Thursday, March 9, 2017

Portugal - Lisbon and Sintra

Pastel de nata, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Time Out Market, Confit suckling piglet

In October 2016, my husband Mike and I were parents to a toddler when we decided to go on a trip... without her! We had both traveled quite a bit so we decided to go to Iceland. And to take advantage of being on that side of the Atlantic (we're from California) we decided to add in a quick 4 day trip to Portugal to meet up with our friends Wennie and Eric. You can read about our Iceland trip in this blog post Iceland - Reykjavik and more.

Iceland was pretty expensive so we were looking forward to a little break for our wallet while in Portugal. For those of your interested, I did a quick budget breakdown here:

Portugal budget
Portugal budget

This portion of our trip was 4 days, most of which was spent in Lisbon but we also had time for a day trip to Sintra.

I had my stainless steel water bottle with me and filled it straight from the tap. I love these klean kanteen bottles - I bring mine on every trip. They come in a variety of colors and sizes so find one perfect for you!

We arrived in Lisbon in the late afternoon and opted to take the Aerobus from the airport (€3.50/person). It was a long 15-20 minute wait for the bus and the ride itself to our stop at Praça do Comércio took some time. By the time we arrived at our Airbnb we only had time to drop off our luggage and quickly freshen up before going out to grab dinner. We headed to the Time Out Market which was a short half mile walk from our Airbnb. The Time Out Market is located at Av. 24 de Julho 49, 1200-109 Lisboa, Portugal. It's a giant market hall featuring stands from 24 restaurants, 8 bars, and a dozen shops with rows of communal seating in the center. Reviews of Time Out Market Lisbon on TripAdvisor.

They offer everything from local fare, sushi, hamburgers, to steak. I must have done a few laps around the market drooling over everything I wanted to eat but we ended up visiting 2 stands that night:
  • Manteigaria Silva: Ham trio €18
  • Marlene Vieira: Crab and guacamole salad €9, swordfish with octopus salad €16
Ham trio from Manteigaria Silva
Ham trio from Manteigaria Silva

Crab and guacamole salad from Marlene Vieira
Crab and guacamole salad from Marlene Vieira

Octopus salad from Marlene Vieira
Octopus salad from Marlene Vieira

Plenty of seating available
Plenty of seating available

Dinner with Wennie and Eric
Dinner with Wennie and Eric


Day 1: Lisbon and Taste of Lisboa Food Tour

The 4 of us stayed in an Airbnb in the Baixa neighborhood - we could see the famous Tram 28 pass right outside our window. We saw it a lot but we never rode it since it was always packed and we actually ended up walking everywhere.

Tram 28 from our Airbnb apartment
Tram 28 from our Airbnb apartment

We were signed up for a food tour later that afternoon so we had the morning free for exploring. We took a short walk along the pedestrian only Rua Augusta to Praça do Comércio. Then we walked up a few hills to Sé Cathedral, also known as Lisbon Cathedral.

Praça do Comércio
Pano of Praça do Comércio

Praça do Comércio
Praça do Comércio

Check out that uphill
Check out that uphill

Lisbon Cathedral
Lisbon Cathedral

Tram 28 tracks
Tram 28 tracks

Racist much?
Racist much?

Rua Augusta
Rua Augusta

Love these Lisbon streets
Love these Lisbon streets

Santa Justa Lift
Santa Justa Lift

We visited the Money Museum or the Museu do Dinheiro, located in the former church of S. Julião, Largo de S. Julião. Admission is free and there plenty of interesting exhibits showcasing coins and bills from around the world and from ancient times. One exhibit I found really interesting was one showing counterfeit and authentic Euro bills side by side. I have to say the counterfeit bills are pretty good! Reviews of the Money Museum on TripAdvisor.


