(Ben) The Algarve is always mobbed with tourists at this point in the summer, and it’s fair to say that we usually reach a point where we’ve had enough of the invasion.
This year, we were at breaking point by the start of August, and felt the urge to get away. I was given the opportunity to do a bit of work in Lisbon, and we figured that as most of Lisbon’s population seemed to be in our little town, it would make sense to swap with them, and spend a little time in the city.
I headed up on the train by myself last Wednesday, with wife and baby following the next day by car. The train journey was a great experience (and good value too), but I’ll write about that in more detail in a future post.
As I had most of the first day to myself, I headed onto the metro system and took a wander around downtown Lisbon. I started off at Lisbon’s main food market, the Mercado da Ribeira, and was delighted to find that half of it has been turned into a huge “tapas hall” run by Time Out. I enjoyed various fishy tapas, which fuelled me for the long, hot walk up through the Baixa and Rossio districts.
Once my wife arrived, we went and had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which I’ve reviewed on my Food and Wine Portugal blog here.
The following day, I went to check out the twice-weekly flea market, known as the Feira da Ladra. This was a truly fascinating experience, with stalls selling everything from tourist tat to complete tat, via genuine collectables and antiques.
Some of the “stalls” were no more than sheets on the ground covered with random items – I saw everything from single shoes(?) to old computer motherboards and 60s porn magazines. Much of what I saw wasn’t even fit for landfill, and I’m sure many stallholders sell nothing at all, but I have no doubt that people with the right eye could find real treasures amongst the millions of items on offer. Below are a few photos to give you an idea of what the market has to offer.
After a quick lunch, and an exhausting uphill walk that got me nowhere near the castle (thanks for that Apple Maps), I returned to the hotel via some kind of inner city ghetto zone (thanks again, Apple Maps), where our three-month old son had truly made the room his own. If you’re interested, I’ve written an article about holidaying with a new baby on my new Nervous New Dad blog here.
We dedicated the rest of our stay to exploring a couple of places on the outskirts of Lisbon, with a view to a potential move up there at some point in the future. We tend to blow hot and cold about staying in the Algarve, and sometimes feel the urge to move closer to the city. For now, however, we’re just interested in getting a feel for some of the places we could live.
The first place we explored was the surfing mecca of Ericeira, around 40 minutes drive from central Lisbon. Although the place was absolutely stunning (see photo), it wasn’t for us. It seemed rather too self-consciously quirky, and parking was horrific. For us, it was like getting Brighton’s “The Lanes” district, without getting all the other good stuff in Brighton. It was a fine day out, but neither of us got that “we could live here” feeling.
We felt very differently about Alcochete, a small town facing Lisbon over the Tejo estuary. The town had a great feel, and the journey to Lisbon was both simple and beautiful, over the iconic Vasco de Gama bridge. The town also had a river beach with warm (but sadly rather dirty looking) water. There were people swimming there, but I’m not sure it was the best idea—there was certainly no blue flag to be seen.
For now, we’re happy enough where we are, but if we do decide to head closer to the city one day, Alcochete is certainly on our short list.
So, now we’re back in the Algarve with only a few weeks until the place quietens down. Until then, we will keep our heads down and get on with our work, and wait patiently to get our little town back!
As mentioned earlier, you can read more about our first breaks with the new baby over at my Nervous New Dad blog.
If you want to read more about moving to Portugal, check out our book here:
Readers in the US can use this link to find the book: