It was a hot weekend in July 2009 when we visited Lisbon, the beautiful capital city of Portugal.
I spent the entire weekend drinking copious (and unusual) amounts of Diet Coke and feeling particularly unfit as we wandered around the city and surrounds…and a few weeks later discovered that I had been in the very early stages of my pregnancy with Tiny.
Lisbon is the vibrant, chilled out, slow-paced city that holds court as Portugal’s capital. Beautiful by day, soulful by night; an energetic, pastry-loving, tram-rattling place that seems not to care what the rest of the world is up to, and moves to its own fado-inspired beat.
Famous for azulejos (tiles), which cover every possible surface: buildings, metro stations, doors, churches, footpaths….they are everywhere and the history, colours and detail are amazing.
It’s all about risking life and limb on Tram 28, trundling its rickety way up the winding hills; an experience not to be missed.
It’s about exploring Alfama, getting lost amongst the cobbled streets that wind in and out, crossing each other in a strange dance, leading to Castelo de Sao Jorge, resplendent on the top of the hill. Amazing views over the city and the river towards Christi Rei, a minature Christ the Redeemer. Stumbling upon the best, most wonderful cafe (Santo Antonio de Alfama) where the salmon salad and the sea bream are to die for.
It’s about sweltering and battling with the sun-seeking, sand-searching hordes in Cascais, a popular beach town out of the city. Feeling caught between a rock and a hard place, between the blistering hot sand and the icy cold Atlantic Ocean.
It’s about Castelo dos Mouros, in the fairytale town of Sintra – top of our “Castles We Have Seen” list. A 9th-Century Moorish castle, nestled 400-odd metres above sea level. The ramparts snake across the hill; stagger to the highest keep where the views are breathtaking and you can see the city in the distance.
It’s about Palacio Nacional da Pena, an extravagant palace built by the nephew of crazy King Ludwig II of Neuschwanstein/Bavarian/Disneyland fame. The colours are faded and the facades are looking weathered, but it’s lavishly adorned in eclectic fashion. The views back to Castelo dos Mouros are impressive and it’s so peaceful being so high up in the hills.
It’s about street peddlars with complete-and-utter crap to sell, and passing whispers of “Hashish? Cocaine?” if a dancing donkey isn’t to your liking.
It’s about sticking to the cobbles outside the best Ginjinha bar in town, where the locals try not to spill a drop of the cherry brandy, and the tourists wonder silently whether they should eat the petrified cherry at the bottom of the cup.
And it’s about Pasteis de Nata – the gods’ and Lisbon’s little secret. Like a custard square, but baked into a light, flaky pastry shell, with the most delectable, silken creamy centre. Heaven in a pastry shell.