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Trip Report Lazing it in Lisbon; Notes and Rambling Thoughts from and Extended Stay

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First there was a ‘compromise’ decision: Let’s go to Portugal! Then came the Picking of Destinations; where to stay and for how long was carefully pondered over weeks. Well, truthfully, only by me as DH was happy to go anywhere as long as it did not involve France (I know…some people!), Spain again (We’ve had 3 consecutive vacations there) or anywhere cold.

When everything was said and done we had decided (read ‘he was informed’) to stay for a month in Lisbon. Other things and places will follow but let’s just talk a bit about Lisbon as I sit in our apartment one week into our stay.

DH and I arrived from different locations to LIS and met without problems in the baggage claim. He had visited with family in Switzerland while I stayed at home for 10 more days finishing up a few important things (you know, like going out to eat with all the girlfriends that I seldom get to see in new restaurants that DH is not thrilled about, hanging out with the extended family, binge watching 5 seasons of The Walking Dead, being ignored by the cats…).

I had travelled SJU to Madrid on an AirEurope cheap flight. This meant no individual entertainment screens and a single glass of wine served with dinner. So I read a trashy romance novel (selected specifically for the occasion), knitted half a scarf, and slept enough hours to survive a 3hr layover. This was the first time I was not arriving to Barajas in the ‘new’ terminal so that was a bit of an experience reminiscent of the old dark hallways of JFK. The walking distances in Barajas are just astonishing!

Eventually (should have turned on my Garmin watch and logged in the miles walked!) I found the connecting gate which happened to be in front of a 100 Montaditos restaurant. Yay! What to eat was easy (a tortilla with aioli and a morcilla with peppers) but then I had to make a quick, foggy brained, jetlagged decision: coffee or beer? Finally decided to be sensible and had the coffee. I can safely say that anyone that know me will agree that this was a highly uncharacteristic choice, but I still had a few hours of travel ahead of me. I bought a new (actual paper) book and sat by the gate to see the boarding of the Lisbon flight which I had decided not to take because it might be too tight. What can I say? I’m a flight wimp.

Somewhere I had read that Lisbon airport was small. I disagree. First, the plane lands halfway to Porto and you taxi for at least 15 minutes, and then you walk through a veritable shopping center with all kinds of luxury stores.

After waiting a good 20 minutes for the luggage, DH proceeded to the taxi line. It was very (VERY) long but it moved quickly. We were still happily catching up with each other so it took at least 5 minutes before we realized we were going to get scammed by the driver; no counter in sight. Oh well, we would survive the loss of what turned out to be 37E.

I had flipped-flopped between apartments for days; well really between areas of the city. The Baixa had been discarded from the get go, with its rows of touristy restaurants. The Alfama was supposed to be noisy and crowded. The Chiado? I have no interest whatsoever in upscale shopping; or non-food-related shopping at all. Then I got some recommendations for the very residential Principe Real barrio which looked intriguing; a decision was finally made.

We had rented an Airbnb apartment in the general Príncipe Real area, almost across from Praça das Flores. One bedroom, small office, decent kitchen, ample living space, dishwasher, washer/dryer combo… the whole 9 yards. The minus? It is a 3rd Floor (American 4th) with no lift apartment. This seemed like a ‘no biggie’ at the time, whoever, when combined with the –ahem- verticality of Lisbon, the enthusiasm begins to lag behind.

First impression was not great, the staircase was dark and the wall paint was peeling all over, we huffed and puffed up 4 flights lugging a heavy suitcase, thank God for the gym! We reached the apartment and it seemed like the previous occupants were in the process of being evicted (their luggage stacked on the stoop) and the cleaning lady (didn’t speak a word of English) was only beginning to do her job (beds unmade, garbage in the hallway kind of state). And this even though we were at least 2 hours later than we had originally announced (this was not a problem because the key to the apartment is left in a coded box so one can enter without assistance). Not exactly the beginning I had been hoping for.

We dropped off everything and escaped across the street to have our ‘Welcome Drink’ in a covered terrace with heater… Have I mentioned that is was cloudy and cold? It was cloudy and cold. Very much so.

We stocked up on a few basic groceries for breakfast and returned to the apartment. Now that it was clean, orderly and EMPTY, it was much nicer and looking exactly as the AirBnb pictures. Insert big sigh of relief. Okay, everything would be OK!

Dinner was at Cantinho Lusitano selected at random from ones with the best reviews in the ‘Near Your’ filter in Trip Advisor. It was really good. REALLY good. The serve tapas/ración stlyle, though eating like this is sadly NOT a Portuguese thing! It was 7:00pm and the place was full but we were seated with the warning that we had to be done by 9:30pm, as if! LOL. We had the standard olive and bread plate, chouriço al vino (good!), Pica Pau beef (somewhat spicy – sweet – sour totally awesome sauce) with sweet potato fries, grilled octopus leg (yum!) and codfish fritters ‘Patatinas’ served with rice and beans that were good enough to come back for. So, even though I was in a jetlagged, not even showered yet, state I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner in this place and would gladly go back. Bill was under not even €40.

We went back to the apartment where I had a surprisingly almost full night of comfortable sleep. Maybe there IS something to all that hype about limiting alcohol during flights after all…

Next: Actual Notes on the Lisbon Experience

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    I picked up 2 RT tickets last night to Lisbon for next month so I will be following your notes. (It was an error fare of $207 pp, BOS-LIS so i am not sure if the reservation will be cancelled or will stick.)

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    The problem with extended stays is that there is an underlying impression that you don’t have to rush to see things and the days slip away almost unnoticed while wandering aimlessly and sipping wine in outside cafés. Oh wait. Scratch that. Those are actually the good things. But one does risk actually not getting to see the sights.

    But here are a few of my 100% biased, totally skewed, personal thoughts about Lisbon one week into our stay:

    - When people say Lisbon is ‘hilly’, they are lying. Maybe not outright lying but certainly making the understatement of the year. Lisbon it is not hilly, it is VERTICAL. The only flat spaces in the city are the Praça de Comercio and a few streets in the Baixa.

    - The sidewalks of Lisbon are all paved with mosaic-like small stones. They are set in beautiful patterns and are wonderful to look at however, said stones can be slippery in the rain. When combined with the vertical factor, walking around can be tricky. Shoes –sensible shoes!- are of the outmost importance. Excuse me now while I go send an email of appreciation to Sketchers regarding my not very pretty but extremely comfortable and non-slippery GoWalk2 shoes.

    - The tilework in the façades…OOOHHH! I have never been a big fan of decorative arts in general and tilework in particular, but wow. That opinion was mostly based on the use of cheap tile reproductions back home. Lisbon has the real deal. Well, Lisbon is the REAL deal. The tiles are just so elegant! Most of the older buildings are tiled in shades of blue with a few greens and yellows popping around. Terracotta tiles make the perfect contrasting background. Some recently remodeled buildings are covered with gray/taupe semi translucent tiles for a very sophisticated and modern nod to tradition.

    - The Portuguese seem to go for a lot of body contact. And take this from a Puerto Rican very used to touchy-feely, obviously not a problem for me but I could see a few people feeling that that their personal space has been invaded. You ask someone something on the street and they will gently yet firmly, almost intimately, place their hands on your shoulders or forearms for as long as they give you a very lengthy and detailed explanation.

    - I had read in multiple places that most Portuguese are fluent English speakers. This is absolutely true. And most people in the hospitality business will also speak rudimentary French and German as well. However, as in ANY place, an introductory Bom Dia or Boa Tarde will go a long way to establish the goodwill that is indispensable for cross-language communications. Knowing Spanish will also take you very far along into understanding the conversations around.

    - Vinho Verde is a good thing. Nothing else to add there. Well, just one observation: even when copious amounts of the cheap stuff have been drunk in lazy afternoons, there have been no evidence of hangover headaches. I’m sure we will further test the limits of this theory. BTW, the red wine is not bad either and better suited to this cold and wet weather we keep having.

    - Why don’t we hear more about Portuguese cheese? Or maybe why have I not found out about this before? YUM.

    - Tram 28 is not only used by tourists. Be prepared for feisty little old ladies to push you out of the way.


    Next: Stuff we have actually done between drinking and eating

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    I like your style of writing, marigross ^^
    Sounds like a fun trip.
    I have just returned from Lisbon, you beat me to the trip report.
    Looking forwards to more.
    I agree about the tiles, the cheese and the wine.

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    Thursdaysd, I have now googled the place and will promptly get back to you with an opinion!

    I need to give Port wine a chance. I haven't tried ginjinha yet, is it more like a digestif?

    We have now purchased transport passes but DH has it in his brain that resorting to them is a profound betrayal of his stoic Swiss upbringing. I figured that I could burn all those calories, work on those Lisbon Legs. But I might soon just give up on that and meet him at the top. He could then blame it on me and let his mounting-climbing ancestors rest in their graves.

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    Saturday, April 2: What would be a First Day of Vacation without a Death March?

    It started innocently enough ‘let's go for a stroll’ because, you know, we have time, no need to see all the city in a day. My infamous, record breaking, Barcelona First Day of Vacation Ultra Death March was very politely not mentioned but just barely hinted at with ‘But not too long, right?’

    Our first stop was as Tease, a permanently full-to-capacity, small tea shop downstairs from us. We had our coffees and I had a savory pastry filled with creamed spinach. It was scrumptious, the crust was doughy enough to have bite but still a little flaky (usually indicative of massive amounts of fat, possibly even lard). Reminded me of the ones to be had in Greece, mmmm. Thank goodness I don’t have too much of a sweet tooth, I’m in trouble enough with the savory stuff!

    As a random thought, it has been more than once in this week that Lisbon has made me think of Athens. I cannot quite pinpoint the similarities, but they are in there somewhere. Maybe the warmness of the people, the ups and downs, the slight grittiness of both cities…. I will continue to ponder this.

    We headed out (and down) towards the river with the weak sun of early April warming the air just enough. After a lot of mapless wanderings we wound up in Mercado da Ribeira. This is a combination of a traditional food market (grocers, fishmongers, butchers, et al) and a Food Court on Steroids mega place.

    The food market looked a little sad BUT (and this is an important qualifier) it was Saturday in the early afternoon. This means that all the early birds have taken their worms and only slim pickings are left behind. Saturday morning shopping for the full weekend and even Monday seems to be the norm in most markets as some specialty stores will not reopen until Tuesday.

    I’m still trying to decide if we liked the food court experience (it is indeed an experience) or not. It was packed. Every single tourist in Lisbon seemed to be here. People were hustling for places on the communal tables and trying to get couples to scoot over two stools down so that they could fit in their parties together. The restaurant choices are extensive and go from the traditional Portuguese to Thai Woks by the way of Leitaõ (whole roasted pigs), Italian style gelatos, specialty Tartar, and ‘artisanal’ hamburgers.

    We opted to have our first glasses Vinho Verde and some oysters as we were still full from our late breakfast. The glasses of wine €4 and that seemed to be the average price in the restaurants. We should have gotten a bottle, just like everyone else around us. I will give the market extra credit for the decent stemware. Oh yeah, we are in Europe! Real plates, glasses, cups and utensils everywhere! This makes me happy as I have to snobbishly admit that I extremely dislike plasticware.

    Bottomline, is this an authentic Lisbon experience in the traditional way? Absolutely not. But it is quirky modern and an easy way to sample multiple dishes at the same time. And the people watching is unbeatable! Go there and have a drink.

    Then we continued along the river promenade, passing a very cute café with great views of the Vasco de Gama bridge but even with windbreakers and heaters it was just too cold to sit outside. Dully noted for a warmer weather return. We reached the beautiful Praça do Comércio, its bright yellow walls contrasting the (briefly) bright blue sky and then wandered into the Baixa. Loved the elephant on the central statue.

    We wandered through the Baixa, dodging overenthusiastic waiters annoyingly trying to get you into their restaurants. We are an odd couple –for various reasons- and it was funny watching the waiters trying to figure out in which language to address us. I also find it particularly curious that most vendors and waiters have not been able to place me correctly, addressing me in either Italian or French. I have always perceived myself as very clearly (lol!) Hispanic on the olive-whitish end of the spectrum and in Spain a lot of folks have correctly narrowed down their guessing to the Caribbean basin. DH is addressed in German most of time.

    We passed the Elevador de Santa Justa with its long line of tourists waiting to be transported couple hundred feet into Chiado and eventually wound up in Praça Rossio for another round of wine and even more awesome people watching.

    The entertainment on the street merits a full description just because the list of incongruences was simply mind-blowing. I mean, we are smack in the middle of Lisbon and this group of 5 guys dressed as Native American (think full feather Cheyenne Headdress but purchased in the Party City Costume Department and pleather fringed suits) start setting up their sound system. Something didn’t quite add up with them and I perked up my ear. Sure enough, they were speaking Spanish with Central American accents. Then the panflutes / windpipes came out. And what did they start playing? Well, there was Zamfir and the Flight of the Condor of course, but then it got better: Abba’s Chiquitita (to the crowds great enjoyment and sing along chorus) followed by Journey’s Open Arms. What can I say, as ridiculous as it sounds they sold quite a few CD’s. They might be on to something.

    Eventually we got up and started working our way up (and up, and up) possibly through the steepest and endlessly long set of stairs in Lisbon (I’m sure that we will find worse in days to come) behind the Rossio metro station and up to the church of Saõ Roque.

    I mean, really, it would not really be First Day of Vacation without visiting a church, right? I’m going to make a disclaimer here so that my enthusiasm is put into perspective: I go into churches. I go into most churches I walk by. I love old churches. I go into a LOT of churches. The only thing I love more than old churches? Cloisters. I adhere to the ‘Leave No Cloister Unseen’ travel philosophy.

    Igreja de Saõ Roque is a 16th Century Jesuit church with a flat wooden roof painted with faux domes. The chapels are outstanding. Particularly notable are the two alcoves that flank the altar with an arrangement of reliquary sculptures and containers. In the past, I have seen these images moved to the church Treasury so I’m not quite sure if this display was common centuries ago or if it is a Portuguese thing. But truly, all the chapels are magnificent.

    We were starting to wear a little thin so we started to make our way back home via the Miradour de San Pedro de Alcantara. A place to be greatly enjoyed on a warm sunny day, which this was most certainly not. Matter of fact, it started to pour so we ‘had’ to dodge into Tapas 52 for a glass of wine while we waited the rain out. The music was a rather pleasant loungy jazz but people are allowed to smoke inside. Not nice. The food looked good, though.

    We made it home to eat an absolutely disappointing pasta carbonara, one of my longstanding go-to dishes. I still don’t know where I went wrong with that one, it usually works well for me. Cooking can be a very humbling experience. But, it let itself be eaten with enough Alentejo wine to wash it down.

    Next: Skip the prose and getting down to what we did

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    Loving your TR!

    Ginjinha is more of a liqueur than a digestif. Best drunk on the way home after dinner.

    Do try the port place. It sells port by the glass at reasonable prices and has extensive descriptions. If you haven't tried port before it's a good place to start. My vote is for twenty year tawny, but yours may be different. (Personally, I don't consider white port to be port...) It's also right by a good mirador.

    Consider Lisbon's transport options as part of your sightseeing. Not just the elevator but the funiculars and some of the trams.

    Do you like spicy food? For cheap, good food with a kick go to Bom Jardim. Get the chicken and fries and add the sauce to taste. No ambience - think paper table clothes - but deservedly popular. (Travessa de S. Antao 11 - I think I went three times the last time I was in Lisbon, but it's just down the street from where I stay.)

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    Thursday, we LOVE spicy food. Matter of fact if anyone has recs for places to try ethnic food from the old colonies, we would greatly appreciate them.

    The ports I have tried are bit too sweet for my taste but I can always give it another try, you know, for palate developing / educational purposes.

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    Sorry, confused aperitif and digestif... Port is also an after dinner drink. Ideally with cheese... Ideally with Stilton... Or nuts. Some people like it with chocolate. If you have found it too sweet you may have been drinking ruby. Try LBV and tawny, the older the better. I'd say try vintage but it's expensive and I don't think the Solar does it by the glass. Although port in Portugal is a lot cheaper than it is in the US.

    If you're going to Porto the port wine lodges on the south bank have tours and tastings. Try Taylors, when I was there they had an elegant rose garden with white fluffy Japanese hens and a peacock. don't know if they still do, but they still have a restaurant. http://www.taylor.pt/en/visit-taylors/port-cellars/

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    In Porto, I suggest going to the Yeatman Hotel to have a port cocktail and enjoy the spectacular view. They have quite a variety, and they are wonderful. Just tell them you prefer a cocktail that isn't sweet.

    I second the recommendation for Bom Jardim (although I skipped the piri-piri sauce). I had a two very nice meals at Ibo (near Cais do Sodre, with a waterfront view), which specializes in the cuisine of Mozambique, but it was aromatic, not spicy -- but maybe I just failed to order spicy dishes. If you know the website Lisbon Lux, you might try looking there for a restaurant serving recipes from Goa, or from Brazil.

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    Sunday, April 3: the weather was slightly better but far from great. These are the things we did:

    - Walked up to Praça Principe Real and moseyed around the stores in there. The Embaixada group of stores looked particularly nice (and warm). In case I forget to mention this further on, there is a good weekly market on Saturdays here with food and artists.

    - Visited the outside of El Carmo Church, need to go back in when it is open (or at least I find the correct entrance)

    - Walked through Pedestrian Rua Garett (highly recommended for shoppers; something I’m not)

    - Could not stop in Café A Brasileira (hey, we ARE tourists) as there was not a seat to be had

    - Stepped into the Basilica Dos Martires (of course! I couldn’t get into the Loretto church across as it seemed to be closed)

    - Strolled into Praça Luis de Camoes until we saw the line forming outside Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata and made a quick detour to partake of this quintessential Lisbon tradition. These are like individual egg custard pies with brulée tops. They come in sizes from tiny to 6” diameter and are ubiquitous through the city. However, this Fábrica seems like the place to have them and it is the only thing they make. I expected cloyingly sweet, but it was not. The custard is creamy and slightly lemony, and the purpose of the very thin pastry (I would have loved it thicker) is solely to hold the cream together while you eat it. The ones we got were still warm and were delicious, even by my savory-tooth standards.

    - Detoured past the Elevador de Bica into the Miradouro de Santa Caterina for more great views of overcasted Lisbon. Funny thing, random guy hanging out before the park offered us marihuana. Really? Us? Now THAT (the being offered part!) hasn’t happened in more than 30 years, I seriously doubt we look like party people. Wondered what made him think we would want any (I know, I find weird stuff interesting!).

    - Eventually, and not quite sober, we got back to the apartment and made a rather good dinner from prepackaged turkey brochettes, grilled zucchini and rice cooked with lentils all purchased from the corner mini market.

    Monday, April 4: Weather was miserable. Alternating between misty rain and downpours. We stretched breakfast into brunch (sans mimosas) and finally ventured out in the afternoon to find a bank. Somehow we wound up in Lapa for our daily stroll. We found a bigger grocery store and purchased a few cheeses, bread, paté, a few vegetables and a very pretty bacalhao (codfish) fillet for dinner.

    Even with umbrellas in hand we got drenched on our way home, so that put a quick end to our wanderings for the day. Warm showers and red wine in hand made it all so much better.

    Oh, and the cleaning lady (seemingly the only person in Lisbon not to speak English) and her husband showed up by 7:00pm to come to fix the electricity that had gone out from half the apartment due to a faulty cable. And the washer was not working either, after 2 hours on the phone with tech support she finally got it going and we were free to eat.

    The bacalhao fillet stewed with white beans and spinach turned out awesome, so not all was lost in the day. We are so happy that we will have ample time to see the city in the sunshine because this lousy weather was just not cutting it.

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    Dear Marigross
    I'm loving your TR and waiting for more. Meanwhile:

    Cloistres: Try to visit Convent of Christ in Tomar, unless you are affraid of a cloisters' overdose. Imagine a douzen of cloisters of several centuries and styles packed together in one place.
    Spicy: After Rossio, there is a twin square named Figueira sq. A little bit north there is another square named Martim Moniz Sq. From the north eastern corner of Martim Moniz sq borns a pedestrian street named Rua do Benformoso. This street is the unofficial Bangladesh town. In Benformoso, 262 there is a restaurant called "Bismilla" offering the best Prawn Curry in town. Bismilla accepts no cards, only hard currency. Be prepaired to pay 10 euros per person.

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    Hi Lobo, thank you! I will (eventually) make it to Tomar, once we start the Road Trip portion of the vacation in May.


    Thanks for the restaurant rec!


    I think you remarked on another thread about the frequent misspelling 'Barrio' when in Portuguese it should be Bairro. I had not even noticed that I was making the mistake, lol. It is -at least for me!- a carry over from Spanish, where the correct spelling is Barrio.


    Since Spanish is my first language, there might be a lot of those typos in this TR. ;-)

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    Tuesday, April 5: The sun! The SUN!!!!

    Lisbon in the sun is a completely different place. The last few days some of the cafés had tables outside, mostly occupied by Danes and British and a few lucky ones that got a spot next to the heaters. We had even remarked about the lack of little ‘whole in the wall’ gritty joints that DH adores and drags me into. Well, all these places were there! They were just hibernating.

    These days we seem to only get late starts in the morning. But that is the beauty of extended stays! You can sleep in, do Pilates a class from YouTube videos, write in your journal, have a third cup of coffee… And THEN go out. This would have been unheard of two years ago, when I was still a trip Nazi trying to cramp as much as possible into the 3-weeks of vacation I was able to wrestle away from my boss.

    Maybe I should give some more context. DH, being significantly older than me, has been retired for over 15years. He took over managing the Kid and the house so I could slave away at a very stressful, highly demanding but decently paying job. It was a job I mostly liked, occasionally loved and seldom hated.

    Then came the perfect storm:
    (a) I got stuck for almost 2 years in a project that I hated, one of those ‘black hole’ things that you just know that you will never get away from.
    (b) The Kid decided she was not going to college after all (with the ensuing parental re-appropriation of her college fund).
    (c) Even though we had always been very conservative in our spending, I got very much involved with minimalistic living and de-cluttering. It made me take a very hard look at my spending habits and going through the ‘am I really working only to be able to afford to buy all this cr@p I’m just going to throw away / donate?’ existential crisis.
    (d) DH was not getting any younger with a landmark birthday coming up and deserved to have a full time wife to go hang out with.

    Just over a year ago I quit my job. Have not regretted or even missed it for a second yet.

    Anyway, the sun was out so we must follow, and lo and behold! There is a butcher shop a few doors down the street (guess it was closed Sunday and Monday), the grocer across from us turned out to have a lot of nice products and vegetables. The neighborhood had come alive!!!!

    After shopping for dinner we took off and retraced some of our steps back down to the Ribeira Market, the Praça de Comercio (now half occupied with tables and people!) and the Baixa. This time we continued up Avenida Liberdades in what is known as a falso piano; a slight incline that looks almost flat but sucks the breath away from you after the first kilometer. The walk was still pleasant in the sunny cool breeze.

    The tree-lined boulevard is beautifully paved and filled with elegant buildings… and every single luxury retail chain store in the planet. A few local couture and jewelers ateliers provided an interesting break. Some people might think this is heavenly, but there is no way I’m buying a Furka bag when I could pay another month of vacation with that money. I have my priorities very clearly set!

    On the way back down we took to the backstreets. Much more interesting to us! We wound up eating lunch at a small restaurants with a lot of local workers. We had a real good but slightly oily Arroz con Pato (Rice with Duck) and a bottle of wine. We thought we had also ordered some fish but there was a misunderstanding, and by the time we realized we were full with the rice anyway. And we had ordered the half portion of the rice!

    Our wanderings took us around to the base of the Elevador de Gloria, which of course we did not ride up but walked on the side taking pictures and little videos. Up in the Miradouro San Pedro de Alcantara there was a small market and we got €1,50 plastic cups of very decent red wine (hey, I might be a glassware snob but I can curb my expectations when needed!) just for the novelty of it. We did go back to guy and bought some creamy cheese, a loaf of excellent bread and this most delicious pastry called a ‘Jesuíta’ (sp?) for the next day’s breakfast.

    We got another cup of wine with the purchase. Let’s just say it was a good thing that we were not driving. We happily staggered home and even managed to cook a good dinner of chicken and pasta in our slightly (ahem!) inebriated state.

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    I stopped work at 50 having realised I was working to accumulate stuff. It looks like a hard question when you are on the other side, but once you "pass through the veil" it looks like a very simple question. Well done for joining the time rich.

    I think Lisbon has an old triereme in the old arsenal. Worth a walk around, while the history of Portugal as told from a port basis is fascinating, for instance did you know the royal family migrated to Brazil and ran the Empire from there (a colony of a colony)

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    Welcome to retirement! I retired at 53, the day I hit 30 years with my megacorp, and have never regretted it. I did do part time contract work for a while, but then I decided to try living on my pension. No mortgage + no retirement savings + lower taxes + frugality makes a big difference, even though the pension was only 40% of my final salary. Of course, retiree medical made a huge difference, too. I've found it surprising how things expand to fill the time available.

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    Loving your trip report marigross. Having been to Spain several times but never managed to make it over to Portugal, your thoughtful reflexions are very informative and entertaining. It is definitely one country on my radar screen.

    Everything being relative, I chuckled when you write about the "awful and cold weather" as qualified, I suspect, from a Puerto Rico perspective no doubt. I think I would find the same actually quite balmy by comparison since where I live, we usually have to heat our homes from September to June (NOT kidding - I wish I were believe me). In fact we are still around the freezing point with a fresh layer of snow on the ground as I write this, and it is NOT exceptional for this time of year. Fully relate to your expletive "the sun, THE SUN" as well for similar reasons.

    Congrats on leaving the work world !!!! I did the same one year ago almost to the day and also have not looked back since. Slow travel is now the way to go for us as well.

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    I have great sympathy, too, for the need for warmth. I lived in Puerto Rico for 5 years, then moved to Montreal to be near my husband's family. Well, I lasted 2 winters, as if 1 wasn't enough, then convinced him that my California home would be perfect for us.

