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February 21st 2022
Published: March 4th 2022
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Decorative TilesDecorative TilesDecorative Tiles

Portugal is well known for its tiles. Make sure you take time to look around at the mosaics and colourful buildings
March 2012.

My first ever holiday and my first time experiencing flying. Also the first time I travelled alone.

I was really nervous as I had never travelled so far away from home, at that point, I had only been as far as Cornwall and Norfolk. I was terrified! I have OCD and I have always been a nervous traveller - making sure that I had everything with me ( money, tickets, passport, etc.) I got to Heathrow by using the Piccadilly Line which is great for me as I can ride it from Cockfosters in North London all the way to Heathrow. Which for someone with a big suitcase is amazing as there are very few people on the train and so you get first dibs on the suitcase storage area. Because of my OCD - I checked all my documents and counted my money at every stop. Thankfully my OCD has got a lot better as I've got older, however I still make sure that I have everything we need....and I'm packed at least a week before the trip.


I had brought a book with me which I devoured and

Lisbon is covered with beautiful and fragrant flowers all year round
finished it completely by the time I got to the terminal, so I purchased a couple more ( they are on offer and as a book lover I couldn't not buy them!) When I got out of the Terminal station and made my way up to the departure area, I was just blown away. The size of the terminal, other travellers rushing around to find where they needed to go. There and then I fell in love with Heathrow. I have always been fascinated with planes since I was a child and now to be so close to the behemoth metal birds that I had only seen as tiny craft, cruising across a perfect blue sky. I made my way to the check- in desk - which at that time was at the far end of the terminal. Everything went so smoothly, got myself checked-in, bagged tagged and dropped off and walked to Airport Security. My nerves set off again, as I had never gone through that level of security. So, I got a tray, put all my things into it and walked through the arch. No alarm! So gathered all my stuff and walked to the departure lounge through
Campo PequenoCampo PequenoCampo Pequeno

One of many Bull Fighting arenas in Portugal. It is also home to a shopping mall and hosts expositions and music events
the duty free area. Full of amazing sounds, smells and colours! So many things I would have loved to have bought but I didn't want to risk missing my flight, so I walked quickly through.

I was amazed by the size of the departure lounge, the architecture of glass and steel and concrete - thousands of uncomfortable metal and plastic chairs in the middle of a huge shopping area. I located a departure board and found that my flight had another 2 hours before it left. I had a carry on bag, in which I had my 3 books, camera and various chargers, cables and the more important, passport, boarding pass and money. I made sure that everything was present and correct ( for what it seemed the 100th time) and took to wandering around the terminal. I was happy to find a huge window that faced out onto the runway and so I sat there and watched the planes take off and take many photos - all the while making sure that I kept my eye on the time for my flight's departure. At around 45 minutes before my flight - my gate number popped up
St Jeronimos MonasterySt Jeronimos MonasterySt Jeronimos Monastery

16th Century Monastery. Home to the Maritime Museum
on the screen and so I packed away my camera and made sure my things were all there and made my way to the gate.

My destination? Lisbon!

This was to be my vey first trip to Europe and my first holiday with my then partner. I was lucky enough that he lived in the outlaying town of Barreiro in Lisbon at the time and so I saved a fortune on hotel rooms. Sitting on the plane, waiting for it to take off was great - to actually be in the belly of the metal beast that I have only seen from afar. When the plane was ready to take off, the engines roared and the cabin shook, then there was a surge of power as the huge engines pushed us to a fast enough speed to take us into the air. My whole body was pushed against the back of my seat and as the plane lifted off the tarmac, the sensation was just surreal. It felt as though the plane was falling out of the sky and going up again - I could feel there was now nothing underneath the plane keeping us up. I held on really tight to the arm rests and my hands went white. There was a man sitting next to me who was a godsend - he held my hand and told me that it's all ok, that this was normal and it will go away soon. I will never forget him, he came to London once every few months to stock up on our tea as apparently Portuguese tea is not that great. We landed at Lisbon Airport in the late afternoon and was greeted by my lift. We grabbed something to eat at a local roadside café place. I had the most amazing beef sandwich! Freshly cooked the way I like my steak - medium rare - loaded with fresh salad and sauce. And at only 3 euros, you can't go wrong! We got back to his place and spent the night unpacking and catching up and going through the list of places I wanted to visit while in the city.

