5 things not to do in Lisbon

     Lisbon is a city plenty of charm, history, great food and amazing attractions. But like any other city, it has its tourist traps. Avoid them and make the most out of your time in Lisbon.

     1- Feel like a sardine in a can, inside Tram nº 28 – This tram line was originally designed to provide public transportation for those who live in the historical neighborhoods but got so popular among tourists that only few locals dare to get on-board. Fight for a place inside this tram might be worthy, but only if you can get a seat. If you’re standing, you’ll only be able to see other tourist’s armpits and the chances of being pick-pocketed are quite high.

      2- Wait in line for Santa Justa Elevator – Historical elevators make part of this city, specially long ago, before cars made part of the daily life. Santa Justa is a true gem of architecture but after you’ve taken a couple pictures, walk along Rua do Carmo and feel the atmosphere of this hipster neighborhood. Listen to Fado from an old-fashioned car that sells Fado cd’s, do a little shopping and finally turn right at Calçada do Sacramento to reach the top of the elevator and get amazed with the views.

      3- Go to Belem in the morning, specially on Sundays - St Jerome monastery is a world heritage site and a definite MUST if you’re visiting Lisbon. Unfortunately, it still is an active church with masses on Sunday morning, during which you can’t visit the church. It’s hard to explain the limited visiting times or the chaos around those times. Skip all this and if Sunday is your only day available, go there after 2pm. It will be completely different.

      4- Eat or have coffee at any food chain - I know it works for everywhere in the world, but in Lisbon this is a specially big mistake. Coffee and food definitely make part of our culture and not only you’ll be loosing the opportunity to try our exquisite pastries and excellent coffee, but also spending more money.

      5- Have dinner before 8.30pm or sit for a meal in Rua Augusta  - In Portugal we don’t have dinner before 8.30, sometimes 9pm. If you do find a restaurant with their doors open before 8pm, it will certainly be a touristy restaurant. Just like the restaurants always open in Rua Augusta, they may be good or within your budget, but may also serve you something different than authentic Portuguese food.

      6- Avoid hotels anywhere near Avenida Almirante Reis – This tip is just a little bonus. Even though you may find cheap and modern hotels around this neighborhood, I’d avoid them. Those hotels may be nice, but the area is one of the least pleasant and the subway works with limited times.

We’re back!

     After a long silence, Lisbon Stories’ blog is finally back.

     Many were the reasons why I stayed away from this blog for so long, but I’m defintely glad to be back.

     If you’re visiting Portugal and are looking for tips, travel advices, activities suggestions, recipes and much more, just stay tunned. Since this blog only makes sense with your feed-back, please feel free to use the comments box, as well as the “contact us” button and tell us what you’d like to read in this space.

    If you’ve been to Portugal and loved your experience here, then feel free to write a blog post. It can be about your experience, about a funny story, an attraction review… you pick, we publish!

Saint Anthony’s day is coming and the party is on!

     Have you heard about Saint Anthony of Padua? Well the truth is he is not from Padua, Italy but from Lisbon, Portugal. Why are we telling you about this now? The celebrations in Saint Anthony’s home town, our dear Lisbon, have already begun but the highlight will definitely be tonight: the night of the 12th June.

     Saint Anthony is not the patron saint of Lisbon – that would be Saint Vincent – however he’s our favorite and celebrating him is a way of paying our homage.The date we celebrate is actually the 13th June- the date that marks his passing away in 1231, although the party starts way before that day.

     This is a popular celebration so people come out in the streets and go out partying with their neighbors or with anyone passing by so I am sure you will feel even more at home during these days The festivities include beautifully decorated streets, street parades and a dance parade and contest between associations belonging to the different parishes in the city.

     Food and drinking are also an important part of this party and never like in this week, will Lisbon be as much filled with the scent of grilled sardines all over the place. These don’t go without the occasional glass of red wine, although green wine is also a good choice.

     Dance the night away to the sound of traditional music sung by everyone or played by informal bands here and there; go and eat grilled sardines out in the street and then don’t miss out the parades in Avenida da Liberdade, the main avenue in Lisbon where the dance contest is held.

     The following day you might want to join the crowd that goes to the church of Saint Anthony, right next to the cathedral in the old neighborhood of Alfama and ask for a little blessing. Here is a tip: he’s known as a good match-maker!

May 18th-International Day of Museums

     We are very excited around here at Lisbon Stories! Tomorrow is the International Day of Museums. We love what we do, so this date is just a good excuse to visit our stunning monuments  and museums yet another time. The best of all: for free!!

