Germany is cold. Want to go somewhere warmer?
Arriving in Lisbon, I was excited, but I didn't really have any expectations as I usually do. I admit, I didn't know too much about the country at the time, but I knew that water=seafood, sangria is like, extra strong wine, and it was snowing in Germany at the time (send help). Put all 3 of those together and it makes a great Valentine's Day weekend getaway. I was also looking forward to Luke and I being able to experience a country together for the first time. Being that we have both done a bit of travel prior to starting our European adventure, we have gone to a few places that were not a first for one, or sometimes either of us. Lisbon was uncharted territory. Also, tapas. Let's get like Vasco Da Gama and explore.
Portugal has a rich history, much of which is rooted in their Martime discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries, as part of the "Age of Discovery" in Europe. Vasco Da Gama was the first to reach India by sea- therefore linking the 2 continents (Europe and Asia). You don't remember him from World History class? Ok, what about Ferdinand Magellan? You can not forget a name like that. He was the guy who's expeditions resulted in the circumnavigation of the world. Just outside of the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, is the lovely Parish of Belem, where you can visit the Padrão dos Descobrimentos AKA Discoveries Monument, honoring these explorers and many more.
As you walk toward the entrance, you will see a huge map of the world, laid in pristine Portuguese tiles. Once you climb the stairs to the top of the monument, you get a perfect 360* view of Belem, Lisbon, and the great blue beyond, with the world map down below.
Walk a little further along the water (or get blown, the wind was intense for us), and pop into the Torre de Belem. Previously used as a fortified tower for defense at the mouth of the Tagus River, this is also a great spot to take in the views of the city. Across the street is the Jeronimos Monestary, with both spots being UNESCO World Heritage sites. Wander around this gorgeous gem and take in a perfect example of the Manueline, or Portuguese late Gothic architecture style. Another reason why this Monastery is crucial? Let me sweeten things up for you...
3 words: Portuguese. Custard. Tarts. This is what dreams are made of. Monks started to make these tasty treats when they found themselves with an abundance of egg yolks; you see, back in the day, egg whites were used to starch clothes, even in Monasteries (habit game strong!). In 1834, the Monastery closed, and the coveted recipe was sold to a nearby sugar refinery. In 1837 the sugar refinery owners opened the doors the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, which is still in business to this day. You can find these amazing morsels in bakeries all over, but take a few minutes to stand in line for the OG of Portuguese pastries. You won't regret it.
What else did I do in Lisbon? I ate everything. In my defense I also walked an awful lot. But honestly, everything in Lisbon was delicious. Treat yo self to some tapas and a few (like, 5) glasses of Sangria! I should also mention that we found Lisbon to be far LESS expensive than many other major European cities. We had recently been on a 2 week trip to the United Kingdom (Hi, London? Take all my money), so everything felt more competitively priced. Just a little something to keep in mind if you're ballin' on a budget, or maybe if you're tacking on one more city to the end of a big trip where funds might be running low. You can do a lot in Lisbon for little cash.
We enjoyed a Valentine's Dinner at a gorgeous little tapas spot called "Wine Not?". Any establishment that blatantly uses "wine" in their name is fine by me.
Shortly after we arrived in Lisbon, it dawned on us that we'd be able to get great sushi, being right by the water, and this a big deal for those of us who live in a land-locked area. I read rave reviews, one after another about SEA ME. You don't need to spend time doing that, just go. Ah-mazing!
Like I said, we had to walk off the tapas, to avoid getting a case of the meat sweats. Luckily, Lisbon has some great hills and beautiful scenery. Note: literally the entire city has tile, rather than cobblestone (most of Europe). While this is really picturesque, it is also slippery. Plan your footwear accordingly. A great neighborhood to walk around and shop, snack (are you noticing a trend here?), and take in the culture is Baixia. In the evening, wind along the tiny tiled streets of the Bairro Alto neighborhood, and stop in the first place that you hear the Fado music calling.
Lisbon is a beautiful and lively city, probably warmer than where you are right now, and full of everything you need for a perfect long weekend: monuments, music, munchies, and.... mucho sangria! I hope you'll have as much love for Lisbon as we did!
BON VOYAGE, BABES!