We took an overnight train from Madrid to Lisbon. The girls really wanted to try it out and compare it to our experience in China. I would say it was pretty similar, with the European train actually being smaller. The sleeper car and cafe care were kind of tired, which is too bad. It’s probably going to be our last overnight train, as flying is the same cost or even cheaper.
Madrid was where we had to say good bye to Dave’s mom. Five weeks traveling with her really flew by, which is a bummer. We loved having her and were so lucky she was able to come visit us. Her Spanish really helped us get around. We hope she is having a great time on the rest of her travels in Spain.
Our trip to Portugal was mainly about visiting family. My mom is half Portuguese. Her family comes from the Azores – a group of nine islands about 850 miles off the coast of Portugal. Years ago, my mom’s brother did some research and found our realtives in Lisbon. If I am correct in the lineage, my mom’s grandma and her cousin Fernanado’s grandma were sisters. Crazy, right? Fernando and his wife, Maria Helena, and their sons Alexander and Francisco, along with their families, are our hosts while we are here. I haven’t been back to Lisbon since visiting them all 22 years ago when I graduated from college. We are so lucky to have this opportunity and I’m excited for Dave and the girls to meet them all.
Francisco and Alexander picked us up from the train station and our tour began. After dropping our things off at Francisco’s Airbnb apartment where we would be staying, we walked down to Rossio Square and had coffee and a bite to eat at Cafe Nicola. Codfish, or bacalhau, is a staple in Portugal, so I tried the bacalhau fritter and it was tasty.
Francisco continued our tour around downtown, the Baixa district. Cobblestone streets, painted buildings, tiled buildings and fountains, all go to show the rich history of this city. We stopped to get a Lisbon specialty, Ginja, at a tiny bar off the square. It’s a cherry liquor served in a shot glass with two cherries at the bottom. Delicious! So good in fact, that Francisco bought us a bottle to have at our place.
Francisco also took us to lunch at Ze da Mouraria. What a treat! We had to wait over an hour to get into the restaurant, but it was well worth it. It’s a small, crowded, loud restaurant filled with locals. Towards the end of the meal a soccer chant burst out at the next table. The girls had no idea what was going on. Francisco did the ordering and it was delicious – little squids with garlic and potatoes and beef with garlic. And for a dessert a traditional custard tart. Francisco also told us we were drinking what he ordered – green wine. Although it’s called green wine, it comes in red or white, we had both. It is called green wine from the fact that it is drunk very young. Having wine at lunch is very typical in Portugal. We can really get used to that.
We also went to visit the homeopathic pharmacy their family has run that is over 100 years old, which was very cool. The girls loved all the old bottles that they still have and the apothecary table – collector’s items. We then went back to spend our first evening at home.
The next day we were lucky that Francisco and his 14 year old son, Gui, came back into the city to be our tour guides. Lisbon is a really cool city. It reminds us a little of San Francisco as it’s by the water, has many hills, street cars, and their very own version of The Golden Gate Bridge – Ponte 25 de Abril.
We walked a lot on our tour of the city. Thankfully we were with Francisco and Gui, otherwise the twins would have complained the whole time. I wish they could be with us for the rest of journey to make our tours a bit easier 🙂 We walked along the pedestrian path, Rua Augusta, and then into the Chiado District, a hip area with boutiques and restaurants – a little like the Marina I guess. We stopped for ice cream at their favorite spot, Santini’s. This gave the girls some fuel for the rest of our tour. We then walked to the Elevador de Santa Justa. This elevator was built in the early 1900’s and offers an amazing view of the city and the castle. There are actually a few elevators and funiculars in the city as well, that help people navigate the hills of Lisbon. They could actually be considered shortcuts if you know where to find them.
After walking by the statue of famed Portuguese writer, Fernando Pessoa, and hitting a cool shop where all things were from Lisbon, we continued to Bairro Alto, another hilly area with cobblestone streets, restaurants and shops. We ended at Mercado da Ribeira for lunch. This is a large market hall filled with different restaurants around the edges and tables in the middle. We followed Francisco to the hot dog stand and once we found tables, enjoyed the food, beer and company. Walked home along the waterfront and through Praca de Comerico and Rua Augusta Arch.
Sunday was a special day. We were invited to Alexander’s for lunch where all of Fernando’s sisters and spouses came to visit as well. What a treat to meet everyone and have a day filled with family – almost 20 of us I think. It was really great seeing the girls with their cousins – this was the one of the main things Claire wanted to do when we told her we were embarking on this trip – meet her cousins in Portugal. Gui has a sister, Ines who is 12, and another cousin, Henrique who is also 14. It didn’t take long until they were all up playing Minecraft – technology bridges all cultures.
I feel lucky to get this time with my Portuguese family. More to come about our time in Portugal. Internet isn’t great, so downloading photos takes awhile 🙂