12 October 2017

A few from Lisbon

My trip was well timed. As the season changed, I said goodbye to the last quarter of the year and what it represented to me, and hopped on a plane. Three hours later, in Portugal, I felt lighter. And as the warmth hit my skin, I could breathe deeper too.

Unaffected by Ryanair's flight fiasco, our journey was smooth. We found the taxi to our Airbnb in moments, and spent the trip discussing where to go and what to see, all the while staring out of the window and admiring our home for the coming days.

After we'd settled in - we stayed in Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon - we made our way to the first of many recommendations, Park Bar a rooftop bar on a car park. It's nicer than it sounds!

Even at 6pm it was busy and tricky to find a seat, as everyone tends to congregate here for sundowners. Cocktails in hand, we managed to perch on tables and chairs and watch the sky turn from blue to pink.

The golden hour made everything seem even more beautiful, enhancing the colour-washed buildings and making silhouettes of more ornate structures.

It was quite breath-taking.

Promise me if you visit Lisbon, you'll go.

Glasses empty, we wandered around, trying to TripAdvisor a good restaurant, but every menu we came across was - unsurprisingly - in Portuguese. The place we settled on wasn't great, and we realised it might be trickier to find good food here than we thought. Hungry for dessert, we sought out our first of many cream tarts at Fabrica de Nata - not the best we had on our trip, but delicious nonetheless.

The next day we ventured to Alcantara to LX Factory, an artsy strip of market stalls, independent shops and eateries almost directly beneath the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge.

We had lunch at Burger Factory (linked to insta, because the images say it all) which was sooo good, and put us in good spirits to explore. Everywhere online seems to dub LX  'Lisbon's hipster spot', and it was easy to see why...

Funky murals, off-the-wall (or rather, on the wall) sculptures...

Fun interiors...

And tongue in cheek grafitti...

After mooching up and down, seeking the shade, we took a bus to Belém.

Needless to say, Belém tower is a must-see, and I walked around the periphery to ensure I could capture the beauty of the former fort.

Craving something sweet, we headed towards the high street, but got sidetracked by the Mosteiro dos Jeronimós.

Entry is 10 euros (5 if you're a student/have a student card) and it was just incredibly beautiful. I paid 10 euros because I gave up on my student card years ago because no one accepted it due to the lack of expiry date, but my friends blagged it, so I was full of #regret.

It was such a peaceful, ornate space. The delicate detail made my heart happy. I could have stayed there for hours.

I think it's impossible to get a bad photo there.

Late in the afternoon, our stomachs were grumbling, so we ambled along to get our daily fix of custard tarts at one of Lisbon's institutions, Pastéis de Belém.

It's pretty grimy in there, guys. The tiles were tired, the tables a bit sticky, and I likened our visit there to the Hard Rock Cafe in London, i.e. it had to be done, even just the once. Besides, it was cheap (unlike the Hard Rock Cafe) and the tarts were pretty special. Unlike Fabrica de Nata, there was a hint of salt in the pastry, which made the sweet custard taste even better. They were so good, I grabbed two to takeaway for breakfast the following morning...

We had a late dinner at a vegan restaurant a short walk from our flat, called Princesa do Castelo. I didn't take any photos (too dark) but actually really recommend, especially considering I'm not a vegan (one of our party was a vegetarian and wanted to try it). The menu changes daily, and I had a chickpea curry with rice and salad, and it was one of the best meals I had during my stay; really colourful and well-seasoned. It's no frills, and quite hippy-dippy inside, but I rated it.

After a breakfast of semi-stale pastries from the day before, we continued our final full day in Lisbon with yet more food courtesy of Mercado da Ribeira, or as it's more commonly known now, the Time Out Market, in Chiado.

The breadth of stalls is rather overwhelming...

And be prepared to get your elbows out to bag a space at the tables!

The food isn't cheap - around 8-12 euros for lunch - and it ranges from street food to restaurant-quality fare. We were all given buzzers to let us know when our food was ready.

I went for a chicken penang curry.

The portion size was good, but the curry itself was a bit too milky. A shame, really.

I went all out and got a lemon meringue cheesecake at one of the cake stalls, which was just divine, and more than made up for my disappointing main.

In the afternoon we paid a visit (again, 10 euros for entry, 5 for students, argh) to the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), which I didn't rate... except for SPLEEN, the adjoining cafe, which was dreamy. The food there also looks amazing, so head there for lunch.

I'm regretting not going to the Berardo Museum (we walked in, then left, nooo), which I've since learned houses Warhol, Picasso, Dali and Koons, amongst other artists. So please, go there and take (non-flash) photos for me?

Afterwards, we headed back to our neighbourhood to soak up the sights and savour the rest of the afternoon (and tiles).

Our final night for dinner, after lots of research, we found a little place called Osteria, nestled in the backstreets (really) of Bairro Alto. It was quite random, but offered dishes all of us liked the sound of and we could kind of translate into English, plus it was reasonably priced and rated well.

In Portugal we found they like to serve their dishes as sharers, which we definitely didn't want to do, so ordered three dishes and a starter - which the waitress said was 'too much food', to which we responded...

Image result for the fat controller laughed

But really. We ate it all.

I had a 'meat ragu' - no idea what the meat was, as the waitress who took our order didn't speak much English, and I was enjoying my Aperol Spritz too much to question her - whilst my friends had beetroot spaghetti and Parmesan penne. Good reviews all round.

With a few hours to kill in the morning, we spent a prolonged brunch at Rainha Dona Amelia (there's a few scattered around the city) which was pretty and pink and offered a winning combo of pancakes and a Full 'English' (Portuguese) - difficult to find because the Portuguese don't do brunch in the same way we do.

And after a nightmare-ish half an hour where we couldn't get in touch with our Uber driver to pick us up and take us to the airport, we managed to get a driver called Americo ('Like America!') who was a riot and told us all the places we should have gone, saying 'Next time, next time...'

I'm not sure when 'next time' will be, Americo, as I have a list of places I want to travel as long as my arm, but it's safe to say that Lisbon was exactly what I needed. Bring on the next holiday!


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