Lisbon Day 5 & Madrid Day 1 ☀️

Free Tapas and Rooftop Terraces

Our last day in Lisbon and first evening in Madrid was mostly a travel day, though the flight between the cities is only a quick hour hop. Shoutout to TAP Portugal airlines for having wildly affordable fares and flights every hour! We grabbed ourselves a 5pm flight, giving us time for a leisurely lunch and walk along the waterfront (with a final nata pit stop on the way back). A 10 Euro taxi took us and our carryons to the airport, and we were off. By magical perfect city, bye Vicente and the slightly-too-hot Air BnB room. Hola Madrid! 💃🏻🕺🏻

Our Madrid pad was a DREAM. It was beautifully centrally located and came with a lovely outdoor terrace for Spanish evening musings. Our hosts, Michael and Miguel (I’m not kidding) gave us more recommendations than we knew what to do with. With those and our Google Maps starred up, we were READY. Our first stop was a favorite tapas place of M & M’s a block away from the apartment called El Mollete. It was tiny, authentic, and tested my Spanish vocab just enough. I’m almost disappointed when too many people in foreign countries speak English and I can’t work on the language. Anyone else feel this way? Just me?

 


Regardless, we learned that food in Madrid was a bit pricier than Lisbon, but wine and beer were still cheeeeeaaapppp. So that was A+++. M & M’s place was in the heart of Chueca, neighboring Malasaña. These were for sure the two most fun neighborhoods to go out in at night (we later learned that Chueca is the gay neighborhood – at first we just thought Madrid was even more accepting than NYC! Which it still might be, reagardless, fun on fun on fun around here).

After tapas that first night, we wandered Malasaña (a soon-to-become nightly ritual) and ended up at a gin & tonic bar – the national drink of Spain, it turns out! They offered a gin of the week special, and since we were slightly travel tired we just stayed for one before calling it. Next stop, sleeeeeeep.

We began our first full day in Madrid by checking out the Royal Palace and Temple of Debod which were both SO close to the apartment. The Temple was a gift from the Egyptian government, and definitely didn’t look like anything else we’d seen in the area. I also just love the idea of one country giving a whole other country a gift. Like France, for example, I see you with Lady Liberty. Solid move, guys.

For lunch part 1, we hit up the Mercado San Miguel, which is a open-stall market in a big warehouse a la Time Out Lisbon. We found some little empanadas, and left pretty promptly because it was swamped. Here’s a photo from Spain Attractions since I was too overwhelmed to remember to photograph.1838E4A2-B969-481C-8982-F1886050A17F-4235-000006B8A7F1E6B3.jpeg

Picture this, but with 1000x the amount of people.

Next, we wandered to Chocolateria San Gines for some churros con chocolate. These churros are actually savory compared to the Mexican churros we’re used to in the States, hence the rich DIPPING CHOCOLATE that you can then DRINK afterwords. HI HEAVEN, FANCY MEETING YOU HERE.

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My Double9 Duck is seeing Madrid’s finest.

We continued towards a *legit* tapas bar off of one of Madrid’s many pequeño side streets. What makes it so legit, you ask? Well traditionally, tapas are served for ~free~ with the purchase of a vino or cerveza. Apparently the more you drink, the bigger the plates get, which is all kinds of exciting. At El Tigre we each opted for one pint of beer and were given a LARGE plate of bread, Spanish ham, and cheese. If you’re lunching on a budged, these tapas bars are the way to go! Here’s a list of some of the best bars with said deals:

  • El Tigre (our fav and a local hangout)
  • Taberna La Tia Cebolla
  • La Paloma Blanca (beer isn’t cheap, but portions are massive)
  • Petisqueria
  • Indalo Tapas
  • El Rincon Abulense
  • El Respiro (very close to El Tigre, if El Tigre is full pop on here, or make it stop one and two of your afternoon tapas crawl!)
  • La Pequeña Grana – we didn’t actually make it here, but it’s in Granada so if you’re jonsing for some tapas in the area, check it out!

