|Subject: Travels in Portugal chapter 1 of 3|
Hi everyone, here is the Portugal info at long last. Hope it comes
through OK in 3 parts. If I can help anyone with questions, I'll be glad
Notes on Portugal trip
Things that affected our original plans, included: 1) the fact that Rossio Train station is closed all day Sundays 2) a transit strike 3) many attractions are closed on Mondays (we knew many of these before going) but some other stores and attractions have more idiosyncratic closings 4) fact that the Santa Justa Elevador took us up, but we were then locked out on a viewing platform because the cafe and upper deck were closed and the pedway to the Barrio Alto was locked; we had to wait for the elevador to come back and take us down (it was still interesting to take the ride and see the view) 5) rain, rain, torrential rain
The guidebooks recommend taking Bus # 91 from the airport downtown, and we had every intention of getting a taxi, but the bus was sitting there when we exited the airport, so we hopped on and saw a bit of the city on the way in. Got off at Rossio area and found our hotel very easily (using the city map in the Eyewitness guide, which is the best Lisbon map we've found--it has an alphabetical street listing that's a gem). We stayed at the Hotel Suico-Atlantico on Rua da Gloria. In May, a double room was 10100$00PTE (Port. Escudos). Extremely clean, convenient location, continental breakfast; something lacking in attitude of the staff though, most likely a language barrier, although they spoke English well and there were no obvious misunderstandings. Normally when we travel, we look for tiny places with atmosphere in small towns but stick to hotel type accomodations in big cities, and we did pick hotels for both stays in Lisbon on this trip.
On the way home, we stayed at the Metropole, which was highly recommended. Its location was very close to the Suico-Atlantico. The room was bigger and brighter and the common areas of the hotel were very nice. The staff here was incredibly helpful. The price for a double in May was 25000$00PTE.
The continental breakfast was better than at the other hotel and included meats, cheese, yogourt and scrambled eggs and, for some strange reason, cooked hotdogs. Whether the stay was twice as good as the stay at the Suico-Atlantico, I'm not sure.
We did a lot of walking in Lisbon, exploring the Alfama, the Baixa and other areas. The street life is worth watching, and there is no shortage of beautiful parks, gardens, monuments and just interesting scenes. It's true that the #28 tram is a good ride, and when you walk through the Alfama, everywhere there are birds singing, cats dozing, laundry flapping (it was sunny!).
We also took a tram to Belem and visited the cultural centre, the Belem Tower and the famous Age of Discoveries Monument, and the Monastery dos Jeronimos. This is a good way to spend half a day; the sites are near each other.
Food: we had several evenings that were memorable for both food and atmosphere:
Just down the street (Rua da Gloria) from the Suico-Atlantico we found a tiny restaurant called O Brunhal; it may have 12 tables and it closes at 10 pm. Everyone is fitted in very closely, and all were watching the inevitable soccer game on TV (we were the only tourists). The waiter was thin, and he had to be to get around. The food was good, basic fare of grilled meat and chicken, salad, bread and wine. Inexpensive, and quite entertaining.
Another evening we ate at Bom Jardim on Travesse de Santo Antao. This restaurant has tables in buildings on both sides of the street and outside as well. We sat upstairs by a window, and shortly after we got there a band set up below us in the street and it was like we were in a box in the balcony at a concert. They were from Ecuador and played music much like that of the group Incantation; they were all multi-talented, playing many instruments and singing. The fact that the food was excellent was a bonus--grilled sardines, bread and cheese, salad and roast chicken with potatoes. Inexpensive and the house wine was good.
Near the end of the trip when we were craving pizza we found Pizzeria Mamma Rosa's for good pizza and wine.
I had looked forward to Sintra for a long time, and it is a place that I definately want to go back to. Despite getting off to a rough start because of the closure of Rossio station, we got good directions from a man who spoke some English. Took the metro from Restauradores up to Jardim Zoologico/ Sete Rios and got on the train for Sintra there. When you get off the train, you can get the town bus to the Pena Palace road, where a small green tourist bus picks you up and takes you to the entrance lane. We didn't walk because we were heading uphill in absolutely torrential rain. Both the Pena Palace and the Palacio Nacional de Sintra (Paco Real) are stunning. Every bit as breathtaking as any photo I've seen. And I was not prepared for the degree of furnishings inside--wonderful antiques and art works in the damp and sometimes mouldering rooms. Amazing. One regret is that the rain forced us to leave the Castelo dos Mouros exploration for the next trip; a picnic and hike in the landscape would have been lovely. We had lunch at the Restaurant Alcobaca on Rua dos Padarias; I honestly can't remember what we ate, but know we enjoyed it there.
continued part 2...