We made it to Portugal!
It was a longer trip than expected, but after our first full day in Lisbon (really after our first few hours) we both can attest that it was definitely worth it!
Our flight to Madrid wasn’t delayed due to Hurricane Sandy, but it took us an extra hour to arrive. Unfortunately we missed our flight to Lisbon as a result so when we arrived just slightly too late in Madrid, Iberia had new tickets printed up and waiting for us as we got off the plane. Our original flight was supposed to be at 8:45 and our new flight was 3:45… so we had another 7 hours to wait before we could even leave for Portugal. That was a pretty depressing time. We were both exhausted from our flight – even though we slept a little – and really disappointed that the next flight was sooo much later than our arrival. Luckily, Iberia did provide us with a free lunch voucher so we sat around a bit, slept uncomfortably in airport seats, and ate a decent (and free!) lunch. We also had to pay 9 Euros to use the internet so we could let our Airbnb host know we were going to be late.
But eventually we got on the plane and were in Lisbon within the hour! Once we collected our bags, we grabbed a taxi and headed to the Alfama. We found our apartment far too easily and as luck would have it, our host had not yet arrived. So Zach walked around the corner to a store and called her from their phone. We had a little time to kill while waiting so we took advantage of the bench on our street and had a conversation (sort of) with an older Portuguese woman who was collecting leaf stems off the ground to make a broom for her witch doll.
Ema, our Airbnb host, arrived and let us in to the apartment (which is great!) and gave us a run down of the place and the city. Our apartment is small – it has 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a living area – but it’s cozy and it’s in the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. We’re off a small, quiet lane behind a busier street. When Zach first turned off the main road down an alley way I thought he was joking, but it’s perfect.
Last night after we settled in, we headed out near our apartment for dinner. We ended up at a small place, Grelhador de Alfama, where Zach and I both ordered sardines. In Portugal it’s traditional to receive bread and cheese at your table – though it seems complimentary, it is NOT. So if we eat it, we pay for it. Seems a little sinister to me, but I can’t quite help myself. So in addition to our sardines, we also had bread, cheese, and chorizo! OMG. CHORIZO!!!! So good. How could we not eat those to-die-for little hunks of red, grilled meat??? It was impossible. The dinner was great – maybe slightly more than we intended to spend (CHORIZO) – but the owner did give us a free shot of port afterwards, so I think it was worth it. The entire restaurant had only 7 tables of varying size and by the time we left all but 4 seats were full. We needed to catch up a bit on our sleep so after wandering around the Alfama a while, we called it a night, picked up some beer from the market, and headed back home.
This morning after sleeping in (and amassing about 10 hours of sleep!) we woke up to prepare for our first activity – a motorcycle side car tour of Lisbon! (We used Sidecar Touring Co.- I highly recommend!!) We met our drivers on the street near our apartment and they outfit us in helmets and began the tour! It was a great way to be introduced to the many parts of Lisbon. We began in the Alfama, made our way to Castel, Barrio Alto, Rossio, Chiado, Graca, and even Belem. Basically we saw the entire city. Along the way we stopped to take photos at the best miradouros, took a tour of Belem Tower, ate a pasteis de Belem (AMAZING), had coffee at a really old and beautiful coffee shop, and ducked into an ancient barbershop.
After they dropped us off we went to the Museum of Fado and wandered around downtown browsing in stores and catching some of the sights we passed in our side cars. We eventually settled on a great restaurant – Bonjardim. Their specialty is spit-roasted chicken!!!!!!! The skin was crispy and salty and full of fat juices. Delicious. We did restrain ourselves from eating the bread and cheese this time, but we ordered some rice and salad to go with our chicken. What a delicious dinner and basically the only meal we ate all day so it tasted that much better.
After leaving Bonjardim we walked over to a vintage store that was still open and Zach bought himself a tie (thanks, Adam!).
Then we made a stop at A Ginjinha for their signature drink (and honestly the only drink they ever serve) – ginjinha. It’s a cherry brandy that is pretty strong and warming. You can order it with or without cherries. It’s a pretty popular little stop and the shop is the size of a closet! So you just order and get out and stand with everyone else drinking their tiny plastic cup of ginjinha.
After warming our bones up with ginjinha we headed over to a beer house – Cervejaria Trindade. It’s a full service restaurant, but we only wanted drinks and a snack so we sat in the bar area. There was a line for the restaurant the entire time we were there. For a cervejaria they only have one brand of beer – Sagres. Hahah. Portugal only really has two beers – Sagres and Super Bock – so your options are limited no matter where you go. Sagres does make 3 different types of beer, but really they all taste about the same. It was really nice to sit around and drink a bit though. Zach ordered a prego (steak sandwich) and we talked about what we wanted to do tomorrow and Friday.
We headed back afterwards – a little early by Portuguese standards – but we didn’t really take a break today so we were pretty exhausted. Tomorrow we will make of go of staying out allll night (or at least until 2am).
Here’s a video Zach took from his sidecar: