OT:True confessions-A cruise to nowhere-22

Note: The sections on the cities visited are frequently cumulative (updated) descriptions written during multiple trips. In some cases, we have arrived or left by different methods during different trips (ship, plane, train, car or whatever), so each of the options has been left in order to assist regardless of how we/others show up the next time. Similarly, some of the descriptions include sightseeing which clearly would take more than a day. The easy explanation is that we have, over time, spent a number of days (or even weeks) in some cities.

Jeff

We are taking a day at sea, so I’m going to send this week’s installment a bit early as it all involves the Iberian Peninsula (with an emphasis on Lisbon). I suspect next week’s will be the penultimate followed about a week later by a finale/post-mortem. Enjoy.

We start the last leg of the cruise with two themes. The first is the shift of seasons – while it is nearly the solar solstice, being in Lisbon, Portugal, we are no longer at the northern latitudes where it would be light all night and, at 7am in the morning, it is just becoming light. It also means that the weather has finally reflected what I consider summer by being in the high 80’s degrees Fahrenheit (about 30C).

We have also taken our last COVID test of the cruise and received a clean report, sating a bit of concern. During the last few months, by informal count (as the cruise line has not reported anything to the passengers), over 50% and likely up to 75% of all the passengers have been confined to their cabin for either 5 or 10 days. The ship has been carrying 250 +/- passengers and is adding about 200 more in Lisbon for the final 3 week leg home. I’m expecting that most of the new passengers will not be masking, either aboard or while in ports, and that COVID will continue to spread through those who have not recently been infected. Frankly, unless we develop symptoms, we won’t be getting tested again (it’s optional if we are disembarking in NYC) and will wait until we get home to take a COVID test. I wonder how many of those who are currently taking cruises are aware of how likely it is that, if they have not recently been infected, that they pick up the bug before they head home.

Something new: This week, another cruise line (Viking Ocean), who has up until now required both pre-cruise COVID vax/testing and daily on-board testing, has announced that, going forward, while pre-cruise vaccinations will be required, there will be no more pre or on-board testing unless requested or if symptoms are displayed. In my opinion, given the number of asymptomatic cases which were isolated on our cruise, this will be the “new normal” in parallel with optional masking.

I’m not sure if it has been our continued attention to masking and avoiding grouping, our second booster shot (that we picked up in Miami), some sort of personal immunity or simply good luck that we have managed to beat the odds for six months. It leaves me the choice between thinking that, either what we did worked, or else just luck had us avoid the fate of the majority of our fellow passengers. I’ll leave it to others to draw their own conclusion, but we will continue to follow the same protocol until either COVID finally catches up with us or we get our next (hopefully multi-valent) booster this fall (along with our flu shot). That said, I expect that, by the time we take our next trip, we will no longer be following extreme precautions as more of the world reduces the level of versions of the disease which would be dangerous to us.
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Gijón, Spain (Xixon in Basque)
Gijón (pronounced hee-khohn), said to predate the Romans, is a summer resort and an industrial center rolled into one which surprised me as having a population of 278,000.

The best part of the city to explore is the old barrio of Cimadevilla, with its maze of alleys and leaning houses, jutting into the ocean to the north of the new town, spills over an elevated piece of land known as Santa Catalina. Santa Catalina forms a headland at the west end of the Playa San Lorenzo beach, stretching for about 2.5km (1 1/2 miles); this sandy beach has good facilities.

The ship’s shuttle bus dropped us at the base of the city’s marina. Crossing the street and heading a block to the right will bring you to the pedestrian shopping street of Calle Corrida. For better or worse, we were visiting on Sunday and while some were eating churros and hot chocolate, the vast majority were drinking beer at the cafes, but other than them and some souvenir shops all the stores were shut.

Turning to the right when leaving the shuttle bus will quickly bring you to the unmistakable bronze statue of King Paleyo marking the Plaza del Marques. In the center of the square is the La Barquera Well, which had its origin in a salting factory during Roman times and was the location that election results and proclamations were announced between the 16th-18th centuries. To the left of the statue is a 10 meter tall Christmas tree of green cider bottle (for obvious reasons known as the Cider Tree).

We walked to the right, past the Revillagigedo Palace Cultural Center (free admission) to the Plaza Major, the town square, with its City Hall. More importantly (for us) were rows of tents set up as an “ecological” market selling local food products (cheese, breads, sausages, wine, cider, saffron, etc.) and arts/crafts fabricated by those running the booths. My purchase of the day was a tooled leather belt. (The market is held during the second weekend of each month). Along the edge of the plaza are a few stores selling local food (canned fish, cider, beer and cheese) items at reasonable prices.

On the opposite side of the Plaza Mayor is the Termas Romanas, or Roman Baths (Campos Valdés), which are underground at the end of the Old Town, opening onto Playa de San Lorenzo. Discovered in 1903, these baths are now fully excavated, and the town has opened a museum here. All the signage is in Spanish, but the exhibits are worth seeing. Admission is free.

We took a quick walk up to the top of the Cimavilla (quite a bit uphill) to the former location of the town’s artillery battery as well as a massive statue titled “”Praise to the Horizon”.

Heading back downhill and walking past the Valdes Palace, we went for a visit to the Museo Casa Natal de Jovellanos (Plaza de Jovellanos) – Free admission). This is a rather small museum, not found on any of the assorted tourist literature. I did not recognize single artist’s name. Yet, I found nearly every painting, sculpture and work of art interesting and recommend a visit should you happen to be in the neighborhood.

At the far end of the Plaza de Jovellanos are reconstructed parts of the old Roman wall along with the Torre dl Reloj – clock tower.

Our time was too short to visit either the Aquarium (at Playa de Poniente) or the Atlantic Botanical Gardens (Avenida del Jardin Botanico).
Lisbon, Portugal

“I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself.” – James Baldwin

The two hour flight from Barcelona to Lisbon (with an hour gained by crossing a time zone was uneventful, but if your carry-on looks large, it will get weighed by TAP at check-in (was not a problem for us, but impacted some others). TAP offers more legroom in coach than any of the US carriers and the “regular” seating was comfortable. They also served a full meal, despite the short (2 ½ hour) flight and did not charge for a luggage piece each.

The taxi driver who took us from the airport overcharged us about 10 € (my own fault for not asking for a receipt and challenging it as the proper fare should be between 11€-15€), but I did stop him from shortchanging me another ten euros and didn’t tip him despite his dejected body language (it’s not required in Portugal anyway). Still, it makes me feel like a jerk to be taken. Not a life threatening event, so we plow on ahead.

