I left my liver in Lisbon

Old Jun 29th, 2022, 09:33 AM
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I left my liver in Lisbon

March 29-April 21, 2022

Pre-trip prep

This trip was originally booked for late April/May 2020, but we all know what happened there.

After pulling off a month long trip to Switzerland in October 2021, we optimistically booked a three week trip to Austria, Germany and Italy for December 2021. But then along came Omicron, sending Austria into lockdown, putting the kibosh on our Christmas trip just weeks before departure.

We quickly pivoted, did some reshuffling and booked Portugal for the second time; a fairly easy task considering most of the research had already been done for the first doomed trip in 2020.

Then things went sideways again; Germany was not doing well; Christmas Markets were being cancelled, new restrictions were being introduced and we worried that they too would go into lockdown. This created problems because we’d kept our original flights to Munich, planning to spend some time on either end of the trip, and had just added an extra flight to Portugal. Flying into and out of Munich no longer seemed like a good idea, so Portugal got cancelled for the second time.

Then in January 2022, we booked Portugal again, this time for late March/April.

The itinerary:

Porto - five nights
Pinhão - three nights
Coimbra - three nights
Evora - three nights
Sintra - three nights
Lisbon - five nights


In the weeks leading up to our departure, COVID restrictions changed a few times. Portugal required an EU Digital COVID Certificate or a negative COVID test to enter the country. Fine, no problem. However, they also required an EU Digital COVID Certificate or valid negative COVID test enter hotels, museums, restaurants, etc. Big problem.

We had EU Digital Certificates from our trip to Switzerland last October, but when we pulled them up on our phones, we discovered they had expired. I wrote to all our hotels to ask if we’d be allowed to check into our hotels with our US CDC vaccination cards, and was told no. So at the time, the only way to gain entrance would be with a negative COVID test, which meant we’d have to test many, many times during our three week stay. Thanks, but no.

We decided not to worry about it until closer to the trip, as things were rapidly changing and a person could lose their mind trying to keep up.

Fast forward to March. Portugal had now done away with the EU Digital COVID certificate and testing requirement to enter hotels, museums, restaurants, etc. An EU Digital COVID Certificate or a negative COVID test was still needed to enter the country. No worries.

We booked free NAAT COVID tests for late afternoon at Walgreens, three days before our departure. Results were promised (and delivered) in two hours. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 9:20 am on Tuesday. I was a bit worried about flight delays that would put us outside the 72 hour limit, and toyed with rescheduling the test for Sunday morning. Bill preferred to find out early, so that if our results were positive, we’d still be within the cancellation window for two hotels. No worries, all went to plan.

A few weeks prior to our departure I heard rumblings of how busy Portugal had gotten, as the tourist floodgates had re-opened. I began to worry about our three nights in Sintra, as we don’t do crowds. I had concerns that our preferred method of going with the flow might seriously impact our stay in Sintra and we considered booking what we absolutely didn’t want to miss, but in the end going with the flow won out.

This trip would be much different than our usual trips. We’re outdoor loving, peace-seeking, wine drinking types who don’t usually visit museums, monuments or palaces. Neither are we city people, preferring quiet villages, mountains and long walking/hiking trails to city trappings. This was going to be interesting.

Would the third time be a charm? We were about to find out.

Getting there

We’d uploaded our documents to United before departure, preventing the need to show them at check in. Our boarding passes said Travel Ready; we were good to go.

We flew from COS-DEN, DEN-EWR, EWR-OPO. As is our custom when flying with United, we purposely chose long layovers.

Our first flight was delayed due to a broken flight attendant seatbelt. Our second flight left the gate on time, but we sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes prior to departure (another minor maintenance problem) and then circled the Newark airport for 40 minutes prior to landing. Both flights were very full.

Our third flight (Newark to Porto) left an hour late, but the Economy Plus section was near empty – we each had an entire row to ourselves. Woo-hoo! We passed on food, stretched out and tried to sleep.

