Back to school shopping in Lisbon’s Outlet malls

After a busy week in New York, it was funny to be invited shopping by Lisbon friends this afternoon.  I thought that Outlet centers were only an American thing.  What a surprise I had in store for me…..

Lisbon's Vasco de Gama bridge, one of the longest in Europe

Lisbon’s Vasco de Gama bridge, one of the longest in Europe

The journey started by crossing over the famous Vasco de Gama Bridge.  It is the longest bridge in Europe (including viaducts), with a total length of 17.2 km (10.7 mi), including 0.829 km (0.5 mi) for the main bridge, 11.5 km (7.1 mi) in viaducts.  The bridge was opened to traffic on 29 March 1998, just in time for Expo 98, the World’s Fair that celebrated the 500th anniversary of the discovery by Vasco de Gama of the sea route from Europe to India.  By the time you make it to the other side, you’re ready to conquer other challenges, such as a Portuguese Outlet mall….

Lisbon's Freeport Outlet mall has a lot to offer shoppers looking for a day out of the city

Lisbon’s Freeport Outlet mall has a lot to offer shoppers looking for a day out of the city

The Freeport mall is a large open air mall, built close to the Tagus river, so a quick drive from Lisbon with easy access to all the great stores.  They provide buses from major central spots in Lisbon, as well as direct transfers from the airport for people on Layovers with nothing fun to do.  The mall is quite large with many well known brands (Prada, Versace, Burberrys, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, Escada, D&G, Hugo Boss, Levis, etc.).

Lisbon's Freeport Mall is a well planned spot, mixing good taste with the great climate Lisbon has to offer.

Lisbon’s Freeport Mall is a well planned spot, mixing good taste with the great climate Lisbon has to offer.

The setting, outdoors, is perfect for Lisbon, where the wonderful weather makes it one of Europe’s most popular destinations year-round.  For people looking to do a little shopping while away for a weekend, or a short vacation, the Freeport mall is a must-do when in Lisbon….  After our shopping day reached its end, and we made it back to Lisbon, we were too tired to go out for dinner.  This isn’t a problem in Lisbon, where so much can be done online….

centralmenu.com.pt is a great internet tool to get take-out home delivered...

centralmenu.com.pt is a great internet tool to get take-out home delivered…

My friends gave me this very useful website for Lisbon take out food.  It includes hundreds of restaurants in Lisbon including Portuguese home cooking, Italian, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Organic food, Brazilian Barbecues, and many others…  Food was delivered within an hour and it was a delicious end to a perfect day in Lisbon…..

 

 

Final exam and off to the beach…

Well, well, Portuguese classes are over for August.  We had our final presentations yesterday and the final exam today.  The presentations were a hoot.  This guy presented the “Low Cost Solution” to coming to Lisbon on vacation.

Low cost trip to Lisbon

Low cost trip to Lisbon

It included tips like the best bars for cheap Sangria and Capririnhas, inexpensive hotels and Pensaos (their hostel equivalent) and cheap flights, cheap flights, cheap flights…..  Not the classiest way to travel, but if it gets you there alive, I guess it’s ok…  The truth is for short European flights, if you can save a few Euros, why not…

If it fits in, it goes on.  I guess that's Low cost.

If it fits in, it goes on. I guess that’s Low cost.

Today, we were all present for the written exam.  It went on for hours.  I had forgotten how tough it was to be a full time student.  Too intense for me, but at least it is now over, and my professor did a good job, so Eu Falo o Portugues……  The student diversity was incredible; Macao, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Russia, the US and Italy were all represented.  Not to mention that our professor came directly from the Azores Islands.

Portuguese Lisboa University Final Exam

Portuguese Lisboa University Final Exam

To celebrate a group of us went to one of Lisbon’s famous Surfing beaches, Guincho.  A lot of wind, but so beautiful and a great way to celebrate our Final exam being terminado…….

Guincho, Lisbon's famous Surf beach

Guincho, Lisbon’s famous Surf beach

 

 

 

 

 

Life outside of Lisboa….

The process of getting adjusted to living in Lisbon continues.  Going to school has been a tough and tiring experience.  Early mornings and hot August days don’t go well together.  Every opportunity is seized to get out of the city and to discover Portuguese summertime pleasures.  This weekend we headed North to find cooler surroundings…

Tomar’s Convento do Cristo

Tomar’s Convento do Cristo.

Our first day was spent discovering one of Portugal’s ‘hidden’ jewels, called Tomar.  It has a number of castles, Monasteries and landmarks to visit.  The Convento do Cristo is one of the most beautiful places to come high up in the hills overlooking the town.  We then walked through the old city and stumbled into the Jewish neighborhood with one of the oldest Synagogues in Portugal.

