Belem and the birthplace of Nata. 

Our last day was upon us! Our flights weren’t till later on in the evening so we had at least half a day to sightsee. This took us to Belem, an area of Lisbon that is easily reachable by train or tram.

Another scorcher of a day, we took the train out to Belem and walked through a small park to get to the main street. Here you can find ‘Pasteis de Belem’ where the original Nata were made from an old recipe taken from the nearby monastery.

We decided to explore a bit before having a Nata, and emerged at the end of the street onto a huge square with the aforementioned monastery taking up one side.

The Jeronimos monastery is an impressive building, it’s also where Vasco de Gama stayed before sailing for the far East!

After taking a few pictures we walked down towards the Tagus river and spotted a huge monument pointing out towards the water. A quick Google told us it was a monument to the discoveries, a nod to Portugals past as a major player in the exploration of the earth.

You could actually go up to the top of the monument but we decided against it. Instead there was a cool love sign nearby which we had to get some pictures with, and once done we got some ice creams and continued our walk along the Tagus.

The views out over the water were amazing, our destination was Belem tower, sitting out in the river and only accessible by a small bridge it’s extremely photogenic.

It was lunchtime and using foursquare I had found the #1 sandwich shop in Belem. Which sounded perfect, it was actually back on the main st we had walked along earlier so we wandered through a couple of cool green parks on our way back.

The food from Pao Pao Queijo Queijo was so good, and the name is great! You queue up and order then decide what extras you want, it was a bit like a much tastier version of subway.

We sat in the shade of a huge tree in one of the nearby parks and water our food, planning the next hour before we had to head back and pick our luggage up. We decided to visit the nearby botanical gardens as they were free.

I’d say it’s definitely not a must see place, some parts were really nice but it as quite run down. The highlights were peacocks and their chicks stalking through the grass and foliage.

As time started catching up on us we walked back towards the station, picking up Nata for the journey back from Pasteis de Belem and took the short trip to Alfama.

Hannah had to get to the airport earlier than us so I waved her off on the train before we sat in our little local square and had a couple of drinks to enjoy the Lisbon sunshine for the last time. We even had a bit of live music to entertain us.

It was really easy to get the train up to the airport from Alfama, and we wandered around a bit trying to decide on food. Eventually we just went through to the gates and picked up a few bits in there.

We were soon flying home and saying our goodbyes to Lisbon, a city that impressed us no end, even with all the sights we managed to see there is so much more to do. It’s cheap and friendly with way transport around, and close to beautiful beaches. A definite must on the bucketlist.

Exploring Alfama, Lisbon in a day. 

After last night’s exploits there were some sore heads this morning so we didn’t really have much planned. The best thing about being abroad is that you don’t want to feel like you’ve missed out on anything….so using the lonely planet Lisbon guide I worked out a little walking tour we could do from the hotel. It was our last day so everyone was game as we left the apartment and emerged into beautiful sunshine. 

All the small cobbled streets are so beautiful as we made our way towards Sé, Lisbon cathedral. The girls stopped for a bit of souvenir shopping when I spotted a tiny place selling different types of sangria! It looked so good we just had to try it, I got white while the others tried different red flavours, it was so good! 

We walked up alongside the Cathedral and marvelled at the beautiful architecture. I spotted some cool street art too, we emerged onto a square where the impressive main entrance is situated. It’s such an amazing building and it was nice to properly see it rather than just from the tram. 

From here I cheated a little as we wandered down out of Alfama and towards Comercio square. A palace used to stand here but the 1755 earthquake completely destroyed it, allowing the square to be built as part of a remodelling of the city. The square has a good bit of history, being the site of an assassination on the penultimate king of Portugal. We entered through the Arco da Rua Augusta, a stunning triumphal arch built in 1873. 

The square opens out onto the river and in the sunshine it was gorgeous, with restaurants and bars encircling it. There is a statue of King Jose I in the centre of the square, notable because he developed severe claustrophobia the earthquake and never comfortably lived within 4 walls. In fact he moved his royal court into tents in the nearby hills. 

We also found the self proclaimed sexiest toilet in the world here, which the girls used and said was very nice with coloured toilet paper but maybe not the sexiest. 

It was very hot now as we walked back up the hill into Alfama district once again, stopping to grab ice cold drinks on the way. I checked Google maps and noticed another viewpoint so we headed towards the Miradouro de Santa luiza and after admiring some typical Lisbon tiles we took in the red rooftops and views out to the river that lay before us. 

The blues and reds were incredible as we walked around to second viewpoint, but not before taking some fun pictures. 

The next terrace was the Visigothic wall and the Portas do sol with more great views. We were getting hungry now and hasn’t had any Nata today! So we walked towards our end game, the Castelo de S.Jorge. 

As we walked up we spotted a cute restaurant called Miss Can which was incredible. Sardines, olives, breads and salads it was delicious and cheap too! Plus a beer refreshment to wash it down and Hannah tried lisbon’s famous green wine. 

With our hunger sorted it was time for more Nata from the same place we had got them from on our first day at the entrance to Castelo St Jorge. Once we’d had our Nata fill we queued up for the Castelo and wandered in to beautiful gardens within the castle. Perched up at the top of the hill Alfama is located around, the castle dates from the 10th century and has a heavy Moorish influence. 

The views from here were great over the City and there was a wine cart called wine with a view! So Lee and I got a Portuguese red and sat looking out from the walls of the castle. 

The Castelo itself is pretty big and the walls are fun to climb up and stand on the ramparts looking at a 360° Lisbon. Plus some fun towers to climb up to. It was getting towards evening and we had plans for a bbq fish dinner so we wandered back down towards the apartment to get ready. 


Our dinner destination was a place called Patio 13 which we had discovered accidentally by walking past and noticing a big queue and the amazing smell of bbq. It’s located in Alfama and it was only a 5 minute walk from our place. Arriving we queued up with a beer before being given a table on the patio. The restaurant is basically a load of tables and a huge now all outside. 

We ordered sangria and a selection of different bbq fish including swordfish and sardines. All the plates arrived with sides and we had bread and butter at the start. The food was out of this world and we all devoured it. We also got dessert and finally tried Ginja, a Portuguese cherry liqueur which was tasty too. 

It was really good value too, I think we paid less than £15 each easily for it. Once done we had a nightcap at a bar nearby and went back to the apartment…sad to think it was our last day tomorrow. 

NOS Alive and a day at the beach. 

So today was the start of the festival! We were pretty excited to see what NOS had to offer us as we belatedly got up and had breakfast. Shout out to Sarah and Lee who always had coffee and something cooking for us all in the mornings. The views from our apartment this morning were ace. 

NOS is located a few train stops out of the City so we walked over to Santa Apolonia, the station that served us so well over the course of the week. From here we went straight to Cais De Sodre where we jumped a train to Alges. Our plan was to pick up our wristbands before heading to a nearby beach for a couple of hours. 

Because of the heat in the day the first acts don’t start until around 5-6pm and go on till 2-3am which is a pretty good idea! Anyway we arrived at the festival gates only to find a huge crowd in front of us waiting to get in. After waiting in the hot sun for what seemed like forever, a band started playing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ and we walked through security. Unfortunately Sarah and Lee had the caps from their liquids taken off them, so they had to sort a makeshift one out of plastic and husbands. 

Finally though we were in! We walked under the welcome arch where the band was playing and surveyed the terrain. It’s not a big festival with only 2 stages, a dance tent and a bandstand. It was around 3pm now so the beach idea was scrapped in favour of a beer idea. The sun was shining and we sat on the astroturf that was laid out over the concrete with a beer and looked through the bands that were playing today. 

There were a load of freebies being handed out including hats, wristbands and sun cream! Getting hungry we walked over to the food area…basically the length between dance and 2nd stages has tables and chairs and loads of different types of food. I lumped for a burrito which wasn’t satisfying at all so I got a kebab too! Excited for our first European festival we had a few more beers and learnt a few lessons over the 3 days. 

  1. NOS is easy to get to, but hard to get from, they close off the train station from one side so you have to walk for about 40 minutes along an overpass, squeeze onto a train, then try and get a taxi or walk to your hotel once in the City. 
  2. They have people walking around with beerpacks, so you don’t need to go to the bar, the bar comes to you. 
  3. Portuguese people don’t really dance, or singalong much, so it can feel a bit awkward at times. 
  4. It’s not super packed with people so you can always get to a good spot, especially important for the smaller people along us! 
  5. It’s great to party in the sun but it actually did get colder at night than we expected!
  6. You can get free T-shirts in exchange for plastic cups. (My sister Hannah got especially into this, I think managing to get about 5 or 6). 
  7. It’s a great festival overall, the line-up has to have enough on it to make it worth it though, we had to make big decisions on who to see as all the acts we wanted to see were on later at the same time.

One of the best bits of the 3 days was being able to visit the beach, only a ten minute or so journey past the NOS stop is Carcavelos where you can get off and walk another 10 minutes to find yourself at a beautiful beach. We arrived here the 2nd day of the festival, got food and sangria at one of the restaurants and spent a few hours playing on the beach and in the very cold Atlantic! The water was really clear though and we could see fish swimming around us.

We relaxed on the beach for a bit longer with some beers and ice creams, we then headed back via another beachside restaurant which was so good! Hannah got these huge prawns that tasted amazing. We got the train back to the festival and spent another great night there. Rocking out to the Foo Fighters. The walk back wasn’t as bad either because we were more prepared for it. 

We fully intended to go to the beach again on the third and final day, however I think everyone needed a rest after the past few days of drinking. So instead we chilled out and then went straight over to the site, meeting some crazy Portuguese Depeche Mode fans who were adamant they should play ‘Personal Jesus’. NOS and doing a festival abroad was so much fun and we’re already talking about where we could try next year, after all it’s a Glastonbury fallow year so that’s out of the equation.

Day trippin’ to Sintra from Lisbon. 

So today we were all excited to be heading to Sintra, we navigated the underground system, getting travel cards much like the oyster in London. To get to Sintra you take a train from Rossio station in the centre of Lisbon. Trains leave every half hour and queues can be pretty big! We explored a nearby square while we waited for our train. 

Tickets are around 4.50E and the journey takes 40 minutes. We bought some food from a nearby supermarket for a picnic later. 

Once you arrive in Sintra take a left from the station and you can make your way towards the first of many sights. We weren’t too bothered about the first building we came to, the Sintra National Palace which has two conical chimneys atop it. 

We continued on to the Quinta da Regaleira, this palace, like many in this area was built by a rich playboy type, the interest here is really the grounds. Filled with underground passageways, impressive wells and various towers and vantage points it’s an exciting and beautiful place to walk around. 

We stopped off for a coffee by the main  house,  then spent a long time covering every blade of grass to ensure we didn’t miss anything, the main well is so impressive and we had fun going through the spooky underground passages. Look out for the stepping stones across an algae filled pond with a lovely bridge looking over it. 

We stopped soon after this to have a well earned rest after taking in incredible views from the top of a tower, and scoffed down our picnic of sardines, bread, olives, salami and cheese.

It was mid-afternoon by this point so we left to hit the next two spots that we thought looked good, the Moorish castle and the Palace de la Pena, we took a bus up to both which made it’s way round tight bends as we ascended to the top of the hills.

Once dropped off we realised the castle and palace would probably be too much for us to manage in our time frame, so we lumped for a walk round the Palace gardens as it was a cheaper option than going inside the Palace itself. 

There was still some way to climb from the entrance to the actual palace through nice gardens. The palace is amazing, architecturally crazy and done in various bright colours it’s like something out of a cartoon. It also turned out that you could walk pretty much all the way around the walls etc with just the gardens pass. 

This was a great bonus as we clambered up mini turrets and around the palace. It’s so colourful and pretty we really enjoyed it and there were some spectacular views out over the surrounding countryside. 

We had a map of a few points of interest in the huge gardens so we tried to see a few as we walked back down the hill, we saw a huge statue of a guard high up on a rock, views of the palace from across a small valley and big duck ponds with spooky towers in the middle of them that turned out to be duck houses! 

This place is just unreal and we wished we had spent more time there as the moorish castle is meant to be great too. 

 It was getting late now so we left the palace gardens at the pond entrance and caught a bus back to the station. Got an ice cream while we waited for the train and got back to the apartment. Tonight we had planned for dinner but it didn’t quite go according to plan. We had spotted a little bbq fish restaurant high up in Alfama but when we arrived it was boarded up for the night! 

Not to be downhearted I quickly used foursquare and after trying a really nice sounding place that was too busy we stopped at a kebab house, but only for a super cheap beer! Around 1.20 Euro each! It was quite nice chilling out on a square but we were getting really hungry now, so we went over to the #1 rated pizza place in Lisbon! Called restaurante Casanova,  we queued up with a beer and finally sat down for food. It was totally worth it.

The pizza was huge and the thin crispy base was covered in tasty toppings, we got a few sides such as arancini which was just as good. It was a really great atmosphere here too, located right on the river. We went back to the apartment and sat around chatting for a bit before heading to bed. It was festival time tomorrow! 

Hello Lisbon! Turning a festival into a holiday.

After spending a fun filled but very muddy weekend at Glastonbury last year, my ‘festival group’ tried and failed to get tickets to this year’s event. Not letting that hold us back, we decided after all the rain last year we’d try something a bit different. 

We had heard good things about NOS Alive, based in Lisbon, Portugal and known for great headliners we decided to give it a shot. Seeing as it was in a City that everyone I meet raves about we extended our trip for a full week, with 3 days reserved for festival shenanigans. 

