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good, long sleep, the buffet breakfast in the bright,
cheerful breakfast room at the Hotel Britania was an
excellent start to the day.
to the Rossio station and took the 11:22 train to Sintra.
Since Sintra is a major commuter point, both for
residents and tourists, there are frequent connections.
The trains are modern and clean.
On the way
out of the city, apartment buildings are jammed together
and there is a great deal of construction taking place;
railroad tracks, streets, overpasses, buildings -
employment sites everywhere!
there, the landscape takes on a more suburban tone.
considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in
Europe. It is green with trees, vines, bushes, and
shrubs, with bursts of brightly coloured flowers
everywhere. It is located in the Sintra hills and the
lush vegetation is due to the micro-climate created by
the clouds that often rest upon the mountains.
lovely short walk into the town center. We were struck by
the Palacio Nacional de Sintra, a white building with two
conical kitchen chimneys that provide a unique character.
The narrow streets of the center were filled with
tourists and shops catering to the throngs. Because the
NATO meeting was in progress, there was no access to the
Pena Palace, a highlight of the area. The casino was
recently converted into the Sintra Museum of Modern Art
and has a permanent collection of international works
dating from post-war years to the present.
were waiting for the train to depart for the return trip
to Lisboa, we passed the time in typical DONLIN fashion -
making love to two dark chocolate Magnums we purchased
from the, as always, conveniently located Ola stand on
the station platform.
back at Rossio, we climbed the stairs to Bairro Alto and
covered all the streets we had missed the previous day.
Walking north on Rua D. Pedro V, past Praca Principe Real
to Rua da Escola Politecnica, we discovered an area lined
with elegant public and private buildings.
east again to Avenida da Liberdade, we found lovely
residential areas with beautifully styled apartment
buildings. As we walked along our hotel street, Rua
Rodrigues Sampaio, we stopped to look at the menu at O
Santo at #112A. We felt like having a light meal for a
change and this simple, small place, a combination cafe,
pastry shop, snack bar and restaurant, might just fill
a young, adorable boy, perhaps thirteen years old,
washing his bicycle out front who came over and asked, in
perfect English, if he could be of assistance. He helped
us translate the menu and ushered us inside to meet his
parents who own the establishment. His parents did not
speak English. Edgar took charge and waited on us. While
we were waiting for our food, we watched Mrs. Santos
cleaning non-stop while Edgar and his father served the
handled the customers with the charm and maturity of
someone much older. We fell in love with him. Our grilled
pork and beef steaks were tasty and served with fries and
salad. The star of the meal was Edgar. What a great kid!
another fine breakfast, we took the #46 bus north from
Avenida da Liberdade to the Gulbenkian Museum, Av. de
Berna 45. Located on gorgeous grounds, it houses
important collections of Islamic, French, Egyptian and
Oriental art. It is certainly worth a visit - and it's
free on Sundays!
boarded the #46 bus heading south, we told the driver we
wanted to go to Belem. He told us to get off at the next
stop and take the #49. Belem is west of the city, right
on the river, and the ride on the bus gave us an
opportunity to pass by the Ponte 25 de Abril, the longest
suspension bridge in Europe. We were amazed to see that
they are adding train tracks below the existing roadway
of the bridge.
Belem is where the
ships of Vasco de Gama and other famous explorers set
sail and here you find the Monument of the Discoveries,
stark and powerful. It depicts the teamwork which made
the exploration possible. Not far away along the river is
the Tower of Belem, the often photographed example of
Manueline architecture. When we were there, it was
undergoing restoration, the work cleverly shielded from
view by fabric printed with an illustration of the tower.
river around the Praca do Imperio and Praca Afonso do
Albuquerque are impressive stately buildings: the Palacio
de Belem which is the official residence of the Republic,
the Coach and Maritime Museums, the Manueline Jeronimos
Monastery, the Gulbenkian Planetarium, the National
Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (which is in the
cloister of the Santa Maria Church) and a huge cultural
Belem is a
wonderful place to visit, right on the river,
particularly on a bright, sunny day. Best of all, it is
the home of the original cream filled tarts or pasteis de
Belem available at Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, Rua de
Belem 84-92. The place was packed so we bought a sleeve
of six and ate them on the go.
took us to Praca da Figueira which is just east of
Rossio, where we got #37 to Castelo Jorge at the top of
Alfama. It's the best way to do Alfama; start at the top
and work your way down. We might point out that we
avoided the infamous tram #28, which most tour books
advise using. We were tipped off that pickpockets have a
field day on that tourist-jammed tram.
from Castelo Jorge are terrific, although a morning visit
would be advisable for taking pictures of the city bathed
in sunlight. When it started to rain, we boarded the #37
bus again and managed to get a good look at the streets
of the upper part of Alfama as we headed back down.
back to the hotel, we stopped at Bom Jardim, Travessa de
Santo Antao 10, famous for grilled chicken and bought a
plump, golden beauty along with a bag of homemade potato
chips and had a finger-lickin' good meal in the comfort
of our lovely room.