Portugal's oldest Synagogue:  Tomar

Portugal’s oldest Synagogue: Tomar

Tomar is located inland, about an hour and a half away from the coast.  There are a number of lake towns and artificial beaches constructed for the locals.  Ironically, the one we went to had a number of French and English tourists.  How they found it is a mystery to me…

Aldeia do Mato: one of Portugal's inland beaches

Aldeia do Mato: one of Portugal’s inland beaches

Our afternoon was spent rafting around and enjoying the local Sangria (and the local price of 1 Euro/glass) which made it the bargain of the century.  We then headed to FATIMA to discover the religious Pilgrimage spot.  Candles were burning everywhere…..

Pilgrims flock to Fatima all year

Pilgrims flock to Fatima all year

Sunday, before heading back to Lisbon, we had two nice surprises in store.  We started by visiting a famous Monastery known as Balalha on our way back to the coast….  Constructed in 1386, it is one of the best examples of Late Gothic architecture in Portugal, intermingled with the Manueline style.

Monastery of Batalha

Monastery of Batalha

After learning so much this weekend, we decided to change pace with a quick beach front lunch and a quick swim before heading back to Lisbon.  Nazare praya was our destination, one of Portugal’s most known beaches for European vacationers.  It is considered, by many, to be Portugal’s riviera.  The locals were very friendly and we had a great time before heading home…

Nazare Plage: Portugal's Riviera

Nazare Plage: Portugal’s Riviera

Back to school tomorrow.  Hopefully no surprise exams this Monday…

 

 

Back to ESCOLA, Lisboa Style…

Well the moment arrived, and my decision to go back to school and study Portuguese in Lisbon finally happened.  It’s true that living in Lisbon and not speaking the language was a bit of a problem, especially when dealing with people on a more serious level, than simply saying “I’ll have the fish please.”  The University of Lisbon offers intensive one month summer classes for foreign students which are excellent.  Small classes, students coming from all around the world, and great teachers who make learning fun.  My first day I walked into this classroom….

Portuguese classes at the University of Lisbon

Portuguese classes at the University of Lisbon

It was pretty cool.  Our class had students from Macao, Hong Kong, Spain, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Russia, Turkey and me….  We got right into things without wasting any time.  We had to present ourselves in PORTUGUESE and NO ENGLISH is allowed once you walk over the threshold…..

It is great since the classes are only in the morning, from 9-1.  Makes me get up early, and once we’re done, it’s off to the beach for some afternoon fun.   Friends took us to a great beach I hadn’t been to yet that you can only access by car Ferry.  it’s about an hour out of Lisbon, but really unique….

Troia beach, only a short drive and ferry ride out of Lisbon

Troia beach, only a short drive and ferry ride out of Lisbon

They are known for their little beach restaurants that are a lot of fun…….

Troia beach restaurant; a great way to end a day of classes....

Troia beach restaurant; a great way to end a day of classes….

Tomorrow it’s back to school again.  I think we’re going to have a surprise quiz, so I better prepare….

 

 

Via Verde: Portugal’s GREEN WAY (aka the Easy way to make it to the beach)….

Porgual’s version of EZ-Pass is called Via Verde (or the Green Way).  I have just received my Via Verde badge for my car and it makes all road trips a lot quicker.  Have a look at the April 25th toll booth (the bridge which resembles the Golden Gate that brings you back into central Lisbon)… It saves me about 30 minutes getting into Lisbon each time I head to the beach.

Two left lanes are VIA VERDE; other lanes are to pay with cash

Two left lanes are VIA VERDE; other lanes are to pay with cash

Today was a special day since newly made Lisbon Friends (from Berlin and Lisbon) hosted an all day pool party and awesome buffet in their beautiful beach house in the town of Meco.  They designed and built the entire house and it looks like something right out of Malibu, with attention given to every little detail.

Beautiful contemporary Meco beach house

Beautiful contemporary Meco beach house

My friends hosted about 40 people in their house from all around the world. There were Portuguese, Spanish, French, Germans, A few Americans, Brazilians, Argentinians and one person whose nationality remained unknown.  (Not sure whom he was hiding from but he didn’t say much the whole day)…  The highlight was taking a swim in his pool, in between Sangria copas…..

Paradise by Meco beach

Paradise by Meco beach

All in all it was a great relaxing fun day.  I’m getting prepared to start classes on Monday.  Lisbon U watch out!!

 

Invited to a Portuguese/French Barbecue in Aldeia do Meco

Meco beach, a must see when in Lisbon

Meco Praya; one of Lisbon’s nicest beaches

This week was a busy one for this guy.  I had to deal with the Tax offices for a number of papers and the real estate agents to move ahead on my latest project in Lisbon.  It’s all going along nicely although things move more slowly in Lisbon than they do in Paris or New York.  That’s part of the game we have to play, but overall it all gets done and the environment is so excellent.  I am making lots of new friends along the way.  I have French friends who live here and have their beach house in Meco, my favorite waterfront town.  They invited me for a barbecue this Sunday and it was a hoot….

