Portugal Day 4 – Lisbon

This was when our trip started to change; new people entered the vacation. We rented a 3-bedroom apartment near the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara. This is a famous overlook where you can see the entire city from the Bairro Alto neighborhood. The apartment was really well situated and was cute as a button. It was perfect for our limited time in the city.

My sister, Holly, arrived in Lisbon about the same time we were getting up for the day. Sam and I went for a walk in the neighborhood to find a coffee. Holly met us at a coffee shop (called Dramatico) straight from the airport. After we dropped off her bags and she got ready, we decided to walk and see the city. Lisbon is crowded with tourists, which makes it feel alive, but it keeps you moving because you always feel like you are seeing something new. It feels modern and well-planned, with enormous boulevards and some pedestrian-only streets. Still, tourism has taken over much of that, often making the restaurants feel cheap and overpriced. After walking for the money, we found an excellent place for lunch at Floresta das Escadinhas. We feasted on grilled sardines and vinho verde. It was a great way to explore Lisbon with Holly and Samer.

Holly & I and the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.

On our way back to the apartment, we stopped and tried the local liquor called ginjinha. It’s made from cherries and certainly an acquired taste; two very well-known shops sell it by the shot glass. One is called A Ginjinha, and the other is Ginjinha Sem Rival. You can even ask to have the liquor-soaked cherries in your glass. It’s certainly not bad, but it is not a flavor I need to seek out.

Holly’s first ginjinha

We returned to the apartment for a quick nap and to wait for our friend Jo to arrive. Sam and I went to the park at Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara to meet Jo. We thought it would be easier than asking for a taxi to find our Airbnb. The park is undoubtedly made for a younger crowd, and there seems to be quite a bit of booze being sold unofficially. There are guys with boxed wine on a folding table. It’s pretty incredible. We opted for the women with a slightly more official stand selling piña coladas in hollowed-out pineapples. 

Are drinks out of pineapples always better?

While we waited, liberation wrapped up as folly befell Sam. When Jo arrived, we got off the bench to meet him and take him to our Airbnb. Lo and behold, Sam left his cell phone on the bench, and by the time we discovered it was missing, it was nowhere to be found. We tracked it to another neighborhood but decided not to call the cops. We could barely order grilled sardines correctly; we were going to talk to cops about a missing phone? Nonsense. Of course, I am writing, so I’ll refer to the phone as missing, but Sam still refers to it as stolen. Sam didn’t have a phone for the rest of the trip, and though it caused some stress, I think it let him unplug and enjoy the moment.

Once Sam gave up on the phone, we decided to make the most of the day. We did a self-guided tour that ended at the St. George’s Castle (Castelo de S. Jorge). This is a huge 11th-century castle in the middle of Lisbon. It sports breathtaking views and is a great place to watch the sunset. They sell beer, so it’s all very relaxing.

Now it is entirely a museum. It is wildly impressive and one of the few castles I’ve been to where it reminds you that these were defensive buildings that were not some magic kingdom on the inside. It’s difficult to imagine how miserable life could have been for a peasant when living on the grounds of one of these castles.

Looking at Lisbon from the top of the castle.

As the sun set, we thought we would find a restaurant on the walk back. This proved to be exceptionally difficult. Lisbon is one of the most popular tourist destinations globally, and if you want to eat at a good place, you need a reservation. Anything that looked hip, tasty, and not infinitely expensive was impossible to get into for dinner. If a restaurant had been mentioned in a book, blog, or tv show, the waits were hours long. This was very frustrating. We stumbled into a restaurant called Lisboa à Noite near our Airbnb. It was a stuffy, white tablecloth seafood restaurant, but honestly, it was delicious. The food was terrific, and the ambiance was a bit old fashion. They still had a dessert cart. It was a nice way to celebrate Holly and Jo’s arrival in Portugal.

The header image in this post is not mine. I got it from Dirk Olbertz.

Next: Portugal Day 5 – Lisbon


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