Yes, it’s that Rohan Cool Silver t-shirt again!
As we’ve made several trips over the last year, there are a few items which have earned their stripes.
Such as 100ml bottles of Lifeventure Fabric Wash, 50ml packs of Nivea UVA/UVB Sun Lotion (SPF 30 or SPF 50 depending on the advance forecast for the places we’re visiting), 100ml bottles of Lush Shower Gel (original choice was Flying Fox, but I’ve now swapped to using Rain On My Parade), Lush solid shampoo bars and battery toothbrushes…
I bought a Slim Sonic AAA powered toothbrush, liked it, am still using it and haven’t as yet replaced the battery that came with it. I’ve got spare brush heads, so on the current performance, I should be using it for a while yet.
Caroline picked up a similar device from Clas Ohlson’s store in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last year. While the sign said it was £4.99, the item came up as being £2.99 when it was rung through the till. It’s worked, but Caroline has switched to a Colgate 360 battery powered toothbrush and has found that to be a better buy.
Clothing with a silver content has worked well. I’ve gone on about the Rohan range of t-shirts and underwear for years, but I’ve found that trainer and dress socks from Marks & Spencer have also been worth investing in. Nasty riffs from sweaty feet are a thing of the past!
Caroline tried Rohan’s Ultra Silver camisoles and briefs last year and has gone on to buy another couple of sets as they’ve proved to be quite useful. The fine fabric is comfortable to wear, even in hot climates and each item has been washed at the end of the day and either packed or worn the following day depending on what we’ve been up to.
Rohan’s Travel Linen clothing has also been a useful addition to her wardrobe, as have the three pairs of Goa trousers that I bought last year. Whilst I spent a great deal of time in t-shirts when we were in Lisbon, there were times when I felt slightly underdressed whilst having evening meals.
So I invested in some short and long sleeved shirts in last summer’s Rohan sale and added a couple of polo shirts to my travel collection. The latter can also be washed on a night and worn the following morning and I have gone out and bought another three because I’ve started wearing them at home.
Merino wool t-shirts have also been added to the wardrobe and these are also home and away items. I’ve used them as base layers when heading to the airport at 3am in below freezing conditions and on their own at rock concerts, wandering around town and whilst walking on coastal boardwalks on sunny days.
Anything else? Giant size Lifeventure travel towels have been useful in hostels or guest houses when towels or bathrobes haven’t been available and as part of the wash and wear processes.
Wash the item, squeeze the water out and then roll it up in the towel to get rid of any excess water before hanging the clothing and the towel up to dry.
The last items help to keep my pack organised and at a hand-luggage gauge friendly size.
A collection of Rohan lightweight storage cubes have been bought and used. One large one contains a mix of t-shirts, polo shirts and long sleeves, another is used for spare trousers, a micro fleece pullover and a fleece gilet and then two smaller cubes respectively contain underwear and socks.
Any chargers and adaptors are in a small wash bag pouch from IKEA, any paperwork is in a plastic wallet from WHS Smith and the guidebook goes in a small plastic carrier bag. Meds are in a clear plastic bag along with any necessary paperwork whilst the wash kit goes into one of the clear zipped pouches used to contain the Gillette travel kits I mentioned yesterday.
The Kindle, Nikon, passport, wallet and loose change go in my jacket or trouser pockets along with my reading specs and my spare pair of specs that double up as sunglasses thanks to Transitions lenses.
And tomorrow? What didn’t keep on keeping on!
If you were reading yesterday’s piece about the stuff we packed on our travels between May and July 2015, you may be surprise to learn that despite the age of the Internet and the opportunities it presents to make purchases from the comfort of the sofa, your office chair or whilst supping an overpriced milky coffee in a chain cafe, most of our purchases are still made in shops rather than transactions made via Firefox or Safari browsers (other browsers are available folks, but I still remember Netscape!).
The reasons are simple. We like to support local businesses or retail chains that do give a monkey’s about what they sell and how it’s sold. Some items are also no-brainers as packs, footwear and cycle helmets are the categories that I’d always try to buy from physical stores rather than online as all should be tried and fitted before you buy.
