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Lovely Lisbon: Portugal’s purse-friendly capital

This time last year, I’d never even been to Portugal but since I’ve enjoyed two visits to very different parts and fallen in love.

I went on a press trip to The Algarve last year and when it came time to book a holiday this year, a friend recommended Lisbon.

When it comes to holidays, I’m pretty easy to please but I do like a new destination every time.

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What’s great about Lisbon:

In terms of value for money, Lisbon is extremely good compared to Dublin/Ireland in general.

We weren’t on a tight budget but the majority of our meals plus drinks came in at under €35.

Public transport is excellent, it only costs €1.50 for a journey on the Metro, regardless if you’re going 10 stops or only 1. They also have the famous trams and modern trams and buses.

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The no 28 tram

We bought reloadable Viva Viagem travel cards which we could also use on the tram and the overground train to Sintra. They are just 50 cent.

Be careful if you’re topping up the travel card as I accidentally deactivated mine by removing it from the machine too soon and had to buy another.

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Beatles t-shirt and vintage shorts

DINING OUT AND LOCAL DELICACIES

Our lunch in Brick Cafe just around from our Airbnb in Intendente came in at €17 for two large dishes, a coffee, and a juice.

Even the most expensive meal we had at the beautiful Pharmacia Restaurant in Lisbon’s Apothecary Museum, overlooking the ocean, only came in at about €65 for two meals and drinks.

The quirky restaurant lets you choose a “prescription” cocktail, including a ‘Placebo’ non-alcoholic one.

However, the service was not as good as some of the cheaper restaurants, i.e. they forgot to bring us water and an ashtray.

It was hotter than normal for September so it was nice to be able to sit outdoors at Pharmacia and also in Alfama where I sampled the tasty bacalhau (codfish) dish for the first time.

Not only was the food affordable, but it was also delicious. Seafood is abundant in Lisbon, whether you want to try octopus, squid or sardines.

Strolling around the cobbled streets of Alfama, we saw some older ladies selling shots of ginjinha liqueur in a chocolate shot glass. Of course, we had to try it and afterward, I tried the ginjinha with tonic, equally delicious.

My tastebuds were also tickled by the sweet tawny port wine, served over ice. I barely touched a gin and tonic because of all the delicious local drinks.

Taqueria Patron in Bairro Alto is a great Mexican spot, we ate here twice.

The nachos and tacos were delicious and we even got a free shot the second time!

One dish I was dying to try was the feijoada, a black bean and pork stew which my Brazilian friends introduced to me to many years ago in the Epicurean Foodhall (RIP).

We found a lovely Brazilian restaurant called Terras Gerais Bistro where we tucked into feijoada served with collard greens and orange slices with a brigadeiro (traditional Brazilian sweet) for dessert.

My boyfriend had never had feijoada before and was so impressed, he recreated it at home.

The restaurant owner was lovely and very welcoming and it felt like dining in someone’s home.

Memmo Alfama
Memmo Alfama

Another lovely place we enjoyed a drink was the Memmo Alfama hotel where we could sit out on the balcony overlooking the sea.

Memmo Alfama Hotel
Memmo Alfama Hotel

My other favourite bar was the quirky Pavailhao Chines, which felt more like a museum as it was full of war memorabilia, antiques and collector’s items.

We initially thought it was closed because the door was locked but you just have to ring the bell to be admitted.

Luckily, another couple arrived and rang the bell just as we were about to leave.

THINGS TO DO

The 33C heat was a major deterrent to sight-seeing but we did venture out in the mornings and late afternoons.

Among the highlights for us were the Jardim Botanico, the Castelo de Sao Jorge, the Feira da Ladra flea market and a day trip to Sintra.

The Jardim Botanico proved to be the perfect place to escape the heat, with the giant trees blocking out the sun.

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Flowers at the Jardim Botanico
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Jardim Botanico
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Jardim Botanico
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The shade was badly needed!
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Jardim Botanico

We also enjoyed numerous drinks in Cais do Sodre and strolling around the Praca do Comercio.

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Praca do Comercio

On Sunday, we took a train to Sintra but almost missed it after a misunderstanding with the travel card and then by me leaving my bank card in the machine!

The train fare was about €5 and it was just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon.

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The town of Sintra
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Street sign in Sintra

There’s lots to see in Sintra and we chose the Quinta da Regaleira and the Palacio Nacional.

I had been thinking about visiting Sintra ever since I read about it on fellow blogger Shona’s site.

Our Lonely Planet guidebook wrongly informed us that entry to the Palacio Nacional was free on Sundays – turns out that’s just for Sintra residents!

It was €10 each to enter the Palacio Nacional. It’s an incredible building with a blend of architectural styles.