Franco-Portuguese BBC by the sea in Meco

Franco-Portuguese BBC by the sea in Meco

A few of my new friends recently acquired in my new home of Lisbon.  This French couple adds that ‘Je ne sais Quoi’ Francais to Lisbon Life.  They invited over 10 friends this Sunday for an over the top display of good cooking and perfect hosting.  Champagne greeted us with lots of assorted tasty treats.  They had SUPER BOCK beer for the Portuguese men since this is their blood line….  the Chef, Olivier grilled my Frango (chicken) to a perfect tone….  The entire guestlist gave the meal a big thumbs up…..

 

Meco has beautiful beach houses and country farms that exist in harmony

Meco has beautiful beach houses and country farms that exist in harmony

My friends were eyeing these furry creatures.  Maybe they have ideas for next weekend’s barbecue?  I’m not sure……

 

 

Beautiful Arrabida beach and a great Argentinian dinner in Lisbon

sbon's tax office: FINANCAS

Lisbon’s tax office: FINANCAS

Today started off with a run over to my friends at the Lisbon Tax office; As FINANCAS.  They are having such a difficult time finalizing my papers to live here with the correct status.  I spend more time with them than any of my other friends.  People might begin to think that I’m trying to settle down….

View from the cliffs overlooking Arrabida Plage

View from the cliffs overlooking Arrabida Plage

My Friends waited patiently for me to finish with nice Mr. Tax inspector.  Once that was done, we headed south.  It’s only a 30 minute drive along the coast south of Lisbon to reach some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches.  This first one is called a Praya d’Arrabida.  It is amazingly beautiful, quiet and perfect for a quick afternoon getaway…

So beautiful, easy to reach and wonderful for a break from daily living.

So beautiful, easy to reach and wonderful for a break from daily living.

As the sun started to set, my friends started to focus on the next important decision…..’Where do we eat dinner tonight?’  this is always on a Portuguese person’s mind; how wonderful…..  Since the choices are so vast in Lisbon, tonight we decided to splurge a bit and go to a new trendy Argentinian restaurant; Paparucha.  Their grilled meats are a must do while in Lisbon.  The Malbec wine selection went beyond what I expected….

It is conveniently located on top of the hill next to Principe Real and Bairro Alto.  The large terrace on the back side of the establishment has breathtaking views of all of Lisbon including Saint Jorge’s castle, the Eduardo VII park, the Tagus river and many other note worthy Lisbon areas.

Paparucha; No need to fly off to Buenos Aires any more.  Parradilla a gogo.

Paparucha; No need to fly off to Buenos Aires any more. Parradilla a gogo.

The grilled Parradilla was so delicious and the views over the Lisbon skyline made for a memorable evening for all.  These two guys especially loved the Malbec wine.  Their glasses kept emptying themselves out…….

An Alfacinha (True Lisbon citizen) loves the quality of life Lisbon has to offer

An Alfacinha (True Lisbon citizen) loves the quality of life Lisbon has to offer

All in all, another glorious day in Lisbon.  Looking forward to more adventures with my friends at the Tax office soon….

 

 

Taxes, home repairs, taxes, back to school and more TAXES…

This was a very busy day for us.  We managed to get three important things done, although it took more energy than we expected this morning…..

Lisbon's tax office: AS FINANCAS

Lisbon’s tax office: AS FINANCAS

We began today at the tax office to take care of administrative things.  In Portugal, every person living here needs a TAX ID number, or Numero Fiscal.  You can’t do anything without it.  For all purchases and administrative tasks, it’s required.  Not having a Numero Fiscal leaves you out of the game and people treat you differently, like the Scarlet letter effect.  We decided to put this hurdle behind us, so we took a number: 131, and the counter read 83.  We decided not to wait, and moved on to the next task…

Leroy Merlin, our Home Depot in Lisbon

Leroy Merlin, our Home Depot in Lisbon

We went to the Leroy Merlin to pick up some nuts and bolts we needed to repair a broken terrace sofa.  Amazingly, things like this are sooooo much easier to do in Lisbon than in other big cities like Paris or New York.  The entire trip DOOR TO DOOR, including the purchase of the nuts and bolts, came to 30 minutes.  We were able to head back to the tax office….

Lisbon's tax office: AS FINANCAS

Lisbon’s tax office: AS FINANCAS

Wouldn’t you know it, even after doing a run to Leroy Merlin in the suburbs, purchasing materials and heading back to the tax office, they were still on number 94, which meant no where near our 131.  We then headed to our final task for the day, summer school enrollment…..

Lisbon University offering Portuguese summer classes

Lisbon University offering Portuguese summer classes

We found this great program.  The University of Lisbon offers summer school classes in Portuguese for non Portuguese speakers.  It is an intensive four week program that costs very little and is catered to people who want quick communication skills….perfect for me.  I can order a glass of Sangria, purchase lightbulbs, communicate with neighbors, etc.  It was so easy to enroll. If only other things were this easy…

Lisbon's tax office: AS FINANCAS

Lisbon’s tax office: AS FINANCAS

Well, we arrived the third time at the Tax office at 2:30 pm.  Luck was on our side, as the number had just reached 130. Apparently this person had given up, so the clerk beeped 131 and we were finally greeted.  Honestly, the man was very friendly and did his best to understand our broken Portuguese as we stumbled to get our Tax ID numbers.  He took care of it, and we had them in our possession within 15 minutes, ready for the next adventure….

A day at Meco Praya, my favorite Lisbon beach

Today started off with a quick coffee with friends at our local Principe Real cafe, Holandesa.  A great cafe with EXCELLENT coffee, fresh orange juice and pastries, is such a bargain.  I think my breakfast came to 3 Euros and a smile.  We were all preparing for our trip out to the beach for a sunny Sunday.  My friends had picked a beautiful surprise for me, MECO beach, one of Lisbon’s most inaccessible beaches, so truly a find.  You need to know it to get there and the trip was half the fun.  This being said I even had a surprise before leaving Holandesa.  One of my friends purchased a lotto ticket for each one of us, and mine was the winner.  I won 100 Euros which really put me in good spirits to begin the road trip.

My winning ticket for Lisbon's lotto today

Pick me a winner: Lisbon’s Lotto

Once I received my winnings, we hit the road.  The trip to Meco, about a 30 minute trip to the South of Lisbon was an adventure.  You begin by crossing the April 25th bridge (the bridge known to resemble the Golden Gate bridge).  When you make it to the other side, a huge statue of Christ awaits you, welcoming you to the new land…

Crossing the Tagus river to head South to the beaches

Crossing the April 25th bridge across the Tagus River

The highway was pretty fluid for a Sunny Sunday.  I can’t ever remember having this easy a time to access a New York or Paris beach.  Hour long car rides and what seemed like endless traffic.  This trip was like candy, and once leaving the highway, the route was very picturesque.

Piecturesque journey to one of Lisbon's beautiful beaches

Countryside heading to Meco beach

Arriving at Meco beach, we drove through a very charming town in the hills before driving down to the waterfront.  High cliffs shoot down to the sandy wide Atlantic Ocean beaches; a rarity for European beach domains.  When we arrived, I quickly realized why it was my friends’ favorite beach where they spent as much time as possible.

Meco beach, a must see when in Lisbon

Meco Praya; one of Lisbon’s nicest beaches

As is always the case when spending time with my Lisbon friends, a great lunch is required.  They always seem to know which place has the best food and a great setting too.  Among the three of four restaurants located at the entrance to the beach, my friends all pointed to the place where we devoured fresh Shrimp, Lobster, salads, and what seemed like endless flowing carafes of delicious Sangria.  What more can one expect for a lazy Sunny Sunday……

A great meal to just further reinforce a wonderful day at the beach.

Scrumptious Seafood at Meco beach

Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra’s flea market on a sunny Saturday

Lisbon's Feira da Ladra Flea market

Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra Flea market

Saturday morning a few Lisbon friends invited me along to experience one of Lisbon’s nicest flea markets, the Feira da Ladra.  This large open air market is high up in the hills near Alfama and Graca, next to Santa Clara park.  This market apparently dates to the 12th Century and the name Feira da Ladra (female thieves’ market) was first used in the 17th Century.

I was hoping to find a chest of drawers, something out of the ordinary, and our search brought us to this part of town.  I discovered this treasure chest full of great Lisbon finds.  I even purchased an antique globe table/bar in need of some TLC.  There is still great value to be found in Portugal and this Lisbon flea market was no exception.

A great find at Lisbon's Feira da Ladra market

A great find at Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra market

The market is located next to Santa Clara park where we found a kiosque cafe with water views over the Tagus River; a perfect place for lunch.  Tomato and Mozzarela salad, Gaspacho, Strawberry flavored iced-tea and cheese cake were the only things missing from an already perfect day under the Lisbon sun.. Luckily in Lisbon you walk so much that you can get away with enjoying all of this great food.

Lisbon's largest flea market, located in this pretty setting high up in the Alfama hills overlooking the Tagus river.

Lisbon Kiosque cafe in Santa Clara.