We had to set an alarm which went off promptly at 8:00am. With all the time changes it did feel rather early to be moving. We headed up to Cabanas and saw our dining server. It somehow always seems fun to see them outside of dinner. Like you found Waldo or something. While we were eating the announcement went over the loud speakers letting us know that the ship would be cleared in about 10 minutes.
We made a mad dash to our stateroom and finished getting ready and made it to the atrium to disembark. We were headed off on our own today, so we wanted to squeeze as much time as possible out of the time ashore. We went over to the taxi area to grab a ride. We didn’t book any prearranged transpiration because we only needed a taxi ride to our first stop. We planned to stay within one main area for most of the day. Paying for a driver to wait for us all day seemed wasteful. A simple taxi ride would do. What we didn’t even think to plan on was two other ships were already in port and were unloading passengers at the end of their cruises. The taxi line was terrible! We waffled as to what to do, but after about 10 minutes we decided taking the free Disney shuttle bus into the city center could take just as long as waiting for a taxi and we were on a tight schedule. A new batch of tacos pulled up and we were able to get one of those. It was an organized queue where everyone lines up and the next car up that fits your party size is the taxi you get.
We hopped in the back tried to give the driver the name of where we wanted to go and he asked no luggage? We were like no Jeronimos monastery he goes ok the monastery in perfect English! That was a nice treat. He quoted us the price of 30 euros which was a little high but within the realm of what we researched it should cost. Well it turned out to be the best 30 euros spent. He was a terrific driver/ guide. It was the morning rush hour in Lisbon, and he knew all kinds of back streets. It was a crazy ride going down all this VERY tiny side streets, but we got an amazing tour of the town. He also gave us some hints about what to do around the monastery. He mentioned a bakery that had the best custard desserts. He told us it’s famous all over the world and we should really try them if we get a chance. We mentioned we were planning to walk over to Tower de Belem after the monastery and he gave us some tips about looking for the stairs that head down to use the underground pedestrian walkway to cross below the highway. We hadn’t heard anything about that in our research. What a great tip. He also told us to write down the name of the port our ship was in, which he told us in Portuguese, because when we wanted to get a taxi back to the ship, if we just said to the port we may not go where we wanted. There are apparently two different ports in Lisbon according to our driver and with the language barrier we might not be able to make clear where we wanted to go without the name written down.
The drive to the monastery should only take about 15-20 minutes but with traffic it was closer to 30 minutes. We didn’t mind. We enjoyed the time with this taxi driver. He could become a great tour guide for the area.
Once he dropped us off at the park by the monastery we headed over to get in line to buy tickets. Our plan was always to get their early because we’ve heard the lines get long. There was already a really LONG line. We go in it, and it was hardly moving. There were plenty of people moving up and down the line trying to sell you items. Some of them could be quite aggressive. Tips to avoid this are : don’t dress like a tourist- dress like a local and don’t make eye contact or any gestures toward the people selling things. This may seem harsh if you haven’t been exposed to this type of experience before. It is truly necessary. It never felt dangerous, but the sellers were very very aggressive to some tourists. After about 15 minutes in line of it hardly moving, we realized we should make sure it was the correct line. One of us went up to the security guard at the front of the line and asked if we were in the right line? The security guard spoke some English (so helpful and not expected!) and told us this line was to buy tickets but mainly for people using the Lisbon pass (remember we considered getting this back in the planning stages) but we could walk across the street to a little ticket booth and buy same day entry tickets there and come straight back to the entrance and go in. We were a bit concerned about loosing our place in line, but it didn’t seem same to split up, so we both left and walked to the little booth. Low and behold the sales people spoke pretty good English (along with several other languages from what it seemed) and sold us tickets to problem. We had plenty of Euros with us so we paid cash. Next we walked back over to the nice security guard and he took our tickets and let us in. It was so simple and took all over 5 minutes. It was not intuitive to do however. This ticket sales booth was across the street in a park. It was official however and just how things are done here.
