Lisbon never deceives

The red microphone points towards me, the camera frames me and the journalist gets to the essential. “Have you seen the rubbish bags all over town?”
“Well, I have watched the Portuguese news and I know that the urban waste collectors are on strike, but when we got here last night it was too dark to see details like this. And this morning I have only been up for an hour and have not yet visited the town. I would not have been awake enough to realise things like rubbish bags in the streets.”

Damn! I just put an end to my beginning fame on Portuguese TV.  I had tried to act professionally, pronouncing my words clearly, with a quick smile to the camera man and the millions of possible spectators. But obviously the SIC Notícias journalist’s assignment is to find unhappy, disappointed tourists… But Lisbon can not disappoint me!

This city is a great mixture of history and modernity, starting with the place we stayed in. The taxi driver sent our way, used the navigation system of his mobile to find our street. The effect of the European crisis which hit Portugal hard! He can not find a job as an architect and he is making a living by driving a cab…think of it when you tip all the friendly Portuguese people you will meet on your journey. The driving architect dropped us off at the right place in the Bairro Alto.

The historical house we stayed in was at least 300 years old with the famous painted azulejos (famous portuguese tiles) in the hallway and its creaking wooden floors and doors even impressed a Portuguese friend…and the bars with shots at 1 EUR downstairs were modern as was the busy crowd which impressed us until 3am. If you are not a light sleeper and if you don’t mind to ask  people with a drink sitting on your front porch to let you pass when you get home, this area is definitely the spot for you. I loved it!

Lisbon Expo Area

Lisbon Expo Area

If you are more into modern, go to the Expo 98 site. Modern hotels, the  science museum, the oceanarium, Vasco da Gama Bridge and the shopping center. In Lisbon and surroundings you find the most modern and imposing shopping centers I have ever seen and one of them brags to be the biggest in Europe: Colombo. I have not checked the veracity of this statement but I prefer the Vasco da Gama center anyhow. Not that I am an expert when it comes to shopping – it is not on my favorite things list – but the food malls on the top floor of almost every shopping center is a great choice for a group of people with different tastes…and in general it is not expensive.

There are  by the way plenty of things to discover in Lisbon without having to spend much money. And it is not about being tight with money but most of the paying spots for tourists can be so crowded and I seem to be allergic to standing the queue, it gives me a rash.

Make your choice:

  • Sunsets down by the Tejo with a view of the bridge “Ponte 25 de Abril” (it was built by the same company – American Bridge Company – who constructed the San-Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge)
  • A visit to the other side of the river to see the Cristo Rei (he is not living in Rio only, like they say, he is everywhere…) – take the ferry at Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas.
  • Take a ride on the old trams through the city (beware of pickpockets, they definitely are busy and doing a good job, so hold on to your belongings)
  • Have a pastel de nata (vanilla cream pastry) anywhere in town as the famous and history loaded restaurant “Pastéis de Belém” will probably be too crowded with tourists
  • If you love churches you will be more than served but I would recommend to start with the Lisbon Cathedral (it is free of charge, but you should definitely pay the €2.50 to visit the cloister on  more)
  • Go up to the Castle São Jorge and if the queue is too long to get in,  just walk around outside the castle and have a coffee in one of the small coffee places, that is where I met the peacock fanning his colorful tail
  • Also don’t stand the queue for the Santa Justa elevator and use your legs if you can. They will carry you through the Bairo Alto up to the top of the elevator from where you have a lovely view overlooking the Castle, the city and the tourists queuing downstairs
  • Have a Ginjinha (a sour cherry liqueur) at one of the Ginjinha shops and stand around in the street in front of the shop and start a conversation with another Ginjinha taster
  • Make a romantic walk through the Alfama district

I could carry on with my “what to do in Lisbon” list forever…but maybe it is best that you discover all that Lisbon has to offer yourself.

Fado at Caldo Verde Restaurant

Fado

The one thing you should not mind to spend some money on is a Fado restaurant. No need to go for the most famous or pricey ones. If you don’t know anything about Fado yet, it is just about getting the feeling of these typical and melancholic Portuguese songs, accompanied in general by a classical guitar and a Portuguese guitar. Combine it with the culinary discovery of the Caldo Verde (soup) and  the Bacalhau (dried and salted cod-fish), both are Portuguese specialities.

Oh and  SIC TV seems to be a pretty active channel. We crossed them several times during our stay, but no matter how much I loafed around them, they would not give me a second chance to finally start my TV career! That was the only disappointing thing during my Lisbon stay :-) !