Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Falling For Portugal: A Mai Tai Tom (Trip) Report

Falling For Portugal: A Mai Tai Tom (Trip) Report

Old Nov 17th, 2022, 08:55 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,901
Likes: 0
Received 21 Likes on 2 Posts
Falling For Portugal: A Mai Tai Tom (Trip) Report

Yet another report on the country visited by virtually everyone. Of course, not everyone visited an Emergency Room. We finally made it to Portugal after three years of planning. First stop: Lisbon on a hot and sunny afternoon. We strolled down from famed Rossio Square to the always crowded Rua Augusta and checked out the Arco da Rua Augusta on Praça do Comércio. After a quick Cherry Liqueur interlude, we also made quick stops at a church named for Portugal’s Patron Saint and across the street walked into Lisbon’s Sé, the oldest church in the city. Dinner on this night was at “The King Of Chickens,” and it was a hot time to be sure. Finally, drinks on a rooftop to end a wonderful first day. Come enjoy the beginning of our journey in the link below (with lots of photos) With no photos, below photos .....

https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/cha...inally-lisbon/








Prologue: The third time really is the charm. After having to postpone Portugal twice due to Covid, we (Tracy and I, along with friends Kim and Mary) finally were able to travel to a country we had long wanted to visit. As we soon discovered, so did seemingly every other person from around the globe.

We started out with six nights in Lisbon …

… three nights in Sintra …

… two nights in Tomar …

… two nights in Coimbra …

… four nights in the Douro Valley …

… and four nights in Porto …

… with a number of sights in between.

And when I say we “fell” for Portugal, well, you’ll find out I mean that both literally and figuratively. We enjoyed numerous attractions, absolutely loved the food and the people, and could see why it has become such a popular destination. However, I will also throw in a couple of caveats along the way. Awaaaaay we go!

Chapter One: Finally Lisbon!

DAY ONE: Honk If You’re In Lisbon, Closed For Cleaning, Doing The Wave, A Rewarding Arch, Of All the Ginjinha Joints in All the World, Saint Be Praised, Lisbon’s Oldest Church, Fan Scam, Packed In Like A Can Of You Know What, Piri Review, Nata Bad Idea and Up On The Roof

A trip that had been three years in the making was about to come to fruition. By the time we reached our various Portugal hotels, I felt like I knew the people at each one of them since we had to reserve, cancel and re-reserve so many times since 2019.

Due to lost luggage issues at so many airports during the summer, Tracy and I decided to fly non-stop from San Francisco to Lisbon on TAP Airlines. We hopped on the BART in Orinda, traveled through Rock Ridge (no sighting of Sheriff Bart though), and, unlike L.A.’s mess of a mass transit system, the journey ended inside the International Terminal at SFO, whereas L.A.’s drops you off in El Segundo and then you have to find transportation to the airport. [Mai Tai Tom digression: Hard to believe BART was celebrating its 50th Anniversary and this is the first time we’ve taken it!]

TAP’s website leaves a lot to be desired, and we were unable to get our boarding passes until we got to the airport. However when Tracy tried … no luck. For those that have followed our trips, despite having Global Entry, Tracy is always singled out by security. This time would be no different. She was taken out of line for a full security check. After confirming she still isn’t a terrorist, Tracy was let go, and we had a good lunch at the Napa Valley Mustard Seed.

The flight was delayed for maintenance issues for about 45 minutes, but any flight that doesn’t end up in the ocean is a good flight to me,(although TAP might consider a new chef). We arrived in Lisbon a little after 11 a.m. and met up with Kim and Mary who had flown from Boston. Getting through passport control and customs at Lisbon International Airport was a snap, and we thought we’d get an earlier start to our day than we expected. Then we saw the taxi line. It looked as if it stretched all the way to the Algarve, and it took about 45 minutes to eventually catch a cab.

While in line, there was incessant honking by passing cars. As we would learn (and hear), honking your horn is a national pastime in Lisbon.

Our destination was the Altis Avenida Hotel, which is located across the street from the Praça dos Restauradores, a square that commemorates Portugal’s liberation from Spanish rule in 1640. It sits at the beginning of the tree-lined Avenida da Liberdade, which I would almost get to walk along a couple of days later, but due to unforeseen circumstances that never happened. On the square stands the Monumento de los Restauradores (Monument of the Restorers), an obelisk inaugurated in April of 1886. The figures represent Liberty and Victory.

Our rooms at the Altis Avenida were not ready, so Tracy and I headed out to explore, while Kim and Mary walked in search of lunch (Tracy and I were still full of whatever it was that passed as breakfast on the plane).

Since it was nearby, and figuring we could duck in a church without Kim and Mary (still reeling from church overload in Great Britain), we strolled over to the nearby Igreja de São Domingos, one of Lisbon’s oldest places of worship. Located very near to the Praça Dom Pedro IV, since its consecration in 1241 Igreja de São Domingos has survived two earthquakes, including the huge 1755 quake that caused damage by fire and a huge tidal wave.

Rebuilt, it again suffered from a blaze in 1959. Some of the fire-damaged interior remained visible after the church was restored, and I had wanted to visit to see, what some say is its “unique interior, which remains an endearing city landmark.” Unfortunately, a sign outside said the church was “closed for cleaning.” It remained closed for cleaning during our entire stay, so I’ll just have to take their word for it. I hope it is now the cleanest church in Lisbon.

It was a blazing hot day, so Tracy and I started walking toward the water with some other of our Lisboa friends.

Looking upward, we spied a sign for a drink I had never heard of before. It wouldn’t take us long to find a spot to have a couple of cups.

We walked through Praça de D. Pedro IV (aka Rossio Square). Called “the liveliest area in the capital of Portugal.” it wasn’t too lively today (perhaps people were looking for shade). The National Theater Dona Maria II stands at one end. Rossio Square is the largest public space in Lisbon, and during the Spanish Inquisition a number of people were burned to death here. It’s also where Carlos I and his son Felip were assassinated in 1908.

Fortunately, we were just getting sunburned. Then, for a minute, I thought I was having seizure, but soon realized I was walking on what looked like waves, or at least cobblestones laid out in wave patterns. The last time I had felt like this way was while walking after a night of drinking too many Manhattans. It was weirdly cool.

A couple of baroque fountains are located here.

Before leaving, we looked to the monumental column honoring Pedro IV, known as “the Soldier King.” We then scurried off the cobblestones before we got seasick. Yes, the sky was really that blue.

Now it was time to head down Rua Augusta, where we’d meet up with hundreds of others who had the same idea. We passed by the Elevador de Santa Justa, the famed 1902-inaugurated, neo-Gothic elevator that helps you eliminate stairs to get from the Baixa District to the Largo do Carmo. It’s also a tourist attraction with long lines, so we never took it. If it has similarities to the Eiffel Tower, that’s because it was built by Raoul Mesnire de Ponsard, who was an admirer of the work done by Gustave Eiffel.

We passed by a store selling these Portugal favorites, but decided to save ourselves until after dinner. “Nata now,” I said.

The crowds were fairly large during our entire stay in Lisbon, but that really didn’t bother us. We walked by musicians entertaining the massive throngs of people, and in the distance stood the Arco da Rua Augusta.

Soon we were at Lisbon’s gigantic riverfront square, Praça do Comércio. From here you get some terrific views of the 19th-century arch, constructed to mark the reconstruction of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake.

At the top, the sculptures represent Glory crowning Genius and Valor.

As you can see, it’s also highlighted by a couple of huge cranes that hover nearby.

I closed my eyes to try and visualize what it would look like without cranes, and it worked. That and a little tinkering on the computer.

Praça do Comércio was also nearly devoid of tourists. It sits next to the Tagus River, and as we got closer to the waterfront, the heat was much more tolerable.

The bronze equestrian statue in the center is of King Joseph I, with the face of the Marquis du Pombal on the front, the leader who helped reconstruct Lisbon after the destructive 1755 quake. Ninety thousand people in Lisbon were killed in that earthquake.

