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  • Cecilia Clark

Lisbon, Portugal, October 18 - 21, 2023

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

Rossio Square with São Jorge Castelo beyond

In May 2020 we had plans to travel with friends to Portugal for a Rick Steves tour. It didn't/couldn't happen then so Portugal went back on our bucket list. This October we were finally able to check Portugal off that list, however, it is a place I would gladly visit again.

We stayed at My Story Hotel Rossio which was perfectly located for walking. Our room was quite small, but we had a great view of Rossio Square and of São Jorge Castelo constructed on the highest point, São Jorge hill, in Lisbon. Like Istanbul and Rome, Lisbon has seven hills.

We would have preferred to travel earlier in October, but Dan had a trial mid month making us delay until October 17. Our flight duration from airport departure to airport arrival was 21 hours so we were tired when we arrived late the next day. With only three full days in Lisbon we walked as much as possible in Lisbon's center including up to São Jorge Castelo. Here are some of the sights which caught my eye:

Because we had quite a bit of rain while in Lisbon, we tried to duck into as many museums as possible. We visited the Fado Museum and listened to classic Fado. The Fado style is all about the mournful emotion conveyed by the vocalist. The english translation of Fado is "destiny or fate" which explains the mournfulness.

The Fado guitarra or Portuguese guitar has 12 steel strings strung in six pairs. The Fado Museum had a collection of famous guitars displayed like fine jewels.

During the worst of the downpour we ducked into a small restaurant, A Muralha Tapas e Vinhos in the Alfama neighborhood, where the waitperson taught us a little about ordering Tapas. We had the best lunch and wine while waiting for the rain to subside. Until this lunch we had no idea that excellent cheese was such a specialty of Portugal. The small street in front of the restaurant was like a river when we arrived at the restaurant.

Our last day in Lisbon was taken up with an all-day tour of Pena Palace and Sintra. Pena Palace is a very popular place to visit even in late October. There were long lines of people everywhere.

In 1838, King Ferdinand II acquired "the former Hieronymite Monastery of Our Lady of Pena located on the second highest point in the Sintra hills." From the ruins, he built Palacio da Pena. The portions of the castle that are yellow are the walls of the monastery while the red-orange walls are the New Palace. King Ferdinand, the "artist-king", created a castle like no other. The palace has eclectic features from the middle ages such as turrets, sentry walks, and high crenelated walls plus fanciful touches drawn from Greek mythology and Portuguese explorations.Triton, Greek God of the Sea, squats above the arched entrances to the New Palace. Remaining from the monastery (Old Palace) are the cloister, the chapel, the sacristy, and the bell tower. The Manueline Cloister (1511) has two floors. The walls are covered in 16th-century Hispano-Moresque tiles.

After the Palace tour we were driven down narrow streets to the town of Sintra and allowed to briefly wander at will. Sintra is charming with lots of restaurants and hotels scattered over the hillside. Our guide suggested we find Casa Piriquita to sample their pastry specialties: Travesseiros (a pillowy puff pastry with egg/almond cream filling) and Queijadas (tiny custard pies with cinnamon). We found the cafe and took a break from sightseeing.

Our stops on the way back to Lisbon were at Cabo Da Roca (Cape Roca) to stand on the western most point of continental Europe which is latitudinally across the Atlantic from New Jersey, lunch at Toca do Júlio with great pork and fish entrees and where every other van tour of tourists stop, and in Cascais where we arrived as the city was getting ready for tomorrow's Ironman competition.

Tomorrow, we leave Lisbon too soon on an early flight to Portugal's Azore Islands to enjoy a Bruno Azera Photography workshop. First stop is São Miguel Island. The Azores (Açores) are a 2-1/2 hour flight west of Lisbon. There is also a one-hour time difference; Lisbon and the rest of mainland Portugal are one hour later than the time in the Azores.


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