Portugal, Part 6: Lisbon

My friend Jean and I spent our last two days in Portugal exploring the capitol, Lisbon. We caught the train from Sintra to Rossio, and decided to walk from there up the steep narrow streets to out hotel, Oliseppo Castelo, in the famous Alfama district. Lisbon is known as the city of 7 hills, which is obvious why when you see the city from above. Our room had a lovely terrace with a spectacular view of the city.

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And I felt compelled to take a very rare self-portrait :)

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We decided to explore the area right away so we would be able to easily find our way to the ‘Thieve’s Market’ at Campo da Santa Clara the next morning. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I have a very good inner compas and sense of direction, but I have to admit Lisbon was a challenge for me. Because all roads and streets basically went either steeply upwards or downwards, it was very difficult deciphering the angles and following the map and many of the smaller streets in the maps we found were not even named. It took all of the first day there for me to get an overview of the city, so we could find our way around without the map.

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Since out hotel was on the top layer of the city we found an elevator where Costa do Castelo meets Calçada do Marquês de Tancos, that took us straight down to R. da Madalena from where we could easily explore Rua Augusta and its many side streets, Arco da Rua Augusta, Praca do Comércio and the waterfront area, Praca da Figueira and the Rossio area. In the building that houses the elevator, we also found an ATM, a market and on the top floor a nice restaurant, Zambeze.

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In the south end of of Rua da Prata, a street running parallel to the main shopping street Rua Augusta, we found a little ice cream shop, Gelados Fragoleto, that served the best mint and rum/raisin ice creams.

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It was also in that area we found a little shop with local delicacies, where I among other things bought chocolate coated ginger and the most beautiful sugar dried red hibiscus flowers (unfortunately I don’t know the name of the shop nor the street). We then made our way back up to the Alfama district to search for a place to have a late lunch. Most of the cafe’s and restaurants in the main streets  had the same pushy waitors that we had experienced in Sintra and Cascais.

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After many a detour around the area we discovered the Church of São Vicente de Fora, which is also where the outdoor flea market would be the next day.

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On our way back to the hotel we happened upon this lovely boutique hotel, Santiago de Alfama, on Rua de Santiago. They had the most deliscious fresh tomato salad. We had lunch there the next day too, a superb gourmet burger. Highly recommend this place!!

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We spent the rest of the night back at the hotel terrace resting and watching the light transform the city’s roof tops.

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The next morning we quickly found our way to the market, which was much much larger than we anticipated, and by the time we had been through all the stands and were ready to move on (with a little detour to get those burgers at Santiago de Alfama) there were so many people we could barely move. So if you go (which I highly recommend, among all the crap there were lots of stands with genuine antiques and vintage finds), go as early as possible. I almost bought a bunch of vintage azulejos and old brass door knobs, but changed my mind in the last minute, figuring I would never be able to fit it all in my bag.

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We decided to take a tuc tuc taxi down to the harbour to find some kind of dessert or cake to bring back to the hotel terrace, and we might just have chosen the most crazy speeding tuc driver in the whole city, a savvy looking curly headed girl, who couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, with trance music throbbing on her radio. I wasn’t sure we would get out of that drive alive, and she did almost hit a pedestrian at one point, and a tram cart at another. I love cars, I love speed and I LOVE driving. But I swear my hands and legs were shaking when we got out at the end of the ride. For some reason we didn’t think to negotiate the price of the drive before getting in, and we definitely overpaid by the end of the short journey. So if you do hire one of these, do yourself a favour and haggle and agree on a price before getting in.

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On Praca de Figueira we found the famous Confeitaria Nacional.

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Overall I only have one complaint about Lisbon: there seemed to be dog poop everywhere on the sidewalks, really everywhere! In the beginning I hardly looked up at all there was to see because I was constantly watching the ground as to not step in one. But after a few hours I just gave up and just made sure to leave my shoes by the door when we returned to the hotel room as to not drag it into the carpet in case I had stepped in anything. Other than that, I have only good things to say. Despite the many sad looking abandoned houses, the city was a great visual experience; with a little bit of wanderlust and patience it is possible to find places that serve deliscious food; and at no point during our travels did I feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Everyone we interacted with were kind and very very helpful.

The blush building in the middle of the photo below, with the modern windows is our hotel, The Oliseppo Castelo. It wasn’t cheap but the location, the view, the staff, and the breakfast made it all worth it.

lisbon-portugal-photoA collection of some of the azulejos covering the exteriors of many of Lisbon’s buildings.
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And then back to our hotel to enjoy the sweets and once again be mesmerized by the view and the changing light, and early to bed to be well-rested for our flight home to Copenhagen early the next morning.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Portugal. Having a week with no kids or husband asking questions, needing attention or help. I was able to just be ‘me’, to be in my own head, and to absorb all the impressions, sounds, smells and views at my own pace and without interruptions.

I hope to be able to return to Portugal one day to shoot an elopement or a destination wedding there. SO many amazing places to take photographs.

I don’t like travelling alone. In my opinion travel adventures are best experienced when you have someone to share the memories with afterwards. And I love travelling with good friends. People I can be quiet with, laugh with, and have deep conversations with. Jean, thankyou so much for always being willing to share my adventures with me, for your understanding when I am fighting my stupid fear of flying and of heights, and for somehow always having the exact same thoughts going through your head at the same time as they go through mine. We are so alike and so different in all the important ways :)

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