Check out this coin collection
Check out this coin collection

Counterfeit and authentic Euro bills
Counterfeit and authentic Euro bills

We headed to our meeting spot to start our Downtown - Mouraria Food & Cultural Tour with Taste of Lisboa food tours (€58/US$65 per person). Over the course of the 4 hour tour we walked through several neighborhoods and sampled food from 7 locations:
  • Mantiegaria Silva: Olive oil, bread, pata negra ham, and red wine
  • O Buraco Snack: Codfish cake and green wine (vinho verde)
  • Ze Dos Cornos: Bifana sandwich, 3 cheese, quince paste, alhiera sausage
  • Jasmim Da Mouraria: Canned sardines and ginjinha (sweet cherry liqueur)
  • Cantinho De Aziz: Samosas
  • Garrafiera Nacional: Port wine
  • Confeitaria Nacional: Pastel de nata and coffee
We had a really enthusiastic tour guide who was fun, energetic, and game to answer all of our questions about Portuguese history and culture. The time flew by and we felt like we got a good feel of some neighborhoods and enjoyed some tasty bites. Mike and I don't really drink alcohol (we sampled some of the wines just to get a taste) but our tour guide was able to offer us non-alcoholic replacement beverages at most of the locations. Obviously not at the wine shop. :o) Our first stop on the food tour was Manteigaria Silva where we got to enjoy ham - it was the same food stall we visited at Time Out Market the night before. Luckily we love ham! Reviews of Taste of Lisboa food tours on TripAdvisor.


More ham from Manteigaria Silva
More ham from Manteigaria Silva

Learned about bacalhau, or salted cod. The national dish is so popular that there's a saying there are 365 ways to cook bacalhau, one for every day of the year.
Learned about bacalhau, or salted cod. The national dish is so popular that there's a saying there are 365 ways to cook bacalhau, one for every day of the year.

Bacalhau up close
Bacalhau up close

Ham and cheese from Manteigaria Silva
Ham and cheese from Manteigaria Silva

Enjoying a Bifana sandwich at Ze Dos Cornos
 Enjoying a Bifana sandwich at Ze Dos Cornos

Exploring neighborhoods around Mouraria
Exploring neighborhoods around Mouraria

Exploring neighborhoods around Mouraria
Exploring neighborhoods around Mouraria

It's said that when police raided brothels in this neighborhood, prostitutes would escape through this narrow door too small for police on horseback to chase after them
It's said that when police raided brothels in this neighborhood, prostitutes would escape through this narrow door too small for police on horseback to chase after them

Canned sardines from Jasmim Da Mouraria
Canned sardines from Jasmim Da Mouraria

Jasmim Da Mouraria
Jasmim Da Mouraria

Jasmim Da Mouraria
Jasmim Da Mouraria

I don't know why but I love taking pictures of laundry drying on balconies
I don't know why but I love taking pictures of laundry drying on balconies

Maze-like alleys and stairways in the Mouraria district
Maze-like alleys and stairways in the Mouraria district

Hand-painted tiles
Hand-painted tiles

Street art in the Mouraria district by English photographer Camilla Watson - portraits of elderly residents printed on the walls of where they live
Street art in the Mouraria district by English photographer Camilla Watson - portraits of elderly residents printed on the walls of where they live

Graffiti art in the Mouraria district
Graffiti art in the Mouraria district

Graffiti art in the Mouraria district
Graffiti art in the Mouraria district

Graffiti art in the Mouraria district
Graffiti art in the Mouraria district

Port wine at Garrafiera Nacional
Port wine at Garrafiera Nacional


The most expensive bottle at Garrafiera Nacional. Yes, that's €15,950!
The most expensive bottle at Garrafiera Nacional. Yes, that's €15,950!

Enjoying dessert and coffee at Confeitaria Nacional
Enjoying dessert and coffee at Confeitaria Nacional

Pastel de nata at Confeitaria Nacional - very sweet and the Portuguese like theirs a little charred
Pastel de nata at Confeitaria Nacional - very sweet and the Portuguese like theirs a little charred


Confeitaria Nacional
Confeitaria Nacional


Day 2: Fiera da Ladra flea market, Castelo de S. Jorge, and Fado

We did a bit of walking this day with the goal of exploring and seeing 2 main sites: the Fiera da Ladra flea market and Castelo de S. Jorge. We also planned to find a place to enjoy Fado that evening.