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    Thank you so much for the moral support MmePerdu :)

    (Je ne vis pas très loin de Montréal, et oui, maintenant à la retraite des séjours prolongés ailleurs sont à l'ordre du jour !)

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    Marigross, you write so well, this is a lovely read.

    And I'm enjoying everyone's personal stories, too, nice how a TR becomes even richer with other people's contributions.

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    Wednesday, April 6: Lisbon Rim to Rim…. Or we can see the castle from here

    The sun was out so it was time to get going. Of course this means slow motion ‘going’ as we might have lingered a bit on the breakfast table eating a good portion of the Queijo de Ovelha Curado Amanteigado that we had purchased the day before. Wow. You just cut a circle through the waxy crust and spoon out delicious creaminess out on to bread. Wow^2. The bread we got from the guy made for a perfect companion. Okay, I’ll go out and admit it, it was almost noon by the time we left.

    We intended to catch the Electric Tram 28 by the San Bento stop. There were around 10 people in the stop before us. First tram comes by, no space to breath inside that can of sardines! Only two local elder gentleman opt to push themselves in. Hummmm. We decide to keep walking along the tram lines and see how it goes. Another packed tram passes us by. There were at least 20 people ‘queuing’ (using the word only in the most general terms). So we keep going. By now we have gone up the hill. This time we lucked out with few people waiting and a tram with actual space in it. Within two stops we could sit down.

    Tram 28 took us all the way up to the top of Graça and from there we walked first to Miradouro de Graça (with a stop in the beautiful church) and then further (further!) up to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. The views from both were picture perfect, the second lookout gives you a better sightline to the castle. We finally were able to strip down to one layer of clothes and soaked in the warm sun.

    On the way down we made a stop at Saõ Vicente de Fora . This church is impressive from the outside and the inside. Raising from the street in all in white, you enter up a staircase and into a majestically vaulted space. The altar has such a massive Baldachin over it that almost defeats its purpose, touching almost the ceiling.

    You know that moment when having a cr@ppy map and the incorrect guide book really do you in? Well, we must have circled that castle at least two times. And it was not exactly fun, but we eventually made it to the ticket office of Castelo de São Jorge.

    We have mixed reviews on this one. I thought it was quite impressive, DH not quite so. He said it was because he was born and raised in the shadow of a ‘real’ castle, I think it was because he was tired and a little cranky. Anyway, it is still beautiful with its ramparts and crenelated tops and the park around it quite nice. The restaurant seemed nice but the menu screamed ‘overpriced tourist trap!’. We skipped it. We also bypassed the café; DH was decidedly cranky as he did not even want to stop for a beer and admire the peacocks.

    On the way down we stopped at the Largo das Portas do Sol lookout and the Miradouro de Santa Lucia. I opted to bypass all the churches along the way as our appreciation for religious architecture was inversely proportional to the tiredness of our feet.

    Contrary to rational thought, we walked all the way home. The steep way. Though we did stop for a glass of wine… or two.

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    Thanks to all for tagging along. I love writing TRs, they have proved to be the most cherished souvenirs of all.

    Bilbo, I did not know that about Brazil. I saw the trireme from far, will go back an investigate further.


    Kanadajin, my tropical-born DD has moved to Maine and contrary to all expectations, is loving it. Even with the two previous record breaking winters and this schizophrenic one. She also has snow on the ground.

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    Yumm, breakfast sounds good!

    I have to agree with DH on the castle. Finally made it up there my last trip and the views were fine but the castle wasn't worth it (but I grew up in England and I've sen a lot of castles). There are good views without paying to go in.

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    Saint Georges castle and Jeronimos Monastery are examples of public buildings badly damaged after the earthquake of 1755 and extensively rebuilt in the 40s of last century. I guess some or the original feeling was lost forever.
    The exception is Carmo Convent which was left as it was after 1755 (with some consolidation works) as a memorial.
    You might find fun (interesting?) a text of 12th century written by a crusade named Osbern who took part in the conquest of the city (http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/cap-lisbon.asp).

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    Thursday, April 7: The return of the clouds

    The forecast was not great and the temperature was in the upper 40’s. One look at the overcast sky and we re-snuggled in bed. We did nothing the whole day long. We did not even go out. I started this Trip Report and DH watched the news. We drank tea in the morning and wine in the afternoon. It was blissful. With one caveat: I missed our cats, lounging without kitty purrs is never as satisfying.


    Friday, April 8: Unfinished Business

    During one of our previous wanderings we had found, under very fortuitous circumstances, a great shortcut. DH had wanted to get another USB Plug charger and the exact gadget he had in mind had failed to appear so far. So we were walking through the Baixa and suddenly I see a sign for fnac (sort of a Best Buy type of store). It is above the Baixa-Chiado metro station and we actually had to ask for directions because we just could not figure out how to get in. ‘Go to door #89, inside there is an elevator, go to the 4th floor’ said the nice lady from the café across the street, probably for the 100th time that week.

    So we go up, still did not find the Perfect USB Thingie but we did find out that when you exit the store through the mall you find yourself in Almacenes Chiado and just a few steps away from the Praça Luis de Camoes and saving quite a bit of walking/climbing along the way.

    Maybe I should insert here the other shortcuts we have found so far. We were in the Baixa, waiting to cross the Rua de Prata street across from the church and I see these massive amounts of people going into a building but quite few coming out. The sign said something like ‘municipal center’ and inside it looks like a gift shop. However, it has two elevators that will take you 5 stories up to Alfama, into a little square off Rua de Madalena and just at about the right elevation to see the Cathedral (which is where we were heading anyway. But let’s finish with the elevators first.

    A couple days later we found out that on the other side of the street is ANOTHER elevator that will take you up to Castle level, the aptly named Elevador do Castelo. This is the one that, I believe, has the big supermarket in the basement.

    Yesterday we also found that if you go into the very pretty Estacion Central, which is connected to the Rossio metro station, you can go up the escalators and exit from the top, saving yourself a few stories. However, you still have to go up the C. do Duque pedestrian street / stairway if you want to go to Barrio Alto. If you don’t need to burn all those calories acquired from drinking wine at ungodly hours, the Elevador de Gloria might be a better bet.

    Now, going back to today’s meanderings we went up that magic elevator and found our way to the Lisbon’s Cathedral. Entrance is free but they charge €5 regular and €2,50 seniors to see the Treasury and Cloister. I can see how people would be tempted to skip it, but don’t. The church has a very elegant Romanesque ‘hull’ but was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. It started out as a fortress and it shows. The true gem of this compound is the Cloister, what a beauty! Very simple Cistercian gothic. The center is excavated to show archaeological levels ranging from medieval Lisbon, the Moorish mosque, the Roman period to the Phoenician early settlers. I have warned about my love of cloisters, so I’ll shut up about it and just say thoroughly enjoyed it.

    The Treasury is quite nice too, with its impressive setting in the old Chapterhouse rooms. It is not a huge display of objects but certainly worth a half an hour of detailed examination.

    Next on the ‘agenda’ (ha! As if.) was a walk through the lower levels of the Alfama. This is area where Lisbon turns quaint and you start to taste a little of that Old European flavors. This area of the city largely survived the earthquake, so it only stands to reason.

    We found a bar by the wall, just under the Casa de Janelas Geminadas and watched the world go by for a while. DH thought he might have preferred to stay in this side of town but when he saw all the fado joints and bars he retracted and said that quiet Principe Real was just fine. There are a number of guidebook ‘walks’ but this is really a neighborhood to wander, and we did so for the afternoon.

    Dinner that night was at In Bocca al Lupo a stylish BIO (their claim) pizzeria. They advertise their thin crust pizza. We both love pizza. We both love wispy thin crust pizza. So we had put this place on the list as soon as we saw it. Well, it was thin and tasty. But it got soggy very quick. There is nothing sadder than a ‘wet’ pizza crust. But I do have to admit that mushrooms in pizzas are very treacherous as they can release a lot of water after coming out of the oven. I’m willing to give them that leeway. But at €51 for coperto, two pizzas and a bottle of wine, it was not exactly cheap either. So I guess we are not really going to be repeat customers.

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    Saturday, April 10:
    First order of business was to stock up on groceries for the weekend. As per the local Fodorite’s recommendation we headed to the Saturday Market in Praça Príncipe Real. And stock up we did! We also stopped by the fishmonger located in Praça da Flores and overshopped on mussels, squid (she cleaned them) and tuna (no coherent dinner plan there!). Not being satisfied with the bounty we still went to the butcher across our building and got some chicken legs. Having secured a steady supply of good meals for the days ahead, we were able to relax.

    The early afternoon was spent walking around Chiado and Principe Real. Then we went back to Tapas 52 to get DH his fix of something that he had seen on the menu but seems to be largely absent in the local menus: fried calamari.

    There is something that might need to be said as it may come up in the future. We each have our own obsessions, a Food Quest that we are devoted to following. His path to Nirvana is on the Calamari Camino, while my goal is to find the Holy Grail of Croquetas.

    Though he had always flirted with Calamari in their fried form ( a.k.a a la romana, a la Andaluza, or a la Española), his love affair really started in Granada over a little tapa of Sepia a la Plancha; perfectly grilled cuttlefish with just enough sear to compliment the touch of salsa verde that lightly dressed them. It was perfection and we have not been able to reproduce them at home or get them in restaurants. But we will continue The Search while sampling skid, cuttlefish, sepia, choco or chipirones that come our way.

    We can talk about my croquetas later; though we had already had some at Ti Camila, a café in the little Praça behind the Museu do Fado. The nice waitress brought them ‘complimentarily’ after we ordered wine and olives. Their ‘homemade’ white wine was not bad at all, I took that to mean that the produce it under their own label. The croquetas were made with beef, very tasty but rather on the dry side and lacking the crunchy exterior and creamy interior that makes them so appealing to me.

    So even though I had bought some whole ‘Chocos’ to make for dinner, I had no intention of frying them in a hermetically shut rental apartment and stink up the place for the next two weeks. Thus, the pilgrimage to the tapas place. I will only say that there is no need to stop in this place along the Calamari Camino. Totally bland batter, tiny portion and very overpriced at €9. Serves us right for ordering something which we knew beforehand was not a Lisbon specialty.

    However, their take on Patatas Bravas was totally awesome and we both agreed that we could even go back to the place just to have them again. My only –truly nitpicking- criticism was that the potatoes were cut too small. The sauce had enough heat to make it interesting and just a hint of sweetness.

    We continued our wanderings until we wound up on the way home.

    I’m happy to report that MY grilled squid we had for dinner was awesome. I also made steamed mussels and sacrificed one of the squid bodies to be cut into rings and made into rice. Too bad that I didn’t get the ink sacks from the fishmonger.

    Sunday, April 11: More Wanderings

    I had planned to go to the Gulbenkian Museum but the weather was decidedly yucky, shifting from misty rain to fat-drop downpours. So we stayed put.

    The only picture I have taken of this day is of the dinner I made, a mushroom ragout served with fried eggs and lentil rice. So I’m guessing that we did not do much but walk around in the afternoon and lounge around writing Trip Reports (me) and playing computer Solitaire (DH).

    Monday, April 12: The Chicken and Fodorites

    According to the Weather Channel App, we had a few hours of sunshine to the day before the forecasted afternoon downpours. We opted to skip the massive breakfast that we have been having and instead go out for lunch.

    Our destination was what seems to be an obligatory Lisbon experience, eating the roasted chicken with piri piri sauce at Bom Jardim. To get there we walked through the pedestrian Rua das Portas de Santo Antao. This was an experience by itself with all the waiters trying to pull you into their restaurants! When the Rick Steves guidebook (Yes, I do read RS’s books, take the occasional hint from him, and have no problem admitting it) names it ‘Restaurant Row’, he wasn’t kidding. The only place I can think of where we have been as gawked-to was in Athens.

    We were decidedly early at 12:10 for lunch when we arrived to our destination. Even though it was sunny, the wind was blowing and we opted to eat inside. Downstairs is smoking (Really? Still on this day and age!?!?) so we went to the upstairs dining room.

    I had read so many guarded, almost cautionary, comments about the décor and service that I was really expecting a greasy spoon kind of joint and surly waiters with dirty aprons. For a moment I even wondered if we were in the right place.

    Ok, I must not be going to enough Michelin starred, white tablecloth restaurants but… this place was perfectly fine. True, it is nothing fancy, just standard ‘tasca’ style dining room but it was immaculately clean and the service was efficient and attentive. I mean, certainly not the ‘Hi my name is Bambi and I’ll be your server/BFF tonight!’ type of service but the businesslike yet pleasant demeanor of professional waiters that I actually prefer.

    As part of the ‘cubierto’ we were brought two codfish croquetas, bread and a few cheeses. I ate both croquetas (Grade: Adequate) but we sent the other stuff back. We ordered some wine and the food arrived 90 seconds after placing the order. This is fast food Portuguese style.

    Speaking of which, so far I have seen two McDonalds, one Burger King and no other recognizable (by us) fast food chains. Maybe in suburbs? Hopefully not. There is certainly enough good and cheap food to go around. Also, if you keep walking up that Sao Antoao street past the pedestrian segment and all the way to the height of Marqués de Pombal, the food offering is very varied and the price for ‘menu del dia’ reduces by 10% every 100 meters. We saw plenty of €5 meals (1ro, 2do, sobremesa & café).

