Portugal is for everyone!
If you love the beaches and want to dive- Just turn west on any road!
If you love the mountains and nature, plus complimentary palaces- Take a trip to Sintra!
Wanna Skydive on the cheap and see an eery Skull Palace- Evora is your destination!
Want to listen to soulful music that you won’t have a clue about- Go to a Fado bar, or/and buy a CD signed by the artist!
You are sweet toothed- Doesn’t get better than the iconic Pastel de Nata!
Wanna get ripped off at the metro station in the name of helping get tickets for the right station- Lisbon metro (I agree, one is not an ideal sample size, but still)
The only oddity is that they hate their prodigal son. Cristiano Ronaldo. Without exceptions! Football fans will get this:)
Our trip to Lisboa was destined to be reminiscent of Goa in India. Goa, being an old Portuguese colony had left some of its charms on our minds. So when we visited Portugal, we got Goa and a lot more.
To start off, our tour guide from We Hate Tourism Tours, Marcos Sobral had probably seen more India than me. His photo at Varanasi had also won the National Geographic Best photo contest. So an auspicious beginning one would say. Given our connections to the other’s country.
Portuguese are weirdly sociable people. A little ‘uneuropean’. Let me explain…
They will talk to just about anyone and seem to spend the majority of their days in the company of others. Walking down the street in Lisboa, you’ll see people sitting outside their homes or restaurants and talking to neighbors and strangers with equal elan. You’ll witness couples kissing, kids kicking soccer balls, and old men chatting loudly. The people are tightly interconnected with one another, which is especially refreshing from other Europeans where technology has largely replaced interpersonal communication. On the whole, they are more open and more extroverted than their European counterparts. People are generally fun-loving, friendly and happy-go-lucky in nature.
Travel and exploration have played an important role in shaping the identity of the Portuguese people and this continues to reflect in their culture and people. Their major heroes are also explorers. Like Vasco da Gama & Ferdinand Magellan. Vasco da Gama died in 1524 and was originally buried at St Francis church in Kochi, India. After a few years his remains were then shifted to the Jeronimo’s Monastery in Lisbon.
There are more than a few monuments dedicated to their discoveries and discoverers. Check out the ‘Padrão dos Descobrimentos’ or the Monument of Discoveries dedicated to the country’s explorers on the banks of Tagus river.
And then there is the iconic Belem tower. Designed to be a watch tower and entry point to Lisbon along the Tagus from the sea, the Limestone tower was built on a small island along the shore.
The next day we headed to the hilltop, ‘Castelo de São Jorge’. It was built by the Moors in the mid-11th century and was the last defensive stronghold. After Dom Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon on October 25th, 1147, to become the first king of Portugal, the Castelo de Sao Jorge began its golden age as the home for the royalty. The old Moorish period buildings were modified and enlarged to receive the king, his court, and the bishop, as well as the Royal Archives in one of the castle towers. Once the Portuguese kings had transformed the Castelo de Sao Jorge into a royal palace in the 13th century, it was chosen to receive many notable Portuguese and foreign figures, as well as hold festivities as well as coronations during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Today it offers unparalleled views of the city.
While you are at it, also ride aboard the Lisbon trams. For a few euros, it2 will take you through the major neighborhoods of central Lisbon like Baixa, Graça, Alfama and Estrela. It’s a fun way to see the city.
After a long day checking out the sights, we thought a traditional music touch was needed. What better than the soulful Fado. The singer of Fado (literally, “fate”) speaks of lost love or realities of everyday life, sometimes with a sense of resignation or dejection. This emotional rendition is performed by either a female or a male vocalist, typically to the accompaniment of one or two guitarras (10- or 12-string guitars), one or two violas (6-string guitars), and perhaps also a viola baixo (a small 8-string bass viola). Often enriched with an array of emotive bodily gestures and facial expressions, fado aims at a sense of saudade (roughly, “yearning”). The whole experience in Fado bars is sometimes a little too emotional for the audience as evidenced by the tearful eyes. We however just wanted to enjoy the music and expected to be clueless to what it actually meant.
On our tour guide’s recommendation, we went to Mesa de Frades, an old church, now a famous Fado bar. It is tucked in a side street and may be difficult to find. But worth the hassle.
Pastel de Nata or Pastel de Belem are killer egg-custard tarts that are now world famous. Just a small bite from it will make you realize why. Its puffy-layered goodness and yummy center will literally melt in your mouth. In some places, you need to queue up for close to half-hour to lay your hand on one. You need to definitely taste it before you leave Lisbon. Trust me on that. This truly is the king of desserts here.
And when you get your fill, just stroll through character filled districts and burn that tart. And just when it’s done, reload with Churros.
Visa for Indians: As a part of the Schengen countries; you will need a pre-approved visa to get in. I used VFS global. Takes about a week.
If Lisbon is not enough; you can always do some amazing day trips from here.
What I Read: Ever imagined the Iberian peninsula(Composed mainly of Portugal and Spain) drifting away in the sea. Jose Saramago did and wrote this masterpiece. ‘The Stone Raft‘. A story of five people stranded on the peninsula.
What I Saw: A Mother and daughter’s voyage from Lisbon across to India. A real travel lust film.