Last weekend was a weekend for getting jobs done, and that continued through most of the week with the focus changing to work, rather than home. Though of course there was always more, on both lists, that could probably be done, but that is often my way. The plan to be prepared and pack way in advance, didn’t quite materialise, and as ever there was the “how heavy is my case” guessing game after the bathroom scales refused point blank to even guesstimate the weight.
As it turned out, and despite us thinking that we had plenty with us, at the airport our luggage was woefully under the 23kg weight limit per bag, so no pre-worrying (however light) was needed. In fact, we were 16kg off the total limit, and it did make me wonder what on earth people take with them. The check in staff looked even more surprised when they saw the (small) size of our hand luggage, but so far I’m sure we have everything we need with us.
There was a bit of a scare though as l started to lightly unpack in our Lisbon apartment - I couldn’t see MOH’S toiletry bag, and had the sinking feeling that perhaps it wasn’t in the case after all. Turns out it was, it was the one thing he’d unpacked.
Panic over, and I could go back to enjoying the rooftop view before we headed out for that initial explore where tuk-tuks, funiculars, trams and plenty of tiles were all spotted. A pizza and beers were also quickly devoured under the bluest of skies, as somehow airports seem to make me ravenous.
With life its usual busy self, we'd booked our holiday but with very little planning for our time in Lisbon, the only definite was that MOH wanted to watch the Champions League Final, which was fair enough. So the question of what we were actually going to do, prompted some serious planning so we could make the most of the three nights and two days in the city.
And the first of our days here was spent in Belém admiring many of its monuments. Belém is just a short (three stops) train journey from Cais do Sodre, and well worth the trip, though the Tropical Botanical gardens which I was keen to visit was shut, as we discovered as we arrived at its gate.
Getting a tram was obviously on our list, as was eating plenty of those fabulous Portuguese custard tarts, and as it turned out, our first of each were linked. We hadn’t planned our return journey back and while sitting enjoying some tapas and vinho verde we realised we were overlooking the terminus for tram 18. After not seeing the botanical gardens and wondering what do do next, a tram pulled in, we worked out it would take us back and so we jumped on it. And for that first stop, we had it to ourselves which given everything I’d cram-read that morning wasn’t what I expected at all.
I took many photos of buildings from the tram and will no doubt share those once we’re home, but the let’s continue with how the trams and tarts. Once off the tram, which did fill up as expected, we found ourselves wondering what to do next. The Timeout Market was on our list of ‘must sees’ and although we expected to do this the next day, when it presented itself right in front of us, we’ll lets just say gift horse and mouth. And pastel de nata.
Throughout the day we’d spotted many of these purple flowering trees and wondered what they were. They had a similar appeal to the cherry blossom in Greenwich Park and were much photographed. Back at the apartment later Google told me they are Lisbon Jacarandas, and the flowers signify the start of summer, and with temperatures above thirty degrees, and reaching 36 on Sunday, they probably weren’t wrong.
Our second day was supposed to include a tram ride and the market, but in a rare spate of getting ahead of ourselves the next on our list was to visit the Alfama, or old part of the city. Despite the increasing heat we set off on foot, purposefully taking a different route through the city, heading towards Rossio down these steps, which went on and on. One step on each and you’d get down them pretty quickly and at speed, but two steps on each and you (well I) felt like a doddering old lady, so a combination of the two was adopted I’ll say successfully as I didn’t fall over (though it was probably close)
After some people watching in the streets around Rossio, another market and a stop off for drinks and to visit one of the churches along the way, we reached Alfama, which seemed to be adorned in a vast supply of tinsel throughout its narrow lanes. It had the feel of a great party the night before and of gearing up to do it all again, but not just yet. So after an extensive wander we headed back towards Rossio in search of tapas.
Once again we struck gold. Octopus in a confit of peppers, lime shrimps and chorizo cooked in moscatel with mushrooms along with a refreshing glass of vinho verde. All that was needed was a custard tart, so back we went to the market, this time using the Metro as a concession to the day’s temperatures. There are obviously plenty of other places to eat and enjoy custard tarts, but our plan was to stop off at a wine bar we’d spotted the day before with the most amazing vaulted bottle ceiling.
Looking at it more closely it was also a feat of engineering, but more on that another day. Today we’re moving on to the second phase of our trip and heading down to the Arrábida Natural Park on the Setúbal Peninsula, which is just a stone’s throw from Lisbon, but which I’m expecting to be totally different.
I’d better go, I’ve some packing to do...