It’s not usually in a salesperson’s best interests to advise and recommend items that have the ‘in’ brand label on them or the highest price tag. It’s also worth taking note of a salesperson’s recommendations are as they may have knowledge that could swing your thoughts in a more useful direction.
I’ve had a couple of people go into huff mode when I’ve mentioned that they don’t need an 80 litre pack for a visit to Thailand (40 litres is the usual recommendation from those who have headed off in that direction).
One aspect of world travel is that yes, you can usually get what you need in most countries so you don’t need to take large bottles of shampoo, conditioner or shower gel with you.
Think light and it’s a case of having travel sizes for your first few days, by which time you have probably passed a few stores that stock just about everything you need for your stay in the country/countries you’re visiting.
There’s also the school of though that thinks it’s best to travel as light as possible to avoid baggage charges either from the airline you’re travelling with or the bag in the boot charges levied by taxi companies.
One of the best exchanges Caroline and I have had was with a taxi driver in Arendal, Norway about five years ago. We needed to get to Arendal railway station in order to get a train to Stavanger and as it was a few kilometres away and uphill, we got a cab.
Once in, we started talking to the driver who was dumbfounded when we answered his question ‘Have you left your main bags at a hotel?’.
‘No’ was my reply. “They are our main bags….” He couldn’t believe that we were in Norway for almost two weeks and were only using a holdall each.
By going for a smaller bag, there’s another point to consider – you will probably be able to pick it up and run in the event of any last minute dash for a bus, cab or train.
One person I was advising was insisting on a 90 litre bag to hold everything for their travels until I out that if that bag was filled to the brim with what was perceived to be needed for the trip, then the potential owner of said bag probably wouldn’t be able to lift it, let alone sling it over their shoulders and run with it…
Footwear is another area that shop purchases rather than online buys pay dividends. Visit a decent shoe shop or outdoor store mid-afternoon and try the boot, sandals or shoes on and wander around in them to your heart’s content until you’re happy with them and always, but always, insist on taking the pair that you’ve tried on rather than another pair from the stockroom that you haven’t tried on.
Why wait until mid-afternoon to try on? Unless you’re just off a night shift, then mid-afternoon is the time to try on as your feet can expand between half and a full size as the day progresses.
And cycle helmets? It’s a case of getting the best advice and listening to it. Be honest with the type of biking you’re doing and listen to what’s being said regarding the care, aftercare and way to wear a helmet (I’m still amazed at the number of cycle helmets that are being worn in such a way that severe damage will be inflicted to the wearer’s skull as it’s not being worn properly).
Caroline and I do buy clothing from trusted online retailers from time to time, but that’s usually because we know the company’s size blocking and can be pretty sure that the items we order fit and fit well.
For the most part though, we still buy from shops. Some are local to us whilst others are part of the same chain in another area of the country.
The main chains we deal with are Rohan and Cotswold Outdoor, largely because we’ve had good service from their staff and we’ve been happy with the purchases we’ve made from both companies over the last few years.
With Caroline needing some new shoes for her cycling and potentially some new sandals too, it could well be that we’re heading to their Leeds outlets soon to take advantage of Cycling UK or sale discounts at Cotswold Outdoor and sale discounts at Rohan as their sale starts tomorrow.
Rohan’s Cool Silver t-shirt – worth its weight in gold?
As you may have noticed in the pieces so far in the One year series, there is a common denominator in the postings related to the posts on our travels in May and Junes 2015, but it’s hardly mentioned at all in the posts about the trip to Lisbon in July.
We know how much stuff can go in the back of a Skoda Fabia when the seats are down, but anything we took along on the Somerset trip had to be packed around Betty Bike – Caroline’s trusty touring/commuting cycle.
Betty’s sturdy and took up more room in the car than we thought, so packing had to be on the minimalistic side, which is why we took small bags with us and shopped locally when we got to the apartment we’d rented for the week.
