Lisbon and Sintra

We arrived on TAP the airline of Portugal which is part of star alliance and leaves from Terminal 1 at Heathrow. I can honestly say that they provided the best flight snack I’ve had in years and the leather seats were very comfortable .

The airport is very close to the centre of the city and taxis are reasonably priced

Our home for 3 nights was the Fenix Lisboa. Fenix is part of HF hotels and there are two in Lisbon it is a very comfortable 3 star

There were 45 of us altogether from Brazil and all over Europe so it was a very diverse mix of agents and tour operators. There were five Travel Counsellors

We arrived in the evening so not much time to get our bearings before having a buffet dinner in the hotel

On Friday we were introduced to our guide Anabella and her assistant, Mimi. Mimi was actually a small rag doll at the top of Anabella’s guide stick so she kept very quiet but still useful for showing us the way.

Our first stop was Parque de Nacoes, originally a barren wasteland but now this has been transformed since the Lisbon Expo into a Conference centre, aquarium, cable cars, many fine restaurants, landscaped gardens and a couple of hotels

Lunch was in Terreiro do Paco which boasts a fabulous location right in the main square. The restaurant is full of character, a clever mix of old and modern built into a wine cellar with ancient maps and a sculpture of the world made from postcards. Lunch was also very good with perfectly cooked salmon, salad and some local specialialities

Outside the restaurant was our next treat, a row of Red Tour Electric Vehicles, made for a self-drive guided GPS fun experience tour  of Lisbon. As we were in a group, we were guided by motor bike in a convoy. This experience is only 38.50 euros per car which holds up to four (min age 18) so perfect for stag and hen weekends. After an hour of noisy hooters being let loose round the city we got back to where we started

Our next ride was more sedate on one of Lisbon’s classic trams. This mostly followed the scenic route 28 which goes through picturesque narrow streets up to the castle where we watched the sun set over the city and the silhouette of Christ the King over the other side of the estuary.

After a tiring day we stopped for a coffee and browsed a few shops before going back to change for our dinner at Tromba Rija in the dockside area for a monster buffet full of Portuguese traditional food and wine to suit even the fussiest of tastes. Tromba Rija had a cosy atmosphere and the staff were so friendly. After our meal they bought a huge bowl of  walnuts and almonds and some port, brandy and almond liqueur

Saturday was an early start as we had so much to pack into our day. After passing the bridge3 which looks strangely familiar. We are told that it was designed by the guy also designed Golden Gate Bridge in San Fransisco. We passed by the yacht harbour and the monument of Discovery, our first stop was by the bi-plane which did the first Atlantic crossing. Unfortunately this wasn’t non stop so Lindbergh was the one that made it to the record books. Nearby is the iconic Tower of Belem and then our next stop was the monastery which has now been converted into two museums and there is still a beautiful church at the far end where the Tombs of the Kings are situated

Afterwards we were driver along the sandy coast road past the beach of Carcavelos, a haven for families in the summer and a mecca for surfers in the sutumn and winter when the Atlantic waves are calling, past the busy town of Cascais, the expensive villas in Estoril and finally to the westernmost point of the whole of Europe. We were all given a certificate to prove it complete with a proper wax seal. The monument itself isn’t particularly attractive but the lighthouse on the rocks and the beautiful green countryside surrounding it are well worth the visit.

Lunch was at Sintra Palace a very interesting and impressive ancient palace with a mix of styles including intricate Moorish details and medieval stonework Afterwards we had time to visit the palace and all its unique rooms all different from each other, but all really fascinating

In the evening we all had tickets for Fado in Chiado. Fado is an ancient Portuguese type of singing from the soul accompanied by classical 12 string guitar and a Fado guitar which sounds rather like a Bouzouki but looks more like a large mandolin with extra strings. Fado has just been made a UNESCO World Heritage experience.

Dinner was at Bico do Sapato which is close to the cruise harbour. It has an outdoor area which is popular in the summer months and it becomes a disco after all the diners have left.

An early start back to the airport for our flight home

TIP – minimum 2 hours check in at Lisbon. It is huge and chaotic and a very long walk to the gates

If you are interested in booking a weekend of culture, gastronomy, fun, the experience of a city surrounded by beaches and green countryside please give me a call on 0845 058 7458 or email cathie.odea@travelcounsellors.com

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