Thursday, April 25, 2013

Goodbye Manchester, Hello Lisbon

Our tip is officially underway. We are about to settle into our second night at the Residencial Roxi which sits just out of the busy tourist area. Two nights ago we were sat at a Premier inn near Manchester airport, Now we feel a world away.

It's a strange feeling, knowing that we will possibly never be in England again, at least not to live and work but we leave with fond memories. Just before we left we collected one final memory, after watching a documentary about the Smiths. It turned out that the Salford Lads club where they famously held 'The Queen is dead' album shoot was just down the road from our house. It was the morning of our check out when Pip and I rose at 6am and walked down to take a few photos (It also happens to be at the end of a street called Coronation Street).

Our flight to Lisbon from Manchester was nice. There was only a scattering of people on the TAP flight but these people included four individuals who were police escorted on board prior to the rest of us. Were they convicts? I'm not sure, but they sat behind us down the back of the plane. I don't like to jump to conclusions, but it was slightly uncomfortable as we had no idea why they needed a police escort.

The flight descended over sunbaked Lisbon and did a sweep of the city before landing. It was amazing to look down at the city from above, with the terracotta roofs in full colour. Grabbing our bags and jumping on the metro we couldn't help, but notice how clean everything was. The Lisbon Metro is very well maintained and made London's look like a bit of a patch-up job.

Pip and I absolutely love Lisbon. It may be a little rough around the edges, but the place is undeniably beautiful. From every spot, you could take a postcard photo. The tourist areas are great, and I am assuming that they weren't crowded because it's not quite summer yet. For us 22 degrees with no clouds is perfect, add to that some room to move without bumping cameras with the person next to you and you have a very nice place to visit. Yes Lisbon is full of tourists, but the city doesn't seem to let that get in the way of the culture. All you have to do is walk a few blocks out, and you get streets with a few coats of varnish missing, yet those streets are just as amazing to walk down.

For once, I didn't bring my data connected phone to tell us where to go so Pip and I just walked around for hours when we arrived. When we retraced our steps on Google Maps later on, we'd actually seen most of the major landmarks. It's made me rethink my approach as I loved walking around without my eyes glued to my phone spitting out facts and directions. We just walked and asked each other "Left or right."

This photo was accidental.

On our second day we left the hotel with a vague plan of heading out to Belem, area where the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Torre de Belém, and various museums were. After enjoying a coffee and custard tart and having spent the morning visiting various grocers and food markets to build a picnic, we jumped on a train and headed out. We spent hours wandering the shoreline, walking through gardens and soaking up some sun. I would love to head further out, but we are on a serious shoestring budget and so our days treat was dinner.

Before we left Manchester, my workmate Mario wrote me a list. Mario grew up in Lisbon and so had lots of advice for us. Good food can be hard to find as there are soo many places about, and it is hard to pick the nice ones. The first nights Bacalhau a braz (Cod in fried potato's and scrambled eggs) was good enough but not great. The second night we nailed it, sort of. After an hour of walking through some rather dodgy areas of the city we ended up back in the tourist block and after turning down a gauntlet of waiters trying to get us to eat with them, we settled on place where we had the most delicious Paella. It was soo good that the American tourists behind us took a sneaky photo of it (That's right I saw you).

Now settled into our hotel where you can see the person in the shower from the bed, is in a dodgy neighborhood, and the owners don't speak English. We are looking forward to our final day before heading out to Amsterdam.

P.S. The hotel is actually very good for it's price. It's just a bit quirky.