The time came for a little break from work. As theLovelyWife is, as usual, buried under a couple of her work projects, I’m taking the time to walk around town, something I don’t have time to do on a regular basis now that I spend most of the time stuck at the office.
So, I picked the xT1, and a pair of those comfortable shoes they talk about, and set out to re-discover a city I once knew so well.
Meet up with Dave for a photowalk. It’s been a long time since we’ve done one, and it’s a good way to get the break started. We took the subway to Rossio, and spent a great time going up and down the Baixa, Chiado and Bairro Alto.
It seems the city has been run over by tourists. It’s almost surprising when you catch a few Portuguese words in the air. Most of them, the tourists, flock to this area, with all the stuff they have to see there. The new Ribeira das Naus is super nice, but it’s definitely strange to see people using the river as a beach. It’s not. We have a ton of beaches around here, and this is not one of them.
We had lunch at a nondescript place near Chiado, with a friend who works at a paper there. It was a chance encounter, and that should always be celebrated.
A quick walk up the hill, and we were ready to cross the Bairro Alto, a place you should really visit when you’re in town. Actually you should visit twice, for a complete perspective: once during the day, and again at night. It’s a super cool place all day long, and I used to live here when I was way younger. I went to high school here, and it’s always a pleasure to be back.
You can take Elevador da Glória to go down the hill again, but we walked instead. There’s a small street art gallery here, part of the city hall’s GAU project. It’s well worth a look. The elevador is over priced anyway, and the photos look much nicer when you’re outside and get the actual thing on the shot, instead of riding it, packed like a bunch of sardines…
And just like that we we’re at Martim Moniz, a square close to Rossio and home to a thriving asian community. This is the place to come if you’re looking for Chinese cooking ingredients, and everything else you can think of that’s made in Asia, as a couple of wholesale markets flank the square. But now there’s also something newish there, called Mercado de Fusão. You can find a few stalls serving food from all over the world, and some tasty cocktails as well. Nice for a late afternoon stop. If you’re lucky you can even catch a few Pakistanis playing cricket.
This time around I had a couple of errands to take care of, and so I went the other way, to the airport (you can do that by subway now, escaping the awful cabbies in town) and to the Parque das Nações area.
Today’s photowalk was shorter, since those errands took a bit longer than expected.
Back to the old part of town, and a visit to the new Mercado da Ribeira, now complete with trendy places to have a bite and a sip.
This is the old market, but now you can also find a upmarket food court in there. The old produce market is still going, and worth a visit on it’s own merit. Mind the heat, as it can be overwhelming. Don’t worry, the amazing Santini ice-cream parlour has a booth here, and a lot of the best chefs in town are also present.
Also took the time to visit Adamastor, where you can catch a nice view from Lisbon and a whiff of weed all day long. It can be quite crowded when the sun is about to set, so plan accordingly.
Downhill again (this is the city with seven hills, after all) and found myself at Cais do Sodré, a public transport hub by the river, close to everything. You can find a train station, a boat station, trams, subway and buses here. You can also find a caipirinha, if you look closely.
A 50's haircut and a failed Uber ride.
Cranky weather today, so a quick photowalk was required. Picked the Chiado/Cais do Sodré area, again, but walked there from Jardim do Torel, a very lovely place on the opposite hill from Bairro Alto, where you get a nice view from the city, and can sit down for some quiet time. It’s usually not very crowded, a nice oasis.
Going down Rua do Alecrim, I spotted a new barber, Figaro’s, and ended up getting a haircut there. It’s a men’s place, and no girls are allowed. No joke.
Super location, amazing interior design, and a very professional service from heavily tattooed barbers who did their training back in the States. In the end the job is very well done, and you even get beer while they’re doing their stuff on your head. The vintage products they use smell soooo nice and… well… vintagy.
Feeling the air in my newly cut hair, I felt it was time to visit one of the Lisbon bucket list items: the Arco da Rua Augusta. An amazing piece of architecture from the outside, and you can now go up to the top, the view from up there is nothing short of amazing. You get the whole Terreiro do Paço on your feet, the river in cinemascope format in front of you, and maybe even some blue in the sky as we we’re lucky to get by then.
I’ve been wanting to visit ever since they opened the stairs to the public, but it’s one of those things that never seems to find a right time to happen. Fixed that one.
