Although we had now been in Portugal for more than a few days, we were still having issues with the language. Thank-you was embarrassingly enough the only thing that we managed to learn and use. We had become “those” tourists. I think it was just too many languages in one week and our heads were full.
Once we had checked into our hotel in central Lisbon at 5pm, we headed straight out and down to the river for a mosey. Initially we were so surprised with Lisbon – beautiful tree lined boulevards, free from rubbish, nicely dressed people. We ventured around the river area for a while, enjoying the last of the sunshine and soaking in the views.
Then it was dinner time and our enjoyment of the place quickly evaporated. We headed over to the street which the guy at the hotel recommended for dining. What a big mistake that was. This street was packed with restaurants, but since there were so many of them, each one employed multiple people to stand outside and try and sell you everything that was on the menu and would force specials into your hand. To our credit, we did actually try to find a place to eat at here, but in the end we were both so angry by the pushiness of these places that we just tried to get the heck out of there (not an easy task). When we were leaving (i.e. not stopping for anyone who tried to talk to us), one particularly aggressive person actually yelled at Alex and followed us down the street for 20 meters screaming “Why don’t you talk to me??” BAH over it.
We were feeling just a little dejected and were just walking around the back streets, avoiding any place where someone was standing outside when we stumbled across a beautiful little courtyard with 2x restaurants down it, no pushy people, normal food (that sounds so hideously touristy, but after the experience so far that night, I was in the mood for normal). This place was so lovely, and picked our moods up considerably.
The next day we woke to pretty average weather. Heavy clouds hung in the air. However, we were so keen to explore the Alfama (old town) which we had heard so much about that we left nice and early regardless. After about 10 minutes, it started pouring down so we ducked into the first coffee shop we came across and waited for the rain to stop. Thankfully, this did not return for the rest of the day, however it meant that although the day was not particularly hot, it was horribly muggy so from 10am on, we were very sticky (see pic below of Alex dying of the mugginess). We headed to find Tram 28 to head up the hill to the Alfama and the Castelo Sao Jorge. The ride up the hill wasn’t long, but we wanted to take the tram just to tick that box.
Once we got up to the castle, we saw a large line for something, so Alex went up to a security guard and asked “So do we just pay here?” while accidentally flinging a 0.20 cent on the ground in front of the guy. He replied “as much as you try to bribe me, you still have to wait in line”. What a good man!! Paying to get into the castle was such a worthwhile experience. It meant that it was a lot less crowded than some of the other attractions that we had been to on our trip so far. It also meant that there was a lack of people trying to sell you things which was nice. The views from the castle were spectacular, basically 360 of the city. We spent hours there wandering around soaking it all in, feeling like we were in another century.
Alex was very keen to have an authentic lunch in the Alfama, so we found a place in Lonely Planet which was basically billed as this. This restaurant we went to (Pateo 13) was in the heart of the Alfama and took us a while to actually find it after getting semi-lost in the crazy winding alleys. No one at this place spoke English so it was miming and pointing all the way (mixed with some serious consulting of the phrase book). We ordered sardines (how could we not given how much Dad goes on about the sardines in Lisbon) and I could not help myself but order the salad since a lady at the table next to us was eating one and it actually came with vegetables, not just lettuce with meat, cheese and sauce. The lunch was delicious! Very pleased we tried the sardines! Alex was even more excited because from the way he was facing he could watch them grill his lunch on the BBQ (not gas) outside.
For the rest of the afternoon, we headed back up towards the castle to where we had seen a cliff-side bar overlooking the Alfama and the river, so we ordered a glass of wine each (cheaper than Paris prices, and especially good value considering we stayed there for 2 hours), enjoyed the stunning views and updated our journals.
One the first night as we were walking down by the water, we found a trendy little cart which was selling cocktails in Mason jars. They were also pumping a Lorde song, which was pretty cool to hear all the way on the other side of the world in a country which speaks a totally different language. Team NZ!