     The date is celebrated worldwide and the best of all is that this year, May the 18th is a Saturday, so there is a full weekend to be planned starting tonight. Yes, you read it well; many museums and monuments throughout the country will be open at night, holding different cultural events, music concerts, guided tours, etc…

     If you are around Lisbon I would suggest taking a walk around the Chiado quarter, in the center of the city, in the evening and then head off to one of the nearby museums open at night such as the Archaeological Museum of Carmo or the more modern Museu do Chiado.

    However, anything goes as the different programs include special guided tours, dance and acting performances, workshops for families and many, many activities more. The Portuguese institution that runs the public museums in Portugal (IGESPAR) has a full program of the weekend which you can see here.

   It is in Portuguese, but we are happy to help you with the translation. Just send us an email and maybe we can meet in one of the museums. Don’t miss out all the fun!!

The Holy Spirit celebrations

     There is a beautiful catholic commemoration in Portugal that even non religious people love to attend. It is what we call the Divino Espírito Santo (or Divine Holy Spirit) and it is a festivity that is held for around 700 years now and was started by a queen.

     Isabel was a Spanish dame who came to marry the Portuguese king Dinis in the 13th century. A devoted spouse and profoundly religious, Isabel was known by her good will and charity. She was said to be so good that she was considered a saint a few centuries after her death.

     Queen Isabel had a special devotion for the Holy Spirit and the Pentecost which are a symbol for purity at heart, of God’s kindness in every man. In the Spanish region where she was raised, big festivities were held to celebrate them, 50 days after Easter. When she brought this tradition to Portugal it was a huge success from the very beginning

     The celebrations started taking place in the towns owned by the queen such as Óbidos, Tomar, Alenquer and others. The rituals included a procession in honor of the Holy Spirit with a child taking the lead and everyone dressed in white and barefooted, even the queen. The poor would be given meat and bread and their feet would be washed by the wealthier as a sign of humbleness.

     These rituals haven’t changed much since those days and this is still a very important tradition in certain regions, such as the Azores where it is a way of bringing the communities of the 9 islands together. It is one of the favorite religious festivities in Portugal as it celebrates the best in the human being.

    If you have some time, come next weekend and see for yourself what I am talking about, I am sure you won’t forget about it.

To beer or not to beer

     Along with wine, there is another drink that we also can’t go without in Portugal: Beer. Before the Roman Empire, the people living here almost 2000 years ago, the Lusitanian, already produced a very basic type of beer only out of water and fermented barley.

     Romans didn’t care much for beer nor did the Moors who later invaded the peninsula. Only during the Christian crusades, some 1000 years ago; beer production was once again common. The knights from central Europe, who came to help the Iberian kings in battle, would be granted lands where they would plant cereal in order to produce their traditional drink: beer.

     It became popular but a serious threat to wine production as it was considered a cheap, low quality kind of drink, produced in private cellars. In the 17th century the first beer factory was built and only during the 19th century the production of beer was widespread.

     It was the monks in their convents who had the best breweries and produced the best quality beers. After the extinction of the religious orders in 1834 the monks had to find themselves jobs so they started selling their excellent beers out to the general public.

     Beer had been already adopted as a national drink by then and the first “cervejarias” were established. These were simple restaurants selling fresh sea food and tender beef steak sandwiches with different types of beer. We still love them and they are the perfect spot to get to know the real deal as far as Portuguese beers are concerned.

    Today, the most popular brands and types or beer are… coming out on our next post.  I will just let you waiting, mouth watering!

Comercio Square – Our square

     If you’re visiting Lisbon during Easter, there’s something you can’t miss.

     During the extended Easter weekend (28-31 March), Terreiro do Paço will be transformed into a giant interactive screen — with a free multimedia event, that invites tourists and local residents to visit this revitalized zone of the Portuguese capital.
The initiative will feature drawings by young children and adults that will be brought to life using 3D videomapping projection techniques and an interactive touchscreen platform, in real-time — projected on the facade of the Terreiro do Paço’s West Wing.

     The light show – based on 2D and 3D video-mapping projections and techniques – will be accompanied by a dynamic original soundtrack. From 9 pm onwards  all roads will lead to Terreiro do Paço. Imagination is the only limit.

Both text and images were taken from the event’s official webiste.

 

Portugal Restaurant Week

     If you love to go out and try new restaurants, new flavors and gourmet foods, you’re coming to Lisbon during the right week.

     Portugal restaurant week is here and until next Sunday the best restaurants in Portugal will be available at a settle price of 20€ per person (drinks not included). This is a great opportunity to try expensive restaurants, where one can’t go every day. Besides, 1€ per person will be donated to charity, which makes this event even more special.

