TRAVEL | LIFESTYLE | PORTUGAL
An Exciting Time in Portugal
Ene Abnah | @belle.tammy
1 June 2018
My sister and I visited Portugal between the end of October and early November 2017.
Around October, winter starts to say hello but Portugal was bright and sunny. My sister who lived in England at the time was so excited about the sun. Coming from Nigeria, I was pleased that the sun was not as hot!
We arrived Lisbon from London and were picked up by our super amazing host. We used CouchSurfing while we were in Lisbon. From our research on Lisbon, we saw that there was a lot to do. Having a local guide is always helpful and that’s one of the advantages of CS when I’m going to a city where I do not know anyone. From the minute he picked us up, we knew we made the right choice. He was warm, chatty and even took us around to see a bit of the city before driving home.
The next day, when we got into Central Lisbon, I was like a child in a candy store. I wanted to do and see everything! My sister on the other hand had to keep reminding me that we could not do everything in one day, I wore her out. We passed by the Oriente station and Vasco da Gama centre so we chose to start by exploring that area.
It is a rather chic area that was once undesirable according to our host. Now it has some wicked architectural structures. There is an expo area where flags of all the countries are arranged in alphabetical order. The area overlooks the sea and there is a port there. We spotted the Nigerian flag!
Photograph courtesy of Unsplash
Our next stop was Alfama in central Lisbon, we wandered around and discovered that there were many high points from which we could get lovely views of the city. It is a vibrant and tourist area, also has a good number of restaurants.
The narrow walkways, steps and colourful buildings make it a pleasant place. It is a bit of a climb to get to any high point so if you would prefer not to walk, it is best to take the tram that goes up to the highest point, it is the yellow tram, no 28. The tram is also a good way to discover the city. We spent the whole day walking around.
We saw the Elevador Santa Justa (Santa Justa elevator), we got on the queue but it was taking such a long time to move so we kept it moving. At two different ends of the street, there were two choirs singing. Just behind, there was a street artist. We watched him from start to finish. Someone bought the painting on the spot! There was so much to do and so much to see.
I was told about the famous Pasteis de Beleim before going to Portugal so we went hunting. Getting from Central Lisbon to Beleim took a little over an hour, including the waiting time for trains.
“The next day, when we got into Central Lisbon, I was like a child in a candy store. I wanted to do and see everything!”
Beleim area has a few monuments to see which are not far from each. The bakery was on the way and was not hard to find as there was a queue.
The bakery has a sitting area but people are constantly waiting. The moment anyone gets up, people take the seat, so we got our pastries then headed to a nearby garden where we could eat with no pressure.
Afterwards, we went to the Mosteiro de Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery). It is a beautiful structure with a story to tell. We got there 30 minutes before closing and the receptionist mentioned that the tour inside would be hurried so we didn’t bother. You need at least 45 minutes to see things and take them in.
We managed to see a small part which we didn’t have to pay for. There were scaffolds outside and some work was ongoing, I can only imagine how it will look after all the work is done.
Across was the Padrao dos Descobrimentos (Monument of discoveries) which celebrates Portuguese explorers and discoveries between the 15th and 16th centuries. The monument stands tall to represent Portugal’s heritage.
We met up with our host when he closed from work. It was a Friday night so we thought we would take him for dinner and see what the night life was like. We were around Chiado area. It was not uncommon to see policemen standing around the streets. There were tourists everywhere and the streets were not short of restaurants, there were so many options.
On the Saturday we were in Lisbon, we went to Rossio station and right outside there is a square. So much was happening. There was an open food and crafts market where we had lunch. Then we took a walk around and found Santini gelato, it was recommended by our host. According to him, it is the best Portuguese gelato place. It was good but we had had better (sorry Rui!).
We left for Lagos the day after. This was my choice and I really was interested in seeing this place as I found out that Lagos in Nigeria was named by a Portuguese explorer. I wondered if there would be similarities in any way.
It is laid back, calm and beautiful. Our hotel was in a good area called Meia Praia, a 20 minutes walk to the marina/centre and maybe 10 minute walk to the beach. I remember saying to my god mum who I visited in England that I didn’t want to make a hotel reservation as it was not peak period and we would definitely find a place to stay. She insisted on getting a place, so she started looking and found this place, we both liked it and she went ahead to pay! Bless her. No regrets staying there whatsoever. We had a studio to ourselves.
It had Moroccan themed decoration, it was clean and quiet. We noticed that a few properties were up for sale and a good number of others were empty. So I imagine in summer, it might be quite busy. Many of the hotels are flats so people have the option of cooking. No food was served where we stayed as we were told that it was not peak season. When we went to get groceries, we noticed other tourists doing the same.
One place was recommended for food by the taxi driver when we got into Lagos. He drove us there but it was closed. On another day when we were determined to try, we were directed to that same place. It was a winner! The food was delicious.
One thing to know though is that many places prefer to be paid in cash. To eat at this restaurant, we had to look for an ATM to get some cash out as they didn’t accept cards. It’s good to always have cash handy and ask before settling in to save yourself any embarrassment.
The weather was perfect for the 10 days we were there! It started to change on the day we left.
We had one bad experience which was certainly not enough to spoil the trip. If you are thinking of going to Portugal, stop thinking. If this country was not on your list before, please go.
More travel stories on my blog – http://belletammy.blogspot.com.ng/
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