We arrived on the edge of the square and a small kiosk caught our eye. People were sipping something out of tiny chocolate cups. Yes, we met our first Ginjinha. This addicting Portuguese liqueur is made by “infusing ginja berries (sour cherry, the Morello cherry) in alcohol and adding sugar together with other ingredients, with cloves and/or cinnamon sticks being the most common.” What’s not to like? For €1.40 we each got one Ginjinha in a dark chocolate cup. The man at the counter said not to eat the cup, because we could then get a second sip on the house. Then we could eat the cup. Tracy quickly dragged me away since I wanted to spend the entire afternoon sipping this magical potion.

By now Kim and Mary had caught up to us, which meant they would at least have to see one church. We made the short walk over to Igreja de Santo Antonio, a church dedicated to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of Portugal. The church is cleverly disguised as a grand residence.

The church is located where St. Anthony was born. He is also the patron of lost and found, along with “being a matchmaker and protector of young brides.” The interior is small, but beautiful.

I walked back to the Sacristy, where you find a lot of gold saints ..

… and an altar.

Down in the crypt is the birthplace of St. Anthony.

It seems there is also a tradition surrounding the statue of St. Anthony in front. It states that one can find a new (or better) partner in life by being able to throw a coin in the book of Saint Anthony on the statue. Now I know why Tracy had so many coins. (photo from internet)

At this point, Kim and Mary left us because Kim had to attend a Zoom HOA Meeting, which is just one of the 1,000 reasons why I would never live in an HOA community.

Located just behind is the Sé de Lisboa, Basílica de Santa Maria Maior. The church dates back nearly 900 years and with its many modifications the church is a mix of Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque.

Enter on the first floor. It’s €5 to visit.

From the High Choir there’s a great view of the barrel-vaulted interior and main chapel.

There is also an up close view of The Rosace With Romanesque Ornaments (or Rose Window) featuring the 12 Apostles around Jesus. That’s as close to a stained glass window as we’ve ever stood.

We visited the Treasury, where we saw, among other things, The Monstrance of the Lisbon Patriarchal Cathedral, a gift from King D. João V to the Patriarchal Cathedral of Lisbon. It’s made of 17 kilos of gold and more than 4,000 diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds. It’s good to be king.

One stop was at the Patriarch’s Dressing Room, which, as the name denotes, is where the Patriarch got dressed. His robe is on display.

To the side are seven mitres representing the Suffragist Dioceses of Lisbon. St. Peter and St. Paul stand behind them.

Then there’s the stunning sculpture of St. Anne with a young Virgin Mary.

The Capela do Santíissimo Sacramento (Chapel of the Sacred Sacrament) contains a 19th century painting of The Last Supper …

… and quite a chandelier.

In the Baptistery, covered with azulejo tiles (we’d see lots of those on this trip), is the font where St. Anthony was baptized.

Back downstairs we were in the main chapel.

There are nine others.

In the Saint Cosmos and Saint Damian Chapel are the tombs of Lopo Fernandes Pacheco, comrade-in-arms of D. Afonso IV, and his second wife Maria Vilalobos.

A faithful dog sits beside Afonso, while Maria is shown reading the Book Of Hours, which I assume has 24 chapters.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and this being our first day we wanted to get an early start on dinner. Outside the cathedral we saw a plethora of Tuk Tuks, which zoom throughout town giving unsuspecting tourists a thrill ride (more in an upcoming chapter).

Since it was so hot, Tracy knew she needed a couple of fans. We stopped into a shop where she bought two. The cashier asked if I wanted the purchase in euros or dollars. We, of course, said “euros.” I handed her the credit card, and upon return to the hotel found she had made the purchase in dollars. The mark-up was only 3%, but we certainly paid attention to every purchase we made the rest of the trip.

Walking back to our hotel we passed a store that literally had its product packed in like sardines.

These colorful cans of sardines made for quite a picture.

After freshening up, Tracy, Mary and I (Kim was still on that dreadful call) walked a short distance to dinner.

Located just a two-minute walk from our hotel was the restaurant I wanted to dine at on our first night but which does not take reservations meaning arrive early or be prepared to wait. We arrived at Restaurante Bonjardim (Tv. de Santo Antão 11) at 6:14 p.m. and scored the last table on the patio. Called the Rei dos Frangos (The King Of Chickens), it serves the famed Piri Piri Chicken.

