Having had a busy two days, we had planned for our fourth day to be a chilled out, easy going day, for tomorrow would be the busiest of them all. Tomorrow was Sintra. We wanted to visit the Basilica da Estrela today, and as we had done the past 3 days, we proceeded to get ready and venture out for breakfast. The hostel had gotten noticeably busier over the past day, we felt this through the waiting time to use the shower. Frustratingly, we couldn’t leave the hostel until midday, which meant a late start to our day and feeling sluggish. We stopped off for breakfast, purchasing pastries and fresh juice – redeeming our late start.
We decided on buying a couple of single tickets, costing €1.45 each, as we didn’t plan to travel around much today, and set off for Rato, the last stop of the yellow line. From Rato station we planned on walking to the Basilica. The metro journey was a mere 6 minutes, though the wait at the station today was almost more than the journey itself. Once arrived, we headed uphill in the general direction of the basilica, making our way through the now somewhat familiar streets of Lisbon.
Our first stop was the Jardim de Estrela, a picturesque park, surrounded by the most vibrant flowers, centred around a pond filled with little tortoise. Excited, I went to turn on the camera: ‘No SD Card Inserted’. What. Moosa, I could kill you right now. We were in such a beautiful, picture perfect, park with no camera. We put the camera back into its back and said goodbye to it for the day. Okay Samsung phone, show us what you’ve got.
We walked through the garden and came out standing directly in front of the basilica. We took some time to enjoy the interior, though it soon became deadly silent. As we considered leaving, a man and woman set up a chair and a microphone at the front of the basilica, a few minutes later a voice breaks through the silence. She sang traditional Portuguese songs as he accompanied her by playing the guitar. We got up to leave, and just in time. As we left, a large crowd of people walked into the basilica, towards where we had just left. A funeral procession. We quickly left and headed back into the gardens.
Once again we spent a little time in the gardens until it was time to head to get lunch. We walked back towards the metro in search of somewhere to eat lunch. Most eateries are small rooms in a house converted into a dining area, though they were full with locals. We passed several cafes, although by this point pastries started to become more and more undesirable. A little Chinese restaurant stood across the way to us, on the opposite of the road. Chinese buffet for lunch it was. This was the start of our ‘bad food day’ as we termed it.
A sparsely populated restaurant with more staff than there were customers. We were sat by the entrance of the restaurant, perhaps in hope we would attract more customers. No one else came in for the duration of our meal. The food was unidentifiable and sat in trays with halogen lighting that failed to keep it warm. We ate as much as we could, which was just enough to feed our appetites, since this was food for sustenance not pleasure. The disappointing main was somewhat relieved for me, since the dessert cart contained a tray of strawberries. I can honestly say that I ate my weight in strawberries that day. We paid the bill and headed out back towards the metro.
Somehow we had found our self in a tiny park watching local boys play football using the benches as goals. We had gone into the mini-market on the corner and purchased some snacks. I sat and ate my chocolate croissant while we watched the football game and enjoyed the glorious weather.
Before arriving in Lisbon, I had done some research as to places that are deemed a ‘must visit’, what struck me as an unusual was PARK bar. A bar that is hidden away on the top floor of a parking lot, converted into a modern, hipster, area to chill, with panoramic views of Lisbon. We found it with ease; situated in Bairro Alto, an area of Lisbon Moosa had been mocking me for over the past week, as I constantly brought it up, with it being renowned for its atmosphere.
It was about 5pm by the time we got to PARK, not expecting it to be that busy we took the lift up, anticipating something lesser to what we found. An outdoor terrace that was packed. Adamant to sit outside we took a seat just indoors, while we pondered the cocktail menu. It was about 15 minutes until a table cleared up, and a sizeable queue had formed in the meanwhile. A couple who had just arrived saw this as an opportunity to take the newly occupied table that myself and Moosa were stood by. Not ashamed to point out the queue, I delicately pointed out to them that there was in fact a queue, to which they reluctantly joined the back. Myself and Moosa took the seats and proceeded to order a mojito and strawberry daiquiri as we waited patiently for sunset, taking in the spectacular views.
Two daquiris, a pina colada and a mojito down, we had observed the sunset and thought it best to move to somewhere we could have dinner. As we got up, our seats were immediately replaced by a couple still queuing for seats. We walked further uphill as we came out of the parking lot, seeming like a lost pair of tourists to those unaware of the bar that existed above us. It was relatively dark by this point and we were looking for somewhere to eat before it got too late.
As we walked to the top of the road we passed a shop with great big rotisseries in the window, and a queue that went beyond the entrance to the tiny shop. The meat cooking tenderly on the grill made us hungrier, and if it were not for the lack of a seating area, we would have definitely joined the queue. Not quite knowing where to go we found a little ally that led to a couple more eateries. At this point Moosa asked if I minded eating at the place on the corner, “of course not” I replied, and with that we sat down outside, where a waiter brought over 2 menus.
The restaurant had the cheapest burger I had ever come across, costing just €5. The restaurant was empty, though we didn’t take this as an indication of the food at the time. What a mistake on our part. We ordered a bottle of water, some bread for the table and a burger each. The water arrived, a 1l bottle of water, not much different than any you’d buy from a market for €0.80. It was not chilled and the glasses we were gave with it were stained with water marks. The water remained unopened on the table. Next, the bread arrived. So far the bread in restaurants have been freshly baked, served with pre-cut butter. This was unlike any other bread we had previously had. It was old and didn’t even smell remotely like bread. Hopes loomed for our main courses.
Mine arrived first. Anaemic chips, that were soft and barely cooked, a burger that sat on the plate dripping with oil and fat, with limp lettuce inside, and a smell of fish that lingered around the plate. I took a bite of the burger and immediately regretted it. Even for €2, I wouldn’t have brought it. Immediately I felt sick, and warned Moosa for his, hoping it would be better. 5 minutes passed and the waiter came over to state they were just making Moos’ burger now. We took the opportunity to cancel his order and to get the bill, it was best we left the restaurant as soon as, to get away from the horrendous meal put before us.
The bill arrived, to which I settled without even wanting to check, desperate to get away from the table. €12 the total came to, this being with Moosa’s burger removed. Hold on, what accounted for the €7? The bread was €3, and unbelievably the bottle of water, the plain unchilled bottle of water was a staggering €4. This was water to treasure, unopened, surely the ageing process of this water would bring about an increase in value, since for €4 you’d expect it to cure ill health. Unfortunately not. We were well and truly ripped-off and Moosa was still yet to eat dinner, I was scarred from the single bite of the burger and couldn’t face eating anything else.
We walked up towards the end of where we were sat and came across a Portuguese restaurant that seemed busy. This was a good sign, Moosa and I agreed to go in. The restaurant advertised a Fado night, which explained the restaurant’s popularity. He ordered his food and the music began. A woman no more than 5 feet away from us, with a deafeningly loud voice, which was without the presence of a microphone. Moosa enjoyed his meal, and with the bill came more shots of ginjinha.
Having had a long day, we finished up at the restaurant and walked back towards the earlier busy streets. Entering a little artisan sweet shop – ‘Happy Pills’ – on the walk back to the nearest metro. Within 20 minutes we were back at the hostel. An early night to rest up for Sintra tomorrow.