Bem-vindo a Lisboa!

Today I started my classes for the Curso de Verão da Lingua Portuguesa (Portuguese language summer school) at the Universidade de Lisboa in Lisbon. The course is going to last for the next four weeks, every weekday 9am – 1pm.

I was surprised by how quick the journey took this morning, from my studio in Bairro Alto to the university campus which is on the other side of the city; it took 25 minutes, most of which is spent on the metro, and I am glad, as I am not used to such early starts!

I found out today as well that I had been placed in a B1 Level class which I am pleased with, as this is the level I was hoping to take. The content was just the right level for me which is a relief, especially after the horror of the terrible Spanish language classes I had to take for three weeks during my Erasmus placement in Salamanca. The teacher actually got to learn all our names in three hours, yet my teacher in Salamanca never even bothered to do such a thing even after three weeks of teaching us, so this I feel, is a good start.

Arrival

Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

Calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements), in Rossio

I arrived in Lisbon on Monday afternoon and stayed in Goodmorning Hostel located in Restauradores. I stayed at Goodmorning Hostel last time I was in Lisbon in March and I chose to stay here again as I really loved it – especially the breakfast! Once again, the staff were exceptional and go out of their way to make you feel welcome and give you loads of useful tips to enjoy Lisbon. I didn’t do any of their day trips but I did the Portuguese Tapas evening and the Cooking Class where we learned how to cook the Portuguese dish Bacalhau à Brás, which was delicious but very filling! Their day-trip to Sintra and Cabo da Roca looked really good though and I was disappointed I couldn’t join them for it.

During my time in the hostel, I didn’t feel compelled to visit places frantically like the other people staying in the hostel, as unlike them, I am lucky enough to stay here for a month and not just a few days, so I was happy to take things slowly! I did end up however visiting the Castelo de São Jorge on Tuesday, which has the most impressive miradouro (panoramic view) over Lisbon.

Castelo

Castelo de São Jorge

Wednesday, I ended up also going to the Oceanário de Lisboa, the aquarium, which is apparently the second largest in Europe, but after spending the most amazing day at the Oceanográfic in Valencia (Best in Europe), nothing can compare, and I left feeling very disappointed and thought the tickets were overpriced and would not recommend it.

I am quite proud as well to say I even sorted my “Lisboa Viva card,” so I now have a monthly metro pass in Lisbon.

My Lisboa Viva card

My Lisboa Viva card

This will come in handy as it will save me a lot of money as I will be using the metro every day. I managed to fill out all the forms and speak with the lady behind the desk all in Portuguese too, which felt like a good achievement. However it was a complete nightmare even to find the desk within Marquês de Pombal station as it is a big station and has many different exists – it is not all connected – why, why?!?!

The staff would not even allow me to borrow their pens as they just replied “they are MINE”, like I was some pen thief, so I had to find a newsagents sort of place and buy a Bic pen just to fill out my paperwork without having to go all the way back to my hostel (the one time I don’t carry a pen!)…

Really though, filling out the form was easy. All you need is:

  • Passport-style photograph
  • Passport
  • An address in Portugal (no need for proof of this)

Luckily I had all these things and I was able to return the next morning to collect my card. Usually it costs 6€ and will come in 10 working days, but I wanted it the following day which instead costs 12€. I was not able to pay by card as the machine only accepts Portuguese cards (I swear she was just trying to make things more difficult…), so I had to leave the queue to take out money from an ATM nearby.

On the way out of Marquês de Pombal metro station with my new Lisboa Viva card, I walked up to the miradouro nearby, and I must say that so far it is my favourite!

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Last night, I was finally able to move into my studio flat in Bairro Alto – I could not be more central, it is amazing and most importantly, it has air conditioning! Luckily, it is completely double-glazed as well, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to sleep due to the noise from the bars below – I am living in the nightlife district of Lisbon!

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

View of my street

I am pleased with living so centrally as I feel I will get a better experience exploring the old streets of Lisbon.

So far, Lisboa is holding up to its wonderful charm and I am looking forward to getting to know this city better!

Até logo,

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Highlights from Porto

It’s been a whole three weeks since my trip to Porto and although I wrote a brief overview of my time there (Five days in Porto), I would like to share some of the best parts of my trip: seeing the city, meeting with friends, eating the most amazing food and staying in the best hostel I have ever stayed in!

