Lisbon Travel Diary & City Guide

Its been over a month since our return and I’ve only just been able to put all my thoughts in order as this trip was absolutely packed with amazing memories.  Not only did I get to experience the beautiful Portugal, but I also managed to tick Paris off my bucket list (although I’d love to go back!). To be honest, this trip kind off caught me off guard.

Portugal wasn’t ever really on my travel bucket list, but when the opportunity arose to join my husband on a business trip I jumped. Once you start looking into Portugal, you can’t help but fall in love. And now I can give you reasons to visit too!

Despite it being in the middle of winter, we loved each and every second of it including the rainy days spent under umbrellas and nearly blowing away with the wind in Sintra. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s get started at the beginning.

Our week long visit to Portugal started in Lisbon and we were giddy with excitement when we finally made our approach into Lisbon airport. The views were breathtaking as we swooped low over the turquoise waters and felt like we could touch the Padrão dos Descobrimentos before a million red roofs greeted us.

I was initially a little baffled as to which area to stay in, but I’d say our choice of The 8 Downtown Suites in Lisbon’s Baixa area was a pretty solid choice. The staff were very accommodating, friendly and gave us a lot of tips. I’d say anywhere between Rossio square, the Elevador and Lisbon Cathedral can be considered central although I’m sure there are many more lovely areas to stay in.

Our first stop after the long flights was the TimeOut market as we desperately needed to refuel. Although I initially considered it far out, it turned out Lisbon was a lot smaller than it looked on a map, and we were there within 15 minutes for an early dinner. The market is quite similar in concept to Florence’s  Mercato Centrale with a traditional fresh produce market on one side (which was sadly closed due to water damage during our stay) and a selection of some of Portugal’s best small eateries on the other. Be warned though that this side can get crowded with seating becoming a challenge if you go after seven. We stopped by several times during our stay and enjoyed food from the Asian Lab, Pizza a Pezzi and another place dedicated solely to chicken. Another favourite was To B. Burger or not to burger, which as the name suggests, is a lovely burger place.

Praça do Comércio

We can’t start talking about food though without mentioning the pastel de nata, a dessert so innocent yet rich and comforting. Several of these delicious bites were enjoyed during our stay, some are served hot, others with icing sugar and few with cinnamon. It is best described as a mini milk tart trying to be a creme brulee.

My personal favourites were from Manteigara although others in our group preferred those from Pasteis de Belém (eggier, if that is a word!) and Tartine (sweeter). We didn’t have a single disappointing one though and at around 1 euro each you really should decide for yourself!

Castelo de sao Jorge wall

Although there is a lot to see and do in Lisbon, most touristy recommendations centre around beautiful churches, Miradouros (or lookout points) and Belém. I loved the architecture of the Lisbon Cathedral and the striking image of an orange tree against the historic building. Most of the cathedrals and churches in Portugal were ornate and grand, even the smaller ones, but in fear of seeing to many we decided to keep our schedule loose and spend more time walking around and exploring things on our own.

There are several notable miradouros, or lookout points, in Lisbon (Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen), but we eschewed them all in favour of the Castelo de Sao Jorge on a clear evening. This Moorish castle dominates the Lisbon skyline and seemed like a good place to admire the beautiful city. The thousand steps leading up were completely worth it though as the castle granted us amazing views over the whole of Lisbon, an excellent vantage points to spot both intruders during ancient times and all the tourist sights today. If possible I’d recommend you head here at the start of your visit as it can help you gain some perspective and make you giddy with the prospect of seeing it all up close. 

Of course we also managed to squeeze in some time for shopping and discovered a few favourites. The street leading off from the arch in Praça do Comércio is home to a few popular brands (Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear and many more) and was very close to where we stayed, but we definitely enjoyed shopping along the Rua do Carmo and Rua Garrett the most. There we spent quite some time in the United Colors of Benetton and got lost in a massive four-story Mango. We also found the prettiest florists and small bakeries along the way. I’d recommend you take one of the many side street to discover some favourites a little off the beaten track.

