McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Category: Portugal (page 1 of 2)

Day 7 and 8 – Porto, Portugal

Decided to combine both of our days around Porto into one post because Day 7 alone just wasn’t that interesting. I did end up with some wicked hives and this amazing swollen lip in the morning though… ha This has been an ongoing thing for like 6 months… it’s some sort of histamine reaction. Aged cheese, cured meats, wine… you know… basically anything I eat! All cause some sort of histamine reaction… Maybe one day I’ll pinpoint the cause.

We had to drive to Porto from the mountains, and it was rainy and gross outside…. so we swapped our Day 7 and 8 plans..and decided to head to the northern coast of the city of Porto to Matosinhos, which is famous for it’s amazing seafood restaurants where they grill the seafood right outside on the sidewalks and bring it right in to you in the seating area. Plates and plates of amazing seafood went by and i wanted to order everything…

We ordered a starter or roasted grilled peppers, like blistered whole peppers, but a communication problem gave us a “pepper salad” or cold pepper slices in olive oil. They were OK. ha

I ordered the mussels for a starter and the waiter said “no, our clams are much better. I bring you clams.” Ok… clams it is.

I ordered the grilled octopus…because I apparently have an obsession this week. Seriously, I have eaten like 3 whole octopi on my own.. haha

Kegan got a grilled salmon steak and it was to die for. I could eat that every day of my life.

Norah didn’t want any food, but she did want Pingu ice cream.

After lunch, we headed over to the Crown Plaza Porto hotel where we would be staying. Norah got comfy. ha

There was a McDonald’s just down the street, so Kegan walked down and got the kid a Happy Meal. Life was grand.

Portuguese McDonald’s have dessert options for kids… and one of them is a stick of pineapple. I wish this was an option in the US! I’d order it for myself!

We were lazy all evening. This was our day of rest on vacation. We were going to go to the port houses down on the river… we thought about going to dinner…. but then we decided to just watch a movie, grab some bread and gazpacho from the grocery store across the street and eat the leftovers from lunch the day before.

Norah was pretty peeved as us that: 1. We didn’t dress her in green for St Patrick’s Day and 2. We weren’t partying or seeing a parade. So we compromised and said we’d make Saturday when we got home “fake Patrick’s Day” and we’d wear green at home and have fun.

Norah’s oh so lovely Paddy’s day homage.

We slept well and had our breakfast at the hotel and grabbed the world’s fastest Uber from the hotel. (he literally had to be sitting outside. he showed up in under 30 seconds) and I had him strategically drop us at the top of the hill of old town Porto at the Ingreja do Carmo. A lot of the churches are closed on Mondays, so we could only see the outside…which was fine, I just wanted to see the stone work and the blue tiles.

We walked across the street to the Clerigos church and Tower- a symbol of Porto since the 1760s.

The inside style was very Baroque.

We didn’t walk all the way up to the top of the tower. I wasn’t that interested in the panoramic view for the stairs involved…and I was afraid Norah wouldn’t be able to make it up such big stone steps to the top without us carrying her… an even worse proposal than just walking it alone! ha So we exited on back out to the street.

Porto has streetcars like Lisbon, too… although it didn’t seem like as many and they weren’t very full.

Next, we were supposed to visit the Livraria Lello – an amazingly ornate bookstore that is said to have inspired JK Rowling to write Harry Potter. But if you look… that is the LINE. To go into a bookstore. To take a photo of its interior. I thought about it… but I just cant ‘tourist’ that much.

Here, you can see the inside from the internet, too like us! ha

Related image

With 2 extra hours in our day now, we headed to the Praça da Liberdade- one the city’s main squares. Here we found an ATM we needed.. and the world’s fanciest McDonalds.

Norah had an 11am Happy meal. again. and the day was made.

There was a guy hanging around the square with a falcon. Turns out he runs an Animal Exhibit out of town..so he comes here to advertise.. and he said the falcon keeps the pigeons out of the square. hmm.