    Now to the chicken. I must insert a disclaimer in here: there is good chicken to be had almost everywhere in Puerto Rico. There is even outstanding chicken to be found without difficulty. Even grocery store roasted chicken is quite decent, being very tasty and always moist inside. We are used to very good chicken.

    This was a good chicken. It gets extra marks for crispy skin but loses a few points for the seasoning not really penetrating the meat itself. Without the piri piri sauce I would not have been particularly impressed. But the sauce is really good and complimented the seasoning on the chicken very well. We ordered French fries and rice as sides.

    The French fries were really good, nice and crispy with barely a hint of the fresh oil they had just been cooked in. I thought there was only the ‘a la brasileira’ type of rice so I just said ‘rice’ when I ordered. I got plain rice, instead of the nice looking dirty rice everyone around us was having (it had chopped chicken livers). This was my mistake so, maybe next time I’m in the neighborhood I’ll get the chance to try it.

    By 1:30pm we were done, by then the place was packed with and tourists and quite a few locals. For €29,60 total bill, it was not bad at all!

    Since the sun was still shinning we decided to explore another neighborhood, the Mouraria for the afternoon. Funky, gritty, eclectic and ethnically diverse this might be the right area to head to for deals on cork-made shoes, bags and everything else. We had fun taking pictures of tiles, stonework and doors. We also went to the very lovely Igreja de São Cristovao where they had a weird installation. In the main church they projected this guy kicking around a big chunk of ice around Mexico city until it melted and then in the pitch black sacristy hall they showed something similar but with a ball of fire.

    We started making our way home with a quick stop into the Madalena church, there they had an exhibit and reproduction of the Shroud of Turin.

    I have been using with great success the new AT&T Wifi service that is now provided for Iphone 6 users after the latest IOS update. It enables you to use your phone –as long as you have wifi!!!- just as you would at home. This includes receiving and making phone calls or text messages. However, since I’m not always connected to wifi, I had not seen until we got ‘home’ a message from fellow Fodorite and basically neighbor, Luz de Lisboa, wanting to meet for drinks.

    But a few quick messages and less than 20minutes afterward we were happily sharing a bottle of white wine in a nearby restaurant. We had a wonderful chat and I sure hope that we will repeat it before we depart Lisbon at the end of the month.

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    Glad Bom Jardim worked out OK. Yes, it is all about the sauce - and the skin! I've never eaten upstairs. Did not mean to imply it was a greasy spoon, just more basic than a lot of Fodorites seem to want. I've always had very good service there.

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    Since you are staying a few more days, I take the liberty of suggesting my favorites:
    - for chicken: "Cervejaria Perus", Almirante Reis 151 (metro station Arroios in Metro green line).
    - real taberna (low end of price and sophistication) - "Tasca João dos Cornos", Rua Pascoal de Melo 50 (metro station Arroios in Metro green line), chicken guizzard (moelas) enough for 2 (5.20 euros). excellent Chouriço assado, other "petiscos" available, cod fish cozido or grelhado. Closed Saturdays, otherwise closes at 8pm.
    - Café Império - classical atmosphere, 1950's style. My favourite dish - "bife da vazia à império com ovo", with wine, 25 euros pp. They have thematic diners (Italian, Mexican, Brazilian, etc, once a month) (metro station Alameda in Metro green line).
    - Adega das Gravatas - very good portuguese food (my favorite is a combo of Açorda de Gambas first and Secretos de porco preto after). Complete meal around 20 euros pp. (it's in a totally different area of town, Carnide (read "car need").
    Even if you don't have the chance to explore any of the previous, at least I thing it could be funny to google them, a plus considering the unfair weather.

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    thurdsday, I know you never implied that, lol. But I had read reviews from others before. I was happy with the place. We will not cringe (too much) at greasy spoons if there is really good food to be had. We are flexible gluttons like that. ;-)

    Lobo, we really need to do something about this weather! I bought some razor clams and dourada fillets this morning in the Ribeira market, with the intention of cooking them tonight after a brisk walk through town. But it is not really fish weather. Though I just found a recipe for cream braised bream....

    Instead I'm sitting in the apartment, watching the rain from the window, sweaters on and everything, braising the ossobucco that I also bought on a whim. Maybe I'll even make potatoes au gratin. Full winter fare, lol. It never gets this cold in San Juan (or most of PR for that matter!).


    Thank God it is a nice and comfortable apartment! (once you get up) We have seen a lot more of it than we intended.


    If this keeps going we might just need to get some rain gear and start doing day trips anyway.

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    I went to Orkney one year in high summer, took an apartment, the hurricane arrived the first day.

    We discovered a sewing machine at the back of the place and made kites for the whole holiday :-)

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    MmeP, in my weird mind fish is something 'light' to have on hot evenings or deep fried by the beach, though I know that there are a gazillion recipes out there for hearty fish dishes.

    Bilbo, I have already unraveled a scarf and restarted knitting another, lol. This rain must not continue!

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    Tuesday, April 13: What Is THAT!?!?!

    Weather was still not cooperating but we set out for a walk around what the phone is informing me by the tags on my pictures, was Mercês, Bica and São Paulo. I have mixed feelings about these GPS tags added to all pictures. On one hand the Big Brother feeling is a bit creepy, but on the other, it is just SO useful to know where each one was taken.

    I finally gave in and started taking pictures of tilework. I had hesitated because I knew that once I started, they would just pile up. I mean, I took 27 different pictures in just a street less than 150m long. The wonders of digital photography! Takes nothing but storage space, battery charge, and then hours of editing and filing.

    We keep finding our way to the Ribeira market (maybe because it is the flattest route –though certainly not the shortest- from the apartment to the Baixa). But today DH had something else in mind, he wanted to make a stop in his Calamari Camino.

    So we follow the drill; hustle for seats among the throng of tourists, I get assigned the Guarding of Our Place, and DH goes in search of the place he had seen the fried calamari on the menu. Then he comes back with two glasses of white wine and the buzzer that will buzz when the order is ready. The thingie finally goes off and he goes to retrieve his treasure, while I wait. And wait. And wait some more.

    Then I see him, coming back , with a decidedly sheepish smile, carrying a tray with…. WTF?!? Yeah, I did say it out loud. From a few feet away I thought it was a plate of morcillas (blood sausage), which I really like but he only tolerates and would never order them for himself. Did he get the wrong order? But no, it is not a cased sausage as the surface was not shiny or smooth. He finally sets it down on the table.

    ‘WTF is THAT?’ I ask. ‘Fried Calamari’ he answers. ‘The guy says there is ink in the batter.’ Ohhhh…. Out come the reading glasses, as this truly merits close inspection. I see that there are little suckers (as the ones in an octopus’ leg) molded out by batter. The only thing I could come up with was an episode of Top Chef where they had a Halloween Challenge and the goal was to make visually shocking dishes. OK, I am VERY far from squeamish, but this unequivocally looked like a plate of (there is no polite way of stepping around this without losing the intensity of the moment) poop. Yeap. With tiny strips of julienned basil over it for… aesthetical purposes!?!? Really? Now I start thinking of the digestive system of herbivores. Again, WTF? OH, I have neglected to add that there was a little brownish and thin sauce on the bottom of the plate. Seriously?!?!?

    So we both sit there looking out our plate of poop, feeling the collective horror of the diners sitting around us, and we burst out laughing. We bravely take our knives and forks and cut into one of the –ahem- segments. The flesh of the cuttlefish is pristine white inside! Ok, this begins to be recognizable. The bodies are cut into strips, not rings, thus the elongated pieces. We think for a moment of Andrew Zimmerman and his Bizarre Foods, hope for the best, and finally take our bites… It was delicious.

    The black batter was tasty and perfectly fried to crispy. The calamari inside was tender and very well seasoned. The brown sauce was a tangy / vinegary, cutting through the richness of the batter. We both agreed that we would even be willing to have it again. This one certainly made it into the Calamari Camino Hall of Fame. If only for the shock factor.

    We lingered for a second round of white wines while striking up conversation with a family group sitting across from us. They had quite the interesting composition: Korean born brother and sister, he is married to a Japanese American woman and live in Southern California, she is married to a Swiss guy from Zurich and they live in the Algarve. It took all of two minutes of conversation to get into the Puerto Rico Financial Crisis. Oy!

    The rain held almost long enough to get home, we only got drenched in the last 2 minutes. Dinner was very plain and highly recognizable chicken legs with asparagus and carrots. We had had enough shock for one day.

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    Dear Marigross:
    I have 2 suggestions for the intervals between your knitting activities.
    The 1st is an album of 90 photos aged 60 years on average. Most of the photos were taken in places you are familiar with. Try to spot the differences between then and now. My comment is that once the cars were much more the owners of the public space than now.
    http://observador.pt/2016/04/13/um-passeio-90-fotos-na-lisboa-antiga/
    The 2nd is the best kept secret of Lisbon. Is a huge green house with exotic botanical species from all over the world. It's nice, relaxing and hopefuly doesn't rain inside
    http://lisboacool.com/en/visit/estufa-fria-and-estufa-quente-in-the-heart-of-lisbon-since-forever

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    Wednesday, April 14: The German Invasion and a Very Different Church

    According to the Weather Channel, we would have a few hours of sun this day. We headed out in a different direction to explore new neighborhoods. First up Principe Real and then further up to Rato, making our way down to Marquês de Pombal and on to the other side. We basically just wandered the residential streets, taking pictures and looking into menus (this is a hobby of ours).

    I mentioned before that if you keep walking from the Baixa up Sao Antoao street past the pedestrian segment and all the way to the height of Marqués de Pombal, the food offering turns from Standard Tourist Fare to Real Food. Downtown they had been apparently absent but in this area the ‘menu del dia’ are abundant and you can pick and choose between many restaurants offering €5 meals with 1ro, 2do, sobremesa & café.

    We were still full from our brunch at home but we were beginning to get thirsty. We start looking for a place to drop down for a while and watch the world go by. Except all the cafés were full to the brim and the World that day seemed to be composed of the devoted fans of the Bayern football club, all dressed in red jerseys and quite a few wearing lederhosen. In the evening the Bayern would play Benfica in the Lisbon stadium and apparently every single airplane in Munich and the rest of Bavaria had been chartered to bring the fans in.

    As to be expected anywhere that large amounts of Germans (well, or any kind of football fans for that matter) gather, lots of beer had been steadily consumed since early in the morning. From one end of the Praça de Rossio to the other, animated singing of what I assume are club anthems and Bavarian odes to the Fatherland was taking place under the watchful eye of a respectable portion of the Lisbon police force.

    The outside of Pasteleria Suiça was one red and white mass of inebriated Germans. Now, don’t take me wrong, I’m not being (too) judgmental here. This type of gathering can be fun, but mostly when one is part of the inebriated crowd. And we were dead sober at that point, so no. Not in the mood. We start heading for the backstreets and suddenly I spy that the door to the church in the small Praça was open, of course we make a beeline for it.

    The exterior is as about as lackluster as churches come, but once you pass the threshold… WOW.

    The first sight of the interior of Igreja de São Domingo took my breath away. It was beautiful and impressive in a creepy sort of way. Raw was the adjective that came to mind. We were –both- completely awed into silence.

    I suddenly found myself remembering one of the creepiest places that I have even been to, the basilica in the Valle de los Caídos in Spain, with its theatrical lighting and massive Fascist Propaganda meets Modernist Architecture style. Now, this has nothing to do with the church’s actual architecture –I’ll get to that in a moment- but all about the overwhelming feeling of Space. The air itself acts as an architectural feature.

    Places like this must have been the inspiration for the stage settings of Batman’s Gotham, or maybe even post apocalyptic movies… Planet of the Apes (The Charlton Heston one, of course!) with the toppled Lady Liberty scene at the end came to mind.

    I did not have any guidebooks with me, not that they would have helped as this church is not even mentioned in any of the three I have with me (Rick Steves’, Michelin Green Guide and Rough Guide). So I was having a hard time even comprehending what I was seeing. This can actually be a Very Good Thing, as it frees your mind to actually observe without rational pre-digested information.

    I just looked and wondered, what had happened to this place? My theory at the time –though proven incorrect afterwards with a quick Wiki check - was that it had had its roof collapse in the 1775 (up to here it was true) and that it had been exposed to the elements until a recent restoration, leaving it with its weathered, almost inside-out interior. But it would take a deluge of acid rain to damage the interior so much in just two centuries… It did not add up. Did something Bad happen in here? Did it get bombed?

    What actually happened was that it was severely damaged in a fire in the 1950’s. The subsequent restoration opted to rebuild the roof with very minimalistic half-cannon vaulting and ribbing, and leave many of the signs of raging fire in place. What you see are the actual remains of the scorched walls.

    This church stands naked and proud in front you. Stripped of its former glories, when Royal Weddings took place and Kings were buried in its hallowed ground. You can just feel the passage of Time.

    The size of the church is quite impressive, but the oddly terracotta-colored ceiling makes it so dramatically different to other churches that it almost humanizes the scale. The sculptures in the small chapels and the altar contrast against the plainness of smoky gray walls.

