Lisbon was the second leg of Julia’s first international trip last February. We spent 7 beautiful days there, and I’ll split the trip into a couple of posts since it was a longer stay. If you missed the Madrid travelogue, flip back to it here.
Where We Stayed
We rented an apartment at the Lisbonaire and it was the apartment to which all future stays will be compared (we reserved through Booking.com, but were in Apartment O if you’re booking on their website). Our one bedroom place was gigantic (even for American standards), had a well-equipped kitchen, a balcony, and a washing machine (they have a dryer you can use in the basement, but we just hung things on the balcony to air dry). Most importantly, they were so baby friendly. Our apartment came with a pack and play, a toy box, a high chair and a baby bath tub. They also kindly recommended a babysitting service for us to use while we were there (it was great; to discuss more later).
Access was easy and used numeric codes that they e-mailed us a few days before our stay. There’s an app you can download to do common things (like request cleaning, book tours, etc). I tried to use it to schedule a taxi to the airport since our flight was early and when it didn’t work, I e-mailed them and they scheduled it for me very quickly. I didn’t realize that our Booking.com reservation wouldn’t kick in a payment automatically during our stay, so they even sweetly e-mailed me the day before we checked out to remind me to come down whenever it was convenient for me. The wifi wasn’t perfect from the bedroom, but was excellent in the living area, so researching dinner reservations or double-checking trip details didn’t require holding our phones up to a window or door for a better signal.
The location was amazing and super convenient to multiple transit options. We were able to take Aerobus 1 from the airport to the Restauradores stop a block and a half from the apartment, and the Rossio station that is the jumping off point for a day trip to Sintra was similarly very close. We chose to do very little subway riding, so while we did a lot of hills, the location offers pretty easy walking if you’re wearing comfortable shoes. As an added bonus, the main street has a Fabrica da Nata for some tasty Pasteis de Nata and a block further is a wonderful coffee shop that we sadly didn’t discover until close to the end of our stay, Fabrica Coffee Roasters.
What We Did And Where We Ate
We arrived in the Lisbon airport around midday and took the Aerobus from the airport. It was a full bus, but we pack light and everyone was very understanding about making sure we got seats with a baby. It was very easy to find at the airport and was only 3.50 EUR/person (Julia was free), and took a little less than an hour to get to our stop, which I feel is pretty typical for public transport from an airport to a big city. We walked a block and a half to the apartment and relaxed for a bit while Julia explored the toy box and we researched dinner plans. I’m finding that while doing some advance restaurant research is good to make sure we don’t miss any major gems, it’s also nice to do a quick search the day of depending on what we feel like eating. Lisbon seems to eat a little earlier than Madrid, but they’re still very much on European time (no dinner before 7 at the earliest). We decided to take a leisurely walk to dinner so that we could sight see a bit since it was that beautiful hour or two before sunset. I really wanted to try ginjinha (a liqueur made from sour cherries) while we were in Portugal and we made a stop at Ginjinha do Combro for a tasting. The lady who runs the shop was so kind to us (entertaining Julia while we sipped our drinks) and the ginjinha was so delicious (she emphasized the purity of the alcohol used versus other manufacturers) that we made a return stop later in our trip for souvenirs.
Next, we made our way to Churrasqueira da Paz. It’s a small family restaurant down a back street and when we arrived, they kindly told us that they don’t normally open until 7, but that because we had a baby, if we came back around 6:30 (it was about 5:30 at that point), they would serve us earlier. After a quick glance at our maps, we walked to Jardim da Estrela to visit the lovely little playground so Julia could crawl around a bit. Diaper changing facilities are very rare, but no one seemed to mind when we used an empty park bench. We got back to Churraqueira da Paz around 6:45 (didn’t want to look too eager…) and despite their small size, they even had a high chair prepped for Julia. We enjoyed olives and bread with house white wine and took our waiter’s recommendations for fish. We had grilled golden bream and a sea bass, which came with perfectly steamed broccoli and new potatoes. Julia loved the delicious simplicity, and so did we. Our whole meal was only around 17 euros, so we added a generous tip. They didn’t push us to leave (despite the fact that the tables are largely communal and we were sitting at a large one), but when we headed out, there was already a line out the door full of people waiting to get in. We stopped at Manteigaria on our walk back to the apartment for a sampling of Pasteis de Nata. These delightful little egg custards are a specialty in Lisbon and I pretty much achieved my goal of tasting each of the major bakeries while we were there. They aren’t too sweet, and when served hot out of the oven, their luscious creaminess could convince a person to drop everything and move to Portugal.
We never really took Julia off her travel schedule of going to bed around 10 p.m. and waking up around 8 a.m., which worked out well for us when we wanted to stay out later for dinner. It was also nice for us to be able to sleep in (never thought I would define that as getting up after 7, but that’s life with a baby for you). We picked up some oranges and berries from a tiny market around the corner from the apartment and snacked on fruit before starting off the day with coffee and pastries from Fabrica da Nata up the street. We needed the calories for our long walk to Castelo de Sao Jorge. We took Julia in the baby carrier (Beco Gemini – see more detail here) to better navigate hills with uneven cobblestones and stairs, but also brought the stroller along since we knew we’d be out for awhile and might want it for naps and flatter ground. It was also nice to be able to feed her on the go – I just draped a scarf over the carrier so she could breastfeed discreetly while we walked, which also helped ward off the bright sun. The fort is quite a climb and as a result, rewards you with beautiful views over Lisbon. It was a warm and sunny day, so the light breeze from the top felt great. We climbed up and down the ramparts with Julia safely in the carrier and were able to leave the stroller near the entrance (there were many other families doing the same, and we didn’t leave any valuables in it).
After our visit, we took a leisurely walk down near the water on our way to Time Out Market. This spot was made for families! Local chefs have small stands around the perimeter of the large indoor space. You can walk around and check out what’s on offer before circling back to order whatever’s most appealing. There are appetizer/tapas sized dishes as well as full-sized portions and the wide variety means that everyone can pick out something they like. There are also a few high chairs scattered around, so you can pull yourself up to a communal table and stick baby at the end so your hands are free to sip a glass of wine. Locals here love families and are more than willing to scoot over so you can grab a space. We never waited more than a couple of minutes for a table. The food was so amazing that we came back every day during our stay. I enjoyed a delicious octopus salad in a little seafood tin, we shared a pea and mint soup with Julia on a couple of visits, and ate crispy pork, slow cooked beef cheeks and sipped a variety of wines over the course of a couple of days.
We went back to the apartment for an afternoon snooze and hung out until our babysitter for the evening came. That’s right, we got a babysitter!! The Lisbonaire gave us a recommendation for PrioVida. It’s always nerve-wracking to leave your baby with someone you haven’t met before, but Claudia from PrioVida and I corresponded several times before our trip. They have a rigorous vetting process (background check, interviews, etc) and when our babysitter, Madalena, arrived, we immediately felt at ease with her. More importantly, Julia loved her and didn’t even notice when we left after going over her bedtime routine.
We waltzed off to enjoy a walk to the waterfront for cocktails. There are several little stands where you can order a drink and sit in lounge chairs while you check out the twinkling evening lights.
We ate dinner at Solar 31, a Portuguese seafood restaurant hidden up a winding hill (we were grateful for Google Maps and MyMaps on this walk). I had made reservations a few days before, which was nice because they happened to be busy. The food here was delicious, but we definitely felt removed from the locals. Most diners in the restaurant were American, English or Chinese. We had really enjoyed the bream at Churrasqueira da Paz, so we ordered a similar grilled preparation as well as the red snapper. We love snapper, but it’s a lower priced fish (they kept emphasizing the amount of bones, but we didn’t have trouble pulling them out), and we did feel a little bit of pressure to get something more impressive (read: expensive) like their large octopus dish or tiger prawns. The dry ice chilling our wine was also a little over the top. That being said, our fish was well cooked, with the chef making friendly visits to all of the tables to make sure everyone was satisfied, and my dinner date was devastatingly handsome, so it was still a lovely evening out.
We had told Madalena that Julia had been going to bed around 10, so we were pleasantly surprised when we got back (after sneaking to the roof top deck at the apartment for a quick peek at the view) and Julia had gone to bed around 8 and was sleeping soundly while Madalena read a book. Hi, can we please bring our babysitter back to the U.S. with us?
It was a great start to our trip and we were really excited for sailing the next day, but I’ll save that for Part 2!
Have you used a babysitting service while on vacation with your kids? How did you find them and how did it work out?