That is how we stumbled upon A Vida Portuguesa, a shop with a unique collection of locally produced things ranging from predictable tiles and sardines to beautiful beauty products. And talking of souvenirs, it seems you can’t go wrong with a pair of leather shoes made in Portugal. There is a leather shop around every corner, so keep an eye out and don’t be afraid to ask for the price should you see something you like.

If designer brands or window shopping is more your thing, then Avenue a Liberdade seems to be the go to. This tree-lined street stretches out from Praça dos Restauradores, the perfect spot to observe the pink Palacio Foz, and is home to designer brands like Gucci, Armani, Louis Vuitton and the likes. You’ll also find a Laduree tucked into one of the centres if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Finally, you can’t go to Lisbon without stopping in to Belém and Sintra. I’ll cover the latter in a separate post, but since Belém is less than half an hour from Lisbon it feels natural to include it here. We had three sights on our list, namely the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Belém Tower and Jereminos Monastery and surrounding gardens, but really it was the pastel de natas that lured us over.

We headed out on a crowded tram that stopped around the corner from Pasteis de Belém  and decided to pick up a sweet treat. Although the line was long, it didn’t take long to get to the front and the pasteis did not disappoint (spoiler, none of them did!) although I do feel they might be slightly overrated. Definitely still worth it though!

From there we walked over to the Jerenimos Monastery where the massive line outside convinced us to first find the two towers. The gardens across of the Monastery were beautifully kept and I imagine it would be a lovely spot to sit and enjoy your pastei on a warmer day, with the Monastery and estuary making for great views.

We didn’t enter the Belém Tower but took in its beauty from the outside. Unfortunately none of our photographs does its scale or the detail on the outside any justice, but it just as you’d imagine.

As there still was a massive line outside the Monastry we decided to rather just enjoy the adjoining church on the right. Here the high vaulted ceilings alluded to what we might have found next door, had we made our way over earlier.

You can’t talk about Lisbon without mentioning the Azelujos, or painted tiles, that adorn most buildings. They really add something completely unique to Lisbon’s architecture and whenever we spotted a building with a unique pattern we squealed with excitement! I do feel though that one of the unsung heroes of Lisbon, and Portugal as a whole, is the cobbled sidewalks. Each features a unique pattern and is like a beautiful artwork.

Although February might not be the best time to visit Lisbon, it helped that this is one of the warmer European cities with temperatures usually hovering between the higher single digits to the low tens. We were also hoping to avoid some of the crowds by going when it is cooler, although we kept holding thumbs for the rain to stay away. We were incredibly lucky with nothing more than a light drizzle in Lisbon.

Lisbon beautiful street

Lastly as my sister-in-law and I explored much of the city on our own for the first two days it is worth mentioning that we always felt safe even after dark. As wary South Africans we  avoided staying out too late and always looked over our shoulders, but even during the quieter and colder evenings nothing ever caused us any concern. Just be aware of the weed (or Hash) sellers who mostly hang around the popular tourist sites like Praça do Comércio and quieter streets after dark. A polite no thanks should send them on their way, but I’d avoid starting a conversation and made sure to grip my bag extra tight.

Lisbon City Guide

Let’s get to the good stuff. If you’re heading to Lisbon soon (lucky you!), make sure to take note of the below:

Stay

  • Baixa Area – The 8 Downtown Suites

Eat

  • To B. Burger or Not to Burger – The best budget-friendly burger and fries served in a cute restaurant. Be sure to try their homemade lemonade!
  • Pizzeria Romana al Taglio – Great takeaway pizza slices offering everything from traditional flavours to more adventurous combinations
  • The TimeOut Market – We loved the Chow Mein at Asian Lab, enjoyed several slices from Pizza a Pezzi and enjoyed a chicken pita from the chicken place. For sweet treats try Santini and Manteigaria.
  • Tartine – We came for the pasteis de nata and stayed for lunch. A good selection of fresh breads and affordable prices.
  • A Padaria Portuguese – A chain restaurant you’ll find all over Lisbon that offers affordable lunches and good chocolate quentes. No need to enter a Mc Donalds, unless you need the loo!
  • Wok-to-Walk – Takeaway stir-fry noodles made to order and enough to share!

