I am a bit slow with the whole ‘let’s do a balance of 2014 and a goals list for 2015’ kind of posts. I actually started writing one and then figured it was way too deep. Instead I’ve decided that this year I would simply share some of the pictures of my most recent travel to Lisbon. Nothing fancy. I’m not a good photographer but I’m learning. So for now, you’ll have to bear with me.
2014 was a very different year from what I’m used to. Hubby and I never travel without each other, except when I go to see my family in Italy for a flying visit. We also tend to spend at least 4-5 weeks out of the UK. It was one of the conditions of me marrying him. I remember being in the car with him one day discussing the ‘non-compromiseables’ (yep, I’ve just made that one up!) and telling him that I would forgo material stuff for as long as we make time every year for at least one two-weeks break together. This year it hasn’t happened. I’ve travelled extensively for work without him, three times to Italy and once to Sharm el Sheikh, and by the end of the year we realise we still hadn’t taken a break together. So we did…
In November we treated my parents to a five days’ family break in Lisbon for their 40th anniversary. I had no expectations whatsoever. It was just one of those places I always desired to visit but never really made it a priority until I had to choose a destination that no one in my family had ever been to. I’m pleased we went, as Lisbon turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.
We booked a modern 2 floors apartment via Air BnB in the heart of Bairro Alto, one of the oldest parts of town. The location was absolutely perfect. Less than 10 minutes walk from Baixa-Chiado tube station (right in the heart of Lisbon) and 1 minute from the n.28 tram, which pretty much takes you through the loveliest parts of town – we couldn’t have picked a better place to stay.
Sadly we had a lot of rain, and let me tell you, when it rains in Lisbon, it r a i n s ! It is an old city with narrow pavements, especially on the hilly Bairro Alto area, so when cars drive past they have no alternative but to shower you. First piece of advice? Ditch the umbrella and keep a long (!) plastic raincoat in your bag (or go in the summer when hopefully the weather is less temperamental).
Prices in coffee shops and restaurants were incredibly reasonable. We ate nothing but fresh fish every day and never spent more than €12-15 each including drinks (i.e. an abundant plate of vegetables rice, with a grill tuna steak, salad, and home made fries). Coffees and teas are always between €0.70-0.90. And since we also had the opportunity to cook and eat at home, we got a chance to check out the cost of food and drinks at the supermarket too. A bottle of wine, even the most expensive, is no more than €2.50.
The best way to explore the town is on foot. We downloaded a 5 days walking tour of Lisbon, and went through the itinerary each evening to make sure we knew how to get to the starting point the following day. We also eliminated all the museums. I like museums, but I’m of the idea that the first time you visit a city you should explore its life. And life is in the streets. Streets are the soul of a city. Museums are for winter, for cold days, for second visits, for relaxation.
The couple of pictures below are from the Castelo de São Jorge. I was slightly disappointed to have to pay for something that has no internal rooms to view (if there were any, there was no clear sign as to how to access them). However, being on one of the highest points of Lisbon, you enjoy a view of the town and the Tagus river like no other!
Belém was also a real gem. Located just outside Lisbon (a 20 minutes bus drive), it has quite a lot to offer, including the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument, the Belém Tower, the Jerónimos Monastery and a fabulous view of the 25 de Abril Bridge.
Would I go back to Lisbon? I certainly would, but most likely in the summer. A city, any city, takes on a much more vibrant feel when it’s a bright sunny day with long evenings, so I want to explore Lisbon, its small bars, coffee shops, hidden restaurants and night life again, but next time on bright summer days 🙂
Credits: all images, except the apartment images which are from Air BnB are copyright of Elisabetta Cirulli