We took a train from Lagos to Lisbon and were immediately assaulted by all the beauty of Lisbon. Well, not exactly right away.. the train terminal isn't so lovely, but the area where we were staying, Baixa, was great. I was smitten with our hotel right away and I still obsess about it. If I ever opened my own hotel I would fashion it after The Lisboans. It was a factory that was converted into little apartments with kitchens, two bedrooms, and a nice bathroom. There was a living room with a record player and a balcony over looking the city. Every morning they would deliver hot bread and fresh juice to our doorstep. The cleaning service was every few days, so it was sort of the best of both worlds- apartment freedom and knowledgable staff if you needed them.
One crazy thing that happened in Lisbon... I read the information booklet and it said to make sure to bolt the balcony doors as people had been known to climb along the rooftops and break in. I didn't think much about, but I filed the info away. On the second day of our trip, my daughter fell ill. She was limp and useless, so we stopped our sightseeing and came back to the apartment for her to rest. After a few hours, my son and I got cagey and we figured she would be fine alone in the apartment for a little while. On our way home I started getting frantic texts from her that someone was trying to get in the apartment. At first they seemed slightly delusional, but then she was really in fear and she could hear the people in the apartment. They came to her room and she started screaming so crazily that they ran out in a panic. It was the cleaners. I thought they came on the third day. Apparently not. Honestly, I think she might have scared them more than anything. They were still there when I ran up the stairs and the main cleaner looked ashen.
Our time in Lisbon was a little less productive than we'd hope, due to my daughter's mysterious illness. We were able to take her out for small stretches and we left her in the apartment a few more times after the scare, but there were some things that we really wanted to do that we just had to skip altogether. The good news is that means there has to be a next time.
Some of the sights we made it to and loved:
Belém Tower. This UNESCO World Heritage sight was built in 1519 to protect the river from any foreign sailors. The architecture and sculpture is beautiful.
São Jorge Castle. This is amazing to wander around at sunset because the views are extraordinary. If you hear squealing peacocks, you know you're in the right place.
The Santa Justa Lift was designed by the same architect who made the Eiffel Tower and connects the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo.
It's not everyday you can visit the western most point of the European continent, Roca Cape, .... in a sidecar. We took a Private Sidecar Tour of Estoril, Cascais, and Cabo de Roca, which was an adventure unlike any other. Let me start by saying this was fun and I'm so glad we did it! But my experience of riding on motorcycles was limited at this point in my life and the mother in me was a little bit anxious watching my kids skitter down the highway a few feet from big trucks. I completely trusted the drivers and knew it was safe, but when we got to Roca Cape after several hours of driving I had to pull the plug and take a cab home. Cascais, in particular, was an adorable little town and we enjoyed a cup of coffee at a little cafe. We loved the views and the towns we passed. The drive up to the cape was full of winding roads along the cliffs. Truly it was all wonderful. But... I decided I would prefer to get us back quickly and without the fanfare. Our guide was horribly offended. Never in his life had this happened. I think I bruised his ego more than anything. But sometimes you just have to trust your gut and jump in a cab.
You absolutely cannot leave without eating Pastel de Natas. We did a taste test between the two well known bakeries, Manteigaria and Pasteis de Belém. We declared Manteigaria as the winner.
We took a day trip to Sintra and I highly recommend you do the same. It is not far outside of Lisbon, less than an hour drive, which you can easily do in an Uber. Sintra has a variety of different attractions, but we started at Quinta da Regaleira. This decorative 20th century residence is a designated UNESCO Heritage sight. You can explore the rooms in the house, but the gardens are the most magical place to visit. The gardens of the Quinta da Regaleira were styled to represent ancient secret orders, with hidden tunnels and concealed symbolism.
From here we took the shuttle up to Peña Palace, the amazing, colorful castle on the hill. You will definitely find more visitors here than at the Quinta da Regaleira, but thankfully there are many areas to explore and it doesn't feel crowded. The different terraces are painted in shocking shades of deep yellow and dark red, which stand at stark contrast to the lush greens of the Parque de Pena forest.
For lunch we loved, Café Saudade.