Pastel de Nata

  • Tartine – A slightly sweeter variety with an extra flaky pastry.
  • Pasteis de Belém – Slightly thicker custard that tasted more savoury than sweet.
  • Manteigaria – For me these had the perfectly flaky shell and creamy centre that wasn’t too sweet.
  • Basically any place that serves hot pasteis de nata for around one euro! You can’t go wrong!

Shop

  • Avenue a Liberdade – If luxury shopping or window shopping is your thing, this is where you’ll find the Prada and Gucci stores and if you fancy a macaron, stop in at the Laduree.
  • Rua Augusta – Here you’ll find all the chain stores – Zara, H&M, Pull & Bear, Bershka and many more.
  • Rua do Carmo and Rua
  • Garrett – Find larger version of chain stores and a few higher-end brands here along with cute coffee shops and pastry shops.
  • Armazéns do Chiado – A shopping centre on Rua do Carmo and home to the largest Mango I’ve ever been in, Parfois for great accessories and a Sephora.
  • A Vida Portuguesa – For slightly less tacky versions of typical tourist mementos like Azulejos and Ginja. I could have browsed this old-school style store for hours.

Sights

  • Castelo de Sao Jorge – Take in the best views of the city from one of its oldest buildings!
  • Lisbon Cathedral – Don’t overwhelm youself and head straight to the best church in Lisbon. Be sure to walk around it from the outside aswel!
  • Rossio Train Station – A beautiful and interesting building and also a great station to catch the train to Sintra.
  • Praça do Comércio – Beware the drug sellers, but enjoy the beautiful view from the square.
  • Palacio Foz & Praça dos Restauradores – A pink palace and beautiful square. Do you need to know more?
  • Jereminos Monastery & gardens – We didn’t enter as it was raining and there was a long line, so head here early as it is one of the few things I regret not seeing. Luckily the church next door is free to enter, had no line when we were there and is just as impressive! Also don’t forget to enjoy the gardens opposite.
  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos – Located opposite the monastery, this makes a lovely starting point for a walk along the estuary to Belém Tower.
  • Belém Tower – A beautiful tower that used to play an important role in Lisbon during its seafaring days.

If you have any questions be sure to ask in the comments and I’d love to help!

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Easter Chocolate Bark Recipe

Looking for something fun and easy to do this Easter? I’ve got you covered with the ultimate in sweet treats – Easter egg chocolate bark! This is a great way to use up the last bit of Easter candies or, as was the case for me, a good excuse to stock up on some of your favourites! I’d like to say that this recipe is fool proof, but unfortunately you do run the very real risk of finishing the ingredients off before they make their way into the melted chocolate! If you managed to keep your taste buds under control though, you’re good to go! I would venture to say that this is even a good one to keep the kiddo’s busy (under supervision of course!) and of course you can customise this to include some of your personal favourites, these just happen to be mine.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Valentine's Day MacaronsI’ve loved rounding up this Valentine’s day gift guide because I feel like I can really indulge in my love of blush pink without any shame! Most of the gift are fairly simple – I say save the big ticket items for anniversaries and birthdays – but their just kind of token  of appreciation I’d appreciate. I hope that there is something in here for you too!

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DIY Christmas Gift Tag & Gift Wrapping Inspo

Christmas gift wrapping and DIY name tag

As much as I love gift shopping, planning and co-ordinating my wrapping and name tags to my Christmas decor has always been just as fun to me. This year, I decided on a beige and gold wrapping paper with a wreath-like DIY name tag. I love all the lovely wreaths I’ve seen and decided to take on this Christmas classic and make it slightly more modern. I love that these name tags are reusable and could just as easily double as Christmas decorations on a tree!

Granted this DIY is time consuming and maybe not as practical if you’re wrapping more than a handful of gifts, but it sure is pretty! Plus making the stars is the perfect activity to do whilst watching Christmas movies.

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Christmas Gift Guide for Him

Mens gift ideasI mentioned in my previous gift guide that I find buying gifts for men incredibly hard, which does not explain my delay in publishing this post, but perhaps makes you feel slightly less alone? Either way, with four days to go to Christmas you might find this gift guide for men helpful when it comes to shopping the beloved men in your life.

