Meeting a Friend in Lisbon, Portugal

Street art in Lisbon

So… so… so there I was, just minding my own business, when a friend from Playa del Carmen, México, texts me out of the blue! What are you up to? Well, I’m finishing up my six-month trip to Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic and looking forward to Portugal next. Turns out she is also heading to Portugal by sheer coincidence. How cool is that?!? What a small world. We have to meet up there!

Coordinating schedules

There was a lot of research trying to figure out where to meet. She was hitting up Lisbon first and then heading north to Porto just as I was arriving in Portugal. This unfortunately meant I would be in Peniche while she was all the way up north. The trip to visit was too far on the bus or train. Also, as I will have just arrived, I expected to be dealing with a ton of jetlag and travel exhaustion. I was determined, though.

Lisbon streetcar
Take the streetcar uphill and walk down. Smart!

Lucky for me, she planned on flying out of Lisbon. That is a real quick bus trip from where I am! We planned to meet up for dinner, so I needed a place to stay. You know what that means? I get to stay and explore Lisbon! She was staying up by the airport but I decided on a cute apartment near Old Town (for two nights). They have an amazing subway system in Lisbon, but I prefer walking and wanted to be closer to more of the sights.

Right after arriving in Peniche, I started packing for a quick trip to Lisbon. I didn’t need much as I was only staying two nights. The plan was to get up early on Sunday and catch a bus to the big city. Jetlag caught up to me! I could not get up in a timely manner no matter how hard I tried! It didn’t help that I was used to waking up to really bright tropical sunshine. This apartment is much farther north and only has opaque windows, making the morning light barely register until well past “morning”.

Peniche to Lisbon (Lisboa)

No worries. I had plenty of time before I could even check into my apartment. What freaked me out is that when I got to the bus station, it was closed… and there was no one around. Oh, crap! But you could still buy tickets online, so I figured a bus would show up eventually. Right? Soon, others showed up with similar concerns. Eventually, the bus arrived, to everyone’s relief.

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of Lisbon palace
Check out that palace behind me! This is just one of the many overlooks on the walk to the castle.

One couple was there only because the dude had left his bag on the bus yesterday. Hoping to check lost-and-found, it disheartened them to find the Peniche bus station completely closed. They had to buy tickets and travel all the way back to Lisbon to collect his bag. That would suck! I know all about losing luggage at this point. It’s no fun. The ride was pleasant and uneventful. That countryside on the route from Peniche to Lisbon is gorgeous.

No bathroom on the bus so I was very surprised to find that the bus-station in Lisbon charged an entire euro to use their bathroom. I was glad they had a bathroom and made a mental note to save single euros for just such occasions. When you gotta pee, you gotta pee! The plan was to head to the giant park by the bus station for a sack lunch (I planned ahead!).

The park (Jardim Amália Rodrigues)

The park is massive, which makes it very easy to find an available bench in a lovely shaded spot overlooking a fountain. I sat down to eat my gluten-free sandwich (the gluten-free bread here is so freaking good!). Did you know they have Segway tours here? I haven’t seen one of those in a long time. Those tours are way fun to watch.

Fun statue in one of Lisbon's many parks
Had lunch in the shade by this fun statue in the park. Go art!

After lunch, I started down the hill. From everything I have been reading about Lisbon, you want to take a bus, subway, tram, funicular, Tuk Tuk, anything to get you up hill. Then you just walk down while enjoying all the amazing views of the city and art. Super smart! I had this grand plan of making it to downtown but it was getting late. I kept getting distracted by all the old architecture. Plus, they were having a book fair in the park. How cool is that?

After much wishing I had woken up earlier to enjoy more of the park, I took my leave to find my apartment. I got to the door just in the nick of time. The apartment was very cute with an amazing balcony with a view of the castle. A castle!!! Unfortunately, the bathroom smelled really, really bad. Like raw sewage. The entire building was having some kind of issue. I opened up the bathroom and stuck a fan in there to air it out and then headed to meet my friend visiting from México.

Back to the subway!

The area where my friend is staying is fairly new and modern, with some cool-looking buildings, malls, and World Expo facilities. It is right on the Tagus River waterfront with views of this massive bridge. There is even a gondola ride! Too expensive for my budget (plus I’m not a fan of heights) but really fun to see. There are so many restaurants. We just walked around until we found one that looked delicious.

Water art sculpture in a park
This water feature scared me when I got too close. It splushes water like a volcano!

