Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Expeditious Trip to Lisbon

I was curious about Spain. I knew a few Spanish thanks to Dora the Explorer and a few other American TV shows (especially Modern Family, thanks to Sofia Vergara as Gloria Pritchett). I have always been enthusiastic about going to Spain, but my friends and I all have different schedules. So then I decided to take my first full solo trip to Spain with two cities in mind: Madrid and Barcelona. However, I felt like exploring one country might be a waste of my plane ticket back and forth, so I added Lisbon, Portugal as my first stop.

My route would be going from Rotterdam-Amsterdam-Lisbon-Madrid-Barcelona-Amsterdam-Rotterdam. I did my prior research using GoEuro.com for both my plane ride as well as my train ride as they offer really good deals on certain tickets and has a comparison table that helps you book your preferred method of transportation. It really has been a great help for my travel in Europe either for planning out a trip or simply checking daily transportation schedules.

All I knew about Portugal was the fact that it is the home country of Cristiano Ronaldo, that it is geographically the most western country of the European continent, that they invented the delicacy we usually recognize as ‘egg tarts’ and that it has historical ties with Indonesia in the past due to their colonies. I was pretty excited and decided to spend half a day at Lisbon before leaving by the overnight train to Madrid. On a fully booked KLM flight, I finally left the Netherlands.

I looked up online about the places of interest in Lisbon. Thanks to the several recommendations by Anthony Bourdain and Mark Wiens — the latter who uploaded a video of him visiting this restaurant a couple days before I left town, I decided that my first stop will be Carvejaria Ramiro, a famous seafood restaurant that is popular with the locals and tourist alike. I bought a day ticket for Lisbon public transportation that costs EUR 6.50. I took the metro from Lisbon Portela Airport to Intedente using the metro’s green line for my first good serving of seafood in months.

After a quick walk downward from the metro stop on the steep slopes of Lisbon, I finally arrived at Ramiro, which had all of its tables fully seated. After a couple minutes of waiting, I was seated at a long table that I shared with an elderly couple enjoying their mollusks and another solo diner. I was given a few minutes to check out their English menu on a tablet screen -- and you can also check it through their website, here. As far as recommendations go, I ordered their garlic shrimp, crab and additional bread as a side. It was one of the best seafood experiences I’ve ever had. From this, I came to appreciate the value of good seafood and was again reminded that Indonesia, a maritime country, is filled with so many kinds of seafood - be it fish, muscles and other shellfish. This is the place I spent most of my money on food, ever, without regret.

Then I decided just to have a look around the city, going in and out of subway stations. I was amazed by the size of Baixa-Chiado Metro Station and the length of the escalator trip I had to take just to get out of the station. I was then even more amazed by the view of the twilight overlooking the sea that is offered by the height of Lisbon. The city is built on a slope that makes every step you take a challenge, be it downwards or upwards. But the view was breathtaking. Take a few steps up and look around — it is always breathtaking. Too bad I didn't get to take as many pictures as I would love to.

I then decided to continue on by going to Pastéis de Belém, the place said to be the origin of “Pastéis de Belém” or in other places is called ‘pasteis de nata’ or what we know as the Portuguese egg tart. The pasteis is one of the main reason I came to Lisbon and I am so glad I had the chance to taste it. The pasteis is nothing like other egg tarts I’ve tried. They’re sweet, creamy, flaky, aromatic and pretty much heavenly. I bought half-dozen of Pastéis de Belém for EUR 6.30, thinking I would eat them during my travels but I ended up eating four that night and finished up the other two as for breakfast. It was so amazing and I wished they sold it at more places. You can check it out by clicking here. So good.

Then I took the bus to the Santa Apolonia Station to book my train ticket to Madrid. With my Interrail pass, I only needed to pay a booking fee which was EUR 7.00 for the 8-hour train ride to Madrid Atocha station. I picked the cheapest option, to sleep on the train seats for the night. If you want to have your own bed for the ride, the price was around EUR 150 which I politely said no to the offer. We’re keeping things economical here.

What I learned from my quick trip to Lisbon is that Portugal is a beautiful country with vast seas, gorgeous people, great simple foods and cheaper prices than its other neighboring countries. My only regret is that I didn’t spend enough time in Lisbon. I alway regret not taking enough time to enjoy the views, and not taking enough picture of the building, of the people, of the skies, of the seas, since I was overwhelmed traveling around carrying a backpack and a sling bag. This trip seriously taught me a good lesson about solo traveling, backpacker style. More on that later. On to the next stop: España!