We woke up to the sound of people in the kitchen retrieving their free breakfast. Eager to get ready and get out we sought to both shower and head out for the day. The free breakfast was bread, milk, and cereal. Most of it had gone by the time we checked but we wanted to stop off somewhere more central to pick up breakfast. Moosa showered first, and since he had forgotten a towel I had the pleasure of a wet Moana towel for my shower. The bathrooms were communal and sometimes queues of 2 or 3 people built up outside , however, first day luck meant we both showered without queuing. Moosa took his usual 30 minute shower and I wrapped up in 5, shortly we were both ready to leave and had decided to head to Martim Montez, the metro stop closest to Castelo de S. Jorge.
Leaving the hostel we stopped off at the first of the 2 cafe’s on the street adjacent to buy some juice. The cafe was small, just enough space for a counter and a narrow pathway for customers. There were 2 fridges within the counter, the first has a selection of pastries and sandwiches and the other had juices. Peach and Pear juice in glass bottles, nostalgic reminders of summer holidays spent in Sicily as a child – naturally, I brought them both. With juice brought we got the metro, from Saldanha via Arroios, and within 17 minutes we had arrived at Martim Moniz. Our choice of travel card for the day was a day pass, which meant topping up our cards with €6.15, a small price to pay, we thought, for unlimited bus, metro, and tram travel around Lisbon. On the way, Moosa has realised he had forgotten chapstick, so we needed at some point to stop off and buy him one, as my Nivea Cherry Gloss chapstick was, according to him, a “no”. There are several shops within the metro itself, mostly laptop and phone repair stores and some health stores, however, stopping at one we realised this was mostly makeup and toiletries being sold.
We ventured out of the metro and to the square just outside of Martim Moniz. Breakfast time. Having researched ‘things to do in Lisbon’, time and time again the infamous ‘pastel de nata’ arose at the top of my search. With this in mind, the perfect opportunity arose; two stores next to each other, with hundreds of these little egg custard pastries filling the windows, the first store seemed busier than the second, and so we took this as a sign that we too should go in. Having read about the pastries, I also recalled that locals usually accompany the pastel de nata with a drink known as ‘ginjinha’, a liqueur comprised of sour cherries. We purchased both, 2 pastel de nata and 2 ginjinha for about €4 and stood, yes stood, at one of the nearby tables to consume our breakfast. The lack of chairs is what must have made for a quick turnover time, there was a seated area upstairs, but we didn’t mind as we were not planning to stay any longer than necessary as the Castle awaited us.
The pastry itself was not as sweet as I had imagined, and rather unlike anything I have had before, I think Moosa enjoyed it much more than I did, since it was my first and last pastel de nata of the trip, though it was definitely not my last pastry of the trip. The ginjinha was in a small plastic shot glass, though much smaller than the average shot glass, and was a bitter end to our meal. Moosa tried it first as I was not daring enough to do so and likened it to a regular shot of ‘sourz’, reluctant to do so, I drank mine and that was the last of that. Two local delicacies tried within the first full day in Lisbon, not bad! Next stop – finding a chapstick.
With pharmacies being everywhere we decided to start our ascent to the castle and hoped we would pass a pharmacy on our way, since we had yet to see any form of grocery store or local mini-mart. Alas, within 5 minutes we had reached a pharmacy, this one was unlike the others, no huge signpost of discounts within the store, this was what I would describe as a herbal store, with products unlike what you would find in a usual pharmacy. a small container of chapsticks sat on the desk of the woman serving the other customers, Moosa chose his herbal chapstick, paid for it, and we set off. A further 10 minutes in and it seemed like nothing else could delay us further – ‘Warning: Camera Batteries Low”. Where are we going to find camera batteries now, we thought, half way to the top of the hill and only houses around. Batteries were essential since we needed to be able to take photos of the view at the top of the Castle, since the views there were renowned for some of the best in Lisbon, and we most certainly did not want to return another day. Back down the steps we go, taking a different route to the way we came, in order to try and find some batteries. Luck was on our side today, as 5 minutes later we came to a few shops, one being a camera shop where Moosa went and brought batteries, as I decided to venture into the little ice-cream shop to buy a few 1L bottles of water to put in my backpack, as today was hot, and the ascent would only make it feel even hotter. We regrouped several minutes later and now there really was nothing else to stop us from reaching the castle.