After our Tapas we strolled to the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum to sample some art from the 13th-late 20th centuries. We spent a solid two hours touring the floors, so make sure you give yourself some buffer room if you visit (which I recommend you do!) We saved the big museums, the Prado and the Reina Sofia, for the next day, and were very glad we didn’t try to cram three giant halls’ worth of art into one day. The brain can only take in so much culture no matter how Spanish and impressive it is, ja feel?

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Just look at those peachy majestic walls and tell me you don’t want to spend multiple hours here.
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And here we are INSIDE one of the Thyssen’s masterpieces, because why not?

Finally, we took a siesta because, duh, and afterwords began our evening at the Dear Hotel’s gorgeous rooftop terrace bar. (Funny story, when we were waiting to be able to go up to the roof a server asked if we were being helped, and instead of saying we were waiting for the terraza, I said “terreza” which is not a thing but he took it as we were waiting for our amiga Tereza and I was embarrased trying to explain that.)

When we were finally let onto the terraza, we each had orangey-wheaty crisp, delicious beers and watched the sun set over the many old and cobblestoned (again with the cobblestones!) streets. If you’re in Madrid during nice weather, definitely hit up the Dear Hotel for at least one sunset. Plus, you’ll be excellently positioned to explore the Chueca and Malasaña nightlife once you’re done.

We did just that, popping into one of the only restaurants that could take us sans-reservation on a Saturday night. The more you know: if you’re planning on eating in one of the more popular Madridian neighborhoods on the weekend, make a rez! Restraurants in Chueca were booked for the whole night, but we took note of places we walked past for our later meals.

Finally, we had a nightcap at 1862 Drybar, a Malasaña haunt we’d seen wandering the previous night. I ordered a dragon-themed cocktail to stay on brand that came with a heat warning, and though it sadly didn’t make me breathe fire, it was a taste bud wake up call for SURE. A short jaunt back to casa M&M ended our first full day.

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Lisbon Day 3: BELEM

Pasteis All Day

Belem is the waterfront neighborhood in the east of Lisbon, and is a magical otherworldly heaven. Everyone we spoke to about Lisbon insisted we spend at least half a day in Belem, and they were CORRET. My French friend Melanie (whose last name I’ve just realized I don’t know?) in particular could not recommend it enough, and I SECOND THAT.

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We intended to take the 515 bus from Rocio Square, but the station was super crowded at 11am and the bus was taking a while, so we “splurged” for a 9 Euro taxi instead. We learned that taxis around Lisbon were totally reasonable, and for the time saved (on the few occasions that we didn’t walk), entirely worth it.
Our first stop was a walk along the River Tagus to the Tower of Belem, a medieval structure looking over the 25 de Abril bridge and the statue of Christ mirroring Rio de Janiero’s “Christ the Redeemer.” Another fun fact – the bridge looks just like San Fran’s Golden Gate because it was built by the same American architecture team. The bridge was initially named after the dictator Salazar, but changed to reflect the date of the 1974 revolution.

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The line to go to the top of the tour was approximately three years long so we skipped it, preferring instead to sit by the water and bask in the glory of it all. Down the road a bit is the Point of Discovery statue (which I kept referring to as the Point of Departures, not sure what that Freudian slip is all about), of which we DID climb to the top since the line was maybe two minutes long at most. The view was gorgeous, especially the vantage point we had of the palace gardens across the street.


SPEAKING OF ACROSS THE STREET. After the Point of Discovery we had a totally fine, not particularly memorable but not bad lunch at one of the waterfront cafes, and headed to tour the palace and cathedral. The architecture was grand AF. I love love love medieval arches, and the series of arches surrounding the courtyard (built in the 1500s) slayed me.

