Tuesday 7th June
As per usual, we were up at the crack of dawn (2:45) to head off to Glasgow Airport to catch our early British Airways flight to Lisbon via London Heathrow. Despite the bad press we found the Check-in and security pretty painless, yes there were long queues but they moved along steadily. Once into the departure lounge, we stopped off for the obligatory bacon butty and coffee while waiting for our gate announcement.
The first flight to London went extremely well and we arrive ahead of schedule, we initially thought that we would require to pass through security again but this was not the case, and an easy transfer took us to the departure gate for our flight to Lisbon. We were a wee bit late taking off, however, the pilot made good time and we arrived ahead of schedule. Once through passport control we took a metro into the city centre and changed to another line which took us closer to our accommodation in Rua de São Paulo, in the Bica area of the city. Our host’s friend was waiting to take us up the many stairs to our flat. The flat on the top floor of an old (1898) apartment block, was just what we were looking for, bright and spacious with all the facilities required, and fortunately close to public transport and the city centre.
Once we had settled into the flat we went to a local cafe for a late snack lunch before heading out to explore the local area, stopping off for a beer on the way, it was extremely hot (37 degrees), we then picked up some supplies from a local supermarket and went back to the flat for a rest to recharge our batteries before going out for a pizza and a couple of beers. We were glad to eventually hit the sack after a long and tiring day
Wednesday 8th June
After a leisurely breakfast, we went to the nearby Time Out Market to pick up the GreyLine Hop-on-Hop-off-bus and took in the many sights of this wonderful city. After coming off the first bus we stopped at Casa Chineza an old-style cafe for a traditional Portuguese snack lunch (Rissoles and Shrimp Cakes) before heading off on our obligatory Starbucks mug quest (successfully). We waited in the queue for the Elevador de Santa Justa lift but a kind local told us to save our money and to go up through a nearby store to their roof garden, which took us to exactly the same viewing platform as the lift (10 Euros saved).
As it was another scorchingly hot afternoon, a trip down to the riverbank for ice cream started us off nicely, before going back on the bus (a different route this time) to let us see more of the city. Bussed out, we took the metro back to Bica where we chilled out a bit in the flat before popping back along to the Time Out Market for dinner, this was a great decision as we were spoiled for choice of what to eat, we both decided on a fish dish and they were very good indeed. The seating is arranged as long tables and it was nice sitting chatting with others sitting next to us. A stall selling Pasteis de Nata, the Portuguese Custard tarts then beckoned us and along with a shot of Ginjinha, the local cherry liquor finished off our meal nicely.
As we were ready to leave the music started and a group of people started dancing tangos, that was our excuse for another beer so we could stay and watch them, it was great fun. I had to hold Jim back as he wished to join in, it was a great way to finish off another interesting day.
Thursday 9th June
After breakfast we took a walk along the Tagus riverbank into the city centre then climbed to the top of the Arco da Rua Augusta for some stunning views over the Praça do Comércio and the river, before boarding yet another Hop-on-Hop-off bus, we wanted to be sure that we got value from our 2-day ticket, this route took us to the east of the city, a more commercialised area with some interesting modern building, so much different to the historical buildings in the city centre. After a traditional Sardinas de Portuguese lunch, we finished off with the last of the bus routes, this time it was a short one that dropped us off near our accommodation where we had our afternoon siesta before revisiting the Time Out Market for dinner.
On our return to the flat, we found that the party crowds were gathering on the Bica stairs outside, and things were starting to get busy for the festival. Later in the evening we joined them and had a great time amongst some really nice people, the singing and dancing carried on until well after midnight, we thought it only polite to stay until the end, we wouldn’t have got much sleep anyway with the noise below us.
Friday 10th June
Wishing to experience one of the historic Lisbon trams, we headed into the city centre, before boarding the famous number 28 tram at its terminus, we stopped off for a coffee and a Pasteis de Nata, one of the local delicacies. The tram ride was an interesting way to see the city, rattling through the narrow cobbled streets with the bell clanking away merrily.
Whilst in the west of the city We stopped off to visit the LX factory this is an area similar to the Custard Factory in Birmingham, an area where ‘Creatives’ have gathered setting up stores, bars, restaurants and galleries, we stopped off there for a Pastel de Bacalhau, a codfish cake stuffed with cheese, and very nice it was too. On our return to the city centre, we got off at the top of the Elevator de Bica, which took us down to Rua De São Paulo and our accommodation. We have discovered during this trip that an afternoon siesta is important in this extremely warm weather so back to the flat we went for one.
