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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Typical streets in the Alfama
Travel Date 20th-24th June 2013.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

The apartment was only a ten minute walk from Santa Apolónia train station, initially flat and level beside the harbour then steeply up-hill. I spent a while waiting outside the apartment for the owner, and was about to try to call her on the phone when she opened the door and looked out. It had not occurred to me to knock on the door. Idiot! My excuse was that I was tired. The apartment was marvellous for the price and location, but I had some interesting moments in it. More on that later. 

The apartment is the third door down the little alley on the left. The entrance for the flat above mine is in the other street to the right.

After a few hours much needed sleep I went wandering Lisbon in the afternoon.

I discovered my apartment's location in the Alfama was excellent for seeing the old town but the old suburb was built by mountain goats.

The only flat spots in the Alfama are indoors. The streets and alleys are cobble-stoned and all seem to be not far from vertical, as my aging legs quickly informed me. 

After leaving my apartment I climbed this street, then turned the corner. 

The cobblestones are occasionally replaced by forty or fifty steps, just for variety. I had to climb these to reach the tram stop.

Those trams could handle very steep slopes, but when even they found the going too hard there is the Lavra Funicular.

The apartment is somewhere behind the pink house in the centre of this picture.

I ate a little unwisely on this trip, lots of fish but also some spuds and bread, but I am fairly sure the additional exercise compensated nicely. Well, my meter seemed to be saying so, but my belt didn't become much looser...

With no particular destination in mind I walked a km or two until I found a metro station where I could purchase my daily Viagem card. It cost €0.50 for the card and €6.00 to charge it for unlimited metro and tram rides for 24 hours.

I used it a lot over the next few days, re-charging daily. I found that tram 28 was only 200m from my apartment, although it seemed to be also 200m vertically. I like to get on trams and buses and ride to the end of the line, just to see where they go. This is the end of the tram line in modern Lisbon. 

Over the next three days I wandered the old town by foot, tram, train and ferry. I also took a day trip to Sintra; I will write about that later.

Among its multitude of churches is the Basílica do Sagrado Coração de Jesus (Sacred Heart of Jesus) which was on the tram route home.

I spent several hours in the Castelo de São Jorge. It occupies a commanding position high above the town and harbour. Settlements on the site date back to Roman times but the Castle is now preserved in its mediaeval state.


The food was wonderful in Lisbon. I cooked my own breakfasts but ate fish at almost every other meal. I will follow this post with some comments on food and fado in the next. In the evenings I only had to stroll a short distance down the Rua da Regueira to choose from several restaurants.

I would wander back after a couple of hours of dining and free fado entertainment. Despite the alleys and darkness I never felt threatened at any time after hours in the Alfama.

I took a ferry ride to the other side of the Tagus River. When crossing this magnificent harbour it is easy to understand how Lisbon helped Portugal become one of the great sea powers of the world in the Colonial era.

This section was very definitely 'tourist central'. I chose to eat at a little taberna, just a hole in the wall, but they served wonderful dourada (gilt-head bream).

After all my climbs and descents in the Alfama I decided not to go up to Lisbon's Cristo Rei. The 28 meter statue was built in 1959 as thanks for sparing Portugal from entering World War II, using Rio de Janeiro's 'Christ the Redeemer' statue as inspiration. It looked very impressive from the boat, but my legs had had enough.

On my last day I took the tram in the opposite direction, just to see where it went. There was a market in the grounds of a cathedral, with all the usual buskers and souvenirs but plenty of ordinary market goods and lots of locals buying.

Finally a little story on things to be careful of when using accommodation in foreign lands booked via the web. Over the years I have been fairly lucky with my choices of apartment booked via the internet. Since our first trip in 2003 I have booked apartment stays varying from four days to a week in London, Menton, Buenos Aires, Paris, Granada and several other places. In every case the apartment was much cheaper than hotels in the same locality, more convenient for my needs with cooking and washing facilities, and generally a much better choice than a hotel.

But each, in their own way, had a story attached. Lisbon was no exception.

The location was excellent, the apartment was modern internally, clean, well laid out and the bed was comfortable. For
€50 per night it was magic. It was a pity that the neighbours above were descended from elephants and the neighbours opposite appeared to be deaf, needing maximum volume on their sound systems. Thankfully both went quiet after midnight.

I eventually, with trial and error, worked out how to use the ultra-modern black glass hotplate with no apparent controls, the complicated TV/Set-top box with 200 channels and the ultra modern coffee-maker. The gratis wine and cheese from the owner were very much appreciated but some operating instructions would have helped more. 

The washing machine became a major challenge. I could not find any instructions. I searched the internet and worked out how to set the dials and buttons for washing clothes from the operating manual of an earlier model on the web. But nothing worked. Eventually I discovered that the circuit breaker was turned off at the switchboard. I should have realised at that moment there was a reason for that.

I loaded my clothes and detergent and switched it on. Lights flashed and it appeared to be working. I intended going out to let it do the washing while I was away, but I changed my mind and decided to do some work on the computer. It is very lucky I did. I was typing when I heard a strange sound. When I turned around the kitchen floor was flooding with grey water. I immediately stopped the machine. When I investigated I found that the waste hose for the washing machine was not connected to anything at all, it was just lying loose in the cupboard under the sink.

I cleaned up the flood and the kitchen floor. Thankfully, my host had provided a mop and bucket. I was able to continue washing by placing the waste hose in the mop bucket, emptying it after each rinse. I was surprised to see how much and how often water poured out of that front loader. The spin cycle developed a loud noise at top speed, so I paused it every time the noise appeared and slowly finished the wash. It was supposed to be a washer/dryer but I could not get the drying setting to work, so I hung my shirts and vests in the bathroom and hung underclothes and socks wherever I could. They all dried after a couple of days.

I've dropped a hint to the owner that it may be wise to get a plumber to connect the waste outlet. I switched off the circuit breaker again for safety. Now I knew why the previous tenant had done the same.

Every apartment has a story...

Despite that it was an excellent apartment in the best location of a lovely city. 

Cheers, Alan

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