Portugal Trip Report
This is my last entry as it is our final day in Lisbon. After our yummy breakfast we headed towards our exciting plans for the day. We were meeting our guide Marta from Your friend in Lisbon http://www.yourfriendinlisbon.com/ for a private tour around Lisbon. (I must do a shout out to my dear pal Sarah –my lovely former neighbor who recommended this activity)
Marta met us in the commercial square with a big smile and hearty enthusiasm. She began by telling us some interesting history regarding Lisbon. In 1755, there was a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that essentially ruined Lisbon. It took 10,000 lives and leveled the city. But, in true Portuguese spirit they rebuilt the city eventually into the metropolis it is today. Marta was easy to understand, her English impeccable and answered our many questions as they popped up without hesitation.
The beauty of this tour and having your own tour guide is the individual attention that was given to us. Marta, acting as our “Sherpa” led the way through the winding streets of Lisbon. On foot we slowly snaked our way through the city as she interweaved interesting details. She knew all the secrets and managed to get us up hills and massive inclines in the most mysterious of ways, taking an elevator from a train station then hopping over to another building and taking an escalator until before we knew it we were almost at the top.
No #28 cram sandwich, no hokey golf cart, no aching calf muscles….I could not replicate her unique navigational skills, but I was grateful for an activity that did not bring me close to tears due to exhaustion. We saw famous churches, historical squares, and interesting stories were recounted.
There were several high points of the tour but one very special thing Marta did was take us to Baltazar Castanheiro http://www.casabalthazarlisbon.com/en/confeitaria-nacional.html . This café decorated in ornate Art Nouveau is famous for their Pastel de nata, a custardy, flaky tart (that is unbelievably delicious). She treated us to coffee and a Pastel de nata as she continued to explain Portuguese culture.
Refueled and invigorated with a sugar high, we proceeded up the hill for amazing views, pictures and more info. At one point, we stopped in a store and she assisted in helping me pick out souvenirs for home. The tour ended in a wine store where she treated us to a glass of Tawny Port. The tour was 98 Euros total for 2 people, lasted over 3 hours and I feel was money well spent.
After we and Marta parted ways, we made our way to Starbucks. We had a light sandwich we had packed and some drinks. We rested our feet and planned the remainder of the day.
Cocky with our new found knowledge of the city, we found ourselves climbing the hill again. We did some economical recovery for the city of Lisbon, purchasing souvenirs and went on the hunt for some authentic Portuguese pottery. After some exploring, we finally found Santana http://www.santanna.com.pt/en . The factory that is off site in Lisbon has been making pottery since 1741. Finding the perfect piece and hoping it won’t be ceramic particles when we get home was nerve wracking. Eventually the most perfect piece was found-a beautiful, fragile bowl that is wedged somewhere between underwear and dirty jeans.
With a successful shopping expedition complete, it was time to wrap this baby up. Put a nice bow on it and bring it home, boys. By this time it was approaching dinner, and as lovely as Portuguese food as –we had a hankering for some good ole’ food from the USA. We stopped at the lively Hard Rock Café http://www.hardrock.com.pt/cafes/lisbon/ and enjoyed a nice happy hour with some beer and appetizers. Exhausted and having to pack for our flight back home tomorrow- we headed back.
B & F’s Portugal Top 10:
10. All the lovely hotels/palaces we stayed and the amazing people of Portugal
9. Museu Calouste Gulbenkian
8. The many, many sweet treats in Portugal especially the Pastel de nata
7. Grupo Amigos Museu Nacional de Arte (The National Museum of Ancient Art)
6. Cabo da Roco (The most Western part of Europe)
5. Fatima experience
4. Friends of Lisbon personal tour
3. Pena Palace in Sintra/ Moorish Castle in Sintra
2. Fado concert in Coimbra
1. Monserrat Botanical Gardens in Sintra
Some last words on Portugal….
Portugal is a real experience. To understand this culture and country is to immerse oneself into it. The regions we were in- were physically challenging, but well worth every foot step and charley horse. Tackling the cumbersome terrain from the plush gardens of Sintra, to the windy zig- zag roads of Lisbon was monumental at times to the point of over whelming exhaustion. But, I pushed myself-more than I ever had. I may have complained (a lot). But-in the end, I climbed that hill, I went that extra mile (literally) , I made myself focus on that one “last” painting-even though I thought I couldn’t go on.
To quote our great guide Marta “The people of Portugal are resilient. They are a kind people, tolerant and accepting of all diversities”. I witnessed this first hand. The spirit of Portugal will forever stay in my heart.
Thanks for tuning in…..
Next on the agenda-
New Orleans Thanksgiving….
~B & F~