Marty & I are at the end of a wonderful trip through Portugal. We visited 3 different areas (all quite different from each other) — Lisbon, Porto up north (& the Douro Valley) and the Algarve in the southern part of Portugal. Those of you on FaceBook have had the opportunity to follow our adventures on a daily basis. The rest of you (& surprisingly it’s almost half of you) who knew we were away are probably wondering what happened to the Haber Reports. It turned out that the Blogger app I had been using got changed & I couldn’t insert any photos into my report. Doug worked very diligently to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, it took longer than I hoped for. At this point, Doug has worked out all of the various issues & I will now attempt to enlighten you about our latest adventures.😁
This first edition will cover Lisbon (& Sintra). Rather than give you a day by day account of our time in Lisbon, I am going to summarize our stay & my reactions. Lisbon is a busy city with lots of tourist attractions. Since it is one of the “safer” cities in today’s world (& not too costly), it has attracted many tourists. There are lines for most of the attractions. Lisbon is composed of different neighborhoods with a different feel in each. We spent time in 6 different neighborhoods during the day (& several others in the evenings for dinner). I enjoyed them all. In a typical day we would taxi from our hotel to our first stop of the day and then walk & walk (& walk) from one destination to the next. (We’ve hit our 10,000 steps every day.) Occasionally we took a bus or a metro if the distances were too great. And when we were exhausted at the end of our touring day, we took a taxi back to our hotel.
I’m sure it will be no surprise to any of you to learn that we went to more museums than anything else. We went to 6 of them. My favorite was the very first one we went to – a tile museum (the Museo Nacional do Azulejo). The building had been a cloister & it is a stunning setting.
The museum has decorative panels, individual tiles & photos which trace the evolution of tile making from its introduction by the Moors through Spanish influence & the development of Portugal’s own style up to the present.
I had no idea how important tiles are in Portugal’s culture. Wherever you go in Lisbon, you see tiles. Many buildings have tiles on the outside.
(While here I bought a t-shirt with pictures of tiles on it as well as a small tile coaster to keep water on near my bed!!)
Thus, it is not surpring that I also enjoyed the Museum of Decorative Arts as well as the Museo National de Arte Antigua which has a wonderful ceramic collection. The former has a great collection of furniture, textiles, silver & ceramics. My favorite piece in this museum, however, was a backgammon & chess table.
We also went to 2 art museums — the Berardo Collection (which shows contemporary art) & the Museo Calouste Gulbenkian which has one of the finest collections of art in Europe as well as lovely pieces of jewelry by Lalique. I enjoyed them both. As we were leaving the Berardo Collection, we were asked to fill out a short survey. As a “thank you” for doing so, they gave you a little pin in the shape of a heart with the words “culture for life” on it!! Is there any doubt that I filled out that questionnaire?! Given my prior life (the working one!), you know I would have filled it out anyway, but how appropriate is this. I put it on the lapel of one of my jackets.
We went to several churches as well as a monastery. The monastery (St. Jerome) was my favorite. It was huge & beautiful with a cloister in the middle.
One of the churches we visited was the Basilica da Estrella where light streams down under its hugest pierced dome.
In our walking around we encountered numerous squares, plazas, gardens & parks as well as walking streets & belvederes (which are viewing sites). One of those streets is the Avenida da Libertade which is a boulevard built in 1879 in the style of the Champs Elysees in Paris, i.e., it’s a wide tree lined avenue.
Among the miscellaneous things we saw my favorite was the Monument to the Discoveries. It’s a massive monument designed in the shape of a caravel which is a sailing ship. Henry the Navigator stands at the prow & on either side are stone statues of Portuguese heroes linked with the Age of Discovery. It is quite spectacular.
On one of the days we were in Lisbon we took a 30 minute ride on a commuter train (which was “free” with our Lisboa card; TY to Ira) to Sintra. This is a town of palaces. We were there all day, but only managed to visit 2 of them.
The first one we went to was Quinta da Regaleria which was built by millionaire Monteiro. The Palace was built in 1910 and has lots of historical & religious references, occult symbols & mystery. There are lots of gardens, tunnels, caves and grottoes. It was supposed to have a waterfall, but it was dry. (I thought I was in Minneapolis; NOT). It was fun to walk around the palace and its gardens.
The second palace we went to was Montserrate. I liked this one better, but It was much harder to navigate and walk. The garden of this estate is a jungle of exotic trees, flowers and shrubs. We saw very strange cacti and a small waterfall. The gardens were landscaped in the late 18th century by a wealthy Englishman named William Beckford. In 1856 the estate was bought by another Englishman – Sir Francis Cook – who built a fantastic Moorish style palace on the grounds. It was great.
And then there were the dinners; not a bad one among them. I chose well! The most amazing one was at a restaurant called Belcanto. It’s a 2 star Michelin restaurant. The chef is Portugal’s most skilled & imaginative chef & a protege of molecular guru Ferrari Adria (of Bulli fame in Spain). The meal was a tasting menu with wine pairings. Each dish was unique & fabulous. It will be one of our most memorable meals ever, although we wound up having 2 other meals (later in the trip) that were even more amazing😁. Here are just a few of the dishes from that meal.
Each of our other 4 dinners in Lisbon was delightful in different ways. One was a wine bar where we just had cheese & sausage with the wine selected for us based on our likes; one was a restaurant which only had locals in it, no tourists; one was a seafood restaurant & the last one was a steak restaurant. A nice assortment.
So that was our stay in Lisbon. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there, but we had other places to see, things to do and food (& wine) to devour! So stay tuned for 2 other Haber Reports.