On Saturday, February 16th, we decided to head off to the Parque da Nacoes (Park of the Nations) and the Oceanario de Lisboa. The site, which was originally an abandoned industrial area was revitalized and transformed for Expo ’98. One is surrounded by contemporary architecture which is such a difference from the rest of Lisbon. We were told that this is the most expensive real estate area of Lisbon. Lots of condo’s, restaurant’s, parks and paths along the river.
We make our way to the Oceanario de Lisboa which is now the main attraction of the area. The building itself is quite futuristic looking; a bit weird in all honesty! Must say that we are getting Senior’s discount at all the museums, palaces and attractions that we have been to; so helps with the wine budget!
The Oceanario (aquarium) is perched at the end of a pier and is surrounded by water. There is a vast main central tank with a varied array of fish, large and small, swimming around. Numerous view points throughout the building where one can get a different perspective, on two separate levels. We spent about one hour and would be a great place to bring a family. We really enjoyed visiting this aquarium and were very impressed with all the displays; it is world class.
Next stop is to take a ride on the Cable car. From here one can see the 17.5 kms Vasco de Gama bridge, which is said to be the longest in Europe. Beautiful views of the whole Parque de Nacoes.
On Sunday, we decide to take the bus to another market that I had read about, the “Mercado de Ourique”. The City of Lisbon has a great website for their transportation system (Carris) and is interactive. You indicate where you are leaving from and destination and it tells you how to get there using either tram, bus or train. So, we know we have to take the 760 bus at Praca de Figueira and get off at the Ourique Basilica. Great, we just walk to Figueira square, find the 760 and get on. We realize within a few minutes that in our haste to catch the bus, we did not look at the final destination on the front of the bus and we were going in the wrong direction. We laughed at ourselves and simply got off the bus at the next stop, walked across the street and caught the 760 going in the right direction. We realized after, that there were two separate stops at the square; notwithstanding, we know better. We should have looked at the final destination point, same on bus as for the metro. Goes with travelling, not everything works out the way you plan, you just have to be able to shrug those things off and continue on your way.
We finally make it to the Mercado de Ourique. I had read about it on line and reviews indicated that some liked it better than Time out Market as it was not as busy. Their web site indicated that this market concept (similar to Time Out) was undertaken at this location as it was an abandoned market and the City wanted to revitalize the Ourique neighbourhood. Not sure if it was the time of year (fewer tourists at this time of year) or because it was Sunday and we are in the outer tourist area. The place was really quiet and hardly anybody there. We wandered around, stopped for coffee, then were on our way.
On Monday, we decide to take the bus to Belem and visit the Palacio Nacional da Aujuda. The first time we went to Belem, we had taken the train, as it was closer to the Mosterio dos Jeronimos. The Palacio is located up a hill and the bus simply made more sense….by the way….took the right bus going in the right direction! A cool gloomy day, but doesn’t stop us from getting out and about.
This royal palace was destroyed by fire in 1795 and was replaced in the early 19th century with the present Neo-Classical building. It was left unfinished as the royal family was forced into exile in Brazil in 1807 when Napoleon 1 invaded. The palace was eventually finished when Luis 1 became King in 1861 and married Maria Pia from Italy. The guide book says that no expense was spared in furnishing the apartments. It is always amazing to us to see the decorations, furniture and art work of these palaces. The chandeliers abounded everywhere you looked!
The one room that took me aback here, was the Banquet Hall.
Tuesday we take the train to Cascais which took about 45 minutes, about 31 kms from Lisbon. A beautiful sunny day. The city has been a holiday resort for over a century. There are numerous beautiful villas along the coast which were built by the wealthy Lisboetas in the late 19th century. A lovely afternoon in 19 degree temperatures; we were both a little overdressed. Wandered the streets and visited an old fort which is now filled with art galleries, shops and even a 5 star hotel.
Fishing is still a main way of life for the locals and many fishing boats, crab traps etc. in the marina. We even came across two fisherman mending their nets. Young people were playing volleyball along the beach and apparently the surrounding beaches are surfing spots. Although a nice town to visit for the day, not sure I would want to spend too much time here. The streets are filled with Irish and English pubs everywhere and I would think gets pretty rowdy. Having said this, we are really glad we made it out here.
Spent Wednesday and Thursday simply discovering new neighbourhoods in Lisbon. We either walk, take a tram, bus or metro and simply wander, stopping to have a coffee and people watch. We spend more time in Barrio Alto, Baixa/Chiado and our own hood of Graca.
Wednesday night we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner out at a seafood restaurant that had been recommended by our city guide Daniel. The 5 Oceanos restaurant is located along the docks ( Coca de Santo Amaro) just by the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge (the one that looks like the Golden Gate). Numerous restaurants along the docks, mainly all seafood restaurants. Thanks to a suggestion from our friend Shirley, we both decided to try the “Cataplanta”. This is a fish stew prepared in a copper vessel called a cataplanta. The dish contains fresh fish (cod) some shellfish and a mixture of potatoes, onions, garlic and paprika. Delicious!
There are paths all along the river and many cyclists on their way home and runners getting their exercise for the day. Just at the end of the marina are a series of tennis courts, all in use. A beautiful night and we are able to not only see the bridge all lit up but also the statue of Cristo Rei on the other side of the river. This statue is modelled after the the famous Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro.
Thursday night we attend a football (soccer) match at the Estadio da Luz, home to one of Lisbon’s football teams, Benfica. I had bought tickets before we left Canada. Benfica was playing a team from Turkey, Galatasaray in a UEFFA match. Must say that this evening was something quite spectacular, nothing of which I have seen before. The crowds were incredible. The stadium holds 64,600 and was built in 2003 to replace an older stadium. Not sure what the attendance was on Thursday night, but certainly quite full. When we arrived, hundreds of people streaming into the stadium while hundreds more drinking and eating in the outer areas, similar I guess, to a tail gate party. Most everyone is wearing the red of the Benfica team, team scarves and team shirts. The atmosphere inside the stadium was one of excitement and cause for celebration. The fans are constantly singing, yelling and waving gigantic flags. Robin was one happy guy, watching a live football game!
One thing that did strike both of us is the actual size of the football pitch, much bigger than one seems to see on the television. Lots of action but the outcome was a tie. This was the second match of a two match play and Benfica won 2-1.
Friday, another day to discover the city. We venture out and decide to try one of the elevadors (funicular) and find the “Elevador da Gloria”. It is located in the Restauradores bairro, not too far from our apartment and we ride it up to the Bairro Alto to the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara. A beautiful view of the city of Lisbon looking across Baixa area. From here we can see the Castelo and churches up in the Graca hills.
This elevador no where near as busy as the popular Santa Justa. In the last week, we have certainly noticed an upswing in the number of tourists in the City. We continue walking through the Real Principe area which is definitely more upscale than a lot of others we have visited. Stop for a coffee in the Praca do Principe Real, a park that goes back to 1860. A beautiful trellis providing shade in the summer.
We realize we are near the Jardim Botanico so decide to venture in that direction. The botanical garden spreads over four hectares (10 acres). I read a little about the garden upon returning back to our apartment. It says that the gardens have ” a distinct air of neglect” and we did find it so. Although nice to walk around the paths and see the trees, not much really here. Still a nice place to spend some quiet relaxing time. Temperature hit 20 C degrees today and beautiful blue skies.