The bus to
Evora leaves from the Estacao Rodoviaria, Av. Casal
Ribeiro which is northeast of Praca Marques Pombal. Bus #44
from Av. Liberdade took us north to Praca Duque Saldanha
and from there it was a five minute walk. We had front
seats on the top deck so it was great sightseeing all the
way. It was a two hour comfortable ride and we were
located in the Province of Alentejo, the region of
Planicies (Plains), which stretches south to the Algarve,
east to Spain, west to a strip of Atlantic coastline and
Costa de Lisboa and in the north it is bordered by Costa
da Prata and Montanhas (Mountain Region). It's a land of
wide open spaces, vast plains, cork trees, golden wheat
fields, olive groves, vineyards and sunflowers.
one of the most popular sports and there are reserved
zones where tourists can hunt. Health spas with curative
waters are to be found in several locations. History is
preserved in walled cities, fortresses and medieval
castles. The handicrafts are extraordinary - pottery,
tapestry, weaving, cork and wood designs are some of the
kilometers before we reached Evora, we started seeing the
cork trees. It was interesting to learn that the trees
have to grow nine years before the bark can be harvested.
Solar Monfalim, Largo da Misericordia 1, is a short walk
from the bus station. The hotel is well located in the
center of the city. The reception area is up two short
flights of stairs and the hotel is entered via a pleasant
outdoor balcony, furnished with tables and chairs for
enjoying breakfast, a beverage, or just relaxing between
touring this fascinating beauty of an ancient walled city.
The hotel is a charmer, possibly an old villa, with its
whitewashed exterior and rambling layout. In addition to
the reception area, the first level contains a pleasant
breakfast room and a cosy library cum bar.
was on the second level so it was one more stairway to
climb. The staff welcomed us warmly and offered to carry
our bags upstairs to our room - but we toughed it out.
The room was a bit smallish, but with a high ceiling and
double doors to the Juliet balcony overlooking a quiet
courtyard. The furnishings were nice and there was a
ceiling fan and a television. The good size, well-equipped
bathroom had a window. This is a good value three star
hotel with a comfortable homelike environment.
to visit Estremoz by bus and save the next day and a half
for Evora. It was a pleasant 45 minute trip through
forests of cork and olive trees. We stopped for a bica
and pastry between the bus stop and the old city. We
walked steadily upward, with a few twists and turns,
through this typical medieval walled Alentejo town, to
the pinnacle, the Medieval castle. The castle is now the
beautiful Pousada da Rainha Santa Isabel, through which
we were permitted access to the tower, from the top of
which are superb views of the surrounding countryside.
We were back in Evora by 18:00, in time to
do a restaurant search. Walking on Rua dos Mercadores,
which is off the Praca de Giraldo, the main square, we
spotted Linda's Boutique. She had some exciting looking
fashions and a great name! The two Lindas hit it off and
we quickly became old friends along with two customers in
small talk, the conversation shifted to serious food talk
and together they chose three restaurants for us. Linda,
of the boutique, insisted that we go to A Choupana
immediately (it was now 20:00), because it has the best
home cooking at the best prices. It was up the street at
#20 Rua dos Mercadores and thanks to her urging we got
the last table before the line formed outside. It's a
small place and the owner was there quickly to greet us
and happy that Linda had sent us.
regional vegetable soup we started with was like my
grandmother's, with potatoes, chick peas, carrots,
onions, tomato and macaroni in a pure vegetable stock.
The portion was enormous, thank goodness, and the crusty
grain bread was a perfect accompaniment.
half orders of coelho `a cacadora (rabbit stewed in a
wine sauce) served with fries and salad and frango do
campo `a jardineira (chicken cooked in a pot with all
kinds of veggies) which came with a salad. The Reguengos
red wine was excellent. Like the lady said, a great meal
at a great price. As we were to find out, the cuisine in
Evora is outstanding - as is everything else!
around the corner from the hotel is the best gelato we
found in the country. At Gelateria Zoka they make their
own and it is excellent.
we had had only a small taste of Evora, we already sensed
that we were in a special place. As we walked the streets
and viewed the architecture, with remains from every age,
the churches, monuments, towers, aqueduct, fountains,
palace and university, all in beautiful, serene
surroundings, we felt safe, relaxed and right at home.
