Hello and welcome to a sporadic series of posts about my megamoon with my recently wedded husband Daniel (megamoon = long trip visiting Lisbon, Madrid, Dubrovnik, Prague and Amsterdam). Rather than individually WhatsApping family and friends, I figured I may as well do a bit of blogging for anyone who wants to hear about our trip. Publishing words on the internet is literally my day job so this should be a breeze, right?!
We arrived on Friday 2nd (yes I’m so lazy it’s taken til now to post) at 9ish in the evening, arrived at our Airbnb in Barrio Alto then went straight out for dinner at Lisboa a’Noite. Was insanely swanky and expensive but it’s the first dinner of your honeymoon so why not. I had cod fish cakes (rude not to really, it’s their thing here) then prawns. Felt full, but then they brought round the dessert trolley and I had to try Baba de Camelo. It tasted like milk, breakfast cereal and almonds and was amazing. The Portuguese are really serious about sweet stuff. They also put crisps in their sandwiches so are evidently excellent people, but more on that later. We went for a couple of drinks afterwards in a bar nearby which was lively. Witnessed a LOT of couples doing sexy dancing (obviously we remained seated).
The next day on Saturday we ambled around the city. We had a light lunch with a view at Madame Petisca next to the Miradouro de Santa Catarina (see below).
Then we went to the Arco da Rua Augusta (must see, yet it’s been deserted every time I’ve visited) and Dan had his first ever pasteis at a pastelaria nearby. A truly special moment in anyone’s life.
We went to a street festival in the evening – the first of a whole month of festas celebrating St Anthony, Lisbon’s patron Saint. For some reason this festa took place on some stairs rather than one of the many squares available here, but this was just a lesson in the fact nothing really makes much sense in Lisbon. We had caipirinhas and a great laugh with a few locals and also a Scottish/Aussie couple.
On the Sunday we visited most of what there is to see in Belém (the tower, the monastery and the famous bakery where pasteis were invented).
Then we went to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, breathtaking views and fascinating historically. It was built by the Moors in the 11th century and had been a royal palace and military barracks at various points in history.
We also learned peacocks can climb trees because there were bloody loads of them up there.
It was then somehow early evening so we took ourselves to a wine bar recommended by my colleague Joao. It’s called Wine Bar do Castelo. Zero points for naming imagination but top marks for the wine, ham and the service. Loved it.
Later that evening we went to the famous seafood restaurant Cervejaria Ramiro.
We tried A Valenciana first, but sadly it had been closed by the authorities (maybe Rick Stein’s Lisbon episode where he visited had made it too popular, who knows). Anyway, Ramiro was completely mental. There was a non sequential numbering system for queuing so you just had to wait and hope your number would get called eventually (I told you nothing makes sense here). We did have to wait for an hour and a half but there was beer and salted broad beans so we somehow survived. The food was great – I had garlic prawns and Dan had a bifana (steak sandwich).
On Monday we visited the ruins of a convent nearby that was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. It was full of fascinating artifacts, some of them unintentionally hilarious like this dude…
In the afternoon we went to the aquarium, apparently the largest in Europe. There were two insanely cute sea otters, we wanted to steal them. There were also puffins, penguins, a lot of rays and one absolute bastard looking shark. We loved it.
I also found Microsoft’s Lisbon office (unintentionally). Not a bad place to work, right by the sea.
In the evening we went to Time Out Market, it’s a bit pricey for what it is but good food and you get to try lots of little things. We had soup, piri piri chicken and some pizza. Also prosecco. We also met my friend Lucy Pepper who is British but has lived here for a couple of decades. She has a Portuguese husband and two kids growing up here. She is a columnist for a Portuguese newspaper and an illustrator. It was lovely to catch up.
Then we went to somewhere called By The Wine and bought some Moscatel (dessert wine), which we originally feared was €105 from studying the menu but then turned out to be €30. Trebles all round, as Private Eye would say!
On Tuesday we went to Sintra, a town about 15 miles away up in the mountains. We had a quick toastie at a cafe (they do these very well here). Cafe Saudade to be precise. It was originally a cheesecake factory which used to bake their wares for the Portuguese royal family. Then we went to Quinta da Regaleira, an amazing old stately home.
It was full of wells, tunnels, caves and references to philosophy, art, etc. Magical place. There were also creepy Masonic references (e.g. ‘initiation wells’) from its most famous owner Monteiro, who was born in the 19th century with lots of money from Brazilian plantations. I need to do more research online as there wasn’t tons of info available at the place itself.
We also visited Pena Palace which was also beautiful. It was a royal palace previously and is still used for state functions sometimes. It slightly reminded me of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. I suppose they are both a bit ‘Disney’ with lots of influences from romanticism.
However it was also terrifyingly high up and windy. At some points as we walked around the walls I was worried I might vom, or fall off. Much to Dan’s amusement, obviously.
After a busy few days of sightseeing and a day of very hot weather predicted – 34 degrees – we decided we’d have a day off and just go to the beach, so we did just that on Wednesday. We walked to Cais do Sodre station and got the train to Praia do Carcavelos, a popular beach nearby.
It was pretty busy but we treated ourselves to renting a couple of sun loungers in a private section for €10.
We had a dip in the sea, did some sun bathing, had some beer and some gazpacho. It was very relaxing. I finished off my book Norwegian Wood (incredible, highly recommend) and started Americanah, which my sister says is brilliant and I’m enjoying so far.
We met a friendly young Australian couple and their 15 month old toddler, they gave us tons of recommendations for Croatia and looked after our stuff while we swam. Their little one hadn’t quite understood the concept that sand is hot in the sun which was quite funny to watch. She also stood near the sea and did a big wee in front of lots of tourists much to her mum’s dismay (and
We caught the train back in the evening and went to a local Fado bar in
Barrio Alto recommended by my Portuguese friend Catarina. It lived up to its billing – we had the caldo verde (veg soup) and chorizo which was
really tasty, then the Fado singers began. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It was hard to interpret exactly what they’re saying but it was so mournful and emotional entwined with the guitars. Beautiful.
There was a hilarious elderly man tapping along and joining in with the songs in the corner. He’d been carrying around a bunch of coriander earlier that evening, we couldn’t figure out exactly who he was but clearly a fixture of the bar. The odd elderly bloke popped their head in to listen too, like this guy below. Fado is clearly something they take a lot of pride in. I would have loved to have interviewed them all and the singers (reckon it’d make a lovely feature) but I promised myself not to do any ‘journalising’ this month.
After Fado we went for a cheeky pasteis from Mantegiara (best pasteis in Lisbon I’ve had besides the original bakery in Belém) and some of the tasty local cherry liqueur ginja from one of the kiosks near our flat then off to bed.