Once we entered the monastery we were instantly captivated! It was amazing. There are not enough words to describe it. It was so peaceful. They limit the amount of people inside so it never felt overcrowded. We started off in the courtyard which was just a masterpiece of design. We walked all the way around it, on the first floor. Then we entered the museum which had signs in Portuguese and English (if memory serves correctly) that told a bit around the building and the history surrounding it. Next we went up to the second floor of the courtyard where we also gained access to the inside of the balcony of the church sanctuary. It was stunning. Even now it is one of our top choices of churches we’ve visited. We took lots of pictures, but also just spent time taking it all in. For one of us it was our first time in something this ancient. We then went down to tour the main floor of the sanctuary. From the guide books we read, and the map we received when we entered, there is supposed to be a gold room. We could not find it. We did find a small room that you had to pay an additional small fee (a few euros each) to enter. We decided we might as well. It housed all the old clothing and dress for the monks for services. It was worth it to us just to see as much as we could, but if you don’t want to spend the extra Euros its not a must see. Next we spent a few minutes trying to find that gold room. We never did. From what we are guessing it must have been closed for renovations or something because as far as we could tell we went everywhere visitors were allowed. We finished our visit in the gift shop. This was intentional because we wanted to pick up a few post cards and other small things from here.
We really didn’t want to leave, we just wanted to sit and enjoy it. There is no time limit on your ticket, but once you leave you can’t reenter. We would have stayed longer but we had other things to see. We arrived at the monastery around 10:10am. By the time we sorted out the tickets we entered just before 10:30am. We left the monastery at 12:09pm. A 90 minute visit would probably be sufficient for most people to experience all the monastery has to offer.
As we left the monastery we saw the bakery that our taxi driver had mentioned that morning. We thought we would stop in for a little treat. We had a tight schedule so we didn’t plan to eat a full lunch, just grab something on the go. The line was LONG however. One of us needed a top off of coffee, and there was a Starbucks right next door. We went in and ordered with a little help from a phrase book and some pointing. This Starbucks is jammed into an old style European building. It is odd shaped and two stories tall. The rest rooms are upstairs and free to customers! Solid find as a tourist. If you haven’t experiences Europe before, most restrooms are pay to use. We found a little spot on a balcony that overlooked several other buildings and courtyards and just say and sipped our coffee. It felt so authentic. It’s one of the up sides of going out on your own. You can experience things like a coffee on a tiny balcony in the middle of a European city. The downsides are it can be intimidating and confusing to try to get information, figure out where to go, order something to eat or drink when you don’t speak the language.
We finally dragged ourselves off this balcony after about 20 minutes to head to our next stop. When we stepped outside the bakery line was as short as we’d seen it all morning. We decided why not? So we got in line. Once we got near the front it was obvious that most people ordered one thing. Those same custard tarts we had in Ponta delgota a few days before. Well we had already tried those, and we liked them very much but figured we should try something else. Our driver said this place was known for these tarts though, so we ordered 2. The lady taking our order was surprised we only wanted 2. Most people appeared to order a lot more than 2. We also ordered some cookies in a bag to eat as we walked along. We took it to go. There was an eat in area that also did normal dining. It was all very small and tight and exactly what you would assume a European eatery would be like. The place we got these treats from Pasties de Belem which has been around since 1837. We didn’t know until we got home and saw it featured on several travel and cooking shows that it is super famous for their custard tarts! The story we were told from our taxi driver was something to do with the Monks and eggs and we don’t remember the rest. But the custard tarts were directly linked to the monks. That we do remembered.
We took our treats and walked over to the park to sit on a bench and eat them. The cookies were good, and so was the custard tart. We disagree on if the de Belem tart is better than the delgatta tart. There was again something just so authentic about sitting in the park eating our snack. Most people we saw appeared to be locals doing the same thing. It was around lunch time after all. Again we finally dragged ourselves away and started looking for the stairs that lead down. After several frustrating moments, we did find the stairs. They look like they head to a subway, they don’t. It’s just a walkway. It really wasn’t that clear what it went to. But again our taxi driver helped a lot! We walked under the highway and then on a path toward our next destination. It was around a 15 minute walk from the park outside the Monastery to the park outside the Tower.
We were headed to Tower de Belem. Better known as Belem Tower. It was big and easy to easy and we just followed the walking path toward it. It took us about The Tower had another small park surrounding it, and another LONG line of people lined up to go in. This time we knew the trick. We walked over to one of the little purple stands that said TICKETS on it, and bought our entrance ticket. There were clearly two lines that went over a VERY tiny bridge and they were marked for Lisbon card holders and daily ticket holders. The daily ticket holders line was much much shorter. Tower de Belem also uses a limited entry policy. They let you in as small groups. Once your in, your in. But they only allow a maximum amount of people inside at a time. We had to wait for about 2 cycles of letting people into the tower and then we got in. At the time we visits the Tower is not accessible at all for anyone with mobility issues. We don’t have any personal knowledge if this has change, but that seems doubtful due to the design of the tower.