      To check this long list of restaurants and to do your reservation just follow this link. You’d better hurry up: this promotion only lasts until March the 24th and some restaurants are already full.

    If you decide to give it a try please don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us how it was!

“Alheira” – a sausage plenty of history and flavor

     There was once a time, about 300 years ago when the Inquisition – an extremist section of the Catholic Church – dictated the rules around here. Strangely enough, even in what food was concerned.

     One of the tastiest sausages in Portugal was invented by the Jews during those difficult times as a way to escape the clutches of the Inquisition. Since their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork, they would be easily identifiable by their pursuers by not preparing the -very common at the time- smoked pork sausage.

     They found a clever resource: they replaced the pork with a huge variety of other meats, such as veal, rabbit, turkey, duck and chicken sometimes partridge, tucked into richly seasoned dough of wheat bread. Garlic played an important part flavor wise as it would cleverly disguise the lack of pork if any investigation would be carried through.

     The result was “Alheira”: a mouthwatering soft sausage that would eventually become popular even among Christians. Today we can find “Alheiras” made with different ingredients, including pork, as Christians didn’t resist to adding the usual porky touch to the recipe.

     Alheira can be easily found in almost any restaurant menu. Served with a fried egg on top, french fries and salad or vegetables, it can be either fried or grilled.

How to order a cup of coffee in Portugal

     Most Portuguese people start their day the same way: with a shot of strong, black coffee, the famous and beloved “café” or “bica”. “Um café se faz favor” (one coffee please) might be the first words of the day, but they’ll be repeated.

      What do we drink? Our regular coffee is what’s generally called expresso: a shot of strong black coffee, normally with sugar. Obviously, we have some variations, the most popular among them being “garoto” (small espresso cup); or even an “italiana” for a really short coffee.

     Bigger sizes? A “meia-de-leite” (is a large cup, half is milk and the other half is coffee); a “galão (3/4 coffee, ¼ of milk); and “abatandado” is for American coffee. Just coffee? No. Normally we have a little pastry to go with it, but that’s a subject big enough for another post.

      Besides the energy boost, there’s also the social side. “Hey, do you want to have a coffee?” might be the easiest way to break the ice with a new work colleague or to catch up with a friend. Are you staying for a few days in the same place and want to meet someone? Go for coffee at the same place everyday: by day 4 the waiter will serve you without even asking what you want.

      What about coffee to go? There’s no such thing. Even if you’re having a quick cup of coffee on your way to work, it’s very likely that you’ll have a quick chat with the waiter or with the person standing next to you. Weather, soccer and breaking news are normally the topics.

We are back!

Many were the reasons that forced Lisbon Stories to “freeze” this blog but today we’re really happy to announce that we’re back!

Want to know what we did during our silence? Looking for useful information about Portugal and helpful tips for your visit? Just keep posted!

I hope that you missed us as because we missed you too!

 

The wonders of Cascais

If you are thinking of coming to Lisbon soon- and you probably are, or else why would you be reading this web blog in the first place?- you shouldn’t miss the chance to extend your tour- and get to know Cascais and Estoril, just 20 minutes away!

 Check on the weather first but I dare say that the first stop in Estoril is inevitably, the calm sandy beach with its terraces by the sea where you can sit and relax having a drink and looking at the waves coming and going.

 Crossing the road, I won’t let you miss out the famous Casino Estoril built in the early 20th century and from which Ian Fleming during the World War II got inspiration for his most famous character and novel the secret agent 007, James Bond in Casino Royale

 Just 5 minutes away in the famous N6- the ring road by the sea- is Cascais.  Once there, we will make our way to the lively town centre and from there to the old town where the fishermen’s houses still keep their original trace.

 If you feel brave enough to face the ride, we will grab a bicycle-they are let, for free by the municipality- and  take the road to Guincho Beach, about 3 km from the centre and enjoy the wild landscape of dunes and ocean, surrounded by the lavish green of the National Park of Sintra- Cascais.

 Coming back, if you’re feeling hungry, we will choose one of the several well known fish restaurants on the cliffs and try some of our best fish and shell fish specialties directly from the sea. And whichever time of the year you choose to come, Cascais always has a little something to offer you, whether you are a museum fan or more like the tanning in a wonderful beach kind!

This idea can easily be included in your “Sintra Cascais” tour.

Portugal has the best tourism movie in the world

    The Portuguese movie “Beauty of simplicity”, launched by the Official Tourism Board is officially a hit.