We walked on to the Ingreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso, another Baroque church with azulejo tiles that was closed on Mondays. It’s fairly unremarkable except that it was heavily damaged in the Siege of Porto in 1833. Remember the child Queen Maria II and her father Pedro IV that came from Brazil back to Portugal when King Miguel stole her throne? Yep… when Pedro came back- that was the Siege of Porto…and we now know how that ended…with his daughter back on the throne.

We made our way towards Cafe Santiago… where I had read was the best place to try a Francesinha sandwich- an icon of the city.

This sandwich is delish. Bread, various meats such as steak, sausage, bacon, etc… covered in a layer of melted cheese, with a fried egg, drowned in a special secret sauce that varies from restaurant to restaurant. We opted for the classic and split it since we figured we’d be having port wine pairings in the afternoon.

Our next destination was Sao Bento train station. What a beautiful building! Such old charm. It seemed like it needed to be in a movie. Very clean, bright, beautiful tile murals on the walls…I really enjoyed it.

This one is of Prince Henry the Navigator representing his victory in the Battle of Cuenta (in Morrocco- I mentioned this in the last post randomly!) One of the first battles that would lead to expansion and exploration for the Portuguese in the early 1400s.

Another showed King Joao I riding through Portugal after the victory over the Castilians that cemented the Kingdom of Portugal. (also mentioned in my Batalha Monastery post)

We were headed down towards the waterfront and saw the Porto Cathedral. The views from the back were fantastic. Norah really loved the street musician playing back there and wanted to give him money. Kegan dug around for some small coins and Norah thought he needed a 2 euro coin, too… haha So he got 3-4 euro from us today. ha

We walked across the Dom Luis bridge to cross into Vila Nova de Gaia, the city across the river from Porto.

There was a guy selling drawings and I really liked one, so for $10- I decided to bring it home with me.

They have a telefundo (cable car) that runs from the top at the bridge down to the waterfront where the port houses are… so we took it.

There was waterfront playground so Norah played. Obviously made many friends. Within 10 seconds, she’s holding hands with a little girl who doesn’t speak English and they are frollicking into the playground. ha

We later found this Pringles vending machine. Which, I admit, was a funny sight. This kid loves her Pringles. ha

We stumbled on this art installation called Half Rabbit that I had seen pictures of online, but had no idea where it was. So that was neat!

Our first port house was Quinta dos Corvos. A random selection.. just one I hadn’t heard of. We didn’t want to try ports we could easily buy in the US like Sandeman’s or Taylor’s or Graham’s. This one was a great find though, because they had a 20 year aged white port wine, that I had never heard of… but we’re carting 2 bottles home because it was SO darn good. Buttery, caramelly… great.

After we purchased the wine there, he said “would you like to try a very rare 40 year old white port??” uh… yes. of course. lol

So, he literally left the tasting room, walked us down the street and around the corner to another place called Augusto’s to try to the 40 year old port. We liked it… but not as well as the 20 yr. So we made a good buy 🙂

Our next tasting was at another small producer: Vasques De Carvalho where we had a Dry white young port, a 20 year white port (still not as good as the first… so still a great purchase! ) a Ruby port and a 20 year Tawny port. The tawny was very good, but not outstanding enough to bring home…and that much port REALLY needed some sort of food accompaniment!

Our final tasting was at Offley. I saw online they had a cheese and chocolate pairing with the ports… and we really needed something to go with this much fortified wine! (I am very surprised the smaller places didn’t have tasting plates or anything to purchase with the wines… seems like a major missed opportunity. The larger places all had tapas plates and paired foods…so there must be a reason. Licensing, purity of Port wine tradition.. who knows. but I’m a lightweight and I needed bread with my port! ha)

The cheese plate came with a fig jam that we both agreed was excellent. We’ll have to look for something like that to buy. It complemented both the fresh cheese and the spicy port. it was a perfect combo. We got crackers, too- but Norah basically ate all of those. She had to smell all of our ports before we drank them. That’s how to kept herself involved. ha

The rest of our evening was uneventful again. An Uber back to our hotel. A stop at the grocery story and more meat and cheese and gazpacho in our hotel room. I opted for sushi from the grocery deli instead of cured meats tonight to hopefully get rid of these hives I’ve now had for 3 days. We watched Die Hard on TV with Portuguese subtitles until 11:15pm when I had a business call with a potential new client. Tomorrow we leave Porto and visit Guimaraes, Braga, Ponte de Lima and end at a spa hotel with a restaurant. Just 3 more full days before we head back home.

