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Visit to Lisbon, Portugal, part II
It is in the central neighborhood of Baixa most tourists go to shop for souvenirs and sit down for a meal. As in most places, tourist geared locales can seem a bit predatory as the shops and restaurants compete for customers by advertising their products and services in the street. The overall atmosphere here is friendly however, and there are plenty of good restaurants. You’ll discover that a lot of the people working in this district have arrived in Lisbon from all over the world. Most menus include typical Portuguese cuisine as well as some popular Spanish dishes, like Paella. The seafood is fantastic in Lisbon, and one of the best meals I had was a simple octopus salad with a garlic vinaigrette.
While most meals are fairly prized, the restaurants try to add to the bill by offering appetizers and side dishes. The seemingly complimentary dishes, including simple bread and butter, can be a tourist trap. These little extra additions to your meal usually don’t add up to much, but it’s still good to be aware that you pay for everything brought to your table even if you didn’t order it. Only once did I feel slightly chagrined as I discovered that the little addition to our meal cost me more than our actual dinner.
The city of Lisbon is proud of its network of trams that span the old neighborhoods forming the inner city: Alfama, Baixa and Bairro Alto. The city offers a transportation pass, the Viva Viagem, which includes tram rides, buses, the metro, as well as admission to the Santa Justa Lift. While I wouldn’t recommend the tram as a means of efficient transportation, it’s certainly a Lisbon bucket-list item. The metro offers a more time reliable way to get around, and it is much easier to understand.
The Santa Justa Lift is a freestanding elevator tower with a lookout at the top that offers a panoramic view of the city. The tower bridge the lower streets of Baixa with the elevated Largo Square. When the elevator first opened, in 1905, it ran on steam but was converted to electric operation only two years later. Today this Neo-Gothic iron elevator stands as a historic landmark in the city of Lisbon, and it is well worth a visit.
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The old neighborhood Baixa is filled with souvenir shops. There are several items you may want to bring home as memorabilia from your trip to Lisbon. The Portuguese can make anything, ANYTHING with cork. You will find that hats, shoes, bags, and jewelry are among the most common items, and the cork is so strong it feels like leather.
In the jewelry stores you’ll find different variations of the filigree Minhoto Heart, a very distinct symbol of Portugal. You can also find beautifully hand painted ceramics in Lisbon. Unless you plan on spending a small fortune shipping a whole dining set to your address – a soap dish, cup or saucer can travel safely in your carry-on. Another item you’ll find in every souvenir shop is the Galo de Barcelos, or Cock of Barcelos. This rooster can be found hand painted in colorful patterns and is a symbol of luck according to legend. Other souvenirs include items commonly found in Lisbon, like their trams, tile, and yes – fish.
Next, I will take you to a couple of local gems away from the tourist hot-spots.
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Visit to Lisbon, Portugal, part 1
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By Jessica Lang, Multimedia Team Specialist, Travel Planners International