After an amazing few weeks in Morocco, I decided to take a short flight to Lisbon and spend a few days in Portugal. Europe in February can be dreary, but Portugal enjoys a temperate climate. So while is was often overcast or rainy, temps were in the 60s.
I checked in to my hotel on Rossio Square in late afternoon, and immediately went out to walk the neighborhood and head down to the Tagus River, which flows west to the Atlantic Ocean. The neighborhood around Rossio Square is lively, full of shops, cafes, churches, cobbled streets, and apartments. The hustle and bustle around Rossio is mostly the locals going to and from work and home, but there is plenty for tourists too.
Lisbon is a very walkable city once you know the tips and tricks. If you don’t, you will spend a lot of time huffing and puffing up the steep hills into which the city was built. I was lucky enough to find Pedro at Inside Lisbon, a local company that provides walking tours in Lisbon, and day tours to nearby Sintra, Cascais, and Estoril. I spent my first morning walking Lisbon with Pedro who gave a great overview of the history of Portugal and the city highlights.
I love churches and castles, and Portugal delivered. The Saint Domingos Church (Igreja Sao Domingos) is a macabre church that makes for a strangely jaw dropping first impression. The dim interior is painted a haunting orange, with ruined sections of old fire damaged church jutting out from the walls. The massive stone pillars are scorched from the fire that ravaged the church and there is still a lingering smell of burning in the air.
Then there are the streets….every inch of streets, sidewalks, and squares are paved with stones that were hand chipped and installed by artisans. Most are black and white and many are installed in wavy patterns….which can make for a dizzy walk across a busy square.
By mid afternoon, Pedro had walked me through the main Lisbon neighborhoods: Baixa, Chiado, Alfama, and Bairro Alto. We agreed to meet later that day for another walk – this time to sample the food and wine of Portugal. Frank and Denise, who hail from Maine, joined us this evening. The outing was full of laughter, great food, and an assortment of fine wines. Frank and Denise were warm and friendly company for this solo traveler.
Over the coming days, I would spend a rainy day visiting the Pena Palace and Cabo da Roca (western most point of Europe) near Sintra, and the beaches of Cascais and Estoril.