A small walk around the Baixa and it was time to head back home. Tried getting a ride with Uber. They launched in town a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been trying to test the service ever since, but the waiting time I get on the app is just plain silly. I still have the launch day free rides to use, so that would be even cheaper than taking the subway, or a regular taxi, but I can’t bring myself to wait 12 minutes for a drive that’s shorter than that. So I took the subway, and was home by the time the driver was supposed to pick me up. I guess they’re still staffing the thing, not enough drivers, but that’s a bummer.
Time for a little stroll with theLovelyWife, albeit a short one, as there’s a lot of work to do, even though it’s the weekend.
Visited the old neighbourhood, the lovely Praça das Flores, with the lovely kiosk. We then moved a bit up on the hill, to try out a burger joint that has everyone raving about how good the burgers are. On to Honorato Hamburgueres Artesanais and see what the fuss is all about.
You can probably guess, even if you don’t speak the language, but Artesanais means artisanal, which is always a nice way to make things. And they do know how to make a burger! I can vouch for the black pepper one, but a lot of the other ones left me undecided when it was time to pick one. You can get them in regular size or mini-burger, which might be big enough for a snack. The fries are delicious, and there’s a jar (really) of chocolate mousse for dessert.
They have big drawings on the walls, depicting the drinks available on the premises, and the caipirinha one has a whole wall for itself. I’m always happy when the caipirinha gets some well deserved respect, and so I ordered one. Found out the burgers go amazingly well with it.
When we were done with lunch, it’s was time to get back to the street and the climbing, always moving up until we get to Principe Real, a super garden with a ton of reasons that make a visit mandatory. On Saturdays it gets even better since there’s the weekly market.
It’s a mixed thing. Half of it is an organic farmer’s market, the other half a sort of crafts market, with t-shirts and bracelets and handmade ipad covers in an assortment of fabrics, with the occasional booth selling honey, or presunto. Get there early if you plan to browse the produce market, as this half closes well before the other one does.
We were ready to call it a day, and head back home to get that work done. A bit harder after this, for sure, as everyone should know that caipirinhas and work never mix.
It’s Sunday, we’re going nowhere.
Hope you have a great Sunday. See you tomorrow.
Monday. Remember that most monuments are closed on Mondays. I didn’t.
Today I decided I would go across town, to another area that’s on every tourist’s must-visit list when they come to Lisbon: Belém. There’s plenty of reasons to come here. You’ve got the Torre de Belém, the CCB, Jerónimos, Planetário and the Navy’s Museum, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and, last but not least, the Fábrica dos Pastéis de Belém. There’s also a couple of nice gardens around, you can’t really miss them, but you should try to visit the Botanical Tropical Garden. Oh, the President also lives here, but there’s no need to pay him a visit, there’s an abundance of non-boring stuff to do here, as you can already see…
Regarding those tasty pastéis de Belém, a tip. There’s always a huge line outside. This line will take you to a very small counter, where they will hand you the thing. You will have to wait. Sometimes you will have to wait a lot. If you go inside and find a seat, and a seat you will find as they have a maze-like interior that seats a lot of people, a waiter will come to you, usually as soon as you sit down, and take your order. Do yourself a favor, order a couple, and don’t forget the chocolate milk. You can also get some to take away, and you’ll leave while the others are still waiting outside.
Anyway, moving on, as the monuments are closed on Mondays, remember ? As soon as I got to the Jerónimos Monastery I realised my plans had to be changed, as most of the stuff I wished to visit was closed for the day. I had a couple of pastéis and chocolate milk (see ?) and used the extra power all that sugar provided and walked all the way to LX Factory, a funky place where you’ll find restaurants, trendy designer shops, a nice bookstore, a photo studio and a ton of other random offices, all housed in an old industrial park. Very cool, very hip, very happening and all that.
Strolled around for a while, my friend the photographer with the studio was not there, so I moved on. Walked a bit more, tried to make a reservation for dinner, and up and down the hill to get to Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. There’s a big museum, a modern art center and a huge garden, another oasis in town. Good for a relaxing stop. I was getting close to my final stop of the day, another big graffiti, this one on Avenida de Berna.
Not sure if it’s a side-effect of yesterday’s no-museum-for-you day policy, but everywhere I went today was extra-crowded. I did push my luck and tried visiting the castle. You can guess how well that one went.
