Our flight left at 6am. So that meant we had to get up at 4am in order to dress, check out, and drive to the airport. If you’ve ever packed with two toddlers running around, you know it’s best to wait until they’re in bed. So we packed from 8:30pm to 10:30pm, then tried to relax and get some sleep despite worrying about things we’d neglected to pack, how to catch the bus from the airport to the new hotel, and how to remember to stop saying “gracias” and start saying “obrigada/o” again. So. We both ended up with about three hours of sleep. Then we were on a plane trying to keep the kids quiet, waited for luggage, found our bus, remembered that Portugal is an hour ahead of Spain…
So we arrived at our hotel around 8am local time very bleary-eyed and without a place to rest yet (the hotel allowed us to drop our luggage but we couldn’t check in until 2:00pm). We set off on a roughly planned walk to see what we could find.
What we found is a beautiful city with lots of interesting architecture, people, and food. Even the kids were enchanted.
And energized! Of course they’d got almost a full night’s sleep, so they had an edge on us.
Our hotel was in a terrific location near the water, but also close to a large pedestrian street with shops and restaurants. Most of them were closed this early, but we were able to scout.
I should have demanded a pastry for fuel. Why didn’t I?
We made our way to the subway, which is large, clean, and organized. Just like at home, Linus acted like an old pro.
I won’t lie: I was awfully tired and grumpy, a condition that didn’t improve until we finally decided to stop everything and get an early lunch a few hours later.
Linus admired the infrastructure. We didn’t even take this elevator, but he checked it out thorougly.
This is the view as you come up out of the train station. You’re looking across the street toward a mall here.
We decided to stop for a break and a digestive biscuit snack. Mina really got into the break.
We headed back outside again and toward the water.
The World’s Fair was held in Lisbon in 1998. They build this funicular for it.
We walked under the path of the funicular and debated whether to ride. I kept pushing for it, but maybe only because I was really tired.
For the same World’s Fair, they build this Oceanarium. It’s apparently the largest aquarium in Europe. Hang on… you’ll get to see inside! It turns out I work with someone who actually visited Lisbon during the Fair. He said the line to get into the Oceanarium was hours long.
Yen, who is an incredibly wise husband, realized that maybe we’d all stop being grumpy if we ate. We looked around for open restaurants, but of course we were too early for a Portuguese lunch. We discovered a McDonald’s was open. And even though we have never been inside one since we’ve been married, we decided… What the heck? The food was different from home and actually not too terrible. We both enjoyed ordering on the giant iPads – do they have that here too? Anyway, refreshed, fed, and now with two complimentary balloons, we set off again.
It turns out that the Oceanarium is next to a science museum. We considered going in, but we visit the Boston Museum of Science so often that it seemed silly. Instead of we checked out the fountain outside.
Ok, I really wanted to ride in the funicular. And so did Linus. So finally we pooled our whining and convinced Yen to head over.
“Look, anh hai! That’s where we’re going next!”
I thought they might be a little nervous, but they sure weren’t. We were also happy to find that it was rather warm inside the little cars.
Here we are flipping around and heading back.
At last we headed into the Oceanarium. While Yen bought tickets, I stayed in the (warm) gift shop with the kids. I had to promise that we’d come back later and buy a particular toy for Linus (we did).
Like the bioparc we visted earlier, this turned out to be a lush, surprising experience.
They had a little section complete with fake icebergs for the cold-climate birds to sit on.
Some of them explored beyond their worlds.
Mina really got into the experience. Later I sat down with Linus to check out a fish that was just sitting near the bottom of the tank. My little scientist and I speculated about why he was sitting there, whether his friends would come visit him, how he felt, etc. With the swooshing sounds, the warmth, and the dark, I very nearly fell asleep. Luckily Mina and Yen joined us and jolted me awake.
One for each of us!
Here we are back outside again. The blue ball floating in the water is the mascot of the Oceanarium. So in this case he’s poked his head up from snorkling, I guess.
We walked along this park and fountain system on the way back to the subway.
Back through the mall… We discovered that once again, Mina had fallen asleep on my shoulders. Yen took over carrying her (he’s got just a little more upper body strength…).
Poor little beastie. She was completely out! She slept through the walk, getting back on the subway, and the entire ride. Of course she woke refreshed and ready for action, while the rest of us really wanted a nap.
We finally checked into our room, which was on the 5th floor and commanded a lovely but terrifying view. After this we closed up the window and didn’t let them look again.
We connected back with Grandma and Grandpa, and set out again for a walk after a brief rest. Yen took this photo in particular for the sign behind me. The shop next door to our hotel is called Cod King. The lobby and common areas of the hotel smelled like dried cod – which is perfume to Yen but might not be so pleasing to all guests. You really can’t smell it in the rooms, I promise.
Lots of transportation options in Lisbon: subway, city buses, modern cable cars, and these adorable old clunkers.