Comfies

In my experience, new clothing rarely excites men as it does women. So if you’re considering a cloth-based gift, might I steer you in the direction of lounge wear. So far this has gone down a treat with both my husband and brother. Things like slippers, stretchy pants and robes aren’t necessities but they sure make life that much more enjoyable! These H&M pants (in a different colour) are a firm favourite in our household and these slippers look so cute.

Tech & Accessories

This might possibly be the most frequently requested gift category for men. Ranging from techy watches to the latest phone gadgets, there is sure to be something tech related on their Christmas wish. Whether it comes in under budget is a completely different question though!

If you recently won the lotto, I’m sure the VR Playstation will score you extra brownie points that might carry you to the next gifting opportunity. Quality over-ear headphones is another favourite, that can easily be scaled to suit your budget. Noise cancelling seems to the next big things, with the price increasing if you choose to go with a wireless option. Both Sennheiser and Sony make good options, but these Bose ones are more common.

Leather tech covers and laptop bags are also often welcome gifts and will be a treat for both your eyes, especially if there is a tendency to have these lying around. My husband has a leather iPad pro cover (similar to this) with storage for the iPen, which would have made the perfect gift if he didn’t already own it. We don’t spend that much on Christmas gifts, so this leather bag is out of the question, but it sure is beautiful and would make a great gift.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Thank goodness the digital age makes gifting for men a little simpler! With online gaming platforms like Steam it is easy to purchase new games (often on special) or things like game time for their favourite game. Game time can also be purchased for gaming consoles, so best find out exactly what he has before whipping out the credit card.

If so inclined, a carefully selected board game can also result in hours of fun lasting well into the future! Personally we like CarcassonneCodenames (much less dramatic) and Dungeons and Dragons. Raru has a pretty impressive selection online, so time to start browsing!

Tools

If you’re buying for the handyman, chances are there is something that can be added to his tool kit! Whether they’re missing something basic or require something specific for a future project, scanning their tool box might soon reveal a gift idea. Multi-tools are popular for a reason, but this year my husband requested a more specialised laptop screwdriver set. This is perfect for the guy who likes to tinker with his tech, but an electric screwdriver set could also be a nice gift – this I can personally attest to!

Books

For some reason it seems like e-books tend to be more popular with men, but that doesn’t mean that the category has to be foregone when purchasing gifts for men. Whether you settle on a hard copy or electronic version, we’re sure there is something to suit every man’s interests.

Books my husband recently read and loved:

Travel Accessories

If you’re buying for a frequent traveller, anything that can make travelling more comfortable and relaxing would be much appreciated. I can personally attest to how wonderful packing travel cubes are, so if you’re buying for a frequent traveller this is certainly where I’d start. Noise cancelling headphones are also high on the list for most travellers, with other accessories like a neck pillow being slightly more personal choices. If you are aware of an upcoming trip, then buying a travel guide for that specific destination could also be a lovely personal touch. Although guide books might be dying out, these DK Pocket Map & Guides are my favourite. As they are small and have a handy map, they make great travel companions when WiFi isn’t readily available.

Old Favourites

If you still find yourself stuck or simply don’t know the person you’re gifting to that well, you can rarely go wrong with a good tipple, roast or related paraphernalia. My husband likes a good whiskey but I’m completely lost when it comes to buying mid-ranged whiskeys. I’ve found buying the most expensive one you can afford with the word “Grant” in the title is a good way to ensure you’re getting the best value for money. Other things like a beautiful glass whiskey decanter or even some freshly roasted beans would also always be welcome. I like the idea of purchasing some beans from your favourite local place. We love both Boston Coffee and Alchemy Coffee Roasters. Special coffee mugs are also always welcome, especially when bought in pairs.

On the other end of the spectrum, fragrances are incredibly personal. So if you find yourself in a position where you know the person well enough to gift this, receiving a back-up of a favourite is always a lovely sentiment.