Day 6-Serra da Estrela Park

Today was a pretty slow paced day compared to most of the vacations I plan. 🙂 I wanted to drive up to the highest point of Portugal in the Parque Serra da Estrela. The entire drive there for 2 hours or so had amazing views.

We stopped at this little store at the top of the park where the family made their own meats and cheeses. They asked if we wanted to taste everything… and really all I wanted was a bathroom! haha but the cured meats were delicious and the soft young cheese was stellar… so lunch was served! They were no newbies to tourists though, they even sold knives for the cheese and meat for 3.50. ha

we got to over 3000 ft… and there was snow all around. This is the area of the one ski resort in Portugal. We saw some people attempting to sled on what was left… but it was sort of a sad affair to watch. haha

The drive to our hotel ended up taking quite a bit longer than I expected. The interstate was an automated toll only… not tollbooths, so we had to take the highway around which added 1.5 hours to our trip. In the end, we just jumped on the tollway anyway hoping we could pay online otherwise we might have still been driving 35 mph through every village in Portugal. Turns out the fine for tolls without a pass is 10x the toll… so we expect that was a pricey drive.. somewhere in the $150-200 range. ouch. I did buy a pass online and tied it to our license plate, but I never received the text I was supposed to get to activate it, so I’m going to attempt to call them and play the dumb tourist in the morning and see if I can avoid those toll penalties!

When we finally arrived at our hotel, it was sooo nice. It was called Montverde, a wine experience hotel. It was set at a vineyard and they make 23 different bottles of wine. Mostly fresh clean whites from the area. They poured us a glass of sparkling wine as a welcome refreshment and showed us around.

They had a spa and restaurant on site with this really cool art installation in the center.

Each of the leaves had a face if you look closely.

The view of the vineyard from the back of the main building.

They showed us our room and Norah got to ride the golf cart with the guy which was a highlight for her. ha There was a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine on ice in our room as well..and we were invited to a wine tasting in the main restaurant at 6:30pm and we made dinner reservations for 7:30, which is actually the earliest you can usually eat anywhere for dinner in Spain or Portugal. I don’t know how people eat dinner at 10pm and go right to bed every day… but obviously it works for them.

We headed back up through the vineyard to the restaurant and attended the wine tasting, where I actually had the first rosé wine I’ve ever liked. It was good.

We sat outside on the patio for a while until reservation time. We got a chestnut soup compliments of the chef.

Kegan and I shared a seared Tuna starter

and a stuffed portabello mushroom with creamed asparagus.

My main for “crispy octopus” which ended up tasting like high end fish sticks. haha

Kegan had the lamb shank which he said was very good.

We shared a little passionfruit ice cream and caramel cake dessert. Just a couple bites a piece, but was perfect.

Norah wanted to order off the adult menu because she saw they had something called a Romeo and Juliet… and she saw a kid version of that play at school… so for some reason she was very excited about it.

Turns out, she didn’t even like it. haha She thought the inside would be ice cream and it was just a warm cheese. haha poor thing. We tried it, we didn’t love it either.

We went back to our room for the night, headed to the city of Porto in the morning for the next two days.

Day 5 -Batalha Monastery, Cuevas da Gruta and Tomar

We had a little continental style breakfast at our little hotel and hit the road towards Batalha Monastery. I debated whether or not it was worth the trek north to visit… but it totally was. This church was built by King João I as a way to commemorate a great victory for Portugal in 1385. One of the greatest battles Portugal won in history was the Battle of Aljubarrota where a smaller army of soldiers on foot, led by a man named Nuno Álvares Perez, defeated a larger Castilian calvary army. It was an unprecedented victory in its time and this victory cemented Portugal’s independence and made João I the king. It was his lineage of royalty that would be responsible for Portugal’s age of discovery and European economic domination.

