My weekend in Lisbon marked my fourth weekend of traveling in a row. I was tired from the past month’s nonstop adventures, but was ready to explore another city. We stepped out of the Lisbon airport and felt like we were transported to a summery vacation destination with the city’s sun, palm trees and sea salty air.
We then cabbed to our perfect hostel, Traveller’s House, but were disappointed when we found out from that we were overcharged on our taxi fare by about 15 €. Taxi drivers everywhere just love ripping off Americans. Our hostel was located on the street that ends at the Arco de Rua Augusta, the entrance to Lisbon’s main plaza, Praça do Comércio.
From the plaza we hopped on the metro and headed to Belém where we saw the monastery and towers and walked along the waterfront. Belém is also known for its egg custard tarts from Pastéis de Belém. For 1,05€ we each enjoyed a warm, gooey tart sprinkled with cinnamon and powered sugar.
Back in Lisbon, Sofia, Alayna and I headed to Park, the roof of a parking structure that’s been converted into a bar and restaurant. We watched the gold sun set over the water and Lisbon. The view was great, but the service was not. The menu’s carrot soup tickled my fancy so I asked our server for a bowl to which she replied, “no one likes carrot soup so we don’t have it.” We then asked for some olives, which they also “didn’t have”. We asked if there was literally any food in the restaurant and she said no. Really? Not true! We went inside where we were served olives and soup!
My friend Teddy is also a USC tour guide and is studying in Lisbon this semester. He and some of his friends joined us at Park and dinner at our hostel, too. Traveller’s House had an indoor barbecue of sorts where they prepared an assortment of Portuguese chorizo, cheese and bread with unlimited wine.
We mingled with friendly hostel guests (no Bernard-types here). Sofia and I chatted with two nice English lads who were on holiday in Lisbon (translation: we talked to two English guys who were spending some of their vacation days in Lisbon). They were so fun and friendly. I did my English accent for them and they said it was “smashing”. Well they didn’t say that term exactly, but they did say it was very convincing.
The next morning began with breakfast at the hostel followed by a train to Sintra, a fairytale town outside of Lisbon known for its 19th century architecture. We popped into Fábrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa, a bakery that has been family owned since 1756. We sampled the house specialty, the queijada, a tasty tartlet filled with egg, sugar, cinnamon and cheese.
It was then onto Quinta da Regaleira, a romantic palace situated on acres of winding gardens, grottos and wells. The fog was rolling in, but it added to the mystique of the property.
After lunch, the fog really made itself known. We still wanted to see Sintra’s main attraction, the Pena National Palace, that is known for its candy colored palace walls and amazing views. We took a bus up the mountain to the palace and literally drove into a giant, thick, grey cloud. When the bus stopped, we figured we were at the top, but with all the fog, who really knows.
The colorful walls of the palace were so muted behind the fog that I had to close my eyes to envision what the palace might look like on a clear day. Here is the best picture I could take compared to one from Google:
For dinner in Lisbon we went to Mercado da Ribeira, a large indoor market with every kind of cuisine imaginable. We walked around the perimeter of the market at least twice before deciding on what we wanted. So many choices!
The next day our flight was in the late morning so it was a get up and go kind of morning. We had just enough time for breakfast and to bid farewell to the staff and our new English friends.
Back at school, my friends asked how I enjoyed my time in Lisbon. I felt like I could not so much answer that, but felt better replying that I enjoyed Portugal. We did a lot in a short amount of time, but little of it was in Lisbon itself. Belém and Sintra were great for exploring, but they took time away from seeing Lisbon. It was another incredible city and I would love to return to properly explore it.