Portugal 2019/Part 7–

The entrance to my hotel had two doors to walk through before stepping into the lobby, or of course the opposite way, stepping out to the street. One door said, “push” and the other door said, “pull.” It was written in plain English, and I still did the wrong thing every single time I tried to enter and leave the building. It drove me CRAZY! I finally had to put it to song…”First you push, push, push…then you pull, pull, pull!”

I finally decided that it was a great “people watching mechanism,” and I was able to humor myself on several occasions while I waited for Christina & Sussie to pick me up in the taxi. I would watch a person approach, and most did it the wrong way on the first try. Each one would step back, look at the door, and then shake their head. I imagined them thinking–this is the dumbest thing that I’ve ever seen!

First you push, push, push…then you pull, pull, pull!

Gin Lovers Bar & Restaurant

Portugal 2019/Part 6-

After spending most of the day at the LxFactory, we decided to head back to our hotels to relax for a bit before heading back out again. Christina dropped us off, and then picked us up again when we were ready.

Our taxi driver, Christina, would stand out in a crowd with her long nails! We wanted to arrange for her to pick us up on Tuesday, but she already had an appointment scheduled to get her nails done. She said that she was going to get an ocean/beach theme. We couldn’t wait to see them!

Christina asked if we liked gin, and when we told her that we did, she told us that she knew the perfect place to take us. She had already made dinner reservations for us, and she thought we could have a before dinner drink at the Gin Lovers Bar & Restaurant. When we arrived, we found out that a special Fado event was happening, and that the bar was closed until the singing was over. It was scheduled to conclude at 8:00 p.m., the exact same time that we had our dinner reservation at a different restaurant.

We were disappointed, but Sussie sweet talked the guy at the door and she convinced him to let us into the bar, which was located behind the Fado room. We had to wait until the end of a song before we could enter, and as we waited we could hear the Fado music through the closed door. Fado is traditional Portuguese music that typically consists of a solo singer and a guitarist. The theme of the music is deeply nostalgic, often focusing on the harsh realities of life.

We were escorted to the back, and the gal behind the bar greeted us and began by asking which was our favorite gin, and about whether we preferred citrus, juniper, etc. She asked several other questions and then began making our drinks. I am by no means an authority on G&T’s, but she knew what she was doing! Our drinks were delicious!

I was actually disappointed when it was time to leave for dinner. Next time, I would plan to stay here longer. We headed out and walked about 7-8 minutes before arriving at our restaurant. The streets were filled with people, both walking and dining at little outdoor restaurants, creating a really nice vibe.

We shared an appetizer of fried fish cakes and we all ordered Bacalhau (salted cod), which is a typical Portuguese dish. Ours was roasted in olive oil and garlic, and served on a bed of cabbage with roasted potatoes on the side.

I wasn’t a fan, and it was the only dish that I had during my stay in Portugal that I really didn’t care for. I won’t rule Bacalhau out in the future, but this restaurant didn’t win me over. We had great wine, the fish cakes were good, and we had a wonderful evening in spite of the fish!


Portugal 2019/Part 5–

Christina, our taxi driver from yesterday, picked us up from our hotels and brought us to the LxFactory in the morning. She spoke English very well. She was really friendly and answered all of our questions about the area, and she filled us in on good places to eat and drink, and good sites for sightseeing.

The LxFactory is located in an old manufacturing complex nestled under the Ponte de 25 Abril Bridge. Framed in street art, it’s and indoor/outdoor market that’s home to restaurants, bars, artists selling their products, and kitschy shops that sell all sorts of stuff that you don’t really need, but you end up buying anyway! The FxFactory is a fun place to explore.

We got the market early and we were easily able to walk around from stand to stand, but within an hour the crowds started to pour in.

I laughed out loud when I saw a set of wood stumps tucked off to the side of the walkway. It’s hard to see in the picture below, but the little sign next to them says in English, “Seat reserved for those who gave their credit card to their better half.” Sussie, Christina, and I had fun weaving our way around the market. We all bought cork items (surprise, surprise!) and a lot of other things–jewelry, clothing, funny metal signs, etc.

Christina & Sussie deciding what to buy–more cork perhaps?

One of our favorite stores was the sardine store–yes, you read that correctly! The brightly colored store (pictured above) was filled, top to bottom, with sardine cans. We each bought a few to give as gifts. The “year you were born” cans were fun to read. While in the store, I dropped my coin purse, and a man graciously picked it up and returned it to me. I was so thankful.

Colorful Wall Mural
Chocolate cake, coffee, and Port wine–does it get any better than this?

After several hours of walking, shopping, drinking, eating, more walking, and even more shopping, we decided to go to Landau Chocolate to get the one and only thing that they serve–chocolate cake. The cake was dense, rich, and delicious. The coffee paired well with it, oh…and the port wine certainly added to the yumminess!

I talked to the woman behind the counter about their decision to sell just one item. She told me that years ago, their competitors laughed at the idea of only selling chocolate cake. They ignored the naysayers and their business thrived. Do something different–and you’ll always stand out!

