We began our second day in Lisbon with a 90-minute tram ride for an overview. All the guidebooks advise taking the Number 28 tram, but the hotel concierge strongly advised against it. Because it is a regular city tram, it is cheap. With all those tourists crowded into a single car, it turns out that the tram is the perfect breeding ground for pickpockets. Apparently, pickpockets are real problem in Lisbon. I even saw one local walking down the street in a green t-shirt that proclaimed in stylized lettering, "Pickpockets Love Tourists." Given the concierge's cautionary note, we opted for the more expensive tourist tram that takes the same route, but that is unappealing to pickpockets because of the steep ticket price. We also our wallets in the hotel safe for the duration, each carrying some cash and a credit card in a hard to reach pocket. I always opt for the front pocket--if someone is going to go rummaging through my pockets I might as well get a tingle from the experience.
This was the first time we ever opted for a Hop on, Hop Off overview. I suspect we won't do it again. Somewhat useful, but we would have gotten to all the places we saw, saving 19 Euros apiece and two hours of time.
After the tram ride, we took a taxi up to the top of Alfama, visiting the Monastery/Church of São Vicente de Fora, which was well worth the effort. We particularly liked the room housing the tombs, which looked like cargo shipping containers, where King Carlos I (1863-1908), who was assassinated by two republican activists, is buried in an impressive, but eerie tomb that rests in the center of the room. Also of note were the 40 traditional blue and white tile murals depicting fairy tales and proverbs, as well as the room that held the loot (no photographs, strictly enforced). We headed to the rooftop of the church for spectacular views of Lisbon, while hoping we wouldn't be there when the church bells rang out.
It took a little bit of effort, but we finally found a route that lead to the São Jorge Castle at the top of the hill, which was occupied by the Moors before the Catholics (Afonso Henriques) captured it in 1147. Evelyn tried to make a dinner reservation at the Casa do Leão restaurant that is in the castle, but it was booked solid. To our good fortune, Evelyn ran into the maître d an hour later. He remembered her, informing her that there was a cancellation.
We spent several hours enjoying the castle before dinner. We climbed the ramparts, Evelyn sketched, and I photographed. We also had a lot of fun watching kids chase the peacocks that wonder the grounds.
When we arrived at the restaurant, it was empty, so we aren't sure why Evelyn couldn't make a 7:30PM reservation when she first inquired. Once again, we split a bottle of wine. We started with a tuna and green bean salad, and then both had the Fish and Seafood Catalan, which was excellent--clams, fish, prawns, mussels, and assorted vegetables in a tomato-based soup. For dessert, we split a plate of fresh fruit. When we finished dinner at 10PM, only four tables were occupied. Apparently the restaurant had many cancellations. We sat on the terrace outside enjoying the views--everybody gets kicked out of the castle at 7PM, except those dining at the restaurant, so we had the grounds to ourselves.
Copyright 2016, Jack B. Siegel. All Rights Reserved