The university with 7000 students bustling about, is most
impressive. It is said to be the best preserved
university in the country. The Loios Convent, now a
luxury pousada is worth a visit, if not a stay. The
cathedral, the largest in Portugal, also has the oldest
organ in the country and an interior of marble and
granite that must be seen to be believed. While
renovating the City Hall to build a cafeteria, Roman
baths were discovered, which are a fascinating sight
below the main floor.
arrived in the Praca Giraldo, we saw groups of men
chatting all over. It was Tuesday and these were the
farmers in the area who gather at this time every week to
negotiate and set the crop prices.
dos Ossos is unusual in many ways. There is a large, wide
covered area with columns on the sides with separate
chapel areas. The main alter is all marble. There is a
passageway to a small chapel with a dramatic alter that
has a statue in black - powerful Spanish influence.
the Bones Chapel - unbelievable! A sign on the wall
translates to "we are waiting for your bones".
Every wall of the room is covered with bones. It is a
catacomb built for meditation. There are 5000 skulls
embedded in the walls and pillars along with small stones
- very impactful! And as if that wasn't enough, there is
a mummified mother and child hanging on a wall. Time for
lunch! No kidding.
restaurant was named Quarter To Nine - and this is THE
place to dine. The appetizers were so gorgeous we sampled
them all: salad Russa (Russian salad), pimentos (peppers
in olive oil), gambas (boiled shrimps), feijao atum (beans
and tuna) and queijo de Serpa (Serpa cheese).
soup was served with the broth and chunks of bread in
individual bowls, separate from the pieces of fish and
boiled potatoes which were presented on a separate
platter to be added to the broth according to one's
preference. The other entree was a platter of pork and
clams. The ingredients and the preparation of every dish
were absolutely top notch.
To Nine is famous for its tortes, we tasted all three of
the day: mel e noz (honey and nut), murgado (pumpkin and
almond) and bolo de toucinho (lard). Just a touch of the
last one, doc, honest! The after dinner drink, Poejo, an
herb liqueur, was superb. Needless to say, no dinner that
night! What a way to go!!
a long, leisurely walk in the afternoon while attending
to some housekeeping duties. We went to the bus station,
checked the next day's schedules to Setubal, bought our
bus tickets and found a laundry on Rua de Aviz that
agreed to wash and press our travel-tired collection in
plenty of time for us to catch the 16:15 bus the
day, after chatting on the hotel terrace with two young
women from Strasbourg, France (which we adore) we set off
to the morning market. Outside the produce market,
beautiful pottery was being sold at excellent prices.
Sure, we can squeeze some in! Thank goodness for the
It is easy
to understand why the cooking is so wonderfully flavoured.
We saw more varieties and quantities of herbs than we
have ever seen in one place. The same can be said of the
fish market. It is a large building filled to overflowing
with an enormous variety of fish and shellfish. The women
slice and chop away according to the requirements of
their astute customers.
their food. It is said that the roots of their cuisine
came from the class culture; from the poor - bread, from
the middle class - sweets and from the rich - meats. It
is further said that the people of the region really do
not enjoy working but would prefer to hunt, fish and
enjoy good food and wine. They believe in a spiritual way
of life - contemplation.
smells of the market and a good walk, it was time to
visit the third restaurant on Linda's list, Lampiao, on
Rua do Mercadores again. We walked through a long bar
area with booths to a small, simple dining room. Our
waiter was very pleasant and offered us the only
appetizer of the day, a bean and tuna salad. As we had
enjoyed the version we had the previous day, we eagerly
accepted and it was equally good.
verde was perfection, probably the best yet. With no
intention of matching yesterday's feast, we shared an
order of costecotas de borrego na grelha (grilled lamb
chops) - four rib chops of superb quality, tender baby
lamb grilled perfectly and beautifully seasoned with
garlic and herbs. The salad, fries and bread were as good
as it gets. It was a wonderful meal at an excellent price.
picking up our laundry, we went to Pastelaria Violeta,
Rua Elias Garcia 47, which had been recommended as having
the best homemade pastries in the city. Linda had a
fabulous cookie and I a magnificent slice of cake made
with crushed nuts and a thick, dark chocolate frosting.
