Lisbon, Portugal – First Impressions

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You may have heard that I was in Lisbon for a week visiting my sister.  She still lives in Canada with her family, and 6 months ago gave birth to my beautiful niece.  I went to Canada two times last year, so this year a trans-Atlantic flight just wasn’t in the cards.  Instead, we we decided to meet up in Lisbon!

 

My sister did a three week tour of Portugal and the family and I joined them for the Lisbon portion of their vacation.

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Before this vacation I didn’t really know much about Lisbon or Portugal, but I knew I wanted to go!  A brief google image and pinterest search for “Lisbon” had me swooning over the landscape photographs of the city, the old-world charm and of course Portugal’s yummy custard tarts, Pastéis de Nata (which I now know should be eaten with a sprinkling of cinnamon!).

 

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Alfama

 

I find the most difficult thing about planning a vacation in an unknown city is deciding which area of the city to stay in.  I never want to be too far away from the tourist attractions (especially if I am there for under a week), because I don’t want to spend my precious time commuting (aka GETTING LOST).

I also never really count travel days as real days to explore the city, so even though we were there from Thursday to Tuesday, we really only had 4 days to see the city. If you want to see what I wore to the airport (dressing for travel is a thing in Italy!) I did a post about it here.

 

**As a side note, we ended up leaving on Wednesday and not Tuesday since TAP Airlines CANCELLED our direct flight home two DAYS IN A ROW!  I will blog about this eventually, but for now let’s just say that I ended up having 5 full days of sight seeing, one day of normal travel and one day of nightmareish travel! #neverflyTAP

 

I began my internet research and discovered that the Alfama area is Lisbon’s oldest and many would say most beautiful quarter.  It survived the 1755 Earthquake that destroyed much of the historic city so its buildings are covered with beautiful Portuguese patterned tiles in blues and whites that are very different from the rest of the city.  It also has spectacular views with many public terraces where you can stop and take a photo.

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I decided that if I was only going to be in Lisbon for a few days,  I wanted to maximize the amount of time I spent seeing beautiful things, so I searched for an apartment in Alfama.

 

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As I continued to research, I found that the Alfama area is not the easiest for strollers because the streets are narrow, they are cobblestone, many parts are MISSING sidewalks and they are all up or down hill….we’re talking 90° hills here people!  So then I started to research how I would/could get around the city.

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The most iconic way to travel in Lisbon is with the tram, specifically tram N°28, which will bring you to many of the tourist attractions including St. George’s Castle and the Baixa.   So I figured it would be best to find a place right on the Tram 28’s route so that I could visit the attractions without dealing with pushing my toddler’s stroller uphill or in areas with no sidewalks.

 

Tram 28 + Alfama – The Pros

  • Easy to get around and navigate to the important sites
  • No need to worry about walking narrow streets with a stroller
  • In some areas of Alfama the streets are SO NARROW that there is hardly room for a person on the sidewalk AND the tram….so watch out when the tram passes and get out of its way!

The Cons

  • These trams are PACKED with tourists at all times of the day (at least in mid-July)
  • They are pretty expensive considering how cheap the rest of Lisbon is
  • You MUST fold up your stroller before getting on
  • You may not find a seat
  • There is no air conditioning.  Fine for me, I live in Italy and am used to living in my own sweat, but for my sister and her family the hot and sometimes long rides packed into the tram like sardines while everyone sweat together were a little hard to bare
  • The BIGGEST CON was that my sister didn’t feel comfortable taking it!  She had to manage two kids and a stroller and she had heard that pickpockets run rampant on the trams, which was later confirmed by many a local…….so…….

So even though we were RIGHT at the TRAM’S stop, we hardly used this service!

 

Alfama is a beautiful part of the city, and I can easily say that the gorgeous tiled buildings were a sight I had never seen and could never imagine.  When I return to Portugal I will not hesitate to stay in this area again.

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That being said, I don’t think it was a good idea to stay there with a young kid!

 

I was WAY too nervous to ever let my toddler walk alone or even walk while holding my hand because the sidewalks are narrow and the trams are FAST.  Plus, when they say some areas may be missing sidewalks they are not kidding.  I think this is an area to visit but I recommend staying in another part of town, (closer to the Baixa perhaps) if you are visiting with young kids.

 

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Tomorrow I will post about our visit to the incredible St. George’s Castle, and after I’ve flushed out a few thoughts I will put together a Lisbon round up and also where you can eat gluten free meals…..not impossible, but not easy!

 

The People

 

Portuguese people are VERY friendly and helpful, they often go out of their way to help you.  For example, the owner of the little cafe across from the apartment we rented was kind enough to lend us a ladder when my husband locked us out of our apartment.  He then proceeded to break into our rental place!  Don’t worry, it was very easy!

 

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Portugal is cheap!  At least, it is cheap compared to Italy.  In Italy an espresso is between 1 euro and 1 euro and 10 euro cents, in Lisbon it was 65 cents.  Each day we had breakfast in the Cultura Portuguesa Cafe and Restaurant, everything was always yummy and fresh and we never spent more than a few euro.

 

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We had three course meals for 15 euro a person including wine and dessert and this was in the most touristy of areas! In Italy, we would have paid double that!   This is the first vacation where I have come back WITH money in my pocket because I didn’t spent what I had planned to.

 

In Lisbon you can fully experience all that that city has to offer without counting pennies.  We did many of the tourist attractions and balanced them out with long strolls along the shoreline, wandering through the city’s streets and passing many an hour at the table eating!

 

All in all, this vacation to Lisbon taught me more about myself and how I have to change my travel expectations now that I have a little person in tow as opposed to really formulating an opinion about the city.

Have a great Thursday! In case you haven’t entered I have a  giveaway going on, I think it will be the first of many giving away the things I get for free!

 

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  • I’m totally shuddering thinking your flight was delayed. That’s beyond horrible. Lisbon looks like one of those cities that is both perfect and hard to visit. It looks so… different then Italy – in a gorgeous way. Those trams. Hmm.. I bet they are a lot like the Roman metro – so perfect yet so horrrrrible in a secret way! Can’t wait to see more (my dads kicking me off his computer haha).

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  • Gosh it must be nearly 10 years since I was in Lisbon…but I can still taste that custard tart!! Loved looking at your photos and reminiscing but so sorry to hear about you’re flight home :-/ xxx

    #allaboutyou

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