Saturday, January 13, 2018

Atlantic Adventurer Cruise: Day 11, Lisbon, Portugal Day 1

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Day 11, Lisbon, Portugal Day 1

I got up early this morning as I wanted to watch us sail into Lisbon, but we were already there when I woke up and I missed it.  We docked with our balcony facing the pier so we have a great view of the city and it was a beautiful sunny day with clear blue skies.  We are staying overnight tonight in Lisbon, spending two full days in the city.

A great view of the city from our balcony.
Val has a friend she has known since grammar school who married a Portuguese woman and moved to Portugal so we spent the day with them today.  They live about three hours from Lisbon, but drove in yesterday to visit their son who lives in Lisbon. They graciously stayed an extra day to meet us at the ship.

We were scheduled to meet them outside the cruise terminal at 9:00 so we went down a little early and waited for them.  There were three ships in port so the area was very busy.  Besides people getting off of three ships, there were taxis, buses and tour operators all trying to get our attention.  In addition to this there were many little three-wheeled vehicles called Tuk-Tuks with each of their drivers trying to get our attention so we would take a tour of the city with them.  When I told one of them we were meeting friends he told me “but I am your friend” :-).

Val soon saw her friend Greg and his wife Isabelle and all was well.  This was the first time we had met Isabelle and we both felt instantly comfortable with her, as she is very personable and so nice to be with.

What a better way to spend our visit to Lisbon than being shown the city by someone who lives in Portugal.  We made our way to their car and began our tour. Driving the streets of Lisbon seemed impossible and Greg was a little frustrated, but it was treat for us to see the different parts of Lisbon.

Our first stop was at a cafe called Pasteis de Belem for morning coffee and pastry.  The specialty of Pateis de Belem is a custard tart pastry called Pasteis de Belem (I have also seen this called Pateis de Nada) which of course is how the cafe got it's name.  Here is a quote from their website which gives a little better explanation than I have.

"In 1837 we began making the original Pastéis de Belém, following an ancient recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. That secret recipe is recreated every day in our bakery, by hand, using only traditional methods. Even today, the Pastéis de Belém offer the unique flavour of time-honoured Portuguese sweet making."

This is a pretty well-known place and from the outside it looks like just a small café, but once you get inside you walk through one room after another all with Portuguese tiles and tables full of people.  As you walk in you can see their "factory" where they must turn out thousands of treats each day.  It helps to be with someone Portuguese as Isabelle spoke to someone and we got a nice table in an outdoor patio.  The Pastei de Belems are soooo good, I could have eaten a plateful and wish I had some to eat as I sit here writing about them.  You sprinkle a little cinnamon on top and they are just irresistible, now I know why this place is so crowded.

A very pleasant day to be sitting outside on the patio
The Pasteis de Belem were delicious, I could have eaten the whole plateful myself.
Hot out of the kitchen.

We caught a peek inside the kitchen and you could see rack after rack of
Pasteis de Belem.
After our pastries, we set out on foot to see some of the points of interest in the Belem District.  Our first stop was the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos that dates back to the 13th century.  As you read above, this is where the recipe comes from for the Pateis de Belem.  You could go in, but there was a huge line so we decided to pass on that.  Besides the three cruise ships in port, Portugal has become a big tourist mecca so there were crowds of people everywhere.  

Greg checking out the line entering the building.

After seeing the monastery and plaza we walked through a beautiful park area to Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a monument that celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th century.  Around the monument there is a large plaza and one area has a huge map as part of the pavement depicting the year and discoveries of the various sea voyages.

 A beautiful day to enjoy the plaza around the monument.
Padrao dos Descobrimentos
Statues of many of the explorers from the Portuguese Golden Era of Discovery.
You can go to the top of the monument so Val and I decided to do that.  Greg and Isabelle have done this before so they decided to forgo it, but Isabelle graciously waited in line for the elevator saving us a spot while we explored the plaza; she is so nice.  Thanks to Isabelle, Val and I had a short wait for the elevator and we were soon on our way to the top.  What we didn’t know was that the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top and there are three flights of narrow steps after you get off the elevator.  Not only are the steps narrow to walk up, but you are sharing them with the people coming down to catch the elevator.

