Lisbon – Custard Tarts, English Grammar, and Unconventional Tourism

Arriving in Lisbon was complicated, there seemed to be several different transport options to get from the bus terminal to the city, and we couldn’t figure out how to use any of them. Eventually we got some train and then had to hike about two kilometres UP and DOWN (just like everywhere else in Portugal) the city streets to get to the Brickoven Palace Hostel. But when we got there… Wow. It was one of the most expensive hostels I’ve ever stayed in (€16 a night but the cheapest available during the Easter break), but it was also by far the nicest. The furniture was really cool, the vibe was chill, and the wifi actually worked, I was so impressed.

These boxes were both lockers and my ladder to my top bunk. For four nights this wonderful little cave was my home.

It was also really close to a Lidl supermarket. The kitchen at the hostel was really good so I mostly just made boring pasta and sandwiches during my stay, except when I tried the most delicious local food: pasteis de nata. It’s basically an egg-custard tart with the most delicious, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pastry, served warm and fresh from every single bakery for €1 or less. I could have lived off them, but I didn’t.

Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon.

There’s lots to see and do in Lisbon and many day trips as well, I could easily have spent double the amount of time there and still not have seen everything in the area, but I preferred to have a more relaxing ending to my Portugal excursion. I certainly walked around the town a lot. There are many places that offer a great view of the city just because it’s built on so many hills.

This guy in the gardens of Pena Palace, just chilling on his big rock.

The second day we decided to go to the beach, it was 27 degrees and sunny, surely it was finally warm enough to go for a swim… A guy from Annika’s room asked to tag along as he had no plans that day. We happily said yes. Unfortunately, we found out very quickly that he was probably the world’s most annoying American. His accent was so thick that even I could hardly understand him, and when I did understand I had to translate what he was saying into comprehensible English for Annika who had even more trouble. We had an argument about the word “y’all” in which he steadfastly defended it’s use and necessity due to the fact that English doesn’t have a plural form of the word “you”… *facepalm* And he seemed to use it in every second sentence he said. Not everyone you meet while travelling is great company.

Walking through Lisbon.

The beach was good. They were having a surf competition which was interesting to watch, and although the water was still freezing I got in and splashed around in the waves until my head started to ache from the cold. We also had to take a ferry across the river to get there, which gave us a nice view of Lisbon.

Lisbon from the ferry.

The next day I went for my day trip to Sintra. This was my highlight in Lisbon by far, it was such an awesome day, thanks Evan for the recommendation!!! I took the train out to Sintra, about 40 minutes from central Lisbon. After walking around the town and the gardens for a bit I made my way up into the mountains towards the Moorish Castle that I could see in the distance. There were lots of tourists on the path and when I passed a place with a really nice lookout I couldn’t get a good view because there were too many people in the way. So I went off the path and climbed a big rock jutting over a cliff and took a photo from there instead. My view was better.

The Moorish Castle – what’s left of it anyway.

I climbed many rocks that day. It was my day to be adventurous. I pushed myself physically and I did some crazy things I wouldn’t normally do, as you’ll see. But sometimes being daring pays off, it’s certainly exhilarating, and I ended up with a day that was close to perfect.

Up close and personal with Pena Palace.

I stuck my head inside the Moorish Castle, had a gander then left. €8 entry, no thanks. So I kept going along the path and arrived at Pena Palace. Now this was what everyone had come to see, the line for entry tickets was insane! And again, about €8 or €10!! I left the throngs behind me, picked a tiny path through the forest, and very soon the only sounds I could hear were the birds in the trees. It was so peaceful.

A section of the line for entry into Pena Palace

While I wasn’t going to pay to get into the palace (the ticket allows you to walk around the extensive gardens and along the palace walls as well) I wanted to find a place where I could get a good view. I eventually discovered a hill with some electrical tower on top that looked like it would have a great view of the palace on the other side. The only problem was the big fence blocking my way and the padlocked gate… So I climbed a pole and jumped the fence and waded through the overgrown plants. The view was ok but a bit obscured by trees. However, this was when I noticed the people down below and I realised I’d actually jumped the fence into the palace gardens. I stopped worrying about being caught trespassing and just blended in with all the non-criminal tourists.

Lunch with a view.

On the walls of the palace.

So I explored the extensive gardens, ate my packed lunch (an apple, a cucumber, some baby spinach leaves and half a pack of digestive biscuits, mmm supermarket food) on top of a big rock that was not near the path – I had to go bush bashing again – and slowly made my way towards the palace itself. I walked around all the palace walls, could just make out the rock I’d sat on for my lunch, and made use of the bathroom in the gift shop. Then I trekked back through the gardens to the remote corner with the electrical tower, climbed back over the fence, and made my way back to Sintra and on to Lisbon, happy as Larry.

Kids, don’t try this at home!


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