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We tour Monasteries in Lisbon and take a great walking tour over the ancient streets of the Alfama

Updated: May 18, 2023

Devon and I arranged for a car to take us (and all my bags) from Cascais to Lisbon early in the morning a week after I got off the ship.

We parked the luggage at a storage place and quickly joined a walking tour called Unforgettable Lisbon that is hosted by a fantastic creature named Xenia Alves. It was easily one of the best I have ever taken.

Xenia, for the most part, skipped tourist attractions and went to back streets and places that tourists would never otherwise go, and introduced us to some remarkable residents of this ancient city (the second oldest capital in Europe after after Athens).

Like the woman whose family has been making dolls for three generations. (She can sort of be seen in the window behind Xenia who is holding one of her creations.)

And the 98- year-old woman who plays disco music out her window to get everyone on the street to dance - and flirts outrageously with the men. She is waving to us here.

Much of the tour was over the hilly and narrow streets of the Alfama, which was is the oldest part of the city and dates back some 3,000 years.

We got spectacular views over terra cotta roofs.

And Xenia introduced us to some moonshine made by a local grandma, the best pasteis de nata (the traditional custard tarts) I have ever eaten, the delicious ginja cherry liqueur, and some wonderful sparkling vino verde. This is at the cherry-liqueur bar.

There is a lot of up and down - you cannot travel anywhere in Lisbon without climbing or descending a hill over the polished mosaic of square blocks that cover every street and sidewalk. But Xenia is so funny and so knowledgeable and fantastic that you just want to listen to her. And Dev and I had some wonderful mom-daughter time together.

We collected our luggage and took an Uber (which are super cheap here) to a great two-bedroom AirBNB we rented that is a half hour walk from the river. I was so glad to find out it was on the first floor and not the fifth!

The next day, Dev and I took a city bus out to the Jerónimos Monastery that was built in the 1500s and houses the remains of Vasco de Gama. Like all of Portugal's monasteries, it was secularized when the male religious orders were dissolved by government decree in 1833. But three centuries of monks walked these floors.

We had a bit of sangria and cheese and bread to sustain us through the tour. There pictures are not entirely in chronological order.

And then we explored the magnificent building.

That night, we walked from our AirBNB in the city centre, to the downtown where we found a great wine bar called Grapes and Bites. The sommelier poured us three fabulous wines from Portugal.

Then we took a sunset cruise on the River Tagus.

We returned to Grapes and Bites for some port before heading home and could not get in because the place was jammed. But they gave us a glass while we stood outside.

Dev took off for Canada the following day and I was left to my own devices.

I walked to the Alfama and past the Mosterio of St Vincent's de Flora, and decided to go in. It's construction started in 1147, and was a monastery until 1834. The flowers outside were spectacular.

Perhaps the most remarkable points of interest are the fabulous glazed tile panels depicting fables and scenes of every-day life. But many of the rooms have been ornately decorated.

And there is a great view when you get to the top.

I continued my stroll to the city and treated myself to pizza on a patio.

Then I went to the ruins of Carmo, which is a convent built about 1400 that was destroyed in the massive 1755 earthquake.

The bones of the church are still standing.

And there is a quirky archeological museum founded in the 1800s to shelter the pieces of art rescued from monasteries that had been closed around the country.

Oddly, it also houses an Egyptian mummy.

And the remains of these mummified South American children.

Dinner that night was at a great little Nepalese place close to my AirBNB. And I retired early ... so I was rested for the arrival of Cyn the next day.

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