    Okay, I’ll shut up now. I could go about it for ages. Go see it. Maybe it does the same thing for you as it did for us.

    We were back out in the World and with all the footballers around we gave up on trying to find a place for a drink around. Surprisingly, we managed to find an open table at Café A Brasileira where we proceeded to wait at least 20 minutes for a waiter to take our order while watching two girls perform a belly dance show. When the waiter finally showed up he informed us that they do not serve wine by the glass, only by the bottle. This would not have been a problem for us but the wind was picking up and we did know if we wanted to seat outside that long. So we had beers instead.

    We made it home with just about two minutes to spare before the downpour started.

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    Thanks for your report. I always like visiting Lisbon and Portugal because I love ceramic tiles. Nothing like a entire church or wall tiled from floor to ceiling. Of course, I love the south of Spain too.

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    Marigross, I agree with you about 'fish weather', but we have long, hot summers, so lightly cooked fish and salad is very common in Australia, and not so much the comfort food meals you'd expect in cold weather.
    That calamari dish sounds like it took some courage.

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    Thursday, April 15: Food Shopping

    We really needed to stock up on a few things, as in there is NOTHING to be had for dinner except reservations if we don’t go shopping. Rain was not exactly imminent so we decide to go down to the Ribeira market and see what ‘real’ food they had.

    I might sound a bit disappointed, but this needs to be qualified and put in perspective. Our last extended stay was in Valencia, Spain. We were able to get an apartment in the Ruzafa area, 25m away from a World Class food market. Valencia is known as the garden of Spain (‘Horta’) so the produce selection was beyond belief. The Ribeira market was not as abundant, but still had a lot more stuff than we are able to get back home. We got dourada fillets, razor clams, osso bucco (he said it was veal, but I think it was old cow, lol) and a Borrego (lamb) ‘paletilla’ as our proteins and some nice veggies to go along with them.

    It was still early and most of the restaurants in the market were still closed so we opted for soups among the limited options. Caldo Verde for me and Sopa de Pedra for DH. Sadly they were barely lukewarm. The caldo verde was made vegetarian and the chouriço added upon request, naturally this process will not impart the flavor of the sausage to the soup. So no big recommendation from us for the soup stand.

    We returned home with our bounty and hunkered down for the rest of the rainy afternoon. The ossobuco was splendid and went great with the incessant rain and distant thunder.

    Friday, April 16: The Deluge Continues

    We did not go out at all. Stayed cozy inside, portable heater moving along with us from room to room. Despite the cold weather we made the dourada fillets and gluttoned ourselves out with razor clams. I began to fear that we will not see much of Lisbon after all if the yuckiness continues.


    Saturday, April 17: We Need To Get Out

    ‘Enough!’ I said. ‘We need to start doing things even though the weather is not good!’ This was declared from bed before the blackout shutters were lifted to reveal…. Not Completely Awful Weather. Ok! Let’s do this. I debated where to go over coffee. It was Saturday, not optimal for Belém where weekend crowds are notorious and should be even worse given that this was the first weather break in days. Cascais? Estoril? Hummm. But I had started the morning with a will to live dangerously: Belém it was.

    We (well, Me) screwed up a bit with the transportation part as we took Tram 28 from San Bento to Praça de Comercio and then took Tram 15 to Belém when we should just have walked to Cais de Sodré and picked Tram 15 directly from there. Oh well, we were not in a hurry.

    On the other hand, the good part about this was that we were already inside the tram when people started ‘sardineying’ into it by the Cais de Sodré stop. By the time we got to Belem, we were tightly packed. However, this would pale in comparison to the retun trip….

    There are two stops to Belém, the first one is ‘Belem’ and the second is ‘Mosterio’, we wanted the second one and almost missed it because the conductor did not stop in the first one. Only when the car started emptying and we were able to see outside did we realize that we needed to scramble out.

    I will not go into a long winded description of what is a trip-destination worthy site. Or at least I will try not to. The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is a masterpiece of architecture. The Manueline style is known for the heavy use of decoration, but here it is combined with such airy and perfectly proportioned lines that the overall effect is incredibly elegant. I gawked at the outside for a while.

    Entrance to the church is free (access limited during mass) but tickets are required for the cloister. We, very wisely, opted to get the tickets first as the line had maybe 50 people in front of us (11:15am) but by the time we got the tickets, the queue was at least 3 times as long. We bought the combined ticket with the Torre de Belem (more on that later too).

    The Cloister… WOW! Such amplitude and height. The halls are wide, airy, and full of light. The Nautical motifs dominate the decoration, even the stonework on the ogival arcades is made to look like rope. Matter of fact, it is so ample that the intimacy of my favorite cloisters is on the verge of being lost.

    Entering the church through the Coro Alto first was, by chance, the best way to be introduced to this wondrous space. At this height one can really see the size and scale of the soaring columns, almost flowering into palm fronds, decorated with carvings all the way to the vaulting.

    There is a very interesting exhibit that has an extensive pictorial timeline combining the history of the World, the events related to the monastery and the history of Portugal itself. Overall we spent close to two hours in the cloister. This might be way too much time for most people, but I absolutely loved it.

    The church proper was a beauty too! I must say that it never really felt crowded in either the cloister or church.

    Our next stop was the Perdrão dos Descobrimentos, reached via an underpass across from the park. We were rapidly losing sunshine and opted not to go up (and there was a long line too!) and head straight to the tower. In hindsight, I thing I would have preferred to go up in the monument as –I think!- it would have had great views over the monastery itself. You know, 20/20 hindsight.

    The Torre de Belém is a thing of beauty. Sitting majestically over the river, its graceful lines not hiding entirely the fact that this was a fortification. We smugly bypassed the (long!) line as we had bought combined tickets, and entered the little castle. We went into the dungeon and up to the little rampart/terrace only to find that there was another queue to actually climb to the top.

    People are let into the tower in groups of 120. So we were standing out there a good 20 minutes before the line even started to move. We went in, only to find even more queuing. We missed getting into the next group by 8 persons. Another 20 minutes, but at least we were out of the wind which was really picking up. Finally the light goes green (literally) and we could go up.

    This might not be for everyone, especially if claustrophobic. You must go up to the top via a corkscrew (spiral is too wide of a description, lol!) staircase, your face to the butt of the person ahead of you, and you need to do it in one shot. No space to step aside and take a few minutes to breath as the staff is blocking the two open spaces; if someone stops the entire line stops as well as there is no space to bypass. No pressure, riiiiight!

    The view from the top must have been impressive on a clear day but the truth is that it was rather disappointing as the clouds had returned in full, and you cannot see the monastery from there. So, in a nutshell, in my perfect trip redo scenario I would have admired the tower from the outside and skipped the climb.

    But it was not the last of the disappointments of the day….

    There was one more thing I wanted to do before heading back, of course. We made a beeline through the park to the Casa Pasteis de Belém. There was a huge line in front but I remained confident as I was armed with the collective knowledge of Fodor’s. We found the door leading to the inside, and found the bar area to be completely full. Still, no problem, ‘we can go to the table service area’ (yeah, the one with the signs stating that there are 400 seating spaces). There were at least 50 persons in THAT queue. ‘I’m not making that line.’ DH stated in no uncertain terms. I had already made him climb up the tower, he had put up with my cloister gawking…. We left. Without trying the pasteis. Not a happy camper. Should have gotten them in the morning when we arrived. Again, 20/20 hindsight.

    So I dejectedly, and somewhat pouting, drag my feet across the street to the tram stop. Along with at least 100 other persons with whom we were going just about to get very acquainted with. To say that this was a full-body contact experience is an understatement. It looked like those you tube videos of the subway in Japan where they forcibly push the people into the cars. I mean, there was not even space for the pickpockets to make an appearance (there are signs all over the tram cars warning the people to be aware) though a few suspects seemed to be scouting prospectively.

    It was a very long short ride.

    We had to fight our way out to be able to extricate ourselves from the tram at the Cais de Sodré stop. From there we plodded straight into the Ribeira market for a desperately needed restorative glass of wine.

    Dinner was leg of lamb and roasted potatoes with carrots. And more wine. Lots of it.

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    Sunday, April 18: Just the Right Amount of Art

    One of the possibilities we had thrown around for the day was going to the Gulbenkian museum, which is free on Sundays. Waiving entrance fees is something that always perks DH’s interest. He voted ‘yay’. The next decision we needed to make was how to actually get there. We do not have a convenient metro stop (read that as without climbing uphill). We could take a bus almost in front of the apartment house but that only goes to Rato. But Rato is on the yellow metro line, so we would still need to change by Pombal. Maybe just get a taxi as has been suggested 10000 times over…. ‘It’s so nice outside, why don’t we just start walking and see how far we get?’ DH said, admiring the beautiful clear sky from our window.

    So we go up to Rato on foot and then continue on foot all the way up the Eduardo VII park where we joined dozens of Lisbonites (?) and tourist enjoying a day in the sun. We thought of visiting the greenhouses but the day was so nice that we decided to leave that for another yucky day. The view from the top of the hill by the fountain is worth the steady climb, Lisbon lies at your feet sprawling into the river.

    We eventually found our way to the museum from the wrong side, via the garden and through the adjoining music hall. The Museu Gulbenkian showcases the private collection of oil Tycoon Calauste Gulbenkian. I find these individual compilations somewhat mind boggling, that a single person (well…in the persona of a corporation) can own so much tangible wealth in the form of art in the modern era is… just plain weird and not quite right. It also somewhat brings what a fortune really is into human scale.

    Anyway, this is one of the most visitor-friendly art museums I have been. It flows seamlessly from room to room and subject matter. The collection is varied and interesting enough to be enjoyed by casual admirers of Art (such as DH, that just resigns himself to following me around on most of my museum marathon visits). He even exclaimed ‘Is that it? No more?’ when we had finished the tour; the highest compliment he can pay.

    Of special interest were the textiles and tiles, some of the paintings, a particularly breathtaking Rodin sculpture and the Lalique room. I just loved this ‘little’ museum.

    We wandered the backstreets somewhat parallel to the Avenida Liberdade and found ourselves attracted to a small but tightly packed restaurant; the kind with zero ambiance and the TV set on the soccer match. The daily menu offered enticing options so we decided to go in. O Cantinho de S. José will live forever in our memories as one of the best cheapest meals. We ordered the Cocido Portuguese and a Arroz con Polvo.

    The cocido was outstanding! This is not a dish for chicken-breast kind of people! It has trotters, pork belly, tongue (I think), morcilla (blood sausage) and farinata (fat and flour sausage). These are boiled with white beans, cabbage and potatoes and served over rice and some of the resulting broth. It is quite hearty and very tasty.

    The other dish was octopus cooked in a very soupy rice. I expected a drier or at least a creamier consistency, but it was still very good. It was closer to a Puertorican asopao soup than to a paella/dirty rice style dish. The octopus was very tender but the flavor of the rice did not stand up in comparison with the cocido. It was way too much food, even the cocido by itself would have been more than enough for both of us. Thankfully we had declined bread, cheese and butter so were able to soldier through most of it. With a bottle of wine and two coffees the bill came to an almost ridiculous €21.30.

    Satisfied with a remarkable meal we rolled down Rua de São José into the gloriously sunny, bright blue skied afternoon. We managed –after some jostling- to snag an outside table at Pasteleira Suiça, ordered two white wines and settled to observe the Progress of The World. When the glasses ran empty, DH just said ‘maybe we should have ordered the bottle…’ I will only add that even at that point, we should have STILL ordered the bottle. We did not get up from the table until sundown. It was heavenly. Bill was €18,40 for 8 glasses of a delightfully light and ever so slightly fizzy Vinho Verde.

    Yeah, we are digging Lisbon in the Sun.

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    Yay, some nice sun for you !!! Devouring every line of your live report.

    Watched the Spanish newscast last night (Telediario de las 9 en TVE 1) and understood from the weather forecast for the peninsula (extremely well explained and detailed compared to what I get where I live) that there is a stubborn low pressure system just off the coast in the Atlantic that is not seemingly going anywhere ... The entire western half of the Iberian peninsula is affected. Hopefully this system it will finally move on soon.

    Oh, and a minor point on your travel log, it seems that your dates are all off by one day, for example Sunday was the 17, not the 18 etc. Perhaps you are using a calendar where the printed beginning of each week is the Monday (far left) and ending on Sunday (far right) and causing confusion?

    All the best with your continuation.

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    A Few More Random Thoughts and Observations

    - There seem to be no stray dogs or cats in Lisbon. I have not seen a single one of them; and I have looked. It is something I’m very much aware of as we have a serious problem with this in Puerto Rico and I am a loving petmom. I miss my furries.

    - The Portuguese seem extremely pleasant and everyone is eager to provide service. We have met ONE surly waiter so far. And I don’t think he was even Portuguese. I had the same impression of general ‘helpfulness’ from the Greeks. I don’t know if it has always been their nature or if the economic hardship tis what makes them so willing. Someone should notify the Spanish of this, lol. Not that they are not nice, just not so inclined to customer service.

    - I think drivers are required to stop in crossings, but it is a game of chicken. If you hesitate for a second, the driver will continue forward. Jaywalking is extensive; we have been guilty of this.

