Ladies in Lisbon

After eleven years of friendship, Jen, Hazel and I decided it was about bloody time we went on holiday together. So last July we packed our bags and headed to Lisbon for five days of sun, fun and FOOD! This post will cover the sun and fun.

I had little to no expectations of Lisbon, wanting nothing more than a cheap and cheerful setting for some quality time with my besties. We would have had a wonderful time wherever we went, enjoying each other’s company and doing what we do best – talking! But, without getting too Carrie Bradshaw about it, the city became a crucial member of our little gang and added a wonderful, exciting, charming flare that I thought only a gay BFF could provide!

The trip was filled with laughter, love and adventure, the memories of which I will cherish forever. But I’ll skip the “you probably had to be there” stories, because…well it’s obvious, and focus instead on the things that I think will be of interest to anyone thinking of visiting this unassuming gem on the Iberian Peninsula.

Day one: Free walking tour

The first thing we did, after dropping our bags at the hostel and getting some food, was to go on a free walking tour of the city. There are several available and the one we did is linked above. Would I recommend this particular one? I'm not sure...

I have enjoyed every free walking tour I have ever done, finding them to be a great way to see a city if you’re short of time (and cash). This was, by far, the weirdest one I have ever done and for the first half an hour all three of us were confused, slightly annoyed and more than a little hesitant about its value. The guide, Miguel, was an absolute character. He learned English from watching Monty Python, meaning he had a really unusual accent, and an even more unusual sense of humour. Once we became accustomed to his style, we began to enjoy his quirky facts and ended up having a really fun four hours. I don’t think I learnt much about the history of the city, apart from a few key facts, but I did learn to appreciate the lampposts, which are a particular favourite of our eccentric guide. Rather than point out key landmarks, he preferred to draw our attending to the less obvious of details, such as the way the windows on the building below are different styles on the two sides…

It was a weird but entertaining way to begin our trip and in the end, I think we all agreed it was definitely worth it, for the laughs if nothing else!

Aforementioned building with the "interesting" windows

Day two: Sintra

We took a train to Sintra, which is a small, quaint town on the edge of a national park. The town is known for its palaces, castles and all-round beauty. We were a little selective about what we saw because each palace had an entrance fee, but I think you’ll agree we saw some wonderful sites regardless. It’s definitely worth a trip if you’re in Lisbon, but wear comfy shoes because there is a fair amount of walking and some pretty steep hills involved.

The castle is hiding behind the clouds!

Well worth the walk up the hill to see - it's beautiful and so colourful!

The tiles...oh the tiles!

Regular readers may have noticed that Dave and I don’t really do selfies. Maybe the odd one here and there but it’s not something we ever really got into. Hazel, on the other hand, is a big fan and this trip was like a crash-course for me! We got some great ones together and I have to say, I started to really see the appeal.

That night, after a much needed nap, we got dressed up in our second-nicest outfits and hit the town. Well, being three ladies nearing 30, in long-term relationships, it was more like we nudged the town and then apologied politely, rather than actually hit it. But we looked fantastic, all coincidentally dressed in yellow. We went to a bar/club that someone at the hostel recommended – it was an old, abandoned apartment block with some of the floors/rooms having been converted into bars, dance floors or general seating areas. It was quirky and had a chilled-out vibe which was perfect for what we wanted. We were very VERY proud of ourselves for staying out until almost 3am! And when we got back we ate crisps and continued to natter until we fell asleep. It was like old times back in the Colgate Castle.

Day three: Wandering

We took it easy on the third day because we had a very special evening ahead of us. We wandered the streets of the city, visiting a huge flea market and walking up some hills to an excellent view point. While the girls were enjoying the vista, I bought us some fresh lemonade from a little stall. I mention this because it was one of the only exchanges I had in Portuguese that actually went well! Every other time I either became painfully aware just how different the Portuguese in Rio is to that in Lisbon, or the person I was speaking to responded in English. I can speak the language, honest! But apparently only successfully in Brazil…

Who cares about the view behind us?! IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SELFIES!
The special thing we did that night will be described in detail in a later post, but I’ll mention it briefly now to whet your appetites. This was a very special trip for the three of us for several reasons, one of which being that it was one of the last times we’d be together while we were all in our 20s. For this reason, we decided to treat ourselves while we were in Lisbon and splash out on a meal at a Michelin star restaurant. This was our joint 30th birthday present to each other, and it was an excellent one! But as I said, you’ll have to wait to read about what we ate…

We saved our actual best outfits for this extra special night.
Day four: Belém

Our final full day in the city was top notch. We rented bikes and cycled along the water’s edge to Belém. It’s a lovely ride and not at all strenuous so I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. On the way we stopped at a very cool market at a place called LxFactory. Definitely worth a stop if it’s open, as there are lots of quirky products and I bought some delicious ginger marmalade!

Anyway, Belém had a lot to offer, including the most well-known place to eat the famous (and delicious) pastel de nata, and the rather beautiful Jerónimos Monastery. We got a hot tip that we could beat the queue to get into the monastery if we bought our tickets from the less busy museum next door. We stood in this very small queue, feeling extremely smug, until we realised that the man at the till was as slow as Rowan Atkinson in Love Actually! A reference which Jen made at the time, much to the delight of the lady waiting behind us.

On our way back to the city we stopped at a bar with lovely white sofas on the veranda and a man playing a guitar and singing some great, if a little loud, classic rock hits. It was a wonderful way to end the afternoon.

There is a lot more to see and do in Lisbon than I have mentioned and it’s somewhere I definitely want to go back to, soon. It’s beautiful, charming, quirky and probably the most relaxing capital city I have ever visited. Dave commented in his post that he found the drug dealers to be an annoyance, but I have to say I didn’t have this experience at all. Maybe I didn’t notice them, or maybe they just didn’t approach us, but it wasn’t an issue for us.

What else can I say about Lisbon? Lots! But most of it will be about the food so I’ll save that for the next post. For now I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of this truly wonderful city.

Queens of the castle!