Two hundred years was spent constructing various parts of this monastery and chapel. The entrance doorway to the chapel is out of this world. Seriously. There is so much detail you can’t possibly take it all in. There are carvings of all 12 apostles but then various other figures all over the archway.

The main chapel was a little bare on the inside, but that made the stained glass reflect wonderfully on the stone.

Adjacent to the church was the Capela do Fundador where the bodies of King João I, his wife Queen Phillipa of Lancaster and their children and heirs, including Prince Henry the Navigator..who can be credited with actually beginning to explore and conquer land for Portugal. In the early 1420s he convinced his King father to conquer Cuenca across the strait of Gibraltar in Morocco to drive out Barbary pirates that used to raid Portugal’s coast… he drove the design of a lighter, faster ship to outrun pirate and Moorish ships and these ships could sail “into the wind”…making them independent of the wind direction. All of his maritime advances paved the way for the explorers that would follow after him to lead Portugal.

They had the actual original sword from the 1300s of João I….I thought that was REALLY cool. Not a reproduction….the actual sword carried by a King. Total nerdy history moment.

The coolest feature of this place though was the “Imperfect Chapels”… an area that was added in the late 1400s and has no roof! but the intricate stonework on all of the little coves was unbelievable.

Back to the car, we drove to the Cuevas da Gruta – a local underground limestone cave that gave tours. We arrived 2 minutes after another group started so they took us on in to meet up with that tour just starting. She was giving the tour in Portuguese, but she spoke perfect English, so she started to give us an explanation of what caves are made of… and not to be a jerk, but more to save her time, I said “yeah, he’s a geologist.” the WHOLE group busted out laughing. hahaha apparently “geologist” is pretty close in Portuguese too. haha The tour guide said “well, i am NOT… I am only trained in tourism, so if I misspeak, you correct me.” hahaha (which is a good time to mention that apparently in Portugal they go to university and study tourism…they have to take tests on Spanish and English and get scored. Our waiter tonight told us, “oh, well lucky for you- I am 20/20 on English” and gave me a fist bump. haha

Kegan was quite impressed by how many formations could be found in just this one tiny cave. I’ll spare you ALL the details I was subjected to… but here are a few highlights:

“Bacon formations” sheets of thin calcite flowstone that looks like curtains or strips of bacon.
Dried water pool where crystals formed inside
Micritic Limestone- limestone that sheers and breaks like glass with conchoidal fracturing

Overall it was a very cool cave and i’m glad we went! They even had cool rock samples in the ticket center… including this dinosaur egg…or muffin as Norah called it.

Our next town was Tomar. The home of the Knights Templar for over 700 years. The Knights Templar helped conquer Portugal for the Christians in the 1100s from the Arabs and set up a castle in Tomar as their base .They would become a very powerful and rich group for about 200 years…that is until the 1300s… You see, there was this French King, Philip the IV…or Philip the Fair… he liked messing with England and other places that didn’t belong to him… and he needed money to do it. The Knights were known for making loans and handling banking around this time. The French king found himself quite in debt to the Knights. So… naturally… now was a good time to decide that the Knights were heretics… and he convinced the Pope at the time that they needed to be disbanded. His reasoning was basically to point out to the pope that the Knights weren’t answering to the Catholic church anymore… and they weren’t answering to any one King anymore… they were basically operating their own country…. and we know that historically, the Catholic church and Kings could never tolerate anything more powerful than themselves… so it was decided that the Order of the Knights Templar would be dissolved and all their lands and moneys absorbed by the Catholic church. How convenient!