On subsequent trips, we used Uber, both to and from the airport (less than 9 Euros) and for short hops within town as the price for the two of us was about the same cost as the Metro would have been – and gave door-to door service. Taking Uber is not only cheap, but eliminates almost all of the opportunity for a taxi driver to scam the tourist (either on price or by passing wrong currency, making wrong change or whatever).

While we are discussing Lisbon airport, they have copied the system used in Amsterdam’s and it is a pleasure to check-in. Using the barcode on the boarding pass printed on-line a day before, you scan at a kiosk which spits out your luggage tag. Now you put your luggage onto a conveyor, scan once more and it disappears (hopefully into the belly of the beast). Getting to our sitting area (gates are only announced one hour before flights) was also quick and easy.

For getting around town, many of the locals seem addicted to the same type of electric share-a-scooter as are now cluttering Paris sidewalks.

If we had entered the city on a cruise ship, it would go under the 25th of April Bridge (an apparent clone of the Golden gate Bridge, past a full sized copy of Rio’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue on a tall tower on the shore facing Lisbon) and pass close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Tower of Belem (The World Heritage Belem Tower is to Lisbon what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris or Big Ben is to London. It is probably the city’s most photographed landmark). Then we would pass the Monument of the Discoveries, an impressive monumental ship statue that looks like a bunch of cross-dressing dudes climbing a flight of stairs to walk the plank (just trying to be funny here, but you’ve got to look up a picture of this thing to appreciate the comment). The most convenient cruise terminal is at the base of the Alfama neighborhood near the Apolonia train station, but some ships dock between Belem and the downtown area.

There are four cruise terminals in the city. In order to find out which one your ship is going to use head to this web site:
https://www.portodelisboa.pt/en/planeamento-de-cruzeiros1

If you arrive at the Apolonia cruse terminal, you can walk a couple of blocks to the Metro station at the Apolonia train station – look for a large blue building to the right as you exit the cruise terminal and, when you get closer for the red “M” signs indicating the doorway to the escalator to the underground Metro station. A Metro “Green Card” costs .50 € from a vending machine. Adding each ride is an additional 1.45 €, but if you are traveling a bunch, a daily pass will cost 6 € (break even is at five rides). This card (contrary to the other options) is able to be used, not only on the Metro/bus/trams, but also on the rail system and the ferries. This lets you bypass the long ticket lines when heading out to places like Sintra and Cascais.

Just a note on timing: Since the fishing fleet has Sunday off, while bacaula (dishes made from dried cod) are OK to order, it’s best to avoid fresh fish dishes on Mondays (as their freshness is suspect). Lisbon museums are closed on Mondays – which means the crowds going to Sintra are even larger than usual. Don’t even think of getting into a museum without a long wait on the first Sunday of the month – when most are free. Similarly, the Castle of St. George has a couple of hours wait most Sundays.

We have been to Lisbon many times over the years and will try to add to our experiences. We are trying a new Spanish hotel chain and are staying at the NH Lisboa Liberdade. The hotel is located along the prime central shopping street (think 5th Avenue in NYC). Be aware that it is set-back from the street and if your suitcase has wheels, you’ll be pushing it across an uneven pavement of cobblestones for about 40 feet (12 meters).

The hotel is clean, but the rooms are a bit small (but not nearly as small as the Paris MGallery). They have recently completed a renovation which added sound-proofing to the walls, among other improvements. The amenities have been beefed up somewhat, but there’s not much which can be done to improve the views from the rooms (which are pretty paltry) – but it was priced right. Next time, maybe we will try Airbnb?

In retrospect, the hotel had the advantages of a wonderful front desk, very convenient location, comfortable beds and a roof-top pool, but otherwise was more like a three star than a four star hotel – sort of in the class of most Novotel’s. A pleasant stay, not a deluxe stay, but still better than one of the hotels we stayed at in Venice and it is about 40% of the price.

The view of Lisbon from our hotel rooftop pool is pretty much as good as it gets. To the left is the Castle of St. George on its mountain with the sweep of the Alfama down into Baixa, then undulating across Chiado and back up into the Bairro Alto on the other side of the city. The roofs are almost universally made of red terra cotta tile, the sidewalks of mosaics created by seas of six centimeter black and white stone cubes and the streets of cobble stones. Periodically, the domes and spires of churches pierce the air as the sun sparkles off the River Tagus in the distance. It’s a pretty city, but requires good shoes as the surfaces are unforgiving and, while distances are measured horizontally, you sometimes feel that you are climbing up and down vertically an equivalent distance. Maps can be deceptive when they show two parallel streets and one is thirty meters above the other.

Tonight we ate at one of Jose Avillez’s restaurants – Pateo-Bairro do Avillez (Rua Nova da Trindade 18). (As an aside, Avillez has his name attached to around a dozen restaurants of all kinds in Lisbon, including Belcanto, a Michelin 2-star restaurant). We arrived early – about 7:45PM for an 8PM reservation and were immediately seated. By 9PM there was a long “conga line” of people waiting to be seated in the large restaurant (I was told it seats about 300 between a couple of large rooms and a mezzanine). I would say a reservation, well in advance, is pretty mandatory.

While the restaurant serves steak as well as fish, we decided to concentrate on the fruit of the sea with their deluxe seafood platter for two. We started with a pair of appetizers – cone de carapau (chopped raw horse mackerel in nori cones) and exploding olives (some sort of innovative way to liquefy an olive into a spoon).

The main “dish” was actually a stream of seafood platters which kept coming despite our pleas of “we surrender”?. The first platter was built around a split Portuguese lobster, surrounded by coastal prawn with fleur de sel and prawns with garlic and chilies accompanied by a large crab carapace filled with crab salad – all decorated with fresh red and green seaweed pickles an a heart of lettuce. This was followed by a pan full of “shelled” shrimp in garlic/chili butter partnered with a pan full of bulhão pato clams. The last platter was the “piece de resistance”, a pair of huge (almost lobster-sized) bright red broiled shrimp. Followed with a shared Mil Folhas Pastel Nata for dessert.

All washed down with local Super-Bock Caneca beer.

This vast array of sea creatures was perfectly prepared, varied and delicious.

The service in the restaurant was impeccably carried out with great humor by a Nepalese waiter named Dil. While not an inexpensive restaurant, the prices were much lower than I would have expected to pay for this class of food in cities like Paris, New York City or Tokyo, so I’m going to say that their menu offers significant value to international foodies. I feel safe in saying that this is now our favorite restaurant in Lisbon.

