Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trip Report - Lisbon, Portugal

I was very skeptical before going to Lisbon. I like my vacations luxurious with little hard work. On paper, Lisbon seemed like a run down city with steep hills. After visiting, it has become one of my favorite cities in the world.

I did go with a proper plan. I knew exactly which areas had steep slopes since I have trouble walking on them. I knew which buses dropped us on the top so that we can walk down. You see, I need my holiday perfect. I don't want to upset the Boy by being cranky and tired all the time. Planning to the T helps me overcome all obstacles with ease. I do reach the place like I've already been there (I see Google maps/Earth all the time), but I don't regret it one bit. This is the way I am comfortable; deal with it!

We booked ourselves into a hotel at Rossio square so that we are close to everything. In terms of location, I don't think we could have done better. Our hotel was where Rua Augusta, the pedestrian only shopping street, ended. We were next to Praca de Figueira where the most important buses/trams had a stop. And we were in a hotel that was absolutely perfect!

We landed in Lisbon after a day long journey from Bahrain via Dubai at 7:30 p.m. We took the cheap aerobus (book online for cheaper rates) because it had a stop 100 mtrs from our hotel. After leaving our luggage we took the Santa Justa elevator to Chiado district to have our first meal in Lisbon. We came back early through the winding streets of Baxia and retired for the day.

I had planned day 2 with much elan! We went to the topmost and most famous spot of Lisbon - Castelo de Sao Jorge. This castle stands on a hill promising the best views of Lisbon. We took the 737 bus which is the only mode of transportation that drops you near the entrance so that you don't have to climb a steep hill. Although the castle has a lot of steps inside, there is a vast area you can see and take in the amazing views of Lisboa. We did just that.

View of Lisbon from the Castle.

The Old town of Lisbon - Alfama District
We then walked down to the Se Cathedral for lunch. The lanes of Old Town are quite pretty and give you a glimpse into the real Lisbon. It was our first day and since we were quite excited, we ventured into the western district of Belem after this. We took the famous tram 12 and sat in a crowded vehicle to reach our destination! Here we saw the monastry, the tower and the Discovery monument from the outside! This area did not fascinate us enough and we were back quite earlier than expected.

An East Asian structure in a European park where we saw a performance on a Hindi number. The world is truly becoming Global in every sence of the word!

A famous custard pie that we found too sweet for our taste.

Our next stop was Praca do Comercio - the most fun yet pretty square I have seen in the world. On one side it had an archway to pedestrian shopping street. It had restaurants all around it. On the other side it had the river and a tiny beach. And in the centre, it had a huge screen playing the Euro Cup. There were beer stalls and thousands of people just chilling and making merry. 

We had had a long day and so we went back after dining in one of the restaurants and watching some part of the match. In Lisbon, you get a transport card for unlimited travel for the day in 6 Euro. We bought that and made good use of it.

On Day 3 we took the Hop-on-Hop-off bus thinking we would get a good glimpse of the city with it. Although we did see more than we could have seen on our own, the HoHo bus was a disappointment. The real charm of Lisbon is in its alleys; the HoHo stays far from them.

Devouring the map! :p

We checked into the Oceanarium area and a beautiful corniche. We then took the Hoho back for a siesta in the hotel. 

The evening on Day 3 was the most beautiful we had in Lisbon. We took the Gloria Funicular to Barrio Alto, the party area of Lisbon. We went atop Jardim de Sao Pedro de Alcantara for yet another beautiful view of the city. This viewpoint had a stage with a live singer, lots of stalls serving food and drinks, and a very nice atmosphere. There were young and old lovers, children and group of friends making merry. When they say that most amazing things in this world are free, they are not lying.

After dinner at one of the restaurants in the by-lanes, we went to Praca do Comercio again. Now this square had turned into a night club at 11 in the night. There was a DJ playing where they were showing the Euro Cup. Everyone around was dancing. We got ourselves a quiet, romantic spot on the beach front and danced. I mean, I danced! This was indeed my Lisbon moment.

The next morning I did something totally unexpected. I woke up at 8:30 and told the Boy lets run and catch the train to Porto! We had to take a shower, have our breakfast, take a taxi to Orient station, buy the ticket and catch the train. This journey takes 3 hours and was not adviced for a day trip. We did it anyway.

I had heard that Porto is better than Lisbon - I disagree. Porto is a city of six bridges. It seems more vast, less rustic. The alleys are not as charming as Lisbon. We took a Tuk-Tuk tour since we were short on time and saw what we could in 1.5 hours. What worried me in Porto was that no matter what, you could not avoid the slopes. It drained my energy.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed our trip and made the best of our limited time. The waterfront was beautiful and the views were breathtaking. 

Maybe if we had stayed overnight we would have liked this city more. Anyway, I don't regret our decision to go here, so we must have seen something nice!

We were to leave Lisbon the next day and I was definitely sad. It had been the most amazing four days and I would definitely love to go back. Even though the summer heat was sometimes unbearable, the evening breeze made up for it.

Well, the greatest compliment I could give Lisbon is I can actually see myself living there. The country is fabulous and the people are extremely warm. Do visit it to see another side to Europe.

Coming up: Trip reports from San Sebastian, Ibiza and Barcelona!