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, behind Lisbon the capital. Porto has a very different vibe and identity to Lisbon and I loved exploring a new city and region of Portugal. Just like everywhere else in Portugal it seems, Porto is very hilly! My five days spent there was a great work out for my legs and I am glad I took comfortable trainers, I don’t know how these other travellers walk up and down those hills in flip-flops!

Ponte Dom Luis I

View from Miradouro da Victória

View from Miradouro da Victória

This is by far the most essential thing to do in Porto; walk along the top level of the Ponte Dom Luis I, which gives great views over Porto from Gaia (the city on the other side of the river), especially at sunset. The walk back from Ribeira (the area on the riverbank) back to my hostel was the must brutal climb ever.

I also stumbled across the Miradouro da Victória which was a gem and gives views of the bridge, Gaia and the wine caves and Sé cathedral.

Estação de São Bento

Interior of São Bento train station

Interior of São Bento train station

This train station is absolutely beautiful and you will fall in love with it if you appreciate azulejos (that’s those blue tiles which the Portuguese adorn everywhere on their buildings).

Many tourists come to the station simply to admire the artwork on the walls but the station also has trains (shocker, I know) with destinations to nearby towns of interest. I hopped on trains to Guimarães (the birthplace of Portugal) and Aveiro (the Venice of the North) during my trip, but there are also trains to Braga too. There are so many tour companies which offer day trips to these places, but they are usually no less than 40€ each. Train tickets are a mere 7€ return for a one hour journey each way (rough estimate), and the towns are small enough to visit without a guide, just maps from the local tourist offices, which saved me a lot of money.

Torre dos Clérigos

View of the Torre dos Clérigos in the distance

View of the Torre dos Clérigos in the distance

The Clérigos tower was the first thing I did on my day of arrival and it’s a great place to climb to get a view over the city of Porto. It’s 3€ entry and there are exhibitions in the tower to look at and you can also enter the ajoining church.

Nearby is also the Livraria Lello, a famous bookshop known for inspiring the library in Hogwart’s for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s very touristy and difficult to get a picture without people getting in the way which can be frustrating, but it is worth the stop as it is indeed a very pretty bookshop. It was interesting to learn that J.K. Rowling lived in Porto in the 1990s and that her time here gave inspiration for many aspects in the novels; from the Hogwart’s uniforms, to the library and the house at Grimmauld Place. It’s something not much talked about so it was really interesting to learn something new about Harry Potter.

Jardins do Palacio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

View from Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

View from Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

The Gardens of the Crystal Palace were a short five minute walk from my hostel. Although, I probably would not have gone there if it were not so close, it turned out to be one of the highlights during my time in Porto. The gardens, although unfortunately surrounded by the ugly “Crystal Palace” building that is falling apart and deserves levelling off, are absolutely beautiful and when exploring you come across spectacular views of Porto and the River Douro too. Personally, these gardens deserve a visit to anyone visiting the city. I’d recommend visiting in the morning as the gardens are quieter and more opportunities to get photos.

Year Abroad perks

What I have loved about the Year Abroad is that my coursemates and I are scattered across Europe (some more further afield), and it has been in many cases an opportunity to visit both somewhere new and also catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a few months. As my friend Nathan has been living and studying in Porto this semester, I promised I would come to visit, as it isn’t all that far away from Salamanca!

Although his mum was visiting that weekend as well, we met up and walked along the Ponte Dom Luis I, which was obligatory during my time in Porto before having an Italian meal (I am amazed at how cheap the food is in Portugal still!).

The weekend I was visiting coincided with a music festival at Serralves called “Serralves em festa.” Serralves, as far as I understand, is a Contemporary Art Museum in a massive park (it is huuuuge), which happens to be the most visited museum in Portugal and a short bus ride from Porto’s city center. The festival is a 40 hour nonstop thing all weekend but we ended up going on the Saturday night to see what it was all about. We caught the free bus from the Casa da Musica Interface and met up with some of his friends. We managed to stay until 3am, which for me was quite an achievement as I had been climbing up and down hills all day without even a siesta. The music was totally bizarre, there were no lyrics, but the park was littered with people, so some people must have liked it. It was difficult to see as there was hardly any lighting and walking around was a safety hazard. We stayed until 3am as we were waiting for the “Brazilian music” to start, but it wasn’t what we were hoping for so we caught a taxi back.

The funniest moment

On the way to the festival, I met Nathan’s Brazilian friend Julio and he later promised us that before I left Porto, he would cook us a Brazilian beef stroganoff. This was set for the Monday evening after Nathan’s language class, and I was looking forward to some good food – although of course, nothing went to plan. After getting all the ingredients, we forgot to get rice (oops) but it’s okay, it got sorted, until the glass jar of rice broke on the floor. Then, when cooking the beef, the plate that was on top of the pan keeping the heat in, shattered under the pressure of the heat and landed in the meat in tiny pieces, making it unedible. We couldn’t really believe it for a few moments but we accepted the inevitable. It was already quite late, 11pm more or less, so we tidied up what we could before ending up in a kebab shop eating falafel kebabs, or as the Spanish say “Kebaps” but that is a different story…

Disaster

I’ll hopefully get some of this famous stroganoff without the plate bits someday.

My final evening in Porto was rounded off just how it should be; I really wanted eat somewhere which served cod because no trip to Portugal is complete without consuming cod – this is a fact. I ended up having Bacalhau à Braga, fried cod, surrounded by half chips half crisps (I still am amazed how they manage to do this) with onions and lots of olive oil and peppers. It was a good moment. I would really recommend this dish but I still uphold my love for Bacalhau à Lagareiro which I had in Lisbon in March.

We then walked along the RIver Douro at sunset until it went fully dark and then walked back to Ribeira. It was a lovely walk and the views were stunning as there was even a full moon that evening! By the time we reached Ribeira I was already exhausted but then I remembered there was still the massive hill to climb back to my hostel, so that was something!

Me, Nathan and Julio, full moon on the River Douro. Perfeito!!

Although I love Spain for its tapas culture, the pintxos I had in Bilbao, the tortilla… Portugal’s cuisine is much more accessible to me; Spanish cuisine is heavy on pork and seafood dishes, foods I don’t eat. I have therefore been limited in sampling my region’s specialities such as hornazo amongst other national dishes. Portugal however is very fond of cod and chicken and there is always an option for me at a restaurant in Portugal, something less common in Spain, so my experiences at finding somewhere I can eat has been more positive there. Plus, there are pastéis de nata, enough said.

Pastéis de nata = perfection

During my five night stay, I stayed at Gallery Hostel in the art district. It was rated number one on TripAdvisor in Porto and I am so, so pleased I stayed there! Unfortunately, I now have extremely high expectations for every hostel I stay in, yet none can comapre to Gallery Hostel *cries inside*: from my room, to the comfy mattress, to the lack of noise levels, to the in-room bathroom, to the delicious breakfasts, the exceptional evening meals, the fact that they wash up your dishes for you and make your bed every morning… the quality of this hostel is superb and there was nothing I could fault. It was like staying in a hotel but sharing a rooom with 5 other travellers at the price of any other hostel.

Rua Miguel Bombarda (art district)

Rua Miguel Bombarda (art district)

Overall, I had a fantastic visit to Porto, it’s a beautiful city, some great memories were made and it was also good to practice speaking plenty of Portuguese in context outside the classroom.

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I wasn’t too sad to leave Porto on my return to Salamanca because I already knew it would not be long before I was back in the country! I was anticipating my return to Spain as my time there was more limited as I don’t know when I will next be going back… I fly to Lisbon in 11 days for 4 weeks, it has come around so fast! Some prefer Porto, but I am still whole-heartedly in love with Lisbon, it’s just got that something.

I have already blogged about my return trip to Hammam Al Ándalus in Madrid, but I’ll be blogging next about my visit to the city in general. Madrid really surprised me as I thought I wouldn’t like it, but I couldn’t be more wrong, as I absolutely loved it! I had been putting off going for so long. I don’t regret leaving it until now but I am so glad I gave it a chance while I could!

