Well, this trip didn’t quite start as we wished – our flight from Charlotte to JFK never got off the ground because of a mechanical problem with the aircraft. Since it was the last Jet Blue flight to JFK that night, there was no way to make our connection to Lisbon.We were lucky enough to get rebooked for the same flight the next night and got a taxi home (paid for by Jet Blue). One of the bad parts of this, besides not getting home until 1 AM, was the need to let our hotel in Lisbon know we would be a day late and would like to keep our reservation. This was accomplished through our banks travel department, but I was still leery about whether we would still have a room when we finally arrived. I also texted the driver who was to pick us up at the Lisbon airport and see if he could meet us a day later than originally planned. Just before our flight the next evening, I got a text saying he would be there.
We finally arrived in Lisbon on 14 March and were taken to our hotel, Lisboa Carmo Hotel. A very nice hotel, close to places we wanted to visit.
Our first stop was to taste bifana, a spicy, slow-cooked pork sandwich, and pastel de bacalhau, cod croquettes. Next stop was a sidewalk cafe for a taste of alheira, a Portuguese sausage cooked at the table and served with a dish of moelas, chicken gizzards (my first taste of gizzards). Then it was off to the oldest Ginjinha shop in Lisbon – this is a cherry flavored liqueur. Each bottle of ginjinha also contained many sour morello cherries, which were added to our glass – wow, were they sour.
The next day, Saturday, we had scheduled wine tour/tasting. However, because of all the rescheduling of tours, necessitated by the flight delay, I missed an important email with the meeting place change. Pat and I walked to what I thought was the meeting point, only to find out it had changed and that we had walked past the actual meeting place about 30 minutes earlier. Fortunately, the tour guide was able to book us for the tour on the following Monday, the day we were supposed to leave Lisbon. I accepted the offer and arranged with the hotel for an additional night.
Since we were already out and about, Pat had her eye set on a yarn shop, so off we went!
From the yarn shop, we headed back to our hotel, but stopped just across a park from the hotel at the Carmo Convent and Church, left topless from the 1755 earthquake. “[B]uilt between 1389 and 1423, …it was initially bestowed to the Carmelite order, but it lost its functionality after the great earthquake of 1755, when much of the edifice was damaged apparently beyond repair. However, what is worth mentioning is before the earthquake, the Carmo Convent and Church represented the height of all Gothic religious edifices in Lisbon.”
On our way to catch a tram to Belem, a short ride west of the city, we passed a demonstration/march, protesting something about labor.
We never made it as the tram broke down. Rather than wait for repairs, we abandoned our ride and started our walk back to the hotel. One of the places on the way was the Time Out Market, where we ended up having a glass of wine.
Then it was back to the hotel and out to dinner. Since we did not plan ahead, we wandered around the neighborhood near our hotel and found Duque, a very nice restaurant. The place was crowded and the food was outstanding. Our meals consisted of: O Nosso Caldo Verde and Copo Vinho (wines), Naco de Alcatra (veal) and Peixe da Lota DOSE (whole fish). If anyone is in Lisbon, we highly recommend stopping there.
The next day, Saturday, we were off to see the castle on the hill – Castelo de S. Jorge. However, to get there we had to pass (and since we were there, ride) the Elevador de Santa Justa, built in 1902 by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard (a former student of Gustave Eiffel). Although built as a steam-powered lift to help get people up one of Lisbon’s many hills, it was electrified 5 years later and is now just a tourist attraction. The views from the platform at the top are wonderful.
We continued on to the Castelo de S. Jorge, after descending on the lift, crossing the valley and climbing the hill to the castle (mostly in the on/off rain). Of course, when we got near the top of the hill, we turned left and had to circle the entire castle to find the entrance (had we gone right, it was just a short walk). The weather made much of our visit less than pleasant, but it was worth seeing it.
Dinner tonight was at Faca e Garfo, another small restaurant near our hotel. Another wonderful meal: Duas Quintas (wine), Pao (bread), Queijo Amanteigado (cheese), Secretos Porco Preto, Salsichas (sausage), Diversos (broccoli), and 2 Doce (desert).
Sunday, we took a train to Cascais to enjoy the beach. This small beach town is about 30 minutes west of Lisbon, if traveling by train. We spent several hours walking the beaches to collect sea glass. Then searched and found a geocache, found a place to eat, and caught the train back to Lisbon. The day was beautiful – no rain.
Our final day in Lisbon was for the wine tour we had missed on Friday. This time we met the guide at the correct place (we got to the meeting spot well in advance and had breakfast at a nearby restaurant). Although this tour was booked through Viator, the actual trip was led by Joao Guadalpi, Manager and Tour Leader at West Portugal Tours. It was because Joao was so flexible, we were able to do the tour, after missing the one on Friday.
We drove to the AdegaMãe Winery, about an hour north of Lisbon. Before tasting any wine, we were given a tour of the winery with an explanation of how wine is produced (basically the same tour we have had for the last 20 years, except for different designs and layouts). Then it was off to the tasting room and the most relaxed tasting we have ever had – our group of 7 was told about each of the 4 wines we tasted, given a glass and some crackers, then left alone with the bottle. Only when everyone had had enough wine did the host give us the next wine.
Before heading back to the city, our whole group ate lunch at a local restaurant which was very simple but very, very good.
Other than dinner near the our hotel, the wine tour was our last event in Portugal. We had a very early flight to Malaga, Spain, the next morning.
We want to return to Portugal, especially more to the north, such as Porto. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), there are many place we want to see before a return.