Europe 2017, Day 3: Lisbon Wanderings
Note: This entry is part of a 6 week (44 day) journey through Portugal, Spain, and France. Click "Destinations" from the main menu or home page to read more entires on this great adventure!
We wallowed in our jet lag and slept in quite late. Well, Shaun woke up early enough to do some grocery shopping and studying. But he was back in bed napping with me until the afternoon. I slept for about 11 hours, and I have to say...though I've slept for longer periods, I can't say I've had such a refreshing slumber in a long while. Those who know me well know I love my sleep. But not all sleeps are created equal! There is nothing quite like the restful sleep of an exhausted traveler, with no alarm clock to answer to, and no agenda other than to enjoy the day at one's own pace.
It's quite easy to get around in Lisbon, especially in the area we stayed in (Chiado neighborhood, near beautiful and old Bairro Alto). You can find little grocery marts, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, pharmacies, all within walking distance. Taxi's are everywhere, and most congregate around nearby plazas or squares. There are several metro lines to take, and there is a train station a walk or short metro/taxi ride away. A cup of espresso will cost 1 euro or less, and a good meal about 10 euros. There are expensive "tourist trap" restaurants along popular walkways and near crowded plazas. Here you mostly pay for ambiance or location. But if you pay attention, you can find little eateries and stands almost everywhere with cheap and delicious food.
Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming, and most people speak English, Spanish, and French. Some menus can be found with English translations. I arrived here knowing how to say "yes," "no," "please," "thank you," "excuse me," "I don't understand," and "Do you speak English?" I downloaded a basic Portuguese phrasebook onto my phone, and I've hardly needed to use it because most people have been nice enough to speak English to me. They've also helped me pronounce Portuguese words correctly, without disdain or judgment.
Lisbon is a hilly town. If you visit, be aware that going up and down these hills is a workout if you're not in shape (*raising my hand*). In the words of one of our taxi drivers, "You need good legs here." Most of the tile and stones are slippery and uneven, so be careful about what footwear you choose to bring. Those perils aside, it's all completely worth it. There are benches, cafes, and outdoor seating everywhere if you need a rest from the endless walking and climbing. Lisbon is a beautiful place, and I wouldn't hesitate to come back for a longer stay.
A friend suggested I try pastel de nata (plural: pasteis de nata), a traditional Portuguese egg custard pastry that can be found, in truth, at almost every corner cafe and bakery. I heard they can taste only so-so if you pick them up from just anywhere. So I chose to go to the professionals...places that made only pasteis de nata all day, every day. Famous Pasteis de Belem isn't walking distance away, and since we got a late start we wanted to make the most of our time by staying local. Lucky for us, just a 3 minute walk down the hill from our apartment awaited Manteigaria, a specialty bakery that sells only pasteis de nata and various beverages to go with it.
HOLY ALL THAT IS CUSTARDY PUFF PASTRY GOODNESS.
Do you enjoy warm, creamy, caramelized flan? Do you also enjoy flaky and delicately crisp layers of puff pastry? Let me tell you...pastel de nata is the best of both worlds. It's basically custard/creamy flan baked in a cupcake-sized cup of puff pastry. My attempts to explain it cannot do this treat justice. If you ever make it to Portugal, or meet someone who knows how to make this stuff, please PLEASE do yourself a favor and try it! It is perfect just the way it is, but I think it's extra yummy with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top and a tiny cup of espresso on the side. If you visit Manteigaria in particular, beware there's standing room only. It's not a sit & stay type of cafe, but they do offer "take away" boxes -- so order as many as you can consume and bring it somewhere to sit and enjoy the city from.
I had to pry myself away from Manteigaria to avoid consuming their whole case of pasteis de nata. Across the road, we found a little plaza with an outdoor cafe where we sat and got some work done (by "work" I mean Shaun studying/prepping for teaching his first AP class next year, and me working on the blog). We shared a cold spinach & cheese empanada (I wanted beef, but it was slim pickings that late in the afternoon) and a ham & cheese sandwich (the ham tasted more like prosciutto). Even these simple treats made for a delicious "breakfast" at 4pm.
After working and people-watching for a while, we headed back home to work out. We're both pretty out of shape, what with Shaun's snowboarding injury and my general laziness. So before this trip we decided to bring the Focus T25 workout regimen with us. It's actually really good for traveling! You do a different 25 minute workout each day, 5 days a week. Quick enough to not take away too much of your vacation time. Since there are no breaks through the whole 25 minutes, you get good cardio on top of the training. No equipment or weights necessary, all body weight exercises in an HIIT style. There are 3 levels of difficulty that last 1 month each, and you can feel free to move up or stay at the same level once you finish the month. We started Day 1 of the Alpha (beginning) level today, which focused on cardio. I nearly collapsed from fatigue and we were SO sweaty after. I could barely hang with the modified versions of the exercises (Tanya's my girl). But it felt good to be productive and to do something healthy for my body. Shaun thinks we'll be "ripped" when we get back in August. We'll see. I'm going to mention my work outs in each blog, so I have something to hold me accountable. I've tried this regimen before, only to get lazy and give up after a few days. Hopefully I stick to it this time!
After a quick shower to clean off the Focus T25 sweat, we wandered out to find some dinner. We ate at one of those outdoor tourist trap restaurants overlooking a busy plaza. Great for people-watching, but a bit expensive. I had some yummy shrimp risotto and a Portuguese cocktail called a Caipirinha, but they ran out of limes so I had it with lemon instead. Still tasty. We wandered around some more, and I found an ice cream shop that fashions their scoops of ice cream into flowers. I tried maracuja (passion fruit), framboesa (raspberry), and manga (mango). Very colorful, very tart, and very delicious.
When we finished dinner it was already well past midnight. Some streets were deserted (such as the Rua Augusta Arch, which usually opens to a bustling square during the day), while others were rife with music, laughter, and revelry. Like I mentioned in my previous post, the nightlife goes on until 4ish in the morning here. And it's not the same type of party scene as, say, Las Vegas. No overly-loud music with people stumbling sloppily down the street to the next club. From what I could see of people congregating in and outside of bars...it's mostly talking, drinking, smoking, some festive singing, and enjoying each other's company. I'm sure there are dance clubs around town, but we didn't venture into any to find out.
This entry is getting long, and I feel like our photos are the true storytellers anyway. I'll end here with the rest of the photos we took from our nighttime wanderings.
That's all for Day 3! Hope you enjoyed sharing in our adventures. Day 4 is a long and eventful day (not so subtle hint: 💍), and I look forward to sharing it with you.
Until next time, sending you love from Lisbon...
Disclaimer: As of the posting of this entry, I am not affiliated with or profiting from any of the products or places mentioned. All opinions are my own, stated for the sole purpose of sharing experiences and being helpful to other travelers.