Like much of Portugal, Sintra was once ruled by the Moors but later it fell to King Alfonso Henriques.

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Chandelier in the Palacio Nacional
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Ceiling decoration
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Fountain in the National Palace courtyard
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Tile mosiac
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Close up of a tile mosiac
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Tiles and plasterwork at the Palacio Nacional
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Views from the Palacio Nacional

Sintra is surrounded by hills and woods, with palaces and grand buildings around every corner.

The fairytale settings bring hordes of tourists so be prepared for the crowds, both attractions were quite busy.

We had to queue for a short time to get into the Quinta da Regaleira.

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Me at the Palacio Nacional
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Sintra

The Quinta da Regaleira was full of amazing twists and turns, winding stone staircases up to turrets and towers and tunnels behind waterfalls.

It consists of a chapel, palace and gardens and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I was captivated by the imposing-looking Castelo dos Mouros but it looked like it would be an arduous climb!

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Castelo dos Mouros

Food-wise, Sintra was not as good or as cheap as Lisbon but we fuelled up with coffee and a toasted sandwich.

There are lots of little gift shops where you can buy quirky items like a fish-shaped oven glove but I went for postcards and fridge magnets as usual!

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Quinta da Regaleira
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Sintra
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Sculptures
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Fountain

Much of the architecture of the Quinta da Regaleira is said to feature secret religious symbols and references.

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Quinta da Regaleira
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Views from Quinta da Regaleira
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The gardens of Quinta da Regaleira

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We also visited the Castelo Sao Jorge and the famous Feira da Ladra flea market.

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Castelo de Sao Jorge
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Views from the castle
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At the top of the castle
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Views of the Carmo Convent

At the castle, we learned the story of the legendary knight Martim Moniz who threw himself through the castle doors to stop the Moors from closing it, dying in the process.

We had seen depictions of this at the Martim Moniz metro stop but couldn’t figure out what it was about till then!

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It was a hot sunny day
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Me and my bud, Mr Stone Lion
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Old cannon at the Castelo
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Castelo de Sao Jorge
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Lisbon’s famous suspension bridge, Ponto 25 de Abril

Next stop was the market but we didn’t stay long as it was BOILING hot by late afternoon.

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Pottery at the Feira da Ladra
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Views of the cupola
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The market

Check out the beautiful skirt I bought for €15 (I probably could’ve haggled better!) here.

Feira da Ladra means ‘Market of the female thieves’ but thankfully we didn’t get robbed!

There was a lot of junk at the market but there were also some really cool antiques and if you were willing to hunt for them, some good bargains.

I also saw some old Tintin comics and cool maps.

The market is on every Saturday and it’s best to go early in the day.

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Old magazines and newspapers at the Feira da Ladra
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Maps and comic books
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Moorish-style water fountain

My other shopping recommendation for vintage-lovers is Retro City Lisboa which was only a few minutes’ walk from where we were staying.

It has a good selection of vintage shoes and clothing from eras ranging from the 50s to the 90s and I bought this gorgeous dress there for only €18.

Towards the end of our holiday, we visited the famous Se Cathedral which was truly beautiful and afterward we had a drink in Portas do Sol.

And I found the most delicious fresh pasteis de nata in a tiny backstreet kitchen while walking from the Portas do Sol down to the seafront.

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The Se
Inside the Se
Inside the Se

DOWNSIDES

The only major downside to Lisbon is its extremely steep hills, they are tough to navigate in the heat and not for travellers with mobility issues.

However, the trams are handy and you can use the same travelcard for the metro.

There are also elevators in some buildings that will take you up to the top of steep streets, very convenient!

Parts of Cais do Sodre are a little seedy and people approached us trying to sell us coke and weed (possibly just bay leaves) but at no time did I ever feel in danger.

Don’t fall for it 😛

Lisbon is also a lot cleaner than Dublin (they wash the main streets every night), there seemed to be a lot less homeless people (that’s not to say they don’t exist but there definitely seemed to be fewer) and public transport is much better.

English is widely spoken but if you have a few words of Portuguese, try and use them!

I feel there’s still so much of the city we haven’t seen and I hope to be back one day.

We flew to Lisbon with TAP Air, the national airline and it was a great experience. Bags and a small meal and drink are included in the fare, there’s more legroom than on Ryanair and we didn’t have anyone sitting beside us on either leg of the journey.

Our return flights for two were €354 (we got a €20 discount for registering online).

Hope you all enjoyed this post and if you’ve any thoughts, leave me a comment below by clicking the grey speech bubble on the bottom right.

Thanks for reading and if you would like to follow me on social media, check out my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook page.

Edel

Steps of Schloss Nymphenburg

Visiting Munich: A most convenient city

The best word to describe Munich city is convenient.  It’s easy to navigate, well-serviced and very accessible.

