Lisbon // Part 1

If you're following me on Instagram, you might have seen some colourful, sun-drenched photos popping up on my feed as I spent last weekend in Lisbon. Having spent just a day a few years ago in Portugal's capital, I have been eager to get back and explore more of the city ever since. Luckily the weather was perfect - blue skies every day with an average temperature of 18 degrees - my idea of spring! Along with five other photographers and Instagrammers from Berlin, London, Paris and the US, I was invited to stay in the city with HERE, a navigation application that allows you to (among other things), find your way around a city or new country offline - a huge advantage when I travel so much and don't want to come home to a huge phone bill, having used all my data abroad.

So.. after checking into the beautiful Pestana Palace on Friday afternoon, I ordered a cab and quickly headed over to the centre of Lisbon to meet Alice at Cafe A Brasileira to get my chops around some tasty pastel de natas and make the most of the first afternoon in the city.  We wandered around visiting A Vida Portuguesa to pick up some pretty soaps and Cutipol to drool over the cutlery (this brand has been on my list for a while). Then we headed back to the hotel to join the rest of our group for dinner.  I have a ton of photos, so there's going to be a couple of parts, but first here's the city of Lisbon. Scroll down for my little guide and let me know if you have any other tips! 

Pastel de natas at  A Brasileira

Pastel de natas at A Brasileira

Alice Gao  browsing books in  Livraria Sa Da Costa

Lisbon Guide:

  • Stay - Pestana Palace
  • Eat - pastel de natas at Cafe a Braseilera // lunch at A Cervicheria  or Cervejaria Ramiro or Mercado da Ribeira  // dinner at Belcanto restaurant 
  • Cafes - Copenhagen Coffee Lab // Cafe da Fabrica 
  • See - Arco Triunfal da Rua Agusta // Basilica de Estrella // Sao Jorge Castle 
  • Shop - A Vida Portuguesa // Cutipol 

Thanks to HERE for making this trip possible // All opinions my own. 


Portugal in Pictures 3: Porto

We stayed the final weekend back in Porto that's fast becoming one of my favourite cities. There's just so much here, history, culture, the sea, beaches, wine and the food. Above is one of the city's oldest delicatessens. We went for brunch at Taberna do Bonjardim, and had the most delicious all you could eat Portuguese take on English breakfast, which included sausages, chick pea and cod salad, fish toasts and wine - yep wine for brunch, why not? 

We had dinner at the Book Restaurant, a very cool place that serves a book with each course, which is called a 'chapter', obviously. There's also a bar where you can just hang out and drink cocktails. 

Action shot. They were seriously tasty prawns, cooked in chilli and oranges, I think. I still can't get over just how good the seafood is in Portugal. 

I also finally got to step inside the third most beautiful bookshop in the world (according to the Lonely Planet), Livraria Lello & Irmao. I'd love to see who won first and second, for this place is simply incredible. It's just like a scene straight out of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, which comes as no surprise considering J K Rowling was inspired by its interior - she used to work in Porto as a foreign language teacher. There's a beautiful, ruby red, intricately carved, curved staircase that curls up to the first floor. Unfortunately you can't take photos of the interior.. but here are a few more.

On the Saturday we went to Piscina das Mares in Leca de Palmeira, an incredible brutalist style swimming pool nestled in the rocks right on the beach, designed by the Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza between 1961 and 1966 - think the Barbican centre crossed with some sun, sea and sand. 

Portugal in Pictures 2: Portinho de Arrabida

We stayed a couple of nights at Casa d'Adoa - a ridiculously cute, traditional 20th century Portuguese guest house, in Portinho, just south of Lisbon with some friends. This place is one of the most idyllic spots I've ever stayed in. It's a tiny village - there are literally only a few villas and a couple of restaurants - nestled into a little cove, perched on a long stretch of sandy white beach. When I retire, this could quite possibly be the place. I could have stayed here for a week, mooching about on the beach and eating as many clams as possible. Happy as a clam.

The clams. I could have eaten that whole bowl, but unfortunately I had to share... 
On one of the days we took the ferry across to Comporta, on Troia, (which the Guardian recently compared with Ibiza on a good day), a little peninsula of land with 13 miles of white sandy beach, another winner. All we had to do was walk a little way away from the beach bars and it was like we had the beach all to ourselves, a little slice of sandy paradise. And I even went in the sea. I love the sea, but am not good with waves (I've even tried to learn to surf to overcome this one) or cold water, so rarely venture into the Portuguese sea as there are usually big waves and being the Atlantic an' all, the water's freezing. But here the water was just perfect, a little fresh, but swimmable. 

Back to food. One evening we tried Isaias, a family run restaurant in Sesimbra, about half an hour north of where we were staying and had the most delicious spread of three different freshly grilled fish; a turbot, sea bream and black swordfish, potatoes, salad, bread and red wine, followed by puddings. Not only was it one of the most delicious meals I've ever eaten, but it cost, wait for it... (bearing in mind all that food) just 10 euros each. Yep that's £7. Cheap as chips. I probably shouldn't be telling you this, as I'd like it to remain my little secret. 

The skilled Portuguese de-boning the turbot. 

Portugal in Pictures 1

I'm finally getting around to posting my Portugal photos. I know, I know, they're over two weeks late.
But I do have a good excuse this time. I've been in the UK for the last week - I went down to Canterbury in Kent (where I grew up) last weekend for my friend's wedding. I've known her since I was 11 and was very proud to be asked to be one of her bridesmaids, so it was an extra special weekend. I won't say too much about it in this post, as I'll be writing a dedicated wedding post, but just to say that it was a truly wonderful and beautiful day. 

So, back to Portugal. We ventured north of Porto on the Friday night for a friend's bbq, and the following day went to two of the most beautiful villages I've ever seen with another couple. The first, Caminha, had a beautiful square surrounded by cafes, where locals and tourists were just wiling away time, sipping on expressos and relaxing in the shade. And the second, Vila Nova de Cerveira, which was celebrating its biennial, hence the draped fabric and colourful hanging lanterns across the narrow streets. It was really beautiful, especially the contrast against the bright blue sky. After wandering around the tiny cobbled streets, we settled on a bench outside a little bar/cafe, Tasca do Cais for some home made lemonade and a huge plate of cheese.