Lisbon Portugal Review - Linking Portugal's Past and Present

Looking toward the ocean, Baixa and Avenida


The chance to finally visit Portugal came our way when my husband attended a Euromech conference in Lisbon, Portugal.  We had hoped to go there many times before, having friends there, but it was not possible and, as fate would have it, our friends were in Singapore visiting their son when we finally did visit.  But at last, we really were in Lisbon - a user friendly, hospitable and beautiful place to be.

We loved wandering the streets, stopping for a beer, taking the Metro, tram and funicular, stepping into areas with breathtaking views and always being pleasantly surprised by kindnesses, beauty, food, drink and more.

The second largest Oceanarium in the world


Our first day there was a Sunday and our hotel concierge suggested we visit the Parque das Nacoes. Some friendly and helpful tourists were getting tickets at the Metro and helped us use the machines to get day passes.  We were impressed with how clean and beautiful the Metro stations were. The cars were also modern in their design and the seats extremely comfortable.  It was also easy to figure out where to go.

Looking to the oldest castles in Portugal-Sintra


At the end of the red line, Oriente Station, we exited. Stepping outside and looking back, we saw that the station was noteworthy in its design – it looked a bit like palm trees.  Later we learned that the architect, “ Santiago Calatrava won the competition for the design of a station for visitors to the 1998 Expo. He transformed this former industrial wasteland into an urban renewal project and in the process created an important station not only for the World's Fair visitors, but also travelers on intercity trains, bus lines, and metro lines.” We then found our way to the waterfront and Parque das Nacoes and enjoyed its gondola ride, Oceanarium (the second largest in the world), lovely walks and a great restaurant that overlooked the water, Agua E Sal.

Kitchen at the castle and our guide, Lenor


Conference organizers arranged with Abreu Tours (291.205.916) for a variety of tours on different days and at different times.  We enjoyed two of the tours; one to the mediaeval city of Sintra, and another to the walled city of Evora, where the gala dinner for the conference was held.  Our guide for both trips was Leonor, the company’s shortest, easiest to understand (she was loud and clear), and we thought most interesting guide.  The trip to Sintra brought into view of some of the oldest castles in the country, and made a stop at the most Western point in Europe.  At this point, the winds are so strong; you can be swept into the ocean if not careful.

The most western point in central Europe - the winds can blow you away


Western Point marker


Our trip to Evora was a tour within a tour. We drove on the Vasco de Gama bridge, at 17 kilometers, the second longest in Europe.  It is beautiful and had many features that respect Europe’s largest estuary and bird sanctuary.  Lights are carefully placed and cork insulates noise.  We were shown an area if salt extraction and then driving further, we went into an area of cork trees.  Cork is extracted every nine years and the trees life is lengthened. The landscape changed and became desert like. Finally reaching Evora, we were amazed at the wall surrounding the city.  Many visitors stay here overnight and explore its ancient streets, shops and churches but we were limited to an afternoon of exploration and a gala dinner that included entertainment by a folk group and a Fado singer.

Roman ruins in Evora


Signs everywhere were in Portuguese and English and we found this very helpful. Our time there was more enjoyable because English was spoken most places and an effort was made to accommodate even if there were language limits.  We found wonderful restaurants, gorgeous views, places that were just fun, and through it all, a proud history.  Approaching the Metro one evening, we stopped for a beer, which turned into a stop for dinner at a lovely spot. Fernando Pessoa, a poet and his friend Ophelia Queiroz are associated with the restaurant, Cafe - Restaurante Martinho do Arcada.   Our servers and staff were extremely attentive; to the point of preparing a special dish that fit my vegetarian needs and brought a smile to my face.  We were charmed and strongly recommend a stop there.

Service with a smile-a specially made dish at Cafe-Restaurante Martinho da Arcada


Using many forms of transportation, we found getting around was easy, fun and not expensive.  A cab delivered us to our hotel and back to the airport and in between we found the Metro easy and available. We took tram-28 that went into many neighborhoods and to places with beautiful views.  The view of the Basilica da Estrela at the end of the line was beautiful.  On the number 12 tram, that is a 20-minute ride around the city center, a man told us of Lisbon’s glory.  It was the oldest city in Europe.  From this city Vasco de Gama went forth in 1498 and changed the face of the civilized world.  He also told us that Portuguese is the third most spoken language in the world.

Portugal spanned the globe as seen at the Maritime Museum


Another day a number 28 bus brought us to Centro Cultural de Belem.  This is exquisite, outside and in. The Maritime Museum adjoining Belem Castle was a friends’ recommendation and one we pass on.  As if to reinforce the story of the man on the bus, this museum was a powerful demonstration of the impact of Portugal’s rule of the seas for 100 years. Up the road we saw the Belem tower, and learned that it was somewhat further away than it looked, but very worthwhile visiting. The views were impressive and the bridge looked just like San Francisco’s “Golden Gate” having been designed by the same individual.

Not the Golden Gate bridge


Although our friends were away from Lisbon, they assigned their adult children to take care of us and they did a great job.  With them we saw the city through their eyes, enjoying one of their favorite restaurant (Pateo Restaurante) where we were introduced to local fare.  Later Antonio and Sonia showed us how beautiful the city looks at night.

A Lisbon specialty at Pateo Restaurante


As our visit drew to a close, we decided to try two different approaches to touring Lisbon.  One was the Lisboa card.  There are many cards available; a shopping card, a taxi voucher, a restaurant card.  We decided to see how the 48-hour Lisboa card compared to the one-day re-loadable Metro card.  The advantage of the Lisboa card being admission to museums and other tourist sites in addition to riding on all means of transportation, while the Metro card is only good for  transportation.

Some of the Asian collection at Calouste Gulbenkian Museum


As we visited the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Centro Cultural de Belem, Torre de Belem, the Maritime Museum, the Port Wine Institute and rode on Metro, buses, and finicular, we were comparing costs. We decided that the Lisboa Card is terrific for younger people who can see and do a lot in a short time and have no discounts.  However, for seniors, there is a very generous attitude, discounting for people over 65, making the Lisboa card a lesser value, but fun to use.

Lisbon from a park near the Port Wine Institute


Having greatly enjoyed Lisbon, we were sorry to leave.  Aside from lovely memories of its beauty and all of its fascinating sights, we remember something our guide said.  She pointed out that Portugal is about one hundred years behind the rest of Europe, which has the unexpected advantage of making Portugal Europe’s greenest country.  It is a great place to visit and we recommend that you do.

Basilica da Estrela, the end of the line for the number 28 tram


For more information contact: Turismo de Lisboa [email protected] or go to : www.visitlisboa.com

This historic elevator is one way up to Bairro Alta and Estrela


Restaurants:

Café – Restaurante
Martino Da Arcada
Casa Fundada EM 1782
Tel:+351 218 879 259
[email protected]

Agua E Sal
Esplanada D. Carlos
Oceanario de Lisboa
Parrque Das Nacoes
1990-005 Lisboa
[email protected]

Pateo Restaurante
www.pateo-restaurante.com
Tel: 21 868 72 08
[email protected]

Photos: Leon Keer


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