It was well worth the climb though, as the view is wonderful.  You can see the city on one side and the waterfront on the other, really a great view of the city.  After seeing all we wanted to see and taking more pictures than we needed, it was time to head back down and soon we joined Greg and Isabelle back on the ground.

Great views of the city from the top.

You can't see it very well, but there is a map of the world in the center showing all of the important Portuguese discoveries and their date, it was very interesting.

Greg and Isabelle visit Lisbon often as their son lives here.  They have a friend who has an apartment here that they use during their visits so that’s where we headed next.  They had brought their dog with them and it was time to walk him so we got to see more of Lisbon from a resident’s view.  The apartment was very nice with a great view of the city from their balcony.  Because Lisbon is an old city, many of the streets are very narrow and autos share them with streetcars.  I’m glad Greg was doing the driving and not Val or I.

Meals are later in Portugal than in the US and the midday meal is at 1:00 or 2:00 and dinner is after 8:00.  It was well after 1:00, so Greg suggested eating at a place they knew near where they were staying.  We arrived after a short walk and to be honest, if they hadn’t told us, we wouldn’t have known there was a restaurant there.  I never did find out the name of it as I didn't see a sign anywhere, maybe it was on the menu and I wasn't paying attention.  It was very small and probably sat less than 20, but it was very popular and we had to wait about fifteen minutes to get seated.  This was a real treat for us as this wasn’t where tourists ate, the was a real Portuguese restaurant the locals go to.

Isabelle and Val walking to the restaurant
No sign or anything on the outside of the restaurant, you just have to know it's there.
Very cozy inside.
Greg and Isabelle

Me, Val, Greg and Isabelle
The midday meal is often the largest of the day and that’s what we did.  We each got something different and shared so we could taste some of the different dishes.  I can’t remember what everyone got, but I got grouper which was excellent.  I also tasted the sole which Isabelle had gotten and that was also good.  Val got pork that was very tasty, but I really like my grouper best.  We also discovered a drink that we really liked.  Isabelle had ordered one and Val and I just had water, but she offered us a taste and we had to have one.  It is called Sumol and is very good.  We topped everything off with dessert, which of course was also excellent.

None of us could eat anymore so we decided it was time to move on.  Greg and Isabelle went back to get the car and Val and I walked around and then met them on a nearby corner.  The afternoon was getting late and there was one more thing they wanted to show us so off we went.  Again the streets are narrow and winding and many are one-way so Greg had quite a time getting us to where we wanted to go, but again he met the challenge and it was worth it.  Lisbon is a city built on a series of hills and we went up to the top of the highest to get a great view of the city.  It was a popular spot with very little parking, but Greg managed to find one.  He claims it’s because of a little prayer he says and it did seem to work.  I won’t repeat it here as overuse may blunt its magical powers. The views were spectacular and adding to the enjoyment were a couple of very good musicians who kept everyone entertained.

There was a small chapel at the top and even that was a target for graffiti.

Greg and Val

The sun is starting to go down, the end of a wonderful day in Lisbon with Greg and Isabelle.
It was getting late and Greg and Isabelle had a three-hour drive home so we decided it was time to get back to the ship.  We saw some more sights of the city as we drove back, but all to soon it was time to say good-bye to Greg and Isabelle.  We hated to say goodbye as we had such a wonderful time with them.  They are both so nice and bent over backwards to show us a good time today in Lisbon.  Not only did we have a good time just visiting with them, we got to see a part of Portugal from a local’s point of view.  And of course, many thanks to Greg for driving all day, not an easy task, but he did it without complaint.  Thank you so much Greg and Isabelle, it was a wonderful day with you; maybe we can do the same for you in California some time.

It was getting close to 6:00 by the time we got back on the ship, but we were still so full from dinner we decided not to go to dinner tonight and to skip trivia.  We rested for a while and then got a few snacks from the Neptune Lounge to tide us over until morning.  Tonight at 9:00 there was a special show on board of Fado and Flamenco music that we wanted to see so we decided to get up there early and get a good seat.  It seems that everyone else had the same idea as we did because even though we arrived just after 8:30, the showroom was packed.  The show was very good and we really enjoyed it.

After the show, it was back to the room as we have to get up early again for a ship excursion tomorrow on our second day in Lisbon.


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