that I went to Lisbon 2 weeks ago, but aside from the engagement part, I didn't actually comment on Lisbon, so I'll do so now..

Having been to Porto two years ago, I had at least that mental standard of what to expect, but actually expected more from Lisbon-as both a larger, and the capital city.  On some level, Lisbon didn't disappoint (*massive* protests in the main part of twon we were in on the Saturday we were there), but at the same time, I can't actaully say I liked Lisbon as much as Porto.

We got there on Friday evening, and basically dropped our stuff off at the hotel & headed out for dinner and drinks.   Lisbon is surprisingly hilly-shockingly so, in certain parts of town.  And, the area we wanted to get to required either a 15 minute walk *straight up* a hill.  Or, a cute 3 minute trolley ride.  We opted for trolley. :)  We then wandered around the Barrio Alto area looking for a place to eat, and I was struck by how much it reminded me of  'Restaurant Row' in Brussels-restaurant after restaurant for several blocks in any direction, and hosts were outside trying to get you 'come sit down. try. you willl like.' 
Instead, we headed a few more blocks off the main path and ended up at a place called Artis.  WOW.  Our first meal pretty much set the standard for the rest of the weekend-how could it not, when one of the tapas dishes was "aguardente flambeed sausage"?  We were barely the 3rd table in the house when we got there at 9p, but by 9.30p, the place was packed, and every table-including ours-had ordered this visually stunning, and very tasty dish.  Yum.  We also ordered a bottle of Vinho Verde-the white wine that Portugal is known for.  Double yum.  We'd go on to consume a fair number of bottles of this wine over the course of the next 3 days.
After dinner, we went and found the Solar du Vino do Porto.  Effectiely a port-wine bar.  After my trip to Porto, I've really come to appreciate port, and to go to a place and be presented with a 20-page menu with nothing but port wine is pretty exciting.   Some for as cheap as 1.80 EUR for a glass, up to 30 EUR.  Simon & I had a few ranging from 1.80-7 EUR, and they were all simply delicious.  By now, it's pushing midnight, and as Friday was a regular work-day for us, I was getting tired.  So, we headed back to the hotel for the evening.

Saturday started out with a quick trip to the pastry shop across the street of the hotel for breakfast.  Two croissants, two coffees, and a bottled water for 5.40 EUR (about $5) .  And it was also delicious.  THIS is why I love Portugal!  I will say...our food all weekend long was really good, and every meal made us marvel at how cheap-but fantastic-the food is.  It's very similar to the food we've had in Barcelona (also amazing), but about half the price.

Since our time was limited in Lisbon to just a few days, and we wanted to cover as much ground as possible-but knowing that walking from one part of town to the other could a)take ages and b)kill us because of the hills..we opted to go on one of those hop-on/hop-off buses.  I'm not ashamed to admit that we've done these buses now in Paris, Barcelona, and Lisbon.  And though it screams 'unimaginative tourist', if the weather is good it is the easiest and best way to see a city.

We got off at one of the waterfront stops to go have a wander around a few of the touristy things.  Ship Rock (I think that's what it's called?) and a castle.  After a few hours, we hopped back on another tour bus and passed by the Monestario do Jeronamo and then headed back into the main part of town, where we got off and went to grab a bite to eat for lunch.  After lunch, we were planning to have a walk back to the hotel for  a lie-down and freshen up before heading back out for the evening (it was pushing 4p...), but on our way back to the hotel, that's when we encountered the protesters.  It was peaceful and well organized-I'd say well over 10k people turned out.  From what we could eke out on the signs-and later when we were talking to our server at the beer garden we went to, I think they were mostly Labor/Trade Unions protesting Capitalism. 

Well, since we couldn't easily get back to the hotel because of the protest, we turned around and headed back down to the heart of the city (and back downhill!) to a beer garden in an area that reminded me of Las Ramblas in Barcelona-but without the scary street people.  We thought we'd gone far enough to get away from the protest, but instead...for the next 2 hours, we had a front row view on the street, as every Union group in the protest came by us!  From time to time, some of the protesters would come to the beer garden, have a seat-and a beer-and take a break.  Then, they'd grab their signs, drums, whatever they were carrying & join the protest again.  It was all good family-fun. :)

Anyhoo, after dinner that nite, we went back to the port-wine bar for a few more tastes before calling it a night.

We decided that Sunday would be a more relaxed day.  After breakfast we headed in to town to go to the Contemporary Art Museum (free before 2p on Sundays), and then caught a trolley over to the Monestary. 
We'd only passed by the day before & I really wanted to go in.  But, man, the queues were enormous-as were the crowds-and neither Simon or I had the patience for it!  So, instead, we went around the corner to a pastry shop that's well known for selling "Postres do Belem" (Belem is the part of town we were in...), and we bought one and grabbed a spot on the steps at the Monestary for a quick snack.  By now, it's pushing 1p-and it's blazing hot outside.  Not wanting to get fried to a crisp, we decide to head back to the main part of town & eat an early lunch under the shade.

Another lovely meal-and another lovely bottle of Vinho Verde, and the plan to again go back to the hotel for a lie down gets tossed aside when we walk by the beer garden.  A few pints (well, technically, Litres-as each glass was one Litre) and 3 hours later, and we decide to go up to the Barrio Alto area for a little tapas and a drink before having full-blown dinner.

The rest they say, is history.  Little did I know, but Simon had been walking around all day with his faux-ring in his pocket to propose to me at some point in the day, and after arriving at the tapas bar, and getting settled with our order, down on one knee he goes.  Sneaky bunny.

1 comment:

  1. I went to Lisbon some times ago and i did not like it! I prefer Paris since i did a Paris hop on hop off bus . It is an amazing city!