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 29th, 2022 at 09:40 AM.
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 09:43 AM
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Following, with great interest.
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 09:53 AM
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Sleepless in Porto

Our COVID tests results were checked upon arrival in Porto. They seemed to be just looking for the magic word – negative – they didn’t seem to pay much attention to names or dates. We purchased train tickets from the airport to the city - 4.65 for both.

We validated the tickets, but couldn’t find a train route map…sought out help and were soon on the train, which we took to Trindade, then changed to B metro to Porto. Two stops. Finding our hotel was a breeze.

Nice place this – Eurostars Porto Centro (610 for five nights including city tax). I’d requested a quiet room and they delivered. We were tucked away on an offshoot from the main corridor with our own hallway in an interior room that felt like we had the entire corner to ourselves (#214). The room was spacious, quiet and had an interesting bathroom set-up – made entirely of glass.

Dead tired, but wanting to stay awake as long as possible, we hit the streets.

I was immediately taken with the colorful tile covered buildings, the architecture and the overall buzz – busy but not frenetic; and so very different from any place we’d visited previously.


And there it is...Port!

Porto

Porto

Porto

Porto

The reason we're here

Porto

Ah yes, the good old Dick waffle

Porto

Porto


We randomly selected Garota da Baixa lda and settled in for an alfresco lunch; vegetable soup, bread, butter and cheese spread for me, washed down with sangria. Hake, chips, and salad for Bill, washed down with some Douro white wine – very good and surprisingly inexpensive - 22.90.

Then we wandered, just taking things in, eventually ending up at VinoFino Wine House for more alfresco beverages – here we discovered a lovely sparking Rose and tried the port (15).

I’d earmarked the much acclaimed Tapabento S. Bento for dinner, which was a challenge for us sleep-deprived newcomers to locate. We knew we were in trouble when we saw the line outside the still closed restaurant. Reservations? Nope. We were told to wait a bit, just in case there was a no-show. There was, so we were seated upstairs in a tiny room with tables entirely too close for our COVID comfort level.

The food was good, the place heaving. Bill tried the tuna tartare and beef carpaccio. I went for the Bruschetta – which I had to send back as it was burnt to a crisp, but the replacement was good - and more vegetable soup as most items on the menu were on my ‘no thank you’ list (41.70 with wine).

Then – finally – some much needed sleep.

To be continued...
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 11:02 AM
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Signing on. Twenty year tawny for 19.90 euro and Bin 27 for 13.80? I so live in the wrong country!
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 11:09 AM
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A fabulous bridge, petiscos and oh, that wine!

We slept for 12 hours. Didn’t get up until 9 am, which is pretty much unheard of for us. Our hotel included a nice breakfast, where we both had our first taste of the world famous pastel de nata, or in Bill’s case, pastéis de nata (he liked them and devoured several, me not-so-much, it’s an egg thing). I did rather enjoy the big blocks of dark chocolate to melt in my cappuccino though.


Pastéis de nata


Later we walked to the double-decker Dom Luis I Bridge via a series of steep rocky side roads. I was fascinated with the obvious challenges of building on these steep slopes, the abandoned buildings, the shops and cafes tucked into impossibly tight spaces, and, for lack of a better word, the vibe.


Tuk-tuk near Sé Cathedral

Sé Cathedral

I believe that's Clérigos Tower in the background

Walking to the Dom Luis I bridge

Drinks vendor

Dom Luis I bridge overhead

Cafe

Porto side of Dom Luis I bridge

We then worked our way through the Riberia district and on a whim walked alongside the Douro River to Foz, logging four miles, but not realizing at the time that Foz do Douro is where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean, so we turned back too soon.


Dom Luis I bridge, Porto side

Riberia district

Riberia district

Riverside dining

Douro River

Douro River and bridge

Tile!

