We took a night train from Madrid to Lisbon and upgraded to first class so we could get some sleep. Luckily, an upgrade meant we got breakfast, dinner and access to the members lounge. The only catch being it was an additional 200 euros – we did it though for sleeps sake and had we not been on what seemed to be the world’s bumpiest train ride ever we would have got a great nights sleep.
We arrived into Lisbon at 7am – a bit too early to check into our apartment, so we left our luggage at the train station and set out to see the sights. Not knowing much about Lisbon and being too tired to work it all out, we decided to get the hop-on and off bus around Lisbon. We ended up spending about three hours on the bus and got to see a whole lot of Lisbon (in between napping of course) and didn’t get off the bus until we were back at the starting point. The great thing about this bus was that there was a stop around the corner from our apartment, so we could use it as public transport.
Lisbon, we discovered is an eclectic mix of old versus new city. At the moment the old city wins just because it seems to make more sense. The new city called “Parque das Nações” was built for the World Expo in 1998 and much like the Docklands in Melbourne – has strange “art” on it’s streets, lots of sport stadiums and just randomly shaped buildings. Impressive, but I think if you go to Lisbon you should centralise yourself in the Old Town. There is much more of an ambiance and many more options for sight seeing, eating and drinking.
Barrio Alto: We were told Barrio Alto is place to visit for restaurants and bars. The direct translation for Barrio Alto is High Neighbourhood and it certainly was! There is a funicular that takes you to the top and we took this option to get up there, once in the Barrio there are plenty of restaurant or café options. Don’t know if we were just used to the exuberant prices in Paris or Madrid, but the meals in Portugal were very cheap. The first night, Gus was desperate for Peri-Peri chicken – just to see if the Nandos chicken really tasted like flame grilled Portuguese chicken. It surpassed all expectations and we had two grilled chicken meals and a jug of sangria for 20 euros.
We were warned before heading to Europe that some places may charge you extra for bread and not let you know until the end of your meal. This place took it to a whole new level and managed to place bread, olives and a whole cheese platter in front of us. For a brief moment we thought we’d won the lottery for being awesome customers. But alas, reality set in and realised that the other patrons tables were empty – we probably just looked like saps! We sent back the cheese and bread and kept the olives – they were delicious!
Barrio Alto is where we met our first ‘Dinner Friends’, a Dutch couple that were sitting next to us and were eyeing off our olives. They were lovely and after Gus photo-bombed (a phase he is going through) their holiday snap there was an awkward exchange of “haha’s” and “good one”. I don’t think he would have done it if he knew we were going to sit next to them the next night at a place called Café Luso.
This place was renowned for it’s Fado show – traditional Portuguese dancing and singing. The show was great, the singers were extremely talented – it lasted about two hours and you get to choose between five or six options on the set menu. It’s good food, a little bit pricey – but then we were watching the show also so it worked out nicely.
This is where we met our Brazilian friends, sitting on the other side of us. Gus photo-bombed their happy snap and they loved it! We spoke the whole night, the Dutchies joined in after a while and it was an international friend party! Great night and good way to finish our stay in Lisbon!
Belem: Belem is the historical part of Lisbon. We took the bus there from our apartment, situated in a part of Lisbon called Santos. Belem is home to the old port of Lisbon, which is why there is an abundance of lighthouses, castles and forts. We must have been lucky to head there on the Sunday as we caught a show of folkloric dancers at the park with pretty average singing, but great dancing.
As well as it’s historical sites; Belem is also known for it’s famous vanilla flan pastries at this shop called Pasteis de Belem. It sells something ridiculous like 8,000 per day – so we stopped in to see what the rave was about and they were absolutely delicious!
We spent the day cruising around Belem, lots of gorgeous parks and amazing scenery. Great place to spend the day!
Fatima: Fatima is a 90-minute bus ride from Lisbon and is a small town with a population of about 8,000 people. It is famous (at least in the catholic community) for an apparition of the Virgin Mary over 90 years ago. The story goes the virgin appeared to these 3 children in about 1917 and prophesied three secrets which the Vatican kept under lock and key for about 60 years.
Being so close to it, we thought it might be nice to visit it. The place were the apparition took place has become a chapel and there is a monumental cathedral and massive courtyard for people to gather on the anniversary days. The celebration takes place on the 13th May and thousands of pilgrims usually gather at the site, most do the walk on their knees all the way to the altar. We saw two people doing this on just a normal day, so you can imagine it would be pretty insane on it’s anniversary dates. It was a beautiful sanctuary, very quiet and lots of trees. It was good to finally see the place after hearing so many stories about it.
It was great to experience Lisbon and learn that it’s more than just Christiano Ronaldo and Nandos. Everyone in Lisbon was incredibly friendly and spoke perfect English so we didn’t struggle at all. Just in case you’re interested, Gus has continued his photo-bombing trend across most of Europe. No black eyes yet – so lets hope he’s onto a winner!