    -This might be weather related, as most people are still very much bundled up, but it seems that tattoos are not nearly as common as they are in Spain and further north, or even the US. We’ll see when the temperature goes up and people bare it all.

    - People seem to just put out their garbage out in the curb in front of their apartment buildings. Of course this is only possible because… there are NO stray dogs. The containers I have seen are few and far between, almost all are for recycling, not regular garbage. Recycling does not seem to be that much of a big thing as in other parts of the EU. The garbage truck does come around almost every night so it does not accumulate for long.

    - Older ladies wear tailored suits to go around town during the weekend, but I have not seen estate-worthy jewelry as in some areas of Spain. Maybe it has been sold away or just that they go for a more discreet look. Or just I’m not hanging around the elegant places. Since I lust after those massive, heirloom quality, 24K bracelets, I notice these things (not that I actually ever own any).

    - I had never, EVER, seen as many older gentlemen wearing velvet jackets as I have in the last two weeks.

    - Oh, and shorts with stockings. Never seen as many. What is up with that? I realize that I come from a tropical climate and I have not worn stockings in the last 30 years (with an exception here and there for extremely formal business meetings in colder locations). But, really??? I’m even fine with the leggings under dresses or skirts. But if it is not warm enough to go bare legged why don’t you just wear long pants? This one is beyond me.

    - We are still maintaining the theory that Portuguese wines are hangover free. We have had several evenings where at least a little headache should have been present in the morning. This is a double edged sword, as fear of hangovers and insomnia is one of the things keeping us away from full-fledged alcoholism.

    - There is a lot of small construction and home renovations all over town.

    - You do need to look where you are stepping all the time. Not only are the paved sidewalks uneven, but there might be dog poop in your way.

    - Wifi is available in many places and the speed is not bad. However, in the hole-in-the-wall gritty bars they’ll look at you like you are an idiot if you ask for wifi, and rightfully so. You are there to either talk or watch the football match. If you don’t want to do either, you can read a book. The paper kind.

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    I believe you want to say shorts and "collants", not socks! If you mean socks (under knees), well, those girls were tourists.

    I'm not sure what "jaywalking" means, but I believe it means crossing out of crossings. It is forbiden if you have a crossing less than (I guess, don't exactly remember) 20 meters from you. Otherwise it is allowed. But even if you have, it's a forbidden thing that everyone does and it's ok (and be carefull, even on crossings you can be responsible if an accidents occurs and the driver can prove you jump to it all of a sudden).

    Jewelry - not nice to use except if you are going to a party. If you are on the street, no matter how good you are dressed on, it's not elegant to use.

    Tattoos? That weird thing foreing people put on their skin? Yes, some portuguese have it, due to an american program that become very popular. You cannot donate boold if you "wear" tattoos, and we like to donate blood (and marrow too).

    Paper books - kindle is ok, but has no smell! The second best thing of a book is how it smells!

    You are vey accurate, I like reading this review! I hope weather gets better while you're staying.

    Helena

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    I am really enjoying your trip report, thanks so much for sharing. I love the idea of the calamari camino, sounds like a great travel theme. My favorite line so far:

    "The ossobuco was splendid and went great with the incessant rain and distant thunder."

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    Hi all! Thanks for hanging with me so far. After so many years of Technical Writing I'm really enjoying getting back my 'voice'.

    Yes I meant girls (teens and twentysomethings) wearing shorts with sheer stockings / pantyhoses underneath. It looks weird and on top of that they don't look very warm as they walk by. OMG! Have I officially turned into an...OLD LADY!?!?!

    Seems to be too cold for the guys to break out the shorts with foot socks and sandals, lol. Haven't seen any yet.

    About the jewelry, I don't mean like big diamonds or precious stones. In Spain and Latin America it is quite common for the older ladies to wear serious amounts of gold during daytime in the form of earrings, religious medals hanging from chains and bracelets. These can be 'event' bangles engraved with wedding dates, anniversaries, births of children or links with charms, usually the initials of kids and grand kids.

    I just find it quite interesting to contrast Spanish life against the Portuguese customs, finding them very different for such close proximity. However, I have not been much to Western Spain, where it nears Portugal. That will be fixed in the following weeks when we take a detour from Portugal into the Spanish Extremadura.

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    Monday, April 18: A Walk Across Town

    Sunday’s bright skies were not repeated on this Monday morning. But hey, DH is still waking me up to ‘Smile, it’s Monday and you don’t have to go to work.’ Now THAT will brighten your day immediately. Maybe someday it will get old, but just not yet. And the weather was not totally awful either.

    We set out (after the long breakfast turned basically into almost lunch) with somewhat undecided plans. We head into the Baixa, via the riverside route and take the Elevador do Castelo on a whim. We had not yet been up the second elevator, the one with the Pingo Doce in the basement.

    BTW this does not translate well into puertorican slang –male genitalia and 12 inches implied-, lol. And the translation of ‘sweet drop’ makes it even more obscene, ROTFLMAO). Anyway, the terrace on top of this building/elevator is totally awesome! Would have stopped there for drinks if we had just not cleared breakfast what seemed to be only moments before. Not that we would have any problem with this, we were just too full.

    Our aim was just to wander (now, that’s an oxymoron for you) and we found our way to the Santa Luzia miradouro. We stepped into the Igreja de Santa Luzia which had not looked open when we had been there before. I have an interest in the history of Knights Templar (we ALL have some guilty pleasure!) so this was appealing to me as the headquarters of the Order of Malta, but aside from its privileged location, there is not much to see. We continued on to San Vicente Fora with half a though to visit the museum, but it was Monday and it was closed.

    From the miradouro I had seen the cupola of Santa Engracia, a.k.a. the Panteon Nacional. Since it did not look that far, and one sort of does need a vague destination for optimal wandering, we decided to head in that direction. I can hear in my mind the collective ‘Noooo! Doesn’t she learn? It’s MONDAY. It will be closed. And she should be heading in that direction on a TUESDAY anyway, so that she could see the Feria de Ladra as well.’ My only reply to that, well, we were just wandering around that neighborhood and I did half expected it to be closed. No biggie.

    The Campo de Santa Clara was lovely and we found a little café which served us €1 glasses of nice white wine. The Panteon was closed, of course. We continued parallel to the river and found ourselves by the Alfama Praça, with its umbrellas and unbeatable people watching. Oh, and it is the home of the ONE surly waiter in all of Lisbon (as per our non-statistically significant sampling). Of course we stopped and had another round of wine… for €2 each. Still not bad, we can deal with surliness.

    Funny thing, there was this older lady sitting on the table next to us when we arrived. She had ordered a coffee and then ordered a mojito (Hey, I’m not judging! Who knows how jetlagged she was? And I clearly remember some days at work when that combo would have been just about perfect at 3:00pm). What struck me as weird was that she got up to use the service and LEFT EVERYTHING on the table! In an outdoor café. On a very busy plaza. She left her backpack on the chair next to her (maybe it was empty and it was a low risk item) and on top of the table her camera, her book, and her drink. Everything. Maybe she should have had a second cup of coffee and skipped the alcohol.

    I think I was horrified the most about the abandonment of a drink in a public area. Something girls back home get drilled into their brain never to do since they are the elementary school. Which led to the even more disconcerting thought that there might be an age where you are most likely not going to be the target of date rape drugs. Immediately followed by a completely taken aback ‘OMG! Am I there already!?!?!’ But no, not only am I still comfortably in the middle age range but DH assured me that I was still prime date material and he would be happy to pick me up in any bar. Yeah, we are weird that way.

    I’m happy to report that nothing was stolen from the table and the lady finished her mojito in peace, unhindered by my rambling thoughts.

    On the way home we stopped by the butcher and picked up some pork chops to have with sweet potatoes for dinner.

    OK, we are still digging Lisbon without bright sun and with slightly cloudy skies. At least is not THAT cold. Or we just got used to it.

    Tuesday, April 19: But it is so cozy in here…

    I tried, I really tried. But DH was not eager to move around much. So I did a Pilates youtube video. DH was still hunkered down reading the Swiss newspaper on the laptop and sipping coffee. Then I did a second Pilates video, even if my legs were a little wobbly by now. Nope, he was barely making eye contact when I started throwing potential plans around.

    So I poured myself a (third?) cup of coffee and continued writing this TR and tinkering around with blog ideas for the rest of the day. But we did have to go out as we had no food! We decided to go to the bigger Pingo Doce (Oy!) supermarket in Rato.

    I know this is not universal, but I find supermarkets abroad to be so interesting. Puerto Rico has historically turned its back to agriculture in favor of manufacturing. The fishing industry is basically in a comma waiting to be disconnected. There is some local dairy and meat production but the drought and overall recession is strangling those farmers as well.

    All this means that most of the food is imported; limiting the offering and hiking up the price. Eating well back home is not cheap. On top of that, the financial crisis has made supermarkets streamline their stock; years ago you could find 20 different types of mustard in any store and now it might be down to 5. Happily, in recent years has there been a revival of young farmers bringing back local produce to coops. I keep my hopes up.

    I took my time walking through the supermarket, so many different flavors of Knorr soups! Entire segments dedicated to canned fish (we might just make a meal out of these) and still the fresh fish looked so… well, fresh. The prices are ridiculously low when compared to home. What I also found very curious was that ‘beauty’ products were the complete opposite.

    For example, hair dye. I know, but bear with me for a second, it’s just a case in point. Back home I buy Loreal’s Preference hair dye in any store for $7 +/- $1, here it was 12€. Now I have to figure out how to dye my hair in the minuscule and cold bathroom with only white towels around. But I disgress…

    I was intrigued by a big selection of prepackaged stuffed ground meat rolls, kind of like a meatloaf thingie. The butcher even had a few ‘homemade’ selection of these in his counter. So we picked up one filled with ham and cheese to try it out along with a whole bunch of other goodies. .

    I’m happy to report that the ‘meatloaf’ concoction was very good and will be added to my culinary repertoire with a few twists.

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    I also just stumbled on your TR. Fabulous. We are headed to Portugal in 2 weeks. I'm hoping we have better weather since we will only be there for 3 weeks. Like you, my DH has been retired for quite a while now. I am taking the plunge this year so we can do more SLOW travel.

    Thanks for some really great tips too.

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    marigross… am loving your report. Wish you were having better weather.
    Have had two brief visits to Lisbon centuries ago… sure wish I could go again.
    Your report is an excellent substitute!

    Guess we were in Lisbon before the restaurant at the castle was turned into a touristo trappo. I remember having my first taste of swordfish carpaccio and delicious grilled shrimp. Also had a wonderful dish of pork and clams in a green sauce at a restaurant that was THE place but probably gone now. Like your DH I am always on the hunt for calamari.

    Glad you made it to the Gulbenkian…one of the highlights of our visit.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for more sun!!

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    Thanks to all for putting up with my babbling!

    The 3 Green Doors have a sign with "The Independente" so I guess that is what confused me.

    Jamikins, I love your TRs with Bikerscott. Yes, we do travel similarly.

    We have been busier these days so I'll soon post about things we actually did, lol.

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    Tuesday, April 19: Nothing to Report

    Yup, that’s right. Nothing to report. We lazied around all day, wallowing in the yucky weather.


    Wednesday, April 20: Almost nothing to Report

    Well, at least we went out. I thought that when we were headed to Cais de Sodré, it was with the intention of going to Cacilhas or Cascais. But noooo….. DH just wanted to inquire about going to Cacilhas or Cascais. Even after 18 years together this left me a little discombobulated. I guess he was not in the mood to really go anywhere requiring much effort and/or exposure to the looming clouds.

    ‘Okay’ I said, ‘but now you have to decide what you want to do.’ His counter proposal was ‘why don’t we go the Mercado and think about it over a glass of white’. This is, in a nutshell, why we are a successful couple.

    This was the perfect time to go and try a place I had been keeping an eye out for, Croqueteria, because of my eternal Croqueta Quest. We sat down on their stools and ordered ‘two glasses of wine and one of every croqueta flavor. They had 7 types: tradicional, chicken, duck with grelos, cheese, tuna and tomatoes, bacalhao and….. choco en tinta (squid in its ink)! The Calamari Camino intersects the Croqueta Quest. Day was perking up quickly.

    I could go into a detailed description of each and everyone but will limit it to just saying that the Top Croqueta was a tie between Tradicional and Choco. The Tradicional was deliciously creamy inside and actually contained recognizable pieces of meat, the only thing that kept it from being the Perfect Croqueta was that the outside was not crispy enough to take the prize. The Choco was an ugly little black thing, but at least we knew that beforehand, lol. It was delicious! Not as creamy as the other one but very moist and the ink actually gave it an incredible depth of flavor.

    The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around, with the precursory stop at Pasteleria Suiça. We were equally entertained by the street performers as by the beggars and sunglass salesmen.

    I think I figured out why there is always such debate about how bad the begging problem is in any given city. The tourists complain about the incessant harassment and the locals are completely bewildered, having no idea what these visitors are talking about. It –at least it seems to me- is because the beggars NEVER really approach the locals! None of the sad-looking women that carry pictures of their sick babies around gave more than a passing glance to any of the locals, the sunglass guys completely bypassed them as well.