Hasta luego (from cold Northern England – for now)

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Five Days in Porto

Porto was one of the few places I hadn’t managed to squeeze into a weekend this semester, so I am glad to have finally ticked it off my list!  When I announced I was spending five whole days there though, some were not convinced; apparently five days is too much time. I had just finished my last exam a few days before, and with just over a week free before I leave for Madrid, it seemed like a great idea to explore somewhere new. Although maybe a beach trip to Malaga would also have been nice…

With only weekends available to travel around studying at university, some of my trips have felt rushed over the last few months, e.g. I only spent one day in Lisbon and one in Sintra before it was time to leave. On top of this, I have come back on many occasions to Salamanca at 3am in the morning, after uncomfortable night coach/train journeys, exhausted. Spending five days in Porto allowed me to visit the city at a slower pace, take a few day trips (Guimarães and Aveiro) and rest when I needed to, which allowed it not just to be somewhere else to visit, but also a bit of time-out to relax. Porto, just like most places in Portugal, is extremely hilly, and I have returned feeling like I have had a good workout.

Walking down to Ribera, massive hill

Walking down to Ribeira, down a massive hill

I traveled by Blablacar on the way with two French Erasmus students studying in Madrid and a Polish Erasmus student in Salamanca, which was fun. The drive was much more direct than the six hour coach journey I took yesterday on the way back to Salamanca.

I stayed at Gallery Hostel, which is highly rated on TripAdvisor. I’d 100% recommend staying there, I had an absolutely fantastic experience and had no complaints at all. They go above and beyond to make your stay enjoyable!

Porto is currently a whole 10 degrees centigrade lower than Salamanca (Porto is 20-24), so it was a comfortable temperature to explore the city in the day, no jacket necessary and then something light on top if you are out at night. Coming back to Salamanca, I was hit with the heat, it has warmed up so much since I have been in Porto! What always confuses me is the time difference between Portugal and Spain (Portugal is one hour behind) and also the fact the Portuguese like to eat their evening meals earlier (8:30pm rather than 10pm) – although I prefer this, it is so strange when coming from Spain, where restaurants don’t open until 9pm! Also, tap water is actually drinkable in Portugal, so it felt weird to be filling up my water bottle from the tap, instead of buying those massive 5L water bottles from the corner shop in Spain.

In all honesty, although Porto is a fantastic city to visit, I have to hold on to the feeling that it in no way compares to Lisbon, which is in a league of its own – I am just so in love with Lisbon, it is hard to beat!

I love walking around cities but whenever I walked around the streets of Porto, I could go from a very touristy area, turn a corner and suddenly enter a very dodgy neighbourhood without warning during the day. Then I would turn another corner and be out in the clear again. And the fact that everywhere is so hilly, I could only escape at a certain pace without collapsing from exhaustion. These pockets of unsafe areas come without warning and I’d say they are difficult to avoid unless you stick to the main streets, but if you do that, you will also miss some of the most beautiful panoramic views and buildings in the city. During the evenings I never was out on my own, I always made sure I was with others. This is just the one thing I felt uncomfortable with during my trip, but nothing bad actually happened.

It was great to see a new part of the country, visit Nathan from Sheffield, who is studying in Porto this semester and also, to practice speaking Portuguese! I’m glad to be back here in Salamanca for my final four days though, and being away in Portugal made me realise just how much I am going to miss living here. I don’t know when I am next coming back to Spain, but I know I only have to wait 25 days until I jet off to Lisbon for a month! My departure from Porto was therefore much less emotional than what I can imagine will be the case when I leave Salamanca on Monday…

This is just a general update about what I have been up to. I will be uploading a post soon about the highlights of my trip to Porto next time – there were quite a few interesting ones.

Até logo! (See you soon in Portuguese)

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Lisbon Update

As I have mentioned once or a thousand times, I am studying in Lisbon this July for a language summer course. I am so excited, especially after having visited during a weekend in March and having fallen in love with the city!

See my blog posts: Lisbon, Belém, Fado and Sintra!

I thought that after booking my course and my flights, it would be a good idea to look into accommodation as it is mid-April.

View of Lisbon

View of Lisbon

I guess the fact that July is prime tourist season, it makes accommodation more expensive and it gets snapped up quickly. I had a rude awakening last night when I realised this. Especially as I am so used to seeing an abundance of student properties available all the time posted on Facebook for Salamanca, that are both reasonably priced and in good locations. Maybe Spain has just made me too chilled, accommodation-wise. There doesn’t seem to be much of this culture for Lisbon, well, sure, plenty of activity online for the next academic year for the new influx of Erasmus students, but I am not going in September, I am going in July!