Unfortunately, despite the look of the menu, there were only two items that were gluten-free: whole fish (dorado) or whole fish (robalo/sea bass). Guess I was getting grilled whole fish! Luckily I love dorado so I was happy. With whole fish, you have to remove the bones yourself, but you get the really tasty bits like the cheeks and the eyes. Noms! Plus, it was huge, and I brought a storage-container for leftovers. Thanks for dinner, Friend!

After delicious food and wine, we walked around for a bit to see all the sights. We found these impressive water fountains. One looked like it was having some kind of issue. We got closer to see what was what. Suddenly, water explodes out of this thing, scaring the crap out of us and sending us running! I suspect someone has a hidden camera around there to watch people get freaked out by this thing. Or it just got clogged and then violently unclogged! Nervous laughing.

Saying goodbye, again

I had a really great time chatting it up about all kinds of things with my friend. She’s originally from Canada but retired in México, which is where we became friends (at an expat meet and greet). It’s entertaining comparing the different countries. I’m so glad she contacted me before her trip to Portugal. You never know where paths will cross! Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye again and head our separate ways. Until next time!

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of Lisbon statue
So much history in Lisbon! This is on the way to the roofless church.

The metro back to my apartment was easy-peasy, and I popped out from the subway half a block away. No worries. I managed to dissipate most of the sewage smell from my bathroom, but now the entire apartment smelled. Opening all the windows helped tremendously. Time to get some sleep because I have a ridiculous amount of touristy stuff to do tomorrow! Lisbon, here I come!

Woke up and realized my coffee maker didn’t come with any coffee. Crap! I ate the leftover fish and potatoes that my friend bought me for dinner the night before, but I’m going to need some coffee. I headed out into the world. Here’s my thought: you have to pay one euro for the bathroom unless you buy something at a café. Coffee costs 0.70 euros. I got this!

All the Lisbon things

There are a ton of things to do in Lisbon, which required me to do a bit of research to figure out what I wanted to see and how to get there. The plan was to buy a day pass for the subway/bus system and ride to each site. But I really enjoy walking. You get to see so much more above ground moving slowly. Could I walk to each site? Or maybe just grab a metro between any really distant locations?

The roof-less church in Lisbon
This church’s nave lost its roof in the 1755 earthquake. Now it’s an amazing museum.

First things first: Carmo Convent Museu Arqueológico do Carmo. This is a massive church that had most of its roof cave in during the devastating 1755 earthquake. You see pictures of it anytime you see pictures of Lisbon. It’s very impressive and has been turned into a museum for the public to view. It’s a must see. And a thirty-minute walk from my apartment. Let’s go!

There’s a lot of history around the 1755 earthquake and it was fun to eavesdrop on some of the tour guides talking about it. Besides structural damage from the quake, there was a huge fire (from candles falling over) that ripped through the wooden areas of the city. The townspeople ran down to the river to escape the fire and a bunch of them died when a resulting tsunami hit the area. Add in some flooding and you have a lot of devastation all at once. They rebuilt many buildings using stone.

Lunch… and coffee… finally!

After the church museum, I headed around back to The Lisbon Elevator (Santa Justa Lift). They built the steam engine-powered elevator around 1900. It’s very ‘Steam Punk’ and, therefore, very cool looking. The elevator converted to clean electrical power just a few years later, but it retains the steam punk vibes. It links the lower levels of the city with the upper levels. It costs about five euros to ride and the wait time in the line to get on is about an hour. Nope.

The Lisbon Elevator as seen from below
How gorgeous is this elevator!?! The line to take it up is very long. I started uphill and walked down for free!

You can skip all that by taking the stairs around the backside. I actually started in the upper levels of the city (smart!) so I just walked around the church museum to the gorgeous viewing platform at the top of the lift. Just amazing views of all of Lisbon! It’s really high up, which I’m not a fan of, but still really wonderful. I got loads of pictures! For free! Also, the viewing platform was closed while I was there, so I had the exact-same view as the people that paid (and waited) to ride the elevator. Okay, I really need coffee. I could also use some lunch.

After picking out an adorable restaurant close by, I waited oh so patiently for them to open. And people watched. So many tourists from all different backgrounds and nationalities with so many languages. At the restaurant, I ordered the grilled sardines (huge but delicious and I had leftovers!) and a coffee. Sigh. Have you seen Portuguese coffee? It tastes fine but comes in a tiny shot-glass. I’m from Seattle. I need it in a pint-glass! Or a soup-bowl! At least I’m in tea territory again.