We randomly chose Casa de Pasto da Palmeria for an alfresco lunch sharing a few small plates - petiscos - fried goat cheese with pears, walnuts and what I think was sorbet, fried smoked chicken roll-ups, and some fried cod patties for Bill (which he said were really fishy), chased down with massive jugs of strawberry sangria, the highlight for me.

Had I bothered to read the thick pile of notes I’d complied when planning this trip, I’d have realized that Maribel had suggested this very place and had some specific food recommendations. How did I miss the frozen chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and salted ice cream? Had I been paying attention, I’d have ordered that as my entrée! Oh well, it’s not the first time my painstakingly gathered notes have fallen by the wayside. (36 and what we ordered was underwhelming).


Big honking jugs of sangria!

Fried smoked chicken roll-ups

Fried cod patties

After more wandering, and now back in Porto we revisited the VinoFino Wine House for more sparkling Rose, a platter of meat, cheese and bread and a wee bit of port (43).


Douro River

Porto

Porto

Porto

VinoFino Wine House


We watched the world go by from our outdoor table, and right next door I noticed a place I did recall from my notes, Chololataria das Flores, which I’d read had a nice chocolate and orange cake, so I picked up a slice to take back to the hotel. It was underwhelming. Maybe my taste buds were broken?

To be continued...
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 11:59 AM
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Looking forward to the rest of your report!
We were scheduled for Portugal last June and had to make a hasty last minute diversion to Basque Country when Lisbon closed down.
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 12:24 PM
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What beautiful photos! Very sharp quality. Are you using a camera or a phone camera?

And oh those egg tarts! I will return to Portugal one day for the gorgeous scenery and those tasty egg tarts.

Looking forward to more of your report
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Signing on. Twenty year tawny for 19.90 euro and Bin 27 for 13.80? I so live in the wrong country!
You and me both thursdaysd.
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by TPAYT View Post
What beautiful photos! Very sharp quality. Are you using a camera or a phone camera?

And oh those egg tarts! I will return to Portugal one day for the gorgeous scenery and those tasty egg tarts.

Looking forward to more of your report
Phone
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 01:24 PM
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Fodor's members never stop surprising me! So, Progol was at Barredo, and Melqn was at Codeçal, but besides being at Codeçal, Melqn was at the uglyest street/place (or at least one of them) I've ever seen, right in the heart of Porto, Rua Senhora das Verdades, where a nice lady lives on the hope that some tourists less informed of "the must visit" places will cross in front of her door and buy some juice/water/beer! This is the most "off the beaten path" I can imagine.

Melqn, the Luis I bridge has two levels; tourists are suposed to be in one of them... not in the midle, in an exquisite street. I wander how did you find your way there!

I am really surprised!

(Melqn, I must say you suffer of the same problem as Progol: your pics make things look much nicer than they are)
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 01:29 PM
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This is fun! Now I know exactly where you are! Wonderful photos, Mel! Porto looks a bit less busy than when we went 2 months later, and you had a lot more blue sky than we did, and it does look great!

By the time we got to Porto at the end of the trip, whatever notes I had were long gone and whatever “plans” I had were ignored!
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 01:49 PM
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So interesting. The architecture, and the crowded alleys…..I’ll never get there so I love my armchair travels.
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 02:59 PM
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Walking our tails off, broken buses and Sergio

Our day began at the São Bento Train Station to study the azulejos, Portuguese tiles depicting historical life – just wow.


São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station


We then tried to find the Livraria Lello Bookstore to check out that staircase, but the GPS on my phone was giving us fits. We finally found it, and with it, a huge queue with like-minded tourists. I tried to buy tickets on my phone as we stood there (5), but had no luck, so we bailed.

https://www.livrarialello.pt/

So it was back to and across the Dom Luis I Bridge, the climb up to the courtyard of the Monastery of Serra do Pilar to take in the fabulous views, and then the steep walk down to Vila Nova de Gaia. The port cellar lined promenade was busy on this beautiful day, the tour boats on the river doing a booming business.


View from Dom Luis I Bridge

View from Dom Luis I Bridge

View from Dom Luis I Bridge

Views from Dom Luis I Bridge

Views from Monastery of Serra do Pilar

Views from Monastery of Serra do Pilar

Vila Nova de Gaia

We’re not fans of ruby port, but love a good Tawny, so we partook of a Tawny tasting at Calem (11) and poked through their shop, me zeroing in on the port chocolates.


Calem port tasting


We walked along the river, popped into the elaborate and colorful Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau, wondering what the heck we’d stepped into.

Turns out this shop, complete with organ player, specializes in codfish cakes made with Serra da Estrela DOP cheese, accompanied with port. A very interesting place, but nothing either of us wanted to try.


Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau

Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau

Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau


We eventually sought out sustenance at the Mercado, busy and somewhat confusing. We found a table outdoors and made several trips back inside to gather lunch from various vendors.

Bill took one for the team and agreed to try aFrancesinha from a place called Meat Me (9.50), a Portuguese sandwich that originated in Porto, downed with a pint of Super Bock stout (3.50). It looked like a gut buster, a sausage, ham, and beef sandwich covered in melted cheese and a spicy sauce. He said it was okay, but the beef was really chewy; an experience he didn’t feel the need to repeat.


Francesinha

I played it safe with a nice little margarita pizza from Mama and Papa and a glass of wine, both very good. And cheap – the pizza was 5.5 the wine 2, reminding us - not for the first time - of how expensive our beloved Switzerland is.

A bit more wandering...


Vila Nova de Gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia

And then it was back across the bridge – the lower section this time – which was narrow and cramped due to construction – and very busy - so we wore our masks. We caught the 500 bus to Foz do Douro (2 each), getting off somewhere near the park, and then kept walking in search of the beach that we missed yesterday.


Foz do Douro

We walked along the esplanade, took in the views and stopped for a drink at a busy beach café (Praia da Luz). Music was blaring on one side of the café, attracting a lot of young people on this beautiful day. Many of the women were wearing pantyhose (say what?) and toting rodent dog accessories.


Beach cafe, Foz do Douro


Beach cafe, Foz do Douro

We walked back to a bus stop via the pier and the park. A bus motored on by, already packed. We caught the next one, which drove for a few minutes and then stopped, the driver kicking us all off; we had to ask a fellow passenger what was going on, seems there was a mechanical problem - which we saw for ourselves minutes later – a huge shredded fan belt hanging from the back of the bus.


Park

Onboard the bus

Onboard the bus


We all stood around, our bus blocking traffic and creating havoc, horns blasting, lots of near misses as cars carelessly changed lanes; in a word, chaotic.

Eventually another bus came by and a few people squeezed on, but then it was full, so we continued to wait. All we could do was laugh (especially when a young guy said “but what about the old people?”). We finally got on a bus, which deposited us at an unfamiliar stop, but we eventually found our way back to the hotel, passing that elusive bookstore in the process.

We walked through a major construction zone, foot traffic directed through narrow passages, very congested – on go the masks. We later learned that the project has something to do with extending the metro.

Finally back in our hotel, an oasis of calm, too tired to head out again for a much needed beverage, we sat out on the cold atrium patio and ordered that week’s 5 cocktail offering – a bright pink mystery beverage.

Enter Sergio, a 20 year old who was manning the bar for the first time, we his first and only customers, he having to consult notes to make the drink of the week. It took him awhile but it was so good that we ordered a second, which came out entirely different than the first. Sergio is a work in progress. Nice kid.




Dinner found us at the kabab/kebob/kebap place on the corner, Estambul, which was crazy busy at 9 pm – our stomachs not sure what time it was. The place was teeming with young people, us the oldies again. Food was inexpensive and tasty; little did we know we’d become regulars (14.70 with beer and water).

It’d been a day and a half.