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BUT THE REAL KICKER OF BELEM, FOLKS: Pasteis de Belem. You’ll see this on every tour site and guidebook, and FOR GOOD REASON.
Let me back up. Portugal has a national pastry, aka pastel de nata, because of course they do. It is delicious no matter where you have it, but at Pasteis de Belem it is QUEEN. They serve the pastel piping hot with all of the powdered sugar and cinnamon that your heart desires.
And pro tip: the takeout line is another few years long, but the line for table service is nonexistent. We walked past said takeout line and straight to a table, where we were served immediately. Do this! Also order at LEAST two pasteis per person, and if you’re a coffee drinker, have their cappuccinos. It’s espresso topped with whipped cream, but the freshest whipped cream you can imagine, none of that canned nonsense. No exaggeration, this was one of the culinary highlights of my life.

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After this, we wandered around the botanical gardens, because Doug and I freaking love a good botanical garden. The weather was PERFECT on Belem day to boot. To top it off, we wandered around the Vasco de Gama park and the coach museum, where we got a peek into Portugal’s carriage history.
This took us to about 5pm, at which point we half walked, half cabbed to the LxFactory, an outdoor art / food / local shopping warehouse district. My hipster artsy side flourished for the couple of hours we spent there. I bought a beautiful little frame and a couple of metal stamps for my jewelry making habit, because they just HAD THOSE at the cutest antique shop. We had some wine and a charcuterie board in an outdoor cafe, because duh.


After exploring Lx we popped back to the AirBnb and did NOT nap, but did pick up some warmer clothes because the temperature had dropped to 60-ish degrees F. (I brought my custom Lingua Franca sweater which I cannot get enough of, and the one pair of jeans I packed was a floral embroidered Zara pair that are comfy as anything.)

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We then popped over to the outdoor restaurant/bar on the terrace of the Carmo Convent ruins. This, friends, was one of the most beautiful evening treasures. I could have come back every night if there weren’t so many other spots to try. The menu was entirely in Portuguese so we ordered cocktails, the ingredients of which we only vaguely understood (mine had egg whites, surprise!). They were delicious.

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For dinner, we ended up at Officina do Douque because we walked past it and it looked delicious, and IT WAS. I had the mackerel and Doug ordered the pork, and we split them. The dishes were insane, tender and lightly seasoned to perfection. It’s always so fun to find a place just by wandering that ends up being one of your most recommended spots!
Exhausted, full, and high on life we returned to the Air BnB to dream of Pasteis. Day. Handled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lisbon Day 2

Crying Over Cod

As much as possible, I try to avoid jet lag by just willing it not to exist. (Some trips this works better than others. I’m looking at you, 3 am wake up in Italy.) Traveling is a lot more enjoyable if you can kick the time difference as soon as possible. This usually means making yourself stay awake on the arrival day, and going to sleep no later than 9 or 10pm. This can be tough, hence our accidental nap on day 1. But we did manage to then stay awake until 10:30 or so and wake up around 9am Lisbon time on day 2. Jet lag vanquished!

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Our Air BnB was only a short walk from Castelo do Sao Jorge, a medieval-era castle that still stands guard over the city. We didn’t even know there was a castle when we booked this leg of the trip. (Oops, how about that research, eh?) So this was a great little surprise!

We were not expecting how hilly Lisbon is. Our calf muscles definitely felt it (plus the five-floor walk up to our Air BnB), but walking more than you ever expect is one of the things I’ve embraced about travel. Plus, it evens out when you eat all of that pastel de nata. Or something.

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The grounds of the castle offered incredible views, and so many peacocks! We LOVE animals, so any unexpected wildlife is A+++. The peacocks were so used to people and they were expert models.

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We climbed all around and visited the castle’s camera obscura, a mirrored lense on the highest turret that offered a 360 degree view of Lisbon. We weren’t allowed to take photos or videos of it, so you’ll just have to take my word that it was cool and totally worth the short wait.

Next we bought some fresh local berries because, of course, and headed down to Alfama, the artsy neighborhood by the water. Another unexpected Lisbon thing: Tuk Tuks everywhere! We didn’t actually take one (nor did we take the trolley, which looked lovely) because we are walking fiends, but they were awesome and brought back some very fond Thai memories. The roads in Lisbon are tiny and cobblestoned and I love them. No wonder people love SoHo and the West Village in NY so much; what is it about cobblestone streets? Romantic as eff, that’s for sure.

