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Calling On Lisboa
|Text by Nisha Jhangiani|
Published: Volume 22, Issue 3, March, 2014
Sprawling beaches, Michelin star gastronomy, a thumping nightlife and centuries of world-changing history packed in – Nisha Jhangiani goes on a discovery trail to unravel the multi-faceted delights of Lisbon...
FUN FACT 1: Lisbon never was nor is a part of Spain, as some imagine it to be (update your Geography, people). It is the thriving capital of Portugal and the oldest city in Western Europe.
FUN FACT 2: Portugal really does offer the complete package. From action-packed Lisbon, one can drive to Porto and retreat into serene Wine County or head the other direction to The Algarve where the sun-soaked beaches encourage a smoky-golden tan.
FUN FACT 3: Blessed with nine good months of the year from March to November and home to the warmest winters in Europe, Lisbon makes for a perfect holiday destination even when other cities are being blown away by a killing windchill factor.Having had my resort break at The Martinhal hotel in Sagres, Algarve, I am keenly drove into Lisbon with my guide, Luis de Sousa, who owns and runs my now favourite trip planning agency in Portugal – www.mrtravel.pt. What I experienced in the coming days is enough to whet the appetite of any avid globe-trotter!
Prefer to be in the buzzy hub of local stores, live music performances and quick fix eateries? Bairro Alto Hotel it is then. Smallish and quaint and the great news is there’s always a bar near at hand – one of the best being in the hotel itself.
Myriad by Sana Hotel’s futuristic looking façade is enough of an invitation to sample its interiors and its proximity to the waterfront and some seriously cool nightclubs only adds to its charm.
THE NIGHT IS YOUNG, LET’S HIT THE BARS
Eleven is yet another Michelin star must-visit. Don’t leave without devouring the sea bass laden with almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and a last supper worthy helping of fragrant, buttered Basmati rice. There’s a whole menu reserved for black truffle addicts and if you’re not one, this meal will convert you.
Darwin is an easy lunch option by the waterside while Guilty packs in a punch post the witching hour when burgers and some house music is all you need to hit the spot. The Praça do Comércio is a great square to halt for a bite as well – try Museu de Cerveja (Museum of Beer) for a well-spent afternoon. And one absolutely cannot miss a few trials at Santini, the ice cream shop that you will want to take home. For a more refined sweet experience, Poison D’ Amor offers elegant pastries and a pretty courtyard for high-tea nibbles.
SOME CULTURE PERHAPS?
St. George’s Castle doesn’t impress much as a structure but the spellbinding city view it affords more than makes up as do the obese geriatric peacocks with thick white feathered necks, resembling decadent mink collars. A tuk tuk ride back into town is a must-do! The city’s two world heritage sites, The Tower of Belem and The Jeronimos Monastery will make it to any itinerary but my personal favourite is The Monument to the Discoveries – an exceptional sculpted ode to the forefathers of Portugal (best seen by boat). Alfama is the oldest and most traditional neighbourhood in the city; a living, breathing vintage set in a sense. Stop at one of the cafes on any street to savour the mild and sweet Ginjinha liqueur and pick up a Fado music disc to experience authentic Portuguese song.
Cascais is a coastal town about 20 minutes from the main city; its quaint houses and accessibility to meandering beach stretches makes it popular with residents and holiday-home seekers alike. A stop here for lunch or a browse through the Wednesday street market is mandatory. Driving on, one can try to relive the adventurous zeal of great discoverers as they set off to new lands from Cabo da Roca, the western-most point in Europe. A great spot for photo-ops and a special souvenir - your personal certificate stating that you made it to the edge as well!
The Sintra township has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site and its cobbled lanes, age-old stores and cafes, technicolour toy-story like castles and traditional sweet shops selling typical Portuguese pastries make the experience here seem like a step back into ancient times. A few hours here is the very minimum one would need to explore places like the Pena Palace, Lawrence’s Hotel (where Lord Byron was known to visit), Dom Lopo (for a tea-time break) and Casa Branca (for quality linens).
THERAPY FOR THE SOUL (A.K.A SHOPPING UNLIMITED)
Open your heart and mind to this city and let its treasures delight and surprise you. I know I will be going back for more...
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