Loving it in lisboa

Trip Start May 12, 2005
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Trip End May 14, 2006


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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

really unique european capital city; old, pretty small, funky, diverse and traditional... had a great five days exploring the many different barrios (neighbourhoods) of lisbon:


barrio alto;

- the quintessential cool area, right up on top of a steep hill (not uncommon in lisbon, heaps of hills!!!), laced with cafes, bars, resturants, antique shops...
- rue nord is lined with funky clothes, shoes, record shops; nice for a little wander.
- had a few nights out up here (the walk up from our pensao was short but viciously steep and if one was feeling lazy, it was serviced by a "hill tram").
- met an Irishman (David) and a Portugese (Sophia) girl who took us out to a Faro (traditional portugese singing) bar, went back there the following night, they took it very seriously.
- wedding cake castle perched on the edge of barrio alto, great views over the city.
- right near the castle is a catedral (of course), also pretty spectacular.
- lisbon has lots of trams, the one which runs through the narrow streets of barrio alto is especially scenic and fits through some pretty small gaps.

alfama;

- the oldest neighbourhood in the city, also the most touristy, but very easy to lose the crowds in the maze of alleyways and steps.
- full of character, resturants, fado bars...bit of an older crowd compared to barrio alto, but more of a lived in and community feel as well.
- had an excellent lunch of caldo verde (literaly "hot green"; delicious vege soup, eaten at all times of the day) and grilled baby squid (lulas) and salad and potatos....YUM!!!
- a couple of trams ply their routes through the narrow streets of alfama, well worth a ride.
- great views out onto the river from many of the higher streets.
- lovely park, St Clara (Clare liked it being 'her' park!!) had a game of scrabble in the sun one day, lots of old cats chewing the fat, playing cards.....
- Sunday flea market in the area surrounding St Clara, very vibrant market with lots of junk interspearsed with a few gems!!

belam;

- a half hour tram ride along the river towards the atlantic ocean, this is kind of the brighton of Lisbon (but not really, bad analogy).
- grand discovery monument on the river pays homage to the portugese navigators, sailors and explorers who helped to spread the portugese empire into south america and asia...
- huge cathedral....huge!!!
- pastisse al nata; very special custard tarts, are available all over portugal, the best ones are in Belem, they simpy on of the best things we have ever eaten!!!
- nice family feel, some open space (rare in central lisbon) and sky, would be lovely in summer..

sao sebastao;

- on the edge of the cbd area, this barrio had a couple of very nice parks and a spectacular private art collection housed at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian; lots of islamic ceramics, pottery, glass and tapestries....amazing collection.
- also a great deal of other "stuff"; egyptian, roman, greek, heaps of rennaisance artworks and other european decorative items and furniture, chinese vases, chests....stacks of stuff a bonafide cross-section beatifully presented...well worth the visit.
- breezed through the museum of modern art as well, some pretty out there stuff, but we liked a couple of things.

baixa;

- right in the thick of things;
- our fantastically cheap and clean pensao was at the bottom of the hill leading up to barrio alto.
- great little locals resturant, went there a few nights, run by a couple of really friendly blokes, clare had the salmon cutlet grilled on every visit.
- great big squares, statues, a fantastic barouqe train station (under renovation), fountains, trams... all very scenic.
- visited the mercado di ribera a couple of times, wasn't really going off, but some really nice/cheap produce and a dazzling array of fresh fish and seafood.
- finally the main tourist information office was just around the corner from our pensao; super friendly and helpfull, one of the big differences in travel here compared to asia is having free/easy access to reliable information.

sintra;
- took a train out for a day trip out to this town, had a real "hill-station" feel to it; guidebook called it a playground for the rich and famous.
- the whole place is UNESCO world heritage listed.
- very beatiful, grand old houses, lots of churches (of course), stunning ridge-top position.
- went into the municiple gardens, some really nice plants, very well laid out and peacefull.
- did a magnificant walk from the town up over a hill to the ruins of a moorish castle and then on to the crazy shapes/colours of the Pena palace...looped back into town...great half day walk.
-strolling back to the train station we chanced upon a little cafe with good-looking pastisse (aforementioned custard tarts); they were really, really good, but not as good as their cousins from Belem.
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