There were a few luxuries though as I’d shoved a few DVDs into a carrier bag in case we felt the need for some televisual entertainment and I’d also decided to take along my DLSR as well as the usual Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera.
As the weather was destined to be changeable according to the advance forecasts, a couple of micro fleece zip necks (TNF and Craghoppers) were packed into my Karrimor holdall along with a pair of Peter Storm soft shell trousers, a couple of Rohan’s Cool Silver t-shirts and a couple of the same brand’s Essential t-shirts, three or four pairs of Rohan Silver trunks and a few pairs of M&S dress socks.
With that lot in the bag plus a pair of Merrell shoes and a pair of Brasher sandals, that was about it apart from a couple of travel towels plus my wash kit, meds and Kindle.
The bag wasn’t full and could be easily squashed into any gaps around Betty Bike once her front wheel had been taken off in order to get her into the back of the car.
Caroline was also using a Karrimor holdall, but her clothing mix included travel clothing from either Rohan or Royal Robbins and a few bits of Endura, Altura and Tenn cycle clothing too.
Your starter for Tenn – great shirt for cycling or daywear…
Did we take the right kit with us? We certainly did. The only pieces that haven’t been mentioned so far are the Berghaus and Nike waterproof jackets we took along or my TNF hooded soft shell. Only the waterproofs were used to protect the innocent…
Anything else? Well we did some shopping at the Rohan shop in Dunster, but that was for a few items that were required for the Lisbon trip that we’d decided to take a few weeks later. Even at that stage, Caroline and I had plans for Europe, unlike some who have been in the news over the last few days – allegedly!
As the visit to North Norfolk in June was a short one and Caroline wasn’t taking Betty Bike, we didn’t really need to pack much given the advance forecasts and the relaxed nature of this trip.
So it was a scaled down packing list compared to Somerset – the clothes we were wearing plus three t-shirts each, socks and undies, a spare pair of trousers and the usual travel towels, wash kits, meds and Kindles. The DLSR was left at home in favour of the Nikon and that was it.
Or was it? Well no, not really as Caroline was planning on hiring a bike whilst we down in Norfolk, so her bike clothes, helmet and gloves were also in her Karrimor bag.
And so to Lisbon via a night drive to Liverpool John Lennon Airport and a late arrival at the Hampton by Hilton hotel as Caroline had spent been at a family wedding.
Baggage choices? Our trusty Osprey Farpoint 40s as we were travelling hand luggage on easyJet.
And the contents? A security friendly travel wash bag that had been bought for the journey. It was originally full of predominately Gillette travel products, but a little pruning and replacement ensured that the new contents covered all eventualities.
The disposable razor and small tube of toothpaste were retained, but in went a plastic cased Dove roll-on instead of an aerosol. That was followed by my Slim Sonic Toothbrush, a bottle of Lifeventure Fabric Wash for the clothes, 100ml of Lush’s Flying Fox shower gel, a small bottle of tea tree oil, a similarly sized King Of Shaves shaving oil and two small bottles of Nivea Factor 50.
As before, my usual prescribed meds, yellow Warfarin book and repeat prescription forms went in along with a pack of indigestion tablets and a few sachets of recovery powder (just in case there were too many glasses of vino collapso imbibed over the course of a day…).
Worn items included Salomon ventilated trainers, a pair of Rohan Goa trousers, one of four Rohan Core Silver t-shirts (the rest were in the bag along with a couple of Rohan Element t-shirts).
Why so many t-shirts? As good as all of these shirts are, expectations of 30+ C meant that for once I was playing safe and wearing two shirts per day rather than one. I did however regret not having a couple of polo shirts as smarter options as we were eating out so much over the course of the week.
Rohan Cool Silver trunks and suitable socks completed the worn outfit and yes, there were spares in the bag of these. Other packed items included another pair of Goa trousers, my Nikon Coolpix and charger plus my Kindle and charger, a newly purchased Rohan Stowaway Daypack 20 and a travel towel. Oh, and a copy of Rough Guide‘s Pocket Rough Guide to Lisbon plus a pair of Next espadrilles for sock free days or nights out…
Caroline packed a couple of Rohan Serene vest tops, a Rohan Malay Linen Plus top and a few other items from their travel linen range.
