Lisbon (or Lisboa as the city is called in Portuguese) has got to be one of Europe's most under-rated cities. It's far more affordable than France or Italy. If you're traveling with sterling pounds, the budget goes that bit further because entrance fees are ridiculously cheap, espressos will set you back €0.75 and exquisite meals do not cost an arm and a leg.
A 2kg crate of strawberries costs less than €7.00 which is unheard of in London unless you're best mates with a farmer who happened to yield a bountiful harvest. I went a little strawberry mad for a whole week and I don't really want to see those little red suckers for another year.
We set off on a week long jaunt to Lisbon and rented an apartment on the top floor of a converted watch tower in Alfama, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon. Sitting on one of the highest vantage points in Lisbon, we were rewarded with a spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of Alfama and beyond. Catching the sunrise or sunset has never been easier.
I spent many precious hours lying on this hammock while reading a book and gazing at the stars. Every now and then, I would poke my head out of the window to do what I do best - people watching (I have voyeuristic tendencies).
Out of respect for the long suffering husband and daughter, I relaxed my OCD self and set an easy itinerary - wandering around the different districts and looking for food when the hunger pangs struck. We stumbled upon this pastelaria as we were searching for a café. There were tables outside where you can soak up some rays or have a cuppa under a fragrant orange tree.
We had grilled sandwiches, 2 different types of Portuguese version of bruschetta, a large plate of salad to share and washed down with soft drinks. The bill came up to approximately €20. The husband liked Medrosa d'Alfama so much that he dragged us back a few days later.
Largo São Rafael 6
Opening hours: 11am - 9pm
What can I say? Beautiful tiled floors go well with cute kitty flats.
Alfama is unapologetically gritty, rustic and picturesque. It was, once upon a time, home to the poorest and most deprived. Having read so much about the place, I expected hordes of tourists swarming the labyrinth of narrow streets but it felt more like a tranquil village with residents going about their business. Washings were hung outside the window, friendly dogs roamed the streets, residents stopped to chat with their neighbors.......
Many of the buildings looked derelict with broken tiles and weathered paintwork. One of the residents told me that they prefer to spend money renovating the interior. We peeped through the windows of some of the properties and sure enough, a modern decor that belied the dilapidated exterior.
The famous number 28 tram literally went past our doorstep. The sidewalks were so narrow that I could feel the tram rambling by as we plastered ourselves to the wall.
Outfit: Rick Owens leather jacket, Zadig & Voltaire sweater, Zara jeans, New Balance 420 sneakers and Olympus OM-D EM-10 (obviously NOT an accessory.......)
Apparently, I got the memo right since my outfit du jour looked like every other Lisboeta's - black leather jacket, black skinny jeans and a pair of sneakers. Yup, when in Lisbon, blend in like a local.
Catching the sunset at a miradouro (view point) is not to be missed. This is the view from Largos das Portas do Sol which happened to be a skip and a hop from our apartment. I was captivated by the gradient pastel hued skies along with the spectacular sweeping view of Alfama, dotted with terra-cotta rooftops and colorful houses.
Next on my list was the cable car ride at Parque das Nações, a newly created area by Tagus river. The futuristic architecture here couldn't be more different to Alfama's centuries old buildings. The ride cost peanuts (€3.95 for adults and €2 for children) compared to the exorbitant fees I've forked out in London. You'll also see the expansive Vasco Da Gama bridge that stretches 17.2km across the river.
The queue to get on the Santa Justa lift snaked around the block every single day yet we had the entire Rua Augusta Arch to ourselves. The cost? €2.50 per person. Unbelievable.
Taberna da Rua das Flores is a well known institution amongst foodies. In fact, on the day we were there, a group of important looking officials were seated a couple of tables away and slowly working through each course. Both the chef and his staff were fluttering about nervously. It turned out that they were representatives of a major culinary organization in Portugal where a nod of approval is a BIG deal. The menu changes everyday depending on what fresh ingredients chef André finds at the market. The cuisine is fusion with a lot of Asian influence. Go early (12-1pm or 6-7pm) or be prepared to wait up to an hour.
Taberna da Rua das Flores
Rua das Flores 103
There's a superb pasteis de nata shop/café just around the corner from Taberna da Rua das Flores. Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata makes the most incredible custard tarts fresh at the store. There's only standing room though. Most locals just pop in to down an espresso (only €0.70!) and a pasteis de nata (€1) before hurrying off again. The café is bustling at all hours of the day. If you're like me and can't be bothered queueing up for ages to get a custard tart at Belém, Manteigaria is a good option.
Manteigaria Fábrica de Pastéis de Nata
Rua do Loreto 2
I've been told that Sintra which is a 40 minute train ride from Lisbon is a must-see. We only managed to see the colorful Palacio da Pena which at first sight, looked straight out of a fairy tale book. Located high on top of the Sintra hills, the impressive looking Pena palace makes an imposing albeit colorful sight. Plenty of brave tourists clamored to sit in one of the towers which isn't a great idea if you're afraid of heights. The temperature is a lot cooler than Lisbon so I was thankful that we had a few extra layers on.
**Photos were taken with iPhone 6S Plus and Olympus OM-D EM-10