A Travellerspoint blog

Lisbon Larks

24.8.2019 - 29.8.2019

28 °C

And so to Portugal. Saturday 24 August. We flew in the evening on Air Portugal, Prague to Lisbon in one of the quietest flights we’ve been on in long time. Contacted the local Eurolease rep to collect our Citroen C4 Spacetourer (the car formerly known as the C4 Picasso). Strange transaction, conducted at 1030 at night in what seemed to be a random carpark! Young fella who was handing over the car seemed, not unreasonably, focused on getting home to bed!


But we got enough of a briefing to take charge of the vehicle and drive it, via our first experience with a Portuguese petrol station. ‘Gaseleo Simples’, the cheaper diesel, apparently the thing. Around NZD 2.70/litre all taxes included. Then all of 2k down the road to our overnight stop in an airport hotel. Wee taste of luxury at the ‘Radission Blu’ for our first night ‘on our own’.

Monday 25 August: Another day, another Metro conquered! Into the city, to a station adjacent to the start of the yellow #28 tram. Every piece of tourist publicity one reads on Lisbon/Lisboa suggests this as a highlight of the visit! What! A tram? With some scepticism, we boarded. Well, what a hoot. Shake, rattle and roll! Definitely a highlight of the trip! About an hour, over the 7 hills of Lisbon, up and down. Really narrow sreets, cars competing with the trams, tourists and other pedestrians - often trying to take photos with the trams bearing down on them, and rarely a footpath to be seen. The cars were built circa 1930 but underwent a thorough running gear upgrade in the 80’s (I think). At various stages crowded, we stood and we sat and we marvelled. You really have to experience it.


They could have been a real crowd-puller in Wellington but I guess light rail is more likely; we’ve struck some great examples of that too.
The difference? Largely that trams run on roads shared by cars, whereas light rail, though looking more like modern tram cars than trains, run on their own dedicated lines, often in between traffic lanes.

Tuesday 26 August: Then a bit more of a wander around the centre of Lisbon, another church or two, a famous but rather unremarkable lift (elevator) and it was back on the metro to collect the car from near the hotel and head to a 3* hotel at Estoril/Cascais, more-or-less seaside suburbs of Lisbon.


Wed 27: On what would not be the first occasion, MC arose all fit and energetic and walked in the heat, but along the waterfront, from Estoril to Cascais. The need to buy replacements for a pair of sandals that had fallen apart MAY have been part of the motivation. Phil swam/ rested/ admin’d/ blogged/ sunbathed. MC arrived back; hot, exhausted but sandal-resplendent. A brief visit to the local beach confirmed the Guide-book’s view that the Atlantic water was cold. But MC braved it, briefly, then we had a drink and watched people sunbathing.

Then, the guidebook alerted us to a little place, Azenhas Do Mar, a small village scatterd on a hillside, with an amazing wee beach and tide-filled pool below. Both of us walked down, and up again! Gorgeous spot.


We went searching for a recommended restaurant within walking distance but couldn’t find it. We ended up at a little bistro and had a most entertaining evening. Mum and Dad were trying to run this place, clearly fed-up and exhausted after a long summer, dealing on their own with maybe 30-40 places, some of which clearly turned over more than once. Service was not rapid and some of their interactions brought to mind Basil Fawlty and, if not Manuel then certainly Sybil :) Plus a group of four brits that included one very drunk, loud Scot who made sure the rest of the restaurant understood his opinions on everything from Portugal to Brexit to English soccer clubs!

We learned the next night, when we found our original target, darkened and adjacent, that it had closed two days’ earlier for a month-long break. No wonder the elderly couple wondered what hit them. The food was good though.

Thurs 28. The town of Sintra was only a few kms away and was recommended by every travel guide, along with the #28 tram, as one of Portugal’s must-visits! There were a few tourist targets, including a “Moorish Castle” but we decided to limit our ambitions to the incredible Pena Palace, which seemed to us, rightly as it turned out, to be more than enough for one day. And an entertaining one it turned out to be!

All advice suggested we not try to drive up the tourist route but park in the centre of Sintra and get the tourist bus up. That is where things started to go wrong. Mistake #1 - We turned the wrong way from the car park, walked away from the bus terminal and slogged up a hill for 30 minutes in heat in the high 20s, while all the buses we should have been on roared past us!

We eventually caught up with one and were deposited without further hassle outside the Pena palace. Lonely Planet says this about it: “Rising from a thickly wooded peak and often enshrouded in swirling mist, Palácio Nacional da Pena is a wacky confection of onion domes, Moorish keyhole gates, writhing stone snakes and crenellated towers in pinks and lemons. It is considered the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal. Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, the artist-husband of Queen Maria II, and later Dom Ferdinand II, commissioned Prussian architect Ludwig von Eschwege in 1840 to build the Mouresque-Manueline epic (and as a final flourish added an armoured statue representing a medieval knight overlooking the palace from a nearby peak). Inspired by Stolzenfels and Rheinstein castles and Potsdam's Babelsberg Palace, a flourish of imagination and colour commenced.” Most of that went over my head, but here it is:


So the bus we were on takes about an hour to do a narrow, challenging, hilly circuit from the centre of Sintra past the four main tourist attractions. Not having got on the bus in the right place, there was next the issue of identifying the right place to get off! Mistake #2! Slight disagreement about whether we were there when we got there, and far be it from me to disclose who was right, but the end result was another hour on the bus travelling past all the tourist sites, most of which we’d had no intention visiting in the first place!

Then, again since we had not walked from the car to the bus stop was the question of where the car was. In the interests of the next 39 years, I won’t say too much about that experience but shall we just say that we go there eventually, and made it back to Estoril. Another reasonable restaurant. Phil had ‘black pork’ – that still looked white but was just a tad salty.

Wed 28: Metro back into town. Walked along the waterfront. Another huge monument to someone important. Again, impressed with the trams.

But the visit confirmed our growing impression of Lisbon, despite the wonderful exceptions as a bit lack-lustre and graffiti-covered. And here's MC crossing the tracks, not at all per Kiwi Rail!!

Had lunch at Belem – Mary Clare duly impressed with the place – took photographs of the Cathedral, ‘cos we hadn’t done that for a while. Phil had an interesting discussion with a Sri Lankan waiter about how to order coffee in Potugal (“Café Galau, poco leite”) - but not sure that’s right) and of course, cricket! Metro back to Estoril, dinner and bed.

Thursday 29: Up early to drive south, over a colossal bridge and past Lisbon's version of Christ the Redeemer to the Algarve and a story of wonderful Air BnB hospitality. But that’s for next time.


Posted by philandmc 11:11 Archived in Portugal

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