For lunch, we tried another of Jose Avillez’s restaurants, the Café Lisboa (Largo de Sao Carlos 23). Finding the restaurant is a bit challenging as it is tucked into a corner (across a small plaza from Belconto, Avillez’s flagship restaurant). The restaurant does not serve “cabaret” food, but rather it serves excellent renditions of local dishes. The menu appears unassuming compared to his other restaurants, but it specializes in serving well prepared and flawlessly served Lisbon-style cuisine at a reasonable price. I had, as a starter, a meat and cabbage pastry, followed by a superb baked octopus. My wife started with a cherry gazpacho followed by a dish of chili and garlic shrimps. The “piece de resistance” was the hazelnut dessert, which consisted of a ball of hazelnut gelato covered with hazelnut cream dusted with ground hazelnuts mixed with sea salt (flowers of salt).

The ambiance of the inside of the restaurant is far more ornate than its humble exterior, with tall ceilings and gold gilded columns, giving elegance to the dining experience.

My recommendation is to go beyond the “specialties” listed on the first page of the menu as there is a broader selection of dishes listed inside. Also consider the “meal” line item on the last page of the menu which may work out as a way to save a bit of money if ordering a full meal.

For those wishing the best in Portuguese pastries and deserts, a visit to Alcoa, Rua Garrett, 37 in Chiado will not disappoint. Pastries which look good elsewhere look fantastic here and the sheer variety trumps just about every other pastry shop in town. There is a branch in El Corte Ingles as well at Avenida Antonio Augusto de Aguiar 31.

Not far away, also in Chiado, is Joalharia do Carmo (Rua do Carmo 87 B, http://lojascomhistoria.pt/lojas/joalharia-do-carmo), which is one of Lisbon’s oldest jewelers. Nearby is Luza (Rua Capelo 16) which sells attractive ceramics and pottery – sometimes by weight.

Metro Map and information: http://lisbonlisboaportugal.com/lisbon-transport/Lisbon-metr…. There are also a number of free Lisbon Metro tools available for mobile phones which should be considered.

I recommend this web site for in-depth information about Lisbon: http://www.golisbon.com/sight-seeing/

The sun has, once more, risen and today we plan on doing quite a bit of running around. There are a few ways to get around the city. Many tourists buy the “Lisboa Card” which offers free bus, Metro and tram transportation within the city and free or discounted museum entrance. It currently costs 18.50€ for 24 hours, 31.50€ for 48 hours and 39€ for 72 hours. (http://www.golisbon.com/Lisboa-Card/) Like many cards of this sort, you have to cram a lot into a short period of time to make it a worthwhile investment.

There seem to be two types of people in the world when it comes to mass transit – those who prefer to stay on the surface with buses, see the scenery and take more time consuming journeys and those who prefer the Metro/Subway/Underground and save time. When seeking advice on our route to the Cais do Sodre station to pick up the railroad to Cascais this morning, it was suggested we take the No. 736 bus from across the street from the hotel. Instead I opted to take the “Blue Line” Metro two stops and then switch to the “Green Line” Metro for a stop, saving about 30 minutes of travel time.

It you are docked on a cruise ship at the new Lisbon Cruise Terminal (previously the location of the Apolonia dock), it is easy to walk to the Apolonia Station. If you are docked at the downtown dock, it is a bit further, (but doable), to walk to the Restauradores train station:

Either take the light rail to Subway from Santa Apolónia to Reboleira, then change to the Train from Reboleira to Portela de Sintra.

OR

Bus (number: 59 or 794) from Estação Sta. Apolónia to Restauradores train station, then take the Train from Reboleira to Portela de Sintra.

You can use a “Green” transit card for both Both routes take about an hour and cost around 5 Euros round-trip. It will save time if you use a “Green” transit card for the trip as the lines can be long to buy regular train tickets at the station.

In Sintra, there is an inexpensive “hop-on, hop-off” bus which saves a lot of uphill walks.

I’ve always enjoyed Cascais more than Estoril as a beach area. Both can easily be reached from the Apolonia Train Station and are a couple of stations apart.

The trains to Cascais leave every 15 minutes and take about 45 minutes, passing through the 19th century beach resort of Estoril along the way. As the train heads out to Caiscais, we again marvel at Lisbon being one of the world’s most photogenic cities. With its mosaic sidewalks, the jacaranda trees, with their lavender blossoms along the route to its beach resorts, the red terracotta roof tiles and the vistas regularly supplied by its hilly nature.

Cascais is a charming small beach resort which seems to depend on a steady stream of tourists to keep pumping. It seems like every storefront along the black and white mosaic streets is either a restaurant or a souvenir shop (as well as a small flea market in the park near the carousel). We wandered the town in the heat (it’s a sunny 28C/82F degrees today) for a couple of hours before taking the train back.

The minimum wage here is 520 Euros per month, but many work only part time. Many in the country are deeply concerned about their ability to marry, buy a house and maintain a reasonable standard of living.

We went on an exploratory walk down Avenida da Liberdade through the Chiado neighborhood, site since the Middle Ages of the city’s largest square to the smaller streets of the Baixa neighborhood, along sidewalks of mosaic black and white stones. Along the way, we ate a couple of incredible pasteis de nada custard pastries, fresh and still warm from the oven at Fabrica Nata (Praça Restauradores 62). They also make decent, inexpensive sandwiches as well as bachalau (cod) cutlets and are a decent place for an inexpensive light lunch.

Lisbon is a city built on hills as steep as San Francisco’s and is full of funiculars and even an elevator – the Eiffel Tower’ish Elevador Santa Justa – where you can catch a lift to an upper level of the city (you can use your Green transit card to save time and money – or take the free elevator in the shopping mall across the street).

Lisbon is known (at least by me) for its huge portions of delicious, rustic food, with an emphasis on seafood. This country has a love of spices, especially cinnamon and vanilla, (can be seen in their love of pastries - especially of the custard variety, such as the “pastel de nata” – also known as the “pastel de Belem”, a small custard tart sprinkled with cinnamon which has to be tasted to be believed).

Piri piri, small fiery peppers, black pepper and saffron are also popular spices that are commonly used in Portuguese cooking. We’re going to try to find a place that serves caldo verde with potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of spicy chorizo sausage, and Portuguese sardines, grilled as sardinhas assadas. All that and the bread – yes the crispy rustic Portuguese bread.

This evening we got a bit turned around looking for a restaurant named “As Velhas” (Rua da Conceicao da Gloria, 21) which was recommended by our hotel front desk and, after comparing menus, decided to eat at a nearby packed restaurant named “Quermesse” – translates as: a festival to raise money for a charitable cause (located at Rua da Gloria, 85). Every other diner in the packed restaurant was French. When I asked, I was told that they had been favorably written up in a French travel magazine. Anyhow, the food was excellent and the prices were reasonable (about half those of As Velhas). I had some of the best duck confit that I can remember for dinner.

Tomorrow we will take the train from the art nouveau Rossio train station near our hotel to the mountain town of Sintra.

We ate a very decent breakfast at the DeltaQ café just a few doors down from our hotel for a small fraction of the cost our place would charge (5€ including coffee, a croissant with cheese and a fresh squeezed orange juice vs. 25€).

Then we took the ten minute walk to the nearby Rossio rail station and queued up to buy round-trip tickets to the town of Sintra (4.75€) – or better yet, use your Green Card. While on the ticket line, we made friends with a young lady visiting from Paris who wandered around with us for the day. The trains leave every 15-20 minutes and the trip takes about 40 minutes.

In retrospect, the best pricing for a day in Sintra is to pick up a “Carris/Metro/CP” card from a Metro card vending machine for 10.55€. This allows you to take the Metro to the train station, covers the train to/from Sintra, the local #434 bus in intra on a Hop-on/op-off basis and then any other rational public transport in the Lisbon area for 24 hours after purchasing the ticket. This will save a lot on transportation costs in the Sintra area.

The royal town of Sintra is built on the slopes of a mountain and there is a local bus #434 (which allows “hop-on/hop-off) for 15€ (see above note) which saves a couple of hours walking up/down hills to see the sights. These include the “National Palace of Sintra” (10€, 8€ for seniors) which is quite nice. It is full of rooms decorated as long ago as the 14th century, some with obvious Moorish influence and has a pair of huge conical chimneys towering overhead instead of battlements. High on the top of the mountain are the Castelo dos Mouros, the Palacio e Quinta da Regaleira and the Palacio National da Pena.

The Palacio National da Pena is a late 19th century, early 20th century palace. Its exterior is a fantacy of color and fairytale architecture. The inside is embellished in a number of style, but the most notable to me was the amount of “organic” decoration reminiscent of the later “art neuveau” tradition and the designs og Barcelona’s Gaudi.

Antonia Carvalho, an eccentric millionaire built the Quinta da Regaliera palace in 1904 to his interests and the occult. The five story hillside mansion mixes Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline styles. There is a fantasy garden of grottoes, fountains statues, ponds underground tunnels and the 88 foot-deep “Initiation Well” – thought to be the former site of Masonic rites. Incorporated into the architecture are symbols associated with the Masons, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians and alchemy. A Roman Catholic chapel in front of the palace depicts occult pentagrams intermixed with Catholic saints.

The Castelo dos Mouros is a mountaintop fortress dating from the 11th and 12th century when Portugal was controlled by the Moors. It is best photographed from outside (even at a distance) as the interior offers little of interest.

The picturesque old town itself is full of tourist shops selling tourist stuff to mobs of tourists.

On the way back, we took a train to Lisbon, but which ended up heading to a station on the wrong side of town. Fortunately, our train ticket allowed us to change tracks by exiting the platform the exit turnstile and re-entering the correct one to head to a station in the opposite direction to pick up the train back to Rossio station.

We decided to try a new place for supper and chose one out of TripAdvisor which had good reviews and was around the corner from our hotel. The chosen place was the Taberna Anti-Dantes (Rue de Sau Jose, 196). Quirky it was. But the waitress seemed scatterbrained and didn’t know the prices. The menu listed identical items at more than one price and they tried kiting the cost of a glass of wine. They also overbooked the small joint and moved us to a different table in the middle of our meal. That said, the food was good and fairly reasonably priced for Europe (I had sardines covered with sautéed peppers and a main of octopus with sweet potato and my wife has stuffed mushrooms and a roasted leg of duck. That and a couple of glasses of wine came to 40€), but last night’s place was better. Overall, tonight’s place isn’t worth the effort and we won’t be returning any time soon.

At the restaurant, we had a conversation with a German couple from a tiny town near the border with Luxemburg. They said their daughter lived next to a Moslem family who were weird “because they refused to eat meat at barbeques”. It was the couple’s opinion that the Moslems would have to change their dietary restrictions to become “good Germans”. Their attitude makes no sense and I’m assuming it’s a function of them living in some isolated boondock. However, based on the recent political successes of the far right in countries ranging alphabetically from Austria to the United States. focusing largely on immigration, xenophobia is currently entering the mainstream consciousness. The catalyst of the current migration of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and elsewhere into Europe is causing a disturbing change in European attitudes.

Well, the Uniworld Cruise people filed the claim for our suitcase late with the airline and the claim was rejected, so I guess we ended up paying for an overpriced suitcase to replace the ruined one their rep said they’d take care of.

From the Cais do Sodre station we negotiated the Green, Blue and Yellow Mero lines to the Campo Pequeno station to pick up tickets to Thursday’s bullfight. Bizarrely, the bullfight starts at 10PM (because it’s a work night?), so we’ll have to be careful to leave before the Metro stops running at 1 am. From the bull ring, we walked (should have taken the Metro because it’s further than it seems on the map) to the Lisbon branch of the Spanish El Corte Ingles department store near the Gulbenkian Museum (one of Lisbon’s best). Afterwards, my “chief bodyguard” did a “a bit” of shopping (the store should really consider TV sets for guys to watch) which included picking up some local wine to bring on-board our next cruise. The store is large and has enough items on sale to provide hours of viewing pleasure to some?. Make sure to visit the information booth to pick up a number of promotions specifically for foreigners. Then we circled back by Metro to the hotel.

Tonight’s seafood restaurant was a recommendation of the hotel. Restaurant Marisqueira Santa Marta (Travessa do Enviado de Inglaterra, 1) had lousy service and, 2) even after de-boning by the waiter, the fish dishes were full of bones. We should have stuck with the first night’s restaurant (Quermesse) which was much better.

Well, it’s Thursday morning and after our DeltaQ breakfast, we’ve decided to head off to the Lisbon neighborhood of Belem. We took the bus No. 736 to the Campo de Santos stop in order to change to the No. 728 bus. This is a stop earlier than the normal place to change, Cais do Sodre, as it means we will be picking up a bus with empty seats before it hits the major train terminal and avoiding a two block confusing walk between bus stops, but the rather long wait for the second bus points out the advantage of using the Metro instead to the Cais do Sodre station and then either the train (towards Cascais, which requires a ten minute walk when you reach Belem) or the more expensive (3 Euro) antique tram which you can take directly to the Monastery.

Belem is Lisbon’s museum district and a number of them are housed in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a vast cloister overlooking the Rio Tejo (River Tagus). In the distance one sees the Golden Gate Bridge clone of the April 25th Bridge which is overlooked by a “Christ the Redeemer” statue which is a clone of the one in Rio. When built (and the first time I drove across it), the bridge was known as the Salazar Bridge, but was renamed after the reviled dictator was removed from office. The cathedral portion of the monastery is free and is known for its extraordinary gothic ceiling and carved columns.

We bypassed the worthy Archeological Museum and walked to the opposite side of the long building and bought tickets (6.50€, 3.50€ senior) for the Maritime Museum. This fills much of the former cloister and documents the rise of Portugal’s trading empire, built both by controlling the sea routes around Africa to Asia and to Brazil. It also documents its decline as their empire crumbled and their embarrassment over the British naval superiority in the late 19th century forcing them to turn over their African colonial holdings between Mozambique and Angola (currently Mali and Zimbabwe). This decline also contributed to the political pressure culminating in the assassination of the king and his heir as the country had a revolution and became a republic. The building includes hundreds of detailed ship models to supplement the other exhibits. Once the main building has been seen, it is important not to exit where you entered without looking for the exit (at the mid-point place, where the building makes a right angle bend) which leads to the Royal Barge and Marine Aviation exhibit in a separate building.

After the museum, we took the underpass which allows you to get to opposite side of the train tracks to get a close look at the Monument of Discovery, a triangular structure lined on both sides with the heroes of Portuguese exploration of the globe. About a kilometer further down the coast is the Tower of Belem near the mouth of the river. After re-crossing under the train lines, we made it a point to stop at Pasteis de Belem, the bakery which invented the tart of the same name in 1837 which lesser imitators sell as pasteis de nata. While other bakeries universally sell for 1.00 Euro, these command a premium price of 1.20 Euro – and are worth every penny of the difference as they really are better.

We headed to the Museo Calouste Gulbenkian. This is billed as Lisbon’s largest collection of modern and contemporary Portuguese art as well as European and oriental art. I’m going to give it a mixed review (though art is in the eyes of the beholder). They had a vast hands-on exhibit about the brain which was fantastic, as were the garden surrounding the museum. The “Founder’s Collection” is a superb collection of Egyptian, Asian and Renascence Europe art, furniture, rug and artifact exhibits. There is a separate modern art building and, while I generally enjoy this sort of exhibit, this portion of the collection left me disappointed.

We headed back to the hotel to rest near the rooftop pool for while with its great view over the city as this was going to be a late night.

Figuring that we had taken enough punishment for a while, we headed back to Quermesse for dinner. My skinned and grilled octopus was about the best I’ve ever had. After dinner we took the Metro to Campos Pequeno and, passing the very loud group of animal rights protestors, found the proper doorway into the bullfight arena. Contrary to Spain where shaded seats command a premium, this bullfight took place in a covered, well-lit stadium at night (so no somber/sol thing). Prices run from a low of 10€ for nose-bleed seats to 75€ for the best. We had selected the front row of the first mezzanine for 20€ each which gave us unobstructed views.

The Portuguese bullfights are different from the Spanish ones in that the bulls are not killed, and the “hands on” physical style means that the bull “wins” pretty often and badly hurts the human participants. Each bullfight is a two section affair. After the usual fanfare by the band, a toreador on horseback sticks picks into the top of the bull’s neck muscle while showing off, with extraordinary horsemanship, letting the bull nearly impale their horse over and over. Two of the three toreadors were men, but one was a striking Spanish woman. The function of this effort is to tire the bull and weaken his neck muscles. Once the toreador has planted about eight of these short barbed lances, a group of eight uniformed unarmed men enter the ring on foot. All but one hang back and the lucky guy walks boldly towards the bull clapping his hands and verbally taunting him. Eventually, the bull loses patience and charges like an enraged locomotive with homicide on his mind. At that point, the clapping dude jumps on top of the bull’s head with the assumption that the rest of his team likes him well enough to gang up on the bull and prevent the bull from smashing the guy on his head against the wall like a child’s rag doll. Sometimes it works – and sometimes not so well. The clapping guy is allowed to try three times if he doesn’t succeed (and is still able to walk). Some may find this spectacle gruesome or upsetting, but to the crowd it was eye candy and the cheered and clapped at every opportunity. With the plethora of traditional dress, the ritual sure is colorful. There are six fights of about 30 minutes each with an intermission half way through during which a streaker jumped into the bullring with a sign protesting animal cruelty and was chased into an exit tunnel by about a dozen men (who I’m sure treated him with the utmost of “gentleness” as they evicted him).

We left the fights after only five fights at about 12:45 to make sure we would be able to take the Metro, whose last train leaves at 1:00AM, back to our hotel. We had briefly considered heading to the rue Remedios in the Alfama and catch some late night fado singing.
Well that was the theory and, while the mind was willing, the body was ready to hit the hay.

Well, to be honest, we slept a bit later than usual. We decided to explore the Bairro Alto portion of the city this morning. After breakfast, we took the Gloria Street funicular up to the top of the Bairro Alto. While it cost us 1.40€ fare on our transit cards, there were a number of tourists who paid the posted 3.60€ fare (meaning that a round trip will cost them more than the full day transit pass they could have bought from the vending machine in the Metro station a block from the funicular). The other ways to reach the neighborhood are by the Elevador Santa Justa, by tram, taxi or Uber. It’s just not worth the hassle to climb by foot all the way uphill. The walls along the path of the funicular, as well as the tram itself, are covered in professional quality graffiti.

While there are plenty of modern shopping malls, many of Lisbon’s smaller independent shops can be found downtown in the Baixa quarter and strolling through these streets, it’s fun to look at the unique exteriors of shops such as Luvaria Ulises and Ourivesaria Aliança.

Portugal adds a tax of 19% - included in prices and part of this tax can be reclaimed by non-EU visitors when leaving the EU. Visitors wanting to reclaim this tax should ask for a refund check (or around here a cheque) at the point of purchase (at least at participating stores) for more expensive buys. This is then stamped by a customs official on departure. Cruise ship passengers will have to search out the appropriate customs agent and apply for the refund by mail at their last port in the EU or at their exit airport (sometimes this works, sometimes not). If given a choice of getting credit on your credit card in US dollars or foreign currency, you’ll avoid a large commission cut if you have a credit card without a foreign transaction fee and request the refund in foreign currency (it will automatically revert to US dollars on your statement anyway).

