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one aspect of a long, cold winter that appeals to us. We
love our city, Toronto, but our bodies are at a stage
that the lure of warmer climates is not just appealing
After spending the past three
winters in Buenos Aires, it was time for a change. We
decided we could be quite comfortable in moderately cool
temps with some sunshine. The 14.5 hour flight to Buenos
Aires was rough so a shorter flying distance would be
Since we would be renting an
apartment for several months our preference was a large
city with charm, character and a welcoming spirit.
This is the essence of trip
planning. Establish your criteria and everything else
falls into place.
Lisboa (Lisbon), Portugal was a
perfect choice, with 7 hours flying time and just 5 hours
time difference from Toronto.
SATA Airlines flies non-stop from Toronto, Canada to
Lisbon (also non-stop to Lisbon from Boston, MA, USA).
Under the best of circumstances
flying is a chore mentally and physically. We have flown
SATA many times and as usual the staff on the ground and
in the air made our trip as carefree and relaxing as
possible. Check-in and boarding were prompt, efficient
and carried out in a friendly and courteous manner.
Without being prompted, onboard staff helped passengers
who required assistance getting their luggage into the
As you know we are "carry-on
only" travelers (yup - even for 2Ż months away) so
we found the dedicated check-in counters for carry-on
clients very convenient.
We flew "SATA PLUS"
service on the longest segment Toronto to Lisbon, which
includes use of an airport lounge (in Toronto SATA has
arrangements with the KLM lounge, which is directly
across from the SATA departure gate).
On board it was delightful sinking
into our wide comfortable seats, stretching our legs and
being served an excellent Ribatejo Cabernet by the
personable, attentive staff. After dinner (a choice of
Portuguese style baked cod or roasted chicken breast), it
wasn't long before we were nodding off.
SATA originated in the Azores and
has incorporated the spirit and soul of the Azorean
people in the culture of their organization. After our
visits to the islands we have a fondness for the Azorean
way of life and have already made plans to spend our
entire winter 2012 in Ponta Delgada.
Getting back to our carry-on style
of travel, we were always on the lookout for the ideal
luggage; 20", expandable, super-lightweight, water
repellent, sturdy compact handle system, outside pockets
and good wheels. We found the ideal suitcases and
matching tote bags at a CAA shop in Toronto. It is also
sold at other retail outlets. The luggage, with a Via
Rail logo, is manufactured by Landau Sacamoto. We have used it on four trips now and it
still looks brand new. It comes with a 10 year warranty.
Arriving in Lisbon we breezed
through immigration and customs and in minutes boarded
bus #44 to the city center, Praca Rossio.
There are numerous options for
payment for public transportation. We eventually
purchased a reduced fare rechargeable smart card "Viva Viagem/7 Colinas" for the Metro, Carris buses and
Our apartment was centrally located
in Chiado on the main street, Rua Garrett. Praca Rossio
is in Baixa, downtown Lisboa. Chiado rises to the west
overlooking Baixa. The pedestrian street, Rua Do Carmo,
at the western side of the Praca, is the pedestrian way
to Chiado, its neighbor Barrio Alto and the entrance to
the Armazens Do Chiado Shopping Center. The fact that it
is a steady climb up does not deter shoppers, tourists,
revelers and baggage wielding visitors such as us.
About half way up
on the eastern side is the Santa Justa Lift, also known
as the Elevador do Carmo. It is a stunner. It was built
at the turn of the century to connect downtown to Barrio
Alto, the lowest and highest points of the city. The
architect was an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel so it is no
coincidence that the construction resembles the Eiffel
Tower. There is always a long line waiting to ride the
two large ancient elevators to the 150 ft high heaven
At the crest of the hill the
doorway to Armazens Do Chiado is to the left and Rua
Garrett is to the right. This is one of the busiest
intersections in the City. We were to learn that two
elevators and one escalator inside the shopping center
lead down to Baixa on Rua do Crucifixo near the entrance
to the Chiado-Baixa Metro. It is also the hub of many
street demonstrations. The marchers gather along Rua do
Carmo and parade along Rua Garrett. We witnessed several
political marches from our fifth floor apartment.
This central location was
convenient for public transportation, walking and a
combination of both. The fairly new apartment was
spacious with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living and
dining area, a large well equipped kitchen and wooden
floors throughout. There was a combination washer-dryer
which was a great convenience. There was wifi, lots of
closet space, satellite TV, a phone for local use, heat
and air conditioning. Cleaning service was also included
once per week with linen and towel change.
From this 5th floor corner
apartment, the view of the Rio Tejo, the hillside of
Alfama and the Castle was spectacular. It was a joy to
sip a tinto from the Douro while gazing at this postcard
scene. However, the boisterous week-end revelers spilling
out from the Barrio Alto clubs during the wee hours of
the morning, presented a challenge to restful sleep.
visits to Lisboa were each short term and our travelogues
contain extensive coverage of the districts, sights,
insights, history, culture as well as places to eat and
sleep. It would be worthwhile reviewing our previous
writings for a comprehensive overview of Lisboa and
Now we are living in the city, not
visiting. We will ramble on about practical daily life
and whatever gems of interest happened along the way. For
example, we were able to find 100% pure unsweetened
orange juice in only one tiny supermarket. Look for it in
Tetra Paks, imported from Greece.
Speaking of supermarkets. The one
with the best name is the chain, "Pingo Doce".
A smallish branch store, conveniently located within
walking distance in Baixa, was good for limited needs.