The only exception was in Portugal… King Dinis, at the time, knew it was BS… so secretly, he formed a new order- the Order of Christ and funded and sent the Knights Templar, err… Order of the Christ Knights… to fight more Muslims elsewhere for a time. He also relocated them away from Tomar… to another town to conceal what he was doing. Meanwhile, all of the leaders of the Knights were burned at the stake back in France. There is a theory that the grand leader of the Knights cursed the king and pope as he died… and within a year both King Philip IV and the Pope were dead as well.

It was actually Prince Henry the Navigator that I talked about above that brought the Order of Christ Knights back to Tomar 100 years after the dissolution of the Knights Templar. He even created living quarters for himself and his wife here…I mean, I’d trust an order of knights to protect me more than most….

I was very surprised at the detail and number of paintings inside the main cathedral here.

After walking the grounds at the castle of Tomar, we were headed out of town and saw a sign for an aqueduct. Glad we did a little detour. It was amazing!

We next drove an hour or two up to the Roman ruins of Conimbriga.

Ever wonder how they made round brick columns? I always wondered that until today….

The used triangular bricks! duh…. think outside the box, Erin. ha

I bought the missing fish. It looks just like the green one in the middle.

Our last stop for the day before we headed to Agueda for our hotel was the famous windmills.. or Moinhos.

This is how Portuguese people would have traditionally ground their corn and flour…unless they lived along a river, then maybe water powered mills…but in most places, a good breeze could be counted on. These particular windmills appear to be in the process of being converted to hotel rooms…it looks like they got about 50% through the project and ran out of money. No one was up there at all…. it was a great vantage point over the area.

We drove on to Agueda and parked. Asked the hotel clerk what her favorite restaurant in town was and she said O Tipico.. which coincidentally is the same one I had marked on our plans….so it was decided.

We were first brought bread with fresh cheese and sheep’s cheese.

Tonight, after having octopus envy of Kegan’s meal… I decided to get the grilled octopus.

Kegan has a rule that if the restaurant offers rabbit, he orders it… so that’s what he had.

When we were done, the waiter took Norah to the back to pick out her own ice cream dessert. It made her night.

We weren’t really hungry or going to order dessert, but the waiter told us that the lady owner who was running around hand makes the desserts for hours every day….so really we couldn’t turn it down. We let him make the recommendation to us. We ended up a “sky cream” as he called it. Sky=heaven I believe… and it was heaven. light cream with some ground up graham cracker powder (best i can explain) with a sweet egg yolk sauce.

Kegan got the condensed milk pudding….which is basically Portugues firm flan… and it was stellar, too. So we did not leave disappointed.

Our hotel’s wifi was broken (my biggest pet peeve), hence the delay in posting Day 4… and this Day 5 🙂

Tomorrow is just a day of meandering through the national park to the highest point in Portugal and ending at a winery. I hope to have some exciting photos but likely just a lot of landscapes 🙂

Day 4 – Sintra, Portugal and up the coast

Wow, what a killer day for touring! The weather was just perfect. Bright, sunny and about 70-75 degrees…. couldn’t have asked for better. It was a great complement to the gorgeous palaces and castles of Sintra. We started our day by parking at the Sintra train station and getting an Uber to the Pena Palace-a national landmark of Portugal. The Palace is built on the site of an old monastery from the 1100s. It was mostly destroyed in the great earthquake of 1755….but soon to be King Ferdinard II really loved this site… so in the 1830s, he purchased this old monastery and the nearby Castle of the Moors and soon would build a palace. He became King when his wife, Queen Maria II (remember the 7 year old girl that was given the crown by her father? same girl, now age 18) and he had their first child. Together, both Ferdinand and Maria designed the various pieces of the palace, including Arab and Moorish influences

It has the most amazing views from the top of the highest hills. In fact, it is so high and distinct in position, on a clear day you can see this from Lisbon in the distance.

If you look closely to the view, you can see the Castle of the Moors, a medieval castle built in the 900s by the Arab Moors and taken back by Christian forces in the 1100s during the reconquest of Portugal. This ruined castle was also part of the land purchase King Ferdinand made and he committed lots of resources to restoring and preserving it.