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Christmas Chocolate Stars

DIY Chocolate stars for Christmas

I thought between posting my gift guides I’d throw in a quick and easy DIY to gift to anyone from a host to a teacher this festive season. Although it is a small gesture, making something yourself like these chocolate stars, can mean so much to the recipient. It would also be the perfect addition to your Christmas table, serve as a great accompaniment to coffee and compliment many a dessert. So really this is an all-rounder! As an added bonus, it is really simple and affordable to make! All you need is chocolate, your favourite toppings (added bonus if they’re in festive shades) and a silicone ice or chocolate tray.

DIY Chocolate stars ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 200g milk or dark chocolate
  • 40g pistachios, chopped
  • 40g cranberries, chopped
  • Spray and Cook
  • Gold dust

DIY Chocolate stars for Christmas

Method:

  1. Break up the chocolate in a microwavable bowl and put to the side.
  2. Chop up the pistachios and cranberries and keep at the ready.
  3. Give a festive ice or chocolate silicone tray a light spray with Spray and Cook. If you are working with an ice tray, see whether you need to fill the whole shape or whether filling it half-way would be better. My stars turned out quite thick and it might have been better to only fill the shapes halfway.
  4. Take the bowl of chocolate and melt it in the microwave. I usually put it in for 30 seconds at a time at full power. I take care to stir it in between microwaving it and often stop it shortly before everything is completely melted, knowing the final small lumps will melt as I stir. Each microwave is different and your melting times might be different to mine. I know this isn’t conventional or the best method, but it is by far the most convenient! I always microwave my chocolate to melt it (a double-cooker is the correct tool) and rarely use bakers chocolate, but know that if you use regular milk chocolate it will only melt once. So you have to work quick, before it sets.
  5. Fill your tray with chocolate, stopping two milimeters before you get to the top.
  6. Sprinkle the tray with the nuts and cranberries and lightly press each star to ensure that the toppings will set in the chocolate.
  7. Leave the chocolate to fully set.
  8. Once it is set, turn out the stars and dust the top of each chocolate with gold dust.
  9. Store in a cool spot in an air-tight container.

 

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Christmas Gift Guide For Her

Flatlay featuring Christmas gift ideas for the women in your life.

It is that time of the year again, and if you’re anything like me you might already have finished your Christmas gift shopping! Somehow though I always end up having to get something last-minute, whether it is a distant family member joining the festivities last-minute or a friend you’re seeing around the holidays, I always end up rushing to the shops in the last few days leading up to Christmas. So gift guides are always useful to me and hopefully to you too, whether you’ve made headway in tackling your list or are only just compiling it!

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Planning a Holiday: From Start to Finish

Holiday planning guide flatlay

Planning a holiday is one of my favourite pass times, but if you don’t know where to start it can all feel very overwhelming- after all the world is our oyster! As I work in the travel industry and love travelling (lets forget for a moment that I don’t get to travel nearly as much as I would like too!) I thought I’d help you map out the holiday planning process. Obviously depending on which destination you end up choosing, you might cut this planning part short as there isn’t much to plan and do besides unwind in a beach destination like Mauritius. But if you find yourself overwhelmed with options, here is how I usually narrow it down and get shiz done.

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Summer Wardrobe Inspiration

Like most Capetonians, I’m feeling ready for summer (although more rain is very welcome)! I wasn’t too keen about it until recently, when the weather gave us a little preview of balmy evenings and 30 degreee days. With the warmer weather I had to swap in my summer clothing, but it just hasn’t been as exciting to get dressed in the morning as it usually is. Most of my clothing is office ready and whilst they aren’t very formal, the fabrics just don’t scream summer.

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10 Metal Songs To Add To Your Halloween Playlist

Ten metal songs for your Halloween playlist

As contrary as it might sound from someone who just posted something Halloween related, I’ve never really celebrated the holiday. I like to attribute it to the fact that as an adult I have access to all the sweets I could ever want, but I guess the fact that I scare easily also contributes. Surprisingly some of my favourite songs cover subjects like a crazy scientist and a stalking monster, so it just seemed too holiday appropriate to resist compiling a whole playlist. Whether you’ve always appreciated a heavier sound or simply want to add some diversity to your party music, these songs are guaranteed to send chills down your spine. Atmospheric organs playing and howling wolves included, these songs are all must haves in any Halloween playlist!

You can listen to my Halloween playlist on Google Play Music here.

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