Coming down from the neighborhood is easy to do by just randomly wandering downhill and veering towards the right. We had a light local lunch (me: grilled salted sardines, wife: tuna salad platter) at Flor do Mundo (Rue da Misericordia, 87-89). Nothing to write home about, but pretty typical. The path we took was full of eclectic shops selling everything from copper cataplanas (to cook seafood stew), to interior furnishing as at Republica das Flores (Rua da Misericordia, 31), boutiques, shoe stores, restaurants and so forth. We walked in a big downhill spiral back to our hotel through Lisbon’s densest commercial neighborhood.

Lisbon has two unique architectural styles – the elaborate 16th century Manueline of the Belem district (named after King Manuel I), and the uniform but elegant 18th century Pombaline of downtown (named after Marquês de Pombal who oversaw the area’s rebuilding after the Great Earthquake of 1755) – along with fine art nouveau shops and cafes that have almost disappeared elsewhere. Just as distinctive are its striking centuries-old tiled façades in the old quarters, and the turn-of-the-century trams and colorful funiculars that have been retired throughout Europe but that remain a common sight in this city, as there is no easier (or more charming) way to climb its hills.

Looking down at the pavements, the concrete and asphalt of other cities is replaced here by imaginative cobbled patterns, and even the most modern structures concentrated in the Parque das Nações district are unique in keeping a maritime theme in their architecture.

The sun broke over Lisbon on a fine Saturday morn and we decided to concentrate on Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood and one that we’re pretty familiar with. Like the Bairro Alto, this neighborhood is built on a descending hillside. The top of the mountain is graced by the Castle of Saint George which has defended the city since the sixth century when Rome pulled out. We decided to wander down through the Rossio area to the tram No. 28E at Praca de Commerce, which offers the opportunity to climb the cobbled streets of the Alfama in a vintage 1905 trolley for the chump change of carfare using our metro card.

Along the way, Between Rossio and Praça da Figueira, we entered the plaza in front of the Igreja de São Domingos, originally built in 1251 (though badly damaged by earthquakes in the 16th and 18th centuries), the venue of royal weddings and the home of the Inquisition in Portugal. There is a modern day monument in front of the church to commemorate the Lisbon Massacre of Jews (actually, by the, “New Christians” who had been born Jews) of 1506. In the years that followed the banishment of the Jews from Spain in 1492 by the “Catholic Monarchs” Ferdinand and Isabella, about 93,000 Jews took refuge in neighboring Portugal. King Manuel I was by far more tolerant toward the Jewish community but, under pressure from Spain, made their conversion to Roman Catholicism compulsory in 1497.

Nine years later (but thirty years before the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal), the Lisbon Massacre took place in April, 1506, when a crowd of Catholics, as well as foreign sailors (mostly German and Dutch who were anchored in the Tagus), tortured, and burnt at the stake hundreds of people who were accused of being Jews and, thus, guilty of deicide and heresy. Ultimately, almost 2,000 people were murdered over a period of two days. Afterwards, on the orders of the king, some Portuguese were arrested and hanged for their roles in the massacre, while others who had been involved had all their possessions confiscated by the Crown. The foreigners returned to their ships with their plunder and sailed away. The two seditionist Dominican friars who had incited the massacre were stripped of their religious orders and burnt at the stake. (more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisbon_Massacre).

On the corner of Rossio is a booth selling “Ginjinha”, a sour cherry liqueur (complete with “marinated” cherries on the bottom of the glass). A shot of this fire-water costs 1.40 Euros and I’m guessing the guy doing the pouring has a bit of practice as each glass gets two cherries and is filled until the rim (with a meniscus and all) without spilling a drop (not so easy to bring it to one’s mouth without spilling any?).

Curling around the church from the plaza is rue Barros Queiros. This was traditionally a street of Jewish jewelers in the 15th century and is still lined by a number of jewelry stores specializing in 2nd hand gold. Incidentally, the “standard” gold in Portugal is 19.2 karat, rather than the 14k common in the US or the 18k common in Italy, so evaluating it takes a bit more math. Also on the same street are a couple of storefronts of Brunu’s Sapatarias, one of the least expensive places to get “everyday” (not high fashion) shoes in Lisbon.

When we reached the tram stop, it had a “weekend length” line of a couple of hundred people waiting for a tram which could pack maybe thirty, so we opted to take a cab to the castle topping the Alfama for about 6 Euros.

If you decide to walk up through the Alfama district to St. Georges Castle (though I recommend the tour by tram I’ve outlined below), you’ll pass one of my favorite stores. Viuva C. Ferreira Pires (www.viuva.com, Rua Santo Antonio da Se, 2-12 – about four blocks down the tram 28 line from where the Alfama portion of the following tour begins) is very old family owned shop which continues to sell handmade copper stills, cataplanas (the clamped copper pot in which southern Portuguese cook their seafood stew – sort of like two woks hinged together), cast iron stoves and similar curiosities.

A walking trip, if it’s not raining and not too hot, is to wander through Lisbon’s famous flea market which starts at the top of the Alfama and wends its way towards the sea. The best way to get to the beginning of the walk (so you walk downhill, rather than uphill) is to tell Uber to take you to “Igreja de Sao Vincente de Fora” and then walk straight ahead through the stone arch at the end of the street.

The top of the mile-long Feira da Ladra, (which literally translates into “Thieves’ Market” - in Portuguese “ladra” is a woman thief, Tuesdays and Saturdays: 6am to 5pm), which winds downhill towards the Santa Apolonia train station (coincidently the terminal of the “Blue Lina” and near where we will be boarding our ship in a few days). You can find everything in the market from finished goods, to yard sale stuff, to antiques, to old clothes and junk. Basically, if it’s for sale, you might find it here. My selection, vetoed by the boss, was a small original (?) Casablanca movie poster for 20 Euros – but she’s right – where would we hang it? Similarly, I fell in love with a ceramic plate at a shop (not a booth) full of wonderful (sometimes quirkey) ones as cats, frogs, lizards, chickens and fish take over the shelves – to the right side as you enter the upper market called “Armazem das Caldas” (open Tuesday/Saturday 9am-7pm, Thursday/Friday 11am-6pm) – but, of course my wife was right, as usual, that I could live without it – but many would make unique souveniers. My sole purchase was a belt made from a recycled bicycle tire from booth named “Rebusca” on the left side of the upper market for 23 Euros (sounds tacky but was actually pretty nice).

In the center of the market is a large building housing some restaurants and “legitimate” antique shops, including the “La Collection du Roi” (Campo de Santa Clara – Antigo Mercado, Galeria No 16), which had a collection of bronzes and marquetry wooden furniture at prices far lower than would likely be found in the US (highly tempting on our 2022 stop by ship heading back to NYC).