You enter across the bridge and into the main floor of the Tower. There is some artillery and such to look at on this floor. You can also go below to look at the dungeon area. We started here and had it almost to ourselves. Most people head directly for higher floors. The stairways are very very very narrow and curvy. They use a system of red and green lights to let you know when it’s time to assent or descend. You can only have people going in one direction. There is no passing. There are several floors, and you can sort off “pull off” the main stairway to visit each floor. Once the light turns to your green for go the color you want to go (say up) you can start out in that direction. If there is a large line of people you either have to cut in (not very polite) or wait till the end of the line and hope your green light hasn’t run out. It sounds more complicated then it is. It was easy to use and didn’t need you to speak Portuguese to understand what to do.
Once we started headed up the stairs we stoped at each floor as we came to it. The rooms are mostly empty, but it was fun to explore the nooks and crannies and look out all the windows. There are two “main floors” that people tend to visit. The large terrance type look out floor where there is a large space outside where you can look at the sea. The second “main floor” for visitors was the small balcony several floors up that look out over this large outdoor terrance area. You can go up and down at will (using the lights system). We found it easiest to go up to each floor, check it out, and then head up to the next floor. The tower was really amazing to see. The views out to see were stunning. This was another place we could have just stayed and soaked it all in, but we were running out of time before the ship left. We headed down the stairs from the main terrance and it was easy going down because we didn’t need to stop at any floors. We just went until the light turned red, and then would step off to the nearest floor to wait for green again. It didn’t take long at all to exit.
In total we were inside the Tower for a little over an hour. We could have stayed longer, but again we felt like we got a good feel for the Tower and saw all of it in that time. We still had a couple of hours before our all board time, but we don’t like to cut it close and we were concerned about getting a taxi back. This turned out to be for good reason. There was a U shaped area where taxies would pull up and people would get in. Unlike the cruise ship area it was not organized and there was no line to get in. It was crazy busy and hard to get a taxi. The main area for getting a taxi seemed to be the curve of the U drive. After trying for what felt like forever, we moved down closer to the entrance straight arm of the U. We practically had to jump out and stop a cab (really not joking here) to snag one. By now some ride share app is probably up and running and works great in this situation. We didn’t even have internet here, so we had to do it old school. We got in, and sure enough exactly like our morning taxi driver had told us, our driver spoke no English and we just showed him that little piece of paper with the port name in Portuguese the morning taxi driver had written down. Traffic was a bit lighter and we got back to the port area pretty quickly. Once we arrived we realized we still had over an hour before our all aboard time, so we decided to walk into the main square of Lisbon. There were shuttle busses I believe, but it really wasn’t to far to walk. From the time we left Belem Tower to the time we got to the main square, including our adventure of hailing a cab and all, it was 45 minutes. We walked around the square, and down a few streets, looking at market stalls and shops and then headed back to the ship. We could have walked back into the main square where the busses would have picked us up, but the walk wasn’t far for us at all. You could see the ship and there was a nice boardwalk right on the water we just followed back. We arrived and promptly walked right up to deck 9 and the drink station. It had been a busy day. We split up and once of us went to the gym. The other chose to watch sale away from Lisbon from our balcony. It’s a very fun port to enjoy the sail in and sail away because you are go right past the main city and you are very close to shore. Then it was off to the spa. We almost lost track of time in the gym and spa and had to rush to make it to dinner. We loved our dinner serving team so much we didn’t want to miss a single meal. Tonight was the World of Flavors menu which we enjoyed. Our server did give us the heads up that the Pad Thai was not authentic, but we tried it along with their suggestion of the turnover. They were right. Pad Thai was a miss. Always trust your serving team. Especially after they’ve watched you eat and learned your preferences for over a week.
We ended the night crashing in our stateroom. Tomorrow was another early morning and busy and long day in another port.
Overall we loved Lisbon. In fact we loved it so much is has become on of our top destinations we’ve been to. There is just a feeling about it we loved. We would love to go back and experience more time in Portugal. This was our first experience going out on our own outside of Disney Cruise Line. Overall it went really well. We wanted to see the inside of the Monastery and the Belem Tower (neither of which was offered as an option on a DCL Port Adventure) and Lisbon was a very doable city on your own. They have trollies and busses and other forms of easy to use public transportation. We chose the taxi because we didn’t feel we had much time to fit all we wanted to see in. In fact we had more in Lisbon we wanted to see but knew time was against us. We didn’t regret at all the two sites we chose to focus on,
If you have never gone out on your own in a foreign port, overall Lisbon feels like a great place to give it a try. Just understand that many people will not speak much if any English. But with so many options available close to the ship, it’s a good place to give it a try. Plus seeing inside the Jeronimos Monastery is a must see on our list!
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