Before we left Baltimore, we’d booked our hotel in Lisbon for three nights, figuring we could always stay longer. However, it wound up being perfect. Lisbon is very pretty and charming, but I’d compare it to San Francisco. That is, while it’s a great city, there isn’t a whole lot in particular to check off the list. (also, it’s really hilly!) It’s more like wandering around individual neighborhoods taking in the shops, cafes, bars, etc. It would be a great place to meet up with friends, but with just the two of us, three days was perfect.
The first day was a blur of jet lag. We’d reserved a room at Hotel Lisboa Tejo, which at €70/night fit the bill. It wasn’t fancy, but it was clean, comfortable, had free breakfast and internet, and was in a convenient location. Once we checked in and showered, we knew we needed to stay up until bedtime. We kind of wandered around Rossio (where our hotel was) and climbed up the hill to Castelo Sao Jorge. We decided €7 apiece was too expensive to go inside the castle, so we just settled for the views, which I think was probably the whole point anyway. See how budget-conscious we are now that we’re unemployed!
For dinner, we’d found somewhere that sounded great, but navigating to specific addresses in Lisbon proved difficult in general. All of the streets wind around and a lot of them are so narrow and/or unmarked, they’re easy to miss. Anyway, we couldn’t find the one we were looking for and after about an hour of walking and deciding against others along the way, we settled on a pretty touristy place near our hotel. Despite the relative lack of character, we had a delicious dinner al fresco of stewed seafood and an even better bottle of wine from the Douro region.
On day two, we slept in even though we should have gotten up. After a quick breakfast of coffee and these crazy rich custard tarts, we headed to Bairo Alto, the much hipper neighborhood to the west of Rossio. We wandered around the streets taking in the sights, had a quick lunch outside (everything was outside—SO awesome), wandered around the botanical garden, sampled some fantastic wine, and finally headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. This was definitely our night to party in Bairo Alto—we started out with tapas and ended up with way too many drinks in different bars with live music.
Day three was shockingly awesome. We peeled our hungover selves out of bed in time for our free hotel breakfast and got on the metro. The previous day, I’d found a section in our Lonely Planet guide describing Parque das Nacoes, the area along the water in the northeast corner of the city that had been completely redone for EXPO 98.
Evidently, they tore down a bunch of old factories and installed botanical gardens, huge art, oversized percussion instruments, a gondola, restaurants, and even an “extreme sports park”. (Rhett—apparently, in Lisbon, extreme sports include rollerblading and riding a scooter, because that’s about all we saw these kids doing.)
All of that combined with the architecture caught us completely by surprise. I’d highly recommend spending at least a half day up there walking along the river.
That night, we took in some fado, the traditional, mournful Portuguese music in Alfama, a very old-fashioned neighborhood on the east side of Rossio. The singing wasn’t our favorite, but we did get to enjoy MORE Portuguese wine on the cobblestones. Then we (shockingly) found our restaurant and had a lovely last dinner in Lisbon. The next morning we picked up our rental car and took off for the mountains, to be followed by the wine region in the north, the beach in the south, and then on to Gibraltar to catch the ferry to Tanger!
Note to all—I’m taking a break from photos for a while. Yann has graciously offered to pick up my slack and insert them into my entries. Basically, it’s a pain to put them into the blog (made more difficult by the fact that I’m computer illiterate) and I’m just not a picture person, so I can’t be bothered. Dad and Charlie, especially, I’m sorry, but I think you made me this way. ;)