Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A weekend in Lisbon

Or otherwise known as 'eating far too much in two days'.

Our summer time neighbours Ana and Joaquim, live in Lisbon for half the year. After much hinting last summer, Ana and Joaquim relented and invited us to Lisbon some time in early 2011. That time was last weekend.

Now, this isn't a story of the 'hidden treasures of Lisbon' (although Ana and Joaquim are certainly 'treasures', no this is simply a homage to a really lovely city, which we got to know a little over the weekend.

Meet our guide - Joaquim he's surveying the Tejo here! Despite having a foot operation this year took us to the Baixa, the Chaido, the Bairro Alto, Belem, Sintra and Cascais.

All good tours start with food (this will be a theme), Ana is a great cook and as soon as we made it to their flat, lunch was on the table...having fully prepared (no breakfast, just a Pastel da Nata on the way down), we scoffed down pork and potatoes, followed by cake and Pudim (very sweet desert made with condensed milk).

We hopped onto the train taking Peter, Joaquim and I into the city, just a couple of stops away. Joaquim must have a standard 'Lisbon Tour' which he takes all us neighbours on, after all we are not the first he's taken around his city.

From a vantage point the city spread out beneath us, the Castelo, the Se (cathedral) etc and we were going to get round as much of it as we could.

Avoiding trams we crossed the road and went onto the Elevador, a lift which takes up up this hilly city.

Now, instead of going in the lift (the queue was far far to long and no one had the patience), we climbed to the vantage point at the top. Built by Mr Eiffle himself (or at least designed by him) this iron cage at the top of the city is great.

A stop off at a famous cafe A Brasileira was called for. This famous cafe has been churning out the bicas (small coffee) since 1905. It's an old style coffee house, which at night, or so I'm told livens up with people drinking outside on the street until 2am.

We walked down the main square, took a short look at the Tejo, before the ginga bar started calling our names. This bar is no more than a hole in the wall, where you can get a shot of this cherry brandy famous in Lisbon.Now we had a choice, more site seeing with a visit to a park, or a beer in a cavejaria. We chose the beer. So, despite having walked down the hill, we climbed back up again to the Cavejaria Trindade http://www.cervejariatrindade.pt/ where the beer was cold and the azulejos beautiful. Now, we'd already eaten a big lunch, I knew we'd have some pasteis de bacalhau for dinner, but Joaquim, in his enormous capacity for generosity ordered us some snacks....about 10 mins later a steaming plate of clams in garlic and lemon arrived. About 5 mins after that, it had gone!

Homeward bound we headed back to the train and a short time later were sitting down to a starter of choizo, morcella and farinhas (a selection of Portuguese sausages), cheese, ham and bread. Followed by pasteis de bacalhau and tomato rice. I just couldn't do it justice...

After a breakfast fit for a king (a hungry one at that) we headed off to Belém. Up the Torre de Belém first, a good workout to work off all the food. All with the sounds of the pan pipes in the background, that damn busker playing those pipes gets everywhere, I am sure the last time I was in Kingston the same man was there with his rubbish pan pipe version of 'I did it my way'.

One great thing about Lisbon is on Sunday morning many of the Museums and Heritage Sites are free of charge, so we headed for the impressive Mosteriro dos Jeronimos. Originally started in 1502, this impressive monastery is a popular site. We got there just before Mass started at noon, I cannot understand how a church service can go on with camera flashes every second, but it does, every day. The stained glass windows were the star for me, Peter liked the ceiling design. It's very Gothic with a touch of renaissance the guide book tell me!

In the wings are two museums which we scooted round quickly before heading off for more food at the very famous Pasteis de Belem cafe. Where little custard tart treats are churned out at 45,000 every weekend. Sneaking in around the back (the local knowledge of Joaquim proving so very valuable) we sat in a great refectory and ordered our Pasteis. The refectory area is impressive but a little soul less, as people come and go for the experience of eating the Pastel da Nata and don't linger. More soul can be found in the stand up bar area, where the queue stretched around the front just to get inside! Others headed for the Starbucks next door (can you even believe it).
Only three people know the special ingredient of these famous little cakes from this cafe. Served warm the pastry was light, crisp and delicious. The custard, hmmmm, I cannot even recall as I ate them too quickly.

A quick stop at the Museu nacional dos coches, a stately coach museum (bizarre I thought). We headed home for, you guessed it, LUNCH. Ana had done a wonderful Arroz e Pato (Duck Rice), totally lovely, despite being full to the brim I had two helpings!

After lunch we got in the car and headed to the coast. Cascais is where the rich are. Portugal is poor, Cascais is rich! We drove past many 5 star hotels, enormous large homes and more cafes and restaurants than you can shake a stick at! It reminded us both of the French coast. Surf and kite surfing (at the Praia do Guincho) in abundance, the surf was not good yet it was packed at each spot with dozens of surfers. Joaquim tells us that in the summer getting around Cascais is impossible as thousands and thousands of people from the city descend on the beach.

Homeward bound now our final call was the Boca de Inferno (mouth of hell) cliffs. Sadly no show today as nature came into force and the tide was out! Still impressive cliffs don't you think!?

Later, back at the flat, Ana and Joaquim's daughter, husband and grand daughter came round for dinner. We enjoyed a lovely family dinner (yes more food, strangely I was hungry, maybe my stomach has stretched to accommodate all this food, I hope it springs back) then made our way home back to Pera.

Now I know we've only seen a small part of Lisbon, there is plenty more to explore next time. But we've had a wonderful introduction from our lovely, warm, generous and welcoming (muito simpatico) neighbours.


  1. Wow! I feel exhausted and stuffed just reading about your whirlwind trip. It'll be just a boring bbq at our place!

  2. Very nice description of the wonderful Lisboa. Sadly the Elevador was not designed by Eiffel but by an apprentice, who obviously had watched the master at work. What a shame you did not get to ride in it. A real step back in time.