Friday, 26 April 2013

Being won over by Lisbon

All the reviews I have read and everyone that we had talked to raved about Lisbon and how wonderful it is - on first glance I wasn't convinced. Wandering around the streets on Tuesday morning it came across as yet just another big European city with lots of tourists and even more graffiti. Also, when we arrived at our apartment on Monday night the owner gave us a warning about pickpocketers. Plus traipsing round a large city with children trying to sightsee is challenging. The kids are pretty good now at travelling but still it is never easy to walk for 10 minutes down a narrow street then realise you've gone the wrong way and have to retrace your steps.

So once James had dropped the car off at the car hire depot - a bit of a challenge as he couldn't find a petrol station, we headed down to the port. We found a Starbucks coffee on the way and a lollie shop for the kids so it was a good start all round. We found the information office and she pointed us in the direction of the boats. We arrived at the ticket office with ten minutes to spare and jumped on our boat heading for Belem. It was great to be sitting down and just being able to enjoy the view.

The trip took about an hour and we arrived at the Torre de Belem which is a tower that symbolises the voyages that made Portugal powerful.

We then walked along the esplanade towards the Mosteiro dos Jeronimous which dates from 1496 and is one of Lisbon's icons.

We were all desperately hungry and due to our gluten free needs decided that the best easy, cheap option was McDonalds (minus the buns of course). It was right by the park with a playground so perfect. We got our food and Hannah, Jasper and I went to investigate the playground while James and Penelope got the food. When we got to the playground we discovered that it had not been completed and was covered in graffiti. Also, there was a group of school kids a bit older then Hannah jumping all over it doing there best to knock the tower down. Such a waste as it was a nice playground but a few had ruined it for all. I guess the city council has thought why bother finishing it if it is only got to get destroyed. Hannah didn't seem to mind though and played on it happily. Jasper wasn't so keen though and instead found a tree to climb!

After lunch I bought two of the famous Belem custard tarts then we jumped on tram 15 heading back to Lisbon.

By this stage the kids were a bit hot and tired so James decided to take them back to the apartment and I went and had a look around on my own. My plan was to have a look at the shops so I set off in what I hoped was the right direction. I stumbled across a souviner shop selling the Portuguese roosters for 20 euros cheaper then in Porto, but as it is made of cast iron I thought I would come back later with James for that. I also found a bio store so managed to get some gluten free rolls for Wednesday lunch and some bread. I walked up the hill and stumbled upon the ruins of a cathedral that was partly destroyed in the earthquake of 1795. I walked along a platform and discovered that I was at the top of an elevator that we had seen from the ground - better then paying 5 euros!

I continued on not really knowing where I was going but came out onto the main shopping street - yah! It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and everyone was out enjoying the music by street bands and drinking and eating. Lisbon was starting to weave its magic on me and first impressions were being pushed aside to reveal a truly magical place.

On the way back to the apartment I went into a mall looking for sandals for James and came out with sandals for myself - well done me!

I arrived back feeling invigorated and ready to carry on exploring with the family in tow. First off though a rest on our deck with a glass of wine in hand - the portuguese certainly know how to make large wine glasses.

We all went back to the viewing platform at the top of the elevator (we walked up on course!). The views from the top were spectacular.

We went back up the shopping street on the lookout for somewhere for dinner. It was still a great vibe with lots of people out and about. Jasper seems to make friends with the locals where ever he goes and is constantly being touched on his blonde head as well as being talked to.

We couldn't find anywhere that appealed so decided to catch the tram as we had bought our 24 hour tram passes earlier. We all jumped on the tram then realised they were in the backpack back at the hotel. Off we all got and walked down to the port in search of dinner!

We found a pedestrian alleyway with tables outside that looked hopeful so went and had a look. What a great find! Friendly service, fresh produce and great food - plus a large jug of sangria perfect!

We had a great cheap meal feeling satisfied that we had found a hidden gem.

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