Dia segunda - Alfama, Bairro Alto, e Chiado

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April 20th 2014
Published: April 20th 2014
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Praça Dom Pedro IVPraça Dom Pedro IVPraça Dom Pedro IV

Our hotel is one street over
Day two was supposed to be rainy all day long, so when we got up at 9 and it looked the same as when we'd arrived - just somewhat overcast- we were relieved. We headed downstairs for breakfast, since it ended at 10, and sat awkwardly with the various Europeans in the breakfast room. Breakfast was cereal, yogurt, cheese, and a few bread/pastry things along with coffee and juice. Could be worse! Once showered and ready we went downstairs and toward the Alfama, one of the few central districts to survive the 1755 earthquake that decimated much of the city.

The Alfama is a multi-level maze of narrow alleyways, plazas and corridors that captures the Lisbon of centuries past - traces of Romans, Moors, and Crusaders are around every corner. Instead of walking, we opted for the old trollies that are reminiscent of San Francisco. Given the bends, turns, and climbs it was basically like a roller coaster. Even almost had a crash when a gigantic tour bus attempted to make a right turn between two trollies. I was an idiot and didn't realize we had missed the stop to the very top of the Alfama, so it was back to the very beginning. I was pissed. We ended up basically finding our own way through the labyrinth-like streets and eventually found our way to the Miradouro da Graça, which offered sweeping views of the entire city. I felt much better as we sat and had coffees under the pine trees and mapped our next moves. At this point it started to sprinkle a bit, but I had packed umbrella, so the only issue was me potentially slipping and falling to my death on the slippery stone streets.

Our next stop was the Castelo São Jorge, but first we stopped at another lookout, the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. I remembered having taken pictures here my last time, albeit drenched in sunshine. Rain and umbrellas can be charming, too, I suppose. Continuing on our way we finally reached the castle. Apparently there was a castle here in the Iron Age, and the Moors eventually took control in the 9th century And built the existing structure. Finally in 1147, Alfonso Henriques regained control of the castle and of Lisbon. The monarchs eventually moved out and it became a prison, then a barracks, and today it's mostly a shell with cats, peacocks, and narrow stone stairs and passageways offering more amazing views of the city below. Almost died a few times on the steep, slippery stone steps, but we survived!

By this time we were starved, so we found a little restaurant off of Miradouro Santa Luzia and took a seat. I finally got to have my sardinhas assadas, grilled sardines, and Chris had Algarve-style tuna steak. We both washed our meals down with tall glasses of Super Bock beer. Just a bit further down was the Sé, Lisbon's main cathedral at dates back to 1150. Surprisingly there weren't any Easter festivities going on inside, so we were able to pop inside and walk around. I wasn't super impressed with the interior, and apparently many of its embellishments were destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, which makes sense. All in all it's your standard old Western European Romanesque Cathedral, just a bit more drab.

We more or less retraced the tram tracks back down toward the Baixa and popped into a nice wine shop were we were able to sample both a port and vinho verde. Once back toward Rossío, we waited in line to ride the Elevador de Santa Justa, Lisbon's only vertical street lift. Designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, the neo-Gothic structure opened in 1902 and has been running ever since. Not much to say about it other than the fact that it's reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower and it's a pretty normal outdoor elevator. Once up in the Bairro Alto, literally 'high/tall neighborhood', we had no real plan and decided to just stroll about and see what we found. The Bairro Alto seemed a but more sophisticated and clean, but also dead. Not sure it this was due to Easter/Sunday or what. Luckily we came across another overlook, the Miradouro de Pedro Alcântara. The day was all about incredible sweeping views of the cityscape, apparently. A bit further along we sat in the Botanical Gardens of the University of Lisboa to regroup.

Before heading back to the hotel, we were once again sucked into some shopping, this time at Pull & Bear, with both of us doing a bit of damage. And last but not least, a glass of red looking out across the Praça Dom Pedro IV. Back at he hotel we did a bit of refreshing and internetting, and in no time it was time to head back to the Bairro Alto for dinner. 100 Maneiras, where we were dining, it described in all of the guidebooks as a Lisbon "must" and was featured by food writer/critic Anthony Bourdain on his Lisbon episode of No Reservations. I didn't even release it was Michelin-starred until seeing the sticker in the window! This would be a treat! The only option was a set tasting menu with optional wine tasting, so that was easy enough to decide on. What ensued was everything from seared scallops and octopus served on a giant stone to deconstructed pastéis de nata and cheesecake in small mason jars served in a fake log. Picked rabbit, dehydrated cod, foi gras, grouper; chestnut and lime ice cream, baby goat, and spiced red wine lollipops pretty much sums up the rest. Incredible, though not for the wallet ;-). Oh well, when in Lisbon! Dinner lasted for two hours til around 10, after which we strolled around a bit to digest, then tried and failed to get a nightcap since most places in the vicinity seemed to be closed. What a day!

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