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We visited the Feira de Ladra, or fair of thieves, a craft street market that happened in Alfama every Tuesday and Saturday. I love when I happen to be in a city on one of the days that these things go up. I did buy an azulejo tile, though from a small artisan shop, not the Feira. Definitely an eye feast, though!

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For dinner that night we went to Cantinho do Avillez, which. GUYS. Laura Baranik, my dear friend and former food critic, recommended this place and I CANNOT SECOND IT ENOUGH. It was my favorite meal the whole trip (and we ate tons of excellent food!)

So chef Jose Avillez is a big deal in Portugal and has a few restaurants. Cantinho is one that is so reasonably priced, but the quality is unbelievable. Pretty much from the get go we decided to go IN on this dinner, and the whole thing only came out to 99 Euros. Allow me to go into mouth-watering detail:

We started with a bottle of Vinho Verde, because wine in general in Lisbon is CHEAP AND DELICIOUS. I’m not really a white wine person and was totally surprised when I tasted Vinho Verde earlier that day and loved it. It was a crisp 85 degrees Fahrenheit in Lisboa that day, and the chilled wine was DAMN SMOOTH.

To start, we had A LUMP OF BAKED NIZA CHEESE and seared scallops that actually fell apart in my mouth. Another thing about meals in Portugal: you’re served bread and olives as a starter, and if you eat them, you’re charged for it. We almost always just ate and paid for the olives because I freaking love olives and these Iberian Peninsula olives were FRESH. Since we were going in on this meal, the extra 2 Euro for the bread spread was a no brainer.

Then, for the main course. Doug and I almost always share meals because we’ve been blessed by the relationship gods with similar tastes. Laura specifically recommended the bacalhao with “exploding olives.” She said it actually brought tears to her eyes, and how were we NOT supposed to order it after that?

It did not disappoint. The cod was even more buttery and melt-y than the scallops, and the olives all but disintegrated when speared with a fork. You know how cooked cherry tomatoes squirt when you pierce them? Think that, but olives, and more elegant. The cod had a motherf*king runny egg nestled in the middle, and was dressed with bread crumbs and some kind of lettuce. All of the flavors sort of melted together to create heaven.

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~photo courtesy of Time Out Lisboa because I was too busy weeping to get a shot whilst we ate

We also shared a steak sandwich, and wow was it good. It was so simple – steak, butter, and bread, but when the ingredients are all so fresh and cooked so perfectly I wouldn’t have wanted anything else on it. We tried our best to savor this meal but ended up eating it in .2 seconds. #noregrets.

Then, for desert, the menu boasted that a dish called Hazelnut x3 would “change your life.” Done. Our server, Io (who was amazing and I would honestly go back to Lisbon just to visit), was wary of the fact that we wanted to cry and then have our lives changed during this meal. But like, mission accomplished.

The dessert was hazelnut ice cream topped with whipped hazelnut cream and crushed hazelnuts. Boom. We also had a warm chocolate cake, because we were living and I am a chocolate fiend, and tried a glass of the port that was recommended with the hazelnut. Another thing I have now discovered that I like: dry white port! I always associated dessert wines with being too syrupy and sweet, but no ma’am, this nectar of the heavens was smooth and nutty and just dry enough.

After sadly saying goodbye to Io and the Cantinho, we wandered down to Pink Street, Lisbon’s former Red Light District, to Pensao de Amor, our air bnb host’s favorite bar. The interior was BEAUTIFUL. I felt like I was in some kind of Harry Potter parlor, except sexy. They definitely played on the former-brothel theme; the level of aphrodisiac in each cocktail was marked by the image of an erect penis. Gotta love Europe.

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We shared a 3-peni cocktail that came in a teapot and had violet liqueur, blood orange, and something else. I honestly don’t remember but it was DELICIOUS, and I have never felt so simultaneously classy and vampy whilst sipping a beverage. Out of a china teacup. Thank you, Lisbon.