Footwear choices were a pair of Ecco Blom Lite Mary Jane shoes and a pair of Merrell sports sandals. Her day bag was a Rohan Stowaway Daybag 3 that held her passport, camera, travel wallet, tissues, sun cream and a small bottle of water.
Washing was done before we went out and left to dry on hangers next to the windows once the clothing had been rolled up in a travel towel to squeeze out excess water.
The Rohan Goa trousers were just right for the trip thanks to a lightweight fabric that washed and dried quickly, two zipped pockets to take wallet, camera, reading specs and guest house keys.
Out of all the things we took along with us, there was only one piece of kit that required a rethink. I’ve no doubt that the Rohan packable day sack will come into its own, but I have to admit to making a personal wrong choice by using it over the first few days in Lisbon. It was a bit too big for what I wanted to carry around and I ended up buying a small cotton bag that sufficed for the rest of the week.
Coming up next – One year – August 2015.
London, Lonely Planet and a tube strike!
No smoke on the water – yet…
Time will tell as to how much time it will take to sort out the situation that we woke up to here in the UK last Friday. The current situation appears to be as clear as mud with allegations and conjecture to the fore rather than any hard facts as to what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen.
The population has spoken and it’s now left to the politicians to get a grip, decide what is going to happen and when it’s going to happen. As it stands at the moment, it may be around three months before a new PM moves into Number 10, Article 50 is acted on and the fun starts…
The initial fallout may start with increased petrol prices over the next few days, but until some solid answers come our way soon, we the people may well be wondering what the heck is going on and whether there is a Plan B as it’s beginning to look and sound like there may not be a Plan A…
Normal service on wisepacking will resume on Tuesday!
Does my flag look big on this?
Friday in Lisbon and the flags were flying as we ventured on foot in search of Museu Calouste Gulbenkian and Centro Arte Moderna. We negotiated Parque Eduardo VII with ease and having found the viewpoint seen above, we were confident that we were on the right track.
Or so we thought. A nearby map directed us on our way and after about half an hour, we decided that yes, that was the wrong way, so we retraced our steps, cooled off with a couple of glasses of a very fine mint flavoured iced drink and found the right way to the museum and art gallery.
Same flag, different view…
Yes, I know what I said yesterday about museums and galleries, but having read up on both places, I reckoned that even I could find something of interest in one or both sites, especially as there’s a connection between Museu Calouste Gulbenkian and my home city of Durham here in the U.K.
The prospect of seeing fine Oriental and Western art was intriguing, but in the end I ended up finding a seat as Caroline made her way around the apparent one-way system in the museum. Was I disappointed by the items on display? Not really, it was just that there was so much of it and I found myself slowly, but surely losing interest in what was laid out before me…
As my day bag had been left in the cloak room, my Kindle wasn’t on me so I ended up pondering some ideas for our next big trip. Yes, it was back to Portugal in the last couple of weeks of September 2015, but it was probably going to be a road trip with Porto and Coimbra as two of the stopping off points as we made our way around part of Northern Portugal.
Once reunited, we had a rather decent lunch in the cafe at Museu Calouste Gulbenkian before we made our way over to Centro Arte Moderna. Most of the artwork here is by Portuguese artists, but as the guidebooks also promised the potential to view works by Hockney and Gormley, I was game for a good look around.
One or two pieces caught my attention, but that was about it. I did take in every part of the viewing spaces and looked at the items on display, but it was no use. There didn’t appear to be any kind of connection forming and if there were works by either Hockney or Gormley on display then I well and truly missed them!
Coffee and cake in the cafe partly made up for the disappointment, as did the wander around the gardens outside.
Two of life’s great mysteries were also pondered – why were the aircraft heading into Lisbon Airport always flying so low over this part of the city and what were the chances of a frozen crapsicle hitting something or someone if it left the confines of an aircraft’s toilet (I thank the writers of CSI New York for putting that thought into my head by the way!).
Given that we’d had trouble finding our way there, we decided on a different strategy for the way back to Lisbon Dreams. A visit to the major department store wasn’t wonderful and whilst there was a multiplex cinema downstairs, there was nothing showing that we fancied. So it was time to hit the Metro once more to head into Lisbon centre to find some coffee and have a siesta.
Our meal for the night was another vegetarian one. Not at Terra this time, but in the interesting surroundings of Os Tibetanos, part of a Buddhism school in the Rato area.
We didn’t have a booking, but that didn’t matter, even though the restaurant was rather busy. We’d both had meat courses as part of our lunchtime meal, so going veggie wasn’t a problem. Misplacing the receipt means that I can’t let you know what our menu choices were, but I do recall that the two of us ate well, had desserts and good coffee to round off the night…
And so to Saturday and our final full day in Lisbon.
We’d not seen much in the way of beaches on this trip, so we decided to get the train from Lisbon to Estoril, walk from Estoril to Cascais and then get the train back to Lisbon from Cascais.
Sounds easy and it was. The Viva Viagem cards worked a treat at Cais do Sodre station and passed the ticket inspector’s examination too (always a good sign) and it wasn’t that long before we reached Estoril.
Now I know Estoril as being the former home of the Portuguese Grand Prix from my days as a fan of Formula 1, but it’s got a literary connection too.
Writers Graham Greene and Ian Fleming were stationed in Estoril during World War II. The latter apparently spent time observing double agents frequenting the local casino in Estoril and this gave him an idea to write a book – Casino Royale. The rest is history…
The sign says it all!
The walk from Estoril to Cascais isn’t a long one and easily done, even on hot summer Saturdays when it’s not just mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun.
Factor 50 proved useful once more, as did the bar selling cold Coke Zero colas and equally welcome Magnum ice creams. A taste of home? Almost in both cases.
The beaches were starting to get busy as we approached Cascais, but some were already showering themselves and their rather disgruntled Yorkshire Terrier as a means of flushing the salt water away and freshening up before heading home.
On reaching Cascais, we wandered for a while before we noticed a ceremony taking place involving quite a few people in different outfits and gowns in the main square. It looked like a university graduation ceremony, but it was in fact a ceremony to celebrate the local wine producers and their respective products.
The gentleman who informed us of the meaning behind the ceremony not only allowed us to sample a couple of different wines, but he also gave is a small insight into the Portuguese wine industry.
Although we’d sampled a couple of diffferent wines in the two visits we’d had to Portugal at that time, our main introduction to the country’s wine had come in the 1970’s thanks to the wine that ended up as a major source of home made table lamps amongst certain consumers of the product at that time – Mateus Rose…
Although we’d looked at menus at both an Irish pub and a local curry house, Jardim de Frangos came up with quite a decent piri piri chicken lunch and a bottle or so of beer to wash it down with.
At the time I was wearing a decent pair of Transitions lensed spectacles that had gone dark thanks to the strong sunlight, but that didn’t stop a street hawker who came inside the dining area from offering to sell me a pair of cheap sunglasses.
The waiters chased him away, but my somewhat direct comments afterwards appeared to amuse the two German ladies sitting at an adjacent table…
With the heat still rising, we took a look around a small festival in an adjacent park before heading back to the station for the train back to Lisbon. Packing the bags didn’t take long and neither did the discussion concerning where we were going to eat that night.
We’d discovered Ristorante da Vinci on our first trip to Lisbon. It’s not in the guidebooks as far as I’m aware, but it’s always been busy whenever we’ve either eaten there or walked past at any time of the day.
The clientele is also usually a good mix of locals and tourists from both sides of the Atlantic and whilst most are anonymous, at least one Hollywood actor has been spotted in there when Caroline and I have been customers.
Pizza for me, pasta for Caroline, desserts and either beer or wine then coffee usually round off the meal quite nicely. This was our second meal there, but since that night, we’ve made two return visits as Lisbon ended up being our in and out point on our road trip in September 2015…
After checking out of Lisbon Dreams on Sunday morning, our Viva Viagem cards saved us money once more as we used the Metro rather than a taxi to get us to the airport.
When we’d made the same journey in September 2013, it was on the night before our flight home as we ended up sleeping in the Lisbon Airport terminal as we couldn’t find a place to stay for that last night. Not a mistake we were going to make twice!
It’s Wednesday and it’s a rest day around Lisbon
Now we couldn’t just do nothing, but we had a lie in, a chat with fellow Brits about Lisbon and then we headed out for a wander around nowhere in particular.
The Botanical Gardens appeared to be a good place to start this day of wandering aimlessly. We paid our money, headed in and I decided to indulge in a spot of photography whilst Caroline explored the gardens.
Which was a nice idea, but my Nikon had other ideas. Fortunately my camera hadn’t died a death (which was the fate of my Lumix in 2013 and the reason why I’d bought the current Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera in Lisbon a few days later).
I’d checked the battery on Tuesday, but it was now as dead as a dodo so that potential hour of photography became another chance to read from the Kindle as I waited for Caroline to show up. The slow day was a good idea as it gave us the chance to just see what took our fancy as we headed through Principe Real, through Baixa & Chiado and onwards to Rio Tejo.
Nothing was planned. We wandered in and out of shops, had coffee, had lunch and just relaxed rather than haring off like Roadrunner or Speedy Gonzales. The information centre shop sold me some stationery items and a cotton shopping bag that could be stuffed into my day bag – Portugal had adopted plastic carrier bag charges, unlike England at that moment in time…
There were several drinks stops as we combatted the high temperatures with fruit juices, Coke Zero and Sagres Radler beer plus the obligatory bottle of water in our day bags.
After a relaxing day, we had a plan for Thursday as we’d decided to head to Sintra. An enquiry at the ticket office revealed that we could use our Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards on trains to Sintra, something that we weren’t aware of at that time…
Siestas were declared on return to Lisbon Dreams then showers and a quick change happened before we went to The 39 Steps for our evening meal. The outdoor eating option was taken once more, drinks arrived and food was ordered, but unfortunately we didn’t expect an unexpected cinematic reference to occur.
I’d had a very good pasta and salmon main on our first visit to The 39 Steps, so Caroline ordered this for her main this time whilst I went for something completely different.
When the meals arrived, it looked like Caroline‘s order had been lost in translation. Instead of pasta with salmon, pasta with shellfish was placed in front of her.
Our waitress was very, very apologetic about the error, but Caroline decided to tackle the staring shellfish head on as it were rather than having to watch me eat my meal as she was waiting for her ordered meal to arrive. C’est la vie as the French say…
Thursday saw an early start and boy were we pleased when we got to Rossio Station and zapped our Viva Viagem cards at the barriers in front of the platform for the Sintra train. There were queues at both the ticket machines and manned ticket windows – long queues.
Once in Sintra, there was a choice to make of where to go first. We walked down to the Palacio Nacional, had coffee and Caroline paid a return visit this palace and then Quinto da Regaleira with its main building and impressive gardens complete with terraces, grottoes, fountains and the Initiation Well (which comes complete with its own entrance via a revolving stone door).
Palacio Nacional, Sintra
Whilst Caroline took a look at both of these impressive sights, I wandered around with a fully charged camera. The Toy Museum had closed its doors, so I took to the streets, explored the various alleyways and tried to avoid the midday sun….
Two views of Sintra…
As you may have guessed, I’m not one for museums, palaces or elaborate gardens. Caroline is and we have a mutual understanding that I’ll find something else to do whilst she’s off exploring historical places or galleries.
If there’s a museum dedicated to cars, flight or an exhibition on music or rock photography, I’m there like a shot, but if it’s historical, I’m with Rudge’s view on history as expounded in a memorable scene from The History Boys.
The quote’s a good one, but given that this is a free site without age restrictions, it can’t be quoted here!
Yes, I have an O level in History, but that’s from 42 years ago and my views on the subject have changed somewhat and I’m more interested in more modern history rather than what went on in days of yore…
Caroline enjoyed both Palacio Nacional and Quinto da Regaleira and was full of enthusiasm for both when we visited a very quiet outdoor cafe cum art shop on the way back into the centre. The town was quiet as we walked back to the station and so was the train, a welcome experience as the train had been crowded on the way to Sintra.
The return to Lisbon Dreams was equally quiet and as we’d had rather a good lunch in Sintra, we raided the mini market for bread, cheese and a bottle of wine for our evening meal. Rustic? Yes, but a fine way to end a grand day out.
And finally – Part IV. Museums, Os Tibetanos, the inspiration for Casino Royale and wine tasting in Cascais…
All quiet in Praca do Comercio, but not for long…
Wheelie good way to get around Lisbon?
If it’s Monday, it must be Lisbon without a plan.
Although we’d booked flights, accommodation and had Viva Viagem rechargeable travel cards to get around, we hadn’t come up with a cunning plan as to what to do during the week we were in Lisbon. Yes, we had had a few thoughts about where we wanted to go, but nothing had been set in stone as to what to do on any particular day.
Our first problem came within a few metres of Lisbon Dreams. As the temperatures were high and we’d already slathered Nivea Factor 50 suncream over any exposed skin (the rest was covered by SPF protective clothing) to combat the sun and the high UV levels, we decided to get a couple of bottles of water to stash in our day bags.
Problem was a) we’d forgotten how cheap bottled water was in Portugal and b) we’d put all of our loose change into the tips bowl at Terra on Sunday night, leaving us with €10 notes as the smallest type of local currency in our respective travel wallets or pockets.
Big mistake as we were to find out for the first time on that not so manic Monday. We were armed with two bottles of water and a €10 note at a mini market check-out early in the morning and faced with an operator who didn’t speak much English who had very little loose change in his till. He made it, but it wasn’t an easy task.
As we wandered into Lisbon city centre on what was to become a familiar route, we noticed a couple of things. There were more armed police around than there were during our last visit and they appeared to be stationed outside banks and high end jewellery shops or on street corners near such establishments.
The other was that there appeared to be a protest of sorts happening as signs and small crosses were placed on the pavement outside one of the larger bank branches.
As we found out later, there had been a banking crisis in Portugal that we didn’t know about and the crosses and signs alleged more than we could gather from a short conversation later in the day.
Once in the city centre around Rossio Station, a decision was made to head down to Praca do Municipo for a coffee at Cafe Tulipa, a favourite haunt on our last visit to Lisbon. We’d visited the square before Michael Portillo (on one of his Continental Railway Journeys), but noticed that a set of alien-like sculptures had landed since our visit in September 2013…
Where’s the packet of Smash? (an old joke relating to an old UK advert)
Once refreshed, it was time to revisit a surprisingly empty Praca do Comercio. Segways came and left and we decided to take a wander around an area we’d missed out on during our first visit – Alafama. Now you can head up the easy way on Tram 28, but we took the hard way by using our feet.
Caroline took in the Se (pictured above) as we headed towards Alafama and then Castelo de Sao Jorge. The streets, gardens and rooftop views along the way had us stopping to take photo after photo and also sidestepping various street hawkers with hands full of sunglasses or selfie sticks.
As it was lunchtime as we approached Castelo de Sao Jorge, we decided to have lunch as the castle appeared to be getting rather busy. Now we’re used to having curry dishes as we live in Yorkshire, but this was the first time that we’d had curry dishes for a lunchtime meal.
Arco do Castelo turned up trumps, even though their dishes were a few degrees milder than the curries we’re used to around home. What did impress us was that quality of their freshly cooked naan breads – probably the best naan breads that we’ve ever tasted in any of our visits into curry houses in Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, Durham and Somerset.
And so to Castelo de Sao Jorge (above). We paid, we wandered and wondered why there were so many young people in there wearing Minions t-shirts. It turned out that it was all part of an international summer school outing and the best way for those in charge to keep tabs on their charges was to look for those Minions t-shirts.
With the heat kind of getting to me, Caroline wandered around more than I did as I found some shade, drank some water and then tried finding an ice cream. I found one, but I didn’t expect such a palaver surrounding the purchase of just one Cornetto.
Yes, the curse of no change struck again, even though I’d tendered a €5 note this time!
One of the reasons why we like Lisbon is that it’s a relaxed and laid back capital city. There’s no rushing around like ants as there is in London for instance. Although it was now mid-afternoon, there was still plenty to see and do in a quietly relaxed manner.
Museu de Design e da Moda (Museum of Design and Fashion) is set in a former bank, is free to visit and plays host to loads of design classics of all kinds and has guest exhibitions down in the former bank vaults too.
After that, it was time to head back to Praca do Comercio and down to the edge of Rio Tejo to board a sightseeing boat as a means of getting a different view of some of the place we’d by now decided to visit the next day – Belem.
It was cooler too as we were under the shelter at the stern of the boat and the breeze on the river was a welcome relief from the heat we’d encountered so far. We did’t hear too much of the commentary coming from the speakers, but that wasn’t important as we used our eyes to view and made sparing use of our cameras.
The images captured on memory cards were of those sights that we were to see the following day, but the shots were taken from a totally different perspective and that alone made the river trip worth it…
Once back on dry land, we headed back to Lisbon Dreams for a late siesta, shower and a wander out for an evening meal. We’ve eaten out at cinema cafes before, but The 39 Steps cafe bar at Cinemateca Portuguesa is probably one of the best we’ve eaten in.
The cinema itself had shown one of our favourite films a few days before – Casablanca – as part of a Bergman retrospective, but The 39 Steps was worth the visit on its own terms. Mains, desserts, fruit juice, beer and coffee went down well, so much so that we decided to visit the same venue again later in the week.
Tuesday was a one stop day – Belem. Tram 15 to Belem was crowded, so much so that both of us paid close attention to bags and wallets, especially after the pickpocketing warnings. First up was the Centro Cultural de Belem and the Berarado Collection contained within the Centro Cultural.
Whilst I visited the former and had lunch too, I gave the latter a miss thanks to the officious staff member who wanted to take my day bag off me. Caroline wandered in whilst I read a book on my Kindle and watched as several people wandered into the Collection with bags that were much larger than mine and infinitely more capable of hiding any potentially stolen pieces of artwork.
There had been mention made of depositing bags at reception, but it was near the ceiling on a left hand side wall near the entrance rather than being on a graphic as one entered the reception area!
The three other places to go in Belem are the Padro dos Discobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) as seen above in the top photo of the two just above this piece of copy and Torre de Belem.
As we were there after lunch, both places were very busy with tourists wanting to see the view from the top of each site or to take both proper shots or selfies with their phones. The lesson learned? Get there early before the tour buses or crowded trams as a means of getting the place almost to yourself – that’s what we’ll be doing on our next visit!
And the third place in Belem? Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, a consumer temple to pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) and their customary dusting of cinnamon.
They’re great with coffee, but one each just isn’t enough. Yes, you can get them over the summer in the Co-op here in the UK, but they’re not quite the same as those from Belem, even when you do the cinnamon sprinkling thing…
After catching Tram 15 back to Lisbon, a decision was made to eat early, so we went in search of a budgetary gem – full-on chicken dinner at Bon Jardim, Rei dos Frangos in Rua Barros Querios near Rossio Station.
The establishment runs from three sites in the same street and there’s chicken, fries and salad galore plus a host of other choices too. There may have been three crabs in the tank inside the restaurant window when we arrived, but there were still three when we left after generous portions of piri piri chicken and one or two beers too.
A long post this one, but tomorrow’s about gardens & galleries in Lisbon plus a return visit to Sintra.