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Trip Report Lisbon (Cascais), San Sebastian, Soria?!, and Barcelona

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I must admit I do not usually do trip reports as I am not very witty but I am very appreciative of all the tips (and entertainment) I get from this board as I am planning a trip. So here goes a trip report from my trip in May of this year.

I spent alot of time looking for hotels in Lisbon and was all booked at Eurostar des Artes but not long before the trip I decided to stay in Cascais instead. I travel with my adult daughter - we are not much into nighttime clubbing and such but we do like slow travel and some pool time when the weather is nice. And we loved Cascais - we stayed at the Grand Hotel Real Italia - absolutely gorgeous and we thought a great value for the price. The first two days of our trip were HOT (we were staying 5 nights in Cascais) and so we spent those two days getting over jet-lag in Cascais and by the pool. I think alot of the folks at the hotel and in Cascais in general were there for "resort type" holidays but it is very easy to sightsee to Lisbon from Cascais - a 5E, 30 minute train trip and you are in Lisbon (or even less to Belem).

There are lots of restuarants in Cascais - our favorites were 5 Sentidos / Casa de Largo and then B&B restuarant. 5 Sentidos had a variety of appetizers / entrees and was very nice. We ended up eating there 3 times! B&B we stumbled into and at first were not very enthused about but its a very nice small restuarant - the menu is a bit limited but they have excellent fish and steaks. Both of these restaurants asked before setting down the little nibbles - many restaurants in Portugal put these on the table and then on your bill without your realizing there will be a charge - so we appreciated being asked if we wanted the nibbles. We had so much good fish in Portugal - simply prepared but just delicious and we are not always fans of fish.

So on day 3 we decided to venture into Lisbon - well the train ride was easy but as we were negotiating the rail / subway station a rucus ensued - the subway line was closing down - strike! We were a bit stressed at first until we managed to get the info that 1) the rail connection was not shutting down and 2) only one subway line was down - the buses and other lines would still run. Eventually we managed to purchase the one day ride everywhere card that we could use on the trams, buses, elevator and funicular and off we went.

Emerging from the subway station we stopped to consult our map and hello - a trio of ladies attempted to lift our valuables from our backpack. Welcome to Lisbon! fortunately they did not get anything but we watched them moving along the street for a bit, hard at work. We had been victims on a trip several years ago in Barcelona and on another day had spent some time as super-hero wannabes, chasing pickpockets - our husbands had both extracted promises from us that we would not do that on this trip so we went off to ride the trams instead. However at first there was a tram-jam as a pedestrain had evidently been hit and was lying sprawled out on the tram tracks. He did not seem hurt as he was definately conscious and chatting away but there he stayed for 30 minutes or so while the police came to make an incident report.

We have made quite a few trips to Europe over the years so we are not always interested in some of the museums, churches etc. so our main interest in Lisbon was an overview of the city - the vistas, the trams and the tiles. We rode the trams around for an hour or so and really enjoyed this overview of the city. Seemd sort of like a gritty San Francisco. It would have been nice to wander thru some of the neighborhoods, in fact I had brought Rick Steves guide to follow for a walking tour but 1) I had a very unpleasant blister and 2) lunchtime! so we decided to eat instead. A few weeks before our trip we had seen an Anthony Bourdain show set in Lisbon and my daughter wanted to go to a restaurant featured on the show - Cervejeria Ramiro. Well unfortunately this did not work out so well but we just were not prepared. The restaurant was super busy and the servers did not speak any english - they gave us an I-pad but we had questions and requests all of which baffled our server. This was a place that would be good to go with a local to encourage you try some new things and show you how to eat some of the more unusual offerings but we were on our own and like deers in the headlights. We did have some very good tiger prawns and shrimps in olive oil and garlic but then we got a large crab that was an expensive disappointment. So all in all it was not the meal highlght of the trip but it was probably the most expensive meal we had. We returned to the main square and spied the world famous sweet shop - no disappointments there!

OK break time - next up, daytrip to Sintra and then the overnight train to San Sebastian.

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