My first full day...

Got up early, had a breakfast of coffee and toast with a really nice spread made from Papaya. I was used to jams or
Torre De Belem Torre De Belem Torre De Belem

Lisbon's Defence Tower
marmalade but this was just the best thing I've had - unfortunately you cant buy it here in the UK so I had as I much as I possibly could during my time there. We both got showered and dressed and I grabbed my camera, phone and some money and we made our way into the city. We had to get a bus and a ferry to get to the Praca do Comercio, which took around 30mins. The best thing about Lisbon is how cheap everything is, we got a 3 day travel card - called the Lisboa Card - for buses, trams and the ferry for around £20 each. This card also allows you either free or discounted access into a load of museums and art galleries. We spent the morning and most of the afternoon walking around the city. It is like a warren of streets, criss-crossing the main town with so many shops, cafes and restaurants. The side walks of Lisbon are covered in ceramic tiles and they can be really slippery when they are wet so make sure you are careful and wear appropriate shoes.

We took a tram all the way down to Belem
Padrão dos DescobrimentosPadrão dos DescobrimentosPadrão dos Descobrimentos

Statue built in 1940 and made permanent in 1960 to mark 500 years since Henry the Navigator's death.
and joined the massive queue for the Pasteis de Belem, which are small custard tarts with a crispy pastry base. You have to get here early as the queues can reach around the block. You can also sit in the restaurant and enjoy fresh hot pastries with a coffee. After about an hour of waiting, I got into the bakery and the strong smell of hot, sugary custard overwhelmed me. I ordered 2 packets of 5 pastries - which come fresh out the oven and are boiling hot and they give you a packet of sugar and cinnamon with each order. I also bought 2 coffees - there are hundreds, if not thousands of coffee shops dotted around the city, and at a cost of 1 euro for an espresso, they are worth it. We found a bench in a local park and sat there while we ate and drank. it was a hot day but there was a nice cool breeze coming from the river.

After our small lunch, we walked to the river and took in a tour of Belem Tower - a huge castle like structure on the riverbank that was one of two defence towers.
Rossio SquareRossio SquareRossio Square

1 of 2 Mermaid Fountains
Once there was a huge iron chain that was strung between the towers and was raised up when enemy ships tried to enter the city. Also, the tower is home to one of the first depictions of a Rhinoceros which is carved onto one of it's turrets. Tickets for the tour can be purchased either online or at the tower on the day of your visit. However it is preferred if you book in advance as the queues to get in can be long. Prices are around 6 euro per adult and 3 euro for children, but is free with the Lisboa Card. If you do not wish to take a tour, although it is recommended, there is a small but beautiful sandy beach to lay on and catch some sun. This is also the perfect spot to take photographs of the Tower and the views of the River Tagus.

A short 15 minute walk from the Tower is Jeronimos Monastery. An impressive long, white building with the most intricate carvings on the outside. The inside is just as amazing, with it's high vaulted ceilings, cloisters and statues. The building is home to the Maritime Museum and the Navy
Praça do ComércioPraça do ComércioPraça do Comércio

An ornate viewing platform over Praca do Comercio
Planetarium. A short walk from the monastery is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos - the monument of discoveries. Standing at around 170 feet tall, this stunning monument was designed to commemorate the Age of Discoveries in Portugal. It was installed in the1960's, on the fifth centenary of one of the country’s great discoverers, Prince Henry the Navigator, who discovered the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde. The best time to visit this area is at night time. Jeronimos and the nearby fountain are lit up with a multiple array of colours. There is a park nearby with benches facing the fountain where the romantic in you can sit and relax, watch the sunset and watch the stars come out. It is very peaceful and if you are lucky, some nights you will see bats flying overhead, catching an evening meal of flying insects.

