by David Allan-Petale
This will be the last in our series on Portugal, I promise! But seeing this is the end, perhaps it’s best to go back to where we began, the capital Lisbon. I had no idea what to expect from this fabled city and as our flight from London banked in a tight turn across its rooftops my eyes drank in the view. I saw a bridge that looked just like the Golden Gate in San Fransisco, and a statue of Jesus on a hill that was just like Christ the Redeemer. How curious.
The similarities to anywhere else we’d been ended as we pulled up to our guest house in the old quarter. The maze of almost impossibly tight cobbled streets was so intricate I was amazed the locals could navigate it, let alone us. But to get lost in Lisbon is no hardship. Night fell, and the beauty of the place doubled as we ambled along. The emphasis on architectural style is amazing, with painted tiles called ‘Azulejos’, mosaics, bright bougainvilleas, or just a creative lick of graffiti swirling all around. Gnarled trees shot up from the cobbles, towering above the mixed altitudes of the hilly streets.
The next day dawned bright and hot so we packed a light backpack and set off to the highest point in Lisbon, the Castle of São Jorge. It was tiresome work getting up the hill because the paving stones are so slippery from the millions of feet having trodden the same path over the years. But the view was well worth the skiing practice.
Inside the castle walls is a museum of relics from the Moorish occupation and Portugal’s great Age of Discovery. My eye was very attracted to the Azulejos on display and the beautifully painted decorative tiles. I think the best way to remember something is to draw it, so Carmen and I whipped out our trusty sketch pads and lead pencils and spent a little time scribbling an impression.
Feeling a bit peckish we descended as carefully as we could and searched around for cake. Lisbon is famous for its sweet things we were determined to try something truly decadent. We took a chance and went into a little cafe in the centre of the city that looked pretty dodgy on the outside. But the facade hid real treasure, and we picked a couple of delicious mid morning treats.
Lisbon is a very relaxed city. We ticked off all the touristy things at a slow pace and really just enjoyed walking around and looking at what we fancied. We ate out every night at brilliant local restaurants, sipped port and drank in the atmosphere. All our stresses from normal life were stripped away. It’s a great place to begin a trip through Portugal. And who knows, perhaps one day return.