Last year, love affair was with sLOVEnia. This year, it’s early in the year, seems destined to be with Portugal & in particular, Lisbon. Portugal works for me on levels.
The geography, people, food, culture & general vibe of the place made me perfectly. I know for many travelers, Portugal is likely to be a been-there-done-that destination. As far as I am concerned, it was my first time to visit & if I had been-there-and done-that before, I for sure would have gone back again. Without gushing too much about how wonderful Lisbon is, I want to give you 6 things for what to do and see that won’t likely end up on any lists you’ll get online.
At first, Campo Pequeno is a bullfight arena that hosted the Portuguese bullfights since 1892. The building is amazing! It’s a beautiful neo-arabian building, all made of bricks, that was entirely renovated in 2006. There is a museum dedicated to the history of bullfighting. The lowest level is a shopping mall with a movie theater & restaurants. Inside a bullfight arena before, I found it very interesting to walk around. I thought turning the bottom level into a mall was actually a good use of the space. It’s fun to walk through malls when I travel & see what’s unique or different.
The second, especially in big cities, it’s always wonderful to find a garden to enjoy for some quiet time. 2 different people recommended the Calouste Gulbenkian Garden to me. I enjoyed it so much I went back twice. It is the venue where the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation & museum are located. There are many sculptures scattered throughout the park, as well as a restaurant & a cafe. There’s also an artificial pond, an open-air theater, a rose garden & water gardens.
The third, they call what we might call in the states a movie theater, a cinema. I always go to watch a movie. It’s fun to experience a movie, even if it’s not in a language I speak, with the hometown crowd. I have fun enjoying & partaking in local cinema customs. For example in Sydney, Australia, I ate an ice cream cone in the dark theater. Don’t know how the Aussies do that without getting it all over their shirts. In Keri Keri, New Zealand, we drank wine in the cinema in proper wine glasses. The cinema culture was very special in Lisbon, especially in the art cinema.
The Media film group has 2 cinemas: the Cinema Nimas & Monumental Cinema. These theaters are housed in old historic buildings. I went to the Monumental. There are 4 small cinemas, all with regular seats. Thankfully, none of reclining seat business that so many theaters in the states have adopted. The cinema actually looked such as part video store & part cinema, displaying many videos available for order. And there was no drinks or food. I don’t mean you couldn’t bring in your own. I mean absolutely nothing to drink or eat for sale. When the last time you went to see a movie where no one was drinking or eating. It really changes the experience. They do show a few movies in English with Portuguese subtitles, so it was great to watch a Woody Allen movie in Portuguese! Give these cinemas a try if,you will enjoy these different kinds of experiences when you travel.
The forth,taking the ferry to Cacilhas, at the other side of the River Tagus, is a fun way to spend half a day. It leaves from the Lisbon waterfront, is inexpensive at only a few euros roundtrip, only takes a few minutes,it provides you with a great spot from which to see Lisbon city proper. Cacilhas is picturesque & you’ll get a whole different feel for Lisbon when you see it from across the river. There are plenty of restaurants that looked typically local and good. You can walk along the river to the elevator to arrive the famous Cristo Rei statue. After passing some abandoned, a few restaurants & old warehouses , you can go by elevator to reach the Cristo Rei statue. You’ll enjoy a sweeping view of the city & 25th of April Bridge from the top of the statue. This enormous monument was built in 1959 in thanks to God for having spared Portugal during World War II. It was inspired by the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro.
The fifth, if the Portuguese call the “theater” the cinema, what do they mean when they say they’re going to the theater? They mean a live performance. The prices for a good balcony seat were reasonable at $32/seat. If you spend any length of time in Lisbon, you’ll recognize the Tivoli Theater. It is easily spotted because of the green dome topped off with a small bell tower. The theatre was opened in the 20s, serving as the chic ‘hotspot’ for the city’s elite. It’s been extensively refurbished since then & some say it still caters to the creme de la creme of Portuguese society. The theater is really a work of art, walk around inside & enjoy the building itself. The seats are red plush seats and with an orange decor. There are very ornate balconies all around the seating area, giving the hall a very regal feel. As far as I am concerned, it felt like an old world opera house.
Finally, Lisbon in particular wherever I went. Besides seeking out cinema & parks when I travel, I’ll visit bookstores. The Bertrand Chiado was recognized in 2011 by the Guinness Book as the oldest bookstore in the world still in operation. It opened its doors in 1732. It’s not a huge bookstore compared to others, it does have a small cafe in the rear & a few different rooms. It’s actually a chain of bookstores, but this historic & architecturally beautiful space is a treasure and an easy must-see recommendation.
Some tips for you:
If you can help it while wandering the streets of Lisbon. It’s an amazing, hilly, cobblestoned delight of a place to explore, it seemed around every corner, there was something pretty to look at & delicious to eat.