1 Week in Portugal: Day 1 (Lisbon)

A few years ago, my aunt requested that she accompany us on holiday in the year 2017 because she wanted to celebrate turning 60. Originally, she wanted to go to Machu Picchu, but I wasn't keen on going somewhere that strenuous with someone so much older and honestly, I was too lazy to train for the trip. So, I threw out the idea of going to Lisbon and she agreed.

Last week, we embarked on a weeklong vacation to the gorgeous country of Portugal. The trip started off on a bit of a sour note. We had booked a flight for Friday evening with a layover in Toronto and the initial leg of our trip was canceled and we were rebooked on a new flight on Saturday. After an aggressive phone call with the airline, we were able to be switched to a direct flight for Friday night so what started as an annoyance ended up being a blessing.
We arrived in Lisbon several hours earlier than anticipated, which was just the slightest bit annoying because that meant we had to stroll around with our luggage for a few hours before we could check into our Airbnb. However, as I'd encouraged everyone to pack light, it wasn't all bad. And besides, our surroundings were more than pleasant.

Here's what I packed:
And here's my map:

On this trip, we started a new tradition of wiping everything down with Clorox in an effort to keep germs at bay. On longer flights, we're always much more tired and weak and likely to get sick so I think this is going to a tradition I quite enjoy and benefit from.
I knew we were going to use public transportation here and there so I opted to use the 'zapping' option for our metro cards. Basically, it's a card that you can refill and each ride is just a bit cheaper than it would be to pay for a single use card. (If you plan on riding the metro/bus/tram more than six times a day, then I would opt for the 24-hour card.)
We took the metro to Baixa-Chiado, which was just a two minute walk from our Airbnb. But like I said, as we'd arrived much earlier than anticipated, we had to kill some time before we could check in.

We dragged our luggage along the riverbank, which was quaint and quiet. I'm assuming it's because it was so early in the morning, but there were only a handful of tourists walking around and a few locals going for a run.
We were feeling a bit peckish so we stopped at a cafe for some drinks. M got a kiwi juice and I got mango; they were basically just blended fruit and it was delicious.
Instead of a hotel, we thought it would be more economical and practical to stay in an apartment so I booked with Vanessa on Airbnb. This place was awesome and if I ever go back to Lisbon, I'm booking in here. It's a spacious three bedroom apartment (that will sleep up to 6), with two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining area, living room, and the location is perfect. It's in the flat part of the city, near the metro, close to many of the historical sites, and near so many delicious restaurants.
The host, Vanessa, is so friendly and sweet and accommodating. The apartment is a walkup and it's on the fourth floor (which is the fifth floor in American standards... they count the ground floor as '0' instead of '1' like we do here in the states) so when you open all of the windows, you get an amazing breeze and airflow but no bugs.
After we dropped off our things, we headed out to explore our neighborhood.
For lunch, we headed to the Time Out Market. One half of the market has produce and seafood and a butcher while the other half is a biergarden-style food hall. We walked around looking for four seats together for a few minutes before queuing up for some grub.
We ended up getting a bunch of seafood dishes from Marisqueira Azul. We got mussels, prawns with garlic, grilled squid, and octopus rice. Everything was delicious and hit the spot.
At Vanessa's suggestion, we took two free elevators, one from Rua dos Fanqueiros that took us up to Rua Magdalena and then a second one from the Pingo Doce supermarket that took us up to Calçada do Marquês de Tancos and made the climb to São Jorge much less strenuous. These elevators are completely free and if you're not keen on walking up steep cobbled sidewalks, this is a great shortcut.
We didn't actually go inside the castle grounds because the line was long and we didn't want to queue. Plus, we were planning on going to Sintra (which I will share about in upcoming posts) so felt like there was no pressing need to see a castle when were would be getting an overload of palaces and castles soon anyway.

There are some great views from the castle and since we were missing them, we decided to go to some other nearby lookout points. The first one was the Portas do Sol, which was quite gorgeous. It was crowded with tourists but there was plenty of room for everyone and we all enjoyed the amazing views.
Just downhill from the Portas do Sol is another miradouro. This one was prettier in terms of the actual viewing area, with a nice garden and pool. However, the views from this one were not as picturesque because it wasn't quite as high up.

On our way back to our flat, we stopped at the grocery store for some bits and bobs to have for breakfast, to snack on, and to picnic with in Sintra. This place was much more reasonably priced than the bodega-style markets. But I have to say, everything in Lisbon was super affordable and I was shocked every time we shopped for food because it was so cheap.
For dinner, we went to a tapas place just five minutes from our flat.
It was so busy we had to sit at the bar to eat, but we didn't mind.
We were encouraged to order several different dishes to share - that's the concept of tapas, duh. The first dish to arrive was a cod ceviche on top of a mango puree. The fish was tender, though not as acidic as I assumed it would be, and the mango puree had a creamy element to it.
We also had a couple of cocktails - M got a mojito while I went for a caipirinha.
We also got a couple of mixed salads because we were all craving veggies.
The second dish to arrive was the sardines breaded in cornmeal. The breading was light, airy, and crisp and were a perfect complement to the delicate fish.
The bacalhau (cod) with matchstick potatoes and olive tapenade was fantastic as well. It was such a balanced dish, and even though I'm not even a fan of olives, I have to say that the tapenade was the perfect complement to the pile of fish and potatoes.
The grilled octopus was perfectly tender and the pea puree it was nestled on top of was delectable. The chef who put together these flavor combinations is a genius.
The piri piri chicken was the favorite and the star of the meal. The crispy fried chicken was gently spiced and came with a piri piri dipping sauce that totally hit the spot.
This crispy cheese was a close second to the chicken. A salty, nutty cheese wrapped in crisped phyllo dough served with a sprinkling of crunchy nuts; this is something I need to recreate at home.
The pork cheeks with red wine reduction was unctuous and decadent. The meat itself was tender and flavorful but the red wine sauce was insanely good and is what made this dish stand out.
The duck had a chimichurri-style sauce spooned on top, which helped to offset the fatty richness of the meat. The crispy chips helped reinforce the fatty richness of the meat. Again, another well-balanced, awesome dish.
For dessert, we got a pastel de nata (traditional egg tart) and a mango cheesecake. The mango cheesecake was light and fluffy and stole our hearts.
After dinner, we happily walked home with full bellies and let sleep overtake us. I'd been fighting jetlag all day so my body was more than ready for a rest.
Here's my video diary: