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Adeus Portugal, Hola Barcelona!

Posted by on April 16, 2023

Our taster of Portugal, Lisboa, was a real treat, and as we wound up our visit there is much to look back at fondly. The people are warm and welcoming, the food is fresh and interesting and the scenery amazing. We traveled in Spring, and found it warm and sunny – we are packing for all climates (Switzerland ahead) so have mostly warm clothes – stripping down layers to stop overheating was something we got good at in this temperate climate.

Any visitor to Lisbon must be prepared for a couple of things – the hills (as only the coastal fringe is flat) and the feet-shredding tessellated pavements and roads. Even short journeys can be exhausting. There are lifts, funiculars and the like but often queues and charges. Navigation is necessary, lots of the city has twisty narrow streets – easy to get lost, and that can be fun also.

I want to mention tiles, ceramic decorative tiles to be precise. Older buildings are clad with them, often their own unique pattern and one of my photographic missions was to capture as many different tile patterns as possible. I barely scratched the surface of the variety.

Food can be pretty simple but delicious, one of our best fish meals ever was in a little family run restaurant half way up our hill (a recommendation from our host). Seafood abounds, is pretty cheap and often charcoal cooked to maximise the flavour and freshness. 

Pastry. Everyone will have their opinion on the BEST custard tarts. We would like to report that we did extensive field research, tried them from many large and small establishments, tried and retried the most famous ones and have a clear winner. Our criteria were simple: consistency of presentation, uniformity of crispy pastry, smoothness and sweetness of the custard filling. For our money, the superior “pasteis de nata” was Manteigaria brand. Everyone suggested Pasteis de Belem were better but, from objective and exhaustive sampling we disagree.

Rather than lug and shred our suitcases back to the metro and from there navigate the 2 lines to get to the airport, we decided to try Uber. It was cheap, fast, and our first ever ride in a Tesla Model 3. We arrived at the airport rested and calm, passed security, exchanged our downloaded boarding passes for real ones, found our gate and were shepherded to busses which, eventually took us to our Air Portugal flight to Barcelona.

The 1.5 hr flight from Lisbon to Barcelona was the leg we were most concerned about regarding luggage restrictions. Tiny weights and likelihood of hand luggage being stored in the hold were real possibilities as the smaller plane was strict on weight and dimensions. We knew we would come in well under weights (I have become pretty good at levelling the weight between our 2 different sized suitcases, but were relieved to be onboard with no issues.

We arrived in Barcelona in the warm afternoon (losing an hour because of timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbly), grabbed some Empanadas for lunch on the hop (yum) and were reunited with our luggage without incident. We purchased tickets for the Aerobus, joined the queue and were among the first on, allowing us both to get seats this time (note to self, seats on the aerobus are snapped up quickly, sit while you can as long games of standing sardines is exhausting).

The Aerobus let us off at Plaça Espanya, we oriented ourselves (thanks again Google Maps) and had a short roll to the outside of our apartment building, where I was able to call our host who let us in. Our apartment is on the 8th floor (Attic 1), and thank goodness there is a pair of tiny but functional lifts. Helpfully, our host showed us around the features or the apartment, gave us the keys and left to our own devices.

After a quick recon of the facilities and residual store cupboard (many AirBNBs have left over supplies in pantries that can be a useful gamble), we dug out our coles bags and headed down and out to a nearby supermarket for staples, then returned and settled in with a nice cup of tea and the time to take in our view of the burbs and mountains from our sofa – fabulous.

We had booked a table at a restaurant Jo found on Trip Advisor, so we walked to one of the nearest metro stations, purchased multi trip passes and used them to travel line 1 to Universitat, a station sort of close to Las Ramblas, a popular tourist strip. A short ramble, a side-street diversion landed us at a new restaurant called Xera on Carrer de les Sitges, 10.

After a stellar tapas dinner at Xera (yes, we would recommend this place, wonderful modern Spanish), we rambled our way back to the apartment, exhausted. After setting up our charging station and tidying up it was late, we were tired and partially pickled (loving the local Tempranillo), it was time for bed. Big day tomorrow.

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