May 20-23: Evora and Lisbon, Portugal
We left Seville around 11am, gaining an hour when we crossed the border back into Portugal, and made an overnight stop in Evora, another medieval town. We had the afternoon to check out the cathedral, the old Roman temple, and the palace. It was hot and muggy, so I went inside the cool cathedral to get a closer look while Erik sat out under some trees. We had a lovely lunch on a beautiful patio restaurant where I had a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich on a croissant and thought of my Grandma. My mom will probably smile and remember why. I am getting just a wee bit tired of Spanish food and I was really happy to have something quite a bit different from the regular fare.
The next morning, we checked out early, and drove to the Lisbon airport to drop off our rental car. Because it can always be a bit confusing to find the rental return area at a busy airport, I had checked google street view the night before and made sure I knew exactly how to get there. It’s always so helpful to be able to read the signs when they are stationary. The drop off went well but we still had a couple of hours before we could check into our Lisbon apartment so we took some time to find the Easyjet bag drop in Departures so we wouldn’t have to waste time searching when we fly out Tuesday morning. I’m glad we did because it took quite a while to figure it out. We had some lunch and then took the Metro, with one station change, into the Alfama district of old Lisbon. The Metro system was easy to use, with English directions, and once again, I had read information online on how to use the Lisbon metro system.
We walked along the cobblestone streets in the heat, dragging our luggage behind us, and wound our way up a few narrow streets to the apartment door. We had been given the password to a box holding the key so we were able to get into the suite without meeting our host. The stairs up to the second floor were narrow and very steep, with no handrail, which is typical of older parts of any city in Europe.
Apparently building codes, safety regulations, and lawsuits are non-existent so life is always an adventure. You just need to use your common sense and be careful. That being said, I do have a bruised and skinned knee when I stepped off a curb in Ronda and fell to the ground, but hey, I shouldn’t have been looking ahead – I should have looked where I was going. 😉
Anyway – back to Lisbon. We had booked the apartment through Airbnb and read the reviews carefully (back in February) but apparently since that time, there had been a few new reviews with mention of a musty smell, and boy, did we notice it when we walked inside. The 2nd storey apartment window opened onto a small courtyard below that housed a few garbage cans, and there was also a seafood restaurant nearby, so I thought maybe some of the smell had come from there. I closed the window and turned on the a/c but it didn’t help. Eventually we called the host and she suggested we turn off the a/c and open the windows wide, so we did, and then went out for a walk for an hour. Things seemed better when we returned. I cooked spaghetti with meatballs for dinner and that made the apartment smell excellent so I figured we were good for the night.
However, overnight the smell returned and I slept poorly and was quite irritated by morning. We discussed moving to a hotel, but ultimately decided to stay put because moving was more hassle than it was worth, and we had an early flight the following morning. We had messaged our host and he stopped by with his handyman while we were out for breakfast, but we’d left the windows open for an hour and the smell wasn’t there. Ah well, live and learn. It’s always a chance you take when staying in the older part of a city. Ultimately, we decided the smell was coming from the a/c which had a fan running whenever it wasn’t cooling. It smelled fine with the coolant on, but not so much when it wasn’t.
But Lisbon – hmmmm, I didn’t love it. Maybe it was because I was tired and ready to move on to a new country, maybe it was because I was cranky about our apartment, maybe it was because we were in a busy bigger city – I don’t know. We had one full day which we did enjoy, but overall, I don’t think I’d go back.
There are quite a few things to see and do in Lisbon, but all we really did was catch tram 15 down to see the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, an impressive monument to Henry the Navigator. It was quite nice walking along the waterfront, and there are several other sights of interest in this area – the Belem Tower, the National Coach Museum, and the Monastery of Jeronimo, as well as a few museums. Fortunately/unfortunately, it was Monday so everything was closed. We wouldn’t have had the time nor the energy to go inside anyway, so we were content to save a few bucks on entrance tickets.
Lisbon is probably best known for its Fado (music) clubs. Yeah, I know we should have made reservations and had dinner at one of the clubs so we could enjoy their expressive singing, but we just didn’t feel like it – surprise, surprise. We had an early flight the next morning, and the music doesn’t usually start until after 10pm so we decided to give it a miss. Later, when we read reviews, it sounded like a lot of the Fado clubs are really just put on for tourists and tend to be expensive with subpar food. A decent show with dinner would have set us back about €100, and we just weren’t up for it.
So – this is probably not the best review of Lisbon, and if you visit, you may absolutely love it. I think we were just at the tail end of a long 3 1/2 week trip and were ready to shift gears. I’ve found that when we travel, we are sometimes surprised to find which places exceed our expectations and which places fail to live up to them. It’s all part of travelling I guess.
Next up: Scotland!