(This page is the last piece of a trip journal that started in Burgos, Spain three weeks earlier.)
May 30, 2017
Our flight to Lisbon from Porto was totally uneventful, just like every good flight should be! Barely an hour in the air, we were at our hotel in Lisbon just 2 hours after take off.. and just in time for lunch!
Our hotel is close to the river in the Baixa district, on the Praça do Municipio, maybe 4 blocks from the Mercado da Ribeira – a happening place to find a good lunch. You may remember that we tried this venue earlier in the trip but were overwhelmed by the crowds and the noise. Today we are about 2 hours later (2 pm versus 12 noon) and though is is crowded and noisy, we can find some empty seats and the lines to buy food are 1 or 2 deep at most.
We decided to buy from one of the chef booths, ours by Henrique Sá Pessoa, who, can you believe the irony, was the subject of an article in the TAP inflight magazine! (I ordered in Portuguese… so proud of myself!) Gerry had the suckling pig and I had a gratin of cod fish with carrots and spinach. Both were divine. We also indulged the same bad habits we picked up on this trip – I had rosé with my fish and Gerry a cerveja.
To kill a little more time until 3 when we can really check-in, we walked along the river side of the neighborhood, stopping in sunny parks and savoring the cool breeze that comes of the Tagus, which is extremely wide here. The scene is very tranquil. Lots of sunbathers in sling chairs, feet up on the “sea” wall, tourists of all stripes on a stroll. We walked along the river to the Praça do Comércio.
Wow! Now there is a monumental square! This part of Lisbon was not only leveled during the 1755 earthquake, but it was washed clean by a tidal wave that traveled up the Tagus! The “landlord” of our early stay in the Intercontinental, the Marquês de Pombal, was the genius behind the rebuilding. The huge square, with the river as one side, is flanked on both sides by gorgeous and impressive 18th century buildings that turn the corner and form the fourth side with an enormous, ceremonial arch at the center. And it wouldn’t be Portugal if there were not a bronze equestrian statue in the center!
We walked through the arch and onto the pedestrian street of Rua Augusta, admiring the shops, and peering inquisitively at the luncheon choices of the al fresco diners.
It is time for our nap, so we wandered back to the hotel. Our neighborhood is a little down at the heels… but there is a lot of construction going on (that’s good) but perhaps there is not enough activity all day to prevent trash building up or to cover for the many empty store fronts (that’s bad). It is quiet though, and that is good, too.
Our hotel is the Almalusa Baixa/Chiado. It appears to be an old building with a new identity. A bit quirky, but with all the services. Later we will have dinner in the restaurant attached to it (Delphina Restaurant), which also serves as the breakfast venue… the food is good, very good, even if the place appears on no list that we know of.
After the nap, we venture out again. We walk the main streets of Rossio, those built on the grid designed by Pombal, with the names of the various workers’ guilds. There are interesting vignette views down the side streets to the left and right – the Castelo São Jorge on one side and the Saint Justa Elevator on the other. The streets are full but not crowded and the vibe is a happy one. We see tourists of all ages, the young mix with the grey hairs seamlessly and everyone seems happy to be alive and be in Lisbon.
Our roaming take us through some very impressive praças and monumental streets, and along the way there are some real standouts: The Praça do Rossio is wonderful – open and clean. The mosaic pavement has an optical illusion that makes it look like furrows (rows of little hills and valleys). The Rossio Train Station is magnificent! Only later would I realize that we would have found azulejo murals had we gone deeper inside. The façade is really something though! I was also captivated by the Eden Theater – complete with a garden (of Eden?) growing above the now shuttered sidewalk level space. My guidebook mentioned a well-known retailer in the space, but the book is a few years old. Now, it is completely boarded up.
We took a funky street car up a very steep section called the Calçada de Glória. It was almost completely covered in legal graffiti as were the walls along the tracks. It was fun, if expensive… an a convenient way to avoid a steep uphill climb.
At the top I wanted to show Gerry the lookout point (Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcántara)I had enjoyed a week earlier, but today, with no explanation, the entire area is off limits. We wandered down the side streets of the Chiado, past many fado venues, not stopping for a song or dinner, but getting a general feel for the area. We passed significant areas of buildings that are abandoned, sometimes just finding one or two little restaurants along entire city block. The streets are narrow…but that doesn’t mean there are no cars. Most of the cars seem to belong to residents; the tourists are all on foot.
Near the Praça do Camões we entered a nice shopping district, with very old merchants, mixed in with high end boutiques. There is a very different vibe here from the fado streets, for sure.
All in all, it was wonderful walk and a fitting cap to a vacation that has only made us more eager to return to Portugal in the near future.
After our walk, we had dinner in the hotel restaurant as I mentioned, and from here on it was all just packing and preparing to return home tomorrow.
As a wrap up to this trip, I wrote down some of the things I learned on the way. If you’d like to read that, click here.