As we reached the entrance to the castle we noted the large line of people waiting to buy tickets and enter the grounds, we joined the queue and took note of our surroundings, laughing at the houses airing their laundry outside for all the tourists to see. The washing lines really did distract from the beauty of the buildings they hung from. Soon enough we were at the front of the line and we purchased two tickets, students receive a discount of €3.50, making our tickets €5 each. We took our tickets, thanked our student cards and the server and made our way inside. Straight away the views were spectacular. The entirety of Lisbon appeared to be laid out before our eyes, and there were higher points yet to be climbed. We took straight away to taking photos of the view, competing for who has the best photography skills, to which neither of us can be said to be professionals.
Once we were all photographed out, we sought to walk around more of the grounds. A little museum exists in the castle, to which a further entry fee must be paid, we were not interested in the museum but more the castle itself, so did not visit. Behind the museum, a little cafe, a hot spot for tourists to have lunch, for there were no eateries around. Entertainment at this cafe existed in the form of peacocks, who seemed to gather crowds of spectators ‘ooing’ and ‘ahhing’ and the sight of its feathers, which it sprawled out across its back. We took photos and watched the bird flaunt its feathers at the sight of its admirers, then took a seat outside the cafe to continue admiring the birds as we ate. The cafe served a limited variety of food, some hot, some cold and a limited selection of pastries. I purchased a baguette filled with fresh salad and a selection of meats, whereas Moosa indulged in a plate of chicken with vegetables, which smelt divine and put my sandwich to shame.
We ate our meals and watched as the peacocks did acrobatics in the tree near to us, jumping across from tree to castle wall. Afterwards we found the highest point of the castle and took to sitting for a while and taking in the views, although there is not much to do at the attraction, it is more the views that you visit for, which we most certainly made the most of. I think we must have spent a couple of hours at the castle, which afterwards we decided we had seen enough and wished to visit somewhere else. Our descent back towards the metro and square we had breakfast in, brought us to a little souvenir shop that Moosa wanted to stop at to buy a fridge magnet for his mum, having picked out a magnet and failing to haggle with the shop owner, he was now a proud owner of a magnet. Content with his purchase we left, and it was not long before we were back where we had set off.
Lisbon is infamous for it’s Tram 28, and given that Lisbon was where we were, it was without a given that we had to take a trip on the tram. Having walked further east from where we were, we came to a little tram stop with a line of about a hundred people, reluctantly we joined the line. They say the English are good at queuing, our impatience says otherwise. The trams appeared to arrive without any notable pattern, no timetable appeared to exist, this made it even harder to queue. The tram 28 seems to have turned into a tourist attraction, as very few locals used it as a means of getting around. We had no idea how long the wait was going to be and so Moosa, having seen an advert for chocolate milk on the side of a newspaper stand, decided to walk over and ask them about their chocolate milk. Disappointed, he returns realising that adverts on the sides of buildings are not an indication of what the building sells. 10 minutes easily passed after that as I spent the time laughing. Finally our tickets were checked, as our metro cards allowed for tram travel included in its price, and we boarded the tram, seating only 20 or so people and a few being allowed to stand.
Having very little knowledge as to the route of the tram, about 15 minutes in we decided to get off and join a group of people at a outdoor cafe overlooking views of Lisbon. We sat and Moosa ordered a homemade lemonade, to his distaste I was given the lemonade, and to my delight I finished it off. We sat for a while and enjoyed some music from a couple of buskers nearby, then walked to an area of people taking photos. Having photographed the surrounding area we weren’t sure where to go next, to the side of us were steps leading down to what looked like a little house with a statue of the virgin Mary in a window. We sat on the steps for a while until a group of tourists appeared next to us, with a tour guide avidly speaking Portuguese explaining the surrounding area. Having no clue where to go we slyly joined their group, holding back by 10 steps each time they moved on.