At the end of the day, we called Christina to pick us up, and she arrived almost immediately. It was so nice to not have to jostle for a cab with all of the other people leaving the market!

Exploring via Tuk-Tuk

Portugal 2019/Part 4–

After we finished lunch, we decided to take a Tuk Tuk tour around the city. Several were lined up at the edge of the plaza and we arranged a ride with with a guy named David. He was born locally and was a lover of history and art, which was lucky for us because he told us so many interesting tidbits as we were driving.

Before getting in the Tuk Tuk, we asked him where we should try Ginja. He pointed to a narrow road off the back of the plaza, and he offered to walk us to a little place that he knew. The side streets were too narrow for vehicles, so we took him up on his offer. We walked up and down a few streets before he stopped in front of a teeny tiny store front where we stepped into a very small room, about the size of a decent walk in closet. Including the store clerk, there were five of us in the room, and it was a tight squeeze.

David told her that we wanted to try a shot of Ginjinha, which is a Portuguese sour cherry liquor. Ginjinha, or sometimes referred to Ginja, is often served in a little chocolate cup. Okay, sour cherry and chocolate…doesn’t it already sound delicious? It was!

I don’t think we knew that he was already taking pictures, either that, or we were deciding if we were going to back out–we look so serious! LOL!
One, two, three!
I loved the Ginja, but the moment the chocolate cup went into my mouth…heaven! These pictures crack me up, because it looks like we didn’t enjoy the shot, but we did! So much so, that over the course of the next few days, we had three or four more!

After our Ginja tasting, we zigged and zagged our way down several narrow streets until we found ourselves back in the plaza where we had first started. David pointed out that the watering trough on the back end of the plaza was from the Roman occupation of Lisbon.

Photogenic Laundry

We opted for a 1 1/2 hour ride (which actually turned into two hours) because we wanted to catch the flavor of Lisbon on our first day. I’ve always felt that if you do some kind of touristy hop-on-hop-off kind of thing toward the beginning of the trip, it gives you an idea of the city layout.

Se’ de Lisboa–or The Se’

The Lisbon Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church built it 1147, making it the oldest church in Lisbon. It survived many earthquakes over the years, but what makes this structure so interesting is that as it was rebuilt and renovated so many times over the years, several distinct building styles were used including Romanesque, Gothic, and many others. The architecture was magnificent and I could have easily spent a few hours here looking at the details. However, there were hoards of people inside (which is an instant turn off for me) and David was waiting for us.

An Excavation Site of Roman Ruins–

It’s virtually impossible to capture the wonder of these Roman ruins in photos because (obviously), you can’t get close enough to get detailed pictures. David told us that the unofficial mantra of private property owners in Lisbon is, “Don’t dig!”

There have been countless cases of people who have bought and old home or apartment, and during the renovation process discovered an archeological site. Anytime something is discovered in the city, it needs to be inspected by the local government. If the find is deemed important enough, it can lead to huge delays and possible loss for the property owner. Don’t dig!

These tiles were on a building across the street from the Roman Ruins–Lisbon is so interesting!

Next, we headed to the Portas do Sol which provides a beautiful view of the Tejo River and the surrounding area. The São Vicente statue, the patron saint of Lisbon, can be found here as well. It’s a lovely area to walk around to capture the feeling of the city.

Prior to coming to Lisbon, riding on a trolley car was on my “list,” of things to do, but after seeing how most were packed like sardine cans, riding one quickly dropped to the bottom of my list. I enjoyed seeing them as we buzzed around the city in the Tuk Tuk.
Panteão Nacional

After stopping for a brief look at the Panteão Nacional, our Tuk Tuk tour was over. We asked David to drop us off at a nice place to have a glass of wine. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the plaza where we stopped. The architecture was stunning! We enjoyed some wine, laughed and talked, and did a bit of people watching. It was such a relaxing way to end our first day together.

I could stare at this building all day long!
When it was time to find a taxi back to our hotels, Sussie enlisted a little help from the ‘Boys in Blue.’ We lucked out with our taxi driver. Her name was Christina, but that’s a story for the next post. When she dropped us off, we arranged for her to pick us up in the morning.

Dinner & A Show!

Portugal 2019/Part 3–

Shortly after I arrived at Christina and Sussie’s hotel, we decided to head out to explore the area, because their room wouldn’t be available for check-in until much later in the afternoon. We decided to take the subway to the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon. We walked up and down a few of the narrow back streets and I was absolutely fascinated by the azulejo tile. Some of the buildings were completely covered with tiles, where as others had small decorative tiles near the doors and windows.

Here comes Christina! The hills of Lisbon reminded me of San Francisco!
This area of Alfama escaped major damage in the 1775 earthquake, which destroyed most of Lisbon. Many narrow streets can be explored from this starting point.

It was a really hot day, so after walking around for a bit, we decided to stop in the main plaza for something to eat and drink. I ordered, of all things, a grilled cheese and banana sandwich. I’ve never heard of that combination before, so I had to try it! I love cheese and I love bananas, so it sounded like a win-win. It was good!