    I has already received the of silver medal in the “BestWorld Films Awards” in the category Short film in New York; the gold medal in Latvia at the “RigaTourfilm” 2012 in the category Commercial Film; and the 2nd place in Warsaw competition for the best film promoting country, region or city.

    Now it was just awarded a gold medal in the International Film Festival of Tourism and Ecology of Serbia - “SILAFEST 2012” in the category of Best Tourism Film. Besides, we also know that it will be one of four award-winning films at the CannesFestival Corporate Media & TV Awards 2012, the biggest event of the European corporate films.

    The music was made by Nuno Maló, a Portuguese musician living in Los Angeles and is nominated for the Jerry Goldsmith Awards 2011 in the category of “Best Promotion Score”.

Are you curious? Here it is :)

Where have I been

    I know that it has been a while since my last post. September 2012 is the busiest month ever here in Lisbon Stories and it has been really hard to keep up with everything.

    Where have I been? I spent the last week with a lovely and fun group of friends who have been travelling together, once a year, for the last 12 years. Why am I sharing this with you?  I don’t know, maybe because we saw and did a lot and this was one of those tours that I really enjoy too and almost forgot that I was working.

    We visited Lisbon and then headed North passing by Coimbra where we visited the city and the old university; spent two days in Aveiro, enjoying the city, the coast and Vista Alegre factory; did a culinary workshop in Aveiro’s fish market; visited Porto and then came to Cascais where they spent some time before visiting Sintra, Roca Cape and some hidden spots on the mountain… wow!

I’ve just taken them to the airport and truth is that I miss them already! Hope to see you soon girls!

With or without them?

     When you order cherry liqueur, one of the most popular Portuguese liqueurs, this is what you be asked: with or without them? Don’t worry: they’re obviously talking about the cherries: with or without the cherries?

     Made of sour cherries, firing water, sugar, cinnamon and water, this is a rather strong liqueur, widely drunk in Portugal. In some places you might even find it served in a chocolate cup (yummy), but most Portuguese people prefer the “original” version: just cherry liqueur with a couple of cherries.

     Besides the normal bars and pubs where you can find it, there are also a couple of “stores” that serve nothing but cherry liqueur. My favorite one is located close to Rossio square and was open in 1840. Believe it or not, it opens at 9am… This photo was taken a couple of hours later: cherry liqueur is an excellent digestive, and after one of those Portuguese big lunches, you really need one!

 

Looking forward to tasting it? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

Cruiseships… plenty of them

Today is a very special day for our pier: we have six big cruise ships docked in Lisbon’s harbor. Isn’t this something? I’m sure that the streets are going to be packed!

While Silver Cloud, Balmoral, Ryndam e AIDAaura and Independence of the Seas are just here for the day, Seven Seas Mariner and Silver Cloud are spending one night here. Together, they will bring about 9500 people to the Portuguese capital. This definitely isn’t a common situation as we normally receive one or two cruise ships per day.

During the month of August Lisbon will receive a total of 21 cruise ships, bringing approximately 33.000 visitors. Does it look like a big number? Not really if we bear in mind that during the year of 2010 Lisbon’s port received a total of 495.000 visitors, and about 502.000 passengers in 2012.

 Regarding Lisbon Stories’ statistics, 50% of our clients come on cruise ships. 60% of them are here just for the day while the other 40% are starting or finishing a cruise here and decided to extend their holidays.

Enjoy your time in Lisbon everyone!

Com’out Lisbon – another festival

During summer time it’s quite hard to see one Lisboner sitting inside, either at a restaurant, café or even music concert. As the sun starts to shine and the nights get warmer Lisbon’s streets get more and more crowded with plenty of things to do. Open cafés and restaurants can be found everywhere, belvederes are turned into chill out areas, kiosks open and get popular and there are also the famous feasts of Lisbon. They only last until July, but for those who are visiting Lisbon during August or September (like you, Kristin) and are sad because the Feasts of Lisbon are over, I have great news: “Com’out Lisbon” has just begun.

This festival will last until the 11th of September and will cover the whole city. Almost every concert or projection happens in a different part of Lisbon, which will let you discover off-track gardens or parks. The activities are varied, including music concerts (don’t miss the Big Band from Hot Club Portugal, on Sept the 8th), outjazz, DJ’s and open air cinema. As usual, the entrance is free and you don’t need to pick up tickets some days before, or so. Just show up at the exact place in the exact time and enjoy the show!

The full program can be found here. Unfortunately there’s no English program but it’s not hard to understand the location nor the date, so, since it’s free entrance, I guess that you have nothing to lose!

