I have always wondered how authentic Portuguese tarts tasted like, and I was really glad to have been able to take the time off to visit Lisbon.
With labs finally being on Friday mornings instead of afternoons, I was able to leave school after labs for Luton airport, where our flight was scheduled at 4.40PM. After a slight delay, our flight finally left Luton airport approximately an hour later, and we landed in Portugal at 8 PM.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in Portugal, as it was relatively far to the other European countries I have been to. After clearing customs, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the airport was connected to the city centre via metro (similar to Singapore, Denmark, and London Heathrow). After less than an hour, we arrived at a restaurant near our accommodation, and had a really late dinner at Lisboa Ha Mesa. Well known for their speciality wine, I tried a glass for 5 Euros, and wasn’t disappointed at all. The smoothness of the wine as well as the sweet after taste was certainly unique, and it left me looking forward to more different flavours of Portuguese wine. In addition to the wine, the main courses that we had (consisting of steak and different cuts of pork) were simply amazing. We left for our accommodation stomachs full and in anticipation for what would lie ahead.
Having a long day ahead, we left our accommodation for breakfast early in the morning. On the way to getting some Portuguese egg tarts, we passed by the Praca Do Comercio, a waterside public plaza with a beautiful arch and statue. As it was still pretty early in the morning, most of the shops were closed. Nevertheless, we still managed to capture a few really beautiful pictures of the landscape.
Praca Do Comercio
For breakfast, we had coffee and Portuguese egg tarts at Manteigaria. I initially expected the Portuguese egg tarts to be similar to the egg tarts we have in Singapore, but I was terribly mistaken. Portuguese egg tarts actually taste more like custard tarts, and the crisp outside of the skin definitely a notch above the ones you find in Singapore. After having our fill, we made our way to the main attraction of the day, the town of Sintra.
Portuguese egg tart
Sintra is a resort town in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near the capital, Lisbon. A longtime royal sanctuary, its forested terrain is studded with pastel-colored villas and palaces. The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework. The hilltop 19th-century Pena National Palace is known for a whimsical design and sweeping views.
Upon arriving at Sintra (via a 45 minute train ride), we took an uber up to the top of the hill where the pena palace sat. Located in the Sintra hills, the Park and Palace of Pena are the fruit of King Ferdinand II’s creative genius and the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal, denoting clear influences from the Manueline and Moorish styles of architecture. The palace was built in such a way as to be visible from any point in the park, which consists of a forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth.
After a strenuous climb up the castle, we were in awe by the landscape of Sintra. As breath taking as the scenery was, the journey down was daunting, and we certainly were not looking forward to the descend down.
Upon leaving the Moorish Castle, we made our arduous journey back down. The journey back down towards Sintra took a literal series of twist and turns, and we eventually arrived in town an hour later. We stopped by the Legendary bar for some drinks and toasties, before boarding the train back to Lisbon.
At this point, we still have yet to print our air tickets, and there weren’t any printing shops nearby. Relying on past experiences with hotels, I knew that most hotels would offer printing services of air tickets, but only for guests. After buttoning up my trench coat, I casually walked into Altis Avenida Hotel’s reception and asked for instructions on the procedure of printing boarding passes. After a few compliments to the hotel as well as the lovely facilities it provides, the receptionist printed our air tickets, and offered to put it into an envelope for us (which I politely declined, but I was still quite impressed by their professionalism).
With the problem settled, we proceeded to hop from café to café to try out their pastries, of which we found a pastry shop that sold incredible Portuguese tarts (Fabrica da Nata). With a slightly salty and crusty outside, and sweet succulent custard on the inside, we were thoroughly impressed by the pastries they sold, and I made the decision to visit this store again for breakfast the next day.
Having had our fill, we headed back to our accommodation for the night (and for more work on MIPs simulator testbench).
After packing up our belongings, we left our accommodation and had breakfast at the same place we had supper. We then paid a visit to Castelo de S. Jorge, yet another Moorish castle, but this time in the middle of Lisbon. Apart from the large number of peacocks present around the castle, it felt the same as the Moorish castle we visited the day before.
Atop the castle
After snapping a few shots of Lisbon from the top of the castle, we left and made our way to Armaha for lunch. After lunch, we bade goodbye to Sheryl (who had to leave for Manchester), and ascended the Elevador da Gloria, which presented us a view of Lisbon at the top of the elevator.
View from the top of the elevator
Not having much left to do, we went to a nearby gelato shop for ice cream, before taking the metro back to Lisboa airport. All in all, this trip opened up my horizons to the rich history of Portugal, as well as the delicious food they have. Next up, Milan!
Transport (inclusive of air tickets): £90
Accommodation (2 nights): £35