We were invited to spend a few days in May in the Algarve again this year with my partner’s parents in their time-share apartment by the coast. This was all good, and having been the previous year I know the Portuguese coastline is pretty stunning, but there’s only so much lounging about this girl can do, and my urge to see different places took over, so I thought I’d use the opportunity and convinced Jamie to book us up a night in the country’s capital Lisbon.
I figured we had a day and a half in the city before our long train ride south, so we had to use our time wisely, but at the same time not pack our itinerary so full that we would be super stressed about the whole experience. Most of my friends had already been to Lisbon, so it was just a case of asking them what their not-to-miss places were; ‘Go to Belem, and don’t forget to go to the Zoo!’
It was perfect ‘discovering’ weather when we arrived, sunny, warm but with a nice coastal breeze. We checked into our hotel on the outskirts and then gravitated our way down the sea, passing by Parque Eduardo VII for that money shot!
Lisbon’s streets are very charming, there’s these little pops of colour everywhere, sunny pastel shades, the beautiful blue and white Portuguese tiling and this infectious relaxing atmosphere. Any itinerary we did have just went out the window. This place is all about taking the slow lane, finding the day as it comes.
Once we’d made it to the water front we thought we’d try and navigate our way towards Belem. After a few confused minutes hanging around tram stops and trying to figure out which way we needed to be going, a helpful local mentioned that the tram drivers were on strike today and the best way of getting there was to take a short train ride via the station across the road.
Okay, so Belem was lovely! Unfortunately my camera started playing up around the monastery area, so I didn’t have as many shots as I’d have liked. But it was great to wander around the gardens and soak up the sunshine.
We then headed for Pasteis de Belem for lunchtime. We chose to take some time and sit in for a coffee and a few pastries so after a quick wander around the many many rooms we quickly found a free table.
‘Six Natas and two milky coffees please?’
I’d had custard tarts in England of course, and frankly wasn’t a fan of this sort of thing back home. But these things were something else! It was the first time I’d had anything like this; I absolutely loved them and instantly wish I’d ordered more! Crispy pastry shell with this gooey warm centre and a sprinkle of cinnamon. (I’m torturing myself just by writing this post!).
Quick, bring me another thirty and I’ll clear some room in my suitcase. Ughhh! Where have these been all my life!
In the afternoon we went to check out the Neo-Gothic ‘Santa Justa Lift’. It’s kind of a tourist attraction, but actually the locals use this lift just to get from A to B from the lower streets to the higher areas, the price of the entrance is even included in a daily travel card. It’s a historical piece of engineering (over one hundred years old, completed in 1902) and quite pretty from the outside, but our main reason for seeking this out was to experience the fantastic views from the top.
Because of the popularity of this elevator, the strict capacity limits and relatively slow running of the lift, it took nearly an hour to take the carriage up, look around for ten minutes and then make our way back down again. But the views are kind of great!
On our second and final day in Lisbon, we chose to visit the Zoo which was only a few minutes’ walk from our hotel. I can now see why everyone’s such a big fan of this attraction. It was very well maintained, located in pretty leafy surroundings and all the animals had lovely enclosures. We managed to see the Sea Lion feeding and a dolphin show, both of which were fabulous! Here are a few photos from the day.
The Algarve, as pretty as it is with its rocky coastline, turquoise waters and little seaside towns, is perhaps a bit too ‘English’ for me. There’s an abundance of tourist resorts; ‘Irish pubs’ with their never ending Happy Hours and with restaurants offering a ‘Full English’ or ‘Pie n’ Chips’ to the Stag and Hen do’s that monopolise the area, which is fine if you’re looking for a cheap week in the sun, but there was a lack of different culture, local food and historical attractions to interest me, so it wouldn’t be a place I’m keen to return to; it was quite easy to get bored here quickly. Perhaps I was in the wrong area, but I much preferred getting to know Lisbon over my time on the South Coast.
Here is a short photo essay of my time in Albufeira and the surrounding towns.
What was FP?
The Nata’s, of course, they are up there as my number one reason to visit Portugal! These little things are everywhere, in every coffee shop or bakery. I enjoyed the coffee culture in Portugal, the late breakfasts and the laid back approach to life.
Beers on the sea front in Lisbon. Wind in your hair, sunglasses on, legs dangling over the wall. Ah… this is life!
Rooftop bars. Due to Lisbon’s hilly topography, and the charming red roofs of the city, the views are pretty amazing. Then imagine that with a red wine in hand. Perfection!
And not so much…
The Algarve wasn’t anything mind-blowing for me, but I think that was just down to personal preference. I’m not a big beach fan, and there wasn’t a huge amount to do to keep me occupied. I would like to go back to Portugal though, and perhaps try out Porto – that’s a place that keeps cropping up on the ‘best destination’ guides for this year!