It was fun to pack just shorts and t-shirts for a festival after years of British ones and exciting to know we wouldn’t have to lug our camping gear around with us as we were staying in an apartment. 

Our flight was from Liverpool so 4 of us drove over from Manchester and got the flight, it’s quite a late arrival into Lisbon so we took an Uber to Alfama, the quirky bohemian district on the edge of the City centre. 

As usual I used booking.com for my hotel needs and a quick call to a guy and we were in! Up the narrowest, steepest stairs ever! The apartment was lovely, quite small but looking out over the cute Alfama streets and rooftops. 

We ditched our stuff and went straight out to have a quick explore and obviously find a bar. A few places were shutting before we found one still open, it was fate as there was a mural made up of marvel comics on one wall for Lee and I and elephants on the other for Sarah. 

We had a couple of beers and were relaxing when a bunch of middle aged English tourists walked in and started getting rowdy. Slightly ashamed we left and went back to the apartment, my Sister was meeting us the next day at lunch time so we planned to have a bit of a lie in before stocking up for the week. 

We headed out and enjoyed getting lost in the small streets with their tiled walls and murals. It’s such a pretty area and filled with atmosphere, we found a supermarket and grabbed breakfast stuff, beer and wine plus some snacks and walked back up to the apartment. The weather was great and we sat in the living area with the windows open and all the sounds and smells of Alfama floating through. 

Sarah made breakfast and we all had strong coffee to perk us up while we waited for Hannah who soon arrived outside! The gang all together we chilled out for a bit catching up and then went out to explore properly. 

We decided to go up, walk through Alfama and take the famous tram around the City. We passed some amazing looking restaurants and found a cool old rundown building area with a load of art work to look at. 

Finding ourselves near St George’s Castle we spotted a bakery selling Nata, small custard filled pastries that Lisbon is famous for. At a euro each we had to try one and some of us got some refreshing homemade lemonade to wash them down with. They were incredibly tasty, the custard lovely and sweet with a burnt caramel taste. It would not be the last one we ate this holiday! 

We had reached the top of our journey and now wound down through the streets stopping to check out more great street art. Once we arrived at the square where the trams arrive and depart we thought we would walk around it a bit. The square itself was cool with fountains and statues where we took some fun videos. 

We queued in the heat for the tram with bottles of water to keep hydrated and jumped on and got a seat. I sat on the rught hand side and missed a lot of the sights that the others saw but it was still fun to wind up down and around these cobbled streets where you could touch the walls if you reached out. We passed Se cathedral which we would check out again later in the week and went through the City. 

Our journey ended at the huge cemetery across town and we decided to get a drink in a nearby park, we grabbed some food and beers and enjoyed the shade in amongst the green of the park. Refreshed we walked back along the streets we had just passed and stopped to view some of the sights including the Palace of St Benedict and Assembley of the Republic.

I checked to see what points of interest were nearby and noticed a viewpoint that looked interesting on Google maps so we headed in that direction. Emerging onto the terrace we had jaw-dropping views of the river and opposite bank over the terracotta tiled roofs of Lisbon.

It was an incredible place, everyone was chilling out on cubes made of rock, with live music performers and a little bar selling cheap beer! Deciding to stay for a bit we got beers and found a space and sat chatting, listening to the music and enjoying the views. We could even see over to Lisbon’s own Jesus statue, built to commemorate their lack of involvement in WWII.

After a couple more beers we kept walking, finding ourselves on some main streets, we spotted a great tram moment on a steep street coming up towards us with views of the river in the background.

We walked in the general direction of the Santa Justa elevator. A lift that takes you up to a platform with amazing views over the City, we got up to the top and excitedly took pictures and pointed out various sights. 

We noticed a cool looking bar down below set in the grounds of a cathedral that was half destroyed in an earthquake in 1755. We walked down to it and got some drinks, there was a brass band going around playing, and a really nice vibe in the place. 

Everyone was starving now so even though we kinda wanted to stay we knew we needed food so we walked over to an underground and took the train back over to Alfama. Once we were back in the district we tried to find somewhere nice to eat but everywhere seemed closed so we lumped for the one place that wasn’t. 

We sat there and realised it was quite a touristy place and expensive for the type of food it served but we were too hungry to care. The food was just okay but it turned out we got our own Fado performance, Fado is Portuguese music that is full of sorrow and emotion and even though it was a bit weird having this lady perform just for us it was really gripping and enjoyable. 

With food finished we were tired and it was late, plus we were up early to visit Sintra the next day, an area out of Lisbon that looked and sounded spectacular. So we headed to the apartment and had a couple of drinks, a bit of heads up and then bed.