This is by far the most toured and well-known site of Portugal I would bet… and it shows. Tour bus after tour bus was arriving as we were leaving. So many people. Kegan was about to his wits end with the people… so it was a perfect time to head to the next tourist site. ha

Back at the gift shop and main entrance, we hired a Tuk Tuk driver to take us to the Quinta da Regalaira. With all of the major hills and mountains, it would have taken all day to walk between these sites… but a motorized tuk tuk cart and 20 euro… you’re there in 15 minutes 🙂

Norah made friends with a little french girl. This was after making friends with a little Italian boy at Pena Palace. ha

There isn’t a huge history to this estate… just how amazing it all is with grottos and waterfalls, stepping stone entrances, Tarot card and Free Mason initiation wells built into the ground, a super-Gothic style palace with 5 floors, lookout points, underground tunnels …. it was just amazing

There was a Sequoia tree planted in the middle of the estate! The Pena Palace has this sort of odd trees/plants thing, too- over 400 plants and trees brought from all over the world.

I was here for these super strange “Initiation wells”. 88 ft deep and never actually used as a well for water, No one really knows the true purpose, but they have a lot of symbolism with Tarot mysticism and its thought they were part of some secret ceremony. The guy who owned and built these was a well known Free Mason and was into secret codes of the Knights Templar and alchemy.

There are 9 landings, representing the 9 levels of Hell in Dante’s inferno. The steps between each containing 27 steps, which is dictated by Masonic principles (according to websites anyway…I couldn’t find any actual info on this as much as I tried…all the websites just seemed to be copying each other.)

We walked around and found this cave/tunnel that emptied out in to a pool with stepping stones to cross to the other side.

We walked on down the property to the palace where we toured the inside…

After seeing the palace, it was time to walk back down the hill 15 minutes or so into the town of Sintra. I had read about pastries that just could not be missed from a bakery that had been baking for the King and Queen since the palace was built in the 1800s.

We ended up with a Pastais de Nata (egg custard), an orange cake (I don’t know the name), a Queijada pastry- sort of a cheesecake like pastry… and a Travesseiro – an almond creme filled “pillow” covered in sugar that is unique to the Sintra area. All in all, they were OK… but nothing I’d say is “cant miss”.

We ate our pastries in the car and headed north along the coast. We came to a point with an old fortress and a beautiful rocky coastline.

We next drove the town of Òbidos, which I had planned on walking around… but honestly, the idea of parking at the bottom of this hill outside the city walls, leaving the car and walking all the way to the top wasn’t really appealing… and we were a little behind schedule anyway.

We did stop off in their local supermarket though to grab some shelf-stable items we could keep in the car for the next few days.

We found gazpacho…something both Kegan and I could drink every day. The fresh tomatoes, peppers, onion… mmmmhhh. Cant get enough of it.

Kegan found me some Cape Gooseberries- my favorite fruit- that were local to Portugal. So good.

Also picked up some random other items. Cherry tomatoes, oranges, chocolate, wine, bread….

I wish we had a big cooler or fridge though because the most impressive thing was their seafood counter!

I want to live somewhere where my local seafood counter looks this good. Holy cow! I think if we come back to Portugal, I would plan 2-3 days around the beach in summer and AirBnb a place with a kitchen and cook ALL the seafoods. 🙂

We drove on to the town of Caldas do Rainha where our hotel was for the night and we then walked across town to a small restaurant called Tibino Casa de Petiscos. Such a good choice.

Our starters included a bread basket and olives and we ordered some small plates

Razor Clams

Salmon Ceviche

Fried Cuddlefish

Kegan’s main course was wood fire grilled octopus and we both agreed it was the best we had ever had…and up until now, we had given that honor to Monterey Fish House in central California…but now the honor will be bestowed here.

I had ordered the Portuguese steak because I thought it was something different, basically. haha It was OK.. but nothing great.

They were so cute and brought us a hand-written dessert menu in English.

They had a photo on Google that I was trying to order…and the only thing that maybe matched up was the almond tart on the menu… turns out, it wasn’t what I was trying to order. haha but it was ok.

