Below is a report of our six day trip to London, hopefully it'll be helpful to others planning a trip...
Below is a report of our six day trip to London, hopefully it'll be helpful to others planning a trip...
We spent six days in Lisbon and stayed at the Four Seasons and Corinthia hotels, each for three nights. I will write seperate reviews of the hotels but in essence both were fantastic, though very different 5* products.
Day 1: We decided to familiarise ourselve with our surroundings and walked from the Four Seasons, down Liberdade, into Baixa. The weather was glorious and such a treat to be wearing short sleeves exposing our peely-wally skin to the sun! En route we were amused to be approached a couple of times by guys selling sunglasses, only when we said no thanks (we were wearing sunglasses at the time, why would we need fake plastic ones?) to then be offered hash/marijuana or even just the more general 'drugs'. The guys were not pushy or threatening in the slightest and it was done in a very matter of fact way. Don't be alarmed if you are approached, just say no thanks.
We really enjoyed walking through the streets to the arch by Commercio Sq. I then decided we needed to find Se Cathedral, unfortunately I seemed to have bought the world's worst guidebook which didn't actually indicate on the maps where the tourist spots were. After a bit of traipsing up and down we found the Cathedral, we took a peek inside but mass was on so we decided to come back later. From the Cathedral, there is pretty good signage to St Jorge's Castle so we climbed up the streets a bit more til we reached it. We spent a good while exploring the castle and admiring the views, my other half was a bit tired from all the walking so didn't go up the ramparts but I pushed onwards and upwards and walked around the top of the walls. We enjoyed the castle very much.
Thankfully what goes up, must come down and we then went back to the Cathedral for a look around. Unfortunately the area of the tombs etc was closed due to refurbishment. In a moment of madness, we decided to walk back to the hotel, we were totally flagging! All in all, a great way to get to know the central districts!
Day 2: I knew that on Mondays many attractions were closed so planned a trip to the Zoo and Oceanario. Both of which were an easy Metro ride away (though in opposite directions). The zoo was excellent and relatively quiet though there were several parties of small screaming school children that we had to avoid! I was impressed by the large enclosures the animals had, especially the lions and elephants. But best of all, the dolphin show is not to be missed. I've never seen anything like it, at times it was breath-taking. Only disappointment was that the cable car wasn't running for some unknown reason, it looked like it would have been a great ride with aerial views.
It was getting late in the afternoon and we still had to get to the Oceanario so off we went on the metro once more. The aquarium was excellent and really well designed. The sea turtles were amazing with a walkway that meant you were standing directly above them as they swam below you. The central aquarium is designed around one giant two level tank with many smaller tanks and displays around the outside. I loved the sea otters, so cute, lying on their backs munching on pieces of crab, looked like a good life to me! We wandered back to the Metro admiring the various building around the Parque das Nações.
Day 3: Today I planned a trip to Sintra for the much raved about Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. Do not underestimate how much walking you need to do to see these sites! Sintra was an easy train ride from Rossio station and the 434 bus in Sintra was easy to find which was to take us to the Castle and Palace. The bus wound it's way up and up and up before we got off to walk up to the Castle. I didn't mind the walking (or rather climbing up steps) but the other half wasn't too impressed. It was slightly disappointing as there were lots of works happening at the castle site so the route was diverted and there were various cranes etc all around. Unfortunately it was really cloudy so our climb wasn't rewarded with clear views. I could still admire the castle though and its construction but am sure it's more awe inspiring on a clear day without the refurbishments going on.
Back down to wait for the bus to take us to Pena Palace. More winding streets and then off to see the Palace, wait a minute, there's more hills to walk up! I liked the architecture of the palace but wasn't so taken with the displays inside, there wasn't much description of what you were looking at and was not as extensive as I expected. We were both a bit weary by this point so decided to take the bus back into Sintra town itself. We spent about 30 mins poking in shops and bought the best pasties de Nata that we tasted on the entire trip (we sampled lots and these were far better than the ones from the famed shop in Belem!).
Day 4: We went off to Belem on the no 15 tram, although there is also a bus (not sure which number) that was apparantly more regular. Our first port of call was the Jeronimos Monastery. This building is huge! It was amazing to see all the stone carvings. We followed the signs to tour round the building and saw the tombs of several prestigious Portuguese individuals, and also went into the church area itself where the tomb of Vasco da Gama is located. The monastery also houses the museum of archeology and marine museum. We had a quick poke about the archeology museum before heading to the Belem Cultural Centre's Museum of Modern Art.
Outside the centre, there was a Euro 2012 display and we happened across Peter Schemeichel who was doing various interviews! The Centre houses the excellent Berardo collection of modern art, most of which was interesting and well-displayed, plus admission was free. The upper floor was displaying an artist's work whose name I can't remember, because, well, it was entirely unmemorable! I really wish the museum had used the upper space to showcase more of the Berardo collection.
We then stopped off at the Belem pasteis shop that we'd heard so much about, unfortunately our experience wasn't so good. We paid for two cakes and were only given one, which necessitated us queuing a second time round to get the missing pastry. Plus the actual cake appeared to have been deep fried and nowhere near as nice as the various other ones we'd sampled from other bakeries. Hmm, perhaps a victim of their own success and deep fry the pastry as it's quicker to cook?
Day 5: I had been looking forward to this day since we started planning our trip, we were going to visit Fatima. I'd booked our bus tickets online and allowed four hours in Fatima, however I really should have booked a return bus that was two hours later as we didn't have anywhere near enough time to do everything. The bus station was luckily located right next to the Corinthia hotel. The day got off to a slightly ominous start when a grumpy older American couple were unhappy that they'd sat in our booked seats and I politedly pointed this out to them to be rewarded with swearing from the female side of the contingent, hey ho, you can't please everybody.
The bus ride was excellent, air con on and felt like a quick 1.5 hours. We arrived in Fatima just as mass was ending and there was a large gathering of people around the Chapel of Sorrows. The crowds very quickly dispersed and it was really relatively quiet. We explored the Basilica and I viewed the tombs of the three children while the other half had a seat. I also braved the candle pyre twice to light the large candles that they have for sale (you can buy these from the local shops but I felt that buying them from the church itself was the better thing to do).
I was keen to visit the small museum they have that houses the crown with the bullet from the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II and was advised that this opened at 2.30 (it closed for two hours at lunch time). So in the meantime we located the large Berlin Wall display and then looking at the map we wanted to do some of the Stations of the Cross walk.
However, despite the map having a scale on it, after about 20 mins walking it was evident that the map was not to scale and we were not really going to have time to walk to the starting point of the Stations of the Cross let alone go along the path! I later figured out that you are supposed to take the mini-train which will take you in the vicinity of the walk.
So we headed back just as the small museum was opening, admission was the grand sum of 1e. A gentleman gave us and several others a brief guide to the museum (mostly in Portuguese but he summarised at the end in English for our benefit) and we watched a short film about the apparitions. The museum mostly housed all the offertories that have been donated, it was quite amazing to see all these items. But the highlight was the crown with the bullet on clear display, unfortunately photos were not allowed.
It was then, regrettably, time to head back for the bus though we spent a little time looking in some of the shops that sold amazingly cheap religious tourist items. One shopkeeper persuaded me to buy a Fatima tile by offering 30c off, it only cost me 1.50e!! The bus ride back was just as enjoyable and I enjoyed just looking at the views and surroundings.
Day 6: Our last day with our flight in the evening. We decided just to spend some more time in the centre of town. First stop was a ride on the funicular, this was a fun short trip up to the higher streets and of course, we had to walk down afterwards but I spotted a good view across to the castle to take more pictures off. Wanting to make use of our day travel cards, we then headed for the infamous tram 28. We hopped on board and thankfully it wasn't too packed, we rode round in one direction, got off at the end of the line and round back round the other direction up to the castle.
Again, this was just a good way to see more sights and enjoy a very bumpy trip! We walked back down from the castle to an ice-cream shop we'd spotted, we sampled peanut flavour and cheesecake flavour ice-cream cones. They were worth the 2.20e each and were a good refreshment on yet another lovely sunny day. We then popped into the Museum of Modern Design (free admission) for a poke around, this mostly housed furniture and clothing and was interesting enough but we were kind of tired now of sight-seeing and decided it was time to head back to the hotel to pick up bags and head for the airport.
Overall, I enjoyed our trip to Lisbon, the city comes across as very laid back with lots of places to chill out and eat and drink. The prices are great for food, drink and taxis. The weather is an absolute bonus and coming back to temperatures 10C lower is not much fun!
Any questions then I'll be happy to try and answer.
Excellent report, sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much for taking the trouble to relate your experiences. I find such reports invaluable when planning my own trips.
Thank-you very much for the detailed trip report. I've just started planning our trip so it's nice to get some ideas of where to visit. Good tip about the pastries!
Just wanted to say thanks so much for the detailed report, your writing's really lively and it was fun to read! Am heading off to Lisbon for 2.5 days in 3 weeks so this was useful.
Great trip report. We're going for six days this March and will profit by your information.
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