After trawling through many options, some of which had no windows, others didn’t have proper beds (?!?!), yet still double the price of what I pay in Salamanca, I was wondering how much it would cost me to stay in a hostel for a month. If that would even be possible. I am so relieved though now to announce I have been accepted to stay in a studio flat in the hip Bairro Alto, very close to the metro for me to get to uni every morning.

Street art in Bairro Alto from my trip last month

Street art in Bairro Alto from my trip last month

Okay, when I was first looking, I decided I would live anywhere BUT Bairro Alto. Although it’s a very cool neighbourhood, it is also the center of nightlife in Lisbon and despite loving the vibe walking through the cobbled streets when I visited the quarter twice during my trip, it would be so noisy at night to try and get to sleep. I really hope this won’t be the case for me, because that’s where I have ended up living! I have accepted my fate, but I am living very central, which is what I wanted more than anything (and by a metro stop!) and I will never be far from a vinho verde or restaurants to choose from in the evening. I’m actually excited to live there now.

So, this goes to show that not getting what you necessarily wanted doesn’t always turn out all that bad. I’m mean, at least this place has windows!

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Walking through Bairro Alto

Até Julho, Lisboa!!

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Sintra: An Enchanting World

After focusing my three previous posts on Lisbon, Belém and fado, I’m excited to finally share with you the ultimate highlight of my weekend in Lisbon – a day trip to Sintra. Filled with beautiful sights, colours and textures, surrounded by nature and many opportunities for adventure, Sintra encapsulates my version of perfection.

Me in the forest /Pena Palace gardens

It is such a picturesque and beautiful place, despite the fog and overcast sky on the day we visited, it just made Sintra all the more magical. It felt like we had stepped into an other-worldly place. All of the buildings you walk past seem to have been lost in time, with moss crawling all over them. I would happily go back there, I didn’t really want to leave in the first place…

After arriving at the train station in Sintra from Rossio (45 min journey, 4€ return ticket), we hopped on a round-trip bus (5€) to head to the Pálacio da Pena. It felt a bit pricey, but as we had a limited amount of time to see everything we wanted in a day, it was a better option than walking, also bearing in mind that the palace is on top of a very big hill!

The gardens of the Pena Palace

The gardens of the Pena Palace

Pálacio da Pena in the fog

Pálacio da Pena in the fog

We were very disappointed that there was no reduced entry fee for EU students to the Pena Palace and had to pay the full rate of 11.50€. You can pay a reduced rate to just enter the gardens and outside of the Palace, but you do not have access into the interior. However once inside, it felt like the cost of the entry fee didn’t even matter because it was so beautiful and worth the money. The palace showcases a mix of styles of Romanticism and it is basically a very colourful, fairytale castle.

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Me in the gardens

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The exterior

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Moorish arches

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Courtyard inside the palace

Courtyard inside the palace

Courtyard inside the palace

Before it became the beautiful palace as it is known today, the site served as a monastery, however it was in ruins after the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Despite this, the chapel avoided serious damaged and if you pay to enter the palace, you can see it for yourself.

Afterwards, we got the bus back to the town centre and walked to the second place we wanted to visit in Sintra: Quinta da Regaleira. There was reduced entry fee for students here (4€) which made me happy.

If there is one thing you must do whilst in Sintra, it is to visit Quinta da Regaleira. It is simply not possible to go to Sintra and not go here – the highlight of the highlight of my trip. We explored the caves, tunnels, pathways, towers. Every way you turn there is a photo opportunity. What has been created here is very special and it is easy to spend all day exploring the estate.

There are many more things to see in Sintra, such as the Moorish Castle, Monserrate Palace and the Sintra National Palace but you need several days if you wish to see more of Sintra. I’ll leave you with some pictures of Quinta da Regaleira, which will hopefully show some of its magic:

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Was this inspiration for Pan’s Labyrinth or something?!

IMG_0817 IMG_0828 IMG_0857What are your thoughts on Sintra?