It seems like a good time to mention just how amazingly open and nice everyone in Portugal is. Everywhere we go people cant wait to tell us about all the fun things around that we should see and do in their town… and are always so eager to speak in English with us when they see us majorly struggling with Portuguese. I didn’t expect that, I never expect anyone to speak MY language when I don’t speak their’s… but they seem genuinely shocked when Norah says “Obigrada” (thank you) and “ola” (hello), like they think it’s the cutest thing. ha

Tomorrow is another day hopping between towns seeing sites and old buildings 🙂 See ya then!

Day 3 – Lisbon, Portugal

We had a big day and a LOT of walking for all of our poor little legs. (even Kegan.. so you know it was rough. ha) Our hotel is a couple miles from the downtown section we wanted to start out in, so we grabbed an Uber to a famous lookout point over Lisbon where we could see everything we would be seeing today. At the far upper left you can see the Castle of St Jorge.. which is where we headed from here.

At the castle, there was another great vantage point to view the city.

There were quite a few peacocks on the grounds. Very pretty, but very loud!

Norah wanted to climb to the top of one of the lookout points.

If you look closely… you’ll see a very happy child. ha

So many old buildings along all of the streets are covered in old tiles and azulejo tile pictures.

Even the new buildings get a tile exterior it seems. This teal one with black metal accents was my favorite.

Portugal is famous for its vintage yellow tram cars that take you around the city. In all honesty, I should have researched riding the tram more, but we just took pictures. No rides.

We walked along to the Lisbon Cathedral.

The inside was impressive. It was built more like a fortress than a church… and it turns out, there may be a reason. It was built by Christian crusaders in the 1100s when they defeated the Arabs in this area. So, the knocked down a very important Mosque and began construction of this church. Christians looked a lot different back in the crusades. The army wasn’t much more than a bunch of drunks and thieves… who “liberated” the city from the Arabs… and then promptly pilfered it themselves. But… as warriors of a sort, turns out they knew how to construct a building. It has survived multiple earthquakes and has been standing for 900 years. So here’s to Jesus’s bandits and thieves!

Our next stop was to the Conserveira de Lisboa, a family run tinned fish shop that has been open and selling canned fish like sardines and mackerel for over 80 years. They are one of the few shops left and their goal is maintain the tradition of how the majority of the people of Lisbon ate their fish for many many years. I read an article on a UK website about it and just loved the idea and wanted to patronize the business while in town. Plus, I love sardines, smoked oysters, mackerel, tuna… basically anything that comes in a can with oil is my jam… so I am excited to see what these traditional and special Portuguese fish taste like.

I had to keep it under control though… and only purchased 4 items: 2 types of mackerel, a tuna mousse and sardines in a tomato sauce.

Poor Kegan had to be superman and carry Norah to our next destination. She couldn’t hack it anymore.

We passed through the Arc de Rua Augusta, an arch that was constructed to celebrate the rebuilding of the city after a massive Earthquake in 1755

After climbing some steep hills back up away from the coast, we had a view of the rear of the Santa Luzia lift- a famous elevator for helping to navigate the steep climbs. You can ride it up from the bottom and avoid quite a bit of huffing and puffing. But we didn’t ha

We got a glimpse of the Carmo Convent.. but I was too tired to even want to pay to go in, sadly. They had construction barricades up everywhere and I get that they need to rehab things that are old… but maybe don’t charge people in the interim when they cant even see half of it? I have a ethical issue with charging for churches anyway… so that’s likely just a personality flaw of mine… haha but we didn’t go in.

We walked down some steps along some businesses to Rossio Square. There is a monument to Pedro IV, the “soldier king”. He conquered Brazil and was the first king there. He seemed to be well liked and just. I like him because he was crowned king of Portugal during his time in Brazil, but he abdicated his throne in favor of his firstborn child- a GIRL. He sent her back to Portugal to rule (at 7 years old- I would have to assume under direct supervision) and when she was overthrown by a King Miguel… Pedro IV abdicated the Brazilian throne to his son, set off to Portugal and went to war to win it back for her. The war lasted years and in the end, he died days after the last battle, but saw his 16 year old daughter be coronated at Queen Maria II. That’s a feel good story in my book!

