Lisbon – Fatima – Porto

Our last day in Lisbon – we checked out of the hotel, stored our luggage and headed straight for the Port Wine Institute in hopes they had Larry’s iPhone. We were there just as they opened, and were overjoyed to find that they still had it! Disaster averted. Time to relax – we walked back to the Graça district, far up on a hill, and enjoyed the view from the convent.

As usual we were on the hunt for food. David Lebovitz had recommended Churrasco da Graça for traditional Peruvian spit-roasted chicken. Tracking down a little neighborhood spot in Lisbon is hard work, so we stopped for pastries at Pastelaria Estrela de Graça. Delicious. Continuing down the same street, we finally found our restaurant (Largo da Graça, 43). Churrasco da Graça is a neighborhood joint full of locals, with great service and no tourists (aside from ourselves). We started off with the amazing fresh cheese (queso fresco), sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper. I had the roast chicken and Larry had the dorado and potatoes.

We finished off with cake for dessert (motofolo cake? We saw another couple get it and were intrigued). Our last meal in Lisbon turned out to be our best. On the walk back, we got our last glimpse of the castle before taking a cab to Avis to pick up a rental car.

Portugal is relatively easy to navigate in terms of finding major arteries. We easily found our way out of the city, with Larry navigating and me driving. We had toyed with the idea of stopping off at Our Lady of Fátima, and decided to go ahead. The site is famous for reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary during six consecutive months in 1917 (as reported by three shepherd children). It’s also a popular destination year-round for pilgrimages and we witnessed a number of people on the grounds on their knees, crawling towards the primary chapel.

We were there before the start of the main pilgrimage season, which peaks on the third of every month between May and October. The Pope was scheduled for a visit and there were signs everywhere. The main square is massive, bigger than St. Peter’s at the Vatican. The grounds are huge and there are multiple chapels in addition to the main one. We saw smoke in the distance and thought there was something roasting (chicken!) but once we got closer we realized it was candles, lots and lots of candles. We each lit one and then bought rosaries and visited the Basilica before continuing on to Porto.

The main highway in Portugal is modern and quick, with efficient toll collection points every so often. Navigating the main highways are easy – but the towns are a different story. How did we manage travel before iPhones? We had set up international data packages before we left so Google maps was immensely helpful in finding our hotel. Which was interesting. In a funny way, not in a luxurious, everyone must stay here way.

Located in a somewhat run-down area, Hotel Albergaria Miradouro is one of the tallest buildings in Porto and has sweeping views of the city and beyond. We were on the 12th floor in a corner room so we had an impressive view. The furnishings are clean and well-maintained, but they probably haven’t been updated since the 70s. The hotel restaurant is one of those old-school places where the waiters are very professional and experienced – service was terrific, but we were pretty much the only people in there and it felt like they were spying on us the whole time. We had a nice Duoro wine and a mix of appetizers, including a vegetable pate and boars head cheese that only Larry ate.

The best part about the restaurant was the sunset, overlooking the Duoro River and the Atlantic. Absolutely beautiful. We ended our day with a quick trip downtown via Metro to Minchoes Restaurant for Internet access.. and pastries, of course!