English is widely spoken (obviously attempts to speak German are appreciated), there’s loads of affordable public transport and the city isn’t overly expensive. Even the main shopping street Kaufingerstrasse never feels overly crowded.

One of the best things about Munich was being able to use the underground stations to cross the road which was super handy. Germans, after all, don’t tolerate jaywalkers!

And the stations had one escalator which ran both ways – how efficient!

Marienplatz Munich
Marienplatz Munich

I shouldn’t have expected any less but this was my first time in Germany.

I hadn’t much interest in travelling to Germany previously because I always thought it seemed dull and unromantic compared to France, Spain and Italy.

I also had the displeasure of living with a German housemate in the past who ran the gaff like Mountjoy!

However, I put my misgivings and grudges aside – and had a wonderful time in Munich.

Marienplatz
Marienplatz – the main square in Munich

Before Christmas, I spontaneously booked a trip to Munich in Ryanair’s Black Friday sale, €16.99 each way.

Flying mid-week was great as the flight wasn’t full and we even got emergency exit seats – all the leg room!

Tip: If you’re flying Ryanair, wait as long as possible to select a seat, this is one way to get an emergency exit seat as they have to put people sitting there.

We landed in Munich eager to sample some Bavarian delicacies and drench our thirst with a beer.

Marienplatz Munich
Marienplatz Munich

We took a train into the city centre from the airport which took approximately 30 minutes.

On disembarking, we wandered down the magnificent archway to Kaufingerstrasse. (Pronounced “Cow-finngir-strassa”, rather than “Cow-Finger-Strassa”!

Archway to Kaufingerstrasse
This archway to Kaufingerstrasse is beautiful but I couldn’t get a photo in the day time

We found a little restaurant called Augustiner Klosterwirt down a side street where we ordered beers and food.

The weather was quite mild and we could even sit outside. Most of the restaurants leave blankets out for patrons on cold days.

The beer was called Edelstoff so it got my approval right away. It was delicious and light and the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

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I had two sausages with a pretzel, black bread and a delicious cheese and butter dip called obatzda.

After our meal, we checked into our hotel, Le Meridien Munich. The hotel was centrally situated, right across from the train station on Bayerstrasse and was gorgeous.

After a brief rest, we headed out to the famous Hoffbrauhaus to grab our second beer of the day.

Although the Hoffbrauhaus was busy, we found a quiet corner, where we ordered two steins and a giant pretzel.

It was a lively place, thronged with tourists and had a live band in traditional dress playing in the background.

After drinking a stein, I didn’t think I’d be able for food anytime soon, so we wandered around the streets.

Beer and pretzel
Huge pretzel and huge beer!

My appetite soon returned and we nipped into a movie-themed restaurant called 35 milimeter. Here we enjoyed a dinner of burgers and chips, however, I failed to finish a pint.

The next morning I saw the nasty effects of dehydration from flying and drinking. My face was incredibly puffy and it remained like that all day!

Breakfast consisted of a coffee and a schmalznudel, a delicious traditional pastry,  from Cafe Frischhut.

schmalznudel pastry
Delicious schmalznudel

After this, we took a train to go to the Schloss Nymphenburg, or Palace of the Nymph, a beautiful Baroque palace outside Munich.

Schloss Nymphenburg

We had to walk for about 15 minutes through an industrial-looking neighbourhood but gradually, our surroundings changed as we got closer.

The palace was stunning, like a smaller Versailles.

One thing we immediately noticed was that there weren’t loads of visitors, one huge perk of travelling mid-week.

Great Hall
Inside the Great Hall

It was so quiet that some of the museum workers were even painstakingly brushing dust off a chandelier. Rather them than me!

Schloss Nymphenburg
On the steps of the Schloss
Steps of Schloss Nymphenburg
Walking up the steps of the Schloss

Given that we were only there for two and a half days, we didn’t plan an itinerary but Schloss Nymphenburg was top of our list as we both like history and I love art and architecture.

It was only €6 to visit the Schloss and the adjacent porcelain museum but we decided to give the museum a miss.

Schloss Nymphenburg
Details from inside the place

I thought this was great value considering many similar places are far more expensive.

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Decoration inside the palace

The Great Hall is absolutely breathtaking and I could spend hours looking at the stunning rococo design.

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Chandeliers in Schloss Nymphenburg

King Ludwig’s I Gallery of Beauties was also fascinating, a collection of portraits of women deemed to be the most attractive of their time.

The Gallery of Beauties
The Gallery of Beauties

When we came outside, I climbed the steps of the wrap-around balustrade to take in the view from the balcony.