We learned the gentleman sitting at the table next to us was originally from Lisbon and now lives in the states. He said he had been coming here since he was a kid, and he dines here every trip to eat “the best chicken in the world.” As a long-time patron, he also gets a small container of piri piri sauce to take to his dad.

We asked our waiter how many chickens they serve in a day, and he guesstimated about 200. I’m guessing more, because virtually every table ordered this delicious crispy half chicken that basically falls off the bone. It is served with a homemade piri piri sauce (secret recipe) that one must use judiciously so as to not burn your lips off. I don’t know if was the piri sauce or that I had been up for so many hours in a row that I looked a little dazed and confused when leaving. I was also dazed because our meal consisting of the three chicken dishes, fries, a large mixed salad and a bottle of vinho and a beer only came to €62.

However, we were not done eating. The gentleman next to us also advised us to stop in at the nearby Fábrica Da Nata, which specializes in Pastéis de Natas, or Portuguese egg custard tarts. Created by 18th-century Catholic monks, these Portuguese delicacies could be dangerous if eaten in mass quantities. They were quite good.

Afterward, Mary left us to see if Kim was still on the phone, while Tracy and I headed up to the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant, the Rossio Gastro Bar. [MaiTai Tom Tip: The bar is open only to hotel guests on Monday and Tuesday evenings and reservations are recommended as it is a very popular venue.]

The rooftop provides a commanding view of Lisbon, including Castelo São Jorge, which would be our first stop on Sunday morning.

Great views, some vinho tinto along with a friendly and knowledgeable sommelier made for the perfect ending to a rather busy afternoon and evening in Lisbon.

We were glad to get a good night’s rest, because the next day would be a busy one (I guess all our days are busy ones).

We’d start at the aforementioned Castelo São Jorge, then head over to Moisteiro São Vicente de Fora, Igreja de Santa Engrácia-Panteão Nacional (Portugal’s National Pantheon), walk a way-too-long path to lunch, then on to see some famous Portuguese tile work.

For dinner, I had made reservations at a place recommended by a host of people. It would be the first, of numerous, miscues I would make on our trip.


Next: CHAPTER TWO: Exploring Lisbon

Day Two: Out Of Order, Early Birds, By Jorge, Tombs and Fables, Portugal’s National Pantheon, We Should Have Ubered, Greenhouse Effect, Astounding Azulejos, Eavesdropping Helps, The Wrong Duque and An Impressed Waiter

Last edited by maitaitom; Nov 17th, 2022 at 09:28 AM.
maitaitom is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2022, 09:49 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,267
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Glad to hear Bom Jardim is still going strong.

The airport bus would have been quicker than the taxi queue and dropped you close to your hotel.

thursdaysd is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2022, 10:06 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 9,061
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Ah, another fun maitaitom trip report. Portugal is on our ever expanding "must do" list so I will be taking careful notes. Thanks for paving the way!
KTtravel is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2022, 03:25 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 23,063
Received 4 Likes on 4 Posts
HOA= Homeowners associations
bilboburgler is online now  
Old Nov 18th, 2022, 10:10 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,274
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great start, MaiTai, to what will be a wonderful TA!.
I love the photos on your web site, especially the "dripping with gold" church images.
I can personally attest to the Rossio Gastro Bar's pretty sunset views and the sommelier's knowledge of his wines (he was the sommelier of the Michelin-starred Feitoria in the other Altis hotel in Belém before moving to your hotel).
Glad you had a great and super active first day in Lisbon!

thursdaysd,
The Aerobus isn't running any more, unfortunately. It hasn't since the beginning of the pandemic. Don't know if they plan to reinstate it or not.
Maribel is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2022, 01:28 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 27,267
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
@maribel - sorry to hear that, it was very convenient for the Florescente. Guess it will have to be the metro if I make it back.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2022, 03:28 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,901
Likes: 0
Received 21 Likes on 2 Posts
"(he was the sommelier of the Michelin-starred Feitoria in the other Altis hotel in Belém before moving to your hotel)."

Really a great guy. Very, very personable and knowledgeable. The wine he picked for us was tremendous.

