Sunday, 2 March 2014

Lisbon in late Winter, a walking tour of the city

Early in February 2014, I had a week off from work, and so I booked a few days in Lisbon, Portugal, a country I hadn't yet visited and on my "to do" list. I flew late afternoon 5th February from London Gatwick to Lisbon. Reaching the city was relatively easy, as the city Metro has a line which starts at the airport. I booked to stay at the Oasis Hostel in the Baixa-Chiado district.

The hostel has a bar, friendly staff and also offers traditional Portuguese breakfasts. During the first morning I had Eggs, ham, salad & toast.
Taylor who is from San Francisco, but now living in Lisbon also offers "free" walking tours, which leave the hostel at about 11am. On my first day there was just me and a young lady from Brittany (France) who were keen to explore Lisbon with Taylor.
We started by seeing the funicular train in (Elevador de Bica), a small district between Baira Alto & Baixa-Chiado (Bica is also a local name for a small espresso coffee, a favourite of the locals).

We walked to the Praca Luiz da Camoes, a small square named after the national poet.
Just off the square in front of A Brasileira cafe is the statue of Fernando da Passoa.
We walked to Largo do Carmo, a square where the revolution started in April 1974, the square is lined with cafes & shops, the roofless church (Convento do Carmu) & the residential palace for the national guard. This is where the Carnation revolution started on 25th April 1974. Carnations, being sold by a local flower-seller were worn by the protesters on that day.
We saw "The Elevador da Sao Justa" (designed by a pupil of Eiffel). We walked down winding streets to Rossio station & square. Rossio station is a Manueline style building. Manueline is an architectural style popularised during the reign of Dom Manuel I. Outside the station entrance is a statue of boy king Sebastiao.

We also tried Ginginha (a liquer based on cherries) at the alternative "Ginginho sem Rival, in Rossio Square, which leads to Praca da Figueira, a large square where buses and the trams start and finish their journeys.
It was about at this part of our tour that the heavens opened, and we had to shelter from the heavy, and stopped for a bica coffee, I also had a pasteila da Nata (a custard tartlet & popular local speciality) in a tiny cafe in Mauraria. Mouraria is the former Moorish district, where the streets are narrow, winding and hilly. Local residents live in the tiny houses. We also visited Mouraria for the street art & photos of local residents which were created by Camilla Watson, Camilla studio is also in the area.

On the way towards the Castelo de Sao Jorge we visited a multi-storey car park/garage with more street art. We didn't visit the castle, but admired the views over the Tejo river, harbour & Alfama disitrct, which like the Mourania district is hilly, and the streets are narrow and winding. We passed and went into the Se (the main cathedral for Lisbon, a converted mosque).
Both Mouraria & Alfama districts are also famous for the birth of Portugal's famous "Fado" music, and there are many clubs & bars where this music of love, loneliness and fate is played. Amalia Rodregues is probably the most famous "Fado" singers.
Although the rain had stopped we decided to stop for lunch in Praca de Commercao where a popular cafe & restaurant "Martinho da acarda, we had soup, (caldu verde with kale, onion, potatoes & Chorizo), another Bica (coffee) & cake.
We returned to the hostel via the Baixa grid of streets created after earthquake. In the hostel I had a much needed shower after getting soaked, and stayed indoors until I decided to leave in order to meet Carlos Miguel Jorge who is also a Virtual Tourist member. We met & had dinner in Graca district. Carlos had chosen St Clara dos Cosgumelos, a restaurant that serves dishes made with mushrooms. I had a rissoto dish of mushrooms, beer and shared a plate of starters with Carlos & Joao Pereira. After our meal Carlos gave me a lift back. I had a beer at the hostel before turning in for the night.