Our first of twenty European cities this summer was Lisbon. I bought the flights for Paul as part of his birthday present, and soon enough our ‘little’ European trip grew arms and legs (we’re away for nine weeks again this year – the first five of those will be spent across various European countries and the last four in Indonesia).
Back to Lisbon. Our entire day yesterday was lost to travelling and we didn’t arrive at our hotel – Residencial Mar dos Acores – until two o’clock this morning. The metro link is available from the airport and an unlimited 24 hour card costs only €6 each. We alighted the last train around 1.15am and it took us an absurd amount of time to find the hotel due to the lack of public wifi, thankfully when we did arrive our room was still waiting for us. With a 7.3 rating on Booking.com and one bathroom per floor which is shared between eight rooms, the €25 per night fee for us both seemed fair. It’s located a steep five minute walk from the Anjosnmetro station and is surrounded by shops, bars and restaurants. When we got here, the amenitiess are beyond what we had expected; immaculate kitchen stocked with beers and drinks for a fee, stunning mosaic interiors and a lift. The room itself, albeit compact, was spotless and included a sink, TV, air conditioning unit and a fan – both of which are necessary even at night. The bathrooms pleasantly surprised me, again immaculate and cleaned several times a day. After one night past, €25 seems like a steal.
From what I had read online, on WordPress as well as the Visit Lisbon website, I would be lying if I told you I expected much from the Portuguese capital. Combined with the heat, how tired we were and the pending game against Poland this evening, I really thought today would have been lost to relaxing and watching football. Thankfully, for me at least, that was so far from the way the day unfolded, and I’m really glad our curiosity pushed us towards spending time in a lesser raved about location, because after only a few hours out in the beating sun we have both fallen for this beautiful city.
We took the metro from Anjos to Rossio, the city’s main plaza in the Baica district. From there, we headed uphill through the narrow, pastel coloured streets. We had no plan, but our route allowed us to see so many glorious buildings. We followed the steep steps upwards to a higher plaza, from which we could see the city’s port. After deciding to head towards the water, distraction a after distraction pulled us in all directions. Every street wee passed one of us found something intriguing; from intricately mosaic walls to hidden churches, the rich pastel colours of the city are so attractive we couldn’t help but walk around with our necks craned, while I photographed everything my eyes met. Eventually, when we reached the water we sat at a waterfront restaurant and watched the world go by with a cold beer in our hands. Across the water, sailboats and cruise liners sales past and the vast red suspension bridge leading across to the historic Almada district stood stark against the bright blue sky and water. Behind it, a Christ the King statue stands tall, towering over the district and overlooking the rest of the city from across the water.
From the harbour, we walked along the waterfront, through the Praça do Comércio and underneath the Rua Augusta Arch; the city’s trump gal arch, a vast Neoclassical monument flanked by Baroque buildings (which are very reminiscent of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna). Through the arch and much to my delight there was a wine festival taking place before the shopping district began. I tried local whites while Paul done some shopping before heading to the Elevador de Santa Justa, a tower with panoramic views of the coty, but also with an extensive queue and so we decided to head further uphill to have an undisturbed and unrestricted view for ourselves.
Without realising, we had done a complete lap of the city on foot and found ourselves back at Rossio square almost three hours later. I took the opportunity to photograph what I had not already and afterwards we headed away from the square in the opposite direction from before, towards the Cathedral and Castle. We climbed even steeper streets on this side, but there are teams, tacos and tuk tuks available if the walk isn’t for you. Pauls trying to catch up on my tan from Canada, so I think that’s why he has been so keen to walk so far. On this side, streets were beginning to be decorated with Portuguese flags and tinsel in the flag’s colours. Music played loudly from pubs and the smell of seafood bled out into the streets from the many homes and restaurants that lined the cobblestone streets. Once at the top I found the view I had been searching for all along; a sea of terracotta roofs and off-white walls, plastered against an uninterrupted blue sky. We found the Cathedral atop the hill, but the castle sadly evaded us, and we were too tired to look anymore.
I feel Lisbon is sadly overlooked in favour of the more popular European cities such as Barcelona or Rome, and I can say that because I too overlooked it. After visiting so many in Asia, I have a really great appreciation for European cities and am trying so much more to explore the world a little closer to home before venturing out across continents again. Lisbon was the perfect starting point for this new adventure of ours because of its relaxed atmosphere, the lack of need to rush to pack sights in and the proximity of sights from one to another. Without a map and any idea as to where we were or where we were going, in a few hours Paul and I saw the majority of the sights on the to see lists. I found it to be an incredibly romantic city – something I don’t think I’ve ever said about anywhere on earth. The colourful buildings and sun constantly shining make it near impossible to not stroll around with a smile on your face. I was so pleasantly surprised by the proximity of the water to the city centre, and the rich variety of architecture and sculpture across the city.
I feel relaxed, which is odd to say after a day of walking around in the heat. In truth, I feel really lucky to have spent time here, and I can’t wait to see what the Portuguese city of Porto has to offer over the next few days.