Sunday 25th of March by CarpediemEire
Lisbon needs no introduction. It is an in-place at the moment, near top of the list for European city breaks, blending good weather, history, fine cuisine, and proximity to the sea with immense good value. We travelled in early spring, but the city was already alive.
Lisbon, capital of Portugal has hosted a settlement for 2700 years. It formed part of the Roman Empire from 200 BC, and fell to the Moors in 714 AD. Its’s golden age was in the 15th century, when the great discoverers set sail, and brought back great wealth and affluence to the city and country.
Travelling with Nina and Beata, a happy medium of activities for all three was sought, me the intrepid explorer, Beata the intrepid shopper, and Nina the intrepid playaholic.
Day 1- Weary and Wet
Arriving at 9am from Ireland, where our flight left at 6:15am, we were groggy and a little cranky. The heavens were opening so we took a taxi to our hotel. We were charged more than expected but language difficulties ensured that I was fighting a losing battle. Should have learned some Portugese. Leaving our bags with the hotel, we ventured out for the afternoon. Rain was as ever the marplot, so we took a local bus north to the Centro Columbo. I misread the stops on Google maps, we alighted too early and we arrived at the shopping mall soaked. Not a great way to start a holiday. But coming from Ireland, we are used to a little rain aren’t we.
We spent a few hours here, waiting for our room to be ready and the rain to abate. Over 300 stores are present and a sizeable play area called Colomboland. So time was well spent by my companions. We ate lunch at Pans and Company, an option within the food hall for a simple sandwich and coffee.
We took the bus back to the Neya Lisbon Hotel, a boutique hotel about 15 minutes walk north of the city centre. It is well serviced by bus routes. It was a good priced option, but the room was a bit pokey for 3 of us to share. But I don’t believe holidays are for hotel rooms. We elected to take a nap for the afternoon.
The skies cleared and in the evening we took a stroll down to the nearby Campo Martires de Patria, a peaceful park, with a pond and some very interesting looking foul. It also has a playground very convenient for our hotel.
Backtracking we found a simple restaurant frequented by locals called Horta dos Brunos, with very traditional food. It hit the spot exactly. We gave up on our day long struggle against fatigue, and headed to the hotel for some serious shut-eye.
Day 2 -Brighter Outlook
Awaking refreshed, it was time for more food. Breakfast was great, enough variety to last the week on the hot and cold buffet. The weather was far more favourable for activities. We walked to the metro stop at Parque Eduardo VII, which took us out to…
The stroll from the metro to the zoo is a nice one through some green areas. As with any zoo expect to leave a few pennies at the door, it isn’t cheap to keep a “pet” let alone hundreds. Entry is €21.50 for an adult and €14.50 for a child.
We got there just before 11, perfect timing to see the dolphin show. This was the highlight of the zoo, perhaps the whole trip. They were excellently trained, performed great stunts and there was a real affinity between them and their trainers. They were joined by some seals (or sea lions, alas i still don’t know the difference at my ripe age) and their trainers. Highly entertaining.
We spent most of the afternoon in the zoo, Nina marveling at the different animals. As zoos go its formulaic but with a few features that stand out. A cable car traverses the zoo, giving an elevated view of the animals in their simulated habitat. It’s a worthwhile 20 minutes. The zoo also has some formal gardens which are nice to visit. The animal highlight as in many zoos were the meerkats, who were quite attracted to Nina’s umbrella. I was also particularly impressed by the bear enclosure, it had a real world feel to it.
We caught the metro into the city centre getting out at Baixa-Chaido, for the Bairro Alta district. A maze of little streets dating from the 16th century, lined with cafes and shops, our wander took us to Praca Luis de Camoes, where we stopped into A Padaria Portuguesa bakery for some sandwiches and pastries. Nina discovered a street performer making bubbles. She would happily have spent the day there. Amazing how children find pleasure in the smallest things.
We zigzagged our way through the streets, and down steps, got a little lost and onwards to the Santa Justa lift. Built at the turn of the 20th century to link parts of the city, as Lisbon is very much on different levels. The queue was long, the price was too high at €5, but its a very interesting structure, and the views are excellent above. It overlooks the skeleton of the Carmo Church which was destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, with great vistas over the Tagus, the Baixa area, and beyond to the castle.
Evening was setting around us, as we visited Rossio Square. Built after the earthquake that razed much of the city, it’s an elegant square, with a central fountain and eye-catching wave embossed paving. The National Theatre borders the northern part of the square. We caught a bus back to our hotel from there.
Nina gave us a moment she will cherish as an adult back in the hotel. She was playing with the little toys she took with her, and took them to the bathroom. She asked me if she could give them a bath. Much to my horror and due to her innocence she was trying to wash them in the bidet. Alas she didn’t know what it was. Queue a noooooooo moment.
That evening we dined in the hotel at the Viva Lisboa restaurant. Like a lot of hotel restaurants it lacked a bit of personality. The food was sublime though. My black pork nearly looked to good to eat. The girls had some wonderful pasta dishes. We retired with some heavy sightseeing days to come.