We left our hotel in Caldas de Rainha early to go to Lisbon. However, we made a stop in Óbidos before really setting out on the highway. Óbidos is a fortified city surrounded by a massive stonewall. It is remarkably well preserved and very touristy. We walked around for about an hour, let Louis roam freely in the village and climbed up the parapet to check out the view. In Óbidos, the noteworthy specialty is the Oppidum Ginga de Óbidos, a kind of sweet liquor made with the ginga fruit, which is similar to a cherry. We had sampled some the evening before at dinner and it was sweet and not very strong. Once we had enough of the ramparts of Óbidos, we got back in the car for the drive to Lisbon.
Lisbon is a beautiful city set on seven hills overlooking the Tejo (Tagus) river. However, like Porto, many of the buildings are in a state of sorry disrepair and there is an inordinate amount of graffiti everywhere. I can appreciate some graffiti, but this was just ugly words haphazardly spray-painted on the façades of otherwise beautiful buildings. It took us awhile to find our hotel as most of the streets are one way, and the GPS wasn’t finding the address.
However, we managed to park a few blocks away and walked over to check in. We stayed in Lisbon Serviced Apartments in the Baixa neighborhood. It was a place we booked through hotels.com. The apartment was modern and clean and, while very sparse in décor, had all of the necessities. We wanted to use airbnb again, but we booked a little bit late, and none of the apartments we liked were available.
Like in Porto, we spent most of our time in Lisbon outside enjoying the views and the sun. We ambled up and down the hills pushing Louis in his stroller. We wandered through shopping streets full of both tourists and locals. We took the funicular, Elevador da Bica, up to Barrio Alto, one of the neighborhoods that the guide declared as “trendy”. Louis loved the funicular. We had to wait quite awhile for it to get going and he turned the wheel as though he was driving it while we waited. There are also several old fashioned tramways that run through Lisbon, but we didn’t end up taking it.
The first evening in Barrio Alto, we went to a café that the guidebook recommended, Noobai Café, which promised a great view of the city. The Noobai was excellent, low key with non-traditional food. We had a drink and then dinner on the terrace overlooking the city and the river. The meal and drinks were tasty and inexpensive and the sunset view was great. The best part, however, was the play area. To access Noobai, you had to go down a flight of stairs to reach the terrace.
The space under the stairs is unusable for seating diners, but it is perfect for a play area. The space was carpeted with numerous toys for all ages. There were two medium sized French girls (4 and 6?) playing when we arrived and Louis lunged at the first toy he could get his hands on. It was great to let him play while we benefited from some adult relaxation time while being able to keep a close eye on him. Louis even played well with the little girls, especially since he could understand them.
Day two in Lisbon was spent doing more touristy things. We meandered over to the Alfama neighborhood which is one of the oldest in Lisbon. The streets are extremely narrow, in some cases, cars can’t pass through. We had hoped to catch the daily fish market, but we were either too late or in the wrong place. We never found it. Instead, we wandered up to Miradouro das Portas do Solto take in the view of the city and the Tejo. The sun was fierce and sparkled on the Tejo. Terra cotta tiled roofs spread out in every direction, which I found charming.
A man was perched on a little stool playing the guitar and singing American songs. I parked Louis’ stroller in front of the singer so I could take a few pictures of the view. After more wandering around the little streets in that area, we decided to change directions.
Before leaving for our trip, I had seen photos of the Torre de Belém and was curious to see it in person. We got on the tramway (the modern one) at the train station and headed west toward the Belém neighborhood. Unfortunately, we got off the tramway a few stops too soon and it was quite a long walk to the tower. At that point, it was high noon and the sun was beating down. As the road to the Belém tower didn’t offer much shade, the walk wasn’t very pleasant. Our path took us past the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a massive monument that sits on the river’s edge. When we arrived at the tower we were hot, hungry and ready to rest. The tower is beautiful and has served as an arsenal, a prison and a residence. It is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We didn’t spend very much time gawking at the tower as we were famished.
We walked back in the direction of the tramway to a lush green park, Jardim do Ultramar, with restaurant terraces that spilled over onto the sidewalk. We had a hearty meal of fish; I had the salmon, Laurent had the grilled sardines, and Louis had both. After refueling and rehydrating, we went to another Lisbon “must”, the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém which makes the famous pastéis de Belém that we previously tasted in Porto.
These were even better as they were slightly warm, and at 1.05€ per pastry, they were a totally reasonable dessert. We took three to go, and ate them in the grass near the playground. After our big morning, we went back to the hotel for a nap.
In the evening, we took the Elevador da Bica, back to Barrio Alto for dinner. We hesitated to go back to Noobai, but decided to try a restaurant that was just across the street, called Pharmacia. Pharmacia is eponymously named after the Pharmacy museum to which it is attached. The restaurant has both outdoor and indoor seating and we chose to sit outside, near the lawn, with a view of the skyline. The outside menu was tapas and the inside menu was a chef’s choice prix fixe.
I should have made note of the tapas we had, because they were all quite tasty. It was the perfect, relaxing end to a long day of sightseeing.
See more photos of Lisbon here.
Portugal trip to be continued…