Does Portuguese sound like Russian? Lisboa

Forgive the massive, ignorant generalisation that is this page title. But to the untrained ear, I think it really does! It’s something about the way words are pronounced, I think. This was my first time in Portugal and I hadn’t really encountered the language on a large scale before – I’ve only known a couple of Portuguese people (and they’re all lovely)! It was unfamiliar to me but I actually quite like the uniqueness of the language.

Anyway, the day we arrived in Lisbon was my 22nd birthday. Though I was feeling nothing like my celebrity doppelganger Taylor Swift (and definitely not as wealthy, sadly), 22 is a good age, I guess. The majority of the day, however, would be spent on a 6 hour drive through Spanish deserts and Portuguese valleys. To break up the day, we stopped in a Roman town called Merida. It was very pretty but too hot even for me, owing to its location in the middle of the desert. It’s also where I had my second plate of garlic mushrooms, which this time had too much tarragon for my liking…

If I ever have to see garlic mushrooms ever again, I might scream.

We arrived in Lisbon just in time for tea. Our charming little apartment was actually within the walls of the Castello San Jorge, which as a tourist attraction I’d recommend to anybody – but I wouldn’t suggest staying there, unless you bloody love walking up steep hills. I suppose Bristol and Lisbon are quite similar in that respect…

Having looked round the castle, I met an enterprising man with a van, who was selling ‘wine with a view’. Well, it was my birthday, and I had Donna Meagle’s voice in my head: “treat yo self” she was saying to me…

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Probably my favourite shot of the whole trip, if I do say so myself. Shame about that Aussie tourist ruining it!

For dinner, we went to a vegan restaurant. It’s my birthday and I’ll force my parents to eat veggie if it kills me! Anyway, it was run by hippies and served something called “masala vegetables”. It’s always enjoyable when white people try to copy Asian things – as far as I can tell that basically just means mixed veg. We could have gone to a proper Indian food place as there is quite a large Portuguese Indian community, thanks to #colonialism. But mum doesn’t like spice. So let’s just leave it at that. Made a change from garlic mushrooms, anyway.

The next day, we had traditional pasteis de nata for breakfast, further on our culinary adventure in Portugal. These beat any cheapo English custard tarts you’ll ever find, and Portugal is famous for them. It seems to be a nation keen on its desserts, so we’re bound to get along.

It was probably a good job we had those calories, too. Our family has a thing for those amphibious duck tours because they’re usually quite funny and a unique way to see a city. We wandered down to the Praca do Comercio, Lisbon’s equivalent to St. Mark’s, and then made a beeline for Belem, where the duck tours were based. “It’s not very far” said Mum. Wrong. It was Very Far Indeed.

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Me before I died trying to reach the tour bus. Note the hill in the background – that’s where we stayed 😦

Directly under the 25th April bridge (which looks unnervingly like the Golden Gate), it was about three miles from where we were, but because it was along the river it looked deceivingly close. Well, eventually we found it, but I’ll admit we all came close to giving up at times. Plus, we got to see some Lisbon the tourist wouldn’t usually see – it’s very gritty and artistic.

Boy, were we glad to flop onto those uncomfortable wooden seats. The tour guide was a very friendly local woman, who spoke in both English and Portuguese. Here was my introduction to the language, and yup, I was confused. It might just be me that thinks that it sounds Slavic, but who knows. I found it very difficult to pick out words, which I can usually do with other Latin languages.

The tour passed some of Lisbon’s most famous sights, never stopping but giving you enough information so that you could decide if it was worth seeing or not. As we careered into the water at a worringly high speed, tourists looked on, in a mixture of confusion and jealousy. They hate us ‘cos they ain’t us, I suppose…

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You have to cheer ‘hippo hippo’ at other buses from the company. I did cringe.

Worn out, we skulked back to the apartment for a rest, taking the tram uphill because we aren’t total morons. Dad and me still wanted to do a bit of sightseeing later, though, so we went up the Santa Maria Justa lift. It’s literally a beautiful old lift that goes up to a viewing platform. But it has a secret that all hilly cities should adopt – a flat walkway to a place uphill. No wonder there was a queue!

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I’d kill for one of these on my daily commute in Bristol.

I also picked up an awesome shirt with a bunch of grouchy cats on it. Me in art form.

The next day we were supposed to go to the castle town of Sintra, but due to various issues (namely, Lisbon being hell for cars), we couldn’t make it. So off we went to sample the delights of Belem, Lisbon’s historical district, instead. It’s an extremely pleasant place, but we still ended up doing a lot of waterfront walking. There are beautiful gardens, palaces, and monuments all around, including the Torre de Belem, a strange hybrid of medieval European architecture. We ended up in a queue for quite a bit, so if you can buy your tickets beforehand, do!

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It has Venetian, Spanish, and even Moorish influences. Pretty AF though.

After taking the fresh air and seeing the Atlantic Ocean, we walked a little inland, past the famous Jeronimos Monastery and the Presidential Palace. The Jeronimos gardens had the most adorable ducklings in it, I could have stayed for hours and cooed at them, they were so cute! But alas, I was getting hungry. When that happens, I must eat. So on our way back for a siesta we stopped off at the Time Out Market. Dare I say it was my favourite thing in Lisbon? There were so many cool places to eat from, with a big canteen-like vibe in the centre. Although there were some very rude people who wouldn’t let us sit down when there was clearly nobody there (I am still bitter about that), I enjoyed the atmosphere and variety of food options. According to Time Out – so I’m not sure if this info is 100% reliable, but I’m going to go for it anyway – it was the top attraction in town! Quelle surprise.

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FYI, I had a bowl of Thai yellow curry. Even I get bored of Mediterranean food after a few days.

Our last stop in Lisbon was the Aquarium, which was in the modern district of Parque das Nações, very close to the airport. I’m not sure how I feel about aquariums, since they use animals for entertainment purposes, but I was in no mood to argue with Mum. Plus who doesn’t love sea otters and penguins? It was good but it wasn’t really massively different to other aquariums. Seen one fish, seen ’em all.

What was interesting was that it was housed in the old Expo buildings, on the middle of an artificial island, which was surrounded by fish-filled waters all by itself. There was also an awesome cable car which we took to get back to the metro station and Vasco da Gama shopping centre, a leftover from Expo. Sometimes entire areas go to waste after the exhibition is over, but I love what Lisbon have done with this place.

I think it’s where they’re going to be hosting Eurovision next year – it’s going to be epic! It’s such a cool district and will be able to cope with the numbers perfectly. I’d go myself if I literally hadn’t just been to Lisbon. Plus all those drunk Eurovision fans will be able to enjoy the Aquarium afterwards…

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A nice ride on the cable car perfectly rounded off our pavement-pounding experience in Lisbon.

We went to bed early because A) we are all ancient and B) we had an early start, driving down the Algarve the next day for some sun, sea and sand. Stop by next time for a story of getting dragged along the beach by waves, the mosquito bite of my life, and a bit of trespassing thrown into the mix. Until next time!

Alice xx


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