After almost 6 months in Asia, I ventured west for some new scenery. After delaying my checkout from my hotel in Tokyo as late as possible (2PM), I made my way to the train station and waited about an hour an a half to catch my train to Narita Airport. When I arrived at the airport, I still had 3 hours to wait before I could check in for my 10 PM flight to Warsaw. Finally, I departed on a 15 hour flight, sitting next to a man who also took at least 6″ of my seat while smashing me against the window. I got out one time to stretch….it was a rough one! I landed in Warsaw about 5:30 AM, and after a minor debacle finding my way through immigration and to the right terminal for my next flight, I sat down for the Polish breakfast of champions. Afterall, I had over 7 hours until my flight to Lisbon.
Finally, I boarded the next plane, and we took off. 4 and a half hours later, I spotted Lisbon out my window! I got so excited when I saw the beautiful coastline and the aqueduct as we were making our final approach! It was amazing.
After landing, I found my bag, had a quick chat with someone at the information booth, and walked down the stairs to the metro terminal. I was pretty proud of myself, using the ticket vending machine to purchase a transportation card and load it with some funds to get me around for a few days. Quickly, I jumped on the train and took off for the Rossio station. When I popped up into the square like a groundhog coming up for spring, it was so cool! The statues, the architecture, the people milling around, all gave me a sense of calmness I hadn’t felt in some time. There was space to move around and places to sit and relax!
From there, things got a little less relaxing for a bit. I pulled up my trusty Google map and started walking. I walked across the square until I hit a staircase leading up the hill. Okay, I pulled up my big girl pants and started up with my almost 50lbs of crap (I swear, I leave things behind at every stop, but my bags get heavier. I seriously need to downsize!). It was a pretty warm day and quite humid. Little did I know this was only the start of 20 minutes of stair climbing. One step at a time and a couple of false summits, luckily with beautiful views, I made it to my apartment where I got to climb one last, steep set of stairs. I was so happy when I opened the door and saw a bottle of wine on the table waiting to greet me! With that, I dropped my bags and collapsed on the couch for a few minutes to regroup!
After a bit of rest and a glass of wine, it was dinner time. Actually, my body had no idea what time it was, but I found with big time transitions, it’s best just to follow the clock and I adjust quickly. Not having much energy to go far, I walked around my new neighborhood, Bairro Alto, for a few minutes, and then settled in at a restaurant across the street from my apartment. I’d heard the seafood was fresh and amazing here, so I ordered up the salmon with veggies and potatoes. Something easy, something normal, at last! It hit the spot before finally laying down on my new bed for some sleep.
The next morning I awoke anxious to see the city, so I grabbed a protein bar and hit the pavement. With no agenda, I walked back down the steps to the square and made my way up the next steep hill on the other side. I was enjoying the sunny morning taking in all of the architecture, statues, flowers, and people. I absolutely love the sturdy rock walls and enormous tiled buildings lining the stone streets and plazas.
After a nice walk and some spectacular views over the city, I decided to make my way back, pickup some groceries, and make a healthy lunch since I finally had a small kitchen. While enjoying my lunch and a glass of wine, trying to jump into the Portuguese ways, I found a free walking tour of Portugal’s oldest district, Alfama, that started at 2:00. Perfect! This would be a great way to spend the afternoon and possibly meet a new friend or two.
When I arrived at the meeting spot, there were probably 50 people waiting for the tour. At first, I thought, oh no, this is madness, but I waited around to see how it would all come together. As it turned out, there was an English, a Spanish, and a French tour, so we weren’t one big group. Luckily, the English group was the smallest with only 5 of us. Our guide, João, had grown up in the district and had a great knowledge of its 3,000+ year history as well as things going on currently. He took us up though the windy streets as he explained the happenings of the past and where we might want to spend our evenings. It’s pretty cool, some of the original residents are still around and some have passed, but many of them still have a plaque with their photo and a story about them next to their door.
Along the way, I connected with a super cool woman from Spain, Marga. We chatted about our lives and got to know each other as we enjoyed João’s stories and commentary. At the end of the tour, João sang some fado for us and then we all stopped at a local bar, where Antonio, the Owner treated us to his amazing vinho verde he keeps on tap. After, Marga and I walked back to Rossio square together, exchanged information, and decided to meetup a couple hours later for dinner.
We met back in the square, and I shared the restaurant my host had recommended for Portuguese specialties. It was near my apartment, so we huffed it back up the famous stair climb to Bairro Alto. It was good we did this as dinner was huge and so delicious! We both had cod dishes and were super satisfied with our choices.
Following the scrumptious dinner, I walked Marga 1/2 way back down the stairs, needing a bit of exercise after all the food and wine! Soon, I collapsed on the bed again and slept. The next morning, we reconnected and decided to take the tram to Belem to see the Tower of Belem and some of the other sites in the area. After a walk and a bit of confusion with the trams, we made it to the tower. It’s definitely a tourist area, but for obvious reasons. We agreed we both enjoyed seeing the outside, and didn’t need to stand in line to get into all of the attractions. We did, however, climb to the top of the Monument to the Discoveries, just down the boardwalk from Belem Tower, and much less popular. It was originally built in 1940 for The Portuguese World Exhibition, and then later rebuilt in 1960 to mark 500 years since the death of the Infante Dom Henrique (Henry the Navigator). From here there were great views of the harbor and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the huge monastery just behind the tower.
After sightseeing, we decided to take the boat back to Lisbon instead of the tram. It was a beautiful ride under the Red Bridge, or Ponte 25 de Abril, which commemorates the Portuguese Carnation Revolution of 1974. You might notice it looks surprisingly similar to a big red bridge in San Francisco?
When we arrived back in town, we had some dinner and a glass of wine before finding the little café where our tour guide, João, told us he’d be playing. It was a beautiful way to end the evening in a cute local bookstore/art space.
The next day was both Marga’s and my last day in Lisbon, so we set out in the morning to find the Feira da Ladra, the famous Flea Market, in Campo de Santa Clara. It was huge and crazy, but my favorite items were these two statures pictured below. Next, we had to do the last thing on our list we hadn’t done, take the 28 tram around the city. It is known as the tourist tram, as it passes many of the famous sites and neighborhoods winding up and down the hills through town.
It was another beautiful day, and we completed it having dinner back at the Portuguese restaurant by my apartment that we enjoyed so much our first night together. More cod!!
And one more thing, here’s a little collection of the street art I found along the way during my walks.
So, Lisbon was great! It was definitely a nice welcome to Europe and I was so lucky to meet such a nice friend! But, after this short adventure, it was time to move on to a place where I could ground and relax. I found a small guest house to rent for a month in a small town, Almoçageme, west of Lisbon on the coast. Sitting about 35 minutes by bus from Sintra, and 35 minutes from Cascais, both areas I wanted to explore, it seemed like the perfect spot to call home.
See you later Lisbon!
I’ll see you all soon in Almoçageme!
Love and Hugs, Michelle
3 Replies to “Lisbon, Portugal. Stairs and Steep Hills filled with Unique Charm!”
off to Europe!! I’m enjoying your latest adventure. It’s so cool that you are meeting and getting to know people along the way.
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Yes!! Surprise! Thanks. It’s been a journey!
Super photos! Lisbon is such a photographic place. How lucky you were to meet Marga and have a companion to explore the area.
Can’t wait to read the next episode.
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