Here’s the view when you stand inside one of the big Christmas trees (see the next photo for the outside view). Linus loved it, of course.
Our once-deserted pedestrian mall was now packed! I had completely forgotten that it was the last Friday night before Christmas. Everyone was out looking for last-minute gifts.
Grandpa was so good at helping me haul the kids around! Here we’re heading into the subway to buy passes for him and Grandma.
The passes aren’t just for the subway, they also get you onto this old elevator. We decided the line was too long that evening, though.
Debating what to do for dinner…
When you walk around looking hungry, restaurant owners jump out and try to convince you that their restaurant is the best. We ended up in this one because the owner was persistent, but also because Linus took a real shine to him. I wish we had a photo. Linus let the owner take him all around to see things in the restaurant, and later they even left together to visit the one next door. You might be shocked that I let a stranger take him, but the Portuguese are just so excited about children that it felt safe. Linus was pretty sad when it was time to leave.
Oh right – and there was food! Let’s see… Seafood pasta for the kids (that’s what I’m scooping up). Yen’s meal (in the foreground) was grilled squid. Mine was a mixed dish of several whole grilled fish, a beautiful chunk of salmon, and the most delicious potatoes since Peru.
After dinner we found a little carnival and let the kids ride. I was surprised Mina wanted to ride with Linus, but probably shouldn’t have been.
We woke to incredible fog.
Yen used the fog as an opportunity to focus on more close-up objects – like the tiles on many of the buildings.
All quiet again!
Back to the elevator, which was deserted. I know it was silly to go up in the fog with no view, but we were really riding it for the infrastructure of it – for Linus, you know?
Here’s Miss Lady getting ready to ride up…
Dashing ahead at the top…
And now getting ready to head back down again.
Heading back into the subway. Linus kept saying, “Let’s go into that tunnel again!”
Yen loves photos in which Mina is jumping so high that you can see her floating. Sometimes I think she’s made of rubber.
You can see that the fog is slowly starting to burn off and it’s going to be a beautiful day.
Have you ever seen a bicycle built for six? Let alone six Santas? Yen said, “That must be a seriously strong frame.”
We took the cable car over to Belém.
Our plan was for Grandma and Grandpa to tour this monastery (yes, it’s really a monastery – so much for vows of poverty) while we took the kids for a walk, but they decided they preferred the walk too.
We discovered that we had to cross a busy road – luckily there was another tunnel for Linus!
Here’s the Henry the Navigator monument. It’s way bigger than you can tell here – I guess I was rather far away.
We walked along the water from the monument to this tower.
Heading in… I feel terrible! We went in ahead of Grandma and Grandpa and discovered later that they weren’t able to follow: they don’t take credit cards and Grandpa only had a €50 bill. They patiently waited outside until we returned.
We probably shouldn’t have let Linus actually touch the cannons, but he was absolutely fascinated by them.
Our little adventurer ponders the horizon.
The tower had lots of little nooks and crannies for our little explorers.
Wow, we walked a long way!
Afterward we were hungry! We started walking back and looking for a place to eat. Linus made his choice clear.
Hey, look who we saw driving a cable car!
We ended up near a famous bakery. Of course we bought a few of the egg custards, and then we found a little shawarma place next door.
And back again on the cable car.
We stopped back at the hotel for a brief rest. Here are the kids having a biscuit party under the window. (Pants optional)
Grandma and Grandpa decided to some exploring on their own, so we set off on another walk. It just occurs to me that we look like the sculpture!
We decided to hop on one of the old cable cars and visit the castle that overlooks this part of the city.
It was… a close right. It was awfully bumpy, and I as pretty anxious trying to hold Mina and stay upright. One woman finally shouted at some people to give me a seat.
We saw signs like this everywhere. Luckily we experienced no problems.
Here we are up in the castle at the top. I found myself thinking about people hundreds of years ago thinking, “Ok, let’s put a step there… a fountain there…” Strange to imagine.
Mina is obsessed now with peacocks, which she calls “peacats.”
I wsn’t interested in taking a cable car back down, so we decided to hoof it. Linus walked with me and chatted the entire way. I really enjoy our little talks.
At the bottom, we discovered that the carnival was wrapping up, but they had decided to pack the cars last. The kids got to have one more ride. Of course they chose the same car as last night!
This time Mina sat in back, though.
We had a little dinner (which ended with some naughty behavior by the kids), and the next morning we headed home. I think we were all ready. Traveling is wonderful, but sometimes going home is nice too.
We’ve booked our next adventures, though! In February we’ll do a long weekend in DC, one of our favorite weekend trips. And in April, we’re meeting friends in the Azores (islands in the Atlantic that are part of Portugal). Yen and I are really looking forward to that – we met Peter and Cindy way back in 2011 when we were all in Costa Rica. We’ve only spent one evening actually with them, and we’re so looking forward to a week to get to know them and their four-year-old son, Jamie. Stay tuned!