Epic Family Journey

Wet Socks in Lisbon

Like all good things, the good weather ended on our arrival to Lisbon. Not only has it rained all week, it was really cold (to our standards). After our wonderfully warm and sunny week in Porto, we could not even imagine having such bad temperature in a city 300km to the South. I repeat, the South! As always we knew how to adapt to the situation and kept our smiles. Here are some Portuguese remedies to avoid depression on rainy days.

1) Enter one of the many Portuguese pastry shop and taste a Pastéis de Nata, this delicious tart that consists of a custard baked in a puff pastry.
2) Stop at one of the many Ginjinha counters, this famous cherry liqueur, for a small glass that warms up the interior. .
3) Spend an hour in an elegant Porto bar and make new discoveries.

You can repeat and alternate these remedies as necessary and you will certainly forget bad weather. More seriously, here is a short summary of our visit to Lisbon.

What is our favorite thing to do in Europe? Explore the city by taking a walking tour from Rick Steve! We had to do this in two steps, however while we can keep a smile under a bit of drizzle, when the rain is so strong that we are afraid to use the camera, the pleasure is just not there. This walk allowed us to visit several neighborhoods in the center of Lisbon, including Baixa and Barro Alto. We started by visiting the famous Praça de Comercio, a place of importance in the regulation of Lisbon affairs, but also a place of gathering for the important events of the city. It is possible to see the statue of King Joseph I and a magnificent Arch of Triumph which honors several important mens of Lisbon such as Vasco de Gamma and Pombal. This walk took us through the city and showed us how the city was destroyed and rebuilt after the earthquake / tsunami / fire of 1755. We were able to enjoy the neighborhood life with its old pastry shops (older than Canada), its salted cod stores and its many public squares. We were also able to visit many churches, some of which were magnificently rebuilt, some even more interesting left damaged or completely collapsed. And finally, to Hugo’s delight, we were able to climb on the characteristic funicular of Lisbon! Hilly streets can be quite strenuous to climb in Portugal. Again, we enjoyed this walk which allowed us to get some context on the things we were able to observe in the city.

A visit to Lisbon can not be complete without visiting the neighborhood of Belém. This beautiful area, a little away from the city center is the neighborhood of the Palace of Belém and the Jeronimos Monastery. We unfortunately experienced one of the worst rainfall of our trip that day so we could not fully enjoy the area but we made a visit in the church of Santa Maria, this sumptuous church where it It is possible to observe the tomb of Vasco de Gama. We also found refuge in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lisbon, located in the Cultural Center Belém (CCB). This art museum was one of our favorites art museums visited during this trip. First, because it is possible to observe numerous works, notably by Dali, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Warhol, Willem de Kooning and so many others. As the museum focuses on contemporary art, it was an interesting shift from bourgeois portraits or representations of religious scenes that can be enjoyed in abundance in Europe. We also enjoyed this museum because it offers family activities that allow them to discover the works in a particular way by making them treasure hunt or canvas and thus appreciate contemporary art more. When we exited the museum, we braved the rain to observe the monuments such as the tower of Belém and Discoveries monument. The monument was very impressive with statues of Henri the navigator surrounded by all the important characters of Portugal. After this long walk to observe these monuments, we jumped on the tram and came back soaked in Lisbon.

For our day of “better” weather, we opted for the visit of Sintra, the charming medieval town near Lisbon which can be done on a “day trip” by taking the train. Our first observation when arriving: a day is not enough to discover this charming little town. Honestly, it is a city that is composed of old castles, villas and other sumptuous residences and the entire city is protected and recognized as a World Heritage by the Unesco. There is a lot to see and we chose to visit the Regaleira Palace as the Lonely Planet guide recommended it as a “top choice” compared to other attractions. We were not disappointed. The house itself was sumptuous and very interesting, but what we especially enjoyed was the visit of the huge garden where we were able to observe magnificent ramparts, chapels and turrets. What the boys loved was visiting hundreds of meters of tunnels and climbing the steps of a well and of an underground tower. Wow, the visit to this site will be memorable.

We left Portugal thinking that despite the bad weather, we were very lucky to visit such a wonderful country. We also had a special thought for our friends Karine and Richard who had told us about their previous visit to Portugal and who made us aspire to visit this country ourselves. We cannot wait to see them in Quebec and eat a fantastic home-made Portuguese dinner and maybe even home-made Pasteis de Nata 🙂 Have a great week everyone!

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