Gosh I haven’t put my Portugal posts out sooner for lack of knowing where to start!
Overall we had a great stay in Portugal over the 10 days with no real complaints (ok maybe the rain). It was my 1st time there & I really didn’t know much except that Portuguese food immediately conjured up images of Nandos or Adega 🙂 So I’ll chat about our 1st 5 days in Lisbon in this post & then about Porto, our 2nd stop in this (very last-minute) holiday in a follow-up post…
There are no direct flights from SA to Lisbon. Really. We flew Emirates which was possibly the longest possible way to get there (2 +- 8 hour flights each way) but was the cheapest by a mile plus there’s Emirate’s hospitality (& no Dubai visas needed). On all 4 flights we had zero delays & the planes felt shiny & new with upgraded entertainment systems (I watched 9 movies in total!). Ok I’m gushing but these guys just consistently deliver & with a huge smile.
The beautiful cobble stone street we stayed on in Lisbon.
March is Spring in Portugal & definitely still low season (I’m frugal like that). We stayed in a privately owned 1 bedroom apartment which I found completely by chance on Trip Advisor. It had a dozen plus reviews and had been rated an overall 4.5 out of 5, so I thought it’d be a good bet & cost just less than R500/night including servicing! When I saw the pictures of the wooden floors & the juliette balcony online I was pretty much sold. We only had to pay on arrival (made me feel a lot more comfortable) & the apartment looked exactly like the pics in the flesh – no surprises. It was in a super convenient suburb called Sao Sebastio so we took the metro (underground train) from the airport & walked about 300m from the station to the apartment. The owner was super friendly & gave us great tips for our stay – I’m still trying to convince to come back to SA. He came all this way & only went to Kruger!
Ceramic tiles can be found used all over buildings, walls & ceilings in Portugal. So pretty…*
I love the feeling of living in a new city amongst the locals so when we bumped into our upstairs neighbour arriving home at the same time one day & she spoke Portuguese to me for 15 minutes flat, I loved it & just kept smiling 🙂
Black spaghetti anyone?
Profiteroles from El Corte Ingles, served warm. I could eat this all day…
This is a meat loving country! It felt like there was pork was everywhere – but that’s probably just because I don’t eat it 🙂 Like any modern city you can get just about any kind of food you’re looking for – we even managed to find a halaal kebab shop, Santi! Seafood was one of the local attractions I saw mentioned over & over in my research & there is plenty of it. Bacalhau (codfish) & sardines are the most common & the shellfish looked great but was pretty expensive.
While we were searching for eggs for breakfast, the Portuguese apparently have a really simple breakfast of bread, cheese & preserves – I settled for croissants. Pastry is a speciality & if like me you love pigs ears (theirs makes Woolies’ taste like cardboard) & pastel de nata (custard pastry tarts) you’ll be in heaven!
Luckily I read ahead about this but the bread & butter that we usually get complimentary in SA, is charged for in Portugal. To be fair it may come with olives & pate too (all for around 3/4 Euros or R36-R50) so unless you really want it, rather skip! It was good to see that there is quite a selection of healthy take away food like salad/soup/pasta bars – I ‘ve often wished we had these in SA. What became our favourite restaurant is Noso Italia – an Italian chain with awesome wi-fi! For dessert en route home we’d regularly stop in at Amarino for waffles & ice cream…
The metro runs 3-4 stories ungerground & there’s cellphone reception!*
One of the older trams
Be prepared to walk. A lot. Like triple the amount you think you’re going to walk. And maybe some more. Most of the streets & pavements are made of cobblestone (think Monte Casino). No matter how comfortable you think yours are, pumps don’t work. I can’t believe I forgot this lesson so soon after our Istanbul trip. Anyway I bought a pair of cheap sneakers from H&M & as soon as I changed my blisters subsided & I could focus on having a holiday.
There are two tourist bus companies – the red hop on hop off like in Cape Town (& now Jozi) & then also a yellow one (which includes their tram). We tried both, the yellow in Lisbon & the red in Porto & then mapped out the sights we wanted to stop at/return to. The tickets are valid for 48 hours (as opposed to 24hrs in SA) so that’s plenty of time if you make an early start. The commentary on the buses didn’t work, so keep your Lonely Planet guide close.
Not surprising the public transport systems are super & you can get just about everywhere you need. We bought pre loaded metro tickets for 15 Euros (around R180) each in Lisbon & Porto & that pretty much saw us through all the sights we needed to see on about 15-20 train rides each. We only took a (metered) taxi once when we were super tired & it was late. The minimum fare starts at 3.25 Euros but it gets expensive really quickly so best to avoid.
Our usual modus operandi is to just draw cash at our destination. The ATM’s we tried worked great but have a 200 Euro (R2500) limit per withdrawal, however you can withdraw more than once a day. Credit cards are widely accepted but a couple of stores only accepted local Portuguese cards so we had to opt for cash a couple more times than planned. A great frugal option to consider is the Lisbon Card that offers free or discounted entrance to major sites & tours & includes the metro.
Praca do Comercio
There are street performers on every corner of the city. Usually doing something more bizarre than this…
We took a day trip to Sintra, a town filled with palaces! The entire town has been declared a World Heritage site.
On the balcony of Sintra Palace*
At the train station, leaving Lisbon for Porto…*
More soon, this time about Porto, the 2nd half of our trip…
*Pictures courtesy of Man Make Picture.