The bica, too, was exceptionally good.
Evora knowing that someday we would return to explore
more of the Alentejo.
The bus to
Setubal was a local and it took two and a half hours for
what is normally a one and a quarter hour trip. It was
worth it. The scenery was nice, we went through many
interesting and pretty villages and we got to see and
meet the locals as they got on and off.
in the Costa Azul region of the Costa de Lisboa. It is
southeast of Lisboa and is a busy fishing port. The old
city center, with its pedestrian streets turning and
twisting in every direction, is filled with all the
shopping and eating experiences one could want.
We asked a
gentleman for directions from the bus station to the
hotel but he could not understand us. A lady passing by
stopped and offered her assistance. In fact, she insisted
on accompanying us to the front door of our hotel since
she felt that the maze of streets in the old town center
would make taking us there easier than trying to describe
just where we had to go. It was a good 10-15 minute walk
and she not only showed us the way but gave us a running
commentary on the city. When we got to our destination,
she hugged and kissed us both and wished us a good time
in her city. Her name, of course, was Linda!
Bocage, Rua Sao Cristovao 14 is billed as a four star
pensao residencial. We would call it a typical three star.
It is well-located at the south end of the old town with
easy access to Avenida Luisa Todi which is the main
street through the city. The hotel offers clean, small
functional rooms at a very good value price.
out west on Luisa Todi toward the restaurant area and
stopped a man to confirm that we were heading in the
right direction. We told him the names of a few places we
were considering which he confirmed were good, but he
thought we should go to a spot that the locals go to
which he said was much better. He had pushed the
appropriate buttons, so off we went to follow his
he sent us to, Restaurante Duarte dos Frangos, Rua Joao
de Deus 5A, was closed this night and the next day.
However, their grilled chicken take-out area was open
where they were grilling chicken on spits over an
enormous charcoal grill. We got so excited, we almost
forgot that this is seafood country.
turned out, they also own Varanda do Rio, located on the
street directly behind, which is a cervejaria e
marisqueira (seafood tapas bar) which serves regional
cuisine. There is a large open kitchen and seating area
as you enter. The middle aged women doing the cooking
were dressed in white and greeted us with big smiles. We
sat in the good size dining room in the rear.
The patrons were all locals, knew each other and were
eating wonderful looking, and smelling, food. No rush
here. Take your time - enjoy - and did we ever! It would
have been easy to make a meal of the corn bread, garlicky
olives and right-out-of-the-garden mixed salad. But then
we would have missed out on the arroz mariscos (rice and
shellfish), the best dish of the trip. The huge clay pot
was loaded with exceptionally well cooked rice,
vegetables and herbs mixed with a stupendous array of
mussels, clams, shrimps, crab and lobster - perfectly
steamed and fresh as could be. The house white met the
challenge. The neighborhood pricing made it all unreal!
following morning, we decided to check-out the fishing
village of Sesimbra, just down the coast. It's a
beautiful one hour bus ride through areas of Arrabida
National Park, mountains, forests and the ever-present
cork, olives and grapes. Sesimbra is a bit of a hilly
town, but quite manageable. Thankfully, they have kept
alive the tradition of the bright coloured fishing boats
which are so photogenic. The sandy beachfront was alive
with huge waves and surfers having a blast. The terraced
Hotel do Mar looked like a fine place for a beachfront
our way through the streets of well-kept homes, we saw
many fisherman seriously focused on mending their nets,
neither noticing nor caring that they were being
photographed. As this was to be a one-meal day, we
settled into the Restaurante O Escondinho, Rua dos
Industrials 15. As it was the tail end of the lunch
period and we were the only patrons, we asked if we would
be disappointed and were assured that it was not a
problem. Right they were!
to try a traditional seafood dish that we hadn't yet
experienced, so the boss suggested cherne na cataplana.
Cherne comes from Portuguese waters and is a delicate,
sweet, white fish. Filets of this fish are lightly
floured and browned before combining them with shrimps,
clams, potatoes, tomato, onion, carrot, garlic and herbs
and cooking them together in the special covered copper
vessel in which the dish is presented. They certainly
know how to prepare seafood in this part of the country.
