Facts about Lisbon and Portugal

20 Aug

Quick, tell me what you know about Portugal! Here’s my list pre-Lisbon visit:

1. They speak Portuguese there.
2. It’s on the coast of the Iberian Peninsula next to Spain.
3. Christopher Columbus and a bunch of other explorers were from Portugal. Although I just Googled him and apparently Columbus was Italian. I’m a bad American.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo the famous footballer [soccer player] is from Portugal.
5. Nando’s! (Cheeky Nando’s!) Although I just Googled Nando’s and apparently it was founded in South Africa and peri-peri sauce is from Mozambique. Why is it Portugal themed then?!
6. Lisbon is the capital.

That’s basically the knowledge I had of Portugal before we went there. And now I’m happy to report I can add a few facts to my list.

7. Lisbon is super hilly.

As far as I know, Lisbon has great public transportation, but we didn’t use it, because I needed to get Fitbit steps (and also I suppose exploring a city on foot helps you truly see it). We walked from Avenida da Liberdade to Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara to get a nice view of the city. Google Maps said it was a short walk.

lisbon weinerWhat Google Maps did not say was that it was up a very steep hill. (Although I guess I should have inferred a viewpoint would have to be high up…) Most people waited and took the trolley up and down, but most people don’t have Fitbits that track flights of stairs climbed (and hills count as stairs). So we walked up and down.

lisbon trolleyI don’t know if you can spot it in the first photo I posted, but São Jorge Castle is up on a hill in the center of Lisbon. We walked there next (after stopping for ice cream, of course).

lisbon castle

This post is going to be very photo-heavy, so click to read on.

8. They like graffiti

Did you happen to notice the wiener graffiti in the first photo I posted? Here’s a close up. Way to keep the skyline classy, Lisboa!

lisbon weiner graffitiI saw this masterpiece on our walk down the big hill. Of course I was drawn to the panda and didn’t even realize the woman was naked.

lisbon graffiti pandaWe took some back roads to walk up to the castle. I think the silver spray paint can looks a little like Bender from Futurama.

lisbon graffiti

9. They love seafood.

Since Lisbon is close to the coast, they are all about that seafood. We had it every day. The first day Stephen ordered garlic prawns from a tourist trap sidewalk cafe. They were sub-par, so I made it my mission to find quality garlic prawns and proceeded to order them every subsequent dinner. Mmm… prawns swimming in garlic and oil (have I mentioned I didn’t eat very healthily on our trip?). I’m happy to report the non-tourist trap restaurants really do garlic prawns right. One famous seafood place we went to even had this blue lobster in the tank. I wonder if he was on the menu — only 1 in every 2 million lobsters is blue, so he has to cost a pretty penny!

blue lobster lisbon

10. They also love egg tarts, or pastel de nata. This is something else I ate with practically every meal. The photo below was taken at Pastéis de Belém, where the famous custard tart was allegedly invented. Pro tip: Rick Steves was right, the pasteis de nata at Pastéis de Belém only taste better because they’re warm, and they’re not really worth the wait and hype when practically every bakery and restaurant has decent ones.

lisbon Pastéis de Belém

11. Vasco da Gama is buried in the Jerónimos Monastery. You probably recognize that name because it was the answer to a middle school history test question (What Portuguese explorer was the first European to reach India by sea, opening up trade between Europe and Asia?).

Jeronimos vasga da gama

Jerónimos Monastery is gorgeous, and unlike the custard tart place, is worth the long queue to buy tickets and get in.

Jeronimos outside

jeronimos courtyardI was trying to take more than just your average sightseeing shots. I still have a lot to learn about light and photography.

lisbon monastery

Jeronimos sun

Umm… is that a grasshopper or a Glo Worm?

Jeronimos grasshopper

Jeronimos artsy light

Had to get some bokeh effect!

Jeronimos boka
12. Back in the day, the small town of Sintra was where the rich and famous went to escape Lisbon. Now it’s where tourists go to cram themselves onto buses that wind up steep cliffs so they can see an old castle and fairy tale-esque palace. We took a day trip there via train (and overcrowded bus). This is Pena Palace from the Moorish Castle:

pena palace hill

It was built by German-born Prince Ferdinand, cousin of Bavaria’s “Mad” Kind Ludwig who built the Disney-esque Neuschwanstein Castle my parents and I visited 2 years ago. People claim Pena Palace is Disney-esque, but I got a more Fisher-Price feel from it (not that that’s bad).

sintra pena palace

Sintra pena palace sun

Is this Neptune? Why is he so angry?

pena palace neptune

The palace was built on the site of a 16th-century monastery. This courtyard was the former cloister.

sintra pena palace courtyard

The Moorish Castle from Pena Palace. The castle is the other must-see in Sintra. Although honestly, you can see it from Pena Palace and save yourself the money and hassle of hiking around it. Since it’s so high up, it’s ridiculously windy and chilly.

sintra moorish castle

Now you can say you know a little more about Lisbon and Portugal too!


2 Responses to “Facts about Lisbon and Portugal”

  1. Biddy Greene November 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    Hi. I love your pics of the Jerónimos Monastery (which I happened to be googling). Thanks for them!

    Nandos did originate in South Africa (where I live). There are plenty of people here of Portuguese descent and spicy food is popular with almost everyone (except me!)

    Btw, it was a SPANISH queen (Isabella) who financed Columbus’s 1492 voyage.

    • reneedezvous November 11, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

      Thanks! 🙂 (And thanks for the info too!)

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