    Having had the revelation of the day, we headed to the Elevador de Gloria as DH had finally decided to give public (vertical) transportation a chance. There was a loooooong line. DH gives up on the thing once it became obvious we were not going to make it into the car and starts walking up. I decide to take on the challenge and try to outrace the tram car up hill. I’m happy to report that it was a tie (I had about 1.5 minute headstart). That Lisbon Legs workout is not that bad after all.

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    I had an experience with a beggar who cursed me when I did not give her any money... did not bother me a bit and just keep on walking, I guess because living in NYC I have seen them all!

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    Lobos, loved the blog post.

    This sunny day is KILLING me. I'm on the mend but DH is still passed out in the couch. Its probably (hopefully!) a 24hour virus and by tomorrow we should both be fine.

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    .

    Thursday, April 21: Across the River

    Having acquired all the necessary practical information the day before and relaying on a weather report that vaguely promised not to leave us drenched in the open, we headed bright and early (well… grayish blue and around 11:00am if one insists on details) to Cais de Sodré. We were still flip-flopping as to where our destination should be but once we were there, there was no alternative but to commit. We were going Across The River.

    I had read that Cacilhas was touted as a ‘less touristy’ destination as a day trip from Lisbon. I guess that what this really means is that the local Lisboetas also go this place to hang around, not only foreigners. But on a Thursday morning, the ferry boat was full of tourist hailing from all corners of the globe. Oh, and a grandma with her little girl that had obviously just gotten one of those mechanical barking and walking toy dogs that yelp unmercifully. Betcha the mom reeeeeally appreciated grandma’s gift when they got home.

    This would have been a spectacular day trip with bright blue skies, because even with the grayish clouds it was still quite nice. The views of Lisbon and the bridge are just unparalleled.

    We disembarked in Cacilhas and headed to the Nautico to catch a glimpse of the dry docked submarine and frigate but chose not to go into the sailboat. After walking around a bit in the small and restaurant-dense pedestrian street, we backtracked back to the terminal and headed the other way, along the riverfront.

    The riverfront walk is lined with abandoned, graffiti covered (some really nice) and fully decaying warehouses. Some sections looked intriguing but certainly not inviting to go in for a peek as some people have occupied the spaces and watchful dogs stand guard by the rickety doors.

    If I am totally honest, I will come clean and say that this walk is a bit creepy and that I’m not even sure if I had continued on my own. This, however, needs to be qualified as my hometown has a few similar-looking areas where one does not want to wander in by herself. This is more a reflection of ME than of the place itself.

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    (continued)

    Maybe if we had headed this way immediately after disembarking, along with the crowd, I might not have even noticed. But it was just the two of us at the time. Anyway, the reward at the end is totally worth it. So my 2 cents of advice: if you are uneasy, wait a little and tag along with the next group.

    So we walked to what seemed to be the end of the Riverwalk but is really just a sharp turn, and saw these two delightful looking restaurants, their brightly colored tables and umbrellas waiting for the weary traveler to sit down and linger over lunch. It was still a bit early for us to eat anything (those humongous breakfasts we keep having) so we continued on to the bottom of the Boca de Vento elevator.

    The attendant hangs around at the bar on top, so if you don’t see anyone just ring the bell and wait patiently. The guy will ride down. We were charged 1€ for a single-way ride for both of us. The sun finally broke a bit through the clouds and the wind had stopped so we seized the moment and plunked down in the bar to sip a little wine as an aperitif and enjoy the endless view of Lisbon in all her splendor.

    As it was almost 2:00pm we decided that the best use of our time was to go back down to pretty restaurant and have a little lunch. Hah! As if there was something in Portugal that would qualify as a ‘little lunch’. We went back down using the stairs next to the bar and settled down in Restaurant Ponto Final. The bright yellow tables were placed all the way to the very edge of the walkway, making for very picturesque images but too close to the waves for comfort. We chose to sit in a corner, just next to the warm wall and out of the wind. The people in the ‘outer’ section eventually had to go and get some of the blankets provided by the restaurant.

    This place had been recommended by the guy that owns the apartment we are staying in and he had said that we had to have the tomato rice. I had not been overly impressed by the rices I had so far had in Portugal so I was a little wary of following the rec. Well, I’m glad I did. I ordered the fried small fish (forgot the name but I think it was translated as mackerel) with the tomato rice and DH ordered grilled sardines which came with boiled potatoes and salad.

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    Something seems to be corrupted in my Word document, sorry for the multiple posts!!!

    The tomato rice came in a piping hot clay pot, the apparently soupy contents still bubbling. However, a quick stir and after a minute or two, the broth was absorbed and the resulting rice had the texture of a risotto. It was incredibly tasty, with the one caveat of it being a bit on the acid side. However, this complimented the fried fish very well.

    With coffee, wine and the two entrées (we declined the appetizers) we paid 36€ for a very good meal with wonderful views.

    After lunch, we rode the elevator back up (this time we were charged 2€ and leisurely walked back down from Almada to Cacilhas. Earlier we had considered the walk to Cristo Rei but gave up on it because we did not want to walk that far in the iffy weather for more gray views of Lisbon.

    The ferry boat ride back to Lisbon as a little choppier as the wind had decidedly picked up, but it is so short that I doubt anyone would ever get seasick in transit.

    We did not quite make it home before the rain started but close enough not to get too wet.

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    Friday, April 22: And Out of Lisbon

    The weather app, once again, was not really committing to anything. But at least the probability of rain was forecasted as low. It was time to get out of Lisbon.

    There was still that pending Sintra matter to consider. I have a few days ‘open’ at the end of the trip where I can go to either Sintra or Nazaré and spend two nights in one of them. This was built in the itinerary this way because I was unsure if I would ever make it out of Lisbon to Sintra as a daytrip and because there is so much to see around Sintra that I hesitated to limit the visit to just a daytrip. On the other hand, by the end of this trip we might be so vacationed-out that spending 3 days on the beach might be all we want to do. I continued to ponder this over coffee, coming to no resolution except that we were going to go to Cascais for the day. The Sintra Matter will have to wait another day, everyone is welcome to weigh in.

    As usual, we walked to Cais de Sodré because I think that it takes less time than it would take to go to the bus stop and transfer to the bus actually heading in that direction (unless I’m completely missing something in the Carris map). And it is all downhill from where we are. We bought our tickets from the very helpful girl attendant and were able to jump onto the train with 5 seconds to spare before departure.

    One should pay attention if going early as some of the trains departing before 10:00am do not make all the stops; some go from Cais de Sodré to the halfway point and the others only make the stops after the halfway stop and Cascais. But it was shortly after 10:00am, so nothing to worry about.

    Everyone should go to Cascais, if only to enjoy the coastal views. The car was comfortable and once we were past the Belém stop we were able to sit and enjoy the scenery.

    I might have mentioned that I’m not a shopper. Let me stress that: I’m not a shopper. I dislike shopping and I often come home from trips without buying a single non-edible thing. Having said that you step out of the Cascais train station and step into a mad medley of clothing stores, souvenir stands and restaurants. I was ready to bolt! Honestly, my first impression was ‘and why did we want to come here!?!?’.

    DH had been in Cascais ages ago with Previous Wife so he persevered, telling to me about the wonders that lay ahead. Well, he was right. We walked past the restaurants and into the little beach. Yeah, this was more like it!

    We circled the Ciudadela fortress and went into the Pousada inside. The views over the harbor were impressive but even though I live a very minimalistic life, I prefer my hotels quaint and cozy. From the inner open space this Pousada did not seem like my cup of tea.

    We crossed the river and went into the Faro de Santa Marta lighthouse and museum. Tiny but interesting enough to spend a few minutes looking at their exhibits. And it’s free. We walked further along the coast but DH was not too keen on going further. Me? I was feeling for the first time in this trip the urge to dust off my running shoes and take off on the path. I have been nursing a hamstring so my running has been limited for a while. But I have to admit that even if that was not the case, Lisbon was not really inviting me to run.

    Our next stop was at the Conde Castro Guimares museum. This house is set in the gorgeous and well-maintained Parque Municipal Gandarinha. The residence is a mixed style, romantic revival building constructed in the early 1900’s that should be the tackiest thing around but somehow manages to come together. The visit is free and absolutely worthwhile, even if it was not.

    We wandered the beautiful residential streets of Cascais until it was time to start looking for a place to have lunch.

    DH has several talents that make him a highly desirable and competent travel partner. He can read a map, has an almost unfailing sense of direction and is even willing to ask around when in doubt, can fix a lot of things with a Swiss Army knife, he can drive stick shift, and he does not mind driving for hours when I come up with crazy road trips. But the one ability that has revealed itself over the last few years is a true treasure: he has a knack for spotting completely unremarkable, whole-in-the-wall, cheap as they come restaurants where unbelievably good food is served.

    When this talent started showing up I had mixed feelings about it. I mean, I put in long hours of internet research across multiple boards to come up with lists of restaurant recommendation, and he just picks these places randomly? And the places all look so…. Unattractive.

    As we walked down through the refreshingly quaint backstreets of Cascais, he spots a menu sign that said they had ‘Arroz con Choco’. Just then it starts to drizzle, so a quick decision was made and we went into Restaurante Melody. Even the name…. really!?!?

    The place had maybe 10 tables and it was quite full with what looked like all locals. Given the familiarity with which all were addressed, they seemed to be like regulars in there. And all of them were having the ‘Arroz con Choco’. This begins to look better and better by the minute.

    We place our order of ‘Almeioas’ (sp?; clams) and ‘Arroz con Choco’ (rice with squid) in Universal Restaurant Sign Language mixed in with a smattering of Spanish. The lady was one of the very few persons we have encountered that did not speak English. It took a while as there seemed to be only two persons in charge of the place, one in the kitchen and the lady outside doing everything else.

    The clams were good, plump and dressed with garlic and cilantro (I’m pretty sure it was not parsley of a different variety, but I’m not taking any bets on this one). We dipped our bread happily into the sauce until everything was gone.

    The rice came in little aluminum pots with lid and everything. Same as with the rice we had had in Cacilhas the day before, it looked very soupy initially but within minutes the liquid was absorbed and the consistency was risotto like. I can rave endlessly about how good this rice was! The seasoning was perfect, I’m betting that a sofrito of red peppers, onion and cilantro was the base. The squid was incredibly tender yet firm enough to bit through it. We unashamedly even wiped the pot clean with our bread. Hey…. No need to impress anyone in this kind of joint (truth be told, we are not that much into impressing people anywhere anyway, lol).

    We were sharing the two dishes, and for a second we considered actually ordering a second serving of the rice (well, the clams were not that much!) but we are trying not to overeat that much. The operative word here being ‘trying’. Bill was 22€.

    For coffee we opted to move to the main drag and enjoy some people watching. We spotted an outside table in Café Bijou, moved in rapidly to claim it. Speed, focus, and not making eye contact with your competitors is the key into scoring these highly desirable tables.

    DH ordered his coffee while I went inside to look at the sweet offerings. Next to the ubiquitous mountain of pasteis de nata, were these beautiful almond pastries that almost looked like a pizza. OoooMmmGggg. The waitress said that they are called ‘Jesuitas’ with almonds. I had had a similarly named pastry before but covered with a thin layer of merengue. In both instances the wispy thin crust was filled a cinnamon mixture, maybe ‘filled’ is too much as a description; perhaps ‘spread’ would be more accurate.

    Anyway, this particular Jesuita had this layer of roasted almonds on top, just brown enough to enhance the nut flavor. DH jokingly had a bite as it would be pizza, as he NEVER has sweets. He doesn’t like them in general. You should have seen his face. He called the waitress and ordered one for himself.

    The skies had cleared enough for us to go ahead and walk along the waterfront all the way down to Estoril. Once again, I felt the call of road. I would have loved to go running here. We watched the paddle boarders and swimmers dash in and out of the water. The sun had come out and there was not much wind. We were able, for the first time in a month, to take off jackets and scarves. It was a tremendously enjoyable walk.

    Overall, highly recommended as a day trip. Or even better to spend a short holiday in Cascais. We took the train back from Estoril and happily (but tired!) made our way back home.

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    marigross--Sounds like a fantastic trip! Portugal was my first overseas trip ever, and that was in 1998 with two kids, ages 4 and 7, with me. Like you, we met DH there. He was career military and they were doing a port stop there, so we did not pass up the opportunity to go. Your TR is really making me want to go back!

    I too fell in love with the tiles!

    At the base of the Santa Justa Elevator was a wonderful old jewelry store, and I spent way too much money there, but to this day still love and wear what I bought.

    We walked up to the Castle and then took the tram down. Kind of opposite of most, lol.

    Bom Jardim was a dinner spot for us one night. We sat outside and they served our kids wine. I was a bit surprised since they were so young, but it was fine.

    Our DS was 4 and the first day for lunch he ordered grilled squid. He had never had that before. DH and I just stayed silent, and sure enough, no big deal made about it, and he ate every bite and it became his new favorite food.

