Holidays for me are usually about exploration rather than relaxation, therefore when I was invited to join my family at a luxurious villa in Portugal I had some concerns about being bored or driving everyone crazy with my inability to sit still. To prevent either of these scenarios playing out my boyfriend (Pablo) and I took a mid-week trip to Lisbon.
I am not going to lie, our first experience of Lisbon wasn’t great: we could not find our apartment, got stuck the wrong way down a tiny one way street, thought we were going to die, were ‘greeted’ by a grumpy land lady and got robbed.
The last one is a slight exaggeration. Sitting outside a restaurant on Rua Augusta, surrounded by maps and taking pictures we had taken on the role of tourists expertly. We took a quick break from happy snapping to sip on our giant beers. Meanwhile, two ladies flapped around before sitting down at the table next to us, they were nothing out of the ordinary; middle aged and both wearing frumpy long dresses. Their flustered behaviour intrigued me, so whilst chatting about how we were going to tackle exploring the city in only 12 hours I kept a close eye on them. The litre beer and my small head lead to another photo opportunity, Pablo reached for his camera then with a girlish gasp, leapt up from the table when he realised his precious Cannon DSLR had vanished! I automatically turned to the our shifty neighbours who were indeed harbouring our camera by their feet.
The rest of our trip was much less dramatic, having only a few short hours we took a Yellow Bus Tour around the city which, though tacky, I find is often the best way to take in the main tourist attractions on a short timescale.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world therefore houses many styles of architecture and a rich history. For me the most remarkable thing driving around Lisbon was the juxtaposition between the old mediaeval part of town made up of narrow, winding, charming cobbled streets with the wide newer parts of the city that were rebuilt following the devastating 1755 earthquake.
There are many museums, shops, parks and historical buildings to visit in Lisbon but unfortunately on our whistle stop tour we only managed to see most of them from the roof of our big yellow bus, however we did squeeze in some interesting places. Belem Tower, at one time a key part of the cities defence, now looks like a large sandcastle emerging from the banks of the river Tagus.
The tower was a great place to visit, not only due to its stunning architecture and historical importance but also it’s location, which provides great views across the river and The 25 April Bridge. Nearby is Pasteis de Belém, a patisserie famed for its traditional Portuguese sweet egg tarts, these were definitely worth the queue though it was slightly depressing that the closest park to sit and sample the tradition that began way back in 1820’s was sandwiched between a Mcdonalds and a motorway.
After our bus trip we wandered back towards our apartment stumbling upon an energetic brass band covering Coldplay’s Rule the World, their incredible energy made me ready for a night out.
So ventured to Barrio Alto, an area consisting of narrow streets decorated with vibrant streamers, Chinese lanterns, and lined with bustling restaurants and bars. Though the eateries looked similar in style we managed to make a bad choice, the feeling of disappointment created by the food, waiters and the frankly awful Fado soon disappeared with a $5 XXL margaritas from Bairrazza Bairroa.
Lisbon was a lively and diverse city that I would love to spend more time in.
Have you guys been to Lisbon? Do you have any recommendations for when I go back?