With just a few hours of driving ahead of us, I took the wheel for the journey. We decided to give the toll roads a chance, mainly to save time, and to see if Portuguese law enforcement was on the lookout for us. The drive went smoothly, passing through two manned toll stations, both of which took our money and waived us on. Fees were hefty though, at a little under 15 Euros in cash and 21.85 we charged, one of the few times a machine actually took a debit card; curiously the charge still hasn’t shown up against my bank account.
We arrived at Lisboa Camping on a scorching day, well over 100 degrees. This is a large campground with impressive facilities, including a mini-market, washers and dryers, a snack bar, pool and other recreational opportunities. For the first time on the trip we would set the tent up in an open area, not a defined pitch, as had been the case to date. The sites were hilly, so it took us a bit of time to find a level spot with the right type of access to water and restrooms.
We didn’t feel much like cooking or shopping so wandered down to the snack bar to discover that they had cold beer on draft, a pint (red cup sized) costing just 2.5 Euros. Given the heat and the drive down, we didn’t feel like cooking and so decided to test out the snack bar, ordering a couple of sandwiches, one a pork filet, both with fries that ran us 12.40 Euros. Content with our circumstances, we removed ourselves to a smaller covered part of the patio, ordered another beer and proceeded to take advantage of what would prove to be the best wireless coverage we’d experienced to date.
As has become our routine, we decided to head into Lisbon for a day of sightseeing. The bus stop was a jog down the road from the campsite and when we arrived around 10am, it was full of other folks from camp also waiting to get into town. The bus ride itself took about 25 minutes, depending on traffic and deposited us at the end of the line in Praca (Plaza) de Figueira, a central location for us to begin one of three walking tours outlined in the Steves guidebook.
We purchased a full day transit pass to enable us to move around at will so we walked through the Praca Rossio and up to the Praca Restauradores where we hopped on the Elevador da Gloria funicular to take us up to the Bairro Alto where we would begin our tour. We walked a short distance to the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara, a park and viewpoint where you can see the twin towers of the cathedral, the ramparts of the castle and a bit of the Rio (River) Tejo as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
We began our tour, passing on the Port Wine Institute (directly across from the funicular), a strategic decision that may come as a shock to faithful followers of this blog, given our predilection for the consumption of all things alcoholic. But, it was before noon and we did have an agenda, one that would include a beer just a few stops down the road at Cervejaria Trinidade, Portugal’s oldest brewery located in a former monastery. A cold dark beer lent just the right touch to our short stay in this very beautiful facility, with extensive tile work covering the walls.
We walked out to the praca in front of the Convento do Carmo, which was closed for renovation and then out to the Elvador de Santa Justa where, thinking we were riding to the top, actually rode down to the bottom. Fortunately we had the all day transit pass so the conductor kindly let us ride back up, reminding us that pickpockets were prevalent on the top level, which we would need to walk up to. Upon arrival, we discovered that it would cost 1.2 Euro apiece to get a slightly better view than we already had, so we walked down the hill to the Baixa-Chiado district to visit the Café A Brasileira, a favored haunt of Lisbon’s intellectuals and home to the signature pastry of Lisbon, the pastel de nata, a flaky crust shell containing a sinfully good egg custard filing.
We ordered two cafe con leite’s and a pastel de nata and indeed it was a good as promised, a little like having a warm crème brulee inside of a filo dough crust. From there we descended through the multi-story shopping mall, the Armazens do Chiado and exiting at the bottom level and made our way to trolley number 12E which would take us up the hill to the castle.
As is to be expected with us, we overshot the trolley stop for the Sao Jorge castle and ended up at the top of the hill. We spotted the castle in the distance and walked a bit of distance to find the entrance. After consulting the Steves guide, we decided it wasn’t necessarily worth spending money on a tour so walked back down the hill through the Alfama the colorful sailors quarter that dates back to the age of the Visigoth occupation, from the sixth to eighth centuries AD. Full of a very narrow and convoluted street plan, it is one of the few areas in Lisbon to have survived the devastating earthquake of 1755.
We made our way to the bus stop back to camp and upon arrival hit the mini-market for dinner ingredients, nothing exotic, just camp food as we know it. We bought a bottle of beer, which went quickly back in camp, leaving us with no other option but to head back down to the snack bar for more cold draft beer to consume while we caught up on mail, the blog, and all the other things that cold beer makes it easier to do. Sometimes, you just have to take one for the team.
Lisboa Camping: http://www.lisboacamping.com/
Elevador da Glória: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elevador_da_Gl%C3%B3ria
Cervejaria Trinidade: http://www.cervejariatrindade.pt/trindade_english.html
Carmo Convent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmo_Convent_(Lisbon)
Elevador de Santa Justa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Justa_Lift
Café A Brasileira: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caf%C3%A9_A_Brasileira
Armazens do Chiado: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g189158-d207166-Reviews-Armazens_do_Chiado-Lisbon_Estremadura.html
Sao Jorge Castle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A3o_Jorge_Castle
The Alfama: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfama