Where Are We Now: Lisbon, Portugal
Disappeared from: Chicago, IL
Fled to: Lisbon, Portugal
Winter, Summer, Spring, or Fall: Spring – May 2016
Climate: 50°F – 60°F, sunny and warm. Although we did experience a freak rainstorm on our last day, which is very atypical for Lisbon in May.
Plane, Train, or Automobile: RyanAir Flight from Porto to Lisbon, $11 one way. Beautiful flight along the coast of Portugal.
Transfer Time: OPO à LIS: 40 Minutes
- Hotel Marriott Lisboa: This is the largest hotel in Lisbon at 577 guest rooms. This hotel is located between the airport and downtown Lisbon and it costs approximately 8-10 euro each way for a cab to the downtown historic district of Lisbon. They’ve replaced the carpeting in the meeting space and hallways, and renovated the lobby, bar and 200 of their room product recently with the remaining rooms being completed over the next two years.
- Hotel Cascais Miregem: This is a beautiful five start property with 192 guest rooms located in the town of Cascais, approximately 25 minutes outside of Lisbon and 35 minutes from the airport. Cascais is a beach resort destination with a cultured downtown center with shops and restaurants. I was blown away by the size of the guest rooms and bathroom, which are large for American standards, much less European. The breakfast buffet was delicious and the views from the balconies were incredible. I would highly recommend this hotel.
- Lisbon Lounge Hostel: As I arrived the weekend prior to the FAM trip, I also arrived the night before the entire group made it to Lisbon. I stayed in the Lisbon Lounge Hostel for the night and I highly recommend this to any cost-conscious traveler. It was one of the top five hostels I’ve stayed in (and I’ve experienced my fair share). I booked the three person room and lucked out by having it all to myself. My room was on the top floor with a great view of the castle and access to the wrap around balcony. The room was 19 euro for the night and in the heart of the city center.
Favorite Local Flavor(s):
- Pastel de Nata, the most delicious pastries on earth. I’d like to have a steady supply delivered to my home address in the US.
- Seafood of all types and styles. My personal favorite was the grilled octopus and mussel soup.
- All wine in Portugal is delicious. There was never a glass I didn’t enjoy. They have four categories of wine there: White, Red, Green and Sparkling. Green is made from younger grapes and is somewhere between white and sparkling wines in taste.
- Ginja Liquor: A sour cherry liquor traditional to the Lisbon region
- Gambrinus: A truly local experience. Their staff is so energetic and entertaining. They also make a killer tableside coffee to end the night.
- Restaurante D’Uportinho: This restaurant is situated in the Arrabida Natural Park and overlooks the sea. It has amazing views and the freshest sea bass I’ve ever had.
- Kais Restaurant: Beautiful venue, with a glassed-in terrace available for group rental. One of the best meals of the trip and certainly the best ambiance.
- Largo: Local restaurant in the Chiado neighborhood in Lisbon. We had our closing dinner here and it was delicious, we couldn’t have asked for better service.
- Jeronimos Monastery: A 16th century monastery located in the Belem neighborhood of Lisbon. One of the most intriguing architectural finds in all of Lisbon and quite possibly one of the best in Europe. The lines get very long, so be prepared to wait. Luckily, the home of the original pastel de nata is nearby, so you can grab a few before jumping in life.
- Elevador de Santa Justa: A lift and platform that connects a street of the Baixa neighborhood at sea level to a street up the hill in the Chiado neighborhood. It’s free to walk onto the platform overlooking the city if you enter from the Chiado neighborhood near the Carmo Church or you can pay a few euros to take the lift up.
- Al Fama Neighborhood: This is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. When the earthquake hit in 1755, 2/3 of the city of Lisbon was destroyed, except for this neighborhood. Two factors contributed to the widespread devastation – first, it was a religious holiday so a majority of Christians had lit candles in their homes to remember the dead before heading to church service. The earthquake hit while these citizens were in the large stone cathedrals and many people were killed when the cathedrals collapsed. Then due to the quake, the candles in their homes were knocked over, burning the primarily wooden structures. Second, the survivors ran toward the square on the river to avoid the flames and devastation. Unfortunately, they made it to the river at the time the tsunami wave rose from the river, destroying the remaining downtown area. The Al Fama neighborhood is located at the top of the tallest hill, near the castle and was mainly occupied by people of non-Christian backgrounds (therefore no candles burned, no church-goers) or the poor Christians (who attended church later in the day). Because of this, this neighborhood has no car paths, and has the most authentically residential feel
- Visit a winery: We went to the Quinta de Catralvos Winery in the Arrabida Natural Park area and had an overview of the wine-making process, complete with a tasting and group challenge. We were given four types of single grape red wines that everyone in the group had to taste, rate and collectively agree on the ratio of each grape to make our own red blend. This was such a unique event and the opportunity to bring your own bottle of wine home that you created (corked, branded, sealed and the chemistry of your blend recorded for future orders) to bring home was one of the best amenities. Our group even created our own name – Spitcup Winery – after one of the group members confused the bucket to mix the blend…with the bucket to empty your tasting glass into.
- Jeep Tour: After the winery, we took a jeep ride up the mountain with Extremo Ambiente, to the Restaurante D’Uportinho for lunch. Extremo Ambiente can provide a number of tours in the region and I highly recommend them. We had the best time with our guide – nicknamed “Divo” because we were the “Divas” – and this rugged ride was the excitement we needed to get the afternoon off to a great start.