My sister and I had endeavoured to spend a 4-day extended weekend in Lisbon, December of 2012. We were traveling from Grenoble, where it had snowed all day and all night. In spite of the snow, the bus taking us to Lyon International Airport left on time. However 20 minutes into the journey, it took a U-turn and dropped us right back where we started. No explanations were given, the bus driver and conductor brought the bus back to the depot, exited and left all the passengers wondering if they should wait, stay or go! Apparently, they expect us to all process inherent mind reading skills.
After waiting for what seemed an eternity, a few passengers became belligerent. On heavy probing we finally found out that the roads were closed due to the snow and would not re-open till the next morning. We had very little time in hand to manipulate since we were to catch a late Friday evening flight to Lisbon and it was already close to 5 pm. We decided to take the train to Lyon and use the airport shuttle from the train station to the departure terminal. We ran over platforms, people and luggage and managed to catch the fastest train we could find to reach with less than 2 hours to spare. The airport shuttle from Lyon took ages to come, so there, sitting at the bus depot, in the rain, we changed / cancelled our bookings to Lisbon. Resigning ourselves to the fate that we were stuck in France for yet another cold and gloomy weekend, checked ourselves into a hotel in Lyon. I’m not sure what propelled us to move the next morning, perhaps the never-ending cold, but we woke up with the same plan, to try to get to Lisbon, again! We spent 4 hours at the Lyon airport waiting for the next flight and finally landed in Lisbon on very late Saturday night.
Lisbon, is a city built on 7 hills, like San Francisco, Amman, Rome, Istanbul, Edinburgh and Bergen. We had 48 hours to explore the city and we honed in on the neighbourhoods to explore –
Chiado, the shopping district perched on a hill, west of Baixa, the central business district.
Barrio Alto, meaning Upper District, can be reached on continuing upwards from Chidao. Barrio Alto, a fundamental quarter of Lisbon, resulting from the urban expansion in the 16th century, is situated outside the walls of the ancient city.
Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon, whose name comes from the Arabic term Al-hamma. The neighbourhood contains important historical attractions including Fado bars and restaurants.
Belém whose name is derived from the Portuguese word for Bethlehem, is the southwesternmost civil parish of the municipality of Lisbon.
We rented a room in an independent, cute, tiny hotel called Casa do Pátio Lisboa (http://shiadu.com/Portugal/Lisbon/Casa-do-Patio/home#cpatio) located strategically between Barrio Alto and Chidao.
Sunday morning, we took the city train to Belém to see the Jerónimos Monastery located near the shore of the parish of Belém. The monastery is one of the most prominent monuments of the Portuguese Late Gothic (Manueline-style) architecture in Lisbon, classified in 1983 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On our way out of Belém, we wanted to stop at Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon’s oldest bakery that started making pasteis in 1837, to pick a few up for our journey back. But the queue outside was so long we decided against it. Pasteis is a Portuguese egg tart pastry, similar to the Chinese egg tarts I am accustomed to eating in Singapore. We spent the rest of the day walking from our hotel, through Chiado and Barrio Alto, going up and down the steep hills and through narrow passage ways.
My favourite part of Lisbon has to be their ancient tram system and old tram trains. Tram 28 is a great way to see the old city including Alfama and what we took the next day to get to the Castle of São Jorge. The Moorish castle occupies a commanding hilltop stance overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon and the Tagus river and is a great spot to get a panoramic photograph with the Vasco da Gama bridge in the background.
The weather was wonderful, people friendly and so kind, food amazing and after pitchers of port and sangria we did not want to leave! Lisboa, I will most definitely be back.