ANOTHER WAY TO WANDER THROUGH THE ALFAMA:

I figure the following route will give the opportunity to get a better overview of the city than most bus tours and at a much lower price. The later part of the route is based on a walking tour documented here:
http://www.lisbonlux.com/lisbon/alfama-walking-tour.html

Anyhow, once back at the arch at the head of Praca do Commerce, ask where to find tram number 25. Take this tram westward (for those without a compass, with your back to the river, towards your left). This will take you through some fascinating old neighborhoods on a wooden streetcar built over a century ago. When you get to the church at Estrela (this is near the end of the line, but the # 28 tram can be picked up there as well, so don’t panic if you miss the stop) get off and transfer to the number 28 (also called 28E for “Electro”) tram heading eastward in the opposite direction. The yellow Electro (Tram) 28 (Be careful: the red one is a hop-on-hop-off one for tourists wish costs 18 euros for the day) with their polished wooden floors and vintage quality, might be loud and bumpy as they clang their way along tracks that have been in operation since 1901, but they also track through the most historic and most interesting areas of the Portuguese capital city.

A ride on Electrico 28 will take you through the neighborhoods of Graça, Baixa, Chiado, and Bairro Alto (literally “the upper city”, which dates from 1513) and end in Alfama (the oldest part of Lisbon) where the largest concentration of great sights in Old Lisbon can be found. This is just one of the turn of the century trams and funiculars in the city. As the tram wends its way through the major streets of the charming Alfama, Lisbon’s old quarter, ask the driver to let you off as close to the Castelo de Sao Jorge as he can (the walls of St. George’s castle date to the Moorish occupation of the city in the 10th century). While walking up to the castle, keep an eye out for a terrace, with local landscape painters selling their wares, which has a fabulous view (photo opportunity here) of the city below (you’ll need to be able to find this spot on your way back down from the fort). The souvenirs sold in the booths here tend to be less expensive than the identical ones found in shops. Nearby, you’ll find “Miss Can”, at Largo do Contador-Mor 17,a cute shop selling canned fish.

Get your fill of the castle – unless it’s a Sunday, when the ticket lines can be a couple of hours long.

And now we will start our decent through the maze of alleyways and passages which makes up Alfama. (As there are numerous stairs from this point on, those with physical challenges might consider taking the tram back to the bottom of the Alfama). These are filled with the normal trappings of Lisbon life – clothe lines, kids kicking soccer balls, old ladies carrying groceries and so on. As we are going to end up at sea level in the end, if you get hopelessly lost (you will get lost, but generally showing these directions to locals will help most of the time and you can get back on track), just keep heading downhill (it’s the direction spit will roll in if you can’t figure out if you are coming or going?). Anyhow, here’s one interesting route to work your way through Alfama:

  1. After taking tram 28 to visit the castle, head to your starting point, the Portas do Sol viewpoint.

  2. Next to the terrace is a flight of steps which is Rua Norberto de Araújo, taking you down the hill into the maze of streets.

  3. Turn right at Calçadinha da Figueira, where you’ll see one of the towers of the church of São Miguel.

  4. Go all the way down the stairs (Beco da Corvinha) to Largo de São Miguel. You’ll see the side of the church and then a large palm tree in front.

  5. Turn left towards Calçadinha de São Miguel and you’ll soon see the tower of the church of Santo Estêvão in the distance, but you’ll turn left on the first alley, Beco da Cardosa.

  6. At the very top of the stairs you’ll reach Rua Castelo Picão where you turn right and then right again to Beco das Cruzes, going down the steps and turning left, where you’ll see the façade of the church of Santo Estêvão.

  7. At the end of the steps, turn left towards Largo do Peneireiro where you’ll turn right and go up the steps. At the top, turn right towards the church of Santo Estêvão.

Along the route we stumbled on the ceramic tile shop of Elisabete Silva and Dina Nunes at 23 Calcadinha da Fiqueire (Elisabeteceramica@gmail.com, dinnune@gmail.com tel: 938451318/964956842) who sat in their small studio with only their kiln and custom tile designs for company.

  1. Next to the church is a terrace with river views. Go around the church, down the steps, where you’ll see tiled houses.

  2. Continue down, taking the steps Escadinhas/Calçadinha de Santo Estêvão. At the bottom you’ll see a tile panel indicating the old public baths, and turn left. At number 2 of Calçadinha de Santo Estêvão you’ll see a surviving Manueline doorway (16th century).

  3. You’ll have reached Rua dos Remédios, turn right and go down the street where you’ll see another Manueline doorway on a small church before reaching Largo do Chafariz de Dentro. You may choose to visit the Fado Museum there, or continue heading northwest of the square, where you’ll see tables outside a couple of restaurants.

  4. Continue into Rua de São Pedro, go all the way down, passing through Fado restaurants and tourist shops before reaching Largo de São Rafael to the left.

  5. Go down the hill at Largo de São Rafael and you’ll see Rua da Judiaria, the center of the old Jewish quarter. You’ll notice some surviving architectural details and will see a fountain with an archway next to it. Go under the archway and you’re suddenly out of the maze, close to the riverfront.

  6. Turn right towards the street and you’ll eventually see a monumental 19th-century fountain which no longer provides water. Continue down the street and a few feet away is Campo das Cebolas with the archway Arco de Jesus to the right.

  7. Go under the arch, up the steps by a tiled building, and at the top is Rua de São João da Praça, where you turn left. At number 95 is the popular Pois Café for a refreshing drink or meal.

  8. At the end of the street you’ll see a tiled building and the back of the medieval cathedral by orange trees.

END OF TOUR as described on printed out sheets

If you are a glutton for punishment, you can go around the cathedral, up the hill again (Rua Augusto Rosa), you’ll see souvenir and antique shops - between numbers 40 and 42 is also the entrance to the free Roman Theater Museum for the story of Roman Lisbon – and at 40 Rua Augusto is “A Arte da Terra” shop which sells quirky high-end souveniers, and eventually you reach your starting point, the Portas do Sol viewpoint. At this point you may choose to relax and enjoy the view, or take tram 28 (or walk following its tracks) to the monastery of São Vicente de Fora or all the way to the Graça viewpoint.

If this step is not your cuppa rosie, then simply head to your right along the river (the main Apolonia train station is a block or two from here with its free Wi-Fi as is the Maritime Museum) and in about 5-10 minutes you will be at the southern end of Black Horse Square having experienced a bit of Lisbon.

Rossio is the finish line for a popular 10Km run through the city tonight and there are teams in different colored jerseys sporting pinned on numbers all over the place. The massive sound systems in the plaza are alternatively blaring fado music and indecipherable announcements in Portuguese. While it’s not a long race, it must be murder to run up/down the hills on cobblestones.

Our general rule when choosing a restaurant is to look for a crowded place full of locals, avoid any restaurant which has to depend on touts pulling tourists in from the street and to especially avoid any pandering to a specific nationality of tourist (like hanging a Union Jack or American flag). While not a factor in Lisbon, in cities which grade restaurants on the sanitation and food safety of their kitchens, like New York City, we only eat in “A” rated places, regardless of their reputation.

Dinner was across Rossio at Solar 31 (Calcade do Garcia, 31), a seafood restaurant “up the ramp” (uphill street parallel to rue Barros Queiros) from the tourist traps of Rossio. In a word, the food was fantastic and reasonably priced.

Afterwards, we walked through the madhouse rundown “charm” of the Alfama on Saturday night (getting directions from a waiter at the Cozinha de Mercado e de Tacho restaurant at at rue Remedios, 127 who claimed the restaurant had a magician rather than a chef) and, at midnight, got to A Tasca do Chico (at rue Remedios, 83 in the Alfama – they have another location as well in the Bairro Alto at rue Diario de Noticias, 39. Surprisingly, the restaurant had a table available and, because of the hour, was no longer serving dinner (the problem with many fado joints is that the food is mediocre and very expensive). We stayed for two half hour fado sets for the price of a beer (3 Euros) and were so embarrassed by the low price, left 10 Euros for the two of us. When we left, at 1AM, the Alfama was still running on all cylinders with music blaring, kids drinking and parties all over – reminiscent of the even more boisterous nightlife of the Bairro Alto. Since the Metro was closed for the night, taking a cab back to the hotel was a no-brainer.

In the past, we’ve eaten at As Pretas (Rua do Vigário, 70 in Alfama) and then showed up later at Fora de Moda (Largo Santo Estevao, 9A in Alfama) for fado late at night. This place didn’t have a cover charge and the professionally staged show cost us a coffee/tea/beer/wine or whatever.

Another option for fado in the Alfama could be at Mesa de Frades (at rue Remedios, 139). While many tourists go early to these places and end up eating overpriced mediocre food to listen to fado, after about 11PM, you can listen for the price of a beer or a wine. There is also fado to be heard in the Barrio Alto neighborhood. A Severa, Adigo do Ribotejo as well as another branch of Tasca do Xico are three that I’ve heard are good, but have not personally gone to any of them.

The fado places in Alfama are open on Sunday, but closed on Monday night. The fado places in the Barrio Alto are the reverse (closed on Sunday, but open on Monday nights).

Uggg! The morning after?. After a mediocre breakfast (our favorite place was closed on Sunday and we made due with another place) we decided to scope out a restaurant in the Bairro Alto we are considering for dinner (since many areas in that neighborhood are awkward to reach from “down below”). The restaurant, “Sacramento” is on Calcada do Sacramento which ended being up about 30 meters from “ground level” (really, there doesn’t seem to be one in Lisbon).

After climbing to the next level of the hill, we stopped for a while to wander in the Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Portuguese: Convento da Ordem do Carmo). Construction of the Carmelite convent was begun in 1393 as an adjunct to a monastery founded in 1389.

The medieval convent was ruined during the sequence of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and the destroyed Gothic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Portuguese: Igreja do Carmo) on the southern facade of the convent is the main trace of the great earthquake still visible in the old city.

Lisbon’s Museum of Archaeology is housed in the ruins of the 14th century cathedral. Normally there is a 3 Euro cost (which may be overspending to see its contents), but they are having a festival today and it’s free (so well worth the price). Incidentally, many museums, including those in Belem are free on the first Sunday of each month. If you think they are crowded on the average weekend (they are), you should see the mob on a day when they are for free.

After an additional climb to the restaurant, we decided to see if there was an easier way. About a block (downhill) away is the large Armazéns do Chiado shopping mall. By walking in the front door, you are actually walking onto the fifth floor. By crossing the floor to the opposite side and taking the elevator to the first floor, you will be dropping to the street level above the Baixa –Chiado Metro station and be more or less on a level with Rossio. While there is still a steep ramp to get to the restaurant, it’s only a block long and this shortcut saves most of the climbing (of course, we’ll have to reverse the process when we visit it to eat).

While many line up to pay for the elaborate antique elevator to the Barrio Alto neighborhood, we elected to head to the “hidden” entrance, (next to the Baixa –Chiado Metro station,) to the large Armazéns do Chiado shopping mall and taking its elevator up (to the 5th floor) instead. There is a good food court on its 6th floor with plenty of fresh/healthy food, but this is Lisbon and it’s a shame to eat fast food when there’s so much good local food available.

Tonight’s dinner started with the Portuguese equivalent to tapas and wine on the ground floor of Cante Alentejano (Rue Portas de Santo Antao, 58), a former palace turned into a Moorish casino, turned into a restaurant. This was followed by roasted chicken and vegetables at Rei da Brasa around the corner. These were based on a recommendation to another couple we’re eating with – the tapas thingies were better than the chicken.

It’s a shame that we haven’t spent time on the beach and we’ve decided to cure this deficiency by heading back to Cascais for the day. The McDonalds across from the train station’s toilet is far cleaner than the one in the station. We got to the beach resort town at lunchtime and had a wonderful meal at the Reserva restaurant in the Villa Cascais guesthouse. The place looks as wonderful as the meal (www.thealbatrozcollection.com). I particularly recommend the dried, cured tuna and the cured salmon.

On one of the beaches, the CasCas lounge rental place (Wi-Fi- PW: cascas100) rents lounges for 6 Euros each and umbrellas (large enough for three lounge chairs at 8 Euros. The toilet of their domain is spotless.

After returning to Lisbon, dinner was at Sacramento in the Bairro Alto (Calcoda do Sacramento). The climb to the restaurant is significant (about 30 meters vertical rise), the ambiance lovely, the service great, and the food excellent – though no better than some of the other places we’ve eaten at here, while costing as much as double (sort of the type of place locals would go to on an anniversary). The place is crowded and I would strongly recommend making reservations if you intend to eat here.

We heard on the news today that a bomb went off in Istanbul killing two, but not in a district we’ve frequented and targeted towards police rather than tourists. While tragic, not a particular concern if/when we return.

And now, it’s time to pack for tomorrow’s boarding of the Oceania Cruise Line’s Marina. The morning saw us top off the wine bottles we’re bringing aboard. Also, my wife got the “happy hour” low morning prices at “Martins Hairdressing” at 27C Rua da Sainta Marta a couple of blocks from our hotel (8 euro wash/blow + 2 Euro for conditioner + 20 Euro for color, 5 Euro for mani, 10 Eur

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