Started the day by going down Almirante Reis, a street not on the regular tours. If you’re looking for kitchenware, kebabs or furniture, you’re in the right place. If you’re looking for shady looking people, prostitutes and junkies, look no further.
The area around Intendente square is much nicer than before, the mayor even set up his offices over here, and a few trendy shops sprouted in the square. But, if you move an inch from the square, you’re in another city altogether. Having said that, there’s always police around, look for them closer to the mayor’s office, and there’s really no danger. Just make sure you pay attention to your stuff, and you’ll be alright.
That’s when I decided to visit the castle. It’s a steep climb. The castle sits on top of the damn hill, as castles usually do.
Surprise, surprise, there’s a huge line. No mood for waiting, and I wanted to visit the Cathedral, the Sé, down the hill from here anyway. No Castelo de São Jorge for me, but try to visit. It has an amazing view over Lisbon, probably my favourite… A quick visit to Portas do Sol and Miradouro de Santa Luzia, and it’s a breezy walk down the road, with a procession of trams loaded with tourists. That, and tuk-tuks! There are thousands of them all over the place these days. Lisbon is the new Bangkok!
The Sé, surprisingly, was not that crowded. It’s a fresh place, as churches tend to be, and I hadn’t been in the back rooms since I was a kid in a school visit. I always like to visit churches when I travel, so it’s was nice to go in and see if I remembered it from the past. I did not.
Still going down, all the way down to the river. Through Campo das Cebolas, but you don’t have to, and straight to Cais das Colunas. A hit with tourists and locals, it’s the place from where the navigators from the old days sailed away, when they had to leave for a pack of cigarettes or to discover another continent. Today it’s another one of those places that people seem to consider a beach, but it’s not even close. One end of the beach is also the end of an old sewer system, one that’s not working these days.. Enough said as far as bathing in the area as far as I’m concerned. Apart from that, it’s a cool place to watch the sunset. The Praça do Comércio also has a lot of restaurants these days, but I was heading to MUDE, I wanted to visit André Saraiva´s show at the museum.
It’s a great show, open till the 30th of September. If street art is your thing, it’ll be worth your time.
After that I was ready to go home, and decided to give Uber another try. I’m so glad I did. Sat down on São Jorge’s stairs, and fired up the app. Requested a driver, and I could see the car icon on the map, not that far away, and still got a 19 minute wait. What ? Ok, I’ll wait it out, but that was strange. I watched as the car moved closer, and the quoted wait time still looked oddly exaggerated.
As they say, third time is a charm, and the driver showed up well before the quoted time, but not before a tweet was sent complaining about the (now wrong) ETA. The drive home was a relaxing conversation with a very nice driver, a young man i bugged with questions for as long as the trip lasted. I know I’m on vacation, but my curiosity is still turned on.
I didn’t have to pay for this one, since I’m still using the promo code from the launch, but I will for sure use them in the future. I can’t stand the local cabbies, and this really is a much nicer way to move about town. And I also want to try the service abroad. They we’re also quick on the twitter trigger, a must on my side. I had tweeted when I got home, and they replied to that one and the one sent before the start of the ride. It took them 15 minutes to reply, something unimaginable from a Portuguese company.
No more taxis for me, I will get used to Uber in no time. Just, please please, add more drivers. Oh, and get uberX too, while you’re at it. Thanks.
I guess we’re getting to the end of this vacation story.
Today we had stuff to deal with, so no photowalk for me. We’re also getting ready to leave town and head down south for a couple of days, there’s a world music festival we have to attend. We’re leaving tomorrow and, by the time we get back, I’ll have to go back to the mine, and daydream about the next time I don’t have to work.
Anyway, today we had to go to Moscavide, a place that is as exciting as it sounds (provided you speak Portuguese). It’s not a place I would recommend, but we had stuff to do there, so there you go. I’m not even searching that one on Foursquare. No link for you, it’s better this way, trust me.
We came back as soon as we could and found the Fonte Luminosa turned on. You will find this park, complete with a huge fountain (the actual Fonte), close to the northern end of Almirante Reis. You might remember this street from yesterday’s walk, and this here fountain is one of the nicest things on it. It’s not always turned on, but today we found it like this. Maybe you’ll get lucky when you visit as well.
And I guess it’s time to wrap it up. Hope you’ve enjoyed these days, as much as I’ve enjoyed them myself. See you soon and thanks for keeping me company.
See you around.