Travelling Lisbon with A Toddler and a Baby
So I guess this is the place where I admit to my travel blunder. We took an overnight 9.5 hour British Airways flight from Vancouver to London. When we landed, we hopped a shuttle to our hotel to stay the night and head out on an early flight to Lisbon. Well, I misunderstood the time change and we didn't have a hotel room to stay at (we had missed our reservation the night before) and had missed our flight to Lisbon. Not only that, but our Airbnb hosts in Lisbon had been waiting for us for a few hours! So we had paid for and missed a night's hotel and a flight. I had even booked both flights on the sam airline British Airways but I guess airlines don't catch when you book yourself on flights at the same time? I was so upset and embarrassed and above all worried about the kids and my failed perfect plan for them to have a break before getting on another flight. We decided to take a cab back to the airport and booked a last minute flight to Lisbon (for way more $$$ than our missed flight cost). We arrived in Lisbon and our Airbnb at almost midnight. The kids were a mess and stayed up until 4am much to the delight of the downstairs neighbours. Our poor kiddos! It was a tough lesson but we moved on quickly (thanks to an extremely understanding and stoic husband who never got angry for a moment) and didn't look back. The remainder of the bookings for the trip were flawless.
Our Airbnb was this listing... it was a charming small apartment with a view in a perfect neighborhood called Santa Catarina. The host waited for us when we missed our agreed upon time and then came back again to meet us at midnight that same night. I can't imagine someone being more understanding about my screw up. Would highly recommend this place. Also the neighborhood was perfect for us. We were minutes away from a beautiful lookout (mind you the abundant drug dealers at the park prevented us from spending long periods of time there). One perfect night we had tapas and rose on the lawn at Pharamcia (recommended by wonderful reader and Lisbon native Madelena, Pharmacia link here). The kids were able to roll around in the grass and we got to have a nice meal, it was one of our best nights in Lisbon.
Lisbon was as beautiful and interesting as I had imagined and I had pretty high expectations. Beautiful buildings covered in handpainted tiles, abundant history, flowering vines and bright sun. We spent most of our time on foot, with the stroller and carriers roaming the streets and getting lost. We probably could have been more organized and checked more off of our list but jet lag hit us all pretty hard and wandering seemed to be the best solution. We found a nice cafe in the nearby Chiado neighborhood that had decent coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice (this is sooo good in portugal, don't miss it!) and cheap and delicious pastries. We actually made breakfast at home in the mornings the whole trip to be sure the kids were fed, then we would head out and have a second breakfast/lunch when we happened upon somewhere that looked good. Breakfast at home saved money and relieved the pressure of grumpy, hungry kids while wandering a strange city.
On the advice of a few friends we took the tram out to Belem for a day. I was a little worried about missing a day in Lisbon when our time was already cut a bit short. But Belem was a gorgeous little town with a big park that Theo could run around in. The Pasteis de Belem Natas (link to bakery here) were one of the best things I have ever eaten. There was also an outdoor market celebrating regional food and drink that was fun to explore. On the way back into town we stopped at LX Factory (link here), wandered the shops, especially the Ler Devagar bookstore. Our visit was poorly timed because we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner. In Portugal lunch is generally 1-3pm and then restaurants close until 6 or 7pm. This was a little tricky with kids as we like to eat early.
Another day we made our way to Castle Sao Jorge (the hard way, walking uphill for an hour) and wandered the grounds for a few hours. The view was impressive and the grounds quite lovely. After, we wandered through Alfama after stopping for popsicles. We managed to have an amazing lunch with a view of the city at Chapito's (link here). I would definitely recommend a stop there. We found lunch much easier to navigate with 2 kids than dinner.
I wish we had discovered more of the food in Lisbon. Exploring all day with the kids meant we were usually spent by the end of the day. And by we, I mostly mean Theo (and a little bit Mae). He was such a trooper, walking for many hours of the day, so by the evening we were managing meltdowns and tantrums. Going out for a nice dinner ended up being off the table. We ended up grabbing food to go or cooking. I think at another point in my life this would have been really disappointing to me but I knew this trip was ambitious. I was just so grateful to be in this beautiful city with my family that I knew I couldn't have everything. Our expectations were kept low and happily exceeded.
While we didn't eat as well as we would have hoped we certainly took advantage of the flexible alcohol laws in Lisbon. It is common to have wine with lunch and cafes everywhere serve beer and wine and cocktails (often to go). It's also legal to drink alcohol in the streets. One evening we wandered up to Principe Real neighborhood and found a park for the kids that had two kiosks serving wine and spirits in plastic cups. The kids happily played and we cheers'd each other, winning at traveling (for the moment). The rose and vinho verde were my drink of choice for usually 2 euro a glass!
The 4 days we spent in Lisbon were magic and truthfully not enough. In retrospect I wish we had booked longer in Lisbon. I underestimated the effect of jet lag on everyone, especially the kids. I think if we stayed longer though we would have needed to map out more parks for Theo. He kept asking me to find grass for him :).
As mentioned in my previous post about packing, we used our old Mclaren Triumph stroller and 2 carriers to get around Lisbon. Our stroller folds up quickly so if we took the metro or a tram we could easily hop on and off. The streets are narrow and cobbled but it was possible to navigate with a well-made umbrella stroller. Without the stroller we would have had to take cabs, as Mae is about 22 lbs and I couldn't have carried her all day.
I'll follow this post with our trip through the Algarve soon! Thanks for following along. If there is anything else you are wondering about travelling with kids in Portugal please let me know.