This weekend I embraced the infamous travelling concept for those who don’t have months to travel in called The City Break.
My favourite travel companion, Izzie, and I each packed our carryon bags, for hand luggage is all that’s required for a city break. And jumped on board a very cheap evening flight to Lisbon, Portugal. Arriving at “Lost Inn Hostel” at 2 am we were greeted by a lovely young lady who gave us the grand tour. Lost Inn Hostel is by far the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in and was one of the cheaper ones in the city centre that we found. It was everything you required. Clean with comfy beds and lovely friendly staff and a breakfast buffet was included in the price which varies from 15euros a night to 18 euros a night depending on whether it’s a weekend or not and the season.
Being the top tourists we are we spent the first day bumbling around Lisbon’s historic city centre eventually finding ourselves at Castelo de Sao Jorge. Be warned Lisbon has an awful lot of little streets which are not marked on the map. Lost Inn may have been a tongue in cheek name but it certainly reflected a lot of our time in Lisbon! Castelo de Sao Jorge is the ruin (largely still intact) of a medieval castle sitting upon Lisbon’s highest point. The castle offers free guided tours around the archaeological features which include both the Portugal’s Islamic and Catholic occupation. The entrance fee for non-students was 8 euros and for students was 5 euros. The castle’s location lends itself to give a wonderful panoramic view of the 25 de Abril Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge look alike, Lisbon proudly owns. The views are spectacular and you truly get a feel for the intensity and size of the city.
We finished our day of culture by talking a stroll along the river front which gives way to the architectural geniuses of Lisbon’s past. I could have quite happily wandered round Lisbon drinking cheap good coffee, lemonade made with real lemons and pastries all weekend but a las we had memories to make. We stopped for lunch at an unremarkable Italian, our choice based more on the view of the marina and the bridge than the food. That evening we made the most of Lisbon’s mixologists and took ourselves on a cocktail tour. We found the city to be easy to navigate, despite most people having no idea where we were trying to go. The Portuguese should be awarded a medal for their patience and kindness. Our tour started in “Pensao Amor”, which was decorated like an eccentric grandma’s house with old living room furniture and interesting wall hangings including a stag’s head and an arm chair. The cocktails were sublime. I thoroughly recommend both the “Bramble love” and the “Apple and Basil Connection” both were priced reasonably at 12euros. Our next planned stop was a placed called “Park”. Now finding “Park” is somewhat impossible. Don’t be surprised when google maps sends you to a multi storey car park. “Take the lift to level 5 and walk up to the next level” we were reliably informed. Following these instructions, we found ourselves in what could only be described as the coolest setting I think I have ever experienced, overlooking the whole of Lisbon by night and with cocktails at 6euros. Who could resist?
Mesmerised by the view, and maybe one too many Caprikosa’s (be warned they are dangerously easy to drink and mainly vodka, a Brazilian version of Cuba’s mojito) we didn’t make it any further. We planned to finish the night at “Cinco Lounge”. Said to be the best cocktail bar in Lisbon, rivalling London and New York’s finest. But quite honestly, Lisbon is overflowing with reasonably priced good cocktail bars with interesting décor, so I recommend you find your own way.
Being English, the lure of a sunny beach was too much for us to handle so we took the train from Cais do Sodre to Cascais. Cascais is a small-ish coastal town, 30 minutes train journey form Lisbon’s centre, and at 4.80 return, why not? We spent the day dipping in and out of the Atlantic’s waters which made a refreshing change from the 27 degree heat that Lisbon was holding at. That evening we wandered down alleyways, discovering new sights and smells. Deciding to have a low key evening we cooked up a storm in the hostel’s well equipped kitchen. We needed an early night for day three’s planned activity – SURFING!
Gota d’Agua Surf School picked us up from our hostel for half a day surfing. And quite frankly I wold have paid the 29.50 euros for the journey alone. The entertainment our driver provided us was worth it’s weight in gold. Having surfed before, I was introducing Izzie to a sport I loved and watching her wipe out and eventually get a few good stands was worth every cent. Exhausted, we returned to our hostel.
That evening we dined with the Gods at a tiny restaurant called “Carmo”. We sat outside watching the world go by as we savoured every mouthful of our Portuguese delicacies. We both had the Iberian pork with a mushroom risotto. I have worked in a kitchen with a professional chef, but never have I tasted pork so succulent and tender with so much flavour. It was love at first bite. And for 2 starters, 2 mains and a bottle of wine, the tidy sum of 51euros didn’t break the bank. Even better!
On our final day, we caught the tram – oh so very Lisbonian – to Belem. Home to the most famous pastry shop (Pastels de Belem) in Lisbon, a beautiful monastery – Monsteiro dos Jeronimos – (warning, it’s closed on Mondays, plan better than we did), Belem tower and Discoveries Monument which makes a wonderful look out point. I’d recommend the Discoveries Monument, which is essentially a huge cross with a marble floor which details a world map at it’s base, rather than the tower as you get higher and can see the tower from the top of the monument. Alternatively do both! We made the executive decision that the queue for the Pastels de Belem was too long, however is definitely worth having a look around as they have a viewing station of how Portugal’s infamous custard tarts are made. Then we detoured to Honorato, a small chain who do gourmet burgers for under 10euros. And my God were they worth it!
And with that we had to leave Lisbon, which will be forever in my heart as a city full of passion, life, and easy on the most pocket! And best of all, delicious in every sense.