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[Tudo isto é] Fado | Lisbon Part 3

After already blogging about my first day in Lisbon and exploring Belém, I’d like to shift the focus onto another highlight from last weekend, seeing a live fado performance. It was a beautiful experience that I would highly recommend, especially if you enjoy live music and would like to experience some authentic Portuguese culture during your trip.

Fado always comprises of a solo singer, male or female, accompanied by two guitarists, one playing the melody on a twelve-stringed Portuguese guitar. The intensely melancholic songs focus on love, woes, sadness and longing for things that were lost or never accomplished. This can all be put under the umbrella of the Portuguese term ‘saudade’ which is a major part of Portuguese culture.

After exploring Alfama, the supposed birthplace of fado, during our Free Walking Tour earlier that day, we decided that we would like to spend our one and only evening in Lisbon seeing it for ourselves.

We asked our hostel for recommendations for any fado bars that evening, and we were given an address for one in Bairro Alto, although we were expecting to go to Alfama for a more authentic experience. We went ahead with the recommendation and found ourselves in a nice little bar, but looking back I think we should have just headed to Alfama and stumble across somewhere by chance. Or better yet, actually done some online research!

We ordered our drinks, Carrie opting for a vinho verde (green wine) which we were recommended to try. Vinho verde is disappointingly not green, but it is only produced in Portugal, so it’s worth ordering as it is difficult to obtain elsewhere. Normally, I don’t actually like wine, but I had a try and surprisingly liked it which was a nice change! I would definitely order it next time I am in Portugal. It is a light white wine, smooth and a little sweet that doesn’t taste strong. Before the train journey to Salamanca, I purchased the most expensive label in the supermarket to consume for a later date, to ensure I had chosen the best quality, which came to a very reasonable 3€…

Unfortunately, the bar we were at apparently didn’t have a fado event on that evening which was very disappointing as we were quite comfortable were we were, so after finishing my orange juice, we had to walk around a bit to find another bar. Some fado bars had proper sit-down meals which were quite expensive, and with 10€ in my pocket, that didn’t seem like such a good idea. We managed to find somewhere eventually and they seemed very eager for us to come inside. We accepted we would have to have a meal there, although for 10€ I could just about afford the vegetable soup and a side of chips, no drink… They were not very impressed. Luckily Becca ordered a steak which made the waiter happy and I felt less self-conscious about my order of just a starter. He insisted on putting a bread basket, a paté thing and some strange yogurt cheese pot on the table, but we knew that if we were to touch any of it, we would have to pay. After saying several times that we didn’t want any of this extra food, after about an hour, the waiter seemed to give up on trying to make us pay extra and eventually took it away. It was a good trick but luckily we didn’t fall for it. The restaurant obviously catered more for tourists and it wasn’t the most friendly of experiences. But at last, the lights dimmed and the fado started…

During the evening we heard a total of three fado singers, two men and one woman. It’s a very intense experience because the voice and lyrics are so woeful and powerful, it feels very serious.

On the wall behind the performers were tiles with lyrics to a fado song, ‘Tudo isto é fado’ by Amália Rodrigues (well known as the ‘Queen of Fado’) and the atmosphere was just right. These were the lyrics:

Almas vencidas, Noites perdidas
Sombras bizarras, Na Mouraria
Canta um rufia, Choram guitarras
Amor ciúme, Cinzas e lume
Dor e pecado, Tudo isto existe
Tudo isto é triste, Tudo isto é fado

Defeated souls, Lost nights,
Bizarre shadows, At Mouraria,…
the pounce sings, the guitars cry.
Love, jealousy, Ash and light
Pain and sin, All this exists
All this is sad, All this is the fado

They even performed this song which I now really liked:

The first singer however kept stopping mid-verse and shouting a bit to the guitarists about something or other, before restarting again, which felt extremely unprofessional. He also kept walking around the room which was very difficult as the tables were very close together, All this upset the magic of the music which I did not appreciate personally. I think he was experiencing a problem with his voice as he couldn’t reach the high notes. He eventually gave up, did a bow and went to sit back down again. Afterwards, the female singer and second male singer took to the microphone one after the other and I was blown away by them both. Their voices were absolutely mesmerising and pouring with emotion, I could have sat listening to them for hours, it felt so soothing to the ears. Soon enough, we were the final table left in the bar other than the fadistas and we thought it was probably about time we had left.

