Monday, November 11, 2019

Portugal in September: Lisbon

Can you believe it? This was our seventh biannual get together. Our group is centered on friends we first met during our student years more than 50 years ago during our student years at Bishop’s University, and we are still friends. The group has changed a bit over the years and a few good friends and spouses, who missed going to Bishop's have joined us. It is still an eagerly anticipated event. Our first week together was May 2007 in Southern Ireland, suggested by Claudia and Neil Carver. That trip set a precedent. At the end of each trip, the question is always:  Where are we going next time?

We try to avoid the most popular tourist season and look for a reasonably priced villa big enough to accommodate between 12 and 16 people. After our Irish adventure, we have explored Wales, Brittany and Provence in France, Sicily, southwestern Italy. This year we chose Portugal. We are currently taking recommendations for the next place to visit together two years from now.

Portugal has had rave reviews from several of our friends and Ray and I had never visited the country. Therefore, Portugal was our choice for September 21 – 28 2019. We found and reserved a large villa just north of the Douro River, about a 75 minute drive east of Porto. Very soon, Suzanne and David Andrews, Claudia and Neil Carver, Margaret and Jack Dunphy, Sheila MacDonald and Barry Mair, and Pat and Bruce Marshall were signed up.

Since our friends live in various cities in Canada, each person is responsible for making their own arrangements to arrive at the villa in time for our week together. The villas we have rented tend to be in the country, a distance from the nearest town. That means that rental cars are required, either individually or with others who have the same interests. Once at the villa, everyone is free to explore the area on their own or join others for whatever activity might be planned. To avoid having to choose a restaurant for dinner that would require driving after dark, we share preparing a communal dinner each night. That has worked very well. Besides getting together to share experiences of the day, sharing the cost of the villa and all food and drink bought for our time together makes for a very economical and enjoyable holiday.

There are always interesting places to explore that we didn't have time to visit during our weeks together. This trip was no different. Before going to the villa, we chose to visit Lisbon and then spend a week in Mallorca. After our stay at the villa, we explored more of Portugal before flying home from Lisbon.


Click Lisbon to see photos of our visit to the city. 

Ray and I joined Suzanne and David Andrews in Toronto and flew together to Lisbon September 9 2019. We had rented a two bedroom an apartment for three nights with www.booking.com. It was a great place to see some of Lisbon and to get over jet lag. The apartment was very close to Mercado da Ribiera, built in 1892, to get over jet lag and enjoy the city. The Mercado da Ribiera consists of a farmers market and the new Time Out market, a huge food court with a central area of long communal tables surrounded by small restaurants cooking and serving meals with an emphasis on local specialties. It was in this market where we first sampled Pastéis de Nata (a small custard tart), which has almost become the national symbol of Portugal. The Time Out Market concept is very popular in Lisbon and is spreading to other cities, including Montreal and soon, Toronto.

The best way to see a city is to walk the streets and that is exactly what we did. We followed Rick Steves walking tour of the Baixa and Bairo Alto areas. The weather was just right for walking, there were more than enough interesting places to visit and we found a wonderful little restaurant for lunch in the Bairo Alto. The friendly waiter spoke good English and told us more about the area. He even gave us a small glass of local port to end our meal.

We had a choice for our second day in Lisbon: take another walking tour or take the Hop On, Hop Off Bus. We chose the bus. It was quite expensive and didn't live up to similar tours in other cities. We did get to see some of the northern reaches of the city from the bus and we enjoyed the end of our trip at the Monument to the Discoveries on the shores of the Rio Tejo. 

Our visit to Lisbon was too short. We will have to return another time to see all that we missed.

Click Lisbon to see photos of our visit to the city.

The next day we flew from Lisbon to Palma, Mallorca.

Read the next blog to hear about our Mallorca visit

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