Top Tour Guide

This morning we were tour guideless until this afternoon, so we had the day to wander at our own pace just looking at stuff.

This is the Santa Justa Lift – built by Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, an admirer of Gustave Eiffel’s work, hence the similarities in style.  It was built back in 1902 as a way for people to get from the top part of the city to the lower part and on the first day people were so excited at the novelty of it all 3,000 tickets were sold.


Today’s loose plan was to jump on the historic yellow tram – the No. 28 and do a bit of a circuit up the big hills… Me Jenny loves a tram, she does.


Then when we found the stop where you get on – there was a line with – I kid you not! – 300 people waiting to get on a tram that holds 20 people sitting and possibly 10 people rammed in the middle – standing.  Before we’d seen the line we asked the tram driver where we caught the tram and he said: “See that line of people?” and when he saw the looks on our faces added, “Yes, it is very boring!”  So we did an about turn and made our way to the hop on hop off bus.

There must be something about my face that says “I will answer your question in any language – come on ask me.”  The yellow Bus Company should have given me a small commission for fielding questions about tickets and directions and what colour line goes where… I don’t mind giving a bit of assistance where I can, however I may have inadvertently sent a French couple to the wrong square – it’s all part of the adventure, isn’t it?


We chose the purple “modern” route because that was the first bus that came along, and it is really only now that I’m realising why we drove past a lot of boring residential high rises – ’cause that’s the modern area.

We did have to pass through a bit of old stuff first though before getting the new stuff…

Lisbon is known for it’s street art and while some of it is dirty tagging, which is NOT art people, there is a lot of fantastic pieces on the sides of buildings.  I mean – look at this…


Then we roared into the modern era…

The closer we got back to the centre of town, the older things got, you know once the statues start appearing, you’re close.

This bloke here – Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, 1st Marquis of Pombal – or just The Marquis of Pombal to his mates is responsible for rebuilding Lisbon after the earthquake of 1755 – Have I mentioned the earthquake 1755?  It was followed by a huge tsunami and then fires which wiped out 90% of the city and 3/4 of the citizens died.  I ask if I’ve mentioned it before (I know I have) because we’ve been told about it approximately 23 times – sometimes completely unsolicited.  It’s a great story though, so there’s that.


We got off the bus one stop before the end and we had a little bit of time before our 4.30pm walking food and wine tour started, and as luck would have it we came across this fabulous bakery/patisserie – Fabrica de Nata where they were making the Pastel de natas and it would have been rude to just walk on by.  We only had a pingo (little coffee) though as we didn’t want to spoil our appetites for the walking tour.

Then we settled in for some serious people watching… Yes, for those following on at home – Me Jenny has purchased a new scarf.


When it was time to meet our small group walking tour we had to mosey on over to the next square and wait by the fountain – so we did.


Just to prove that I’m actually on this trip as well….


Then we met Madelena – what a hoot!  Our group consisted of an American couple from New Orleans, a Canadian couple living in New York, A Californian couple who are living in Valencia and their two friends from the states who were visiting and 4 lady friends from Sweden who travel together every year.  A lovely friendly bunch of people who chatted and got on well together.  We were invited in the first 10 minutes to visit with the couple in Valencia – so now we have two new best friends.

Our first stop was to A Tendinha – a small bar that sells the codfish balls and we tried these with a glass of green wine – this is the wine that’s made with grapes that are picked a bit before they are ripe so the taste is light and fruity with a bit of spritz.

This place was Lisbon’s first ever ‘drive thru’ as you can see from the tiled picture – Men would ride their horses to the door and call out his order and the staff would make it and bring it out to him.

I already knew I like the cod cake and the green wine was quite nice – although it probably wouldn’t be a ‘go to’.

Let me just talk to you here for a minute about the Portuguese obsession with cod.  Back in the day when the exploring on ships was starting out, they were trying to work out what food they could take with them that wouldn’t spoil, so they asked the Vikings who were pretty experienced at this type of thing already and they told them – salted cod fish…. but cod fish don’t live in the waters around Portugal, so they went to Canadian waters and caught them there.  Canada has a shortage of cod now by the way and you can blame the Portuguese.  There are other fish in the Atlantic that they can catch, and do, but they love the cod – it’s their national food which they can’t source locally.  Crazy!

Our next stop on the tour was Solar da Madelena.  We’re sure she chose it because of the name, but also they served delicious pork rolls and beer.  The condiments suggested for this dish are mustard, or a couple of drops of peri peri sauce that will burn your lips and ruin your taste buds for the rest of the tour.  I tried both.

Madelena was not just guiding us from place to place, she was also partaking in the food and alcohol…. Because this place was so small, once we’d finished eating, she suggested we all move out onto the busy street to finish our drinks.  We were standing there for about 5 minutes before she asked – who is still finishing their drinks? And she was the only one.


We pushed on to taste cheese and quince with port wine at Manteigaria Silva (the name Silva or de Silva in Portuguese is like Smith or Brown in English). They had all their cured meats hanging and their cod salted – ready to go.

Now this wasn’t anything to do with food or wine, but it was on the way so we stopped in.  The Church of Saint Domingos was originally building 1241.  It was damaged by an earthquake in 1531 and then completely destroyed in the 1755 quake (the one we ALL know about) Then, as if that wasn’t enough, it was damaged in a huge fire in 1959 and the local government weren’t going to rebuild it because of lack of funds, but the local people got together and demanded that something be done and so they cleaned what they could of the fire damage replaced the roof with something quite plain and it’s been that way ever since.  Now the locals like it because it’s different from every other church.

Now, back to the eating and drinking….

Next stop – Ginjinha – the cherry liqueur which you’ll remember Me Jenny and tried in the town of Obidos, where they served it in cups made of chocolate – well, we got a bit gipped here, and it was served in little plastic cups.

Madelena lined up for us and purchased a bottle which cherries in the bottom. You can really tell that she loves her job.  She does this every day!

As university has just begun this week, there has been a week full of shenanigans and antics for the new students being initiated into their facilities/houses/fraternities, etc…  Apparently the ones in the cloaks are the established students (you’re not allowed to wear a cape until second year, when you’ve earned the right) and the ones with the dunce hats are the newbies.  Here you can see them taking a shot and then tipping the remnant of the cup onto the heads…. this is the future world leaders at their finest.


Then lastly we went into an old palace that is now a restaurant (those funnel towers sit above the old kitchen) where we sampled a few little dishes – tempura beans (the Portuguese claim to have invented tempura and shared their secret with the Japanese in the 12th century or something like that), chorizo, butter beans & tuna and red wine (Vinho Tinto) from the Douro Valley.

A lovely tour indeed – highly recommended… a few of the group wanted to kick on, but Me Jenny and I headed back to our lovey abode to digest with a little glass of port on our balcony and watch as the night fell on beautiful Lisboa.

Categories: Lisbon, Portugal, Travel

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