You can see the gorgeous Portuguese mosaic tile floors. A lot of the sidewalks were made like this, too. Such an art form.

Something local here around the square are these old Ginjinha houses. Basically little walk-up tasting bars where you can order a shot of sour cherry liqueur. We decided this Ginja needed to be tasted. So we tested three.

The third was our favorite. Maybe because we were already two shots deep… but this is where we decided to buy a bottle to bring home. It’s sort of like a cherry brandy/port wine taste. Very strong alcohol. but very good.

Our next stop was Time Out Market. A foodie paradise. The inside of the building is just lined with small stalls of all the best Lisbon has to offer! Famous chefs have stalls here, all the famous Portuguese pastries- here. I had previously researched what we could not miss and we started down the list.

Asian Beef Tartar and Tuna Tartar from Tartar-la

Pork Belly Confit from chef Alexandre Silva

Sardine and Cod Nigiri from Sea Me

Traditional portuguese croquettes from Oh My Cod

Duck croquette with orange glaze

and some sweet potato chips for Norah.

With happy bellies, it was time to Uber down to Belem to see a few last sites for the day. The first was the Jeronimos Monastery. They were closing up the ticket lines for the monastery, but we were able to pop into the cathedral.

This is the burial place of Vasco da Gama, the first navigator to find a sea route to India. In the late 1400s, getting to India via the Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula was dangerous business. So much so that most of Europe didn’t even try. The fact that he was able to identify a way for Portugal to get pepper and cinnamon, among other new spices…. gave portugal great wealth for decades before other European countries found their own route to India via the sea.

I can’t ever leave well enough alone with those rose-colored glasses, now can I? There is a very interesting history associated with Da Gama…. he is remembered a heroic figure, but that first voyage had 3 ships and returned with 2, half manned because over half his crew died and the rest mostly had scurvy. His brother died, one ship crashed…and he made enemies with the leader in India..when the Zamorin (his title) wouldn’t agree to a trade treaty and told Da Gama he needed to pay tax like every other trader, he got mad and stole a bunch of citizens of India by force and took them with him back home. I’m sure they died along the way… but can you imagine having the mindset that to piss off a king, you’d just steal some average people and fisherman you saw along your way back to your boat and just tote them home back to Portugal? Can you imagine BEING one of those stolen people? It’s an incredible thought that these things happened. Da Gama kind of sounds like an arrogant jerk.. he caused the King to fight with the church because Da Gama wanted land the church didn’t want to give up.. and basically pushed the king to defend his claim because of how valuable he was to the country. He wanted to be crowned Admiral of the Seas for Portugal because Spain gave Christopher Columbus that title. ha Oh..men and their egos. Anyway, I couldn’t resist ruining a good historical figure’s reputation. You’re welcome.

Just down the street is the famous Pasteis de Belem, the most famous egg custard tart around. Usually there is a line around the block, but we hit right at the end of the day so only a few people in front of us.

A short walk away was the Padrão Dos Descobrimentos, a monument in honor of Portugal’s explorer past with stone carvings of various people associated with exploration in that age. Vasco Da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan -the first person to circumnavigate the globe- and others including kings who supported the exploration, priests who served as missionaries, etc

I thought it was a very well done monument and I love it facing West out over the water.

Our last attraction was the famous Tower of Belem. Built in the early 1500s as a way to protect the mouth of the Tagus river from invaders, it still stands today. We made it right about sunset time, which made for some great photos.

After that, it was an Uber back to the hotel and room service because we couldn’t motivate ourselves to shower, change clothes and taxi out again for dinner. So showers, a burger, club sandwich, and caesar salad had to do. 🙂 Tomorrow is Sintra, the old royal stomping grounds not too far away from Lisbon with some majorly cool palaces and views. and hills. always more hills. ha

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