Lisbon and Belem

Arrived in Lisbon without a plan. Doing a free fall every once in awhile is exciting and one never knows where it will go. Rising early with breakfast 2 hours away I took a walk to the beach. In my walk I met a man who swims in the sea every morning with a buddy. We spoke of America and his work related visits. Here they are getting ready for a swim..

As I continued to walk I came across a young woman in her senior year at Salesianos High School in Estoril where I stayed. She was interested in becoming a surgeon. Wow! What a brilliant young woman with a plan. Nice to see and meet the future. The locals were fascinating.

Once back at the hotel I reviewed a Hop On, Hop Off bus pamphlet, however, only 2 day tickets were available. Decided to take the train into Lisbon and explore on my own. Upon departure from the train I saw various sites along the sea walk.

Some stone art work on the walk.

Then I came upon several squares and took a donation based tour of Lisbon.

Rossio Square

In Rossio Square our tour began. This lively square has been one of Lisbon’s main squares since the Middle Ages. The National Theater which was formerly a palace lies behind the Column of Pedro IV, which is a monument to King Peter IV.

Lisbon is known as the City of 7 hills, however there are actually 8, and to explore it appropriately one needs much energy and good shoes. Besides the walking tours there are also Toto’s available for tour. Tours in these small vehicles are pricey but a fun ride.

A Toto doing a night tour.

Trams are also available. The 12E for 1.35 euros takes tourists up the winding streets. This is a particularly beautiful way to capture Lisbon at night.

Driver’s View
Inside the Tram. Gosh, doesn’t that guy look bored??????

There are outside restaurants and stores along the tram route..

Sardine Store

Back to the tour…

In Lisbon’s early history it was ruled by Moors and this park pays tribute to them. Many multicultural festivals occur here. Note the modern castle facade to the right of the fountain.

From Moors to modern day art work made from plastics found in the ocean. This fish represents global concerns.

Next, we start our hilly climb courtesy of an elevator.

Lisbon has specialties to try when visiting. Bacalau is a cold water cod fish, and then there is aginjinka. Aginjinka was developed by a priest, has 23% alcohol, and a sweet sour cherry taste similar to cough medicine. While our group didn’t try the cod, we did sip the aginjinka. Mixed reviews.

Lisbon streets are charming, narrow, and pebbled. Along the way there is much to see. Here is a site where laundry is done.

Then there are the artists at work explaining musical history.

And pictures of residents..

These pictures which appears on building exteriors are a project done by a British woman to draw concerns to the regentrification of Lisbon. Many elderly are being forced from their homes with investors moving in. Lisbon has become an attractive real estate market with its climate and tax laws.

St. Anthony’s Church

While 90% of Lisbon is Catholic, few practice, however, on June 13th, the feast day of St. Anthony, all of Lisbon comes out to celebrate. The celebrations last all night. The city gives free weddings to couples wishing to marry on St. Anthony’s Feast Day. Perks for the selected couples include everything from payment of the wedding dress to 2,000 euros. They take this Feast quite seriously with some leaving their decorations up all year.

Following are pictures of St. Anthony’s Church interior, his birthplace, and baptismal fount.

In closing Lisbon views from the top of the “hill.”

Worth the hike, wouldn’t you say?

Next: Belem

A short train ride from Lisbon is the town of Belem. Besides McDonald’s, it provides more breath taking sites.

Then there is the lovely Jeronimos Monastery which was closed on the day of visit.

And the spectacular waterfront with its Discoveries Monument,

as well as the Belem Tower.

This Tower of the 16th century was the ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. As Portugal navigated the world this tower was the first and last site seen when sailors journeyed.

There are many souvenir shops in this area as well as small venues which serve food and drink while enjoying the waterfront.

This concludes Portugal and what a finale.

Nazare and Sintra

Nazare is a popular seaside area in Portugal with a mild climate, natural beauty, and record breaking waves which attract surfers worldwide. While its roots may be in fishing it is fast becoming a tourism mecca. Having visited 5 years ago I noted the increase in buses to the area.

A wide variety of gift shops are available in Nazare as are pastry shops and restaurants.

Brought back to the States a large box of goodies from this store. The Best!

