It’s been a year since our last ‘lads’ city break (for lads read adults only, one of the lads is Queene Mab AKA Mrs Shipscook). Unlike our previous Spring jaunts to Tallinn and Prague, we had chosen a destination that didn’t require thermal underwear this time, so at some ungodly hour we arrived at Luton Airport on Wednesday morning ready for our flight to Portugal’s capital Lisbon.
Having swotted up on the city before we left I’d determined that we would be using public transport a fair bit, so our first port of call was the Airport’s Tourist Information Office to collect our Lisbon Cards. For €39 they gave us the use of Lisbon’s Metro, trams and trains, plus free or discounted admission to lots of tourist attractions for the 72 hours we’d be in the city. Being a bit of a skinflint I kept a running total in my head as we went, with the Lisbon Card getting its first hammering for €1.25 as we boarded the Metro from the Airport to Saldanha to drop off our bags at the Holiday Inn Lisboa (Avenida Antonio Jose de Almeida).
Having got up at 3am by the time we got to the hotel we were starving, but the nearby Pastelaria Flor des Avenidas,
proved to be the ideal place to recharge and plan our assault on Lisbon’s attractions. Our first meal in Lisbon was pleasingly cheap, for about €7 we got a hearty stew of pork and sausage with rice and chips. The beer at €2.20 a pint was particularly welcome.
So with a bellyful of food and beer we hit the Metro heading for Baixa-Chiado and the Elevador de Santa Justa.
Like Edinburgh, Lisbon is a city built on hills and this huge cast iron contraption was completed in 1902 to save little Lisbonites legs. It was designed by Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, who was a pupil of Gustav Eiffel. Inside the cast iron shaft are two wood panelled lifts that take you 145 foot above the city (€5 or free with the Lisbon Card kerching).
When you get to the top another €1.50 (free for us) will buy you access to the observation platform via a very tight spiral staircase. From here you can get a magnificent view across the city. This platform used to house the steam engine that operated the lift cars before the elevator was converted to electricity in 1907. A cast iron bridge links to the top of the elevator to the hillside and the Parca Lius Camoes. From there it is a short walk down the Rua do Loreto to the Elevador da Bica
Also designed by Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, this elevador is a funicular that links this part of Lisbon to the riverbank 245 metres below. It was opened in 1892 and costs €3.60 for a one way trip (again free for us with the Lisbon Card).
From te Elevador terminus we walked along the riverbank back towards the station at Cais de Sodre. I thought this part of Lisbon was a bit grim, but when we got to the station we soon found a pleasant, but pricey bar in the Praca do Commercio for a well received pint. Guidebooks, maps and reading glasses were fished out of pockets while we decided what to do next. Obviously the novelty of riding the funiculars hadn’t worn off yet so we hopped on the Metro back up to Restauradores to take the Elevador da Gloria to the Bairrio Alto.
This is the most famous of Lisbon’s funiculars and was opened in 1895. At the top of the funicular we discovered the Miradouro de Sao Pedro de Acantar, a small park with an amazing view over the city.
There was also a bar kiosk with tables and very welcome gas heaters, since it was starting to get chilly in the early evening. What with the fantastic view and a few glasses of local red who could ask for anything more as the Sun dropped below the hills.