As you may have seen from my Twitter and Instagram feeds, last weekend I was in Lisbon for a fabulous blog trip in partnership with O2 Travel, and I discovered a true European gem! I’d been set a series of active and cultural challenges to complete; a city cycle, a 5k run, a winding hike, a harbour-side Yoga class, as well as cookery classes, a fresh market tour and some extensive sampling of the local fare. Having met my challenges head-on, I now understand why this is Europe’s #1 city break destination – and what a fabulous & sporty way to discover a city’s charming character! Read my full account, with plenty of lovely pictures, HERE…
Situated on the Atlantic coast, Lisbon boasts some breathtaking coastline real estate, close to some epic beaches (amongst them the western-most point of Europe in Cascais, but more on that shortly). I was totally bowled over by the richness of the culture, the town’s easy-going identity, the magnificence of the grand architecture – it all really took me by surprise!
Yes, Portugal has endured an especially tough financial crisis (evidenced by abandoned buildings left to peel in the sunshine) but in no way did it feel downbeat. Instead the city feels full of life, energy, character and endless potential. It could be the St. Tropez of Portugal, with stunning weather, delicious cuisine and magical buildings; it just needs a little time to flourish to its maximum potential! I would recommend it to anyone, in a heartbeat. Below is a quick run through of all the fun active adventures O2 Travel sent me on over the weekend.
You can find some extra pics on my Twitter & Instagram feeds; the specially designed tariff they put me on (for anyone travelling in Europe) let me chew through all the roaming data I could ever want in a day for £1.99. It felt like a bit of a guilty luxury to just *keep* getting emails abroad, to *keep* instagramming, to keep a check on my favourite bloggers, to Skype, to Tweet, to Facebook etc, without an £800 bill waiting at the end! So a big thanks from me to O2 for bringing my euro travel out of the technological dark ages!
1) THE LOCAL MARKET TOUR: There’s no better way to get a feel for a local culture than to sample the food. Thanks to my fabulously knowledgeable guide, Filipa from Taste of Lisboa, I discovered the Mercado Da Ribeira – it’s a bit of a ‘Jekyl & Hide’, with a 132 year-old fish market adjoining a brand new gastronomic zone (which stylishly showcases the finest of Portugal’s culinary concepts), separated by a cavernous hangar full of ripe fruit-&-veg. I picked up my super-fresh ingredients of choice (avoiding tourist prices – thanks Filipa 😀 ), and moved on to stage 2…
2) THE COOKERY CLASS: Chef Isabel Caramelo from Cooking Lisbon had the unenviable task of schooling me in authentic Portuguese cuisine. My menu?
– Starter: Caldo Verde Soup (Potato and Cabbage soup with Chorizo)
– Fish Main: Cuttle fish, Algarve style
– Meat Main: Portuguese Pork dish
– Dessert: Farofias (Portugese egg-white sweets)
With her expert instruction, I made light work of a 4 course extravaganza! My personal highlight was the Fish, remarkable for its lightness and unbeatable freshness, partly thanks to the Market’s authenticity, and partly thanks to Isabel – but it was certainly not my doing! After a very rich and delicious dessert, I’d need to burn it all off!
3) THE 5k RUN: The farofias simply evaporated with my exertion. Walking, jogging or running a city must be one of the best ways to see the sights, and Lisbon was an utter joy! The waterside stretch between the two bridges is so picturesque and punctuated by such a beautiful mix of buildings and landmarks, it was the perfect setting for my run!
4) THE DINNER CHALLENGE: To locate and dine at Sol E Pesca, a tiny fishing tackle-shop-turned-bar made famous by owner Henrique Vaz Pato, whose award-winning cookbook of the same name helped elevate one of Lisbon’s most famous staples – the tinned sardine – from cheap basic to gourmands’ favourite. Objective complete!
5) THE YOGA SESSION: On Sunday I awoke bright and early and headed to the idyllic, secluded beach of Guincho, 5km outside the gorgeous little town of Cascais, which looks out onto the most western point in Europe (the Capa da Roca). Normally, it’s about as good as it gets. HOWEVER, less than ideally, there was an unseasonal July monsoon, so I met up with a wonderful friend who has a summer house in Cascais overlooking the bay, where we enjoyed a yoga session together on her balcony. Afterwards, a delicious fresh fruit salad with yoghurt and honey, and a restorative coffee to prepare me for the next challenge, by which time the sun had peeped through again
6) THE BICYCLE TOUR: I took a bicycle tour of the city with Bikeiberia, checking out sites from around the city, from the majestic ‘Avenida do Liberdad’ (aka Lisbon’s Bond Street) all the way to the majestic Belem Tower! This is where the O2 Travel app came in handy, with its integrated TripAdvisor city guide to help conquer my shocking sense of direction! I also discovered a fantastic coffee house, Browns Coffee Shop!
I WAS WEARING:
TOP: Under Armour women’s Heatgear Pink Roundneck training top, similar HERE
T-SHIRT: ‘More Issues Than Vogue’ Ebay find
LEGGINGS: Under Armour Stunner Stretch Woven Capris
SHOES: Under Armour Speedform Apollos
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