Portuguese can cook and bake like no other with their fish preparation tasty and unique. Stop, walk the beach, collect stones, and enjoy.

Sintra

This resort town is also like no other, however, it is a resort of palaces and gardens. Near Lisbon the entire town is classified as a Unesco World Heritage Center. There are 10 palaces for viewing. Told of Sintra by a fellow tourist I was unaware of the time table needed for the visit. Arriving late in the day I was only able to take in The National Palace of Sintra.

The Palace of Gothic design was the medieval royal residence of Portugal from the 15th to the late 19th century. The last of the monarchy had an apartment in this Palace. It is well preserved and worth the visit.

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A Medieval Kitchen

To effectively capture the Sintra mystique I recommend reviewing web sites prior to visit and decide which palaces call to you. Also, consider the available palace gardens in your review as they are pristine and exquisite.

Many tours are available and for those uncomfortable with driving on narrow, treacherous roads I recommend this route.

Post visit make time for the gift shops as they have a different variety of wares.

Walk the roads around the castles and take in what a magical site Sintra is.

European Car Rental Tips

Rest Area in Portugal: Restaurant with gift items, picnic tables, and gas station on the other side.

Hadn’t rented a car in Europe in awhile and my how things have changed. This old lady sure had some challenges but met some wonderful people in the process. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Gas is expensive. Bring euros as in Portugal they don’t always take international credit cards and gas fill up on even a small car runs at least 50 euros, (about $60. with $1.2 conversion)
  • Waze didn’t work for directions as it is phone number based, and you must have GPS. Google maps is internet based and works with a European Sim Card. Get the Sim Card installed in your phone at the airport kiosk or do it yourself through vending machine purchase.
  • Portugal roads were great, drivers speed so move over when they come upon you. They let you know to move.
  • Vehicle speeds in Portugal had minimums and maximums. The signs are circular with red and black lines surrounding the value. Each lane can also designate minimum and maximum speed limits.
  • If you don’t love roundabouts, learn to love them as in Europe they are king. With roundabouts one is often on top of another so it’s a challenge seeing where to turn with the wide arrows on the GPS screen. Take another turn around the circle if this is the case because if you make a wrong turn it often is a long trip to get back on course.
  • If you do get off the wrong highway exit the next exit does not always have a way to get back on. Lost much time on this.
  • Get a highway transponder device for tolls. Rental companies install these automatically in vehicles and charge your card 75 euros. Toll roads in Portugal are pricey. Between Lisbon and Porto I paid close to 100 Euro for tolls and 175 for gas.
  • Use the appropriate lane to go through when using a transponder. If you get side swiped like I was and forced to go to a non-transponder lane you have to pay in euros as international credit cards don’t work. Even though you have a transponder you have to pay cash in these lanes as there is no dual system recognizing the transponder in these lanes.
  • Europeans drive standard cars. If you haven’t driven one in awhile, pay for the automatic. It’s worth it.
  • Have the rental staff put all the car announcements in your language. When I had problems with the hybrid everything was in Portugese. I learned the hard way.
  • GPS in rentals is possible but not always easy to calibrate. Rather than the site an address is needed however road diagrams were superior to phone GPS. I thought the Brit lady who gave the directions was a bit snooty, but that might be me. 🙂
  • As I drove I heard a ping on occasion. Terrified of further car problems I asked at the nearest gas station. European rentals have a noise every time the car exceeds the speed limit.
  • On Portugal’s roads they have human assistance. As I stopped on the side of the road to check the ping one of these friendly folk appeared. Don’t be scared.
  • Windshield wipers, directionals, and horns are in the same place with foreign rentals but all else was varied/complicated. Since rentals lack a car manual ask questions before leaving the rental garage or lot.
  • Purchase an international driving permit before departure. If stopped by police this can be a problem without one. Google for the information – it’s $100 and immediately after purchase print out the info.
  • Get the smallest car available for gas as well as parking concerns.
  • If a parking garage is available, take it regardless of price.
  • The hybrid car I rented was challenging. With the problems I lost a day in tourism. If you have a problem with a rental car return it immediately.

Having the freedom of a car is amazing traveling in Europe and it can work. While the stars were not in alignment with the hybrid I rented the Portuguese people were kind, courteous, and helpful, to me. Give it a try and let me know your experience.