Grilled Cheese & Banana–it was a first for me!
A big Ginjinha debacle in the plaza!

As we were eating, I glanced across the plaza just at the right moment to see a young kid careening out of control on a Segway. Just as I said, “Oh, no–he’s going to hit…” he slammed into a small stand that was selling homemade Ginjinha. The old woman who was manning the stand must have seen him, because she was able to move out of the way before the crash. The entire stand was wiped out and her wares (small bottles of ginja and chocolate cups) were strewn all over the pavement. Ginjinha, sometimes called Ginja is a Portuguese sour cherry liquor.

Another woman from a neighboring stand immediately started yelling at the kid, as the group he was riding with slowly made their way over to him. Nobody from the Segway group made a move to help her set her stand back up, and nobody checked to see if the boy was okay.

The group stood and stared at the mess for a long time, and they appeared not to know what to do. Before long there was lots of yelling. Were not really sure if they paid her for the damage, but it was quite a scene to watch from afar. You might say that we had dinner and a show!

Welcome to Lisbon!

USA and Sweden in Portugal!

Portugal 2019/Part 2–

I first met Christina and Sussie in Spain in 2013 when we were walking the Camino de Santiago. We stayed in touch via WhatsApp and Facebook, and I visted them in Sweden in 2018. Now were were meeting in Lisbon, Portugal for five days. We picked Lisbon because none of us had been there before. They were staying at the Jupiter Lisboa Hotel on Avenida da Republica, which was only a mile away from my hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Lisbon/Fontana Park on Vieira da Silva.

We were originally scheduled to arrive within about 20 minutes of each other, but their flight was delayed from Sweden, so I headed to my hotel instead of waiting for them at the airport. When they got to their hotel they weren’t able to check into their room yet, so they did the next best thing–they ordered some wine at the hotel bar. I walked from my hotel to theirs, and it was so great to see them again! There were lots of squeals and ‘hellos!‘ Our reunion was so great apparently, that with all the talking and catching up, we didn’t get a picture (bummer!).

The pictures below show some of the things that I saw along the way from my hotel to theirs–

A Really Big Hand!
The Sidewalks Were Interesting, Too!

Goodbye Germany–Hello Portugal!

Portugal 2019/Part 1–

After the Englischhausen progam finished on Friday, we boarded a bus and headed back to the main train station in Frankfurt. After saying goodbye to everyone, Judy (a lady I met on the program) and I headed off to get a coffee and a dessert. We weren’t in any rush because we were both leaving in the morning. I was flying to Portugal, and she was catching a train to Berlin.

I enjoyed having the chance to get to know Judy a bit better. She was one of the Anglo’s in the program, and it’s always hard for the Anglo’s to get to know and spend time with each other during the week, because the primary focus is talking to the students who are there to learn English. However, from our brief time at meals and during our free time in the evenings, I could tell that she was a “good egg!” Judy is originally from Australia, but she now lives in New Zealand, so I guess that makes her a Kwaussie! I’ve heard they have great hiking trails there–so it sound like a trip needs to be planned!

Fancy Apfelstrudel ( I can’t believe that I didn’t get a picture of Judy!)

After coffee, I walked back to the train station and I got on a train bound for the airport. My flight was scheduled at 7:10 a.m., so I thought the best plan was to stay at a hotel near the airport. I used my Hilton points and I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn. From the hotel, I was able to walk to the airport, which was so convenient and hassle-free.

I ate dinner at my hotel and I ordered Wiener schnitzel (of course!) Is this just for one person?

I booked Economy Plus tickets on Ryan Air for my flight, and thank goodness that I did. It not only provided priority seating, but it also allowed for priority check-in and boarding. It was crowded and chaotic in the other lines, but the flight left on time (yeah!)

After arriving in Lisbon, I picked up my luggage and headed out to the front of the airport. I needed to figure out how to get a taxi without knowing how to speak Portuguese. It ended up being an easy process and I arrived at my hotel before I knew it.

Once again, I was staying at the Hilton and using my points (yeah!) I stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton Lisbon–Fontana Park, and I found the interior of the hotel to be dark, depressing, and a bit creepy…but the hotel staff and breakfast were amazing! Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, and the breakfast buffet is one of the best I’ve ever had.

I want you to see what I mean by dark and a bit creepy–

My room was the last room at the end of this long, dark hallway. It looks strange, right?
I liked my room–especially when the blinds were wide open!

I actually liked my room, but I hated the bathtub/shower! To get into the shower, I had to crawl over the back end of the tub and then step into the tub. Of course, I had to reverse the process when I finished showering. I’ve never felt overly concerned about slipping and falling in a hotel shower before, but this set-up made me nervous. The back wall of the tub was a window that looked out over the room, so that was kind of cool! All-in-all, the hotel worked out well (other than the long dark hallways and the weird tub), and my hotel was only about a mile from Christina and Sussie’s hotel.

I’m looking forward to seeing Portugal (and them)!