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 29th, 2022 at 03:11 PM.
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by HelenaFatima View Post
Fodor's members never stop surprising me! So, Progol was at Barredo, and Melqn was at Codeçal, but besides being at Codeçal, Melqn was at the uglyest street/place (or at least one of them) I've ever seen, right in the heart of Porto, Rua Senhora das Verdades, where a nice lady lives on the hope that some tourists less informed of "the must visit" places will cross in front of her door and buy some juice/water/beer! This is the most "off the beaten path" I can imagine.

Melqn, the Luis I bridge has two levels; tourists are suposed to be in one of them... not in the midle, in an exquisite street. I wander how did you find your way there!

I am really surprised!

(Melqn, I must say you suffer of the same problem as Progol: your pics make things look much nicer than they are)
Helena - which photo is Codeçal? As for the ugly street, we just followed a random street to the river, not knowing where we were going. I thought it very entrepreneurial that someone would sell drinks in what appeared to be an alley! Now I'm wondering what exquisite street we missed (we walked back up a different street a few days later, but it wasn't what I'd consider exquisite...photos to follow).
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Old Jun 29th, 2022, 04:01 PM
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I love your trip report title, as well as some Portuguese foods that you don't like!

I might have a little Portuguese family history, rumor has it that they passed through after they were kicked out of Spain.
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Old Jun 30th, 2022, 12:13 AM
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Love your report, and, as always, your photos!

s
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Old Jun 30th, 2022, 04:20 AM
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I am still dreaming of a trip to Portugal and love your report!
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Old Jun 30th, 2022, 07:09 AM
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Thanks for reading along!
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Old Jun 30th, 2022, 07:58 AM
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Banged up abroad

I can’t seem to fly without acquiring bruises and my legs were looking rather colorful by now. We were both sunburned from the previous day and all the walking had left behind a few blisters.

We took the train from Porto to Guimarães, often referred to as the birthplace of Portugal (14 for two, round trip, took about 1:20). Before we left, we’d looked for – and found – a laundromat (lavanderia), as long trips and light packing can only mean one thing.

Upon arrival in Guimarães, we sought out the UNESCO World Heritage listed historic town center, me unable to resist Gelato Sabores when we passed, which turned out to have the best lemon gelato I’ve ever had (and a massive serving at that).


My kind of serving!

Largo República do Brasil, Guimarães

Guimarães

The medieval center of Guimarães is fascinating; we spent quite some time wandering aimlessly through the winding narrow alleyways, always surprised when we came upon yet another square. I was particularly taken with a square full of these trees which I’m hoping someone can help me identify. I couldn’t seem to stop taking photos.


Largo da Oliveira, Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

Guimarães

We explored the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, not knowing at the time that it’s one of the city’s most historic churches and dates back to a Benedictine monastery founded on the site in 949.


Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira

We had a nice alfresco lunch at the randomly selected Restaurant Paraxut, both of us ordering from their set lunch menu, which included soup, bread, entrée, a big glass of wine and dessert for 14.50 each. Good food, good value.


Restaurant Paraxut

Restaurant Paraxut

Restaurant Paraxut


After lunch we sought out the cable car to Penha Hill, which was a bit of a challenge thanks to a lack of signage and walkways (7.50 each return). It was incredibly green and rocky up here, and would probably be a nice respite from the city on a normal day - but not today - due to some sort of car race, disrupting the peace with roaring engines, announcements and loud music. We visited the Santuario da Penha, took in the views over Guimarães and wandered the trails.



Santuario da Penha

Santuario da Penha

We eventually took the train back to Porto (train schedule somewhat limited), revisited our corner kebab shop and then paid Sergio another visit for a cocktail. Once again we were the only customers; Sergio must have been bored to tears because he regaled us with stories of life in Porto for quite some time.

To be continued...

Last edited by Melnq8; Jun 30th, 2022 at 08:02 AM.
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Old Jun 30th, 2022, 08:25 AM
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I would guess plane trees….
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