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Views from the steps of the Schloss

Our beer house tour continued in the evening as we set out for the Augustiner Keller. I opted for a radler, a mix of beer and lemonade – ideal if you don’t feel in the mood for more beer.

We headed to a second beer house Augustiner Braustuben for dinner.

My boyfriend had the wiener schnitzel but I wasn’t crazy about eating veal so I gave it a miss.

Afterwards, we went to the bar of our hotel and enjoyed some expensive but delicious drinks – I swapped the beers for tasty French mojitos!

Initially, we had hoped to visit more attractions including the Alte Pinakothek art museum and the Residenz palace in the city centre.

residenz munich

However, time was limited and my ankle wasn’t up to walking far (although we did do 16,000 steps every day) so we decided to go to the English Gardens instead.

It was a cold day and although we enjoyed our stroll, it probably wasn’t the best time of year to enjoy the gardens.

English Gardens Munich
English Gardens Munich

We stopped off at the Chinesischern Turm or Chinese Tower, a wooden pagoda, five storeys tall.

Here, we finally got to try currywurst with chips at a restaurant and it was absolutely delicious!

Chinese tower, English Gardens
Chinese tower, English Gardens

The restaurant was almost deserted so we enjoyed a peaceful lunch before getting on a tram back into the city to go shopping.

Munich has all the chain stores, H&M, Zara but although there were still sales on,  I was tired and bloated from all the food and beers and trying on clothes was frustrating.

On a whim, I went to Pimkie where I spotted a gorgeous midnight blue puffer coat. It was marked €30 on sale from €60 but was just €24 when I took it to the till! Result!

Our final few hours were spent wandering around the Marienplatz, the main square, stopping off for a look into St Peter’s Church and of course, another beer in the Rathaus beer hall before going heading to the airport.

You can climb up the tower of St Peter’s Church and look out over the city but it was dark by then so we decided against it.

One random observation, there seems to be a lot of people on crutches in Munich. I tend to notice people on crutches more since my injury but there definitely seemed a disproportionate amount of them here!

We mainly walked and used the underground to get around and we bought multi-trip tickets which were very convenient.

Hope you’ve all enjoyed this post. If you’ve been to Munich and leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

Thanks for reading and check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page here.

Edel

 

 

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Day trip to Ghent

On our second day in Belgium, we headed out of the city to visit Ghent and Bruges. Our hostel Sleepwell Brussels had cute hand-drawn maps made by locals so we took these with us.

A youth travel company USE-IT makes these maps in conjunction with locals and they’re an excellent resource. (Not that I can read maps but they’re nice to look at.)

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First stop was Ghent which is a beautiful Dutch city. Don’t be fooled by its medieval vibe, it’s also a place of genetic research and home to several Nobel prize winners!!

Ghent also has an eco-friendly vibe with wide cycle paths and promotes vegetarianism avidly even having a “meat-free” Thursday in many places. Also, no-one seems to lock their bike up in Ghent….wouldn’t happen in Dublin…

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For our day out I wore a nice casual outfit: a vintage tweed jacket which I bought in Paris, a floral jumper, black skinnies with a crochet hem and my trusty Topshop plimsolls.

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We strolled through the town taking in the sights with a guided tour from Michele’s lovely friend Christine who lives in Ghent.

We stopped for a lunch of “Ghent Bolognese” which is basically finely ground mince bolognese with carrots and mushrooms at a restaurant called Club Reserva Cafe. It was delicious!

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The beautiful Saint Nicholas church

Ghent was an industrial town, ruled by traders and Saint Nicholas’s church was owned by the traders. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of traders.

Incidentally, Ghent was one of the first places after the UK to participate in the industrial revolution. This church underwent several attacks and ransacking but is undergoing reconstruction today.

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Ghent Castle

Ghent Castle harks back to a time when Ghent was part of the Spanish Empire. The Spanish occupation was a difficult time and most traces of Spanish influence have been removed from the city.

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The picturesque canals are lined with old buildings and boats by the docks and I got some great photos here.

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The architecture and canals are quite similar to those of Amsterdam.

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The old fish market
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Detail from the fish market building

While in Ghent we also sampled traditional “cuberdons”. These are little red fruit sweets that look like a nose.

They have a crispy coating and are filled with a sweet liquid. They are quite strong so a few will suffice.

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From beneath this bridge is the only point in Ghent where you can see all of its three medieval towers together.

The most famous one, The Belfry of Ghent, is not a symbol of the clergy or the monarchy but in fact the people themselves.

The gilded dragon on top of the tower is a representation of this.

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Ghent Belfry

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and photos and thanks as always for visiting my blog.

I’ll also be attending the Irish Blogger Association conference soon, hope to meet some of you there! Don’t forget to check out my InstagramTwitter and Facebook page.

Edel