    We noticed the crosswalk signs were different from home. Here they show people walking, but there the steps looked more like a run vs a walk. So we referred to crosswalks as "run for your life". We stayed in both Lisbon and Cascais, and I remember one night in Cascais hearing sirens and DD came to us and very matter of factly said "someone got run over". We asked her about it, and she insisted someone must have tried to cross a street and got run over;)

    We stayed in Lisbon for the first part of our trip, then moved to Cascais. We took a taxi and the driver took us along the river, so a nice scenic drive. DH was not with us as they were doing a VIP cruise for the Secretary General of NATO that day on the submarine, and ironically as we were driving along he river, their boat was cruising down the river at the same time, on the surface. The kids got all excited and kept telling the driver how daddy was driving that boat (he was). So the driver was all excited when I told him what they were doing etc. When DH finally met up with us the next day, he could not believe that we had seen them in the river. Always fun to have unexpected experiences on travels:)

    We stayed in Cascais for 3 nights and absolutely loved it! It was so nice to be in a quiet place after Lisbon. I loved both, but for different reasons. We did Sintra for a day from there. Would have loved more time there.

    Thank you again for writing. It makes me relive our trip and like I said, makes me want to return even more!

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    mms, that is such a cool story! Maybe the 'quietness' of the Cascais backstreets is what made it so appealing to me.

    We live in a house in the suburbs so we are very used to 'easy' and 'quiet'. The apartment that we have -though comfortable and pretty- is either.

    I just realized that we have not been out after dinner not even once. First because we are tired from our long walks during the day but also because the thought of having to climb those 4 stories again.... nah.

    ----

    So do you know what is worse than having cr@ppy weather for 3 weeks straight? Having the sun come out gloriously while we both endure nasty, nasty stomach bugs. Mine lasted less than 24 hours but DH started later and is still not doing great.

    I will exercise my Gratefulness and just think that it is much better that this illness happened NOW, when we are staying put and not in a hotel room in the middle of our road trip.


    So..... Nothing to report for the last 2 days.


    BTW, we did find the Solar do Vinho do Porto. It was a bit further down than I thought. Thanks for the address!

    Has a very 'Gentlemen's Club' feel to it, lol. Just when we came in, a couple was getting seriously scolded by the waiter for sitting in the wrong sofa. Apparently their billing system goes by the tables, not by the sofas. So two different parties cannot share the table between the sofas. We almost walked out.

    I also felt that I got a head to heel evaluation from the staff and my shoes did not get full approval.... but hey, even I would not really approve of them either if they weren't so dang comfortable.

    Having said that, once we sat down and got handed the encyclopedic menu, they were unfailingly courteous and attentive. Each glass is impeccably served only after presenting the bottle for confirmation.

    We did not have to flag down the waiters for service and we got the bill promptly after asking for it. These two seemingly obvious things were not really happening with the other parties around us. Maybe my shoes were not THAT bad after all, lol.

    Only tourists in there at the ungodly after-lunch hour when we came in. I can only imagine that the ambiance in the late evening would be much more enticing.

    DH had two white ports which were touted as 'dry', I believe one was a Vintage and another a 10 year. They were still too sweet for his taste. He was not crazy about either but preferred the second for its smoothness. And such pretty amber color! (my opinion, not his)

    I also sampled two, can't remember the first but the second was a 20yr Sandeman. Quite nice and so velvety!

    On the down side, these were some of the last things that went into our stomachs before the bug started acting up. I don't think that I need to go into the details but lets just say that I don't think that we will be having Port wine any time in the near future.

    In the mean time, we continue to enjoy the beautiful Lisbon sky from our window while sipping Gaseosa and eating rice broth.

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    MMS, I don't want to question you memories, but it's no way children of 4 and 7 are served wine anywhere in Portugal at least during the 2 last centuries. I guess there was some kind of joke or most likely something was lost in translation.
    Marigross, be prepared for hot weather. Definitely take your summer clothes out of the suitcase.

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    marigross--Yes, the quietness of Cascais was what we enjoyed as well. Our hotel was off in a quiet area, and we had a 3 bedroom with a kitchen, so basically an apt and it was really nice to just relax. Loved walking along the water, etc!

    lobo--No, it happened. They brought it to the table and poured wine for all of us at the same time. We have pictures of it as well. This was in 1998, so not recent, but it did occur.

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    Lobo, yes, he is a VERY patient man... though I like to think that I don't really try his patience often (at least not THAT often. Except with sightseeing. Ok. I'll shut up now.)

    And I agree, they don't make them like that anymore. That's why I chose and older model, lol.


    Thursday, the white 'port' was a rec from the waiter when we asked for something that was not too sweet. We were not convinced either.

    mms, we had wine served a few times to our DD since she was around 10 but always in very rural settings, but then it was poured to about a third of the glass and it was expected that the rest would be diluted with sparkling water.

    She also drank a lot of beer/lemonade soda mixes when we were in Italy during a very hot summer when she was 15. Still one of her favorite summer drinks.

    Legal drinking age in PR is 18 but it is not enforced by any means. Kids will very often have a drink with the parents from the time they are around 14/15. IMHO (and I know a lot of people strongly disagree), this is a much healthier way to expose kids to responsible drinking.

    ----

    We have not really kicked off that stomach bug as we got a bit overconfident and abused the 'quick recovery' with some spicy food. So exploring has been significantly reduced.

    This unscheduled interruption has settled the 'Sintra Matter' as we have not had a chance to go out there. It will be added as an overnight stay towards the end of the trip.

    For anyone that is curious these are our plans for the next 8 weeks:

    - Pick up Car #1 in LIS and drive to Evora (3n), wing a night around Zambujeira / Odeceixe, wing another night near Salema and then 2 nights in Tavira.

    - We will drop Car #1 off in Faro and then go to Sevilla for a week.

    - Bus back to Faro, pickup Car #2 spend a night in Beja and then head to Spanish Extremadura (Caceres, Trujillo, Plasencia....)

    - Come back to Portugal and do a Grand Loop of the North: Guarda, Covilha, Viseu (maybe), Regua, Guimaraes, Peneda Geres NP (Caldas do Geres), Pontevedra or Valença do Minho, Viana de Castelo

    - Drop of Car #2 in Porto and spend 2 weeks there.

    - Pickup Car #3 and spend overnights in Coimbra, Tomar, Nazaré and Sintra

    - Drop of Car #3 in Lisbon and go back home where we will be ignored by the cats for at least another month and we start debating our 2017 destination.


    Grand Trip Total: 89 days (counting Lisbon). As long as we can legally stay without incurring in complicated tax/residency/visa matters.

    ----

    There wont be much to tell about the rest of our stay in Lisbon but I will finish that up in the next day or two and then open new Trip Reports for the rest.

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    marigross--Our DS had a good friend in high school who was from PR, so a group of the boys went there as a high school graduation trip, unsupervised. The boy still had family there that was checking up on them, but all the boys stayed at the one boys 2nd home and had quite the time. Thankfully DS was very open with us and we knew what they were doing, but still. I agree with you about basically learning to drink at a younger age while with your parents. It helps some. Oh your poor stomachs! Makes mine cringe now thinking of spicy food after that! Glad you are taking more time than we did in Sintra. My grandparents did an around the world trip for 2 solid years back around 1970 or so and they spent 3 months of that in Portugal. One aunt/uncle took all the trip photos/slides and never shares with the rest of the family after they passed. Really wish I could see some of those.

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    Sighting: SHORTS & STOCKINGS on the Paris Metro. Cold windy rainy outside and the young women were definitely French. It boggles. I believe I'd have thought so at their age. Icy wind cutting through my 3 layers, it hurt just seeing them.

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    marigross, still enjoying following you. We are heading there next week (yeah!)

    What do you do with your cats while you are gone so long?

    We have been wanting to take longer trips but didn't want to leave our cat so long. Would be interested to hear how you manage this.

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    Hi Karen, we have 3 inside cats and an outside. I will not lie, it is not easy and I have had to ask a LOT of people before I managed to get house/petsitters. They are usually college-aged 'kids' that still live at home so they are willing to 'have a place of their own' for a while. I try very hard not to think about what is going on in my house while I'm gone.

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    The Last Week

    I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow description of the last week in Lisbon because… It was NOT pretty. At some point we picked up a stomach bug or a mild (ha! Well…’we did not have to go to an ER’-mild) case of food poisoning so we spent a lot of time in the apartment. Mercifully our ‘peaks’ were about 12hours apart so we did not have to compete too much for the single bathroom.

    The natural consequence was that we did not have much energy to do things and a nagging fear of not having a bathroom nearby, so we did not stray far. Of course, the two days we were house-bound the weather was absolutely gorgeous: bright blue sky and mild temperatures. Of course. This was Karma for all the great weather vacations we have had in the past, lol.

    I opted to exercise my Gratefulness and be thankful that this took place while we were still in an apartment and that we had seen most of the must-do things in Lisbon. Being this sick while on a road trip….THANK YOU LORD!

    One afternoon we took the bus up to Estela to visit the Basilica. Funny thing, some Portuguese seem to have an issue with the translation or pronunciation of certain numbers in English. We asked the attendant how many steps to the tower (given our weakened state these things turn out to be important). We both heard ‘fifteen’. Ok… that is highly unlikely (we thought) so maybe he meant ‘fifty’, though that still seemed to be not enough to go up to the roof. Maybe there was a lift. Well, there was not. And what he meant to say was ‘one hundred fifty’. We made it up (with a sitting break around the 100th step).

    Having said that, I must add that the views from the terrace were outstanding and worth every step. I was enjoying said view as I heard a muffled sound and turn around just in time to see DH crashing to the floor. Oooo. Mmmm. Ggggg. I’m usually a very positive person but all the worse-case scenario flashed through my mind: ‘he had a heart attack from climbing the stairs while still semi-dehydrated’ followed by ‘F@@K we are in a frigging ROOF by ourselves, how do I go get help without leaving him alone’ and of course ‘How is he going to be carried down the ONEHUNDREDFIFTY steps’.

    He made a misstep. That was all. He scratched his arm and hurt his hand a little, but he was perfectly fine. I, on the other hand, had a migraine for the rest of the day. And my stomach was still not good enough to handle a restorative stiff drink (or three). So a 7Up in the very pretty and nicely maintained Parque de Estela was all I got. It was quite nice to see all the Lisboetas out enjoying the sun.

    We also took a day trip to see the Palacio Nacional de Queluz. This is quite an easy visit, you buy your train ticket from Rossio and 15minutes later you are in the town of Queluz. The palace is a 15minute walk away from the station.

    The palace has been called ‘Lisbon’s Versailles’, a baroque extravaganza but at a much smaller scale. We had the entire day to this visit so we lingered from room to room, admiring the chandeliers and the woodwork. Particularly impressive were the entrance hall, the chapel and the Cervantes Room. The tilework is really impressive both inside and in the gardens.

    The gardens are absolutely beautiful! Loved the statues, particularly the two cute sphynx/ladies with their courtly hats. I think that in Queluz some of Portugal’s financial troubles can be detected: the ‘inner’ garden was very well trimmed and maintained but the ‘outer’ gardens were a bit overgrown and in need of weeding. I cannot even imagine how much it costs in money and resources to maintain a place like this.

    We dropped in by the Pousada and I must say that I was not impressed. It stands isolated in the middle of what looks to be a huge parking lot, across the street from the palace. The interior/reception was not especially nice either. The restaurant is attached to the Palace and seems to be in a much better setting, though it was closed when we went by and we could not peek in.

    Our last day in Lisbon was spent in a ‘redo’ of our first day. We went into the Igreja do Carmen Musuem and then sat outside in Leiteria Academia for lunch. We made our way down to the Baixa and had our last glass of wine by the riverside, gloriously basking in the warm sun.

    The next day we took a taxi from the street, the third one we had tried to flag down and went to the airport so that we could pick up our rental car…. Little did we know that this was going to be an adventure by itself! But maybe I tell that story at the beginning of the next Trip Report.

    Thanks to all for tagging along with me for this month! I have enjoyed your ‘company’ very much. I’ll add some general thoughts and a link to the new TR sometime in the near future. For now I will just say that we spent an absolutely marvelous week making our way from Evora to Tavira and now I’m typing this from Sevilla.

    Cheers!

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    Estrela, not Estela.

    You said "Funny thing, some Portuguese seem to have an issue with the translation or pronunciation of certain numbers in English. "

    Never thought of that concerning other people, but at least I know I have this issue! Not only with the pronunciation but with the number itself, I have to think a while! Don't know why.

    Glad t oknow you are both better, and hope you will have lots of sun the becoming days!!

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    Sorry about the bold! Fodor's was acting up yesterday and I did not think I had pressed the submit button.

    I started a new TR for Phase B of our trip:

    http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/from-evora-to-tavira-a-week-of-wildflowers.cfm

    I'm also in the BABY STEPS stages of setting up a blog, including excerpts from this TR (and a few pics), if anyone is interested:

    https://stellasspoondotcom.wordpress.com/

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    Bookmarking to read more later. I'm loving this report, because it helps me remember our three (four?) trips to Portugal, starting in 1984.
    We love it there, and would love to go back, but maybe not, as we are aging a bit!

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    I have really enjoyed reading your Lisbon report. We spent ten days there on our trip to Portugal. I agree that the people are very hospitable. I mentioned this to a local guide and she replied that, of course, they know you are a visitor.
    Looking forward to your following reports.

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