Location makes a big difference in your experience when you travel-obviously. My cousin Francisco was generous enough to give us the use of his airbnb apartment in the Mouraria neighborhood – one of the oldest areas of Lisbon. Steep stairs take you up narrow, winding, cobblestone streets with some amazing graffiti (if you are into that). Francisco’s apartment had a charming square beneath it with 3 fantastic restaurants-Portuguese, Mozambique, and Nuevo Portuguese. It was the perfect location between the town square and the top of the hill where Castelo de Sao Jorge is located.
We may not have done everything most people do when they come to Lisbon, but we didn’t mind, our main goal was seeing family as much as we could. Some days we had to ourselves, some days we might see Francisco for lunch and a couple of days we had the full guided tours by Francisco, Maria Helena and Fernando. On those days, we took two cars and hit the roads around Lisbon. What a treat to spend that much time with our family getting to know their country. Here are some highlights and pictures from those days.
We drove to the western most point of continental Europe to Cabo da Roca. Such a beautiful coastline and interesting to think how far west we were.
No day would be complete without a delicious 2 hour Portuguese lunch, which we had at A Toco do Julio in a little town called Colares. Nondescript from the outside, but lots of character on the inside with ham hanging from the ceilings. This was locals only. We ate lamb, grilled octopus and of course drank some Portuguese wine.
Next we drove to Ereceira. This was a little seaside fishing village that is also known as a good surfing destination. I can only imagine the crowds during the summer. It was nice to be there when it was quiet.
We headed up to the town of Mafra, a cute town with boutiques and cafes on the streets leading up to the Mafra National Palace, which had also been a Franciscan monastery. This is quite an impressive site. King John V built this beautiful palace for his wife beginning in 1717; quite impressive. We stopped at a cafe just down the street for a local treat Francisco said we had to try – fradinho – a traditional Portuguese tart filled with sweetened white beans, almonds and egg custard. It was very good. A little coffee and come treats for the girls and we were off again.
We were beginning to run out of daylight as we headed up to the town of Sintra. We were able to drive through the cute town and see the lights of the castle on the hill. It looked like a fairy tale here as we drove through the winding streets. Due to the late hour, we weren’t able to spend time there, so this town will be left to explore on our next visit to Lisbon. We ended our day having a fantastic meal at Fernando and Maria Helena’s. Such a treat.
Our second touring day took place the following week. We added Gui and Henrique to the mix, so we had two full cars. We hit two more fishing villages – Sisimbra and Setubal. Such beautiful towns and striking coastlines.
And of course we ate another amazing meal, this time at Baluarte do Sado in Setubal. Francisco says this is the best place to get fresh fish. He picked the fish he wanted them to grill for us – salmonette and massacote. Both were delicious. The salmonete is a fish that only eats shrimp; delicious!
When we were on our own, we walked up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge. It was only a short 10 minute walk from where we were staying. It sits atop one of Lisbon’s highest hills you have amazing views of the city, the Tagus River and the bridge. You are able to walk the walls and climb to the top of the towers. It’s amazing to walk amongst something so old and to see the amazing artifacts in the museum. We were treated to some beautiful random peacocks that run around the grounds-the girls loved them.
The girls had fun all week with their cousins – a couple of sleepovers, many games of hide and seek, mine craft and more. I think they solidified a relationship that will last. The girls now want to learn Portuguese. They had the most fun at a place called Escape Hunt. This is a very cool place where you try to solve a mystery with clues they give you to get out of a locked room within an hour. Dave and I did it with the girls one day and they wanted to go back and try it again with their cousins. It was legitimate. It took us almost right to the hour to get out of the room – and they say only 33% of people are able to do so. The kids were beyond excited when we picked them up that they had solved their room as well and even before a group of adults!!
We were sad to leave Lisbon. We spent out last few days at Alexander and Ana’s house. Had a great family meal to end our stay. We know we will be back and I’m sure my girls will travel to Portugal on their own when they can. Thank you to all who made our trip to Lisbon special!!
O Trigueririnho – a quaint, raditional Portuguese restaurant filled with locals. Francisco ordered us Carapaus, a grilled fish with Spanish sauce, as well as Iscas a Portuguesa – fried pork liver cut in thin slices with butter sauce and boiled potatoes. Not something I would normally order, but when in a new place, try new things. It wasn’t that bad. The fish was excellent.
O Corvo – new restaurant that actually opened while we we there and will do well. Small plates with a portuguese flair
O Cantinho do Aziz – a Mozambican restaurant with delcious food. Fish stew in coconut milk was amazing!
Other Lisbon restaurants:
Confeitaria Nacional – great pastries and coffee. An institution in Lisbon since 1829
Caneca de Prata – Dave and Francisco had a pork sandwich that was delicious
Tapas and Friends at Hotel Vincci Baixa – Dave had sesame crusted tuna, I had codfish – both very good.