Another Sunny Day in Lisbon!
We got up at 8:00AM this morning, showered and went down to the hotel’s dining room for breakfast. As we entered the dining room the senior server there said the number of guests in our room did not match up with their breakfast records. The hotel showed us as two guests but the breakfast schedule only showed as one guest for our room. We had to have the cost of one of our breakfasts added to the room before they would serve us. Later, I approached Reception and they straightened this out, reversing the charge; there were no further problems during our stay. The breakfast was quite good at the hotel, though, and they had a wide variety of hot and cold dishes.
Dom Pedro IV Square (aka Rossio Square)
After breakfast we returned to our room, got our day bags and headed out for the day. Our first stop was the cell company Vodafone, located in the Dom Pedro IV Square (aka Rossio Square). I purchased a European SIM card that gave me 30 days of service in Portugal, with 10GB of data, 500 minutes of talk, 500 texts and 50 minutes of international talk and text, all for €25. Not bad. Cellular service in Europe is a very inexpensive affair compared to Canadian cell plans – I marvel at this disparity every time I purchase a SIM card in Europe.
Leaving Vodafone, we took a little spin through Rossio Square:
Igreja de São Domingos (Church of St. Dominic)
Leaving Rossio Square behind, we visited the nearby church Igreja de São Domingos (Church of St. Dominic) located on Largo de São Domingos. It was a beautiful ancient church:
After leaving the church we wandered back through Rossio Square. The volume of tourists had really picked up by this time and the Square was quite busy. We stopped for tea and coffee at Locanda Italiana on Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, which is a lively pedestrian-only street:
Avenida da Liberdade
After our little rest and refuelling we set out walking up Avenida da Liberdade. From everything we had read and heard the Liberdade was touted as Lisbon’s equivalent of the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Oh, how misguided people can be.
This was not a particularly enjoyable walk as, basically, there was very little to see. At the bottom of the street there were indeed countless, and very expensive, designer shops (Prada, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Gucci, Emporio Armani, Versace, and on and on), but after leaving those shops behind there was no real “grand boulevard” feel to the Avenue.
Along the way there were just a few manky shrubs in the centre of the wide Avenue. It didn’t help that there was not so much as a scrap of shade on this burning-hot Portugal day, and no place to sit down or rest.
The walk was uphill all the way, and when we reached the peak – sweat-soaked and exhausted from the climb – we expected to see some kind of significant sculpture, monument or something at the top of this “grand” Avenue, but there was just a pile of broken rubble. Not impressive:
The further we progressed up the Avenue, the more current the architecture became. By the time we reached the top, it looked very much a modern city like New York or Toronto, etc., and the charm of Lisbon was left behind. The Avenida da Liberdade was one of the very few things in Lisbon that disappointed us:
One of the bright spots, though, in coming all this way was discovering Maternidade, one of Botero’s delightful sculptures, in the nearby Jardim Amália Rodrigues:
Carlos Lopes Pavilion
We rested a bit then proceeded to make our way back down the Avenida da Liberdade, this time sticking to the opposite, shady side of the street. On the way up the Avenue we had noticed a striking building on the other side of the street, and we knew we had to check it out on our way back. Stopping at this building, it seemed to be a bit of a mysterious complex – there were absolutely no plaques or signs to identify it; it didn’t even appear on Google Maps. It had some very pretty gardens surrounding the complex, though:
After much digging, we found out this was the Carlos Lopes Pavilion, which was a rentable special events venue. The venue had some beautiful azulejos (Portuguese blue tiles) on its walls:
We continued walking down the Avenida da Liberdade, stopping for lunch at Restaurante Tradicional Portugués. Vince had Piri Piri Chicken and I opted for the Spaghetti Bolognese. The fare was only so-so, but it filled a gap and we left refuelled.
Leaving the restaurant we sought out the Mouraria (Moorish Quarter) and toured through it. This was a fascinating place, comprised of quiet, quaint streets. Like the nearby Alfama district, Mouraria is an historic district of Lisbon. It is full of picturesque corners and charming little squares. And there’s hills. Lots of them… believe me:
Mouraria was where the Moors, who weren’t slaughtered when King Afonso Henriques conquered the city in 1147, were allowed to live. That is until 1497, when they and the Jews were expelled from Portugal.
The Mouraria district remains one of the least gentrified parts of Lisbon, in spite of the influx of contemporary culture.
While in the Moorish Quarter we stopped for gelato (of course!) at Gelato Davvero, located at Avenida Dom Carlos I, 39. Delicious coffee-flavoured gelato… so good. Leaving the gelato place we ran into an exceedingly friendly man from Montreal (I was wearing a Québec City t-shirt at the time so that kicked off our conversation). I believe I’ve already mentioned how we ran into so many Canadians on this trip – amazingly so. Earlier in the day a woman had rushed up to Vince and yelled GO VANCOUVER!!!!, which was a nod to his Vancouver t-shirt.
Igreja de São Cristóvão (Parish Church of Saint Christopher)
Leaving the friendly Quebecer behind, we continued our exploration of Mouraria, and came upon a magnificent church called Igreja de São Cristóvão (Parish Church of Saint Christopher). A stunning place.
It was getting late in the day so we slowly started wending our way back to the hotel. We wandered through more of the Mouraria, as the famous Tram 28 went rumbling by:
Igreja de Santa Maria Madalena
(Saint Mary Magdalene Church)
On the trek back to our hotel we merged into the Alfama, making some time for just one more church, Igreja de Santa Maria Madalena (Saint Mary Magdalene Church):
Spent after all that hill climbing, we returned to our hotel on Rua Augusta in the Baxia for rest and a regrouping.
After our rest we went out on the street again to take a closer look at a really great t-shirt store we had seen earlier on Rua Augusta called Typographia (we later discovered this was a chain store, with more locations in Porto). There was so many great designs here so we grabbed a few souvenir t-shirts, returning to the hotel to drop them off.
Another Floating Busker
On the way back to the hotel we encountered this guy. No matter which European city you visit you’ll be sure to find one of these guys seemingly suspending themselves in mid-air (spoiler alert: here’s how they do it):
Evening Meal & Street Entertainment
We set out again in search of our evening meal and settled on a place called La Vita é Bella Restaurante Italiano at Rua da Prata 115 (if you’ve been keeping a restaurant score so far through this blog you’ll notice there is a preponderance of Italian restaurants in this Portuguese capital… strange, that). The pasta here was great! Vince started with Insalata Mista (Green Salad), a main course of a house specialty called Penne La Vita Bella accompanied with red wine. I also has an Insalata Mista to start, then a main of Ravioli accompanied by a Coke Zero (I repeat from earlier in the blog, there is no such thing as Diet Coke in Europe… sadly). It was all absolutely delicious.
Feeling quite stuffed we returned to the hotel on Rua Augusta at about 8:30PM. At this point I should mention (if I haven’t already) that in the evening Rua Augusta really comes alive with entertainment on any given evening – jugglers, musicians, singers, dance troupes, you name it – it’s very lively and frequently goes into the early hours of the next morning. Sitting at our outdoor restaurant before heading back to our hotel, we were suddenly converged upon by this dance troupe:
Whew… makes me tired just watching them…
Back at the hotel we dropped into bed at about 10:00PM, exhausted. It had been another great day in Lisbon!