The actual walking journey came next. We started heading down hill for a bit to wander through the streets and slowly made our way to the Sao Jorge Castelo (castle). The streets are lovely and all the sidewalks are made of cobbled stone (or marble, not sure, but either way they look great), but hurt to walk on if you don’t have thickly soled shoes – so bring something with a lot of rubber on the bottom for walking around portugal or you’ll be hurting. There were random tile murals on the sides of buildings, very intricate doors with fun door knockers, buildings of different sizes and designs, but mostly painted white with yellow trim. Depending on the age of a building they did change in colour and decay, but that only made them more interesting.
A good half hour or more later of walking we ended up at the entrance to Castle Sao Jorge. We had intended on following the guide book and walking around the castle through town first, but mistakingly we took the short route which ended up for the better as we were going to spend more time in the castle than expected.
To get into the castle you must first wait in line down the street at the ticket booth, which for us took about 20 minutes. Then up the street to get in and you’re inside a castle, for us our very first real castle not made out of sand! It opens up immediately into a very large plaza that has a massive view point overlooking lower lisbon, a nice place to shoot cannons from I assume.
Having seen a few view points today we moved on to the actual castle. It was your quintessential castle laid out in almost a square with tower and turrets on the corners and a bridge across a moat at the entrance. We headed inside but didn’t make it to far as Lindsay was not feeling well. So we headed back out of the castle to the cafe where we bought her a massively over priced 7up to help her blood sugar get back to normal. Then we sat outside for half an hour on the grass near the castle entrance while she gathered strength. I of course took pictures, or more accurately waited to take one specific picture of the bridge and castle gate without any people in it. It never worked, people were always coming or going.
Once Lindsay was feeling better we toured inside the castle which was awesome! I like castles. 🙂 You were able to go up every tower and look out around the city from each one. Some had small doorways so you had to duck, other ones small stair cases, and of course fun ramparts and walkways between the two along the walls. I would have really like to have had some swords so Lindsay and I could have done some fighting up in the castle. Lindsay says that this is not a good place for small children (particularly not well behaved children) as they could very likely die. The “safety” features that all North Americans are accustomed to, don’t exist here. I appreciate that as I hate being guided in my every step, but if you’re kids were pushing each other (as siblings do) they might fall off a rampart and die – so for all the boys out there it’s an awesome place that is fun and a little bit dangerous 🙂 Also not wheel chair friendly, it’s a castle, what were you expecting?
There is also a historic section around the right side of the castle where you can see some old remains of a moorish settlement, and some older parts, and even older Roman remains from 2 or 3 hundred B.C. Not much there but very cool that you can walk through it as opposed to how it would all be blocked off from a distance back home.
We finally left the castle many hours later after thouroughly exploring it and walking the viewpoint along the wall, which is covered in a very nice promenade of old trees creating shade as you walk along next to strategically place cannons facing out over Lisbon. A must do for sure if you’re in Lisbon, and the average tourist probably would do it in a an hour to two unlike us who stop a lot and read everything and take a lot of pictures.
Having left the castle we decided that we didn’t have time to do the rest of the walking tour which goes through the Alfama. We very much want to go there and will try to get it done in the next few days or when we return for our flight on the last day of our trip. Instead we decided it was time to find a bank so we needed to head down to the Baixa, the shopping district in the grid layout of historic Lisbon. So we wandered through random street after random street, taking a hidden stair case down many levels through grafiti walls and then out into another side street and then voila we were standing in the Baixa after decending down a rather steep hill. It did not seem like a very long walk at all.
Once in the Baixa, walking down Rua Augusta (the main strip), we found bank machine after bank machine. Previously we had tried two bank machines in Graca while walking around towards the castle and our cards (maestro/cirrus) would not work. However, the Baixa is full of tourists and every MB banck machine worked just fine. The maximum amount of Euros you can take out at one time though is only 200. Money in pocket, we walked down the rest of Rua Augusta, stopping to hear a little street band playing some Herbie Hancock, “Chameleon”, they were pretty good. Then we made our way back into the Chiado/Cais Sodre area to get to Lisbon Calling hostel where we could change and get ready to go out for dinner.
Dinner was a bit of an escapade. We decided to try and find a place called Fabulas (from the Lonely Planet guidebook). We walked to approximately where it was on the map, and couldn’t find it. So we continued on to a place called Eric Kayser (also from the Lonely Planet guidebook), it also wasn’t there. So we decided to head back and try to find Fabulas again – still no luck. We looked around each corner and down a few streets and we even climbed up the super steep hill that the Santa Justa lift will take you to the top of, but nothing. Eventually we came back down the hill and determined that the address of the place in the book is now a furniture store. At least it appears that way.
So we decided to try a place in Lonely Planet that was more directly in the Baixa instead of nearby, so we headed for Moma. We found it! It was closed. Now we’re starving and have walked around most of one side of Chiado and part of Baixa looking for specific places. So we ended up picking a random restaurant on a street of the Baixa, one street over from Rua Augusta. It was one of those tourist restaurants that spill out into the street and it was a mistake. Waiter was crankyish, food was expensive, wine too expensive to touch (although the prices are per bottle at most places) and when our food came everything came with fries. I was not expecting Italy kind of food on this trip, but I was expecting better than Nicaragua. We’ll see if the next meals can be better.
Finally we finished eating and headed back to our apartment room in Cais Sodre. It was a jam packed day and we were exhausted so we headed to bed as soon as we could, but it was pretty close to midnight by then and of course we were awake again at 3 am.