I had a relatively early train to catch, but I was thankfully only a 5 minute walk to the station. I popped into a bakery just outside the station to grab a couple custard tarts for the road (they ended up being some of the tastiest I’d had yet, probably because they were still fresh!) and went in to find my train. I needed to go just one stop and then change trains to board one bound for Lisbon. I had managed to book a single seat (rather than a seat part of a pair of seats) on my Lisbon-bound train, so I had at least a bit of room and quiet for the roughly 2.5 hour trip. I had worked out how to get to the apartment from the Lisbon station via public transit, but ultimately I was feeling a bit tired and my bag seemed heavier (despite the addition of just one bottle of wine), so I opted to grab a cab. I ultimately think that I’ll start cabbing it when I first arrive to a new city (unless it’s extremely convenient by transit), as one never knows the particular geography of a new place. I’m glad I did, as a) it took about 10 minutes and so was cheap and b) more hills!
I hauled my bag up the four flights of stairs to the AirBnB apartment I’d rented and was met by my friendly host. The apartment was lovely, spacious and well-equipped, and I eagerly got myself settled. As it was after noon already, I didn’t have major plans for the day, other than to get a sense for the area. I decided to take a walk up to Igreja de São Roque. I got my first taste of the grandeur of Lisbon as I wandered through Praça Dom Pedro IV, with its ornate fountain and elaborately tiled plaza and made my way in the direction of the church, up the many stairs, through bougainvillea-lined lanes and passed restaurants spilling out onto the steps. The city, much like Porto, was brimming with colour, with its ubiquitous red-tiled roofs and brightly-painted buildings.
I finally made it to Igreja de São Roque and welcomed the relative coolness of its interior. As with many Portuguese churches, the rather austere exterior did not reflect the ornateness of its interior. It had an elaborately painted wooden ceiling, which was rather surprising, and lined with gilded chapels, all gold and marble and azulejos. One of them was decorated with an abundance of cherubs and little cherub heads, which was a bit creepy.
From there, I continued uphill to a nearby viewpoint in Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara. I hadn’t eaten much other than my custard tarts, so I grabbed a couple of scoops of gelato (which were just divinely good) and enjoyed the gorgeous view overlooking Lisbon. A light breeze and shady areas to sit made it a lovely introduction to the city. After I’d had my fill, I made my way back down the hill into the Baixa district, an elegant area of town with wide boulevards, lined with shops from international brands and a goodly number of tourist-laden restaurants.
I noticed a rather dramatic arch at the end of one of the streets, so I thought I’d investigate. It turned out to be the triumphal Arco da Victória, centered on the truly massive Praça do Comércio. I basked in the sun for a time while admiring the scale and grandeur of the square before making my way back to the apartment to recharge for a bit. I did a bit of investigating as to reputable, tasty restaurants in the neighbourhood and decided on a little wine bar in the nearby Alfama district (up yet another hill). Unfortunately, when I got there, all their tables had been reserved, so I went in search elsewhere. My AirBnB host had recommended the little neighbourhood joint just around the corner from the apartment, so I figured I’d give it a try. It definitely felt like a local spot, as the older lady who sat me didn’t speak English, and there was no English menu available (just a menu written in Portuguese on a whiteboard). I ordered a glass of wine, and she asked me “meat or fish?” to which I responded “fish”. She then listed various fishes in Portuguese, and I went with the one I recognized (cod fish). The place was soon bustling with locals and a few tables of somewhat bewildered looking tourists. I eventually got my plate of cod topped with onions and what looked like grated cheese with a side of potato chips (what I assumed to be the “house” fish dish they give to the tourists). It was fairly tasty and relatively inexpensive, so I ended up enjoying another glass of wine before calling it a night.