Day 01: Lisbon, the City that is Uphill. Both Ways.

Welcome to our journey of Portugal!  As usual, this online travel journal serves as a memory for us, and there is a small chance it might be useful to someone traveling the same path.  And, as a note, the Portuguese language is much prettier when written properly by using the correct accent marks, which you will not see in the following posts.  Now that it’s out on the table, let us begin…


The Hotel Ibis on it’s hilly perch

Our flight landed in Lisbon on time, and after a lengthy line at immigration, we were admitted into the country and turned loose. We headed straight to the Metro and took the Red Line to the Yellow Line and emerged topside. This was our first sunny introduction to Lisbon, where we were able to have a look around and then noticed there did not appear to be a single horizontal surface. Everywhere you looked roads either went up or down, many at what seemed like a grade of 10%. Our guidebook had made mention of Lisbon’s “characteristic hills,” but that now seemed a bit understated. Because, as it turns out, everywhere you walk in Lisbon is uphill – both ways.

We managed to drag ourselves and our luggage to the Ibis Liberdade Hotel, although there were many times I seriously contemplated ditching the luggage during that walk. Thankfully, our room was ready even though it was only 9:30am, and we were able to offload our gear and set out to find some strong European coffee. These hills definitely required an energy boost.  Besides, it was a beautiful sunny day with a cool breeze, and we were feeling good.

Once caffeinated, we headed down a steep hill toward Avenida da Liberdade, a very wide tree-and-fancy-pants-store-lined boulevard, reaching the pedestrian-only main drag of Rue Augusta. This brought us to an arch that led into a plaza (Praca do Comercio) along the waterfront of the Rio Tejo, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean nearby. We surveyed things up and down the river for a bit, noting the 25th of April Bridge spanning the river that our guidebook proclaimed was “one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.” Being one of the ‘-est’ of anything is a distinction that always gets our immediate attention, and something we will always make a point to see, so I did a little research prior to leaving about this bridge. What I found was that this bridge is the 27th longest suspension bridge in the world, and that, my friends, is a far cry from being “one of the longest suspension bridges in the world.” No one wins when they come in 27th. No one.

Impressive arch

Impressive arch

Our next decision was to head up to the Alfama neighborhood to get a closer look at the castle that looms over the city. Even though it “didn’t look too far away,” we decided to take the Trolley (#28E) up to the area. That turns out to be a fortuitous move, as the hills up to the castle are so steep you really should use a pick axe and crampons. Our good fortune was somewhat thwarted, however, when we accidentally disembarked from the trolley 2 stops past where we should have (and on the downside of the hill), as it turns out you have to push a button to get the trolley to stop and, well, we didn’t know that at the time. Really, if we had we would have pushed the button, ok?  Once we got that sorted it became evident we needed to backtrack UP the hill to get to the castle, and by that point I was in no mood to go inside. You see, what was a beautiful, slightly breezy, cool morning had given way to a hot afternoon, and the long pants and long-sleeved fleece I was wearing was slowly cooking me from the inside out.

Colorful Lisbon - please note the stairs. Thank you.

Colorful Lisbon – please note the stairs. Thank you.

Thankfully, Jim wasn’t all that interested in the castle, either, so we picked our way back down the hill, up another hill, down a little one, up a big one, down a little, up a lot, and walked and walked nothing but hills for what seemed like hours, winding around the Alfama, Baixa, and Chiado neighborhoods. Eventually we decided to start the long journey back to our hotel, and it went a bit like this: we trudged uphill, and uphill a bit more, and then really uphill, and then found a viewpoint over the city, which is where we realized we may have gotten turned around, so we went down a doozy of a downhill, which effectively undid all of our hard work going uphill, before going up again and finding our hotel. Phew. We had been walking for 5 hours, and were pooped. But along the way we had discovered a few things about Lisbon, aside from the hills: this capital city has a laid-back vibrancy about it that is alluring, and all of the people we encountered were exceptionally friendly. Ceramics are big here, and we saw many buildings that were covered in colorful tiles, and many plazas that had intricate mosaics made out of cobblestones.

Castle on yonder hill

Castle on yonder hill

We took a much needed rest at the hotel, and although we could have easily called it a night, hunger was setting in so we rallied and went in search of dinner. This Dinner Stroll went a bit like this: we flung ourselves down a steep hill, briefly considered a sandwich shop but decided against it, numbly wandered down Avenida la Liberdade for a good long while, up some side streets, down some others, decided to go back to the sandwich shop but it was now an hour later and they had just closed, and then wound up at a restaurant called Vintage House that was located… 20 feet from the entrance to our hotel. And it was delicious. I had what was advertised as Tomato Gnocchi with pesto, but the “tomatoes” were actually red bell peppers, and Jim had Spaghetti Carbonara. We each had a glass of wine with dinner, and once we finished eating we asked if they had outdoor space. Well, it turns out they have a wonderful rooftop bar that overlooks Lisbon, and the waiter helpfully suggested that since he’d opened a bottle of wine for our first two glasses that we just buy the rest of the bottle and take it upstairs. Well, it certainly seemed like a good idea at the time, and led to a very festive evening followed by a wonderful night’s sleep. Aaah, welcome to Lisbon.

Leave a comment


  1. James

     /  October 6, 2015


    On Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 6:30 PM, HowieRoll Around the World wrote:

    > howieroll posted: “Coming soon… providing our travel computer > cooperates.”

  2. Pat

     /  October 7, 2015

    Yay, Am looking forward to this trip.


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