In the relative cool of the evening we went to find some good street art nearby before some shopping and a nice meal in the Santos de Bica Bistro just along the street, the meal was very nice and it was good to just sit and chat while watching the world go by. The street was very busy with crowds gathering for the night’s festivities which got underway quite early, the Friday night crowd was bigger than the previous night’s, but we ventured out for an hour or so near the end, again it was great fun. Everyone we met was very friendly and it was interesting to note the many different nationalities joining the party. Another great day in this vibrant city.
Saturday 11th June
As part of our daily routine, we headed to the local station to top up our travel card before heading into the city to find a piece of street art by local artist Vhils, one of my favourites, this piece has frustrated us, as despite many searches we are still unable to find it. Feeling a bit frustrated, we headed down to the waterfront to cool down and have a bite of lunch in a Brazillian Bistro before heading west to visit MAAT, a museum where Vhils has curated a video exhibition named Prisma, its maze-type layout was almost like a cross between a video show and a hall of mirrors. The museum itself is an interesting building, very modernistic, tiled like the Sydney opera house, you can even walk up on the roof with views along the Tagus river.
Then it was back to the accommodation for our siesta. This evening we decided on an Italian meal, so after a google search, we dropped into Prima Pasta just along the riverfront near the Augusta Arch. This proved to be an OK choice as the meal and service were very good. A slow stroll back along the riverside took us back to the accommodation in time to see this evening’s revellers arrive on the stairs outside our flat. After a little while we ventured up a bit to join in, the crowd, although not as large as previous nights, prevented us from going up too high, but we still had a great time joining in on the singing and dancing. The music went on for a bit longer, which meant it was a late night for us.
Sunday 12th June
After eventually discovering that the GPS system was reporting incorrect locations, causing us to frequently get lost, we set off in search of a mural by Vhils and Shepard Fairey using old-fashioned navigation techniques, this time with great success. I was certainly glad we took the effort as it really is a spectacular collaboration of both their styles, sad to say we were only a few streets away on many occasions, a lesson learnt, don’t fully trust the technology.
Knowing that we would be busy in the evening, we decided to have a heavier lunch so headed back to the Time Out Market, which on a Sunday was extremely busy, both of us chose an Asian lunch there and we were delighted with our choices We then returned to the flat for our siesta.
In the evening we walked into the city centre to join the crowds lining the Avenida da Liberdade to see the Festas de Lisboa parade, the parade started at sundown (around 10:30) and it was interesting to see and appreciate the work that went into each municipalities display, the singing, dancing and costumes were all really good. Fortunately for us, someone nearby managed to get a better video than we could, our view was a wee bit restricted by the 2 police officers standing in front of us, you can see their video here. Another tradition in this festival is to hold a collective wedding ceremony where the brides are known as “Brides of St Anthony”. They receive the blessing of St Anthony at the historic Lisbon Cathedral in the district of Alfama. then parade with their partners through the city. We waited until around midnight then headed back home to be met with yet another wild party on the Bica stairs, which lasted until 04:30 or so, this time we gave it a miss as we were both a bit played out after all our walking.
Monday 13th June
The Unesco World Heritage status town of Sintra was our destination today so we took a local bus to the Rossio station to catch the 11:00 train, the service was full and left bang on schedule, the journey was fun, made all the more so by a group of accordion playing buskers entertaining us during the trip.
The visit to Sintra was very enjoyable, Sintra is one of the most beautiful and most unique places in Portugal and was absolutely worth a visit, situated within the cooling hills of the Serra de Sintra, with fairytale-like castles and fancy palaces, extravagant villas and the ruins of a 10th-century Moorish castle, it was a great way to spend some time away from the busy city, we even took a tour on the Little Train, which was a fun way to get up into the hills.
On our return to the city, we used the last of our bus tickets to take us to Marvila, a suburb in the northeast of the city to photograph a mural by Brazilian artist Kobra, plus some others, a worthwhile trip for me as I really like his work, having seen it in many parts of the world.
For our last meal out in Lisbon we settled on a Mexican restaurant around the corner from the flat, the food was very good and it was made all the better by the live music being played whilst we ate, a nice way to finish off our trip.
Tuesday 14th June
We spent the morning packing and tidying the flat before checking out and heading into town, we decided to take the metro to the station where we could eventually get to the airport, then had a wander around the area, we found a nice park where we could just sit in the shade and discuss the experiences of our time in Lisbon.
Eventually, all good things come to an end and it was time to catch the metro to the airport, once there we quickly got through security with no problems or delays and our flight to London got away on schedule. Things went awry went we reached Heathrow though, we had to go through another security check, a trial they said, then our flight was held up due to some problem in Berlin, which meant that we didn’t get home until the early hours of the morning, tired but happy after a great holiday.
As usual, a separate page showing the street art will follow