The following day, we decided to take in some of the nightlife. As it was March, the weather was warm but there was still a chill in the air. Most of the restaurants open late due to the warm weather, so be prepared to eat later than your used to. We went to a seafood restaurant
Santa Justa LiftSanta Justa LiftSanta Justa Lift

Cast-iron elevator with filigree details, built in 1902 to connect lower streets with Carmo Square.
and had garlic roasted cod and took home some deep fried cuttlefish which were probably the best thing I have ever eaten. The best place to got to experience Lisbon's nightlife is Barrio Alto. This area is full of bars, pubs and restaurants and you can defiantly do a pub crawl here without having to walk far from each place. However be careful as the streets are steep as well as the slippery tiles on the pavements. The entire area is buzzing with locals and tourists alike. The favourite drink in Portugal is Ginja or Ginjinha, The drink is made from sour cherries and is a strong alcoholic drink which is usually served in shot glasses, or if your lucky, chocolate cups!

I was only in Lisbon for a few days so I wanted to make the most of it. No visit is complete without a trip to the many sprawling shopping malls. I think we must have visited every one of the largest ones in Lisbon. Unfortunately, I could not buy a lot due to the weight limit on my luggage, and I didn't want to pay for extra weight. The only thing I was upset and disappointed
Carmo ConventCarmo ConventCarmo Convent

Ruined Gothic church destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, with an evocative roofless nave & museum.
about the trip was that my ex partner decided to treat me to a surprise night out to the bullfighting. Yes - Lisbon - and Portugal - still have bullfighting. At the Campo Pequeno, they torture the bull but do not kill it, outside there were protesters to try and stop the fights but apparently they have been trying for many years now without success. According to information about the bullfighting in Portugal - it is less violent than is Spain and the Portuguese have more respect for the bulls. I had to go as I didn't know where I was going and the tickets were really expensive as he got near front row seating. It is a spectacle to see, the music, the colours and the bullfighters. There are 3 different types of bullfighter there - Cavaliers on horseback, the Forcados who aggravate the bull and try to catch it head on and then there are the Matadors. I do believe hat many people attend such events to watch the bull injure the men and sometimes women who take part in the fights.

My last few days in Lisbon were spent visiting the Old Town and walking up
City StreetsCity StreetsCity Streets

The view from the top of Santa Justa Lift
and down the River Tagus. Taking in the views of both sides of the river banks and researching the history of the Great Lisbon Earthquake that destroyed most of the lower city including what is now the main square and ferry terminal, a hospital that sat on Rossio Square. not to mention the thousands of records and books that were destroyed. To make things worse, after the earthquake came a huge tidal wave that crashed into the city. After that, came the fires where people had lit candles to celebrate all saints day on November 1st 1755. A month later, King Joseph I ordered the rebuilding of the city. In less than a year the debris was cleared so that restorations could be carried out. It is said that around 50,000 people died in Lisbon and that the earthquake travelled to Cornwall, Galway and there were also reports of tsunami's in Greenland, North Africa and the Caribbean. The enjoyed walking around the Old Town, you can really see how old the city is. The only original structures that survive today are the Carmo Convent and some buildings that were in the higher parts of the city.

My time in Lisbon soon came to an end and I had to return to my cold and wet London home. I had an amazing time in the city and saw so much history and soaked in the Iberian culture. I fell in love with Lisbon and I returned to the city 6 more times before personal issues forced me to stop. I really want to visit again and someday - when the Covid travel restrictions are lifted, I will return with my Fiancé and take him around the city I love most.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog, this is my first one so please feel free to give me tips and pointers on how to improve my future posts.

Stay safe, Enjoy Life and Love Travel!


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