But for serious shopping we headed to the hypermarket
chain, "Continente" in the Colombo Shopping
Center, above the Colegio Militar Metro station.
On arrival we would go to the
second floor in the enormous, circular shopping center to
the largest mall restaurant and food complex we have ever
seen. There's a huge variety of full service restaurants
as well as counters where you fill your tray and find a
table. Our version of heaven was an outstanding caldo
verde soup from the outside counter of Serra da Estrella,
a restaurant offering regional cuisine.
Afterwards coffee and our favorite
gelato at ICE.IT with its imaginative presentation of
spectacular flavors and staff trained to artfully
dispense it. A sweet lady
behind the counter offers generous tastes of as many
flavors as you like. No matter what size you order, you
get a dollop of another flavor on top. The reasonably-priced,
excellent coffee comes with a bonus, a spoonful of gelato
on the saucer.
There is a cinema complex at
Colombo where we attended the opening of the fabulous
film, "The Kings Speech". We also saw Natalie
Portman's brilliant performance in "Black Swan".
Shown exactly as filmed, in English, only the names of
the films and the sub-titles were in Portuguese.
Then down at the lower level at
Continente, we'd shop for tagliatelle filled with spinach
and ricotta, tomato-basil sauce (the private label
products are exceptional), freshly baked breads, salad
stuff and gorgeous frango (chicken) right off the grill.
That's about all we could carry. It was rush hour on the
Metro and our hungry fellow-travelers were near tears
from the awesome aroma of our frango.
Though we think ICE.IT has the best
gelato, the queues, sometimes out the door, at Santini on
Rua do Carmo attest to differing opinions. Our complaint
is that there is too much sweetness and not enough flavor.
The fruit flavors are the best bet. Santini still
operates its original location in Cascais.
Invariably, we interrupted our
afternoon walk with a coffee and pastry stop. We thought
we had found the two best bakery cafes in Baixa; Casa
Brasileira at Rua Augusta 24 and Pastelaria Casa Chinesa
at Rua do Ouro 274-78. Each day we would stroll by to
make our selection from the freshly baked goodies in the
window. When all else failed we could rely on a Rocha, a
densely-textured mound filled and topped with dried fruit
- quite addictive.
Just when we
thought we had found the best our friends Joao and Luisa
tipped us off about Cafe Versailles, Avenida Republica 15a,
which besides having marvelous pastries was a baroque
At the Metro Saldanha station just
follow the signs to Av. Republica and you will be at the
front doorway. The exterior is gorgeous, the interior
exquisite. If you can keep your eyes off of the long line
of showcases with mouth watering displays you will see
crystal chandeliers, engraved wood paneling, mirrors,
pillars, and stucco ceilings dating back to its founding
in 1922. A sophisticated clientele frequents the
Versailles, not only for the ritual coffee and pastry but
for the quality mealtime menu. We enjoyed standing at the
counter chatting with our neighbors and servers,
devouring an apple torte with mounds of chantilly and a
Berlin Ball (a giant donut filled with smooth boiled
cream). The coffees, garoto (expresso with a dash of milk)
and meia leite (1/2 expresso, 1/2 milk) were superb. More
trips, more pleasure.
It was a bright sunny day so we
walked back to our apartment. Av. Republica south took us
to Lisbon's largest park, Parque Eduardo VII. From the
belvedere at the top we were able to see down to the
imposing statue of Marques de Pombal. The park is neatly
landscaped and trimmed with box hedging and patterned
walkways. There is a hothouse with exotic plants and a
greenhouse filled with tropical plants, palms and cacti.
It was a perfect day for a walk in the park.
The famous Avenida
da Liberdade leads south from Marques de Pombal to Baixa.
This wide boulevard with a beautifully landscaped center
island is home to prestigious shopping and fine hotels.
As in most of the city, many of the buildings have been
or are undergoing major renovations.
The south end of Liberdade ends at
Restauradores. This square commemorates Portugal's
liberation from 60 years of Spanish rule. The awesome neo-manueline
Rossio Train Station is located between this square and
Rossio square. The lavish design with huge arched
doorways gives the appearance of an opera house rather
than a train station. It had been completely cleaned up
and renovated since our last visit. The trains to Sintra
leave from Rossio station.
Rossio Square is the heart of
Lisbon. The sidewalk tables are always packed with locals
and people-watching visitors. Beautifully decorated with
the imposing statue of D.Pedro IV and two baroque
fountains, it is paved with stones in a wave pattern.
Rossio Square is the venue for major cultural and
entertainment events. At the north side is the
neoclassical Dona Maria II National Theatre built in the
Adjacent to Rossio
is Figueira Square. Surrounded by hotels, hostels,
apartments, cafes and shops it is a main bus and tram
stop. St. George Castle overlooks the square, while the
bronze equestrian statue of King Joao I sits in the
These two squares form the northern
border of Baixa, the main shopping and financial district
of Lisbon. After the earthquake of 1755, Baixa was
completely rebuilt in a grid pattern. The streets were
named after the craftsmen and shopkeepers who worked in
the area. The wide pedestrian mall, Rua Augusta, lined
with specialty shops, restaurants, banks, etc., is the
pulse of Baixa - it beats day and night. The outdoor
cafes hum with activity while the street vendors and
performers provide entertainment along the way. At the
south end is the glorious Triumphal Arch (probably the
most photographed monument) leading into the impressive
Praca Comercio on the banks of the Tejo river.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three
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