Portugal continues to woo us with the delightful Lisbon, it’s capital. On Saturday Nick and I caught the train in and had a little explore. Actually, we walked for freaking hours, but it was worth it. Lisbon shows a very different side of Portugal- in a good way. So far, we’ve seen many coastal towns, most not to our liking unfortunately, but Lisbon is definitely worth a visit. It’s a clean, pleasant city, with leafy streets and pedestrianised laneways. The riverfront is spacious and inviting, with a decked boardwalk and lots of little stalls selling iced tea, or cocktails. Several large plazas open up as you walk through the city and, invariably, have some kind of monument or fountain- or both- in the middle of them.
We walked uphill, away from the river, and found ourselves at a lookout, with excellent views over central Lisbon. A couple of happy snaps later, and we headed over to the real reason for our trek: El Corte Ingles, a department store. Yes, we’re sad. I won’t deny it. Why would I spend my time and money going to museums or places of historical interest when I can mooch around looking at shoes and laptops?
Anyway, we left pretty much empty handed, made our way back to Oeiras, and that night we had a drink with a lovely couple we’ve met who are also doing the ARC, John and Sandra. As we head further south, we’re seeing more and more ARC flags, and it’s exciting to meet people who have the same plans as us.
Sunday was a lazy day, apart from a couple of beers on John and Sandra’s Discovery 55 (we had a little nose around when we went to the loo- separately!- and now have cabin envy, toilet envy, shower envy and fridge envy). The only other thing we had to do that day was make sure every inch of the boat was sparkling because, the next day, my ever so slightly OCD sister arrived at long last!
I met Kelly at the airport, after a long and, in the end, fruitless wait at the station for a bus that never turned up. In a panic, I got a cab, and was delighted when my 20 minute cab ride only cost me €8. Wish I knew that sooner, I would have saved myself about a litre of sweat, waiting in the baking sun. Anyway, one family reunion later, and Kelly and I headed to Mercado do Ribeira, a new gourmet food hall in the building of Lisbon’s old fruit and veg market. It’s awesome. If anyone reading this goes to Lisbon, this is definitely the place to spend all your mealtimes. It’s not, like, sushi and burgers (although, if you feel like it, you do have those options- but they’re posh, you understand, not McDonalds and Itsu). Feel like pan fried scallops on a bed of squid ink risotto? Perhaps a perfectly cooked steak, or freshly grilled fish? Charcuterie? Pad thai? Pretty much whatever you feel like, you can get here. Don’t expect cheap. But expect GOOOOOD.
The next day was a lazy day, just spent chilling on the boat and doing boring stuff like laundry and the shopping. Nick lugged his surfboard all the way down to the surf break, only to find not a single ripple in the water, so turned around and came back to the boat. Alas, it’s the wrong season for surfing. At least a lack of swell means relatively comfortable sailing conditions.
Today was again spent in Lisbon, but this time we got off at Belem, a couple of stations out from the centre. Our main reason for stopping was because Nick had heard of a two storey chandlery here, which he wanted to visit. Kelly and I happily wandered around the district, enjoying the gardens and what I think was a palace of some kind… pretty to look at anyway. Then, most importantly, we visited the most celebrated and famous Portuguese tart cafe in all of Portugal. This place was absolutely swamped with tourists, and the line just to get takeaway was unreal. But, although long, it moved quickly, and Kelly and I enjoyed our pastries with a coffee in the park. Verdict? Well, I’m no expert, but I have tasted quite a few of these Portuguese tarts since being in the country. I’ve bought them at service stations, cafes, supermarkets, you name it. I have to say… I’m not sure what the fuss was about. Sure, they were good. But if I’d popped into the cafe just across the road selling the same range of cakes, I’m not sure I could have told the difference.
Onward we continued, reaching Lisbon at last, and, on my suggestion, we climbed (okay, walked, but it felt like climbing) uphill to the Castelo de S. Jorge, which looked like it had awesome views over Lisbon. Well, we got there eventually, sweating and ready for a nap, and there was a massive line for the tickets. Entry to the grounds was the only way of accessing the view, which I was pretty miffed about, so we wandered around listlessly for a bit, before making the descent. After another walking tour of central Lisbon, we headed back to Mercado do Ribeira, and enjoyed a meal of bacalhau (salted cod- the Portuguese are obsessed with this stuff) on a bed of puréed chickpeas, a couscous salad with honey roasted carrots and goats cheese, and an octopus and potato salad. We thought we were full, but managed to scoff a double scoop of ice-cream from a stall that claimed to have the best gelati in the whole wide world. “We’ll see about that!” said Nick, and 10 minutes and much discussion and debate later, we’ve decided that, actually, we can’t think of any ice cream that beats it for pure intensity and amazingness of flavour. Nick’s reluctant to remove his cream cheese and fig ice cream he had in Seville from top place, but I think that’s more nostalgia than anything else. This ice cream was the bomb. It makes me incredibly sad to think that I’ll probably never have it again…
So, that brings you all up to date! Tomorrow we go to Sintra, a UNESCO heritage site about a 30 minute drive away. Friday will probably be a rest/clean/preparation day, and then- south!