One week tour in Portugal

Welcome to Portugal, the western little old rectangle of Europe. Full of history, beautiful monuments and castles, good food (better wine), awesome beaches and much more. The good news is that the country itself is small, and the main cities and points of interest are near each other.

First in the tour, the capital Lisbon of course. I suggest to start with a walk, a walk 1000 years back in time, when the arabs ruled the city. Explore the very old and very steep streets of Alfama the oldest neighborhood of town. Take your time (and take many photos) to go all the way up to St. Jorge castle. On the way up or down, route yourself to Miradouro de Santa Luzia for breathtaking sights, and to Sé Catedral the oldest church in town, and just 50 meters ahead? Another church! St. Anthony church marks the birthplace of the famous matchmaker saint, and he is always there (well his spirit anyway) just to help with every love problem of yours.

Leaving the old town follow the natural city expansion to downtown, this is the part of the city that was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, with straight and square streets, open spaces with lots of light, and beautiful architecture.

To give you a power boost, start in Rossio square just like a local drinking a shot of cherry liqueur called ginginha in the very small, yet historic, open-fronted bar A Ginginha. Just in front there is a small monument with the star of David, a tribute (and reminder) to the hundreds of people killed by the inquisition bonfire in the Lisbon massacre.

Take Rua Augusta and enjoy the walk to Praça do Comércio square, one of the big beautiful squares of Europe framed by the Tagus river, the bridge, and the boats. Proceed by the river to Cais do Sodré, a place full of bars and restaurants ready to satisfy your famine and thirst. You probably should check out Pensao Amor an old brothel converterted into a fancy bar that kept some charm.

Beware, Cais do Sodré is just one of those places lost to gentrification. Many tourists, few locals. Lots of bars and restaurants with little to no soul.

Time to move up to Chiado and Bairro Alto. Please do take a coffee at Brasileira with Fernando Pessoa (a famous dead poet) or if it’s the end of the day a drink (and a haircut) at O Purista. Do some shopping, checkout Livraria Bertrand, the oldest book store in the world, selling knowledge stamped on dead trees since 1732!

Bairro Alto, close to S. Pedro de Alcantara viewpoint I strongly suggest a drink in Pavilhão Chinês, one of the most beautiful bars in Lisbon, but much more important you should go to Tasca do Chico to ear fado. It’s one of the last, or probably the last underground true fado experience, that you sit down have a glass of red and enjoy. The other fado’s places that I know you must buy the tourist package (includes dinner, transportation, this and that) for 50 euros plus….

Don’t forget Belem.
Please do the day trip do Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais.
If you never went to a huge aquarium, consider going to Oceanário de Lisboa.
Do the 28 tram. Buy the tickets before in the subway (much cheaper), attention with the wallet (some pickpockets work in 28 tram).

To eat:
Verde Minho – honest old fashion portuguese food. In the center of Lisbon and great prices.
Novo Edmundo – grilled meat and typical food. Outside the center, good price quality quantity relation.
Tasca da Esquina – portuguese fine dining. Expensive. In a place of the city with little to no touristic interest.
Cervejaria Trindade – in Chiado, old monastery (different and beautiful architecture for a restaurant). Good steaks and “pregos”. Not cheap nor very expensive.
Cervejaria Ramiro – if you are into seafood this is the place to be. Lots of tourists and queueing. Expensive to very expensive (varies a lot with the food you order). Going north by the ocean coast there are several restaurants with great seafood and much better prices.

2018

Thank you.

Thank you for being alive, thank you for understanding, science, and medicine. Thank you for my beautiful child, thank you for unconditional love, thank you for all the park mornings and afternoon beach sunsets, thank you for all the laughs, hugs, walks, slides and swings. Thank you for all the learning.

Thank you for all the people in my life that I love. Thank you for music being omnipresent. Thank you for my business, economic grow, and abundance. Thank you for the good food and better wine of this land. Thank you for the mesmerizing nature of this world . Thank you for the safe motorcycle rides. Thank you living my dreams.

Thank you for experiencing this magical universe.

Letter to Lawrence II

Hi Lawrence,

700 days have elapsed since you were born, so now you are a very happy (and big!) 20 month baby. And boy… you warped the space time continuum to a incredibly fast pace.

It’s such a big joy to see you move around and discover the world. And you do move, explore and interact a lot. One must always keep a close eye on you, because you like to touch everything and climb stuff…  the cherry on top of the cake, is that at night time usually you are so tired that you fall asleep in minutes.

You are starting to talk, you know the normal stuff “mamã, papá, sim, não, água, papa”, but also some really cute things: usually when something is done you say loud and clear “Já tá”, another personal favorite is when you pursuit the house cat with a great smile on the face and say “Piiii, Piiii, Piiiiiiiii” (it’s a hard life for the cat…).

You still smile a lot (you practically born smiling…), and with your smile you make many people smile also, some that I actually never saw smile before you. Please don’t ever loose that inner happiness, it’s awesome.

In these months I have learned many things about life with you kid, children are really the best thing in the world because they change adults to a better version, more calm, more optimistic, with more inner strength.

You know, my biggest wish is just to be remembered as a good father.

I love you,
Marco Gonçalves

Moving around in Lisbon

So, here you are in beautiful Lisbon! Now there are so many places to visit, sights to be seen, monuments, restaurants, bars… how to get around to all these places?

First rule, very important to be an happy tourist, AVOID taxis like the plague. They exist in two color schemes: green/black or beige color, but they have only one goal, to rip off tourists and non locals.

A good alternative is Uber, the cars are new, the drivers polite, and most important you will know beforehand the price range of your trip so you will NOT be ripped-off.

Use this link to get €5 off your first ride


But unless you are wealthy, or lazy, or american, you don’t need/want to go by car to everywhere. So I invite you to also use the Lisbon subway network, it’s cheaper, eco friendly, and one of the best ways to move around in Lisbon specially at the rush hour (but sometimes a bit crowded though).

It’s called Metropolitano de Lisboa, or simply “Metro” and they do have an english version of the website, where you can find the network diagram (yes there is a station at the airport), ticketing and price information, and so on. The trains start running at 06:00am and stop at 01:00am. The stations are clean, safe, and the trains well maintained.

About the ticketing and pricing, it can be a bit tricky (even for locals) as you can mix subway, bus and trains, several time frames, and rechargeable tickets… my advice is to always keep the ticket during and after the journey as quite probably you can recharge it for other trips.

Cycling in Lisbon. The bad news is that we have lots of hills, not so good roads, nor cycling culture. The good news is that for most of the year the weather is perfect, there are more and more bicycle paths and more people cycle. It can be a perfect mean of transportation for short distances, or for a leisure ride by the river.

In some places of the city, you will find the city municipality shared bicycle stations, called Gira. They do have e-bicycles that assist you in the climbs, and the equipment is quite new. But the stations are not in touristic spots, and please beware this is almost a government funded scam, you see the daily pass, and think, cool for 10 euros one gets a bicycle for a whole day, right? WRONG, it gives you the possibility of using the service in that day. In practice it means for 10 euros you can do multiple trips of 45 minutes maximum time. If you make a 46 minute trip they charge plus 2 euros. And after 90 minute they charge more 2 euros for each 45 minute additional time. For example:

Let’s say you get a bicycle in the middle of town, go downtown (there are no stations to return the bicycle and stop your trip), then by the river (also no stations by the river), then go by the river to Belém for the monuments (again no stations there), take some pictures eat the pastries, and get back to the middle town and finally park/deliver the bicycle at a station.

It can easily take 5 hours, the total cost will be 10 euros for the “daily pass”, plus 12 euros for the extra time, for a total of 22 euros.

So if you enjoy ciclyng, maybe better off to rent a bike in a rental agency, or trough the bike peer to peer Spinlister.

A very cool alternative to cycling is the eCooltra electric scooter sharing service. You install an App (there is always an App…), take a picture of your drivers license, pick a nearby scooter, and go.

The cost is 0.24 cents per minute, but you can get the first 30 minutes for free with this code: jbvsg

The scooters are 100% electric and 0% emissions, and so easy to ride (low center of gravity, no vibrations), in my opinion a bit under-powered but it will take you where you want to go, in my book it beats any public transportation by a mile. The best thing is that you don’t need to find a specific station to park, just leave it (at least reasonably parked) when you finish your trip and carry on with your life.

With all the cheap and convenient means of transportations, don’t forget to walk, it’s the best way to fully enjoy the streets, the city stairways and charming alleys, so bring your best walking shoes.

And just one more thing, this is Lisbon, it’s not Bangkok nor Mumbai, don’t make yourself look like a dumb fool, and just don’t go around in a Tuk-tuk. It’s stupid, nobody likes them (maybe except for the Tuk-tuk owner, maybe), they bother people, they bother other vehicles on the roads, they can be quite expensive “for a tour” that would be much nicer to walk… Please just don’t do it.