Study Abroad, Travel

Lisbon: Belem and Alfama

Following our short trip to Sintra, the next two days in Lisbon were spent in two of its famous neighborhoods, Belem and Alfama. We chose to spend the first day exploring the coastal town of Belem because we had gotten a glimpse of it on our Sintra tour and wanted to see what else the neighborhood had to offer.

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After leaving the metro station and doing some walking, Kristine and I found the Pont du Avril and immediately saw its resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge. (It looked identical!) We sat on a bench amongst older men fishing on other benches, to take it all in.
Our next stop was right back to Pasteis de Belem for some fresh Pastel de Natas. Instead of taking them to go, we decided to eat our pastries inside of the beautifully tiled bakery. Just like the day before, they were warm, flaky, and perfect with some cinnamon lightly dusted on top. Upon leaving the bakery, we crossed the street to take a look at the Monastery where the bakery was given its ancient recipe. The Monastery was magnificent not only because of its size but also because of its detailed Gothic architecture.

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Leaving the monastery, we explored the rest of Belem and loved how colorful the town was. We walked through the Jardim de Belem, which was filled with gorgeous statues and huge fountains. I have to note that Kristine and I probably stopped and sat on a bench multiple times within the hour, which allowed us to spend lots of time looking at things like statues, Portuguese people, and birds…but it also spoke to how weak we were. 

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Finally, we made our way to the water where we pretty much spent the rest of the day. We started by Padrão dos Descobrimentos, a huge monument that reflected Portuguese exploration, and worked our way down as far as we could. We were hoping to get all the way towards the Tower of Belem, but I don’t believe we made it there as the sun was strong and the distance was longer than we expected! So after a lemonade break and a period of thinking we were close to fainting, we decided to take a nap…by the water…on a ledge…and it was fantastic. Over the course of our semester in Europe, Kristine and I would proceed to take naps in public places in every place that we visited and it’s something we’re quite proud of.

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After an early dinner at a local restaurant, Kristine and I managed to navigate our way back to the Barrio Alto neighborhood. (I think we may have successfully taken a bus!) We stopped briefly at Praça de Comércio to take a peek around before we slowly walked up Lisbon’s gorgeous tiled streets and back to our hostel for some rest before our last full day in Lisbon.

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The next morning after fueling up on some fresh crepes, Kristine and I decided to spend our last day in Alfama, the oldest district of Lisbon. We charted our course and set off to find a market that we had heard about. Following Google Maps, we hopped onto a gorgeous tram that, once again, reinforced the similarities between this city and San Francisco.

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In classic Kristine and Carissa fashion, we soon couldn’t figure out where we were and decided to get off the tram at a place that looked decent. This was the start of an incredibly long day. Prior to studying abroad, the idea of wanderlust and getting lost in a new city seemed romantic and exciting. Experiencing being directionless in person was not quite as charming as Pinterest made it seem. As Kristine and I tried to find this market, we spent endless hours on foot. ENDLESS. Granted, we stumbled upon smaller craft markets and found some beautiful views of Portugal. However, that was also balanced with moments of finding ourselves incredibly off “course”, walking through back alleys, and behind people’s houses.

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While the details are rather blurry, Kristine and I finally made it to the flea market after hours of walking up, down, and around Lisbon. (The hills are no joke). The flea market itself was a bit of a disappointment, but it definitely had character. I don’t believe that Kristine and I bought anything from the market, but we grabbed some snacks from a nearby bakery before trying to find our way back home. Similar to the way we stumbled towards the flea market, we had just as much trouble getting back to the hostel. After taking a pit stop at a restaurant that sold gyros and burgers, we eventually hopped onto a trolley that took us back to the area of our hostel.

All in all, our day in Alfama was incredibly tiring, but it was also so much fun. There were times were Kristine and I definitely wanted to strangle one another, but I think getting lost in Portugal will definitely be something that we’ll be laughing about for years to come.

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