Ice bucket-challenge. This is how I feel, as I try to open my eyes this morning to the cheerful tunes of the “Love Boat” theme of my iPhone alarm modus. Where am I?
Admittedly, there could be worse places to wake up at than the Intercontinental Lisbon. The perfect bed has granted me almost 10 hours of sleep and I feel refreshed, recovered and ready for another short and intense city adventure: Lisboa, here we go.
The time is 8:00 am, so that will leave me roughly around five hours and thirty minutes until departure to the airport. As short as this may be, there is no way around the excellent breakfast buffet served downstairs in the lobby. My instant oatmeal power supply is put to pause today. Instead, I feast through thin sliced smoked salmon, Portuguese yogurt with fresh-cut fruits and muesli, as well as a little portion of speciality cheeses (Attention, cheese lovers! Portugal has lots of amazing cheeses to try as Andrea Smith knows in her blog).
The steamy and strongly brewed coffee and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice top my energy level up. It is time for the sun and one of the most beautiful ancient capitals that Europe has to offer. Clear the ring for Lisbon, Portugal.
The hotel lies about 15 to 20 minutes from the old part of town, right next to Eduardo VII Park and very close to Marquès de Pombal Square (If you have time, walk the park up the hill to Jardim Amália Rodrigues: You will be rewarded with a fantastic vista). The easiest and also the most exclusive way to stroll downtown is Avenida da Liberdade. This fashionable boulevard features not only the most expensive boutiques and stores, it also comes with mosaic decorated sidewalks and beautiful cast-iron lanterns.
On the way, check out Lisbon´s Art Deco style Cinema Sao Jorge, which was in 1950 the largest movie theatre on the Iberian Peninsula.
As soon as Avenida da Liberdade merges into Square Praca dos Resdauradores, you have the first opportunity to see the world-famous Lisbon funicular tram: Elevador dá Gloria. Take a moment and look around. There is some cafés available, if you would like to take a little break and watch the city slowly wake up.
Otherwise, we continue to Praca Dom Pedro IV, the main central square in Lisbon. This beautifully appointed place used to be the centre to ancient Lisbon and serves nowadays still as a local hot spot and transit point.
Rua Augusta is a pedestrian only walkway through history and springs right here. This traffic-calmed link connects Praca Dom Pedro IV with Praca do Comércio, Lisbon´s monumental riverside square. This is, where once the royal palace stood which had been destroyed during the Great Earthquake in 1755.
When walking down Rua Augusta, don´t forget to peek into the side streets. The views onto the marvelous architecture and the artistic building exteriors is astonishing. We are also passing extraordinary monuments and sights on the way, such as the Elevador de Santa Justa, the Paróquia de Sao Nicolau church and the Arco da Rua Augusta, a beautiful monumental arch opening Rua Augusta to Praca do Comércio. There is a viewpoint on top, that allows good sight of the Castelo de São Jorge, whose foundation dates back to the 11th century.
Before we slowly head back to the hotel, rest for a moment with the sea gulls on the steps down to the water and enjoy the panoramic views onto the port, the internationally beknown Ponte 25 de Abril as well as the monument of Christo Rei.
As we pursue the way back via a more intimate stroll through the area and uphill, a short visit to the Lisbon cathedral is definitely recommendable. From here, we continue zigzag through the neighbourhood. Find your way to Rua de S. Mamede, a picturesque small street that after a short while merges into R. Regedor. Just a stone´s throw away, the alley will empty into an enchanted small square right in front of the church São Cristóvão e São Lourenço.
But it is not the church, that makes this spot a hidden treasure for me. It is the alleyway Escadinhas de São Cristóvão that leads down to Rua da Madalena. When not covered with aged and traditional ceramic tiles, the walls feature various graffiti art works, underlining and honoring the neighbourhood as the spring of the famous Portuguese song: The Fado.
From here, it is just a few blocks until we are back at Praca Dom Pedro IV. This means, that it is time again to slowly say good-bye to our city adventure. Even if only a little fraction of the beauty and uniqueness of Portugal´s capital unveiled, I feel inner warmth and contentedness. Experiencing a city is not only about seeing things and marking them off a sightseeing-checklist, it is about wandering through it, breathing it, tasting it and putting together the tiles of a never-ending puzzle of memories.
Lisbon is a city, that you should discover best without a street map. It unfolds to you, if you allow it to. The only thing you will have to do, is let loose.
And I wish, I could have had more time to do so. Yet I smile, as I bite into my delicious Pasteis de Nata (here are two recommendations for the best pasteis in town: Pasteis de Belém & Pastelaria Aloma) while I rush up Avenida da Liberdade towards the hotel. Next time, I think, next time I will let loose for a little more…
Day two of my high-speed European adventure comes to a sunny end. It could have been longer, but it absolutely could not have been more perfect. And as the plane makes a sharp turn after departure, a blissful murmur fills the cabin while the city passes by the windows for one last time. Thank you, Lisbon, it has been a pleasure to see you!
Stay tuned for some “Me-time” in Hamburg, Germany…