I'm a huge dessert fan and I was excited to try pastel de nata. I love Chinese egg tarts, which are based on pastel de nata but I found the Portuguese original too sweet and heavy. Maybe I'm just used to silky soft egg tarts in America but I didn't enjoy pastel de nata. It didn't stop us from trying them from 3 different places though... Generally all of us found pastries in Lisbon to be way too sweet so almost every morning, we got coffee and pastries from a French bakery called Paul. It was also conveniently located right on Rua Augusta just 2 blocks from our Airbnb. Reviews of Paul on TripAdvisor.


Bellies full of pastries from Paul bakery and ready to walk it off
Bellies full of pastries from Paul bakery and ready to walk it off

Beautiful views
Beautiful views

Fiera da Ladra flea market
Fiera da Ladra flea market

Grilled sardines for lunch
Grilled sardines for lunch

Grilled fish for lunch
Grilled fish for lunch

On our way to Castelo de S. Jorge we came across a little shop called Garbags (Calcada da Graca 16A, Lisbon 1100-000, Portugal). They create products by up-cycling, meaning they repurpose materials like inner tubes, banners, toothpaste tubes, and foil coffee pouches, and create anything from coin purses to wallets to messenger bags. I could've stayed in the store for hours. I loved it!

I also love maps so I searched for something that was made from an old map. No two items are alike so it was fun to see all the different variations of the same product. Reviews of Garbags on TripAdvisor. Mike and I love environmentally friendly products so we each bought something to support Garbags' cause. I got a wallet and Mike got a messenger bag which he now uses for work every day. My wallet is made out of maps and foil coffee bags. Mike's messenger bag is made out of a vinyl banner and inner tubes.

The Garbags store
The Garbags store

The Garbags store
The Garbags store

I love my map wallet!
I love my map wallet!

Inside of my map wallet made from maps and foil coffee bags
Inside of my map wallet made from maps and foil coffee bags

I also love taking pictures of old doors
I also love taking pictures of old doors

Imagine living in this cul de sac
Imagine living in this cul de sac

Panoramic view from Castelo de S. Jorge
Panoramic view from Castelo de S. Jorge

We deserved a scoop of gelato at Gelato Therapy after all that walking
We deserved a scoop of gelato at Gelato Therapy after all that walking 

Food stalls at a square near Confeitaria Nacional
Food stalls at a square near Confeitaria Nacional

Food stalls at a square near Confeitaria Nacional
Food stalls at a square near Confeitaria Nacional

That night we ate a quick dinner of sandwiches and smoothies from food stalls we came across in a town square. Next on the agenda was going to the Alfama district to look for a cafe to enjoy Fado. Fado is a genre of Portuguese music, characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics about longing, love, loss, about anything, really.

By the time we arrived to the Alfama district, about 9PM, most places were at capacity but we wandered around and found Fora de Moda that had patio seating (and blankets!). Judging by the reviews on TripAdvisor, this place isn't known for their food but the Fado was fine.


Enjoying Fado at Fora de Moda
Enjoying Fado at Fora de Moda


Day 3: Belém neighborhood

The next day we took a short tram ride from Baixa to the Belém neighborhood (€2.85/way) to visit Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. We purchased a Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower combo ticket for €12/person. Reviews of the Jerónimos Monastery on TripAdvisor. The best part of having the combo ticket is you can skip the long line and enter the Belém Tower because you already have a ticket. We also stopped by the Lx Factory to check out the merchants, funky stores, and to taste what is probably the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever had.

Jerónimos Monastery in Belém

Jerónimos Monastery cloisters

Jerónimos Monastery in Belém

We had to stop by Pastéis de Belém, the home of the original egg tart. The pastries were sold as an attempt to survive when all monasteries and convents in Portugal were shut down and clergy expelled in 1834. An industrious individual made use of the sugar refinery near the Jerónimos Monastery and the egg tart was born. We stood in a massive line to get the original Pastéis de Belém (€4.20/4 tarts). Again, they were very sweet but we sprinkled some cinnamon (packets served with the tarts) and I think it helped to cut the sweetness. Reviews of Pastéis de Belém on TripAdvisor.

Lining up for Pasteis de Belem
Lining up for Pastéis de Belém

The line inside is even longer
The line inside is even longer

We had our Pasteis de Belem with cinnamon on top
We had our Pastéis de Belém with cinnamon on top

We walked over to the Belém Tower, a tower commissioned by King John II to be part of a defense system and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. Inside the tower you can see cannons positioned to defend and at the bottom you can see storerooms which were later converted to prison cells. You can also go to the top of the 4 story tower to take in the views. Reviews of Belém Tower on TripAdvisor.


Belém Tower
Belém Tower

Cannon archways
Cannon archways

On our way back to Baixa, Wennie suggested stopping by LXFactory. It's a former manufacturing complex converted to event and retail space for fashion, music, fine art, books, restaurants, and offices. Definitely worth a visit - there's so much to see and eat here! Reviews of LXFactory on TripAdvisorSome of the retailers made creative use of the industrial space, especially the book store Livraria Ler Devagar. Check out the pictures below. Reviews of Livraria Ler Devagar on TripAdvisor.

LXFactory
LXFactory

Interesting waffle stand at LXFactory
Interesting waffle stand at LXFactory

Wennie found a cafe known for their rich, moist, and decadent chocolate cake - Landau Chocolate. After taking a bite I think I realized I should've gotten my own slice instead of sharing with Mike. I savored every bite and almost wanted to get another slice! The 12-year-old in me enjoyed the cake with a glass of cold milk. :o) Reviews of Landeau Chocolate on TripAdvisor.

Mike and I BC. Before chocolate.
Mike and I BC. Before chocolate.

The best chocolate cake I've ever had
The best chocolate cake I've ever had

They've got the right idea. I think chocolate cake works in all cases.
They've got the right idea. I think chocolate cake works in all cases.

Quick visit to the book store Livraria Ler Devagar to check out the interesting space. It looks like it used to be a printing press?

Livraria Ler Devagar
Livraria Ler Devagar

Livraria Ler Devagar
Livraria Ler Devagar

Livraria Ler Devagar
Livraria Ler Devagar

Livraria Ler Devagar
Livraria Ler Devagar

Later that evening we celebrated Eric's birthday at Restaurante Alma. It has one Michelin star and a locked front door that's answered by ringing a doorbell. The food and service were excellent! I ordered the confit suckling piglet and our table was served a few amuse bouches between courses.

That suckling piglet was such a decadent dish - I almost felt naughty eating it! Perfectly crackly skin, sweet and juicy meat, served with a delicious sweet potato puree and pieces of crisp bok choy to help balance out the guilt. Funny enough, I didn't feel any guilt eating that chocolate bomb for dessert. Hey, at least we walked to and from dinner! Reviews of Restaurante Alma on TripAdvisor.

Celebrating Eric's birthday at Restaurante Alma
Celebrating Eric's birthday at Restaurante Alma

Cold soup and seaweed cracker palette cleanser
Cold soup and seaweed cracker palette cleanser

Charred peppers amuse bouche
Charred peppers amuse bouche

Red mullet, xerém, "caldeirada" sauce, samphire
Red mullet, xerém, "caldeirada" sauce, samphire, €29

Confit suckling piglet, sweet potato purée, pak choi, orange jus
Confit suckling piglet, sweet potato purée, pak choi, orange jus, €28

Chocolate "Bomb", salted caramel, hazelnut sorbet
Chocolate "Bomb", salted caramel, hazelnut sorbet, €12

Amuse bouche dessert
Amuse bouche dessert


Day 4: Day trip to Sintra

On our last full day we got up super early to take the train to Sintra to visit several palaces and castles.

We took a train from the Rossio Station, train tickets were €2.40 each way. Once we arrived in Sintra, we quickly made our way from the train station to buy roundtrip bus tickets, €5 each. The bus route was a loop to all the palaces and castles in Sintra. It was like the Amazing Race - almost everyone who got off the train made a beeline for the bus stop. Space was limited and everyone wanted to get on that first bus!

The stops on our agenda were:

Rossio Station in Lisbon
Rossio Station in Lisbon

Castelo dos Mouros
Castelo dos Mouros

Here's a link to a 360 photo I took at Castelo dos Mouros that I posted to Google Maps: Castelo dos Mouros. If you're viewing it on a desktop, drag your mouse around to get a 360 degree view! If you're viewing it on a mobile device, you should be able to move the photo around to see the view.


Castelo dos Mouros
Castelo dos Mouros

View of Palacio Nacional de Sintra from Castelo dos Mouros
View of Palacio Nacional de Sintra from Castelo dos Mouros

Palácio da Pena had a really interest mix of architecture
Palácio da Pena had a really interest mix of architecture

Palácio da Pena
Palácio da Pena

Palácio da Pena
Palácio da Pena

Palácio da Pena
Palácio da Pena

Saw this contraption on an outside terrace - it's a sundial cannon!
Saw this contraption on the Queen's Terrace - it's a sundial cannon!

This sundial cannon fires at high noon
This sundial cannon fires at high noon

Back streets of Sintra
Back streets of Sintra

We took a little break in our palace viewing to wander around the back streets of Sintra. We visited the famous Piriquita bakery to try their egg tarts and coffee. Reviews of Piriquita on TripAdvisor.


Unassuming Piriquita store front
Unassuming Piriquita store front 

Bakery counter at Piriquita
Bakery counter at Piriquita

Pastel de nata from Piriquita
Pastel de nata from Piriquita

After our snack break we got back on the palace circuit and made our way to Quinta da Regaleira. When I first Googled images of Sintra, one of the first photos I saw was of this crazy underground spiral staircase. It turns out it's a picture of the Initiation Well on the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira. I was super excited to see it in person. Finding the well was a fun exploration - it felt like the garden grounds were a magical escape. We walked through tunnels and behind waterfalls, made our way through secret doorways, and wound our way down underground towers aka initiation wells.


Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira

Found the Initiation Well!
Found the Initiation Well!

Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira

Train arriving back at Rossio Station in Lisbon
Train arriving back at Rossio Station in Lisbon

We decided to return to Time Out Market for our last dinner in Portugal. I went to the Henrique Sa Pessoa stall to order the pork confit. Henrique Sa Pessoa is the man behind Restaurante Alma where I had that amazing suckling pig dish so I knew I had to try the version at Time Out Market. It was good but the version at Alma was out of this world so it wasn't much of a comparison. I'd go back to Alma just for that one dish!

One more visit to Time Out Market
One more visit to Time Out Market

Pork confit with sweet potato puree from Henrique Sa Pessoa
Pork confit with sweet potato puree from Henrique Sa Pessoa

The next morning we got up insanely early to catch our flight back to Iceland for one day and then back to San Francisco. We had planned to take an Uber to the airport but just the day before, thousands of taxi drivers blocked access to Lisbon airport to protest the government's plans to regulate ride alternatives like Uber. They planned to keep the blockade until their demands were met and reportedly even attacked Uber drivers and passengers who tried to reach the airport. We scrapped our Uber plans and instead just went outside to hail a cab. The driver we ended up getting didn't accept credit cards so I had to make a last minute ATM withdrawal. Of course I ended up with a bunch of extra Euros but I happily spent them on coffee and pastries at the airport. One last croissant from Paul Bakery! Please read about our Iceland trip in this blog post: Iceland - Reykjavik and more.

If you enjoyed reading this travel blog please check out my other trip posts:

Happy traveling and thanks for reading!

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