This way to adventure!

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I’m Emily. I’m a writer living an unexpected expat life fueled by coffee and adventure. Home is where my art is.

(Currently: Brussels)

City Break: Lisbon in Rainy November

City Break: Lisbon in Rainy November

3 day weekend? Chances are good that Joe and I have packed a carry-on and headed out of town for a city break.

One of the best things about living in Brussels is being centrally located — it’s usually quite easy and relatively cheap to visit another European city. We keep our eyes open for flight/train deals and let good travel times and great prices tell us where we’re headed next.

And so it was that we found ourselves in Lisbon, Portugal for a November trip that would end up being an epic comedy of errors.

10 Nov - 12 Nov, 2018

Travel to Lisbon
Brussels Air (for less than $95 round trip each — thanks Google Flights!)

The iconic calçada is beautiful but slick — even more so when wet!

The iconic calçada is beautiful but slick — even more so when wet!

What we saw, what we did, and what we ate
Our flight landed mid-day so we spent some time getting from the airport to our flat in the trendy (and a little too touristy for my taste) Bairro Alto neighborhood. We wandered around a bit (read: walked up and down the incredibly steep hills and tried to not to bust our faces on the slick calçada) before taking the municipal ferry across the bay where we bummed around Almada. We found ourselves at Quimera Brewpub for dinner. Joe enjoyed some local brews while I washed down our tasty meal with a housemade kombucha. A quirky and cool setting plus friendly staff put this place on our would-visit-again list.

On the way back to our flat, we knew our travel luck might be a bit off when I rolled my ankle on the uneven pavement and Joe stepped in doggy doo all in the space of 15 minutes. But little did we know just how badly we had drawn…

Did you know that only a small subset of folks reacts to bedbug bites? Neither did I until we found out that I’m one of the “lucky” ones. Joe? Not so much. He was covered in 58 itchy welts when we woke on Sunday morning. (Yes, we counted.) It was only 8am and were kicking ourselves for not doing our normally thorough bug check upon arrival. It took 10 minutes to find alternative lodging and another 3 hours to carefully mitigate any chance of bringing the suckers along with us. Whomp. Whomp.

{See related post: So you’ve become a bedbug feast.}

Our luck didn’t get any better as we said adeus to the flat and made our way out into the city. We had come prepared for the typical early winter rain but the forecast called for localized flash flooding by the time we were finally ready to do some exploring. We headed up to Castelo de S. Jorge in the hopes that the weather would hold. And it did, but only until we wandered back down the hill towards town. The heavens opened up and doused us in a cold, ark-worthy downpour that left us soaked through.

We’re not usually ones for taxis but they’re pretty cheap in Lisbon and easy to hail using the MyTaxi app (which works in a surprising number of cities and is well worth having on your phone). We sought refuge and an espresso in a crowded cafe while we waited for our ride, but were shortly on our way to the Museu Nacional Do Azulejo. I think the museum was the highlight of my trip — the tiles are beautiful and wonderfully presented with plenty of historical and artistic context.

After staring at tiles for a few hours, Joe wanted to visit Dois Corvos taproom for an evening snack. He’s a fan of their beers but I would have liked something other than a Coke Zero to wash down the olives and peanuts. I suppose that’s a hazard when visiting breweries as a non-drinker. Oh well.

We were pretty wiped after a day full of (mis)adventure, and not up to anything fancy for dinner. I was a bit skeptical when Joe suggested we ride a bus back into town to hit up the mall food court but he was right: we each got to pick our own cuisine and the prices certainly couldn’t be beat.

By the time we made it back into our hotel and rolled into bed that night, we were exhausted and I was thankful that Joe had insisted on a small splurge in the form of a nice Marriott property to make up for our epic lodging fail the night before.

Waking up the relief of no bug bites and blue skies on Monday was a treat. We drank some in-room Nespresso and made our way down the coast early enough to beat the crowds (which can sometimes stretch down the block) at Pastéis de Belém. I usually stay far away from gluten but was willing to chance the consequences for one of their famous custard tartlets. (It was worth it.) We walked off our treats and got some morning sun as we strolled to the Torre de Belém for a photo. I had read somewhere that the tower was cool but not that cool so we opted out of lines and entrance fees to see inside. I don’t think we missed out on much.

Then, as per our custom of visiting every botanical garden we encounter, we took a quick stroll through the Jardim Botânico Tropical in Belem. The garden has definitely seen better days, but it’s a peaceful place to visit and we certainly didn’t mind the couple of euros it cost to get in.

The real treat of the trip though? The Museu da Carris. A €4 entry fee includes a ride on an early 20th century tram — particularly awesome since we’d opted out of a ride on the (in)famous Tram 28. Plus, we were the only ones visiting that morning and got the tram and conductor all to ourselves!

Then, just as our luck seemed to be swinging in a better direction, it was time to head towards the airport. I have to admit that I was ready to head home after the weekend we’d had. (But not without drinking a couple of lattes at the airport lounge first…)

Tile everywhere…

Tile everywhere…

The most dreadful vacation flat (which doesn’t even deserve a link) followed by a lovely night at the Fontecruz Lisboa. Because sometimes desperate times call for luxurious measures.

Getting around town
Lisbon’s metro system is cheap and easy to navigate. We opted for pay-as-you-go rather than a pass and used them on the metro, trams, bus and ferry. The €1.30 single ride price covers you for 2 hours so you have to ride a LOT for the day pass to be worth it.

His and Hers top Lisbon travel tips
His: Lisbon is overrun with tourists, but they’re unevenly distributed. Some places are popular because they’re awesome but some places are popular simply because they’re popular. Don’t be afraid to take the buses and the trams other than the 28 to go find a few hidden gems of your own. The Bairro Alto neighborhood has a couple of interesting things to see but mostly it’s filled with drunken backpackers of the variety you could find in any European city.
Hers: They’re not kidding when they say the calçada portuguesa is slick. Heed the warnings! Sensible shoes are always a good choice for travel but even more so in Lisbon where you’ll be absolutely miserable in anything other than flats with a good tread.

Would we visit again?
Yes. It’s a great break from the grey of Brussels (or, can be in theory). And despite Lisbon being the new hotness for travel destinations, there’s still plenty of non-tourist-trap discoveries to be made.

So you’ve become a bedbug feast.

So you’ve become a bedbug feast.

Just don't call them "French fries." (Or, how to order frites in Belgium.)

Just don't call them "French fries." (Or, how to order frites in Belgium.)