Lisbon, Belem, Sintra and Cascais
We spent the last 5 days in Lisbon, with day trips to some of the nearby cities. On our first day, we just wandered the city. In an amazing race fail, we ran up a decent hill only to find the castle had closed 5 minutes prior. Sad day, as the epic sunset from the castle grounds was probably pretty fantastic. The fail can be largely attributed to the fact that Lisbon is quite hilly and while the castle was only 3 blocks from our apartment, it was also +600ft up. We used it as a good excuse for exercise.
On Day 2, we took another New Europe tour. Lots of good information, with an overly confident tour guide who was way too cool for us….just ask him. To his credit, we went inside a pretty cool church – that was quite plain from the outside but awesome on the inside (Church of Sao Roque). There are 8 chapels in this church, and 1 of them cost upwards of $3 trillion dollars. The cost includes the cost of materials – solid gold – and the additional cost to disassemble the chapel, get it to Rome, reassemble, get it blessed by the pope, disassemble, get it back to Lisbon, then reassemble 1 last time. Which apparently cost less than just getting the pope to Lisbon. Go figure.
Day 3 was wet. Like really really wet. Soaked shoes, unhappy campers etc. But we pushed on. Belem is a quick tram ride from Lisbon and home to the Jeronimo Monastery and Pasteis de Belem. Basically a church and a bakery, among other things.
We visited the Jeronimo Monastery first. And to be honest, we were “churched-out” at that point. The church is free, but the cloisters cost €10 each. They were maybe worth €5 (and I’m being generous). A cloister is basically an open space/courtyard surrounded by a covered walkway. All the ones we visited were square-ish shaped. This was one of the few times Rick Steves let us down. I’m not sure how cloisters can be amazing…..but these were not amazing.
I just saved you €10.
Nick had read about a maritime museum not far from the monastery. This was an adventure. Between the puddle and downpour, we were pretty much soaked. And in an attempt to jump over a puddle, I smacked my knee against a road sign….don’t ask. Large purple bruise followed. We arrived at the museum, only to find out it’s shaped like a “U” and we had passed the entrance….we were at the exit. Back across the puddle landmines and we were finally at the maritime museum. And Nick was in heaven. The kid loves maps, and the first thing we saw was a gigantic map.
The rest of the museum was filled with more maps and model ships. They also had original quarters from a fancy-person yacht. It reminded me of the rooms in Titanic.
After leaving the museum, we headed for Pasteis de Belem, the home of the original Portuguese custard tart. We’d already had our fair share of these tarts, but these were definitely the best. Quite possibly a result of the tarts being served warm. 10 times better than a cold tart. A few tarts, hot chocolate, and chicken pockets later we were ready to face the elements one more time.
Nick said it best, “From this spot some of the world’s greatest explorers set sail into the unknown in the 15th and 16th centuries. And to think sometimes the idea of finding a parking space in San Francisco stresses me out.”
And by this time, we were thoroughly soaked and cold and ready to head back to our apartment.
Day 4 was another rainy-ish day spent in Sintra. But on this day, we sucked up our Seattle-pride and brought the umbrella (to be fair, we didn’t notice the umbrella until we returned from our previous rainy day outing).
There are a handful of cool things in Sintra, a few more famous than others. We started out at Quinta da Regaleira. A super cool estate with underground caves and grottoes.
Caves are a wonderful thing when it’s raining
We then headed to the more famous Moores Castle and Pena Palace.
A number of times I commented that this was way better than the cloisters from the previous day, so just keep that in mind if you’re on a budget or short on time
We ended the day with a bus ride south to Cascais, to have dinner with a friend from high school! Would have loved to explore Cascais a bit longer, but will have to make another trip out to Portugal for that!
It was another great trip abroad! Where to next?!