Cod, Port Wine, & A Little Schnitzel: Part 1
Lisbon was ablaze with Christmas color and festiveness. This unique city is just being discovered by Americans.
New services by TAP Air Portugal and others will mean even more access. My flight was on Air New Zealand via London in Business Premier for wonderful service and comfortable sleep. Their beds are similar to Virgin Atlantic with lots of privacy and all aisle access.
I had been to Lisbon before with an arranged half-day tour, which was very effective. The city is not on a grid, and it has many distinctive neighborhoods. Also, there are many hills and barriers. I suggest the tour for first-time visitors.
After that walking is the best way to explore. The town’s peculiar design is highlighted by the graffiti-covered street cars and the massive Santa Justa iron elevator designed by Gustave Eiffel himself. This lift carries passengers up one of the seven original hills in Lisbon. Unique dishes like pastel de nata (egg tarts), cod (many different ways), and distinctive Port wines make Portugal a land of new discoveries. The style of Lisbon is similar to Paris in some ways, but not as refined.
One afternoon, I decided to do a quick half-day tour to close by areas including Sintra, Estoril, and Cascais as well as the monument to the farthest point west on the European continent. These are charming towns and they are easily accessible from Lisbon. Each deserves more time than I had. The architecture and rich atmosphere of each town was visible. Time constraints, and also Christmas Eve, limited what could be done there. I was back in Lisbon for a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner capped up with a glass of 20-year-old Port wine.
Christmas Day was a surprise with the trip to Porto disrupted by a rail strike. I ended up with a three-hour road trip by private car and driver, an unplanned expense but with a pleasant driver and beautiful scenery.