A few years ago Britt and I were playing “Articulate” … the fast talking-partner-word-guess game. Britts topic was Geography (not her fave) and the country was Portugal. Now, how does one describe the country Portugal? It wen’t something like this…
Britt: two parts. The first part is the first word of our hometown (which is Port Macquarie)
Britt: second part is a bird that steals chips at the beach.
Sheri: SEAGULL! Port Seagull. It’s Portugal! (naturally?)
And so ever since, we’ve never been able to call Portugal by its actual name, it has been and forever will be Port Seagull and we couldn’t wait to visit! So when EasyJet offered us 34 quid flights return, we couldn’t say no.
We took off a few days from work and packed our carry-on to the brim and headed south for some much needed Vitamin D. The sun starved Aussies were going slightly stir crazy in drizzly Scotland. We landed in Lisbon mid morning and checked into our amazing Airbnb flat right on the ocean, in Chiado-the absolute place to stay in the Old City (Thankyouuuu friend of a friend) and sat our lilly white butts down at a cafe in the sun for “a quick bite” which of course, in true Britt and Sheri fashion turned into three pizzas and a litre of Sangria. When in Rome.
We were lucky enough to have an old Portuguese friend who lives in Lisbon play tour guide and give us all the local tips and restaurant recommendations and basically plan our itinerary for us! If I had been writing this blog 3 years ago, there would be an entry for New Zealand which made thinly veiled references to the handsome Portuguese man and the wonderful week that followed. And so our friend Renato led us around Lisbon on a culinary and cultural expedition!
If ever in Lisbon, there is an incredible rooftop bar called “Park” … which is literally on top of a car park building and is so completely hipster in and of itself that you simply have to go! The view is second to none and we watched the sun set over Lisbon atop a 5 story garage filled with Priuses.
Lisbon is a pretty culturally rich city. Castles, Aqueducts, wine bars (what, that’s culture?) or simply wandering the neighbourhoods through the city. On a particularly sunny day, we took the bus down to Belem to Jeronimos Monastery, which is right on the ocean and pretty stunning. Down on the water, there’s the Monument to the Discoveries. Long before google maps, there was Henry the Navigator. He killed the exploration and forged maritime expansion and led Portugal into the New World of trade and exploration with India and the Orient. If I ever had a monument to me, I would want it to be as awesome as his…it’s literally a giant bow of a ship, jutting out into the water, led by Henry and followed by his many historical contributors. It’s very cool.
We couldn’t leave Belem without eating at Pastéis de Belém, the most famous bakery in Lisbon. You cannot miss this place-there is a queue out the door! The famous Portuguese Tart was first invented at the Monastery next door and this bakery was the first to perfect the recipe and sell it to the public (or so the tart legend goes) and it has been selling tarts for over 150 years. And they’re phenomenal. You can’t get a better Portuguese tart than at the birthplace of the Portuguese tart.
The food education continued at the Tabern Rua das Flores. This is a local gem recommended to us by our Airbnb host as well as renato (it MUST be good!) and it did not disappoint. It’s tiny, tucked away in an alley and full of locals. We waited an hour for a table (a great sign of great food) and had the most incredible tapas alive. Star of the show was the pot of chilli clams… broth all but licked out of the bowl… an only because the waiter had eyes like a hawk.
Our second last day in Lisbon saw us head to a place called the LX Factory. It’s the hub of the old fabrics and textiles district which was been left pretty intact-it’s a block of factories, some gutted, some not, and is now a myriad of boutiques, cafes, bookshops and restaurants. It’s eclectic, it’s funky, its just so…cool. My favourite shop was Ler Devagar, which literally means “read slowly” and it’s one of the worlds most beautiful bookshops. It’s set amidst an old printing plant and everything has been preserved to its industrial bones and is built around the two story printing press, with seats, racks and a little cafe nestled into the catwalks, folders and printing units. We spent hours here just zenning out in between the pages.
We’d been waiting for the PERFECT day to head to Sintra, an absolutely stunning mountain town an hour from Lisbon, steeped in history and beauty, filled with dramatic architecture. It was a longtime royal sanctuary, and today is filled with some seriously beautiful places. Quinta De Regaleira was a summerhouse to the Portuguese elite. It’s a rabbit warren of castles, grottoes and winding secret tunnels; Wells and gargoyles, stables and gardens. It is drenched in mysticism and romanticism and is quite frankly out of this world. The second part of our day was spent at the Pena National Palace, which, if I’m honest, is basically royal disneyland. Its huge, and a flamboyant, vibrant piece of art.
Britt and I had the best time in Lisbon, eating, exploring and sharing loads of wine over dinner with Renato and his beautiful girlfriend Sofia. 4 days went way too quickly.
Port Seagull, you’ve been all time. Until next time. That time will be better.