View from the top of the Lisbon Elevator
This is the view from the top of the Lisbon Elevator. You can see the castle off in the distance. It is really high up!

To the cemetery!

As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of cemeteries. They are so pretty and have so much history, especially in Europe! There are a bunch in Lisbon, but the one that looks the best is Cemitério dos Prazeres. It’s somewhat far from the restaurant, but looks worth the trek. The plan was, of course, to get a transport day pass and ride the bus. I didn’t do that. The bus stop was 10 minutes away with a 35 minute ride, and who knows how long of a wait. The walk was an hour. I’ll walk!

I am not sure if you know anything about Lisbon, but it has a lot of hills. A lot. It’s a bit like Seattle in that regard. I chose the flattest route, but it was still a lot of up and a lot of down and then some up again. “I was promised no hills!” The cemetery was worth it, as were some wonderful views along the way. I took a ton of pictures which made the walk all the more time consuming. So worth it.

One of the many cemetaries in Lisbon
This cemetery in Lisbon is so pretty. It was up on a hill which allowed for some lovely overlooks.

Lucky for me, the cemetery has a public (free!) bathroom. There is also an amazing view over The Tagus River Bridge (25 de Abril Bridge) which is the longest suspension bridge in the world. It looks a lot like the San Francisco Bay Bridge (same company worked on both bridges), which is really surreal to see. It would have been fun to walk over it, but that’s not allowed.

How do I get back to my neighborhood?

Okay, now I’m really, really far from my smelly apartment. I should get a bus to the metro. But wait, the metro stop is only 30 minutes walk from here. And it’s downhill! I’m in. There were even more beautiful overlooks on the route to the subway stop. I got lost a few times, but made consistent progress down to the Tagus River and followed some railroad tracks to the metro station.

It turns out that the Green Line from Old Town Lisbon is the most popular line as tourists and locals leave the area in the evening to stay in less expensive digs. Like me! I chatted with a family from Texas (originally from Canada!) about how busy the platform was getting, waiting for the same train. There were so many people… and they just kept coming.

Top of a hill in Lisbon
The hills in Lisbon are no joke! I was very tired after all the walking.

And I can’t even explain properly how packed it was. I had to push my way on and it was the first stop, so the train was empty to begin with. It was insanely busy and squishy. I didn’t have to hold on to anything (not that I could, as I’m very short). The packed bodies kept everyone from falling over as the train started, went around corners, and stopped at each stop.

Time for some Indian food

At each stop, I got squished further and further from the door. Once it was my time to exit, I just pushed and squeezed my way off the train like a sharp-elbowed dryad with much relief, “desculpe!”. I was extremely worried that I wouldn’t be able to get off at my station before the doors closed. That would have sucked! Back to my apartment for a quick break and a glass of wine on my amazing balcony (six floors up is really high, but it comes with a view of the castle!).

Time for dinner. I had already picked out this amazing Indian restaurant just down the street. I got a bit lost trying to find it, but it was worth it. The food was so good. It has been so long since I’ve had really wonderful Indian food. All that flavor and spice. Plus, add in some people watching as folks got home from work.

Lisbon castle with a peacock
He’s hard to see but there is a peacock right in front of the castle. I didn’t pay the entry fee so this is a close as I got.

The next day (after my grilled-sardine leftovers for breakfast!), I was determined to make it up to that castle I could see from my balcony (so high up!). Castelo de S. Jorge is just this fascinating castle out of a fairytale. It’s magnificent! And walkable from my apartment. Unfortunately, that hike is all uphill as the castle overlooks the entire city from high above. No elevator on this side.

Back to Peniche

I hiked all the way up to the castle, found out it cost 15 euros to enter, realized I needed to be back at my apartment for checkout soon, turned around, and walked back downhill. It was worth it though, as there were some amazing views along the way. And some great street art, which I love. No castle this time around. I was also starting to regret eating sardines two days in a row with every fishy-burp.

After grabbing my bag and checking out, I hit the metro to the bus station and purchased tickets back to Peniche. I only had to wait 20 minutes for the bus to pick me up. Lucky as it comes about every hour and a half and I didn’t check the schedule before leaving the apartment. I really enjoyed the countryside on the way home and managed to stay awake this time!

Thanks, Friend, for randomly texting me out of the blue and making plans to meet me in Lisbon. It was a fun side trip that was well worth it. We will have to meet up again in the future. Hopefully, other travel-friends will do the same!

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1 Comment

  1. I love reading these. Thank you for all the effort that is put into them.p! Cheers 🙂

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