Given that our trip to Lisbon was at rather short notice (thanks to an offer from Brussels Airlines) we didn’t have as much time to plan as we would have liked. To speed things up we used Hotwire to get a hotel, and then looked for things to do while we were in Lisbon. The usual sightseeing, cultural and historical options appealed – Lisbon really does have it all.
It was then that we stumbled onto Inside Lisbon and saw that there was an option for a ‘Gourmet Walk’ that promised to show us some of the sights that Lisbon has to offer as well as an introduction to Portuguese food.
We’d never tried one of the walking tours before, and it really seemed like a good idea as it promised to take us to some of the local places that you would never otherwise see.
We’ve been in that situation before, where you end up in a tourist trap with a plastic menu and an inflated bill for average food. We were only in Lisbon for the weekend, so the trip seemed like the perfect answer.
Meeting our guide Paolo, in the main square on an incredibly hot day, we crowded together with our fellow group members while he gave us some background to the Portuguese influence across the world. It was a great insight into how the Portuguese Empire shaped and influenced the food that is available in Portugal today.
Then we were off, the first stop was a shop in a side street that sold dried/salted cod out the front and was a speciality deli inside. Our first taster was a glass of port with São Jorge Cheese and proper marmalade, a combination that was both smooth and tart at the same time.
Paolo explained that marmalade in Portugal was made with quince, and was sold in large blocks that you could eat with all kinds of meats and cheeses.
Next, we walked over to the main boulevard that leads down to the plaza in front of the Tigris. Half way down, a café was stuffed to the limit with people having coffee and the famous Portuguese custard tart ‘Pastel de nata‘, a kind of flaky pastry boat filled with confectioners’ custard. We stood at a tiny counter and ate the tarts while sipping espresso. Apart from the incredible heat (it was now over 40 degrees), the whole experience was fantastic.
After we regrouped, we headed into the older quarter, and up into the hills past the famous elevator. We walked, and stopped off in a local bar to have some cherry brandy, which was absolutely delicious, while the sun beat down. The heat and steepness of the walk was starting to take its toll, with me feeling unwell until we had a sit down and drink (they do say that Cherry Brandy is also a medicine and it certainly perked me up again!)
After recovering, we were off again to check out some of the amazing views from the small park at the top of one of the special tram lines that have been adapted to get people up the hill. With the sun starting to set, we explored one of the hostels that has been created in an old embassy building on top of the hill, before walking back down into the old town, and a glass of beer and a fish cake from one of the little shops built into the side of the square.
Our tour finished at the House of Alentejo, a 17th century palace off of one of the squares where we had a couple of local dishes, bread, chorizo, cheese, salt cod, split peas, and a pork dish, all washed down with local red wine.
The building itself was fascinating, plain and nondescript outside, and very much like a Moroccan Riad (which made me think back to the gorgeous Calife in Fez) inside. Paolo showed us some of the rooms, where the casino used to be in the 1940’s, several of the dining rooms and the card room/library that were decked out with beautiful traditional tiles and handmade furniture.
We finished the meal, complete with great conversation, and asked Paolo to point us in the direction of the great Cherry Brandy bar (Grapes & Bites) from earlier, where we shared another bottle of wine with a lovely couple we met on the tour.
All in all a fantastic experience, superb guide and great company. We visited places we never would have found otherwise, and saw areas of Lisbon we wouldn’t have reached on our own. I’d recommend the tour to anyone if you have an afternoon and evening free in Lisbon!