Jennifer was selected to be a “tester” and to travel around Europe with a Global InterRail pass, keeping a diary of her travel and thoughts. She has shared these for Silver Travel Advisor.
The journey, days 7 and 8
Monday Dec 15: Madrid to Lisbon (5th and last day using Pass)
Again, the overnight train left on time. I chatted for a bit to a middle aged American couple travelling for several months throughout Europe using the InterRail Pass.
It was interesting to hear their experiences: they found the InterRail app. “pretty useless”; trains, service etc. in Switzerland to be “great”, especially when compared with France and Spain (“so so”). They’d also had a run in with Adrienne in the first class lounge!
And so to bed. On this occasion, my sole occupancy first class cabin was slightly cheaper, at a £98.00 reservation/supplement. The cabin arrangements were as before: compact, with a separate shower and toilet cubicle. The heating controls worked this time. I remembered to change my alarm clock to Portuguese time and had a good night’s sleep, waking up in time for a shower before arriving in Lisboa Estacion Oriente at 07.20.
I had breakfast in the station then walked to my hotel, hoping that I might be allowed to leave my luggage until I could book in. As luck would have it, the manager very kindly let me check in right away, and it wasn’t even 9.00. The Memme Alfama is a small boutique hotel in the same group as the Hotel Miro in Bilbao. Everything about it was excellent: helpful, welcoming staff, facilities etc.; an information pack with details of places to eat, drink, shop, things to see and do, special events and suggestions. They also offer guests a free guided walk at 10.00 every day. A quick tidy up and I was ready to take part.
This turned out to be a very interesting 90 minute stroll through the Alfama district with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide. This dishevelled Moorish maze, tumbling down from the Castelo Sao Jorge, is the city’s oldest district, having withstood the 1755 earthquake. Its tightly packed houses and alleyways are crumbling and graffiti covered, wonderful to wander. As it was my first visit to Lisbon, the guided walk proved really helpful to get my bearings.
Once the tour was over, some of us went on to have a drink and lunch at Chapito, one of the hotel’s recommendations. It did not disappoint. A circus school as well as a restaurant, it had a very welcoming feel and superb views over the town. We agreed that no visit to Portugal would be complete without a visit to a Fado performance and we arranged to meet up again that evening.
In the meantime, I continued exploring. Back in the hotel, I bought a 24 hour travel pass for 7.50 euro: this allows unlimited travel on the metro, trams, buses and funiculars and saw me right through to the trip to the airport the following day. The famous Tram 28 stops near the Hotel and proved the perfect way to discover some of the most interesting aspects of Lisbon’s historical and architectural heritage, from Alfama through Lisbon downtown, Chiado and Bairro Alto.
Then it was back to the Hotel to change for our outing to the nearby Clube de Fado. We had been advised that the food was “acceptable,” the singing first class. It was quite expensive, but my last night after all!
Tuesday Dec 16: Lisbon to Edinburgh
The following day dawned sunny and warm, so I set off exploring again. Lisbon is a comparatively small city but, being built over seven hills, its uneven cobbles, manholes and steep hills mean you have to watch your step. With the city’s many murals and streets lined with azulejo (ceramic tiles), urban art has always been a part of Lisbon’s identity. The historic city centre now has a 21st-century twist following the Crono Project, when local and international graffiti artists were commissioned to use the grand neglected period building of the city’s central business district as a canvas. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is certainly striking. My overall impression was of a city working hard to improve, with a lot of building and reconstruction works in progress.
Again, I made full use of the century old wooden trams and iron funiculars, disembarking finally at one of the many pastelaria for a bica (espresso) and one of the flaky and creamy pasteis de nata (caramelised pastry layers filled with custard and dusted with cinnamon). Yum!
And then it was time to take the metro to the airport for my flight home.
Note to Readers
Please see the information at the end of Part 1 regarding this ‘test travel’ project.
• Read European travels with a Global InterRail pass – Part 1
• Read European travels with a Global InterRail pass – Part 2
• Read European travels with a Global InterRail pass – Part 3
• Read European travels with a Global InterRail pass – Part 4
• Read European travels with a Global InterRail pass – Part 6