Mario and I had a few days to explore Portugal, which makes European country #19 for me. Our first stop was Porto which is the the 2nd largest city.
Our late morning flight was delayed causing us to arrive mid afternoon in Porto. We left rainy and gloomy weather and arrived to sunny skies! We took the purple line on the Metro which runs from the airport to city center. We got off at our stop and walked a few blocks towards our hotel. Our hotel was called the Zero Box Lodge. The rooms are a boxes made of plywood which are designed to create a perfect sleeping environment.
After resting a bit, we headed out to explore Porto. We saw the Livraria Lello bookstore which looks similar to the library in Harry Potter. Sadly, with its popularity you have to buy a ticket to get in and the line to get in and to buy the ticket was long, so I settled for the outside view. Then saw the Clérigos church and its tower which I will climb the next day. Then we headed back to the hotel and explored the roof top and the view it provided.
We headed out early to see the sites before they got crowded. All the sites we wanted to see were easily walkable so we explored on foot. We headed towards the San Bento train station which has pretty hand printed tiles in the entrance. Then headed to the Porto cathedral which is situated in the oldest district. We arrived before it opened so we weren’t able to go inside.
Then we walked towards the Ponte Luis I bridge which have stood since 1886. You can cross the bridge either on top or the bottom. We walked on top which provided views of the Douro river and the town. We walked up to Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar which sits on top of a hill and enjoyed the views.
From there we walked back over the bridge, making our way to the river. We needed to catch the green line 1 tram which travels along the river to Passeio Alegre. So, we got our roundtrip tickets from the driver and took the tram to the last stop. Then we walked a few blocks towards the lighthouse and the ocean. We were able to see where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. It was a sunny and nice day so we enjoyed the views. From there we took the tram back towards town and then walked up the hills to the hotel.
Later that day, we explored the church and tower of Clérigos. The Clérgios tower opened in 1763 and became the highest bell tower in Portugal. The tower cost 5€ and the church was free. Mario decided to stay down while I climbed the 240 steps to the top. The stairs up were very small but the view at the top was well worth it! I had a bird’s eye view of Porto. After climbing down, we explored the church which was built between 1732-1749.
Total Miles: 8.1miles
Day 3: 7 miles
Today we explored the city of Braga which is the 3rd largest in Portugal and considered the religious center of Portugal. It is northeast of Porto and known as the city of Archbishops. Our main reason of exploring Braga was to visit the Bom Jesus church complex. From our hotel we walked a few blocks to the Sao Bento train station. There we got our round-trip train tickets for 12€. It was a little under an hour, it is a regional train so it made numerous stops along the way.
Once we arrive in Braga, we walked about 20 minutes towards the Bus 2 stop which would take us to the Bom Jesus church complex. Tickets were 3.30€ one way for us and the bus took us to the bottom of the complex. The Bom Jesus is one of the best monuments of northern Portugal and the decorative baroque staircase is beautiful. We had two options to get to the top either walking 580 stairs or taking the world’s oldest water powered funicular. We picked the funicular or cable car which was only 3€ one way. At the top we explored the Bom Jesus church and enjoyed the views of Braga. It was a very sunny and warm day but I wasn't complaining. After exploring we started our walk down the stairs. The first set of steps are made of 3 levels which are decided to the 3 virtues (charity, hope, faith). Then the second set of stairs which is the lower set have 5 levels and signify the five bodily senses. Then we took the remaining zig zag tree lines pathway back to the bus stop.
We waited a few minutes for the bus and took it back into city center. We exited the bus and enjoyed lunch and realized today started a Roman festival. We explored the cathedral and the area around it. Then headed back to the train station and took the train back to Porto.
Later that day we walked along the shopping street and came across the Saint Ildefonso church which has 11,000 traditional painted azulejo stiles. I was able to go inside.
Day 4: 7 miles
On our last day in Porto, we decided to explore some of the beaches Porto has to offer. It was a cloudy, cooler day but still nice being out and enjoying the ocean breeze. We took the blue line (A) towards Matosinhos and walked a few blocks towards to beach. We walked along the beach and enjoyed some time relaxing on the beach. Then walked towards the Fort of San Francisco Xavier and explored the rock tide pool area getting some shells and sea glass. After some lunch we took the metro back to the hotel.
Day 5: Lisbon or Lisboa
We took a quick 55 minute early morning flight from Porto to Lisbon. From there we headed to the metro. Lisbon uses a rechargeable public transportation card which can hold one type of transportation. You can get a 24 hour card but you needed to change the type of transportation. So we decided to get a zapping card which can be used on all mode of transportation (train, bus, tram, funicular, ferry, etc) and can be charged/recharged with amount from 3-40€ with no need to change between modes of transportation. From there we took the red line to our stop and walked a few blocks to our hotel. We were able check in early morning, which was awesome! I’m so glad for Mario’s Marriott status and the ability to use points to pay for our room. We scored a room on the 22 floor with club level access and an amazing view of the city. From there we had some lunch and rested in our room for a bit.
We headed back out to explore. We took the metro, switching two different colors. We took the Ascensor Gloria funicular to the top of the hill. Lisbon is built on seven hills, so a lot of climbing up and down hills. From there we enjoyed the views of the city from the Miradouro de Sao Pedro Alcantra which is a scenic view point. While there we noticed a local artist painting and selling her pictures, we got two small canvas which were just painted today. From there we walked through the Bairro Alto part of town and saw the Santa Justa lift. Then headed back to the hotel taking the metro back. Once at the hotel we went to the rooftop restaurant and enjoyed the views of the city.
Day 6: Miles: 5.3
We wanted to see the Cristo Rei or National Sanctuary of Christ the King which is a Catholic monument and shrine located in the city of Almada, which is across the river from Lisbon. This monument was inspired by Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. We took the metro by switching lines and arriving at the river. From there we walked to the ferry stop and took the ferry across the Tagus river. From there we were planning on taking the bus up the hill but decided to take a tuk tuk instead, which is like a little clown car. Our driver took us to the top and then waited for us to explore before bringing us back down to the ferries.
Here is some interesting facts:
After getting off the ferry, we walked along the water for a bit, taking in the scenery and sites. We walked up to see the Lisbon cathedral and then took the metro switching line back to the hotel.
Found this quote in a travel book: Fernando Pessoa, a 20th century poet wrote “Travel stimulates the imagination.”
Our first stop was Cascais which is a former fishing village and today a holiday destination for many. Historically, a summer retreat of the Portuguese nobility, which can be still today with the large houses/hotels. We took the metro switching lines again and then boarding the train at the Cais do Sodre train station. It was about 45 minutes. Cascais is east of Lisbon. It was a very warm and sunny day, so we searched for shade whenever possible. We walked through town on our way to the Baco do inferno caves. The Boca do Inferno was formed by the erosion of a weak vein of limestone in the cliff face. This initially lead to a cave being excavated which slowly expanded over the generations. The tougher outer rock remained while the weaker rock was eroded to such a stage that the roof of the cave collapsed forming the unique Boca do Inferno, which is known as Hell’s Mouth.
We walked back along the coast enjoying the view. We had lunch before we took the train back towards Lisbon.
We got off the train stop Algés and walked towards Belém which had a few sited I wanted to see. First, we saw the Belem Tower which played a key role in Europe’s Age of Discoveries. It served both as a fortress and as a port from where Portuguese explorers departed to establish what would be the first European trade in history with China and India. The line was crazy long so I didn’t go inside.
Then we walked to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos which is dedicated to the adventurers and explores who helped establish Portugal as a 14th century superpower.
The figure of Henry the Navigator is positioned at the front of the monument staring out towards the Atlantic Ocean. There are different figures on each side of the monument. The carved figures along the western side depict the explores and adventures of the 14th century golden era while to the eastern side the supports and financiers of the expeditions are captured in stone. My pictures show the east side.
Then we crossed the road to the Jerónimos Monastery, which has a museum and church attached. The lines were super long and I didn’t want to wait in the hot sun so I passed on the chance to explore. From there we took the train to the metro then the hotel.
Day 8: 8.1 miles
Today was our last full day in Lisbon, so we decided to spend the day in Sintra. It is about a 40 minute train ride from Lisbon. The wealthy artisans and elite build their mansions there, the cooler climate enticed them. The palaces and parks are all situated on top on hills, so instead of climbing, tourist bus 434 is offered. You can get a round trip ticket from the train station, National Palace, Moorish Castle and finally Pena Palace and back for 6.90€ a person. Due to the overcrowding bus, we missed the first palace but got it on the way back down. The roads to the palaces and castle are connected by switchback roads. We got off at the second stop which was for Moorish castle and got our tickets for the Moorish castle and the park only ticket for the Pena Palace.
A little history about the castle from the brochure; it was a military fort build around the 10 the century by the Muslim populations that occupied the Iberian peninsula. It acted as a control tower for the Atlantic coast and land to the north, serving as an outpost for Lisbon. The castle offered wonderful views of the city below and beyond. You can climb the ruins and towers. I visited the cistern and saw where the water was held.
From there we decided to walk to the next palace, Pena Palace. It was a short uphill walk. Once we got there I’m so grateful I got tickets at the previous place because the lines for tickets was crazy! We walked up hill to the palace. Once there we took some pictures but climbing back down and boarding the bus.
On the way down we got off at the National Palace spot and walked about 20 minutes to Quinta da Regaleira which is home to the Iniciatic Well and located in the Old Quarter of Sintra. We got our tickets and started to explore. It was beautiful and if we weren’t so tired from all the previous climbing definitely would have explored more it, but the parts we saw were amazing! We climb to the Iniciatic Well and took the stairs which leads us to a cave which lead us to the waterfall where we climb across stepping stone to exit. From there we exited and walked back down the hill to the train station. We took the train and then metro back to the hotel.
We left Lisbon on an late morning flight arrive home early evening. We had wonderful weather and saw so many places during our adventure. Another great trip in the books!
A teacher who loves traveling the world.