To celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary, we decided to attempt to escape the cold and wet of London for a few days of sunshine and blue skies by heading to Portugal. The reality turned out that we hadn’t really escaped the cold, as they were currently in the middle of a cold snap, with frosty winds howling from the north.
We don’t usually pay extra to stay in fancy accommodation, however as it was our anniversary (and we hadn’t bought each other gifts), we splashed out a tiny bit and stayed in the truly beautiful Casa Amora. It’s a boutique guesthouse, a little out of the centre of town – though still walking distance, as our legs well remember. Risa primarily chose this place based on the clawed cast iron bathtub! Breakfasts were incredible, however we were trying not to eat much so that we could sample more food while we were out and about.
We started our first day wondering the laneways in the neighbourhood, including eating as many of the delicious little custard tarts as possible.
Our wandering was generally towards the tram stop to visit the LX Factory, which used to be an industrial factory that has now been renovated to house several art spaces and shops. It reminded us of 798 District in Beijing. Highlights were speaking with the somewhat eccentric Pietro Prosperio, and his little mechanised creations.
Like the rest of Lisbon, there was no shortage of incredible street art decorating the walls. It wasn’t just small pieces, some extended up multiple stories.
For dinner we ended up at a small place recommended by friends, Taberna da Rua das Flores. We’d heard it was going to be busy, but weren’t quite prepared for the queue. We’d been offered a seat on the steps, eating our meals from plates on our laps, but thought it was worth waiting for a table – even though we were hungry and a little cold! It was worth the wait though, so would certainly recommend a visit – though go early to get a table!
Our second day was spent wandering around the tiny laneways of the Alfama district. Risa loves exploring alleyways, so this was her idea of heaven. We started by riding the famous #28 tram, which I wasn’t such a fan of. We got on early and I stood by the rear window – however I kept having people push me out of the way, or squeeze in front of me to get a better view. We eventually got frustrated with it, and jumped off not too far from the Castelo de S. Jorge. We lapped up the sunshine accompanied by gorgeous views of the colourful buildings and grand churches on the hills of Alfama.
We did our best to self-navigate to the castle, which took us through some abandoned buildings that had been taken over by some genuinely interesting street art.
The castle itself was a bit less exciting, and to be perfectly honest, we enjoyed the views of the city more than the ruins of the castle itself – but they had peacocks, which are always fun to watch!
The other thing we’d fallen in love with in Lisbon, other than the alleyways, were the amazing tiles covering the external surfaces of the buildings here. I had to control myself and stop taking photos after the second day, as it was starting to get out of hand. I could fill an entire post with all of the buildings that we came across!
Lunch was at a tiny little place that was filled with locals, A Mourisca. The food was simple, but it felt fun to be in such a small place that wasn’t just set up to pander to tourists.
The rest of the afternoon was more wandering around Alfama, including a stop at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora. There were crypts with past monarchs, a stunning chapel with the most intricate marble inlay, as well as collections of beautiful tiles telling the tales of Aesop’s Fables. And again, the view from the roof was stunning.
Risa hadn’t had enough wandering, so we kept on with her search, turning down narrower and narrower alleys, searching for more of the beautifully clad buildings.
Dinner was at the Time Out markets, which had dozens of small stalls from some of the magazine’s favourite restaurants in town. It was an interesting way of showcasing the restaurants in town, and we did our best to sample from as many as we could – including finally having Portuguese roast chicken (which was nothing like Nandos). Sadly, Risa had picked up a stomach bug, and was struggling to keep food down. She was so disappointed, as she loves Portuguese food (and food while travelling in general). We also tried several of the local cherry liqueurs, which were quite moreish.
Day three we headed just outside of town to Sintra, which I’ll keep in a separate blog post here.
The sun finally made its presence felt on our final morning in Lisbon, so we wandered through town one more time. This time it was quite aimlessly, as we’d both agreed that we’d seen all that we’d hoped to see in Lisbon. It was sunnier, but there was a haze that hadn’t been there the past few days, so I couldn’t quite get the photos that I’d hoped for.
It had been a hectic three nights, and we’d done our best to see as much as possible. Hopefully we’re able to make the most of our time here in London to spend more weekends in cities like Lisbon.