It was a delicious delight and once again, very
to the waterfront area for a walk in the sun and a smell
of the surf. On the way back to the bus station we
stopped at Ricardo's coffee shop, Pastelaria Verde Lima,
Rua Candido dos Reis 15-17, for pasteis de nata, bica and
a friendly conversation with Ricardo.
to visit the morning market in Setubal before heading
back to Lisboa for the last two days of our trip. Forget
everything I said about the size of the fish market and
the activity in Evora. This has to be the granddaddy of
fish markets! It's a real slice of life - neighbors
greeting one another, animated conversation, negotiations
- one big block party - with everyone hauling off big
bags of seafood.
produce side, the farmers were hauling in their crops and
their wives and children were busy selling them just as
fast. Fresh baked breads and pastries were everywhere,
but we had to hurry to catch the 10:15 bus to Lisboa.
the bus arrived at Praca Espanha, north of Praca M.
Pombal, and it was an easy connection to our new hotel
the Lisboa Plaza, on Travessa do Salitre, just off
Avenida da Liberdade on the west side (a bit south of the
way to the Hotel Britania on the east side). The Lisboa Plaza is under the same
ownership as the Hotel Britania and it was a pleasure
dealing with them via email. This hotel is the
four star version of the three star Britania. As with the
Britania, the service was personal and caring.
lobby is exquisitely furnished and decorated, the light
flowing in through the fully paned-glass panels of the
front wall and doors. The reception area is set back from
the inviting entry hall. All the public rooms - the bar,
lounge and restaurant - are elegantly furnished,
comfortable and inviting.
accommodations are what one would expect to find at a
superior first class hotel. There are only eighty-seven
rooms and six suites - large enough to offer all the
comforts but small enough to provide that cosy, homelike
environment the weary traveler craves. As in the public
areas, the rooms are beautifully furnished and decorated,
with marble bathrooms, thermostatically controlled air
conditioning, satellite T.V., hair dryer, minibar and
soundproof windows. Our room was very good size with all
the amenities including two thick terry robes. The Lisboa
Plaza Hotel, as its sister The Britania, represents
exceptionally good value in the best location in the
heart of a major city.
we checked-in and arrived at our room, Linda made a
beeline for the shower; a pidgeon had decided to use her
head for target practice! It started to rain fairly
heavily so it was a good opportunity to enjoy the comfort
of our room and get caught-up on our notes.
dashed around the corner to Rua do Salitre 9 to
Cervejaria Choupal which looked like a good neighborhood
place. We both had creame marisco, a fish soup with a
touch of cream and croutons. We shared grilled sardines
and fried carapau served with sides of boiled potatoes,
carrots, mixed salad and acorda. These very standard,
traditional offerings are reliably good and always
breakfast buffet was o-u-t-s-t-a-n-d-i-n-g and included
wonderful desserts. It wasn't easy to tear ourselves
away, but we were off to Cascais.
commuter line to Cascais runs from Cais do Sodre at the
waterfront. Before reaching Cascais, we passed through
Estoril with its casino at the center and magnificent
beach. There is a 4 km. seafront promenade which leads to
its neighbour, Cascais.
fishing village, today Cascais is primarily an elegant
resort. This is an outstandingly beautiful town and
deserves its reputation as such. Its rocky coastline is
interspersed with little beaches and a picturesque
fishing harbour fronts a delightful area of pedestrian
shopping streets and lovely residences. Since the year
round population is substantial, we found the prices were
not as high as would normally be found in a sophisticated
resort town. If one preferred to stay near but not in
Lisboa, this would be the perfect place for relaxing and
taking advantage of the easy thirty minute commute into
Lisboa, as the natives do.
an Ola stand at Praia da Ribeira and had our Magnum fix.
There are many wonderful restaurants around of all types;
I'm sure you're relieved to know that you won't have to
go hungry! Luckily it was a warm and sunny day and we
were able to fully enjoy all that this splendid village
has to offer.
Lisboa, we walked to the Praca do Comercio (more commonly
known by its former name: Terreiro do Paco) and north via
Rua Augusta to our hotel for the last time (this trip,
anyway). We freshened-up and headed out to the restaurant
we had selected for our final night in Lisboa.
way, we heard music and went to investigate. We found a
neighborhood cookout getting started - change of plans!
We sat down and ordered draft beer, grilled chicken, pork
ribs and a mixed salad. We watched the man at the grill
preparing our dinner as we enjoyed our beer and soaked up
the sights and sounds of the neighborhood in action. It
was a fun experience sharing our last night with the
locals - people we had come to love during our three
weeks in their beautiful country.
sinful breakfast the next morning, bus #45 on Avenida da
Liberdade had us to the airport in just 30 minutes.
As our plane took-off, we knew it was just a matter of
time before we would return.
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