Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lisboa

After staying with us and visiting Bordeaux for a few days my friends and I headed to Lisbon for their last weekend in Europe.  I was pretty excited about their choice of Lisbon for their final weekend because, of all the options I had given them, it was the only city I hadn't been to yet.  I like it when I get to travel somewhere new!

We got to the Bordeaux airport only to discover that our flight had been delayed 3 hours but surprisingly Easyjet was being very accommodating and handing out vouchers for free drinks to all their passengers.  Much more than I ever expected from a budget airline!  Unfortunately, the 3-hour delay meant that our first half-day in Lisbon was shot as we would be getting in much later than expected and just in time for dinner.  Wouldn't have been too big of a deal except we only had 2.5 days in Lisbon so we were counting on having that afternoon to do some exploring.  Instead, we had to cram everything into 2 days and we definitely kept ourselves busy!

When we got to Lisbon we hopped a bus from the airport straight to Rossio Square where our hotel was located.  We could have also taken the metro but my friend's suitcase broke over the course of the trip and she didn't feel like lugging a broken bag into and out of the underground metro when the bus was waiting for us only steps away.

Once we got into the city we stopped to check in at our hotel, which was only about 50 meters off of Rossio Square, then headed up into the Bairro Alto to explore a bit at night and then grab dinner.  Now, this also happened to be Halloween, and we were surprised to find out that they do celebrate Halloween in Lisbon.  If we had known in advance we certainly would have brought costumes!  Nonetheless, after dinner we hit up a few nearby bars that were all decorated for Halloween and then strolled along some of the narrow streets of Bairro Alto along with tons of revelers in costumes with drinks in hand.  A much nicer Halloween atmosphere than anything I have ever seen in France!

grabbing some Halloween drinks

 bar in Lisbon decorated for Halloween!

The next morning we got up early and grabbed the train from Rossio out to Sintra to visit some of the palaces.  We opted to visit only the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace and we were definitely happy with our choices.  When we got to Sintra train station we got on a tourist buses which took us straight up to the Moorish Castle.  I had originally been toying with the idea of hiking up, but seeing as we had lost our half day on Friday we decided the bus would save us time so that we could get back to Lisbon a little earlier for some more exploring.

When we got up to the Moorish Castle some crazy fog started rolling in from the sea obscuring our views of not only the walls of the Moorish Castle but also the Pena Palace and the entire region.  We were a little disappointed at first but in the end the foggy creepiness provided some really interesting photos and felt oddly appropriate in the ruins of an old castle right around Halloween.  Anyway, we walked the walls of the Moorish Castle and waited on one of the towers for the fog to clear a bit so we could get a few views of Pena Palace in the distance.  It was worth the wait!  Then we grabbed a sandwich at the cafeteria and walked the short distance between the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace.

visiting the Moorish Castle

view of the Moorish Castle obscured in fog

view of Pena Palace from the Moorish Castle as the fog started to roll out

taking the time to enjoy the view

the walls of the Moorish Castle

Pena Palace was incredible!  I have never seen anything like it and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Lisbon.  It felt like it could have come straight from a Disney story with its bright colors and turrets.  We spent much longer than we imagined visiting the palace, the courtyards and the patios but it was well worth it.  Plus, the fog finally started to clear out so we were able to enjoy the views over the Moorish Castle and the surrounding countryside.  Once we had finished visiting the castle we decided to hike the grounds a bit and headed off toward Cruz Alta, the highest location on the grounds and from which we were promised an incredible view of Pena Palace.  And that was not a lie.  The view was amazing and we enjoyed hiking around, visiting some of the other sites on the grounds and walking through what felt like an enchanted forest.  Once we finished at Cruz Alta we headed back down to the entrance to catch the bus back to Sintra train station and then the train back into Lisbon.

 
exploring the many courtyards and patios of Pena Palace

view of the Moorish Castle from Pena Palace

a courtyard in the palace

 hiking through the grounds

a close up of Pena Palace from Cruz Alta

 
enjoying the incredible view from Cruz Alta 

Since we took the bus we were able to get back to Lisbon early enough to go up the Elevador de Santa Justa  and walk around the Chiado before grabbing dinner again in the Bairro Alto.  After dinner we still had some energy left so we walked back down to Rossio Square and Praca Figueira then strolled through Baixa to the Praca do Comercio before deciding to call it a night.  Not too bad for our first full day in Lisbon!

Bairro Alto

view from the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa

view over the city from Bairro Alto

 a typical Lisbon tram

For our final day in Lisbon we spent the morning in Belem to see the Jeronimos monastery, the Discovery Monument and the Belem Tower.  We once again walked down to the Praca do Comercio where we caught the tram to Belem.  We planned to visit the monastery first and since it was the first Sunday of the month entry was free which meant there was quite a line!  But we waited and boy was it worth it.  The church was beautiful and the cloisters were incredible.  Afterwards we walked through a little market and over to the Discovery Monument before continuing on to Belem Tower.

Jeronimos monastery

the cloisters

Belem Tower

After Belem we took the tram back into Praca do Comercio and then headed off to spend the rest of our day exploring the Alfama area.  We knew we wanted to hit the cathedral and the castle but other than that we planned to spend our time getting lost in the narrow, steep and winding streets of the Alfama.  After wandering for a bit we made it to the cathedral and from there continued uphill in a meandering fashion until we got to the castle.  We took the time to really enjoy the views of the city from the castle grounds and when we saw a man selling wine from a cart we figured, why not?  I think he's got the right idea...it's called Wine With a View and he sells wine by the glass or the bottle to people visiting the castle.  Included in the price is a souvenir wine glass and then you can take your wine and enjoy it from anywhere in the castle grounds.  So we bought a bottle, sat along the walls, enjoyed the views and toasted a successful trip and my friends' last day in Europe.

Praca do Comercio

enjoying the view from the castle grounds

an incredible view over the city

Wine With a View!

visiting the walls and towers of the Castelo Sao Jorge

 wandering through the Alfama in the evening

Afterwards we finished up our visit of the castle and the nearby archeological site then headed back into the Alfama and slowly made our way back down towards Rossio Square.  We grabbed dinner at a little place right around the corner from our hotel then headed back to pack and get some sleep before my friends had to head to the airport for their 6 a.m. flight back to the US.  I left a few hours later for Bordeaux, impressed with Lisbon and sad about my friends' departure.  But I'm thrilled that they finally made it out to visit and that we had such a great time!  Can't wait till they decide to come again!  I also hope to return to Lisbon soon - I was surprised by how much I liked the city, much more than I expected.  I would love to have the opportunity to explore it more!

3 comments:

  1. This makes me miss Lisbon so much. Portugal was one of my favorite places in Europe.

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  2. Exploring new place in new location is always very interesting and exciting..this place looks heaven.

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