By the way Maribel, thanks so much for all your pre-trip help. We loved both Quinta do Pego (that drive up and down is quite the experience. Tracy took a video as I tried not have us careen down the hill) and Quinta de la Rosa. You can't really go wrong with either.
maitaitom is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2022, 05:13 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,274
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Looking forward to more! But I'm thinking (fearing?) that the "falling" in your thread title might have a double meaning, given that preview picture of the bandaged MaiTai outside of the ER. Yikes!!

Ready for chapter two!
Maribel is offline  
Old Nov 18th, 2022, 07:32 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 435
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Have been waiting patiently for your report! Can’t wait to hear and see the rest.
Debbielynn is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2022, 05:18 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 28,190
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great start, Tom. As Maribel, I fear for your safety!
TDudette is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2022, 06:19 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 3,036
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Love your photos from your first day. I am amazed about the amount of sightseeing you did on your first day after such a long flight to get to Lisbon! When we visited in 2018, we took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. Waited in line for about 5 minutes. Crowds have definitely increased since then.

Looking forward to more!
KarenWoo is online now  
Old Nov 19th, 2022, 09:36 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,901
Likes: 0
Received 21 Likes on 2 Posts
..."thinking (fearing?) that the "falling" in your thread title might have a double meaning..."

Very perceptive Maribel. My first title with two double entendres, hence "Trip" report, too
maitaitom is offline  
Old Nov 19th, 2022, 12:00 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 3,036
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by maitaitom View Post
..."thinking (fearing?) that the "falling" in your thread title might have a double meaning..."

Very perceptive Maribel. My first title with two double entendres, hence "Trip" report, too
Hmmmm? Jet lag and those magical ginjinhas

Last edited by KarenWoo; Nov 19th, 2022 at 12:02 PM.
KarenWoo is online now  
Old Nov 19th, 2022, 07:10 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 1,773
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I went to Portugal back in 2018, and I was underwhelmed by the food. I think we just lucked out with the places we picked.
First night in Lisbon we stupidly did not research and came upon a place with outdoor eating. there were other tourists there. We picked a pork dish, with salad and fries. Well, the pork dish had a lot of small bones.. honestly I think it was pidgeon disguised as pork.

also, everywhere we went, little nibblies were put on the table. these little nibblies were extra charges on the bill which we had no idea about.

apart from the bad restaurant choices I did like Portugal so looking forward to reading lots more.
millie2112 is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2022, 06:00 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,911
Received 22 Likes on 4 Posts
yes, in Portugal you have to be aware that the snacks or nibbles placed on your table are not complimentary! If you eat them, you pay!
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Old Nov 20th, 2022, 08:11 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 692
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Yay, looking forward to your adventures, including the, ahem, glimpse into the Portuguese health care system.
And did you move from SoCal? Are you really in my neck of the woods now?
​​​​​​
​​​
PegS is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2022, 09:29 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 9,901
Likes: 0
Received 21 Likes on 2 Posts
"Yay, looking forward to your adventures, including the, ahem, glimpse into the Portuguese health care system.
And did you move from SoCal? Are you really in my neck of the woods now?"

Still in So Cal. We just flew out of SF because it was non-stop. Stayed with an old college buddy and his wife. Fortunately I get the Portuguese health care system story in a couple of days from when we arrived.
maitaitom is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2022, 12:11 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 3,352
Received 19 Likes on 4 Posts
Always drool over your photos and laugh at your report (not the injuries…)



ok, question about the ‘not included’ nibbles….if you don’t eat them…what happens to them? Recycled to the next table after one has coughed and sneezed over them?
Adelaidean is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2022, 12:23 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,274
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
They're taken back to the kitchen. It's not considered impolite to tell the waiter to remove them (the "couvert") from the table. Sometimes we accept them, and at other times we politely tell our waiter to take them away.

(But it's a sin for us not to accept the wonderful buttered bread, the "Pão Torrado com Manteiga" at Cervejaria Ramiro that's automatically brought to the table to mop up the fantastic sauce from the Gambas a la Aguillo, shrimp in garlic--it's irresistible).
Maribel is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2022, 01:36 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 3,352
Received 19 Likes on 4 Posts
Good to know, Maribel, thanks.
Adelaidean is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -