Go-Karting the Downtown Core in Style!
Thu 13 Aug 2015 - Sat 15 Aug 2015
My first few days were spent in Lisbon (or Lisboa), the capital city of Portugal. Lisbon lies in the hills along the shore of the River Tagus, a few miles before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. As far as Western European capitals go, it’s on the small side with a population of around 5-600,000 people. It’s a great size to walk around for a couple of days, though expect to be walking up or down hills at almost all times!
I arrived in Lisbon midday on my flight from London. Nuno was able to meet me at the airport with a ride from his Uncle and Aunt. They were kind enough to drive us into town and drop us off at our hotel. From there we had no real plan, but spent the late afternoon and evening walking up and down the hills in the downtown core, stopping at multiple squares for a cold beverage. Outside of walking by the impressive architecture in the city, we did not stop or go in anywhere to look around. Supper found us up on top of a hill in a centuries old Monastery converted restaurant, Cervejaria Trindade. A monastery was first built there in 1294, and stayed more or less in continuous use until the early 1800’s. After all religious orders were banned from the country, the Monastery fell into disuse, before part of the structure was used as the nucleus for a new brewery. Since then it has expanded to become the modern day brewery and restaurant we arrived at. These days it’s a tourist joint, no doubt about it, but you can still walk through the different rooms of the Monastery, and the main dining hall is covered in a two century old tile mosaic. I had a nice cod dish with grated potatoes, my first experience of the Portuguese cuisine, and I wasn’t disappointed!
The next day was our full day in downtown Lisbon. First stop for us was the imposing São Jorge Castle, situated on a hill overlooking the city. It was a beautiful day for walking the castle grounds, and most sides gave a new vista overlooking the city and river. There is evidence of people living in these hills for a couple thousand years, and a fortification has been on the São Jorge Castle hill since the Romans erected one around 48 BC. We spent most the morning covering all of the grounds, and as luck would have it, we even found a little patio overlooking the city to have our first beer of the day!
Walking back down the hill, we went in search of GOCAR Tours, an operator that provides electric three wheeled go-karts to tour the city with. It comes with a GPS narrator giving directions and pointing out significant landmarks along the way. We found the place without issue, but it was close to lunch time, so after checking in and ensuring we could secure a kart after lunch we decided to eat. The staff at GOCAR suggested the restaurant Maria Cantita’s. What a great choice, the food, the wine, and the service were all excellent!
After that it was back to the go karts. Turns out Nuno doesn’t follow directions all that well, I think it took us all of five minutes before making our first wrong turn and going the wrong way down a one-way road. Shortly thereafter we got tired of listening to the narrator telling us to turn around, and shut down the GPS. Then we were operating on street signs and road maps, and passed the hour rental driving the downtown core. It was a really neat experience, certainly worth the money. If you check out their website they also have branches in Barcelona, Madrid, and San Francisco!
Our next day was only a half day, we departed shortly after lunch for Leiria in Central Portugal. We started the day with breakfast at Pastéis de Belém. My life changed that morning, the egg pastries there are world famous, and for good reason! I could eat those things every morning for the rest of my life without complaint! I will go into more detail on this delicacy on my food discussion, have no fear!
Heading there for breakfast also put us on the path to see Belém Tower, and Padrão dos Descobrimentos down the road. Some neat architecture to walk around and see. It was all part of our slow progression to Cascais, a suburb like community of Lisbon that is along the coast. It is the last community along the north bank of the River Tagus before it empties into the Atlantic. Cascais is a wealthy area with nice beaches and restaurants. We walked along the boardwalk before heading inland a bit for lunch. I had a traditional pan fried pork chop that was great, like most the dishes I found in Portugal, they use few ingredients, but use them well!
And that was Lisbon, overall it was a neat city to walk with a cool vibe. I’d go back anytime for the food alone!