If you find yourself for one night only in Lisbon, don’t miss out on the opportunity to listen to fado. Although, I’d recommend you to do some more research than what we did, so hopefully you would get a better, more authentic experience!

When I am in Lisbon again I will definitely be going back to experience more fado, but in the meantime, Youtube will have to do.

What to you think of fado? Do you also think it’s beautiful or is it just depressing?

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[Pastéis de] Belém | Lisbon Part 2

Following on from my previous blog post about my trip to Lisbon last weekend, this entry is going to focus on the culinary highlight of my visit, spending our Saturday afternoon in Belém.

Belém is a mere 25 minute tram journey away from central Lisbon and it is a mandatory stop if you are there for a weekend. As we had purchased a 24-hour public transport pass called the Viva Viagem for 6€, the tram to Belém was included. I remember my Portuguese language teacher explaining her love for Belém in our seminar class last year and that if we were ever in Lisbon, we had to go – the sites of interest and most importantly, that it is home to the famous and delicious, Pastel de Belém.

Out of all of these things, I think it’s these little pastries which attract the majority of tourists to Belém. And for good reason! These things are absolutely amazing. We were told by our tour guide earlier that day to expect long queues way out of the shop door to buy the pastéis, but that the queue actually moves quite quickly, so we shouldn’t feel disheartened and walk away. Sometimes the queue can reach all the way to the monastery; when I saw the distance between the shop and the monastery, I could only believe it if I saw it, that would be a pretty big queue!

After getting off the tram, we spotted the blue-fronted shop with the long queue outside no problem, and knew we had found the right place. We were having these things before we were doing any exploring of Belém. No excuses! After a few persistant queue-jumpers and squishers, I had a Pastel de Belém of my own:

I was initially quite worried I wouldn’t like the Pastéis de Belém because it is nothing other than a type of custard tart, and here’s the best bit, I hate custard! It would have been really depressing if I didn’t like it, and all this hype had been for nothing. Despite this, I wasn’t going to miss out on this important culinary Portuguese experience; while Carrie and Becca confidently bought two each, I opted for one, and they had already made dibs on who was going to have my leftovers if I were to decide I didn’t like it. The pressure was on. Unlucky for them, I loved it and in hindsight, I wished I had bought about ten. As there is so much demand, the pastries are flying out of the oven straight into the customer’s hands, and so they are still warm when you eat them. I don’t think it can get any better than that!

After accomplishing what was obviously the main reason for our visit to Belém, we had a stroll around the waterfront for the remainder of the late afternoon.

Another of the main attractions in Belém is the Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos). The monument was erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator and is a 52 metre-high slab of concrete. It’s shaped in the form of a shop’s prow, showcasing figures from Portuguese history.

Momument to the Discoveries

Momument to the Discoveries

Monument to the Discoveries

Monument to the Discoveries

We walked further along to see the Belém Tower which was built in the early 16th century. We didn’t go inside but it was beautiful to just sit, look at the architecture and enjoy the dimming light during the sunset.

Torre de Belém

Torre de Belém

Another point of interest in Belém would be Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Interesting fact, it was actually the monks of this monastery that created the incredible recipe that is the Pastel de Belém, so it’s them we have to thank for! Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to go inside and visit, especially as we were exhausted by this point. It will definitely be on my bucket-list for when I go back in July though.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

After spending a lovely afternoon in Belém, we managed to get on the very overcrowded tram back to the center of Lisbon, to finally check into our room in the hostel at about 7pm. When we arrived back at the hostel, the girl at reception asked us what we had done which had taken all day. She seemed very impressed by our determination to make the most out of our time in Lisbon.

A short rest was very much needed after everything we had done that day. I secretly wished I could have just tucked up into bed and be asleep by 8pm after so much activity. It was very tempting! But we had agreed to see fado live. For one night only in Lisbon, we couldn’t miss the opportunity. I somehow managed to get out of my nice cosy hostel bed, to go back out in search of fado. More on fado in the next enstalement and then we will get on to the highlight of the weekend: Sintra (yep, it just get’s better and better!)

Would having some Pastéis de Belém be on your bucket-list?  

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