Eventually we broke off from them and proceeded to follow the natural course of the path. This led us to a narrow lane of eateries, and a little shop with a freezer full of ice-cream outside, Moosa purchased a magnum and we carried on. We reached the water front, in the form of a docking area for small boats and large ships, and to our right existed an ice-cream parlour. I had been waiting to find an ice-cream store, while enviously watching Moosa devour his chocolatey, frozen treat, and here was Giallo – a hidden gem of gellato goodness. Immediately, I picked out a strawberry and chocolate ice-cream in a traditional wafer cone that just screamed to be eaten. Moosa, having just eaten his sub-par magnum took to indulging in a chocolate ice-cream cone. We sat in silence, with chocolate staining the corners of our mouths, as we made the most of our ice-cream. Disappointed by the bottom of the cone that rested between my fingers, the ice-cream was over and so was our time in Almafa.
We headed back to the hostel via the nearest metro station we could locate on google maps. Having had a long day we sat in the room and looked over our pictures taken that day and pondered on where we were to go for dinner. I let Moosa decide where we would go for dinner and after a while he had come to a decision – Doca Peixe. He had merely searched for a seafood restaurant and TripAdvisor had advised. I did not have high hopes, but I didn’t dare to tell him that. We worked out that we had to get the metro and then a bus to the restaurant, which was situated on the water-front. Oh boy did we struggle that evening to get to the restaurant. We set off with a reservation booked for 9pm, leaving the hostel at 8pm hoping that an hour would give us plenty of time for a journey that Google Maps predicted would take about 40 minutes.
Getting to Marquês de Pombal was only a single stop on the metro, this was where we would be getting the bus from, not knowing where the bus stop was we asked two security guards in the metro, who could not point us to where we had to go. Brilliant. We headed out and luckily saw the bus we had to get, the 727, we got on and it was empty for most of the journey. We had a problem, we didn’t know where we were going, other than the stop we had to get off at was called ‘Hospital Egas Moniz’, which was the 19th stop on our journey. With no one to ask and the bus driver speaking very little English, we hoped to count the stops, knowing we were the 19th. The problem here was that it was dark outside and with no one getting on or off of the bus, we had no idea how many stops we had passed. 20:50, 10 minutes until our reservation and clueless as to where we were. I cancelled the reservation and pushed it back by half an hour, surely by then we would have arrived? Nope. 20 minutes later and the bus was empty and we were lost.
The driver had just let the last person off and I took this as an opportunity to go and ask how long until our stop. Confused, he looked at me, with my pronunciation doing me no good I typed out the name of the stop and passed him my phone. “No, no, no” the bus driver says while shaking my head, I look at Moosa, who looks unenthusiastic, then back to the driver who tells me to ‘wait’. Dread set in as the neighbourhood we were in looked sketchy as it was dark outside and we were still about 40 minutes from where our hostel was. 10 minutes later and he pulls over to a bus stop parallel to another driver and speaks in Portuguese, the driver, then in broken English turns to us and tells us that to get to Hospital Egas Moniz we should board the bus next to us. 21:25, time to push back our reservation further, this time taking no chances, 22:30, maybe we will be there in time before it closes. It was about 10pm that we got to the bus stop, a hospital with security guards at it’s entrance, looking fairly ominous, stood before us.
Time to rely, once again, on Google Maps. We entered our destination, and following the directions given to us, crossed a bridge taking us to a promenade that must have stretched out for a mile. A warm evening with a beautiful walk to the restaurant that could be seen in the distance ahead of us, perhaps the chaotic journey could be forgotten. We got to the restaurant and noted that we were early for our third reservation.
The waiter welcomed us and directed us to a large open display of fish preserved by masses of ice and mist to keep the fish fresh. The sea bass was my choice and Moosa decided on the same. The table was outdoors, right on the waterfront on an elevated patio with glass surroundings overlooking the dock. Fresh bread accompanied the table with olives and cheeses. A meal I was definitely looking forward to, considering the journey to get here was exhausting, and a good meal would take my mind off the journey back. ‘Good’ is an understatement, ‘great’ would be an understatement, this meal was fantastic.
The journey back was much shorter for me as I fell asleep resting upon Moosa’s shoulder, unfortunately for him he had the task of waking me up, which meant I was a very tired, grumpy, Lydia for the metro journey and walk back to the hostel. Thank goodness this was not far. Having reached the room, we were both elated to get into pyjamas and then into bed. Within seconds I had fallen asleep, a successful first full day exploring Lisbon.
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