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Lisbon Day 1

Jet Lag & Exploring Anyway

18699769_10154670043936045_4909169863885706582_n.jpg If I'm flying anywhere for less than multiple months, carry on bags are he only bags I bring. Unless you’re flying Southwest (which you’re not going to be flying if you’re traveling outside of the US), you’ll have to pay for a checked bag, and the thought of risking a bag getting lost internationally is just TOO MUCH for my anxiety. I would like to wear my clothes when I get to my destination, thank you very much. There’s like, seventeen lipsticks in there.

(To take a ~coveted, I know~ peek into my travel necessities, click here)

Plus, not checking a bag means you get to zip off and explore that much faster after landing. I have ZERO travel patience – once I’m there, I’m there! We have new things to see, food to eat*, languages to butcher!

(*I accidentally wrote “food to meet” at first, and honestly really feel that. I love meeting food. Foods are some of my best friends. Vegetable Korma and I have a magical weekend planned.)

Lisbon was the first stop in Doug’s and my ten-day Iberian Peninsula adventure, which happened because we found $350 round-trip plane tickets to Madrid on Kayak and were physically unable to pass that up. Five days in Lisbon, five days in Madrid, with a couple of day trips sprinkled in.

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The first day of traveling east is always difficult because if you’re a smart traveler, you want to STAY AWAKE and BEAT THE JETLAG. Napping is for wimps!

So as soon as we checked into our Air BnB I immediately took a two-hour nap. Whoops.

I will say that before we were able to check in to our Air BnB, we went to a tiny restaurant around the corner and ate like kings for CHEAP. Portugal was already winning me over. The national food of Portugal is bacalhao, or salted cod. What? You may ask. Salted cod? That’s it? But GUYS. It’s honestly something out of heaven. One cab driver we had said there are 1001 ways to cook bacalhao, and during our time in Lisbon we must have tried 996 of those ways.

Not really. But in my dreams we did. I love you, I miss you, you buttery flaky melt-in-my-mouth fish. Write to me!

After a nap and a beautiful post-plane shower, we decided to walk to the Santa Justa Lift, down Praca Rossio, and to the water around Praca Commercio. We had a lot of restaurants starred to explore as well.

Starred? Whatever do you mean, “starred”? I’ve adopted this travel method from Doug, actually, and find it SO helpful. Before we go on a trip we research the area (my research mostly consists of asking friends for recs and the New York Times “36 Hours in ___” articles), and star the places we want to go on Google Maps. This way we can plan our days around the things we must visit, and if we’re ever at a loss for a place to eat or grab a drink, we can check the map and find something starred near to us. Google Maps’ GPS system works even when you don’t have cell data, so your little blue location dot will show up anywhere. Boom.

We were exhausted, yes, but new places are nature’s shot of adrenaline. Or something. I’m also definitely an evening/night person, and seeing all of the people out while the sun was setting was FIRE. It was about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature only declined slightly after dark. Amazing.

The Santa Justa lift offered some great first views of the city. The red tile rooftops and azulejo – Portuguese painted tile work on the walls – were heaven for NYC eyes.

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Down the Praca Commercio we dipped our feet into the river while a guitarist played classical renditions of Led Zeppelin. We tried ginjinha, a local sour cherry liquor that honestly tasted like cough syrup straight up, but which we later realized was much better when mixed in cocktails.

We ended the night with some squid ink-fried cuttlefish (I KNOW) at Sea Me’s stand in the Time Out market. We sat next to a very nice but VERY talkative Russian couple, and by the time we had finished our snack at 9pm-ish we were READY for bed and stoked for what the days ahead had in store.

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The Air BnB we picked for this leg of the journey was about a twelve minute walk away from the city center. Our room was small and hot sans air conditioning, but the decor was super cute and our host had a cat named Vicente. For the price and relative convenience, we were overall happy with it!

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