 

Discover Evora

After my last post about Évora tour with wine tasting and picnic lunch several people emailed me asking more information about Évora. Here is the answer:

Évora is the main town of Alentejo, an undiscovered region in the South of Portugal. The landscape is marked by the green of the grass, brown of the land and the white of the white washed with the blue or yellow stripes around the doors and windows frames.

Évora isn’t a big city, but going there from Lisbon on a daytrip, it has plenty to keep you busy and entertained. Close to St Francis church there’s the farmers market, where one can sample and see the regional products such as cheeses, sausages, vegetables and honey. Besides being excellent, all my customers keep tipping the farmers as they can’t believe how cheap things are.

In terms of heritage one can start the visit with the Bones chapel (which walls are covered by human bones, taken from a cemetery in the 17th century), St. Francis church, Graça church, Giraldo square, the main square of the town; the Roman temple (built 1800 years ago) and finally, the Cathedral. Évora’s cathedral is one of the few places where you can find an image of Our Lady pregnant, inside a church. The image dates back from the 16th century, but in the 17th century they were all forbidden and destroyed, which makes it even more special.

If you’re thinking about coming back to Évora, don’t leave the town without visiting “Pousada dos Lóios”, a luxury state inn installed in a former monastery, from the 16th century. And don’t forget to book the tour!

Looking forward to visiting Évora? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends.

Like a tourist in my own city

     Yesterday Mr.s Shepley and her family needed to be back to their cruise-ship quite early, which left me with an almost free afternoon.  Normally I just rush home in order to avoid traffic and take care of emails and reservation, but yesterday I decided that I wanted to be a tourist in my own city.

     We did the wine and cheese tasting tour (my favourite), so, I wasn’t hungry at all. I started my tour passing by Loja dos Descobrimentos, the tile-shop where I do the tile-painting workshops. I wanted to pay them a visit and also had to pay my last workshop.  After a long time chatting, it was time to leave and head towards Comércio Square, looking for a treat: ice-cream!

     Comércio Square is the place where there used to be the royal palace, before the earthquake of 1755. Afraid of the river, the Royal family didn’t want their palace to be built there again and the square was thought to be the social center of Lisbon. Without cafés or shops, inhabitants never felt attracted by this magnificent square and it used to be visited only by pigeons and tourists attracted by the river. Few months ago everything changed: restaurants, cafés, flower sellers and even a disco were opened in this square, which now attracts both locals and visitors.

     The ice-cream, right. I was looking for my ice-cream when I saw the Beer Museum, recently opened, and decided to get inside. I’m not a beer drinker but it was fun to see the history of the beer production in Portugal and the Portuguese speaking countries. Besides, they’ve recreated a 16th century monastic brewery and a “monk” explains the history of the beer production, techniques and so. Feeling thirsty? The visit finishes with a tasting and you can bring a cute clay-cup home.

    Finally, I found a wonderful place for artisan ice-cream and started to walk towards Chiado, where my friends were waiting for me. Could life get any better? Maybe it could but then it wouldn’t be life, just a dream.

What do you think of my afternoon? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

Thanks god for the free Sundays… or, I love Outjazz

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I also love to have some free time for myself and for my friends. Since there are no bookings for this weekend I already have a plan for my next free Sunday. Want to meet me there?

    This Sunday I’m definitely going to be in the Park Eduardo VII (at the top of Avenida da Liberdade) attending Outjazz. This is a sort of music festival that brings different DJs and bands to the city center, with free concerts and nice moments of relax. They happen in different parts of the city but regarding this specific one, since it’s in the park, many people bring their kids, dogs, a blanket and some drinks and sit to relax the end of the afternoon. I’ve been there two weeks ago and can’t wait for tomorrow!

    Where and when? The concerts happen in different parts of the city. This year even hotels decided to join, so, the “stage” ranges from museums (Ancient Art Museum, Tiles museum, etc) to hotels (Sheraton hotel, hotel Mundial, Tivoli hotel, etc) passing by train stations, historical elevators (Gloria, Santa Justa) and obviously public parks and gardens of the city. It runs from May to September on Fridays and Sundays afternoons. On Fridays the concerts start at 6pm and on Sundays at 5pm.

   With big companies cherishing this project all concerts are free which allows everyone to enjoy nice concerts and performances. I’d say that this is a really good thing about Lisbon: there are tons of things that one can do even without money in its pocket!

    Here you can find the program for the whole summer. Just check your available date and see where the festival will happen that day. If you can’t understand the location or something else don’t be shy and ask, ok? See you tomorrow!

This is the photo I took with my bberry, 2 weeks ago

And don’t forget: share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!